Yes, a women is a person who anchors and shows the world ‘w(h)o man’ is.
As a person born and raised in India, growing up under the over-the-top care of three sisters, I know all too well the importance of women in our lives. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, I would like to write about the power and influence of women in our society.
Any community’s development and success can be easily measured when you see how they value women, and the level of education or status women can achieve in society. Unlike other parts of the world, in India, women are celebrated and respected above men even before the world debated on equality. Yes, some do the wrong thing; like in any community, we too have some bad apples. If you take all the ancient cultures into account and look at history, India has had many prominent female poets even 3000 years ago. I don’t think any culture can boast of that feat. ‘Gargi Vachaknavi’ a great philosopher, was one such example we can quote for women’s education and freedom from the most ancient days (around 3000 years ago). She was invited to attend an assembly of scholars to discuss philosophical matters presided by King Janaka of Videha. The poetess who fascinated me not just with her literary work but the command she had over the three most powerful kings of the ancient Tamil world Chera, Chola & Pandya was ‘Avvaiyar’ during the Sangam period (c. 3rd century BCE). She has challenged the kings in the assemblies and questioned their misbehavior, she even stopped wars between warring kings in the middle of the battlefield. Her songs and poems are even revered and learned today by Tamils and teach us morality very simplistically.
If you talk about rulers, many Queens ruled with absolute power and control long before the world ever dreamed of it. When the British conquered India, their succession laws didn’t allow a female heir to come to power after the King’s death, so many Indian Queens have fought and lost their lives in the war for their people. One such great queen of India ‘Rani Velu Nachiyar’, was one of the first Indian queens to wage war with the East India Company, the British army in the year 1780 and successfully defeated them and retook her kingdom, probably the only queen to ever achieve that feat. Mother Kuyili, one of the commanders of Rani Velu Nachiyar’s army, carried out a suicide mission against the British army. She entered the fort disguised as rural women on the pretext of performing puja, doused herself in ghee, and set herself on fire before jumping into the ammunition storage of the British army. These fearless women warriors succeeded in killing the guards and opened the gate of the fort to the men in their army. This is probably the first incident of giving such self-sacrifice in defense of one’s motherland. Here we are in the 21st century, and still some countries are debating about permitting women to have a driving license and allowing them to drive cars.
In today’s world, we have woman pioneers in every field and they are leading the change from the forefront. When I write about women, I can’t miss the women who inspire me every day. Starting from my mother, of course, who is the source of my being and has instilled every good in me, I am still amazed how love can be so pure and unconditional by experiencing it from my three sisters every moment. When my mother passed away, she left behind three more mothers for me in them. One of my dear friends, a women business leader went through horrid social media attacks, bullying, email threats, name-calling; what not but the resilience and courage she showed was the epitome of empowerment. My teachers, friends, and colleagues, so many to mention, I am blessed with the presence of all these great women in my life as my shining light, and so is everyone. Just a single day is not enough to celebrate Women’s day. Every day we need to celebrate and cherish them because when you empower a woman, you empower a generation. In the words of Diane Mariechild “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.” Happy Women’s Day!
By Karthik Arasu