The women of Chhattisgarh are hardly talked about. In fact, Chhattisgarh as a state is only in the news when there is a Naxal attack, and it is rather sad that the development of the region and its people is neglected in the media. Photo-walking through a corner of Raipur led me to discover these jewels.
Santoshi, Age: unknown
“I do not know my age, because I am not educated enough to know all that. I don’t even know when I got married, but my husband is supportive of me. He works as a driver. I handle this all by myself.”
Priya Mishra, 25 years.
“I have studied till 12th standard. I handle this restaurant, I drive a four wheeler and work in a magazine as a reporter. I actually also work in an NGO, Marriage is not on the cards yet, lots of work to do. Never in my family was I told not to do something. I was just told not to dance, which I wanted to learn.”
Noor, 50 years
“I got married when I was 14. Now the world is changing so girls get married when they ought to, but I don’t feel sad. It is fine, I have been working ever since I got married. In this generation, girls are doing really well, equal to and better than boys.”
Leena Gaikwad, 35 years
“I hold a degree in Electronics and Communication. I worked with Reliance but I had to come down home to Raipur because of various family issues. They needed a helping hand. I was always interested in fashion and business, so I combined both of them and now I have a business of my own. This is my boutique, and I run it all by myself. I have been independent since Class 6, as I was never stopped from doing anything. I also have polio but that didn’t stop me. That drove me, actually. Girls and boys are the same, girls have to handle a hundred more things because theirs is a role tied to both the domestic as well as industrial realm.”
Preeti Turkane, 22 years
“I am an LIC agent, I’ve completed my first year now. I don’t like to take money from my parents for my education so I try to do my best to fund my life-needs. I also work by giving information for the filling of forms for the Mahila Samooh in Grameen Seva. I also play tennis, volleyball and run 8 kms everyday. I like wearing what I want to, no one has stopped me from doing that. In fact, my father buys me jeans and skirts. So all’s well.”
Indu, 27 years
” I am a B.Com graduate and I joined this work recently. I travel all the way from Bhilai to work here. Marriage? That will happen when it has to. No one told me how to act as a girl, my father never restricted me. In fact he scolds the boys at home if they do something wrong. My parents never asked me about where I went and who I went with. And that is their greatness.”
Name: Unknown, 18 yrs old
She was too shy to tell me her name. She is learning tailoring, and is learning to live on her own terms.
Kiran Sahu and Meenakshi Turkane, Learning tailoring.
Kiran is a graduate and a very robust woman. She grilled me for 10 minutes and said “representation is needed for Chhattisgarh.” She did not want to make the head-tailor angry so I took a quick photograph.
Meenakshi, on the other hand is just 18 years old and has passed her 10th standard recently. She says she isn’t doing this to earn money, but to learn. The L before the the earn makes all the difference!”
Radha Singh, 35 years
“I earn well and I like this job, security and helping people out in the mall. It is a simple job with no restraints whatsoever. My husband passed away, and the idea of sitting jobless at home sickened me. I couldn’t study beyond Class 5, as my father was suffering from a very debilitating disease. But it is okay, I like working and I am happy.”
These two were too busy, so I did not want to disturb them. Both of them work in my apartment, and help in keeping it clean. Both of them said “Yes women should come forward, and they have.”
Just crossing the road, and I had 10 examples of amazing women in two hours. We are a country with a population which crosses the billion mark. You do the math, and you will be proud to live in a country with such great revolutionaries. Not only the ones who come printed on your rupee bills, but the ones who just pass you by and are changing lives every second.