“For most of history, anonymous was a woman.” – Virginia Woolf
This quote chills me to the bone. It is unfortunate that such a statement defines a majority of human presence on the planet.
Especially, in a culture where the female element has been deified simultaneously with the male divine – enshrined in the inseparable ‘Shiva-Shakti’; it is particularly disappointing that Shakti was very intentionally and wilfully made powerless by the very same society that revered the stones and danced the nights celebrating her feminine. The repercussions of this imbalance has had far reaching consequences, many of which are very evident in the world we live.
The fact that this quote is not attributed to ‘anonymous’ anymore reads like poetry to my ears.
It is testament to the spirit of that very feminine Shakti, that some have burnt so bright, that not only do they shine through the ages, but it is through their light that others of their time find standing and recognition.
It is often heard in hushed whispers that women who today lead prominent public lives, have contributed to, and achieved distinction in their chosen fields have it easier than their counterparts in history; and that it is increasingly easier for women to get ahead in the world today, especially compared to their male colleagues.
In my opinion, the very thought of this statement reeks of the same prejudice that created this disparity. It is condescending to the women they refer to while eulogising and dismissing historical unforgivable inequality through a misplaced sense of entitlement.
The women of today who smile past these smirks are worthy champions of the sparks that have endured though the ages and in their defiance, burnt brighter.
To single any for recognition over the rest is sacrilege, and though I am compelled to put in context them who inspire me more than the others, it is driven solely by the necessity of beginning somewhere and the ever dangling sword of editorial brevity.
In recent times, my awe is in total surrender to the grace, grit, and dignity that Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has brought to the rather dreary and hazy office of the Defence Minister. Never before to my memory, has a Raksha Mantri displayed such poise, passion, and pride. In speech, she is as disciplined and taut as a soldier at parade; while her persona holds potent the entire might of the Indian armed forces. As India’s first full-time woman defence minister, and now Finance Minister, not only has a glass ceiling been smashed to smithereens, a bench mark has been set that will loom over all those who aspire to run this gauntlet.
While the iron fist of defence is clad in a velvet glove, the soft power of sports supremacy is set in stone by the indefatigable Smt. Mary Kom. Mother of three is in itself a full resume. Add six time world boxing champion to it and my jaw never lifts from the floor. That India’s only female boxer to win an Olympic medal, and the only one to win a Commonwealth Gold comes from a geography that is namesake to a genteel dance form, makes me smile even wider.
Trivia, factoids, biographies, life histories and even hagiographies of both are a Google search away. Repeating them will only add to the online alphabet clutter. Their true glory is not just their own story. They are not icons because they happen to be women. Through them is exorcised the stifled light of generations before; and it is them who light the torches which carry the spark of Shakti for brighter times.
Sometimes I think to myself that the root of my admiration may be driven by a subconscious filter that places on a pedestal those who rise in fields historically dominated by men. But then, weren’t they all?