For the past couple of days, my Instagram feed has been filled with photographs of women (celebrities and otherwise) with the hashtag #yeswehavelegs. At first, I did not understand what was going on, so I read up on it. Initiated by the Malayalam actor and danseuse, Rima Kallingal, the movement was in support of a young actor who got trolled for posting a photograph of herself wearing shorts. There is a common notion that women are often each other’s worst enemies, but such movements show the solidarity that we have for each other, a sisterhood of sorts, if you will.
Compared to older generations, today’s women are bold, strong and in the forefront in every field, but there is one quality that has been in us for eons: resilience. The term is defined as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness,’ and I strongly believe that women are born with this superpower. I am talking from personal experience because I grew up among strong women — women who dealt with numerous adversities and survived. One such woman is my paternal grandmother. She is 92 and is one of the strongest women I know. Her body might be frail now, but her will is the strongest it has ever been. She has a routine she follows and does not like being assisted. She does, occasionally, agree to hold my hand while walking. Over the years, she has overcome many unfathomable personal losses: her husband, her daughter, and her siblings. But her resilience is unbound and today she continues to be the strong-willed woman that I grew up seeing. My maternal grandmother was widowed much later in life and even though she was not as independent as my other granny, she was strong in her own ways.
My aunt, whom I adored, was another unbelievably strong soul. My earliest memories of her are of her injecting herself with insulin…I remember watching her in awe. Her struggles in life were many, but she braved through it till the end, inspiring many of us to be strong. Another person, whom I have seen change before my eyes is my mother-in-law. I have known her for 15 years and of those 15, she has been a widow for 10. Over the last decade, she has gone from being completely dependent on her husband to being able to travel alone internationally. The transformation has been quite impressive.
I have been talking about all these strong women in my life and you must be wondering why I haven’t mentioned my mother yet. I reserved her for the conclusion, because I felt that her life tied in to another topic that I was going to talk about. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what I thought of women and sacrifice, especially when it involved educated women sacrificing their careers to follow their husbands to wherever their work took them. The first person that came to my mind was my mother. She is well-educated and would have been able to join the workforce if she wanted to, but she chose to keep her career aside and raise her family instead. My father’s job involved moving from one place to another, every few years and she took it all in the stride. Finally, when I was in high school, my father, a close relative, and I forced her to consider a career. After a lot of hesitation, she decided to do a course, which eventually led to her job as a special educator for children with Dyslexia. She is a prime example of how it is never too late to try new things; though she started late, she loved what she did and made a career out of it. That is what mattered.
I don’t know if I will call this act a sacrifice on the part of women or just our innate nature to prioritize others before ourselves. But I do know one thing, if a woman is happy with her decision, then no one has the right to question choices.
I don’t know if my friend will be satisfied with my answer, but I feel that a woman who decides to put her career in the back burner reaches that decision only after giving it a lot of thought. So, if her priority is to be a homemaker, regardless of her qualifications, then so be it. She might come to a point in her life when her priorities change and at that time, she will still have a whole world to explore.
Based on the life of all the women I have known and loved, and my own, I would like to dispute our favorite bard’s line, “Frailty, thy name is woman.” Hamlet may have thought of women as frail, weak and delicate but I think it is time to revamp that thought to say Resilience, thy name is woman!!!
Here’s to all the strong women out there, some whom we see and the many who remain unidentified!