Woman of the Soil
by Kanjika Ram
(Navi Mumbai, India)
My grandmother calls herself,’ a woman of the soil’. Born to a father who was a farmer and a mother who she never saw having died at childbirth. In the lands of Uttar Pradesh to a Yadav family, whose values and profession surmise in farming and cattle rearing. She was no stranger to a hard life at a very young change, having seen misfortune from the very initiation of her life, however she always tells me that the intensity of these toils was never acute since she always had a doting father and loving brothers support to fall back on and to supplement for all the lacks in her life. She married my grandfather at a very young age as was seldom the case in rural life during that era, having married him she became the wife of a policeman and moved to Kolkata.
This was a huge upturn in her entire world, she had only ever known soils, farms, fields and open spaces as the only ambiance for existence she was confused in this place of towering buildings, amenities, crowds, commerce and trams. My grandmother is often amused by the fact that people think of grandparents as people who won’t change their beliefs, as rigid to their own practices when she at the age, when she was still a teenager changed her entire world, moved to another planet and universe with hardly her own will, if that’s not adventurous and spontaneously life-changing then what is? While my grandmother along with her two children, my father and my aunt continued to live in the chawl , things became difficult due to financial difficulties and while my father was old enough to stay with my grandfather and in the midst of his studies, my grandmother along with my baby aunt had to move back to the village at my grandfather’s ancestral home.
She had no one to support her, her mother-in-law having
died a long time back and her father-in-law only a couple of years earlier, she had no elder to guide her, no man to direct at this patriarchal settings and no experience of her own. Once again she took the plunge; bought cattle took care of them, sold dairy products for extra cash and self-sustenance, tolerated the many injustices and unfair treatments due to the absence of my grandfather and their deteriorated conditions. From being the well-taken care of daughter, she became the woman of strength. Not only did she ask for no help and support but she lends support to my grandfather in this time of need. She had absolute determination against all her odds. Forget people who think their grandparents or the older generation of their families have followed paths craved for them, my grandmother proved that countless of them have followed a path full of troubles to attain that normalcy in life which is despised now.
Even today when she still loves to work in fields, takes care of the cows and even at this age has strength and a level head greater than any of us she has held the home together after the death of my grandfather. She refuses to leave that home she built from the scratch, to live with us in Mumbai, a life of comfort. However, she loves us unconditionally and we visit her constantly. Even having lived in a rural setting for so long and seeing no precedent examples of change she has the moral character of a dreamer, an ambitious person who is powered by their dreams, hopes and passion and do not wait reality to align with them. Even when having seen no change in the state of women there, she believes in change, believes in betterment and believes in the future. If there is anyone most adaptable to change and changing perspective it is this woman of the soil. ***