She – an invisible inspiration!

Photo by Rafaela Lima on

As I try to type the right words to write this blog post, I find it a little hard to do so which is usually not the case. But unlike any other topic, I get lost every time I have to write about women in general. I find a piece of myself every time I try to portray a character, be it fictional or write about reality because I feel, maybe I am not an expert in doing justice while writing about these women!

But then why is it so? We come across so many writings from literally worshiping the role of a mother to giving credit to a wife for creating a proper household, and social media and TV ads showing daughters pampered from father’s love as they showcase the happy faces of ‘ Papa ki Paris’ (daughters are often referred to as princess of their fathers). And in India, our festivals also revolve around worshipping feminine energy! Then the question is why is it difficult to write about real stories?

Because probably in a world that is obsessed with perfection and has its own standards of beauty, it is difficult to write about the truth that is ugly! Will it be liked by the readers? Will it find acceptance? I do worry!

But has ever truth worried about all these factors? So, I decided to write about two such instances which probably will be difficult for me to forget. And, sometimes when I close my eyes, these stories do pop up in my brain.

Instance 1:

It was probably during the dreaded Mumbai rains that I had somehow managed to reach my working women’s hostel after an arduous local train journey from work. As I entered my hostel. I ran towards the dining hall as I was dying out of hunger. The dining space used to be our daily meet-up place where we could meet other working women who stayed on different floors or the old building ( yes, the hostel had two buildings and I used to stay in the new building) as it was never possible to meet them any other time of the day! So, as I rushed to get my seat and signaled with one of my hands to one of the bhaiyas to get my dinner plate without any delay, one of the girls from the old hostel building came and sat adjacent to me. She was someone who had just moved in. She had dove-like eyes and a very earthy dressing sense. What attracted me to her was her heartfelt smile every time she spoke with me. With cotton salwars and her long hair that used to be braided tightly, she would walk with a confidence that gave her very ordinary, homely looks, a distinctive feature of her own.

So, when the food arrived on our tables and our hungry tummies compelled us to shove a few morsels of hot roti and sabzi into our mouths first, we smiled at each other. We both were almost drenched in the rain but did not have the courage to go up into our rooms and change into our nightgowns! I am sure only a few can relate to our pain! I remember asking her about her day and the moment she said, it was a tough day for her especially as she had to visit the infamous Kamathipura and would be doing so for the next fifteen days as per her assignment. The moment I heard the word ‘Kamathipura‘, I sat up straight! Seeing doubt and fear in my eyes, she laughed out loud and introduced herself as working for a local NGO that focused on women’s welfare. I recall her sharing a few stories that had a deep impact on my naive mind back then. When she had shown me a picture of a very beautiful girl, hardly in her twenties, who was sold to the Kotha ( brothel) by her own father for a mere twenty thousand rupees, I could not believe what I was hearing with my own ears! The world seemed a shade darker to me from that day!

After many years, when my own little sister grew up to work for one of the leading NGOs in India, I got a closer perspective when she had to visit many such distressed sites during her post-graduation internships. There used to be secret chambers, where any girl trying to run away was literally charred to death. In those places, being raped every night was a norm, till one learns to surrender to the fact that your own body, made of flesh, bones & blood is not even yours. But still, that very place had dreams, ambitions, and hopes in the hearts of those so-called ‘tawaifs‘ to make a better tomorrow for themselves, to restrain their female offspring to continue in the same trade, despite death threats! After hearing such true stories, my understanding and respect for such women had gone up by many levels!

Is it not strength, to withstand so much pain and still want to progress? I wondered why is there never a word coined for men who visited brothels? I wondered why do we look down upon such unfortunate women who despite their unwillingness, go through death-like situations, night after night? I wondered what would happen to the number of rape cases if these brothels were wiped out? I wondered how many families ( the so-called Indian joint families) will remain intact if these places do not exist? I wondered, how can these distressed women have the strength to drink so much poison belonging to the society that calls itself modern! I still wonder!

So, when we talk about difficulties, I believe our problems are minuscule compared to what these strong women endure. And I aspire that we, as a civilized society give them the dignity of a living human being with proper health care facilities and at the least, liveable conditions!

Instance 2:

What is the typical life of a girl in India? If you are lucky, your birth is celebrated, and if not, it is merely endured. And if you are lucky, you get the chance to get educated and if not, you are always taught to sacrifice for the ‘preferred sehenshahs‘ (preferred male child ) of the family. You are taught that being married at a perfect age is the best, advised to be a devoted wife, and a dutiful daughter-in-law and become the epitome of sacrifice after having children right after marriage and be a paraya dhan and ultimately forget your own house, and that’s how you bring glory to everyone!

Really, is it that easy? I can only laugh in disbelief when I think about the sad reality that actually a woman faces in life! There are countless women bearing a life, which is a deviation from this preconceived notion. The single mother who brings up her child all alone, the young widow whose life gets shattered and who picks up her life from pieces, the divorced woman who, this society never fails to taunt and belittle, the separated wife who is looked down upon for not tolerating her husband’s extramarital affair, the opinionated unwed daughter who feels like a burden on this society and the list goes on!

Recently, I came across a woman who shared her own ordeal with me. She is young & beautiful, owns a parlor, and to the outside world looks as if she is leading a blissful married life. Even I had thought so. I came to know the reality only when she described that despite having a love marriage, her dreams were crushed just after getting married. She used to be a housewife and probably that was an eye sore because till today she does not understand the changed behavior of the man whom she once loved! She had revolted when she was mentally tortured, and physically abused. But when she felt a little hesitation from her own parents to take her away during her pregnancy, she decided to walk through this path of hell for her child. She vowed to endure every hardship. Love had long died in her relationship at the very moment when respect had been lost between both of them. She slowly got trained for becoming a beautician and opened her parlor with her meager savings and a little help from her sister and step by step, she grew. Of course, this too had its repercussions, when she faced resistance from her in-laws. It was only when she started contributing financially to her in-laws every single month without fail, did the interference subside. But the love, the harmony, the so-called bliss in her marriage never returned. When asked about her choice, she promptly replied, “Tell me didi, how can I love the man who deceived me to believe that he felt any closeness for me? How can I respect a man who has slapped me in front of all? How can I call a man, a man, who never has the spine to take a stand for me even though everyone else is wrong about me? I do not even know where he spends his nights sometimes, even though I am his wife! And about me, I have made peace with my loneliness by becoming a workaholic. I sustain this relationship only for my daughter. I wish she becomes someone, someday! ” As I was leaving her parlor, I could only give her a tight hug, but say nothing!

So, writing about the struggles of women is not easy because they are invisible in nature! A woman creates life, nurtures bonds and is considered the glue of the family, and has the power to withstand pain and difficulties. But does that mean that it is wise to let her go through such ordeals? Is it ok to use her feminine softness to make someone believe that they are stronger than her just because they can overpower her physically? Why is worshipping female idols in temples and maligning women behind closed doors so normal?

I do not know if women will ever be treated as equals! We are far from that as a nation! But I feel privileged to be able to write about such women who deny giving up despite all odds, who deny being objectified, and who, no matter what, inspire us through their invisible struggles!

Kudos to women who fight silent battles every day! May your spirit never die!



This blog post is part of the Women’s Day Blog Hop, themed on She: A Tribute to Her, hosted by Swarnali Nath

26 Comments Add yours

  1. I am reminded of that song – Duniya mein kitna gam hai, mera gam kitna kam hai……..

    Inspiring stories indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Daisy says:

      Hi Chinmayee! I’m moved after reading your blog post about nautch girls and their invisible struggles. True, goddesses are worshipped as idols and women mistreated behind closed doors. This hypocrisy must stop and each and every woman should be equally treated and respected! Great post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chinnayee, I had goosebumps when reading the post. Firstly, I am very proud of you that you have chosen these ladies to give your tribute. They indeed our inspiration yet they live in silence. Even I think they don’t like noise so that they can continue working without any expectation of being rewarded for their greatness. Proud of you my friend, for choosing these ladies to give a salutation through our blog hop. Thanks for joining the celebration, much gratitude. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ranjini says:

    The moment Kamathipura was mentioned, my heart sank. It is new information to me that they have rooms where they burn these women to death. It is beautiful that you chose these women. Through your writings, they will live even though it is not in the way they want to. Hugs. I know how difficult it must have been writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is said that grass is greener on the other side. When I read your post it reminded me of the saying. Compared these women what I went through is menial. Atleast I had a base to fight from. What inspiring and heart wrenching stories and the fact that these are real stories make me think that the world is still regressive but yes trying to progress

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Anita says:

    Reality shown in the mirror, Chinmayee. Starkly visible.
    Women are expected to do everything and still be invisible.
    Very true that though there are words like ‘tawaif’ etc, there aren’t any words for the male visitors.
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Wishing more strength to all these inspiring real women.
    Hoping for a great future for our world where there will be equality & equity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Harjeet Kaur says:

    Applause, Chinmayee. You touched a raw nerve. I feel the prostitutes are right if they are selling their bodies. It is a job like any other. We should give them recognition, but alas, they are looked down upon and the men who visit the brothels in the silence of the night go back to their “purrfect” families. I just stopped at: “the widow whose life gets shattered and she picks up the pieces” It was as if you were writing about me. My parlour friend had a sorrowful story. She got widowed very young and has a mentally challenged son. We all coaxed her into getting married again, and she did. Was blissfully happy but after two years, he also passed away. She is again where she started from; alone with a mentally disabled child.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Harshita says:

    Chinmayee…both of your stories touched a raw nerve.
    Your sentence, “I wondered why is there never a word coined for men who visited brothels?” is bang on. The sin is committed by men, but it is the women who are forced to carry the shame.
    These women struggle, day after day and yet they do not give up, and I believe that is the true essence of feminity

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The fact that these stories are real, made my eyes pool up with unshed tears. What a fitting tribute to the women who have first-hand experience of the worst of ill-effects of misogyny and sexism, and whose stories we only read about. A wonderful job, Chinmayee. These lines, “In a world that is obsessed with perfection and has its own standards of beauty, it is difficult to write about the truth that is ugly!” are so so true. We’re indeed obsessed with perfection or at least in showcasing to the world that we are leading perfect lives. When you said, “I wondered why is there never a word coined for men who visited brothels?” I was reminded of two other instances where this stands harshly true: unwed mothers and rape victims. Why aren’t the men involved in the act shamed or even questioned? It’s sad state of affairs.
    Hopefully, writing. talking and addressing these things will bring about a change. And soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dashy says:

    I am glad that you chose to write about these women, Chinmayee. What is the point of turning a blind eye to the ugly truth and focusing only on the wins? The truth needs to be sung aloud, it needs to be addressed and dealt with, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. Thank you for sharing these stories, we need the world to know the reality, instead of the false notion floating around that the need for women’s day is now obsolete.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your post was like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am so glad you chose to talk about a section of our society we deliberately want to forget about. We do not even acknowledge their presence. Every point you made was apt.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You have showed the stark reality of our nation Chinmayee. These people might be ordinary, but the extra ordinary strength they have shown in fighting those countless battles with the people around them, while having no one to provide that leaning shoulder or pat their back is really awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The irony is heartbreaking Chinmayee and the worst part is we are not able to do anything about it but thank you so much for raising the questions buddy, I have been trying to do so for a very long time from when I lost my mom at the age 49. It really hurts deeply but the ray of hope still peeps in and motivates.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dr. Surbhi Prapanna says:

    such a though provoking post and hats off to you for writing on real women and their struggles. it is so unfortunate that our Indian system has so many social evils that disrespect women and women have to go through various challenges during their lifetime. your write up was as usual was so crisp and to the point. one of the best post in bloghop.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sinjana says:

    “Girls who want to leave the profession are charred to death in secret chambers” – I am petrified at this shocking revelation. Women face so much on a day-to-day basis that sometimes our own struggles as women seem too trivial. But that doesn’t mean we should make peace with it. We need to fight our battles, fight for the right so that our next generation is closer to the ideal society we envision.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Varsh says:

    If only these real life incidents were highlighted more than the international labels and shallow lives of celebrities, we wouldn’t have to write or feel saddened about them in the first place. Women struggle on a daily basis, for existence, for respect, for money, and for love. Hats off to the ones who survive the ordeal and support their families and raise their children with hope of a better future. This was a real painful read, Chinmayee. But that’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ritu Bindra says:

    Chinmayee, you have hit the nail on the head. And raised some pertinent questions. There are countless names for the “fallen” women but none for the men who exploit them. Tons of expectations from wives and mothers but very few from husbands and fathers.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Two real instances that is dark enough to think the society for women has long way to being the the desirable. Honestly the real post .

    Liked by 1 person

  18. pythoroshan says:

    The real tragedy is not in the anecdotes you mentioned… It’s in the lines that followed. I don’t really see myself being there to witness a time when women in India will be given the due respect they deserve. Yes, we will continue to say ‘we treat them as Goddesses’ but words and deeds are always two different things.

    Change, when it comes, must be strong and persistent, washing over and aside the naysayers. And we aren’t anywhere near that yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wizardencil says:

    What an unusual take. In our posh writings of working women how we forget those who have joined their “workforce” unwillingly. How do we forget to celebrate the struggling entrepreneurs
    Kudos for bringing out their plight and strength.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Janaki says:

    I hear you. Although we speak of breaking the glass ceiling, the glass in only half full. Many women are silently suffering abuse, unable to move out and dying each day. We still have miles to go. You article was thought provoking. We really need to have a name for men vising the tawaifs.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Geethica says:

    Correctly said that silent battles are the most dangerous yet powerful battles.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I am literally confused about how to react or comment on this post. You have triggered many emotions. On one hand, I know we might are called privileged as we didn’t have to face the hardships of ego battles with our male counterparts. On the other hand, I know there are still many who take this liberty as granted and let them fall prey to misogyny. These are indeed life-long battles that are fought in silence.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Abha Mondal says:

    I feel privileged whenever I heard or read about these women. They are strong, fighting their silent battles yet always carry a smile on their faces. Loved your article.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Archana says:

    The heartbroken realities of such women shakes me. Certainly things are not changed behind some doors even though we have come a long way of modernity.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. What a thought provoking post Chinmayee! Unfortunately, the world we live in just talks about women empowerment and but walking the talk is still far away. The women of Kamathipura are still looked down, while I completely agree that it is the men who sell them, or the men who go to them, abuse and rape them that needs to be punished. The plight of these women is indeed depressing. On the other side, the beautician from instance 2, are also very much part of our society. It is indeed sad, that gradually love and trust are eroding in every relationships, making each of us selfish and self-centred. When one looses respect and trust, love does take a leave too. It is high time the society realises this and starts treating everyone irrespective of their gender in a fair manner.

    Liked by 1 person

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