Once in very many years you get a book which can be passed as an heirloom down the generations … (I have a list…a few books I would want my daughters, daughter’s daughters, great granddaughters to read! I am crazy like that!) And then, comes along a book by an Indian author you know you can treasure forever…
When I saw the title of this book, and read its excerpt, it seemed like a book I would want to pick for my daughter. I believe strong idols are very important in growing years – not to imitate, but to look up to, admire and get inspired from. Hence, when we read ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls’, it was difficult to explain to my daughter why there were only two Indian women who featured in there. Hadn’t many more Indian women done anything exceptional enough? Weren’t Indian women iconic enough?
And then, I chanced upon a book reading event of this book. We went to the event (a little bit wary of leaving my little one and hubby home on a Sunday morning, when all you want to do is lounge around with family, and have endless conversations over unending cups of chai), unaware what was going to hit us in the next few hours. To say we came back blown away is an understatement. Rarely do you meet women in your daily walks of life who are so real, yet so inspirational. Aparna Jain, the author, is one such woman. She is a fireball of energy, a multi – talented individual, yet so down to earth. We also had the privilege of meeting one of the women featured in the book – Ritu Dalmia, celebrity chef and advocate for LGBTQ rights. I wouldn’t hesitate to say she is one woman who chose path less trodden, and owned it like a boss. What an icon!
Back home from the event, we couldn’t wait to read the book! I sat reading the stories to both my daughters (coz we had to do it *now*! After all, there is no parallel excitement than the excitement of reading an author signed mint copy book! Oh, that smell of a new book…how it transports me into a state of nirvana!)…
Going through the stories, I was overwhelmed by myriad of emotions. First one was Guilt. Even though I am a strong feminist mother of two daughters, somewhere I have subconsciously used ‘Like a Girl’ as a phrase of weakness… Stop simpering like a girl… sit like a girl… why don’t you walk like a girl? And in the same tone, we ask ‘Are you mad?’ when they do something silly, never once realising the depth of issues a mental health patient might be going through…We all do that, albeit unconsciously, never realising the effect it might have on your child. Social conditioning starts at home, and we raise children who subconsciously believe in gender disparity, and then, we blame the society. Let’s begin the change at home.
And then came Sadness. What all the women in history have gone through (and still are!) to make sure likes of you and me can sit comfortably in our living rooms. Freedom to be educated, freedom of speech, freedom to go where we want, freedom of wearing what we please, freedom of eating what we like, freedom to be financially independent – a lot of us in the privileged strata take these for granted, don’t we? Can we ever imagine what our lives would be like without these? Are we grateful enough to the women (and men!) who made this freedom possible?
Then came Anger. For how many decades have women suffered violence, deceit and death in the hands of their own people? For how many more? When will this stop? From times immemorial, it’s not the outsiders who have wounded the women. It’s their own fathers, brothers, friends, and husbands – close ones they trust the most, who leave them broken. Sultan Razia was rebelled against by her own childhood friend and then, killed by her own half-brother… Chand Bibi had been wrongly accused by her own trusted minister, which led to her soldiers murdering her… And why delve so deep into the history? Most of the #MeToo stories are crimes committed by trusted ones against women! The stories are endless…and each leaves you seething!
And then came Determination. Determination that this will not be the world I will raise my daughter in. Determination to make the difference my way, whatever drop in the ocean I can. Determination to not see injustice, and turn my head away. Determination to not fear the public opinion, and say it like I see it. Determination to raise my girls in such a way that they would be an inspiration. We all have it within us. We just need to channel our inner strength. And be the change, we wish to see in the world.
Thank you Aparna Jain, Ayesha Broacha, Westland books, and all the amazing illustrators who make the book easy on eyes. You deserve a big salute for bringing to us this magnum opus.
Also, I have consciously refrained from writing more about the women mentioned in the book coz well… Go grab your copy! 😀