I sat in a dimly lit room and began to flip the dusty diary’s pages.
‘My life’- the first page said.
They were grandmother’s words, her handwriting preserved perfectly through time.
“This journal begins on 18th September 1800 and it will end with the end of my life.
They call me a warrior, they call me a fighter, mother, lover and daughter too.
I have been all of them.
When I came into this world they labelled me as a housewife. Nothing more.
A slave, born to live and die inside four walls.
“What more is a girl even worthy for? You must die with your husband, he’ll live with you for seven lives,” mother said.
He’s twenty-seven years elder to me. He’s on his death bed.
How can I die before I have begun to achieve my dreams? Yes! I have dreams too.
How can I jump into a fire for him? I will not, mother dear, I will not do this for you.
They told me to marry him like my mother did when I was barely nine and to devote myself to their service for my lifetime.
I was loaded with a cart full of riches, my value calculated in bills and money.
Father said, “He will treat you well, dear. We have given him whatever he wanted as dowry.”
While my husband read the Gita, he commanded, “Lady, go get me some hot tea.”
I took the book from the table while he slept, the letters like designs looking quirky and that’s how I learnt to stealthily read holy books and to write my own biographies.
And armed with this knowledge, I went on to lead India’s freedom struggle, studying under the night light.”
A tear flowed down my cheek as I snapped back into reality, to a world where there are thousands of women no longer oppressed with brutality.
A world where there has been progress.
Today, women are astronauts, reaching the stars and clouds, rising above the ground.
Today, girls attend school. They know of their rights, girls have travelled miles. They know that they needn’t be clad in red sarees all the time and that they are beautiful when they smile.
Today girls can go to temples, churches, mosques and follow their hearts.
Girls are overcoming barriers, crossing obstacles and breaking suffocating walls.
In my diary, I began to write.
“I was born in 2000, welcomed not as a ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ but simply a child.
I went to school with my brother, went to college too. They said I could be a doctor, an astronaut, lawyer, do whatever I want to pursue.
The era has changed, the world is slowly turning into a paradise.
Female foeticide has reduced, people have begun to value a girl child’s life. Women can step out of their house safely after the so-called ‘curfew’.
They can all blossom like flowers whose petals are coated with fresh dew.
That’s how the era has seen a metamorphosis-from a caterpillar to a butterfly.
To the next generation reading this diary,
Make the world a finer place, never lose the spirit to try and try.”