Earlier this week it was the International Women’s Day.
And I am vehemently against that.
Not women, mind you. Am scared of women, but I love them and adore them and respect them.
No, am against the concept of celebrating women for one day out of 365.
They don’t and should not need a patronizing patriarchal pat on their head for one day of the year and discriminated against and abused and violated for the other 364.
That’s a travesty and that’s why celebrating for a day as if everything is hunky dory is a sham.
And I want no part of it.
That’s why am also against Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day etc.
And since true equality is still very far away, every single day of the year should be Women’s Day.
That being said, empty platitudes from a paralytic plebeian slightly foolish pathetic powerless proletariat does not matter one jot.
So, instead, am going to use my words to highlight accomplishments of a group of women who did not wait for permission/support/patronage from men.
They took matters into their hands and succeeded.
In Imphal, around 3500-4000 women arrive early morning everyday and set up what is probably Asia’s biggest women’s market – the Ima Keithel or Mother’s Market.
And its not a recent phenomenon – there is evidence of the market running as far back as the 16th century.
That’s right, when the rest of India was firmly under the purdah system and women had no rights, no status, no protection; were mere commodities or playthings of the men; a bunch of women, revolted against this patriarchy and took matters in their own hands to support themselves and their families.
The earliest indication can be traced to 1533. The Gazetteer of Manipur-1786, indicates that all the selling was always conducted by women in the open air and later in temporary hutments alongside the Nambul River.
And they have continued for 500 years.
Neither time, nor tides of change, neither rulers, nor governments have managed to make a dent in their strength and perseverance.
Just like always, even today, all the thousands of stalls are run by women. They sell everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and fish; from clothes to pottery; from handmade jewelry to weapons like bows and arrows, daggers etc. A road divides the section that sells vegetables, fruit, fish and groceries with the other that deals with household items, fabrics and pottery.
Until recently, the market was conducted impromptu with makeshift carts and carriage widgets in the mornings, from 5am to 10am, as sunup is early in the north-east of India.
It was only in 2010, that the current three floor open air shoppers’ paradise was specially designed and built in accordance to the local architecture. The women sit on elevated platforms on allotted plot plans of 10ftx10ft surrounded with their respective piles of products.
They ply their trade till evening – of course interrupted only by epic bouts of gossip (the older women complain about their daughters-in-law; the younger women complain about their mothers-in-law; they all complain about their husbands and they all go gagagugu over their children and grandchildren)
And some special entrepreneurial spirits also sell currency notes!!!
Am not kidding – Google is your friend. Just search and find out.
The authorities know about it but turn a blind eye to the practice.
After all, as they put it, no one in their right mind will go up against a gang of grannies.
Ladies, these women are a living proof that you don’t need permission from men to succeed.
You are not weak.
You are not helpless.
You don’t have to depend on men’s help or support for anything.
Strictly speaking, you don’t need men at all.
You can do everything that men can do….apart from growing beards that totally reek of awesomeness of course.
And you can do it all better (again, apart from the beard thingy).
You don’t need us.
You have never needed us and you will never need us.
And don’t let anybody ever tell you anything different.
Ladies, you rock.
Just to conclude
I have had the privilege to meet a number of incredibly strong and independent women over the course of my life – Shailaja, Minakshi, Mitul, Miriam, Christina, and Jyotika.
My dear ladies, although I may come across as a boorish, oafish, neanderthal sometimes, I have nothing but respect and admiration for your strength, courage, perseverance and determination.
Thank you, from the bottom of my stomach, for loving me and taking care of me.