A Woman of her Time

Her skin like crumpled paper clung to her hand and the veins stood out like rivers disappearing into her arm. The winter wind howled outside the house as she looked at me, her hand holding mine. She touched my face with her palm, it felt cold against my cheek. She lies slumbering somewhere among my memories. Like walking through a fog on a forest trail I stumble upon them. I recall the cold stone floor as I stood watching her her cat quietly lapping at a bowl of milk. Or looking at my hazy  reflection the mirror one morning as I brushed my teeth and the  quiet breeze rustling the leaves in her farm outside. The nurses carrying her to bed as she was paralyzed because of a fall. I remember looking out of the car window as my mother pointed at a two floored building. It was my great grandmother’s clinic she said. Did I walk in and see the five roomed structure now rented out? Or did I imagine it. Pictures tell me that she held me in her arms as a baby, they tell me about her cats lazing on her lap. They paint a story of her life and the world she lived in. But my one memory of her is more precious than those preserved in Polaroids.

Who is this woman to me? She featured in so many bed time stories. A woman born to a poor family, who was married to a widowed judge as a child and raised two daughters. But this never completed her story. After her marriage she enrolled into a medical school, she failed several times but never gave up. She was limited by her education due to her family’s income, social background but above all else her  gender. She fought the battle when most would have surrendered. She worked to be a trained obstetrician. She supported a husband who was driven to madness as he lost his job and purpose with the revolution that brought a swift decay upon the maharajah’s court. She raised her step children along with her daughters. But who is she to me?

She was a stickler for some rules but in many ways she defied tradition and was ahead of her time. Did she believe women could strive for individual liberty? She lived the role of a single mother by chance not by choice. Did she believe in a society where marriage or motherhood can be a choice? As a girl of seven these questions were beginning to form but it would be years before these droplets of thought turned into a cloud. My grandmother and my mother, the women in my family she raised; have been like her, ahead of their time. But I have walked past the shackles of time, past the prison gates, into a world with open skies and endless possibilities.

And now the world I left behind calls me back. It wants me to climb back into the cast of an immutable tradition. What I often wonder is, would she want me to?ThinkstockPhotos-491904538©ThinkStockPhotos

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “A Woman of her Time

  1. What a poignant profile of your great-grandmother. Last night I was at a talk by Chimamanda Adichie and she talked about her grandmother in Nigeria and how her grandmother was a feminist. She was making a broader point about Western feminists sometimes forgetting that Western feminism is not the only one out there it just has a much more widely documented history.

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