A character, an incident or a situation that inspired me

— Dr. Rameeza.A.Rasheed

When I was studying in the 9th standard an incident happened in my senior friend’s life and the incident changed the course of her entire life. The Observation of how she could turn that incident which would have defeated the purpose of her life into a success story through an intelligent management of that critical situation by her had inspired me a lot and helped me to manage many crises in my life later with confidence. When I think of her life story to day, I am made to come to a conclusion that, the concept of ‘women empowerment’ is not a latest invention. My friend has used it a few decades ago when, ‘feminism’ was not known to women of those days.

Just two months before her school final examination, my friend shared with me about the marriage arrangements her family was making for her. I was not surprised since, many of my seniors got married immediately after finishing their school final year. But this friend often said to me, “My father has three daughters and the parents often worry about our marriage expenses since, he belongs to middle income group and doesn’t have much saving or any other asset. But, I am determined that I will act as an elder son to him and share some of his responsibilities. For that to happen I have a plan. I will do my graduation and teacher training to become a school teacher or do a PG course after graduation and become a college teacher. Then I wll help in the higher education of my younger sisters .I will reach this goal what ever be the hurdles. To manage my college education expenses I will take mathematics tuitions and get higher marks in school final to earn merit scholarship.” Thus she had a clear vision about her future and a definite plan to achieve that goal.

Since, I knew about her concern about her father’s worry about settling all his three daughters well in marriage and her plan to share his burden, I asked her, “What would you do now?” She simply told me with a serious tone, ‘to wait and see’ and declared that she would never, ever give up her goal. After a week, I heard from her sisters that, for nearly ten days she was trying her best to convince her parents to stop the marriage arrangement, by telling them about her goal in life. She had even adopted the Gandhiian method of fasting for three days. But the relatives were brain washing her father by telling him that, ‘the girls are neighbour’s plants and any investment on their higher education is a waste and they are to be hurriedly married when he is still in service’.

After three weeks of her final examination, I heard about her disappearance from home. It seemed that she had taken away only three sets of dresses .The parents were heart broken and unable to digest all the ugly rumors spreading about her. The society around her concluded that, she had eloped with some body and made enquiries with her classmates from that angle. They checked in all the relatives and friends homes .All her friends , including me vouched for her good character and denied the possibility of any such love affair .But when the parents finally decided to go to the police , the younger sister found a note written by my friend and kept in her school bag .Through that letter , she had conveyed to her parents about her resolution to do higher studies by all means. She would now approach an NGO or seek the government’s help through the Collector of her township or start taking up tuitions in Mathematics and English and try for merit scholarship (since she had always been a meritorious student) to finance her studies She had promised to her parents that, she would never make any suicide attempt. But she would not reveal to them the details about her shelter. She had declared that, she may return home only if she gets news of the cancellation of the marriage arrangements and a promise to send her to the college. She also warned them that, if they go to the police to trace her, they may not meet her in their life time.

The father understood her iron will to achieve her goal. He recollected many conversations with her when ever she was irritated about the description of the girls ‘being neighbor’s plants’. He remembered her arguments with him about the need for girls to get higher education to get decent jobs. She always used to tell her father that, all his three daughters can financially, emotionally and physically assist the parents like three sons if they are given the tools of higher education and jobs.

Hence, the father decided to cancel the marriage arrangements and inserted an appeal to her in the local news asking her to come back home and pursue her higher studies. After two days she returned home trusting her father. He confided to her that, it was only his financial circumstances and the fear about his daughter’s future if something happens to him made him to proceed on his eldest daughter’s early marriage and never imagined that she would walk out from her home. She too apologised to her parents for causing mental agony and inviting relative’s nasty comments by her disappearing act and said that she didn’t know any other way to escape from marriage.

After she returned home I met her and asked where she was hiding all these days. She told me that, one NGO aunty known to her through a friend gave her shelter and protection. This proved how cautious she was about her safety when she was away from the protected home environment. Then she not only did her graduation but also her Post graduation with the help of scholarship money and her tuition earnings and then landed up in a government college as a lecturer. For three years, she was assisting her father in the higher education of her younger sisters and then married. This is the gist of the success story of a young girl who proved that, ‘if there is a will there is a way’ for any one reach his/her goals in life.

She had proved that with higher education and decent job women can turn themselves into a useful resource for the economy and an asset to the family. She had proved that, any goal in life can be achieved through a definite plan and strategy and by intelligent management of the resources available such as, the family support, time management skill, hard work, physical and mental energy and positive thinking towards life.

She became my role model in chalking out suitable strategies to face any crisis in life. She had shown to me how in addition to higher education and a job, the inner strength, positive attitude to life, ability to face challenges of life with courage and confidence and the ability to use the available resources and supporting facilities in the best manner possible are the other qualities required for women to become ‘achieved women’ in this world.

If all the women possess these qualities they will not be considered as weaker sex or secondary sex or a wasteful human resource or a liability to the family and the nation.

About the Author
Dr. Prof. Rameeza Rasheed is a retired Professor of Economics with 30 years of teaching in JBAS college for women (formerly SIET college)-Chennai.

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