Not A Slave Child

January 27, 2006
Anouradha Bakshi

Many wonder what I mean when i say that Project Why was my way of repaying a debt. I would like to share the following which maybe explains some of what I do - a.b.

My birth is the outcome of an extraordinary set of circumstances and surprising choices made by men and women who lived by their ideals. In the olden days, girls were married at a very young age. When my mother, Kamala, reached that age she gently but indisputably said: I will not get married before India is independent, I do not want to give birth to a slave child. This must have been in 1939. The family was aghast but one man heard this almost inaudible cry!

My grandfather, Pt Gopi Nath Sinha was a freedom fighter and Kamala had grown up amidst the passion that fuelled the young men who had chosen to *struggle* for India's independence. On that day, the only person who understood the intensity and depth of Kamala's words was her father. He stood by his eldest child's decision in spite of everyone! She had simply told him that if she was still of marriageable age when independence came she would accept the man he chose, otherwise she would just not get married.

Kamala often used to reminisce about the time when, as dusk approached, her mother would ask her to put the turmeric and oil mixture on the lantern to heat. 'Your father and his friends will soon be returning,' was the only explanation proffered. Those were the days when women were in purdah and it was little Kamala, aged 8 or 9 who greeted her father and his nationalist friends and who would then apply the warmed mixture on the welts that crisscrossed the backs of these men as a consequence of the many lathi charges and brutal beatings at the hand of the British.

I cannot even begin to imagine what must have gone trough the mind and spirit of that little girl. I know that much later, when she had to receive the British ambassador as a diplomat's wife in Prague soon after her marriage, she had found it extremely difficult to shake hands with him. 'I kept seeing the wounds on papa's back,' she told me one day.

She went on to take a job at a time when few women worked. And here also she chose one with a difference: she drove a truck into the interiors of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that widows of the Second World War were getting their pensions in hand as often the money was usurped by greedy male relatives.

India became independent on August 15th 1947. Kamala was 30 years old. She did get married, to my father Ram in 1949.

I was born 3 years later, and I was not a slave child, Kamala had willed it that way.

Note: Kamala Goburdhun, nee Sinha, died on June 13th 2000.

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Jinal Shah
January 27, 2006
10:17 AM

What a woman your mother was...Thank you for sharing this.

January 27, 2006
06:16 PM

Wow, I'm truly awed by your story. It must have been an experience growing up with a mother with courage like that.

January 27, 2006
06:38 PM

are we ever free?

January 27, 2006
11:19 PM

It's so important to hear stories such as this. Hats off to your mother and your grandfather.

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