The last child of Janko and Harbans, I was born on 8 July 1962 in a government hospital in Delhi, the capital of India. Those in relation were ofcourse not too happy since I was 'ugly looking' and was the third daughter born to my parents. My mother said that she was 36 years old when I was born and she didnt want more children. She was relieved when her reproductive cycle ceased due to Menopause. She was happy with five children - two sons and three daughters.
My bringing up took place within the confines of a traditional Punjabi family set up. My parents had migrated to Delhi in 1947 after the Indo-Pak partition. My father joined Indian Red Cross Society and we lived in government quarters in a dedicated residential colony. My childhood was spent within a closed community seeing my parents working hard to give the best to all their five children. While my father worked from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. everyday, my mother was constantly on her toes feeding and keeping all of us warm and happy. One by one, the children grew up, attained the best possible education and left home. I was left with my parents and got a chance to be close to them and receive a lot of love and care. With my father's hard work, we had a good economic status and we shifted into a big house of our own in Delhi.
The peculiarity of my childhood was the way I looked at the low status of women in social life. I saw women and young girls being talked to in the tone of subjugation and inferiority. I wondered, WHY is it so? I was very vocal and often fought and yelled to tell others how I felt! I grew up and the question of women's subjugation kept becoming bigger and bigger in my thoughts.
I saw my friends getting married off under the age of 18. I felt privileged because my parents were liberal and never forced me for anything that was against my wishes. I was given the freedom to choose my career. They had understood that I could never fit into the conventional mold of a feminine GIRL. They patiently listened to my strong objections on social practices, social customs, rituals, traditions and the male powerhouse that existed around. They discovered my prowess when I led a rally against the practice of Dowry while in school. I hated the fact that girls parents have to give money, jewelry, furniture and household items to the groom's family.
My obvious choice of subject was Sociology, which I studied to give an expression to my anguish against the social and cultural practices that made women prone to subjugation and abuse. My thinking for women became a big hindrance in my marriage. Ultimately, I married the man of my choice at the age of 27. He belonged to a Punjabi conventional family but did show signs of progressive thinking. After the first day of marriage, I was asked my name by his people. They knew that I had refused to change my surname after marriage. The tone of the manner in which I was asked this question, still echoes in my ears. Years went by, I gave birth to two beautiful children and life went on. My Doctorate work continued while I took up the responsibilities of the wife of an Armed Forces man. The fire that had ignited during the childhood years, grew stronger with the vagaries of my married life.
On an angry day of my life in 2004, when I was feeling deceived and cheated, I said to myself, ENOUGH!! Its time to take on to roads and get on to ground. So I went around building up a not-for-profit organisation to give a name and identity to my self and to my feelings for women. I strongly believed that harnessing the young minds, sensitizing the children and building the capacities of women are crucial to attain a privileged life of respectful Status. Going steadily by my inner spirit, I sounded the bugle of Gender Equality through Research, Training and Direct Intervention through Social and Development Research and Action Group (SADRAG), the organisation that I built with dedication and commitment for women's and children's cause. Today hundreds of children are going to school, are sensitized to respect for gender, young girls are earning their livelihood with their head held high and women are economically and socially empowered to lead the life of respect and dignity.
Till date, my work may not have resulted in big numbers but the change that my efforts have brought about in human life can be qualitatively felt and seen in real life. The journey of my life continues with me waking up every morning , thinking of who and where I am going to make a difference in human life! I am full of life since I know that my journey is interesting and joyful.
My father was working with me on the last day when he passed away. His last words were, "Now, I am tired, I will do the remaining work next morning. Turn my face away please". I turned his face away from me and he breathed his last. His last words continue to strengthen my belief in me and in others since i know that tomorrow is a yet another day of my struggle for others.
And the journey continues..........