Another International Women’s Day. I have reached that stage in my life where the idea of celebrating one day for women is amusing. Nevertheless, I like to mark the day, so I woke up my daughter with a cuppa tea and after our family pooja, shared with hubby and her a photo of a fearless girl facing down the charging bull of Wall Street, an installation that came up yesterday to mark Women’s Day and urge Wall Street to have more women on the boards of their companies.
I was more charged-up about “A Day Without A Woman”, an initiative by the organizers of Women’s March, to push for gender justice. It asks women to stay away from work for a day, if possible, and wear red to show support. So, hubby went to office wearing a red tie and my daughter wore a fire-engine red shirt to school. My red blouse is ready for class later in the day.
My Facebook feed, expectedly, overflowed with messages and posts wishing women a happy day. To which I added Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman”. All good but as they say, I wasn’t feeling it …
Returning from running errands and scooping up books from my library, I was crossing 84th street when I sighted an old woman pushing a shopping cart. It isn’t unusual in NYC, especially the Upper West Side, to sight some really ancient people going about their business, slowly, steadily. The woman was hunched over her cart, face sunk into her chest as she pushed forward, her cart emblazoned with a placard: Donald Trump Is Not My President. I looked up and saw the badge she wore on her coat lapel: Jews Against Trump. We crossed paths and once across, I paused and turned to look at her making her way down.
I wanted so badly to fly back and hug her, she reminded me of women I have known and loved growing up. Women whose stories I eavesdropped upon, whose laps I climbed into to be part of the story-telling, women who chopped vegetables and rolled rotis and fired up tandoors as they swapped stories, pinging them back and forth, picking up where one left off… Women we called Nani, Ma, Amma, Bebe, Buddi Mai. And at times, Papa and Tayaji even. Because what united the raconteurs was not their gender but the ability to spin entire worlds, to resurrect the dead, to toss tales in defiance.
For several moments, I watched her make her way down the sidewalk, frail, determined. Thankfully, I didn’t give into the urge to hug her - likely she’d’ve smacked my forearm for that show of sentimentality! But I am so glad I chanced upon her. And that she took me back to all those women whose stories I still feed off to this day. On this “Women’s Day”, I wish for women to never stop telling their stories, on their carts and clothes, to their children and grandchildren, to the world at large. For we will make the world a kinder, better place, one shared story at a time.
And oh, did I mention the color of the coat she wore? Fire-engine red. What can I say: I’m feeling it, Nana, I’m feeling it!