Merriam Webster says warriors are people who engage or experienced warfare. The women I think of are many, those combat warriors, or those social warriors. The image of Joan of Arc or Rani Chennamma emerges, yet there is something more profound Merriam Webster says,
A warrior is a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.
Think of it, human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…each step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle,
Each of one of us are battling our own monsters some we win some we lose. Even in times of trauma we try to maintain a sense of normality until we can no longer can. That is surviving, not healing, there are chances we never become whole again, or even if we pretend we are whole, somewhere the scar is there.
Here I am in an auto taking me to Peenya from Malleshwaram. I can see the petite lady, with a graceful smiling, she is nearing eighty gentle impoverished but the air of gentry very much there. As our auto nears the house she is welcoming people who arrived before us. it was the house-warming of her daughter Gulabi’s house and the lady is Lakshmamma.
To me since I met in 1991 she has been a support and guide. She had come from Mrs. Madi’s house to help my mother to take care me and my new-born daughter.
It was Godhuli Lagna on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in 1963.
The daughter of a hotelier in Shivamogga was marrying the son of a coffee planter in Chikkamagalur, both well off, and both being well known in their community the wedding was rather Lavish.
“Pancha baksha parammanna maadidharu” said Ratna-akka the community matron, referring to the five varieties of sweets and Kheer that was made for the wedding.
Lakshmi lived up to her name, petite decked in gold Jewellery and Kanjivaram saree .
“i have to leave tomorrow”
Lakshmi nodded women of her upbringing did not question their husband. Her husband Subba Rao she eventually learnt did not live in the estate, but at Chikkamagalur town where he ran a hotel and a coffee selling outlet. All was fine until Ravi was born, then the discord began.
“how can you do this to my sister”Lakshmi’s brother had roared.
“Panchayati kariteeni” said Lakshmi’s father had threatened the greatest threat of it all — the village Panchayat.
“bedappa” negotiated Lakshmi’s father on behalf of his son, he promised that Subba Rao with break ties with the girl he was having an affair with, things seem to fall into place and Gulabi was born. By this time Lakshmi’s father-in-law had passed away.
“I am running this house,”Subba Rao yelled,
“That woman will not enter the house” his mother had yelled back.
This had become a routine, Lakshmi and husband steadily turned to strangers, to keep herself occupied Lakshmi took on looking after the coffee plantation and she even began cultivating aracanut. Five years later when Lakshmi’s mother-in-law passed away Subba Rao and his second wife moved in from Chikkamagalur .Lakshmi and three children were thrown out of the house.
Lakshmi’s sister-in-law didn’t want them either for the fear that they would be a drain on the family resources. When Lakshmi got an inclining that she was not wanted she started looking for alternates. Those were the days of poor relatives helping with running of the family were looked after like family without being paid, but that would mean her children would not get the education they deserve, she did not want her kids to be obligated to her brother either.
“jayalakshmi akka how can I deal with this,” Lakshmi had asked Jayalakshmi her friend. Lakshmi was clear that she had to earn enough to educate her children. She was also shrewd enough to invest her gold.
Adiga’s were Jayalakshmi’s family friends and distant relatives, she knew that older Mrs.Adiga or Kittamma as she was known was ailing her son Suryanarayana was getting overworked dealing with the nitty gritty details of the estate and running the house as his wife Lalita could not handle things. Jayalakshmi thought this was the perfect situation
“Surya, I have a friend, she is capable she could help.”
“Chikkamagalur raya’s daughter-in-law you said’ inquired Kittamma,
“Yes, her husband has that Konkani woman move in with him and he has thrown her out.”
“She is supposed to be quite pretty’ thought Lalitha aloud.
“see, she is decent and in trouble.It is better than having an absolute stranger.”
Both Kittamma and Surya agreed with this,” “you can give her the outer two rooms, she can stay there with her children, and instead of a salary you can take care of the children’s schooling.”
“That sounds good, ’ agreed Lalitha, ”She will be part of the house, yet she can have her privacy.’
So Lakshmi entered the Adiga’s house and the vast informal labour class of India.
Lakshmi gradually took on the kitchen at Adiga’s place, overseeing the festive cooking, making of seasonal pickles and preserves. Ensuring the labourers got their lunch on time, from Lakshmakka she became Lakshmammma, the kids grew up at older son Satish completed graduation and decided to join the Ramakrishna mission. Younger son Suresh dropped out school, joined the urban delinquents and vanished out of Lakshmamma’s life, Gulabi finished her twelfth.
“I want to take a job”
“Gulabi finish graduation and take job” said Suryanaryana Adiga,
“No mama, the factory pays thousand five hundred for a month with health benefits,” suddenly it occurred to Suryanarayana, that Gulabi felt beholden to them. “Okay, I need someone to keep accounts, will you do it?”
There was no response from Gulabi, “I will pay you 1000 month and put 500 in recurrent deposit, that will be your investment, what you would have spent on travelling you can have a pigmy saving again as investment.” Gulabi agreed.
In the meanwhile, Adiga’s sister needed someone to help her and Lakshmamma shifted to Bangalore from there she came down to our house.
At our house my mother had made it very clear that she would invest on Lakshmamma’s behalf as long as she was with us. I have so much to thank Lakshmamma for she was the live-in Grandmother for my daughters, giving them love, disciplining them, telling them stories. I remember the day I thought her to make Pizza. Then she learnt about soups. Still there was a hint of sadness in her.
It was during the Navarathri puja. When our family Purohit Udupa asked if Gulabi would marry his younger son. With Gulabi married, Lakshmamma,relaxed. Then the word came from her husband inquiring after her, she very politely told the person, ”according to the government rules after seven years of separation, it is divorce.” Gulabi and her husband stood by Lakshmamma’s decision.
So called well wishers, like her brother kept telling her after all he is your husband, it will be good for Gulabi to have a father, but Lakshmamma was firm. Today I see her at peace, enjoying being looked after and being looked up by Gulabi, Gulabi’s family, the neighbourhood that she lives in. Lakshmamma’s “Pijja’s” are a party attraction, at the event catering that Gulabi and her husband take on. her grandchildren educated.
When I look at Lakshmamma and grace she handled life, I realize whatever we are physically … male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy… all those things matter less than what our heart contains, if we have the soul of a warrior we are warriors, all the rest are glass that contains, the lamp and we are the light inside.
This is part of the #WarrirorWomen’s series of Women’s Web.– When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis. Check out this new historical novel Empire (http://bit.ly/DeviEmpire) with a warrior woman, Aremis at the heart of the novel.