I have had the opportunity to be around some extraordinary women, as a grandson, son, lover, husband and father. All of them have shown such wonderful traits of independence, strong will and the ability to command. Like the late singer Leonard Cohen crooned in his brilliant song, ‘Never Mind’, “The husband leads, the wife commands!”
I was brought up by women. My paternal grandmother, who managed a large estate spanning three States in India without male support in an era of male dominance is a tremendous influence on me. She is till date my most favourite person in the world. Her’s is a head above the rest. I miss her a lot though she passed away close to 30 years ago.
I’ve seen the women in my life face some pretty big problems. They withstood them. Like sentinels. My grandmother withstood the loss of her husband when she was in her twenties and the loss of her only son when he was in his twenties. My mother withstood losing her husband to muscular dystrophy, an incurable disease, when she was just nineteen. They overcame their grief and embraced life.
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My wife, an exemplary painter and candle maker, is an example of sheer grit and brilliance. She is a woman with a high IQ, faster than anyone I know. She pretty much answers my questions even before I ask them! But in a common man’s universe in India where women are still not given the place they deserve, she has to fight each day to be heard.
Still… We are a team. Fight or laugh, it’s the both of us. I hate for my wife to get angry. I was weak in math and when she’s cross, she makes me feel exactly like my math teacher did.
My daughter has shown all the resilience of her great grandmother and grandmother when she decided that she’s going to finish her education in Australia and stay back there. I opposed it tooth and nail. She won. She found her balance. These are the women who inspire me when I write my books.
In my latest book, Fear of God, Durga Singh, the female lead, is a lawyer with a broken heart and a failed relationship. There is this one instance in the book when her lover spurns her and from being an intimate soulmate, in a moment, he becomes a complete stranger. The impact of his actions on her life and how she copes with them is a part of her character growth in the book.
In Agniputr, my earlier book, Sheila Pitambar, the female lead, is not only a brilliant scientist but is also a strong and resilient human being who in the end is left with a mind-bending problem and a child in her that ought to be dead but isn’t. Her strength is her resilience and ability to take on odds and still keep standing and in the end, she even rises high enough to question fate itself.
Vatsala, in Shatru, my first book, is a scorned and persecuted woman who’s broken home and heartbreaks her. Vatsala becomes incapable of even displaying pain or sadness.
My books reflect only what I have seen in women. They are resilient, loving, stern, playful, and strong beyond measure. At the same time they are so fragile that they succumb so easily if their heart is broken.
Overpowering a woman in the name of providing them security cannot be a form of protection by any stretch of imagination. A leash cannot be for protection, it is there for only one purpose, captivity. Security cannot be only through chains of religious, cultural or societal bondage. A woman is too wonderful a creature to be ever held in captivity. We, as a species, need to allow them the space to grow. They need to be independent enough to fly right back to the nest. They must have the eye to see the world so they believe their nest is the best. Else, they should have the independence to make it that way.
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I have been lucky to be in the company of women who were simply the ‘man of the house’. I have seen their gentleness and their wrath when they are wronged. I have seen women wreck a home to build another and give up on people who have cheated on them. They are a power to be reckoned with, with the ability to break or make a universe. I depict them in my books the way I see them in life.
Vadhan is the author of books Shatru, Agniputr, and Fear of God. The views expressed are the author’s own.