Being Women

Break The Bias

The truth stands that while we read an inspirational story about women empowerment every minute, some woman somewhere is awaiting the monochrome imposed upon her by a society that celebrates the flying colours of women on a day dedicated to Her - International Women’s Day!

It’s been more than two decades now, but I can still feel the stiffness of her white yarn. That was what she wore, every day and every night for as long as I could remember. I wondered whether its rigidity was a self-imposed one and a part of the protective shell that she had formed around herself. Her words were frugal, like her meals. All that I could make out of her incessantly repeated mantras as she held onto her prayer beads was an obsession to cling on to a palpable piousness. She led a life that was starkly different from the rest. Though she hardly exhibited any emotions, the sandalwood fragrance of her frail frame and the mellowness of her deep touch quite compensated for all that she suppressed.

It was only during certain times of the year that her inner resplendence overpowered her whiteness. One such occasion could be a day; a certain marked one in the calendar when she would cook the ‘prasad’ for the deities for some ‘pujo’ or auspicious celebration. Another could be a time when she would weave yarns of her olden days, which many would listen to with mouths wide open. I was intrigued by those coloured tales as much as my palate savoured the experience of her dishes. 

The day my grandmother passed away, she took the untainted whiteness of her yarn with her, and the tints of tenderness that enveloped me in unknown ways. Hers was “a white life,” though I can hardly deny that she deserved all the colours of the spectrum that she embodied within herself.

But that was two generations ago. 

Last week I received terrible news. An accident threatened to annihilate my friend.

It was another thing that just the aroma of boiling rice would make her stomach rumble and yearn for a mound of it. Such was her association with the starchy white grain, basic but binding. Yet today, the sight of it filled her with a repulsion that enhanced the emptiness that rampaged through her and chaperoned the chaos that created it. It was the last of the rigorous rituals to be observed for her departed husband. The offering of rice dumplings or ‘pindas’ to crows, the so-called agents of ‘Jomraaj’ (God of Death), were made so that the soul could be granted a smooth passage. 

But how could she stand there to witness such an audacious upheaval of emotions and interactions? How could she think of linking these insensible acts to the man who meant the world to her? 

Last time too, she remembered, this humble grain had generated grief and estrangement. Stepping out of the threshold of her parental house after marriage with a pallid face and brimming eyes, she had thrown handfuls of rice behind her, while her skeptic self had disapproved of it. It was a traditional custom, but it meant wastage and perhaps some disruption to her. 

Rice could be exonerated; she must have thought. After all, it was the thing that made her feel full and well. But looking around, I wondered if she would be forgiven as she sat down with a hearty plate of her beloved grain to leave behind the trauma of the past few days? 

Perhaps not yet. The gaze on her, mostly of women, expected the widow to carry the pain and penance to her funeral pyre. 

So in all these years, what changed? 

I can see the invisible white shroud that is gradually gathering around her. The whiteness will soon feast upon her colours, rendering her colourless. It may not get reflected in her attire and sustenance but will certainly mark her choices and circumstances. 

Even now, a woman is being judged and needs to justify. She needs to fit in or face off in every sphere that she is a part of. She has to prove herself or confront perdition. And as you read this, the woman could be you or someone you cherish. Consequently, we become a part of the sham that we shirk to alter or admit.

The truth stands that while we read an inspirational story about women empowerment every minute, some woman somewhere is awaiting the monochrome imposed upon her by a society that celebrates the flying colours of women on a day dedicated to Her – International Women’s Day! 

Think about it, and let’s take a little step to do something to validate the campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2022. 


By Promita Banerjee Nag

An avid word enthusiast, she is fuelled by novel writings, ideas and light-hearted banter. A teacher by passion, she treads the path of unequivocal learning with and through her students. Mother, music and ‘mishti’ mostly convince her. If you wish a tête-à-tête, feel free to reach out to her at

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10 Responses

  1. Loved it… had a quick ride through the times and a hard fall that not much has changed unfortunately…
    I loved the analogy of rice- also where it says basic but binding… encompassing a lot with so little 😌

  2. It was a nice article we really need to ponder upon. I would love to read more of your such writeup.

  3. Thank you everyone for your encouragement and appreciation. I will be eager to reach out to you more often and to create a pool of thoughts for us to ponder on…

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