“Viji…Geetha…Chandri…Enga irukkel..“Chandru Iyer marched in majestically in his crisp dhoti , white shirt ,shining ear stud , vibuthi smeared on his forehead and of-course a small bunch of hair strands made to form a tiny kudumi. This is a part of his evening routine. After working relentlessly for 13-14 hrs in a day, he would bring treats (Snacks) for his kids. Well, being a father of 7 daughters and 3 sons in an economically modest household would definitely seem a challenge. But when this would come up in conversation, he would cheerfully remark “I have 7 Mahalakshmis (God of wealth) at home, how can I be poor.” Such is a man who was born in a very orthodox house but had modern and broad thinking, much ahead of his times, meet my thaatha fondly called as Chandru Iyer who laid the foundation to create strong, powerful and independent women who have passed on their strength to the next generation.
Being a part of the era when patriarchy and male chauvinism were a way of living correctly, thaatha lived to be an exception. A few years back on this very same Women’s day, I had written about my paati who we consider as a superwoman. But to make her a superwoman, we had a superman quietly going about his routine and working in the backstage without any hue or cry. Both paati and thaatha were an epitome of positivity and worked in perfect unison to give a smooth, happy and lovely childhood to their kids. They had a perfect understanding which many a time went unnoticed by a third person. In a family of 12+guests, no food is enough food esp vegetables. As a routine, when paati used to serve, he would harshly dismiss saying ‘I don’t like this, don’t serve me’ but still paati would forcefully serve some. For a third person who would witness this scene, it would seem like an arrogant man belittling his wife’s efforts. Now when paati was asked about this she used to laugh and tell, he dismissed it as he knew vegetable was less and I might not have anything left as I ate last. So he would say no and I would still serve some as I know that it was his favourite.
He was never the boss of the house. He shouldered all responsibilities but never imposed power on anyone. There had never been an instance when he had questioned his wife or kids about the expenditure. I was told many a time about the famous stationery shop where every son and daughter had an account and were allowed to pick any of their school needs from there without any explanation or question. In fact, he had empowered the women of the house right from an early age. My mom was introduced to banking by him when she was in her third standard. She was taught everything about a savings account, filling a form and depositing money at that tender age. He did not impose any age-old-rule that girls are meant to stay in the kitchen. My mom has played all the running, jumping , racing and in-short all the taboo activities for girls, Never once, he questioned. He in-fact enjoyed the mischiefs and loved them for what they are. Apart from going about his daily duties, he ensured that his kids didn’t miss out on the social activities. Every week 2 or 3 kids were taken for temple, breakfast at Murudis and movie (if any). It was a big deal and the excitement in anticipation for the turn was the best part of it.
Every daughter was educated on par or in fact more than a guy. When it was time to work, he let them work as he was a practical man. Though now he got economic support through his children, he never relied on their money. He took a small percentage of it and gave back the rest asking them to spend/invest wisely. This made them economically independent and responsible. There were many an instance when my mother had to do over-time back in the days when there was no means of communication. He would wait at the gate for her to arrive and gently ask ” Saptiya ma?” and would notify paati “Kozhandha vanduta paaru, sapadu podu…po po po…late aidthu paaru”. Never once, he questioned their whereabouts. The trust kept them glued together and stay grounded.
He worked, worked and worked tirelessly till his age was ripe and his eyes could give in no-more. It was a time when his sons and daughters were in a good place and still he apologetically mentioned about his retirement. He never wanted to be a liability and was always self-sufficient. There was no emotional blackmailing as both thaatha and paati paved way for the younger generation with their philosophical and practical way of life.
In this world, when there are so many negative examples from the past, thaatha stood strong to back the family that has given so many empowered women to society. Generations after generations, these values have passed on. Today, in our family girls outnumber the guys and each one has become a symbol of strength and strived to be the best in their choice of field. Women’s day is not just about empowered women, it is also a day to celebrate supermen like thaatha who has given this world a clan of empowered women who continue to inspire and guide the generations to come.
Happy Women’s day!