It’s the very first day of November. I remember the 1st of January. Vividly. And I’m incredulous. How is it very nearly the end of the year? This year has been a strange one. A one of tying up loose ends. New beginnings. Sorting things out. Redemption as well – in a huge way for me.
Those of you who know me, or read my blog regularly will know that I have a huge amount of faith in the universe. I remember when I was in my 20’s, my mum and I were speaking about a financial situation, and my mum said to me, ‘Don’t worry, God looked after us in the past when things were really difficult, we’ll be ok. Have faith.’
Those words stayed with me.
I watched a film, where the lead actor said in Hindi, but I’ll translate: ‘If you truly desire something with all your heart and soul, the entire universe will work at making your wish come true.’
Those words stayed with me.
I watched Oprah Winfrey randomly one day, when her guests were people who had hit rock bottom…but had turned their lives around and become multi-millionaires. They became successful because they believed that they deserved better and demanded it from the universe.
Their words stayed with me.
I look at an inspirational young lady called Malala – and I think to myself, all that this girl wanted was for her and her friends to be educated. After being shot in the head – not only is she educated, but she is paving the way for millions of girls around the world to have opportunities to be educated- just by being her – the girl who survived, who did not give up or give in.
My youngest changed her calendar today to November and she was so delighted on two accounts. First of all, it had a picture of Belle from Beauty and the Beast in her signature yellow dress and cascades of brown hair in curly locks; but the calendar also had the caption ‘Never give up!’ Which of course, is her father’s catchphrase.
As I sat for a few moments reflecting on my year, and on events from my life, I realised that the people who succeed in life are those who refuse to be victims. I hate being pitied. When we were younger and going through challenging times, even then, I hated being pitied. I was not a victim. It makes my skin crawl even to be thought of as one.
When I was little, my Grandmother (dad’s mum), would sometimes cook for us. Being Bengali, one of our favourites was fish. Before making the fish curries, she would open all the windows in the kitchen, close the kitchen door that lead to the rest of the house, marinate the fish in salt and haldi, then fry the fish in oil. I would watch her with fascination, and she would tell me tales about India, how life was when she was a little girl.
Once when she was frying the fish and the oil was spitting out everywhere, I got spattered painfully a couple of times, Grandma told me about a special fish that her grandmother would cook when she was little. It was a Koi machh – in Bengali, machh is fish. The special thing about the Koi machh was that it was notoriously difficult to kill. Sounds weird doesn’t it? She told me that the fisherman would catch the machh, and it would be out of water, but still jumping around in the net. The Koi would be put into a deep pan of boiling hot oil, and it would still be jumping around in the pan, trying to live. Hopeful that once it was put back into water, it would survive. Grandma told me – that’s a woman’s life. Wide-eyed, I listened. She went onto explain. You can take a woman out of her surroundings. She will survive. You can put a woman in boiling hot oil, in terrible, difficult circumstances – she will still do her best to survive. Women are strong. We survive.
I was nine years old when she told me this. I’ve never forgotten her words.
I think my grandma is now approximately 80 years old, in that vicinity. She’s still strong. Still determined. Still wise. Still powerful. A testament to what she believed about women.
I feel blessed that although life was not easy whilst I was growing up, the universe constantly exposed me to people with strength, people with determination, people who made choices to make their lives better – even if that meant not following the path most trodden.
I feel blessed that even though I was brought up in a culture where often women were viewed as second class citizens – my family, grandparents – both maternal and paternal; did not subscribe to that.
The strength, ability to adapt; intelligence and power of women was always celebrated.
And I do my best to remember, even when I’m tired, even when I’m down, even when I question what I am doing in life – women are like Koi Macch. We are strong; we do our best to survive and we never, never give up!