Dadima (as I called my Grandmother), my aunt, my mother, my sister and my daughter have been influential women in my life. One thing that stands out about them is they are free from bias and prejudice.
Dadima did not have a sense of barrier or difference between her and her fellow beings. The others were not Hindus or Dalits to her, but people by name.
She became a widow when the influenza hit India around 1915-1917, much of my family was wiped out; indeed that was an international epidemic then. She used to tell us that you go bury one, and by the time they returned home they had another one to take to the cemetery.
She abandoned her agricultural land and moved from a tiny village called Irgampalli, where my Grandfather was a Patel (Chief). She walked 12 miles placing my Dad in a basket over her head and carried my aunt on her side as no transportation was available then. Buses did not exist and the bullock carts ran once a week. In the Mid-Sixties, I lived in Irgampalli for about six months after high school; my Dad wanted me to be a farmer on the land of my Grandfather abandoned almost 50 years ago and convert it into an income producing property.
We did have a few acres dedicated to grow Moghra (Jasmine) flowers, I was not sure why, but I realized now, it may have been his sentiment to honor his mother.
She made it to Chintamani, and raised her two kids living in her brother’s house. She did not want any help, or become a ‘burden’ on others for her fate. She took charge of her own life by making flower garlands and taking care of my father and my aunt with the money earned.
Then they moved to Yelahanka with the marriage of my aunt, and she continued her work, and her flower garlands decked the floats of Hindu deities on the Karga procession.
She was a Muslim and had no qualms about decorating Hindu deities. By the way my Grandfather’s brother is a saint whom I do not subscribe to, but they conduct annual “Urs” all evening festivities by his mausoleum.