I come from a Rabari family in Singach village in Lalpur taluka of Jamnagar district. Writing is new to me, something I started during Corona time. I work as a community mobiliser with a non-governmental organisation working with pastoral communities. I am an external student doing an undergraduate programme in arts with Gujarati as a main subject. Since last 9 months I have been working to build awareness and interest in education among the people in my community. The level of education among women in my community is alarmingly low. You will find very few educated women here.
Originally, we were pastoral communities engaged in sheep breeding along with other communities like Charan, Bharwad, Ahirs. Many of us have now given up our traditional occupations and work as daily wage labourers in big companies or on the fields. There are women, who work in factories and fields as labour. The Samaj accepts these women and their work, but those who work alone, like me, find it difficult to get social approval.
An imagined dialogue between a couple echoes in the background as the poet writes her verse:
Bharat: Listen, your job, or career is one thing, but my parents...They must be served well. You have no idea how much they have suffered to help me become what I am today.
Jsmita: Oh yeh, how would I know. My parents just abducted me from somewhere when I was all made and ready.
Bharat: Why do you taunt me? All I am saying is I am there to earn. I want you to take care of the house and enjoy a comfortable life. What else would you want?
Jsmita: Of course, what else would I want. I – a non-living object. How can an object have desires? I will work at home and enjoy, stretch my hands at the end of the month in front of you and ask you for money and if you get angry then, I will bear that too. Because you would be working, and I would be just sitting at home.
Bharat: You are silly. You are the honour of this family. I cannot let you slog outside.
Jsmita: Yes, yes, you are right. I forgot that for you all those women who work outside are shameless, characterless.
This is the reality. Everyone is ready to remind us of our obligations. They are eager to tell her what she should do but no one asks…
મારાં અધિકારોની યાદી,
ક્યાંક ખોવાઈ ગઈ છે.
મારી ફરજો તો દરરોજ નજર સામે ફરે છે,
અટવાયેલા મારાં અધિકારોને નીરખી લિયો.
ફરજ તો હું બહુ નિષ્ઠાથી નિભાવું છું,
અધિકાર સુધી પણ મને પહોંચવા દિયો.
મારે આ કરવાનું આમ કરવાનું,
મારે શુ કરવું છે એ પણ કયારેક પૂછી લિયો.
હું આમ ન કરી શકું હું તેમ ન કરી શકું,
તારાથી બધું થાય આવુ પણ કયારેક કહી દિયો.
અપાર સહનશકતી છે બધું જ઼ સમજી શકું છું,
મારાં સપનાંઓને પણ કયારેક ઝીલી લિયો.
ઘરની ચાર દીવાલને તો હું તમારા થી વધુ જાણું છું,
કયારેક આકાશ તરફ પણ મને ઉડવા દિયો.
ગુંચવાઈને બહુ રહી સ્ત્રી જાતિ,
હવે ખૂલીને શ્વાસ તો લેવા દિયો.
આઝાદી એટલે કપડાં અને હરવું ફરવું નહિ,
ધારેલા ધ્યેય વિશે પણ કયારેક પૂછી લિયો.
I have lost the copy
where I had listed my rights.
My obligations roam freely
in front of my eyes.
My rights are lost, look for them.
I am conscientious in my duty
Let me claim my rights as well.
You should do this. Do it like this
Sometimes even ask
what I would like to have as well.
You cannot do this.
You must not do that.
Sometimes say that
you can do whatever you like.
My understanding is limitless.
My resilience eternal.
But sometimes treasure
my dreams in your palms.
I know these four walls
better than you do.
Sometimes let me fly
to the sky, deep blue.
Women have been choked for long.
Let me breathe freely at least.
No, not the freedom to wear
or wander about.
You should also ask
what is it I want from life.
Translated from Gujarati by Pratishtha Pandya