“We are in this together,” I hear everyone on social media post inspirational quotes and try to remind everyone about how social distancing is bringing us all together. I couldn’t help but wonder how a person living in the comfort of their house with access to social media and Netflix, can relate to a daily wage labourer who is struggling to make ends meet or understand the plight of a child in a shelter home with poor facilities. Are we really in this together? I decided to do my bit and connect with people during the lockdown by doing something impactful.
I got an opportunity to intern with a non-profit organisation called Zestreet and this was my turning point. I had a wonderful opportunity to speak to Lata didi, one of the women associated with Zestreet. Lata didi and I belong to a different age group, grew up in a different part of the country, and yet have so much in common. Coming from a disadvantaged community in Delhi, Lata didi dreamt of being a teacher. As a student, she had extraordinary love for knowledge and dedication towards learning. She was not only a bright student but an ambitious one too. Growing with the dream of serving her people, she wanted to work for the betterment of her society and the women around her by becoming a teacher. She grew up in a supportive family where her father encouraged her education and stood up against anyone who asked to get her married off before completing education but, little did she know that she would eventually have to give up on her dreams owing to the deep rooted custom of our society that prioritizes marriage over career and urges women to give up their dreams and live the life that the society finds ideal for them. Lata didi’s grandfather got her married at the age of 20, after she finished her high school. Soon after her marriage, she had begun to accept her life as it was but her ambitions never died, the little dedicated girl in her was still alive.
Many years into marriage and after becoming a mother of three, her responsibilities overpowered her dreams and she started to live her life living up to the expectations of her family and society. She had forgotten to speak. But, life had planned differently for her and destiny gave her a chance to outshine, Zestreet being the medium. After being introduced to Zestreet, Lata didi was introduced to a world that valued her dedication. The little ambitious student in her was given another chance to live her dream. She learnt the skill of handicraft which became her medium of expression and a mode of livelihood. She was not only exposed to a world where women were believed in but it also helped her provide a better and beautiful life to her children. She was finally an independent woman who could support herself and her family financially without having to seek help from others.
Today, Lata didi’s work is acknowledged globally. Having her work praised and appreciated all around the world, motivates and encourages her to work even harder and live a life better than ever. Though, it took sometime but her family became a source of constant support and encouraged her being a part of Zestreet. She credits Zestreet for bringing out a confident and independent woman out of the shy person that she was. She now leads a financially independent life and feels empowered. She has two daughters and a son and ensured that all of them get to go to school and live their dreams too!
Today, she inspires other women in her community by sharing the skills that she has learnt and is also a front line worker during this pandemic. In a society where women are made to quit their dream work and believe that their marriage is all that matters, Lata didi has stood out to fight this stereotype by chasing her dreams after becoming a mother, despite living in a community that discourages women from being independent. There is a Lata in each and everyone of us. We just have to believe in our inner voice, turn away from all the distractions and remind ourselves, We are in this together! – Mahaq Tromboo