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In the spirit of intersectional feminism, let’s take a look at some of these amazing Indian women on Google Doodle. How many do you know?
Women of colour rarely get sensitive representation in mainstream media. For example, The Big Sick, a great film, portrays the two protagonists – a Pakistani man and a Caucasian woman – as strong, independent people. However, it portrays Pakistani women as walking, talking stereotypes. Brown women are usually portrayed this way in popular culture. Therefore, it’s a relief every time Google – the most popular search engine in the world – celebrates Indian women on Google Doodle.
On February 29, 2016, Google honoured Rukmini Devi Arundale; it was her 112th birth anniversary. Born in a time when societal expectations dictated that she shouldn’t dance, she went on to shatter stereotypes and became a trailblazing Bharatanatyam dancer of the 1930s. The perfect example of a rebel with a cause, she is an inspiration to us women, to break the glass ceiling and go after our hearts’ desires.
On January 3, 2017, i.e., her 186th birthday, Google commemorated Savitribai Phule. Together with her husband (Jyotirao Phule), she started India’s first school for women. She also started a care program for widows and led campaigns asking for the people of lower castes – who were considered to be “untouchables” – to be given their rights. Like her, we must always fight for justice.
On her 81st birthday, i.e., June 4, 2017, Google celebrated Nutan with a Google Doodle. She was a brilliant actress who was both critically and commercially successful. She grew up considering herself “skinny” and “ugly”. However, she grew up and went on to play many unconventional roles. We should all try to follow in Nutan’s footsteps and do things outside of what is considered “conventional” despite our fear of being looked down upon for being different.
September 23, 2017, was Dr. Asima Chatterjee’s 100th birth anniversary and Google decided to celebrate the occasion with a Google Doodle. Dr. Asima Chatterjee was the first Indian woman to obtain a Doctorate of Science, and this was in a time when women hardly ever pursued Chemistry. She made many groundbreaking contributions to medicine and is a role model to everyone, especially to those women who want to study Science which is stereotypically thought of as the domain of men.
On her 103rd birthday, i.e., October 7, 2017, Google honoured Begum Akhtar, the famous singer who sang Hindustani classical music. She was barely seven when she was first enraptured by the music of Chandra Bai. She gave her first public performance when she was only fifteen. She showed that age was no limit to what she could achieve – an important lesson for everybody.
November 11, 2017 was Anasuya Sarabhai’s 132nd birthday and Google honoured her with a Google Doodle. She was India’s first female union leader. And she was dived into politics and lead the women’s labour movement in India. She negotiated for women’s rights with many mill owners including her own brother! She was not afraid to stand up to her loved ones to fight for what was right – we should all take a leaf out of her book.
Cornelia Sorabji whose 151st birthday was celebrated by Google on November 15, 2017, never gave up, despite struggling to practise law due to gender discrimination. She completed her law studies at Oxford University and later became a legal advisor to the government. She was India’s first female lawyer and advocated for veiled women to seek legal help and openly communicate with men. We should aspire to be like her and not be afraid of being the first to do something. And we should remember to give a voice to those who are oppressed like we once were.
Google honoured Rukhmabai Raut, the first woman medical doctor who practised medicine in colonial India for her 153rd birth anniversary on November 22, 2017. She was the victim of a child marriage when she was just eleven. Later in life, she fought to eradicate child marriage. We should follow her lead in fighting social evils not just at a personal level but also on a larger scale.
Begum Rokeya’s 137th birth anniversary was celebrated by Google on December 9, 2017. She was a pioneer feminist writer and thinker. She is best known for writing Sultana’s Dream which depicts a feminist utopia. She inspires all of us to imagine what might seem impossible.
On the same day as it celebrated Begum Rokeya, i.e., December 9, 2017, Google also honoured Homai Vyarawalla. It happened to be her 104th birth anniversary. She was India’s first woman photojournalist. She didn’t mind being a woman in a male bastion. She set an example for having the courage to do well in a field dominated by any particular group (in her case, the group was men) even if you are the only one who is from a different group.
Thank you, Google Doodle, for reminding everyone that these Indian women were extraordinary achievers, and that we should be grateful to them for everything they’ve done.
Header image source: Google Doodle for the 45th anniversary of the Chipko movement led by Indian women