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The Unapologetic Women In My Life Who Define Me!

From badass grandmothers to rebel aunts to rock-solid moms, don't we all have those women in our lives who hold us up?

I have grown up in a pretty dysfunctional family, surrounded by strong, independent (often conflicting) women. This has, in effect, made me a slightly speckled character in itself.

For instance, I’m demanding, diverged, confronting, condescending, and on many notes, challenging. Call me emotionally challenged, devoid or ruthless; I have been brought by difficult women dealing with difficult scenarios of life.

So I’m not the regular, compliant, and conceding girl, you would often visualize finding in a middle-class, small city Indian family. In fact, I might be closer to being a Komolika than a Tulsi. Ask my husband, and he will vouch for my statement. (Laughs)

So let me describe the women who have defined me.

My grandmother, the Godmother of our family

Relive the scene in the movie godfather, where Al Pacino, while blowing his worries away in the rings of smoke, speaks the famous line, “Don’t ask me about my business.” Now imaging a 75-year-old Indian matriarch taking puffs of bidi while discussing the news, politics, and terrorism with her as much older friends. That was my ultimate ‘reel to real’ moment. 

Meet my grandma or ‘amma’ as we all used to call her affectionately. She was not as handsome as Al Pacino for sure, but the tenacity and rigour in her eyes were enough to scare people away. I often imagined her running a cartel along with her old ladies’ gang. She was the Godmother of our family. She had a wide range of emotions. She could be as loving as possible and as rigid and dominating as fathomable. 

She represented authority and affection to me at the same time. Her day was set by the clock, and she was disciplined to the second. She took over the family very young when my grandfather died. With no choice for her, she had to transform from a shy and docile housewife to the head of the family, taking charge of order and discipline among the family and kids. 

I don’t know much about the struggles she went through; she never spoke about them, but the lines of worry on her face were testaments to the difficulties she has successfully survived. What I remember about her, despite the fragile physical frame and strength, is the resilience and the fierceness in her eyes and the ability to exercise that power over others. She taught me how to be a survivor while being uncaring of what people think about me.

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My aunt – unapologetically vocal

Although my aunt and I have been in constant debate and argument throughout our life, she is the one I most relate to. I often say, ‘She is me born in the previous century.’ My mother doesn’t really relate to my analogy, but I still believe she and I are more alike than unalike.

See, my aunt has a belief system that doesn’t align with me at all, but I don’t blame her. She grew up 50 years before me with the then-popular belief system. What I like about her is that she was open to arguments and believed in the philosophy of ‘Let’s agree to disagree.’

She was my grandmom’s right hand, not that my grandmom really appreciated that. My aunt took responsibility when no one was ready to. She gave up her life, her dreams, her future to pave the way for her siblings. Now don’t try painting a picture of Mother India. 

She is as ruthless, as uncompromising, as dominating as one can imagine. And that is something I actually adore about her. She is one person who is unapologetically harsh and vocally independent with people around her, including me. She has her virtues, and she has her vices. She is not black or white, she is a true shade of grey, and she wears it like a badge of honour. 

She is a paradox; she is a woman in this man’s world forced to grow up too soon, to act like a man and still be judged for it. She is 80 now; she still lives on her own, she travels with 10 kgs of luggage, and she doesn’t listen to anyone. Now should we celebrate her virtues or condemn her for her vices. Who is to be blamed? She, our family, society, or the continuous ups and downs, worries and sacrifices, rebellions and compromises that she went through alone?

I somehow feel I would be worse if put in her situation; I probably would have gone mad. She has been darned for things that she should have been appreciated for. She didn’t fit in because she had to stand up. She taught me how to be remorseless and resolute in this world that constantly tries to change you.

My mom, my friend, philosopher and guide

With the kind of uncanny resemblances that even Facebook tags me like her, you would think we are similar. However, our friendship has been like oil and water. While my mother understands, I am discerning, she is realistic, I’m hallucinated, she is simple and straightforward, I am complicated, she is sorted, I am confused. 

My mom is probably the closest to being the normal human being influence in my life. But stop there; she is as absurd at times. Now, let me tell you about my mom. She was a simple, fun-loving girl who was happy with the small things in life. She was then forced into a difficult life of raising a newborn alone while figuring out how to do it at the mere age of 25.

She has seen various lows but never had I seen her without that brilliant smile on her face. She has been my friend, philosopher, guide. She has also been my biggest critique, enemy, and opposer.

She is a silent observer who speaks only when necessary and retaliates when pushed. She takes life as it comes. The divergence in her life has made her humbler and prepared. She somehow manages to take her problems and turn them into opportunities. 

While she sounds all fantastic, it’s a tall order to live up to someone like her. When someone so close to you in life is so perfect, you often feel the pressure to be better. When I look up to her, I feel inadequate; I feel the need to be more responsible. She taught me to be decisive yet modest in the face of difficult times. She taught me to be better.

So when you mix all the three experiences, a complex personality like mine is formed. I am not proud of who I am, but I am also not ashamed of what I am; I am just a byproduct of my experiences. The three women in life have disagreed more than agreed on most of the things. I have seen them conflicting, converging, and digressing at various moments in life.

Together they have taught me to be ambitious, selfish, stubborn, and difficult. They have also taught me to be fierce, loyal, courageous, outspoken, and independent.

Top image credits Vikram Raghuvanshi/Getty Images Signature via Canva Pro

First published here.

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About the Author

Pragya Sugandha

Experimenting with experiences is the mantra of my life. Writing is a passion that helps me channel my emotions and recreate memories, publish points of view and create stories. A self-proclaimed creative soul, I read more...

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