‘You taught me that it was possible to combine and draw deep satisfaction from successfully managing all the many roles of wife, mother, daughter, feminist and activist’
While you might no longer be with us physically, your intellect, your persona, your humour and your unwavering integrity is something that will live on to inspire generations to come.
We moved to Delhi in 1977 – I had been a typical Navy wife – innocent, nay naďve, about the realities around me – shielded by both education and environment. And then came that ‘aha’ moment – which began in a school in Bombay and catapulted me out of my complacency and threw me into activism, feminism, Marxism and much more.
I was a greenhorn – eager to make up for lost time. From coffee mornings and genteel welfare programmes, it was bastis, and marches against dowry and rape down the streets of the capital. And somewhere in all this I met you – and in ways which you never knew – you infiltrated into my head and my heart. I remember we talked about your time at Diocesan College, Kolkata and my sharing with you that my mother too was a product of that institution.
As a young woman in Delhi of the seventies – I can still remember devouring every word of Towards Equality – the path breaking and pioneering report on the Status of Women in India that you steered. Together with JP Naik’s stirring call to Sampoorna Kranti – this became a lifeline, a beacon and, a kind of bible in many ways. It was both these that in some fundamental ways inspired a group of us who conceptualised and created ANKUR – Society for Alternatives in Education in 1983 – our early efforts to find meaning and create access to learning – especially for girls, women and minorities. You advised, you counselled, you opened doors, gave us ideas…wise and far sighted, but not afraid to criticise.
Vina Di – although we have not met since we moved out of Delhi twenty years ago, to live in this village in Maharashtra, it is the lessons we imbibed from you and the vision that your provided, that has enabled me to continue my activism, take it into several different directions and try to find the connecting threads.
Your passing is a personal loss that is hard to describe – many a time I have come to you for counsel and for clarity and advice – and you never failed me. You helped me understand above all, through your personal example, that in order to change the world, it was not necessary to destroy ones personal relationships; you taught me that it was possible to combine and draw deep satisfaction from successfully managing all the many roles of wife, mother, daughter, feminist and activist. I have struggled to juggle these roles all my life – and if I have managed them a lot of the credit goes to you. But for the most part neither my family nor my colleagues knew how much I depended on your nod of approval for a particular step or decision.
I realise I am addressing this to you as if you are still there listening with that twinkle in your eye and that dry wit which could be so scathing if necessary and yet which was so gentle .
There is much I want to say – but not now – and as others have said so eloquently – I guess you are looking down, sharing a cigarette and drink – and telling us all to get on with what we have to do.
Your spirit lives on – RIP Vina di
Lalita Ramdas is an environmental activist and feminist[Article COurtesy: Tehelka]