Intrepid women and their inspiring tales

Intrepid women and their inspiring tales

What I am, the Supreme Court has given its verdict on. How much you love yourself as a woman is the question!”

Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, popularly known as Lakshmi, said aloud in a jam-packed auditorium filled with mostly women, and received a thunderous applause.

Ingenuous and candid, she narrated her life story as one of the speakers at the recently held ‘Fearless Women’ conference as part of ‘The Shift Series’.

The transgender social activist along with other powerful women - Sampat Pal Devi (founder of Gulabi Gang), Nishtha Jain (Filmmaker), Shubha Mudgal (Hindustani Classical singer) and Radhika Vaz (Stand-up Comedienne); without any pretensions presented themselves to the audience as embodiments of ‘fearless’.

It may be boring to attend a talk where speakers follow one after the other to the stage  to ‘give lecture’. But this was certainly not the same case here.

At least for the women in the audience who eagerly waited to listen to each speaker and set to rest any doubts that they may be confronted with in their own lives.

Interestingly, the conference commenced with the lone male voice - Dr Devdutt Pattanaik, putting forward his thoughts on ‘Women in Indian Mythology’ and raising some pertinent questions.

One of them being the deconstruction of the concept of ‘Ardhnarishwar’ which implies that “A god needs a goddess to be complete but a goddess doesn’t need a god to be complete!” he said, emphasising on the need to read our scriptures and realise “how one could not treat anyone with disrespect,” unlike today. 

To support his arguments, Dr Pattanaik displayed a few images of goddesses and the visual element added to his engaging and thought-provoking talk.

But the real rib-tickling session was when Sampat Pal took to stage. Nishtha Jain (director of the documentary Gulabi Gang which has won the National Award for Best Film on Social issues) introduced the leader of the famed ‘pink brigade’ and proved herself as a ‘fearless woman’ too.

Her decision to choose documentaries over mainstream cinema after passing-out of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) proves the point.

The auditorium soon filled with musical notes as Sampat Pal and Shubha Mudgal regaled the audience with their stories and music that define their personalities.

In separate segments, Sampat narrated how she  became a harbinger of change in the remote area of UP’s Bundelkhand while Shubha revealed how she was able to pursue music as a professional unlike her mother and grandmother.

Sampat’s song Jaago jaago bharat ki naari speaks of the social change that is the need of the hour while Shubha’s song “Babul jiya mora ghabraye, Bin bole raha na jaye” revived the issue of status of women in Indian society.

To lighten the atmosphere, Radhika Vaz’s witty antics on the cosmetic industry worked wonders.
She put it bluntly that “women are under a lot of pressure to remain young” and thus various skin creams have come into the market.
Though the choice of the Stand -up artiste’s words were not so refined, but the audience enjoyed her take on the sensitive issue of ‘women’s age’. The best, however, was reserved for the last as Lakshmi narrated her tale of transformation from a classical dancer to a social activist.

Anecdotes of her meeting the British royalty were hilarious, but her comments on her being brash did provoke one to contemplate.  “I was good at being a bad girl because the society never loved me.

Like every man is not a rapist, every woman is not a bitch, but I love to be a bitch! Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it,” was her concluding words. 

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