I thought to celebrate International Women’s Day I should pay tribute to five women who have had a lasting effect in my life. Each in their own way and style have made me what I am today.
Geeteara Safiya Choudhury: What does one say about one’s mother? She is all that and more. And more importantly she is (or should I say was???) my boss. I could write a thesis on her and still not be able to describe her fully. I learned many things from her but the values of honesty and hard work that she taught me are the most valuable. (Well atleast I practice one of them!). From a very young age I knew that my mother was different from others. I could go to her with anything and get a patient hearing without being judged. And that I’ve seen is true even now at work. On her desk sits a small plaque that I had bought her that says “Mother is one who can take anyone’s place but whose place no one else can” . True!
Rokia Afzal Rahman: What does one say about one’s mother-in-law? Well she is nothing like the stereotype that is butt of “mom-in-law” jokes. I’ve known Roki Aunty since I was a kid. She being my mother’s friend, I heard great tales about this person since eons. But I really got to know her after I got married. To my utter delight I found a wonderful person. And since my father-in-law’s demise found a strong and level-headed one. I am still amazed by how friendly she can get. It is a matter of minutes before she starts a conversation with a complete stranger. And a few more minutes before they are friends. I am sure not many people can truly say that they are good friends with their mother-in-law. I can.
Faiza Rahman: This is the tricky one. And only because I just don’t know where to begin and where to end. She is my best friend and confidant. She is my anchor and my engine. She is my present and my future. She is my wife. I guess many can claim that their wives are the same. But I know she is different. I am mesmerised by her beauty and awe struck by her intelligence. I often wonder how she can take so good care of me. (Ok confession time: I do absolutely nothing to help out in the house). These days it is uncanny how we begin to finish each other’s sentences and thoughts. I just I wish I could sing, then I’d sing her the world.
Fahima Choudhury: I’ve known her all her life. And she has known me most of mine. We were born just 2 years, 2 months and 9 days apart (those 9 days mattered when you were young). We grew up together as friends. I don’t remember any sibling rivalry growing up. A lot of fights maybe! But mostly because I figured out what fun it was to see her get angry. Despite this Keya and I had the most fun growing up together. Our summer trips to Sylhet. Our cycle rides in my father’s office (Sherlock Snoopy Roger that!) Us figuring out who got a bigger share of Coke left over from last evening’s party. Kodai. And her borrowing money from me for not having “change” for a Taka 500 note [the bill being Tk 475!!] She is one of the most capable and intelligent persons I know. And I know many.
Yasmeen Murshed: the only non-family on the list. I guess that makes her special. But she is. These days it seems to be fashionable to blame her school and her for so many things. But I never do get it. She taught me most of what I know. Well not only academically speaking but also about one’s sense of responsibility, patriotism and belief in one’s abilities. Even as the principal of my school, she never used to impose her will on us. She used to encourage us to challenge her. She pretended that we were her intellectual peers and engaged us. Not as mere school boys but rather as men.
I know, I know. Many will think I’m sucking up big time. But here is the truth on why I wrote this. These days it is very common to hear conversation about “these two ladies” who have ruined our nation. And this thought is often taken forward and argued as a fault of their gender in general. But that this is so, so far from the truth. These five ladies prove beyond a doubt in my mind that it is not gender that should be a discriminator.