I am Durga

     Back in the late eighties, while I was in my thirties and visited the wholesale textile market frequently for purchases related to my garment business, I was looked upon as an aberration, who dared to venture into a male bastion. There was appreciation from some quarters for my spirit, and mockery from others for defying convention. However, the appreciation did not flatter me as much as the mockery did not deter me from pursuing a passion and a dream.

     There was a shop I visited regularly.  The owner was a portly, fatherly figure. Once I became a familiar and frequent visitor to the shop, he picked up the courage to ask me how many children I had - a common question in our society that thinks it has a right to know all personal details, once a friendship is established.  I replied ‘One’ to his query and from his expression, instantly sensed the next. Boy or Girl? I replied with pride, ‘daughter’.  

     On every subsequent visit, I faced the same question and after a while I sensed he was quite exasperated that my family hadn't grown. He concluded that the 'picture' was incomplete and offered free advice on why it was important to beget a son. He declared pompously, "कुल चलाने के लिये बेटा आवश्यक है"। He meant, a son was essential to continue a lineage.  

     The Q and A went on for a few years, by which time I was into my forties and the gentleman figured I was incapable of procreating. He not only sympathized with my inability to produce an heir to my non-existent millions, but also doled out more advice – "चलो कोई बात नहींं , गोद ले लो। अपनी सम्पत्ति किसको दोगे" ? In all 'compassion', he suggested I adopt a son as he was worried about the fate of my so-called wealth.

     I was amused and re-assured him we were happy with a daughter and that she was our universe, our ‘sampathi’ ( treasure ) and our heiress for our 'riches'. While I tried to convince him that a sound education and our endeavour to make her a good citizen would be her inheritance, he seemed unfazed.     

     So much for the fervour with which these same men invoke Goddesses Lakshmi , Saraswati and Durga to seek wealth, knowledge and power! While Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga reside in every woman, is there a need to look elsewhere for worshipping them? If only they could translate the zeal for religion into zeal for common sense and learn to respect and treat the women in their lives as equals, they would have more than worshipped them.

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