Photographs©Chulie de Silva
Stereotyping of women apparently begins they say when the doctor says it’s a girl. What my father heard when I was born was “It’s another girl!” He said Cheers and was genuinely happy to see the arrival of another girl. But we always didn’t have equal rights but we had plenty of opportunity to argue our case and win it too. We were lucky to get such a liberal upbringing and have had the opportunities we’ve had in life.
On International Women’s Day (IWD), my thought turn to the many beautiful and friendly women that I’ve stopped, talked and photgraphed the last few months. This year the first photo I took was of the lady selling lotus flowers (bottom right hand corner), her name itself being surprisingly the same as the Lotus –Pathmini. “I have one son in University and live across the road.” I could see she was also minding a younger child while she sold flowers, fresh young coconuts and a mélange of products to passing motorists. “We don’t have many expenses as we live simply so what we earn is not much but it’s enough,” she says.
Indrani in the yellow blouse in the centre was on her way to work at a hotel in Unawatune but had time to stop and smile and chat too. At 52 years she is happy to have work and work she likes. No grumbles there about life in Lanka.
The pretty lass in Kathmandu , is a deft waitress at a restaurant and she too scurrying between tables took a wee bit of time off from her duties to pose and flash a smile for me. The other two are mothers, one running a fruit stall and one a small boutique shop of interesting oil paintings and pottery at Unawatune. Her son she proudly says is the artist and is a graduate of the University of Fine Arts. A little bit more chatting and I learn she is from my home town Hikkaduwa. I end up buying the bright blue pot in the front with the Sinhala letters.
Every day when I leave for work I see the three street sweeping women seated on a wall chatting quietly before they start work. Sometimes I’ve seen one pushing the bright yellow cart , with one seated in the cart roaring with laughter . Garbage collecting can be fun tooJ)
A bit further down the street, I’ve seen this ritual practically daily — a girl in a white uniform waits patiently while her mother combs and plaits her hair.
Further down at the wayside common water pump another mother bathes and checks her daughter’s teeth to see whether she has brushed them properly.
Then I remember the one that got away without being photographed. She was thirty something tall lass who came from Padukka to my door selling fertilizer. Her husband has left her for another woman and she had a son to bring up. So with a loan from Samurdhi she was trying to make ends meet. Interesting, I thought to see how Smaurdhi really works on the ground.
“May I photograph you? “
“What will you do with it?“
“It will go on the Internet.”
“ Aiyo! No, I hear that these photos on the Internet are modified and used for nefarious activities.”
These are the salt of the earth women – the women I salute today. Some are savvy on some issues, but am sure they could do with more knowledge, more recognition, more support.
Most might not know even what IWD is let alone celebrate a day that is theirs. Instead many events in Colombo will be a meeting of the usual, preaching to the converted about women and their rights.
And next weekend and in the daily newspapers we will see more of the Hi! Class or should I say the Hi! Caste on IWD activities?