There will be a lot of obituaries written about Kamla Bhasin's contribution to the feminist movement and her articulate and firebrand speeches that she made on numerous occasions in the capital and the world over. However, the writer feels that in a world of absolute opinions bereft of logic, Bhasin was the unifying voice of sanity and clarity.
In a male-dominated society of ours, Bhasin used day-to-day examples from her own life of achievements and struggles to convince the most hardened critic of hers. Her voice was that of a commanding doctor who sounded authoritarian and caring at the same time.
She was the epitome of my favorite line from Carrie Fisher's poem, "Take your broken heart and turn it into art". While she didn't articulate in that many words, however, her life was a guide for many to follow. Her personal tragedies didn't make her bitter, however enriched her perspective about how to look at life situations.
She encountered incidents of domestic abuse, a broken marriage, death of her elder daughter and lived with her physically challenged son and remained his support system throughout her life. Her personal tragedies didn't deter her or moved her away from her life goals of empowering women.
They in fact inspired other young women to not get moved by the pressures in their own life and let them come in the way of their life goals. She was the fourth of her six siblings. I remember her viral speech where she decoded 'Rakshabandhan' through her life experiences where she chided her younger sibling and asserted that it was her who took care of her sibling and not vice versa as the society would have expected of her.
She continued to challenge patriarchy in more ways than one. Even it meant questioning pre-held notions and in-built patriarchy in our language and culture. The Hindi word swami that is often used for a partner for instance, implies 'lord' or 'owner', as does the word 'husband', which originates from animal husbandry. She adjudges all these customs against the constitution of India that offers every woman the right to equality and the promise of a dignified life.
A fitting tribute to her is a few lines from her poem which epitomises what she stood for:
"Hawaaon si ban rahi hain ladkiyan, Unhe behichak chalne mein maja aata hain, Unhe manzoor nahi bewajah roka jaana." (The girls of today are like the careless breeze. They don't like to be stopped or questioned needlessly.)
Fiesty #Kamla Bhasin has fought her last battle, singing and celebrating a life well lived.Her absence will be felt acutely, her gutsy presence,laughter and song,her wonderful strength are her legacy— Azmi Shabana (@AzmiShabana) September 25, 2021
We treasure her now as we did before .Aruna Roy
Very sad to hear about the tragic demise of dear friend and an exceptional human being Kamla Bhasin. We were just discussing about her health yesterday but never realised that she will leave us next day. U will be terribly missed https://t.co/sxlvzMakSY— S lrfan Habib (@irfhabib) September 25, 2021
The end of an era. The feminist movement in India will forever be indebted to Kamla Bhasin for her incredibly rich work in the movement. I have learnt so so much from this powerhouse of a leader. Rest in power. https://t.co/VYdlGgPQC5— Arpita Das (@ms_arpita) September 25, 2021