I don’t know what I can really tell you about my grandmother.
Shamefully I don’t know much of the conventional stuff. I never really asked her what her hopes and dreams were when she was young. I never asked much about her life and no one ever talks about the Partition.
I can tell you that she liked Softmints and Polos and always kept a pouch of them in her handbag. She would make birds figures out of leftover chapatti dough and enthral us with stories about a girl called “Funny” who was incompetent and idiotic in equal measure. I am sure many of the stories, unbeknown to us at the time, were actually life lessons.
I write this at the age of 38. I am now four years older than she was when she was widowed, my grandfather was assassinated during partition and even his noble sacrifice must have done little to ease her pain. She was left homeless and heartbroken, seven months pregnant with my father and suddenly alone with seven other children. The eldest was 16 and the youngest 2 and all of them were on the wrong side of the border.
But a compassionate train driver took pity on her and made making room for them all on the coal pile of an over-crowded train taking them to a new life.
My grandmother was urged to send her children to orphanages. No one could understand how she would manage alone with a new born baby and seven others with no husband to support her. She was resolute and determined and already having lost so much, would not part with her children.
My grandmother was educated. At a time where the illiteracy rate was over 85% and girls were not educated as the norm, she was. It was that one simple fact that allowed her to advocate for her rights, seek employment as a teacher, provide and hold onto her family. My great grandparents were visionaries and invested in their girl’s future possibly never understanding the gift that their forward thinking was giving her.
Those eight all have lead successful lives and went on to have 19 children and are the proud grandparents of 27 grandchildren. One woman’s legacy has impacted, enabled and allowed directly 58 more lives to be lived and flourish. One young educated girl gave three generations a future.
The British Asian Trust is asking that you help to give a girl a future. Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day for giving and for the Trust, it’s also Triple Tuesday. This means any donation made today will be tripled as DFID (Department for international Development) and Rubicon, the soft drinks company are matching them.
We Empowered has already donated £700 (which becomes £2100) and is asking the wider community to send what they can to the British Asian Trust. If you are planning on a fancy coffee this morning, we are asking you to consider donating that £3 and it will be turned into £9. Whatever is possible for you will be gratefully received and whatever is possible for you will open up countless possibilities for someone else. To donate, please visit www.britishasiantrust.org/give-a-girl-a-future/triple
Through the appeal, the Trust aims to transform the lives of 100,000 girls, women and their families in South Asia by enabling them to earn an income and gain resilience against poverty. In simple terms this means learning skills, earning more, and being strong.
You will help girls learn skills such as producing beautiful embroidery, computer literacy and mobile repair. What’s more, you’ll help them to set up in business and market what they do. What you give will be a hand up, not a hand out. You’ll give girls a chance to work their way out of poverty.
By Reena Ranger, British Asian Trust supporter & Co Founder and Chair of We Empowered