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"She achieved nothing short of a revolution"
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"She achieved nothing short of a revolution"

Naaz Fahmida

An unlikely revolutionary in women’s struggle for equality stood her ground nearly 200 years ago, writes Naaz Fahmida, 27, a Correspondent living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who says revolution comes through great sacrifice.

When I hear women today being extremely vocal about the power struggle with their male counterparts or simply speaking about a revolution, it always remind me of Digamvari Debi and how she managed to successfully achieve nothing short of a revolution some 189 years ago!

See, the Tagore clan’s history spans more than 300 years. It was one of the most eminent families from Calcutta in colonial India, a key influence in the Bengal Renaissance, and produced both men and women who were way ahead of their time. This story is about Dwarkanath Tagore, born in 1794 and more importantly about the woman he married – Digamvari Debi – paternal grandmother of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Digamvari Debi, married at the age of 6, represents a milieu when child marriage, polygamy and ‘sati’ were as real as the fact that women were completely shunned from the outside world and forbidden from even a glimpse at the sun. Their days were spent within the closed private chambers of the house and their sole identity was that associated with their husband or father. In a time and age governed by a social structure as such, Digamvari Debi accomplished a feat that changed the course of women’s lives in India ever thereafter. 

Anguished with her husband’s philandering ways with meat and liquor, one night she had decided to out-step the social boundaries and witness her husband’s activities at a social gathering first-hand. Her young daughter and a few other female relatives of the house accompanied her to the garden house that her husband had built to entertain guests, where she witnessed, dumbfounded, her wayward husband, sharing a seat with foreigners, male and female – both sahibs and memsahibs – drinking and submerged in an act of debauchery. Upon failing in an attempt to revoke her husband’s waywardness, Digamvari Debi declared her own personal form of mutiny from that day onwards: she refused to share her bed with her husband! Till her last breath, Digamvari Debi fulfilled all other wifely duties except cohabit with her husband.  

And this is how, almost 200 years ago, a woman with a fearless mind silently gave voice to her inner rebellion. Moral of this story for me lies in the chunk of her sacrifice, of how easily she could have forgiven her husband and proceeded with a normal conjugal life, that was and normally is still expected of a woman, regardless of the era. How easy it would have been. 

All massive upheavals; all changes in the course of history have come at a great price, often at the expense of human lives or in the least of a comfortable life. I have not heard of a revolution yet that was simply accepted and given away – a right to one’s existence, identity and self-respect is something that needs to be earned, often with great sacrifices.

photo credit: abhiomkar via photopin cc

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About me: I am an Accounting graduate and HR specialist, currently a PR and Communications person by the day. Donning my superman outfit, I invade the writing world once the clock strikes midnight!

I am Bangladeshi first, Australian second, have a fair dinkum accent and accentuated Bangali-ana, a Muslim name and inheritance. I’m a firm follower of Rama and Dharma, which makes me weak in the knees for Buddha, and I love Christmas. For everything else – you must must follow the white rabbit!”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit:
http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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