Illa: A girl like a Pearl
Illa: A girl like a Pearl
Close to the city of Paithan, in a small village called Sauviragram, which lay along the banks of the great river Godavari, lived a woman named Illa. Being cotton farmers, her family was well to do, but not among the richest in their area. It was the harvest season & cotton had to be picked from the plants. The wholesalers &traders from Paithan would be arriving in just a few weeks, carrying gold &goods for barter. They would exchange what they brought for the cotton that the farmers grew. The babbles of cotton had to be ready in time! Work was at its peak!
But Illa was not to be found in the fields. She wasn't working. Instead, she was sitting by the banks of the great river Godavari.
‘I am sick of this!' she grunted loudly.
‘What happened? Why you are grunting like this? ‘Mira asked.
Mira is the younger sister of Illa. Along with Illa, Mira also sat by the banks of Godavari. As younger ones have no choices, they always do what their elder ones had done.
‘I don't want to live in such a region where women have no rights, ' Illa answered.
‘As I am born, I had seen this. Women hadn't got any right till now.' Mira said.
‘I am older than you, I have seen that. I have read more about Vedic & ancient India, where women have rights.' Illa said.
‘why you are telling this now? ‘Mira said.
‘See this river. I think we women are like the river that has no rights, it has to mix up with the sea. Sea is like men. The river has better water than the sea, till people Say Sea is a great source of water. Just like that, we women did so much what needed for life, yet people say men are powerful than us.' Illa said.
‘Oh, my dear sister, I am so sorry, but my little heart couldn't understand your huge feelings.' Mira said.
‘I don't mind that, but one day you will surely understand this.' Illa said.
‘Okay. Can we go now? We have to go to the fields for harvesting cotton. Wholesalers are arriving next week,' Mira said.
‘Let’s go. What else should we have done?’ Illa said.
Illa &Mira went to the fields. Their parents are already working there.
‘Why you are so late?' Illa’s mother asked while harvesting the cotton.
Illa doesn't speak a word & remains silent.
‘Work fast. We have to harvest all cotton in the next five days. The Wholesalers are coming till the weekend.' Illa's father said.
Illa & Mira started harvesting cotton along with their father & mother. Illa wanted to do many things. But her father never allowed her to do any other ideas. Illa's father has a strict nature. He doesn't like those who decline his order. Illa's father is a professional farmer, but he acts like the king of their house.
Next morning, Illa found that her mother is worshipping the God Shiva. Illa also sat beside her mother and started chanting the mantra of 'Om Namah Shivaya'. After the worshipping has completed, Illa asked her mother, Mother, why we worship God every day?'
‘What’s your age?’ Mother asked.
‘Question for the question is not a solution & you know that I am 17 years old.' Illa said.
‘In your last 17 years, you read so much. You read Ramayana, Mahabharata; then why you are asking such stupid questions?’ Mother said.
‘Answer me mother, please ' Illa said.
'Okay. We worship God for protecting us. You know that God has created the world. So, everything happened & going to happen is only due to God's wish. We pray for our good future, long life &anything else.' Illa said.
'Is God fulfill all our wishes ?' Illa asked.
'If you pray from the heart; everything is going to fulfill,' mother said.
‘Okay, mother. You can go now to your work.' Illa said.
Illa's mother went to her work. After that, Illa folded her hand & started praying God Shiva.
'Om Namah Shivay. Dear God Shiva, I am praying with the clean heart. Please, fulfill my wish. Accept my prayer. I am not selfish, I don't want anything. God, please give women equal rights like men. Here, women have no right to do anything as per their will. Even I don't have that much allowance. Still, I remember the books I had read. Sati, Parvati, Sita, Subhadra, Draupadi; these were women who had got so much respect. Nowadays, everything has changed. Women are like a tree which are living but not free. Please, God, gave equal rights to men & women. And if you don't accept my prayer, then I will go to Goddess Parvati. Surely, she will take it. ‘Illa said in front of the statue of God Shiva.
After three nights, Illa & Mira are sleeping. But due to some voice, Illa woke up. And Illa heard the conversation between her parents.
‘Wholesalers & traders are coming in just two days.' Illa's father said.
‘Our babbles are ready in time.' Illa's mother said.
'Do you know that wholesaler named Sayaji Deshmukh from Paithan?' Illa's father asked.
‘Yes, I have seen that man. Then what?' mother asked.
'Now Shyam, Sayaji's son also becomes the wholesaler. I wish if we had a son & if he chose to become a wholesaler. Then, we become the richest among this area.' Father said.
'Our daughters are not that much worse. They do their work properly.' Mother said.
‘That’s true. But daughters are daughters; they have to leave this home after marriage. If we had a son, then he is always going to be here, with us. But our destiny is not that much secure. ‘father said.
' Illa is 17 years old now. I married when I was 12 years old. All girls of Illa's age had a child now & Illa is still unmarried. We have to search for some nice boy for her. ' mother said.
' I will, but after this, cotton has sold.' Father said.
After this conversation, Illa started thinking about that. ' why did father want a son? What's bad in me & Mira? We worked fast & ready that babbles in time. And what about marriage? Why my parents wanted me to get married? Is it necessary that everyone had to get married? No, we can do anything else better than that.'
Next morning, Mira & Illa are playing.
' So, you are marrying now ?' Mira said.
' Please talk with me on another topic.' Illa said.
' This year is 1679,' Mira said.
' I know that, then what? ' Illa said.
' Nothing, I just talked on another topic. And do you know that who is coming in Paithan ?' Mira said.
' who ?'
'Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the great king. 'Mira said.
' How did you know ?' Illa asked.
' I heard that news from my father. Shivaji Maharaj is halting at Paithan while proceeding to Jalna.' Mira said.
' can I meet Chatrapati shivaji maharaj ?' Illa said.
' what will you do after meeting with that great king ?' Mira said.
' I want to talk to him about women rights. I want to demand equal rights to men & women.' Illa said.
' go and get permission from my father.' Mira said.
Illa started walking & she reached outside the house. There she found her father are washing cows, bullocks & buffalos.
' what happened ?' Illa's father asked while spraying water on the back of buffalo.
' I want to meet Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.' Illa said.
'Everyone wants to meet him. Even I am going to saw him tomorrow.' Illa's father said.
' then, can I come along with you?' Illa asked.
' no. Wholesalers also arriving tomorrow & you have to stay home with your mother. Sell that cotton at a good price so that we can bring out maximum profit.' Illa's father said.
' Please father, I want to discuss one important thing with that great king.' Illa said.
' what?' Illa's father asked.
' I want to talk about women's rights.' Illa said.
' right? Is anything going wrong with women ?' Father asked.
' nothing going wrong doesn't mean everything is right. Father, I have just read ' Therigatha,' the book written in 8th century solely by women. That shows even ordinary women in ancient India have a good education, respect & so many things.' Illa said.
' is anything going wrong with you ?' Illa's father asked.
' No, but nothings going right with me. You have stopped my education. I want to study Sanskrit further so that I can read more books & I want to write books like that, then why you are talking about my marriage? Why you sent me to the fields for working ?' Illa said.
' if you don't like my decision, then better you can leave this home & live as per your wish, ' Illa's father said while going inside the house.
Illa started crying, but after some tears, she wiped her eyes. Because weak person complains, reliable doesn't. People already assumed that women are weak, but Illa wants to change this, so she stopped crying.
Next morning Illa's father went to Paithan from Sauviragram for seeing Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. And Illa & Mira stayed along with their mother. Because they are girls. All three are women, so they don't have rights to live as per their wish. They have to live as per men's preference.
After some hours door knocked, Illa opened the door. There is a young boy outside.
' cotton farmers? ' that boy asked.
' I am Shyam. Son of Sayajirao Deshmukh, wholesalers from Paithan ' that boy said.
' Ohh, come inside.' Illa said.
Shyam came inside the house & sat on a wooden chair. Illa brings the glass of water for him. After drinking the water, Shyam asked ' Are you alone at home?'
' Yes, my father went to Paithan & mother just went to the river for washing clothes ' Illa said.
' what's your name?' Shyam asked.
' Illa ' Illa replied.
' name of the king ' Shyam said.
' what?' Illa asked.
' don't you know the history of Paithan city?' Shyan said.
Illa shooked her head.
' Actually, Paithan is the new name of the city. Earlier, name of this city is 'Pratishthana' & that's built by king Ila, the king of Bahlika. Once that king Ila strayed into Shiva's forest during his hunting & hence God Shiva cursed him to become a woman.' Shyam said
' Ohh, then what happened ?' Illa asked.
' after that by praying Shiva's consort Parvati, he managed to stay as man & woman alternatively every month. But he does not remember events of one stage in other.' Shyam said.
' oh, I wished to be a man. Can't I cursed to be a man ?' Illa asked.
'why? You don't like women?' Shyam asked.
' no. But my father doesn't like daughters, he wants a son.' Illa replied.
' no need to become a man. Just work like a man.' Shyam said.
' means ?' Illa asked.
' do any work that doesn't ever do by a woman.' Shyan said.
' My father dreamed that his son should be the wholesaler just like you.' Illa said.
' then it is best. Be the wholesaler.' Shyam said.
' But how? I know nothing about that ' Illa said.
' I will teach you,' Shyam said.
' if I started my business, then maybe it can lower yours.' Illa said
' that doesn't matter. I am also doing the one, which men of this society never did.' Shyam said.
' so we have to go to the Paithan. And I also want to meet Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. ' Illa said.
' then let's go ' Shyam said.
Illa filled that cotton in the bullock cart. Illa takes some of her clothes; some money she saved. She wrote something on the paper & then left the house along with Shyam.
After some hours Illa's mother came back to her home. At the time of the evening, Illa's father also came back to Sauviragram from Paithan & started searching Illa. Illa's mother had found out one paper earlier, but she doesn't know how to read that. After the arrival of Illa's father, she showed that paper to him. Illa's father read that lines on the paper.
' My dear father, as you said, I am leaving this home. Because I want to live as per my wish. Take care of yourself, mother & Mira. And don't frustrate Mira like me.'
' what happened ?' Illa's mother asked.
' Your daughter had left this house. She wants to live as per her wish. Daughters do things like this; that's why I wanted a son.' Illa's father said
' oh Ganapati Bappa, please save my daughter. Take care of her.' Illa's mother said.
Three days are gone after Illa had left that house. Illa's mother had stopped taking food. Mira stopped playing. And strict nature of Illa's father had also converted into soft. Illa's father searched Illa everywhere in Sauviragram in last three days, but couldn't able to find.
And that day, Illa returned back to home. Illa knocked on the door of her house, Mira opened it & starts smiling. Illa's mother kissed Illa on her forehead & asked, ' where did you are gone, my child?'
Illa's father started crying.
' don't cry father.' Illa said.
' am I too bad ?' Illa's father said.
' no, father. You are too good. And we daughters aren't that bad. I proved that even women can do things equal to men. I did so much in the last three days.' Illa said.
' what you had did ?' Father asked.
' that day I went to Paithan along with Shyam Deshmukh. Shyam showed me the place of wholesalers in Paithan. I wanted to meet Chatrapati, but couldn't reach. But I had seen him from a far distance. I saw you there & then I hide because I don't want this to let you know. After that, I started selling our cotton. First, I started trading at a low price than others so that the crowd may attract to my side. I also wrote a line on one board.
' Take this soft cotton from me & give me hard gold coins from you.'
That line attracted people towards me.
Next day I started selling that cotton at more price than the first day. Today, the third day, I had to sell our complete cotton. And I have earned too much profit than other wholesalers. So I returned back.' Illa said.
' I am proud of you, Illa' father said.
' Father, I did what you wanted from a son. Now, please give me permission to live my life as per my wish. I had fulfilled your dream, now please fulfill my desire ' Illa said.
' Illa, live as per your wish. I don't frustrate you anymore by my orders. Don't get married, study further. And write books as per your will. I will tell the world that daughters are the gift given by God only to lucky ones.' Illa's father said.
' so, now you agreed that women are equal that of men.' Illa said.
' no, now I believed that women are ahead than men.' Illa's father said.
Illa gives the money to her father. Then, She makes dinner with her mother and plays with Mira. And after that, she took a paper. Closed her eyes, thought of something. Opened eyes & started writing.
' A woman had started your world by being a mother.
A girl played with you by being a sister.
Some woman is going to marry with you by being your bride.
With your daughter, you have to play the horse ride.
Women are not only part of life. Because without women, there is no life.
Take care of her, respect her, give the rights to her.
Love her, so that she can love you back more than you.