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Bindi Bottoms
Nirmala Verma Ward Commissioner (Local Govt.), Motihari (Bihar)

"When I was growing up, there was no pressure on children, especially on a girl child, to study hard and choose a career. The Zamindar families with all their land and cattle were prosperous enough to relish a ‘five course meal’ and live happily ever after. Mine was no different.

While women in the bigger cities of India were talking about their rights, my priorities were different. A regular day in my life was a tangy broth of unending gossip, incurable relatives and foes, banter with ‘bhabhis’, sharing clothes and jewelry with my ‘sakhee’, ‘geetmala’ on All India Radio and the inevitable siesta. All of this was too precious to let go of. When asked to choose between studying further after 10th standard and getting married, I chose the latter. It meant that I wouldn’t have to move out of my ancestral home anytime soon.

My 30s and 40s revolved around my husband and three sons. The broth was still tangy but with different ingredients. Days were all about choices between daal and kadhi, veg and non-veg, red sindoor and orange, a yellow saree for Thursdays and black on Saturdays. With my husband being at work all day and boys being mostly outdoors, I loved my ‘me’ time. This was the time when I would turn into the ‘agony aunt’ of the neighbourhood. Over endless cups of tea (and sometimes pakodas), everything under the sun was discussed. From cursing the man who re-married to coaching the woman who wanted to have babies, I was the confidante and the problem solver, not to mention the fun times during matinee shows with my sisters.

As time passed, my kids grew up. During my 50s, I lost my husband but didn’t lose the zeal to live. As fate would have it, one year there was a mandate from the local government that the ‘Ward Commissioner’ seat of our ward would be reserved for a woman candidate. When my son suggested that I should contest for it, my first thought was - I don’t want to give up my chai and gupp time. Little did I know that people loved me not for my degrees or achievements but for the same chai-gupp time I spent with everyone. They unanimously agreed that the woman who always lent them her ear and gave them advice would not shy away from standing up for them. They knew that neither their monthly supply of ration nor the roads of the ward would be compromised if I were their leader. I won their trust, belief and the election.

It is never too late to choose a career for yourself. I chose one at 60. I am still the ‘agony aunt’, only with more complicated issues to sort out. Despite my new responsibilities, I have made sure that I don’t lose out on my conversations over chai"


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