Two years ago Mohinder Kaur walked into our office. She said she had travelled from her pind in Punjab to almost every other State in the country, except Kerala, Tripura, Manipur and Nagaland. The 70 plus Mohinder wandered into our office once again. This time she had crossed Kerala off her list.
Armed with photocopies of letters from appreciative District Collectors, government officials and articles from newspapers, she declares that she is most impressed with the Panchayats of the southern states, and the empowerment of women here.
“They know their rights,” she says approvingly. Mohinder Kaur has been the President of the Mahila Mandal, Dhoot Kalan Village in Hoshiarpur district.
Having discharged her domestic duties, she now travels where her heart takes her, observing the status of women across the country, how the panchayats work, the anganwadis, and so on. Every now and then she touches base at Hoshiarpur where she speaks at length to Punjabi publications who are happy to write down her experiences in their paper.
Mohinder Kaur has no English, very little Hindi and only robust Punjabi. But that has not deterred her from going to Kochi, interacting with panchayat officials there and then making her way to Coimbatore and right back to our office. She says she has just returned from Uttrakhand.
She wanted to go to Kedarnath, in fact went half way there only to encounter the devastation. “God did not will it, so I decided to visit Kanyakumari instead,” she declares. She stays in temples and gurudwaras wherever she goes and says she has never been stranded. She says God knows His job and is keeping an eye on her.
Though Mohinder Kaur is herself a school dropout, she believes education is the only way of empowering women. She is sorrowful at the condition of women in villages she has visited in some northern states. Illiteracy has put women at the mercy of men, she says. But she sees hope, too. She hopes when she carries the stories of women empowerment in states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka up north, there may be change. “Write something about me this time too,” she says. Has she done anything more since we last met her? “No. I am just travelling. I liked Coimbatore, so I returned. I may not live long enough to come back two years later,” she says. But before she goes anywhere she has one more stop she wants to make. “The brand new State of Telengana.”