Ashweetha Shetty – TED Talk TRANSCRIPT
I was eight years old. I remember that day clearly like it happened just yesterday.
My mother is a bidi roller. She hand-rolls country cigarettes to sustain our family. She is a hard worker and spent 10 to 12 hours every day rolling bidis.
That particular day she came home and showed me her bidi-rolling wage book. She asked me how much money she has earned that week. I went through that book, and what caught my eyes were her thumbprints on each page.
My mother has never been to school. She uses her thumbprints instead of a signature to keep a record of her earnings. On that day, for some reason, I wanted to teach her how to hold a pen and write her name.
She was reluctant at first. She smiled innocently and said no. But deep down, I was sure she wanted to give it a try. With a little bit of perseverance and a lot of effort, we managed to write her name. Her hands were trembling, and her face was beaming with pride.
As I watched her do this, for the first time in my life, I had a priceless feeling: that I could be of some use to this world. That feeling was very special, because I am not meant to be useful.
In rural India, girls are generally considered worthless. They’re a liability or a burden. If they are considered useful, it is only to cook dishes, keep the house clean or raise children.