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Celebrating and Saying Yes to Agency

Papam=bechari/bechara in Hindi= Poor one in English

Like every day, Dad dropped in for  our customary morning cup of coffee. As we dunked our digestives in the hot brew, Dad looked at me and beamed.

“I have a new student in my tuition class,” he said. As I smiled appreciatively, he went on, “Their family is distantly related to us. The girl’s mother… papam…like you, she has also faced many difficulties.”

The smile faded from his eyes. The coffee tasted tepid on my tongue. It was the sound that papam made. The images it conjured inside my head.

“What does she do?” I asked, reaching out for another biscuit.

“I don’t know, but her husband used to work for HPCL.”

“Daddy…how many children does she have?”

“Two daughters. One of them has just completed her and is working for an MNC. The second one is in tenth.”

As he said this, some of the chaos surrounding papam  began to fade.

“Dad,  what does she do?” I asked again.

“She is learning Sanskrit,” he replied.

“See she is doing something and there you are papamizing her.”

“No…No I don’t mean that. Come on M, having to do things without a partner is not the same as having someone by your side. Haven’t you seen it all?”

The P word again. The sound of it now filling my eardrums. Coursing through my veins. I needed to silence it before I was consumed by its lure.

“Nannaru…I understand what you mean. And I know you say it in the kindest manner. But when you say papam like that, it takes away our agency. I know you mean things would have been easier for us. But you know what ? Papam anchors all those women and me back in our pasts. Papam is devoid of any movement. This woman is celebrating herself by signing up for a course. She has raised a daughter to be financially independent. She is raising another daughter successfully.”

Dad nodded, light filling his eyes.

“I agree,” he said putting aside his coffee cup, “Look at that other lady T. No one can take her for a ride. She single handedly runs the entire business.”

“And you call us Papam,”  I said laughing, relieved that the P  word was finally exiting my system and my father’s.

So dear Solo Moms, if you have a favorite aunt, a best friend or a sibling saying the P word wistfully, do what a dear friend taught me. Ask them to spell their name. Both forward and backward. Ask them to say their telephone number aloud. Forward and backward. And as they are struggling with the numbers, ask them why Katappa killed Bahubali.

It silences the sound of papam every single time. And then life begins to flow. Like a gurgling river.

©: Sridevi Datta.

Published inEmpowermentUncategorized


  1. I get called Papam a lot. With appropriate heart breaking expressions to match. Because i am so nice, apparently :)))))) I never bother to find out what they really mean :)))))

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Ha ha ha I am grinning at your comment Mayuri. Hugs. You are lady full of verve and spirit.

  2. Colleen Fairclough Colleen Fairclough

    Never heard this word before. Such a negative connotation. Yes, we are more that that & our challenges make us the strong women that we have become. Hurray!

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Yes Colleen, the problem is when people utter that word casually, they do not realize the negativism associated with that word. And thank you so much dear. 🙂 <3

  3. Smrity Smrity

    Such an eloquent and strong piece. The P-word is nothing but basically patronising every woman who is powerful to make it on her own. Why is the society so scared to witness and admit that a woman is capable of manoeuvring through life by themselves? Why are we seen as a threat, or a pitiful creature or a project that needs to be worked on?

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Exactly Chinnu. We need to break those stereotypes apart. We need to do it through communicating effectively, by holding our heads high and celebrating ourselves every moment. Thank you for reading sweetheart. <3

  4. Hats off to your patience in getting the other convinced that it wasnt how they saw it. People dont make a distinction between pity and empowerment, when they use the word “Poor thing”. When I look at women who make it on their own, I send a silent thanks to the Universe – It means Today I can muster up my courage to do things cause I know it is possible. It means tomorrow my daughter and daughters of the universe will be more empowered. It means tomorrow my sons and sons of the universe will be more respectful of the person irrespective of their gender. It means Humanity is willing to rectify its flaws so each of us is empowered…Thank you!

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      My soul: I wish I could frame this comment in gold. Your words resonate deeply with what I have been trying to say. Thank you. Hugs. <3

  5. TV Ramakrishna TV Ramakrishna

    Nice. And Solution given in last 2 paragraphs, Very Nice.

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thank you very much.

  6. Sujata Sujata

    Wow…..such strongky written……hats off to u Sri

  7. Sujata Sujata

    Wow…..such strongky written……hats off to u Sri……long way to go dear

    • sridevi1994 sridevi1994

      Thanks Sujju.

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