Interview by Divya Krishnan
Name: Rhuma Rangarajan
City of Birth: Mazhaiyur, Tamil Nadu
City you currently reside in: Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Ethnicity: South Asian
(interview conducted in Tamil, translated to English)
// Tell me about your childhood:
I lived in a very small town with many siblings. Back then, families were very big and we had many cousins and other children to play with.
// What was it like growing up as a woman in Mazhaiyur?
Women were treated differently. They had basic education and got married early; always, the daughters were married off before the sons. But as a young girl in a wealthier household, I and my siblings were treated well. We often played together and went to music concerts because we loved to sing.
// Can you think of a time you felt particularly aware of your gender and how it led you to be treated?
Women were always proper. We were not able to learn to dance and sing, because it was not proper. We were not able to perform for other people; we could only do it in the house. Singing and dancing were for courtiers and such, but not family women. My sisters and I loved to sing.
// What would you say you are most passionate about/are interested in/enjoy doing?
I like listening to Carnatic music and also visiting the Srirangam temple.
// Tell me about a time you empowered yourself:
I went to college. I was the first and last girl in my family to do so. Unfortunately, there was only a one-year course for girls, and it was also in the English medium. By the time we got used to the new language, the course was almost over. Because of this, I failed. Then, at 19 I was married and stopped my education.
// What would you tell yourself if you could go back in time when you were dealing with that struggle?
I would have worked harder. I would have tried to make the most of my education. I also wish I had learned English before.
// Do you have any advice for girls who are also trying to realize their power and empower themselves and how they should practice that in their daily life?
Do not give up on what you’re doing. Work very hard, even when it is a struggle.
// Who taught you the importance of empowerment?
My mother and father were thought [to be] strange because they sent me to college. Like that they empowered me.
// Why do you think empowerment is important to you as an individual?
I was in a time where women were not empowered in India. I want girls to have more opportunities and do better.
// Why do you enjoy and appreciate being a woman and experiencing “girlhood?”
I like my community of sisters and other women. We held functions and ran the house, and it was very fun growing up. We cooked together and went to singing concerts together, which was our fun.
// How can the international community help you and your community in a legitimate way? Is there anything you’d like us to know so we can share it with our Global Girlhood community?
Help girls go to school. Help poor children go to school. - GGH
CONNECTIVITY CONTRIBUTORS REACTIONS
This interview really touched my heart and made me think about my own life in a way I never had before. I am extremely lucky to attend an amazing high school. Before reading this interview, I took my education and high school for granted. After reading this interview - I really took a new perspective on my education and realized that I am blessed to have the opportunity to learn and go to school every day. Often, we don’t realize that others in different parts of the world don’t even have the opportunity to attend school.
As a woman, I must take advantage of the amazing knowledge I gain every day at my school and use it to better myself and my community.
- Sophie Krajmalnik
Bhuma Rangarajan is someone who I aspire to be like. To grow up––in a community as a young woman where you are confined to be a certain way––must be far from easy. Although women in her community typically only received basic education, Bhuma differed from the norm and went to college. She broke free from what everyone around her was doing, which is something I try to do––but often struggle to achieve.
What inspires me the most about Bhuma is that she was the first girl in her family to attend college. I feel blessed that I have older women in my life that act as role models for me. I am not scared to do certain things because my older cousins have carved a path and showed me that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to. Bhuma did not have anyone to carve a path for her. She took it among herself to be her own role model and this to me is what I find most encouraging about Bhuma. She is a strong, courageous woman who I can only hope to be like one day.