Series: The unconventional Women of SSMI
“Head straight, chin up! I tell myself every single day as I walk out of my house. It’s been ages, and I haven’t looked back because I foresee a bright future for myself and my family.
The year was 2012. I was studying in 12th. One evening, Abbu came home extremely disheartened. He was tired, his shoulders sunk. We knew something was wrong. Abbu used to work for a company as a cashier, then, suddenly he got transferred into sales but could not cope with the pressure of targets and was eventually laid off. When, over the dinner table, he told us that he had lost his job, his words sounded like a pistol shot. No one said anything, but everyone knew a storm awaited us. Ammi could not sleep that night thinking how our thinning financial resources will support a family of six. After weeks of contemplation, I decided to step up.
In 2013, I enrolled myself in a six-month course at SSMI’s Gender Resource Center (GRC) to learn to stitch but gradually got inclined towards embroidery. One thing led to another and a few months later, SSMI absorbed me in a project. Soon after completion, I took a sabbatical but joined back again at SSMI’s Textile department. This time, not as a student or an intern but as a Project Coordinator.
Even today, the landscape of a traditional Indian household is such that women and girls are confined to kitchens and household chores. They are not allowed to work. Some of my relatives say only men should step out and earn. But I feel fortunate to be born to parents who understand my potential, value my talent, and support my decisions. When I told them about the offer from SSMI, they agreed in the wink of an eye.
The institution taught me everything from sketching to freehand tracing to color matching to product sampling. The responsibility of getting the first sample ready laid on me. SSMI transformed a shy and introverted girl into a confident and independent woman. When I joined here, my brother was in 6th standard, and we planned to get him admitted to a government school. Today, he is in 12th and studying in a private school because of my financial support.
I am grateful for the hope that Swami Sivananda instilled in me. In the future, whenever I get married and due to any reason if I have to leave SSMI, then I want to run a boutique or make products that I can display at an exhibition. Women should take a stand for themselves. If you have worked so hard for yourself and come this far, why sit at home?”
Gender narratives are changing. The story of 26-year-old Eram Jaffrey is a testimony of how young girls of new India strut through narrow lanes, remote corners, and the conventional upbringing of their households to break barriers and enter territories traditionally reserved for men. And, institutions like SSMI play a key role in helping them realize their dreams.
(Content Exclusive for Real Life Heroes – By Manvi)