"My life," the first page said. "Every detail in this journal I have narrated."
My great-grandmother's words, her handwriting preserved perfectly through time,
"This journal begins on 18th September 1900, it will end with the end of my life,
They call me a warrior, they call me a fighter-mother, lover, daughter too,
I have been all of them, not a single day of my life has been rued,
When I came into this world they labelled me as a housewife, nothing more,
A slave born to live and die inside four walls. What more is a girl even worthy for?"
"You must die with your husband, he'll live with you for seven lives" mother said.
"He's twenty-seven years elder to me. He's on his death bed.
How can I die before I have begun to achieve my dreams? Yes! I have dreams too.
How can I jump into a fire for him? I will not, mother dear, I will not do this for you.
They told me to marry him, like my own mother had, when I was barely nine,
To sacrifice my body, my mind, to devote myself to his service for my lifetime.
I was loaded with a cart full of riches, my value calculated in bills and money."
Father said, "He will treat you well, dear, we have given him whatever he wanted as dowry."
While he read the Gita, he commanded, "Lady, go get me some hot tea."
"I took the book from the table while he slept. The letters like designs looking quirky,
That's how I learnt to read the Holy books, pen down biographies and write.
That's how I went on to lead India's freedom struggle-studying under the night light."
A tear flowed down my cheek, I snapped back into my reality,
To a world where there are thousands of women no longer oppressed with brutality,
A world where there has been progress, there have been massive leaps and bounds,
Today women are astronauts, reaching the stars and clouds, rising above the ground.
Today girls attend school, girls know of their rights, girls have traveled miles,
Today girls know that they needn't be clad in red sarees. They are beautiful when they smile.
Today girls can go to temples, churches, mosques, to follow their heart's calls,
Girls are overcoming barriers, crossing obstacles and breaking suffocating walls.
In my own diary I began to write. "My life." Each and every detail I described.
"I was born in 2000 and welcomed as not a boy or girl but simply a child,
I went to school with my brother, went to college too,
They said, be a doctor, an astronaut, lawyer. Do whatever you want to pursue.
The era has changed, the world is slowly turning into a paradise,
Female foeticide has reduced, people have begun to value the girl child's life,
Women can step out of their house safely after the so-called curfew,
They can all blossom like flowers whose petals are coated with fresh dew,
That's how the era has metamorphosed. Like a caterpillar and butterfly.
To the next generation reading this diary-Make the world a finer place, never lose the spirit to try and try."
CF: Your poem says that female feticide has reduced. Can you tell us about that?
TN: In many traditional cultures all around the world, boy children were valued much more than girls. Girls were an unwanted financial burden to their birth parents. In those cultures, once a female got married, she was expected to obey and help only her husband's family.
This terrible bias meant baby girls got less food and medicine. Many more girls died before the age of five than boys. Some were drowned, smothered or abandoned soon after birth. Those who lived were married off while still children.
To try to stop these awful practices, laws were passed and societies began to change. Now, it's much more common for baby girls to be celebrated. This change in ideology is immensely heart-warming.
CF: Are arranged marriages still common in India?
TN: Yes, arranged marriages are still common but evolving. Parents initiate the process in most cases. In semi-arranged marriages, the children make the final call. So parents no longer force the decision in much of urban India.
The system of dowry has declined in many places. And child marriages are very uncommon. Girls and women are allowed more education, hold top positions in corporate and political offices, and work even after marriage. These are definitely changes for the better.
CF: Do you feel like you have opportunities your mother and grandmother didn't have?
TN: Yes, because of globalization, less discrimination, and more open-minded people. I have gone to great schools and taken subjects I like. I look forward to studying abroad in one of my dream colleges.
The next changes we want are a connection between rural and urban India, equal treatment for the LGBTQ community, and better implementation of legal frameworks.
CF: Thank you. It has been an incredible experience speaking with you on this interview!
Tanvi, 16, Haryana, India loves writing poetry, has won literary awards, authored four books, and is the Head Girl at her school. She dreams of studying economics and psychology and believes kindness for all is the best way of life!
Aarthika, 13, Tamil Nadu, India is a talented artist. She attends a rural, residential school for girls grades 6 through 8.
Charlotte, 11, WA, loves geography and writing. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, basketball, and playing the viola. One day she wants to travel the world.
My grandmother didn't have these opportunities. My mother has lived in an ever-changing world, but the world is even more global and inclusive for me. I hope the next generation experiences equal inclusion!