She walked like a femme fatale lying in wait. Nicely turned, the LV bag clings easily, stones on the fingers and a behavior that goes with it.
With good heart, I commented, “Well, well, you look like a girl on the move.”
She laughed, “I’m the best.”
“And your husband?” I teased.
“That’s the rest.”
She is the daughter of Amritsar today. Confident, handsome, an attitude to match and words to say. She has always been a beauty. And she has been the lady of her universe through the ages of sexism and the era of jingoism. Be it Punjabis or the rest, NRI or Desi, all eligible boys have headed to this charming mecca to try their hand at engagement, with high expectations and parents in tow. Most of the guys came back, rejected and retired in matchmakers and ranked columns! A select few who had the right skills, intelligence and brawn got the woman of their dreams. She was certainly not just arm candy, but so much more.
The Ambarsari girls abandoned the “yeh meri beti hai, khana bhi acha pakaati hai, sushil bhi hai” protocol decades ago. They study abroad, work with the best multinationals and audit firms, are globetrotters and do not hesitate to find their own suitable partner when the time comes. Now later than ever. A few decades ago, the most beautiful young ladies of the lot were hooked to the real estate sultans of Delhi, the world banker of Bombay, the tycoon of Calcutta, around the minimum age of marriage. Now they choose their sleeves. The world is their village, and their village… theirs too.
The boys spend their time chasing their suitors and setting up dates when they can. Most miss the bus when they find the ultimate match as young girls are swept up by men of prowess and substance. That’s when assholes shape their lives and build their vocation. No offense, but our girls outperform most of our boys.
For my part, I was lucky and I imported my soul mate from the national capital. She was the most awesome girl you see there, and the one who had the quintessential finesse, character and class. Frankly, I fell head over heels and I still wonder how she agreed. She too, I’m sure! In fact, all but a few of my friends have wives from across the country…Delhi, Kolkata, Bareilly, Indore and more. I guess for us the grass was greener over the fence. But then it was another generation where matches were made in heaven.
Most of these so-called housewives of yesteryear are not commonplace either. They also manage a career on the side, one that defines their personality. Multitaskers at heart, they are mothers, daughters, wives as well as analysts, academicians, insurers, financial experts, doctors and entrepreneurs. Passionate about what they do, they thrive on work, partying, caring for in-laws with a flair, and having their husbands wrapped around their little fingers. They are the best you see.
These were the city women, movers and shakers of business and society who poured in from metropolitan cities and brought changes to the social milieu of this sleepy city. But now the new batch are as savvy as they come, making every move to the beat of their contemporaries around the world. Some are pioneers who also create trends. Whether in the world of fashion, modeling, acting, styling and even screenwriting. We even have one, Sukhmani, who straddles all of the above, with aplomb.
The city has been inclusive and gender neutral since its spiritual roots, even when heinous practices such as ‘Sati’ and widow segregation were the rule of the peninsula. He immersed himself in the teachings of Guru Nanak to the core. The guru said, “So Kyon Manda Aakhiye Jit Jamme Rajan.” How can those who wear kings be called inferior? The women of the city rose to the occasion without fail. Even when the greedy masands (the priests of that time) denied the ninth master, Guru Tegh Bahadur, access to the Golden Temple after his ascension to Gur gaddi, it was the women of the city who went to him , after he had been turned away , to reconsider and return. Instead, he gave a blessing for them and their future generations, “Maiaan rabb rajaiaan”…Always blessed by God be the women of Amritsar.
The city has given many notables through the ages. Let us remember the continued contribution of theater personality Neelam Man Singh; Bibi Inderjit Kaur, who selflessly leads the destitute household of Bhagat Puran Singh; the administrator par excellence, former governor of Pondicherry and first-ever female officer of the IPS Kiran Bedi; Bollywood heroines of yesteryear Geeta Bali and Deepti Naval; so many authors, political stalwarts et al. But the current generation of women are reaching new heights like never before.
Muskan has been seen by everyone on major airport meta billboards with her Pashtush business. It takes the town’s traditional vocation, the manufacture of shawls and stoles, to a whole new level of business and marketing. Beautifully designed and packaged products are its forte. Imagine Mandeep Kaur, an extraordinary young woman with the humble beginnings of a small flour mill in a small hamlet on the edge of town. She now employs more than a hundred IT professionals in her village of Tangra, earning many people while striving to motivate startups and entrepreneurship. Or Shruti, the restaurant ace who seems on the verge of becoming the princess of multiple cuisines. She mastered the skills of hospitality and palate with ease.
In a different stream, Prerna plays the queen of diamonds, hitting the airwaves with YouTube videos and playing the perfect hostess in her jewelry stores while dressed to kill. By the way, she also has a couture line of sparkly dresses. Our very own Gunisha is the competent dietitian for not-so-thin women in need during the day and is an expert in epic banquets for citizen celebration events at night. And those are just a few of our picks. Yes, they also have families that fully participate. They continue to be kind to their husbands and give them some credit for their success. But that’s only because they’re smart and generous. But these bottom women are the faces of startups, and they aren’t shy about burning midnight oil or working on a Sunday morning either.
And that’s not all. Societal welfare businesses formed by enterprising women contribute much to the community’s cultural and artistic scene, reaching the needy and providing opportunities for women who might have just been relaxing at home or continuing with their party circuits of cat. Phulkari founded by Preneet Bubber, an architect by profession, is unique in its multi-faceted leadership platforms for over 400 women, delving into nutrition, charity, current affairs, philosophy and spirituality, music, arts and para. Ficci Flo, a business networking group for women, leads to interactions with personalities and efforts for various causes. In addition to this, individuals such as Pearl Jasra have served the cause of humanity for years. She runs IVY, a school for children in a slum known for drug addicts. She is also a model for ethnic clothing.
These are women-led businesses that might well make a parade while allowing others to engage in intellectual discourse and meaningful action here before inconceivable.
Apart from this, the best academic institutions in the city founded by stunning ladies have spawned excellence from primary, middle and secondary education to IELTS setups. One of the first of these elementary schools of distinction was established by Rita Singh, elegance personified, while the college was headed by Kanchan Mehra, her contemporary. That the main across town, Springdales, is run by a third generation of admirable Sandhu women is also no surprise.
One of the most expensive institutions is headed by Manjot Dhillon who could well be named as the next Mrs. India. In another dimension, Reeti Bedi is the face of the French language school that even gave the Alliance Française the money run. Despite battling a terminal illness, she brazenly resisted the times and made enough of a deal for her spouse to join her.
The girls are pretty in this town. As pretty as it gets and pretty good at what they do. It’s a whole new brood, which has surfaced, hit dry land, improvised and thrived. Attagirls indeed. Path to follow.
(The writer is an Amritsar-based author and conservationist)