For centuries generational patterns have been deeply ingrained in the subconscious of societies across the world. These norms, values and behaviours that have been passed down from one generation to the next limit personal development and potential, especially for women. We as daughters often grow up subconsciously learning these patterns from our mothers who learnt it from our grandmothers and the oppressive cycle continues.
TikTok and Instagram are now filled with bold young women talking about breaking generational curses. If you’ve come across these videos you probably know how satisfying they feel. It’s as if we feel the empowerment within our own bones every time we witness a woman defy the normative mould set for her. Stepping out of generational patterns may currently be a social media trend, but it isn’t new. Women have been trying to let go of these shackles for ages, in our homes and all around us.
These Badass grandmothers broke generational patterns and were way ahead of their time-
Smt. Usha Adlakha as narrated by Aviyukta Adlakha (Faisalabad)
Smt. Usha Adlakha Ji, born in pre-partition Punjab, now Faisalabad, was a real “Badass” in her youth.
Losing her mother in the 4th standard was something that really threw her off. She now had to manage the household as well as her studies. When her family moved from Faisalabad to Rorkee, she enrolled herself in the military and underwent defense training, where she also learnt to fire pistols.
She also enrolled herself into various entrepreneurship courses that were available at that time. She learnt every skill while breaking the perimeter set for her.
Soon enough, she was married off into an orthodox household. Moving from one conservative household to another felt like transferring from cage to cage. Her only relief was in the form of her supportive husband.
In an incident during the initial years of her marriage, she was given the responsibility of taking care of the domestic cows. But she was getting overburdened by the piles of chores and cow dung that she’s had to sweep.The excessive workload started to seem like a boulder shackled to her ankles. One fine day she decided that she had had enough and set the cows free. The cows ran away (sad).
She had an entrepreneurial mindset and pursued her interests with such vigour that even at this age she actively takes all monetary decisions of the family. Even though she avoids active politics, whoever she supports is elected as the new MP or MLA in her hometown, she is regarded as the king-maker. But above all, she is a certified badass who till date does not shy away from rather stomping the cycle of generational patterns.
Late Smt. Shailesh Mishra as narrated by Samestha Mishra (Lucknow)
Late Smt. Sailersh Mishra Ji being born in a wealthy zamindaar household, always did what resonated the best with her. Notorious for carrying an aura of hubris, she was married off at an early age of 12, just like most girls were during that period. But what set her apart was her refusal to move to her in-laws house. She stayed back at her home till the age of 16 to complete her education.
When, during a domestic altercation with her husband she was sent back to her home, she took the opportunity to complete her Industrial Training Institute graduation. During this stay of 2 years, she did not once meet or even talk to her husband. After returning to her in-laws’ house, she became a businesswoman. She would prepare papads at home and hire a stranger to sell them in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.
With the profits collected from her veiled papad business, she opened a school wherein she taught for a few years, but she never stopped being a student. She learnt homoeopathy and opened a small clinic where she would regularly treat people. She stopped her practice after the demise of her husband but she was far from quitting. She started working as an LIC agent.
The epitome of a forward thinking, self-reliant workaholic, she never spent a penny of someone else’s money. She refused land or economical help from her relatives and worked up until a year prior to her own demise.
Late Smt. Meena Elizabeth Rajkumar as narrated by Anoushka Komandur (Vizag)
Late Smt. Meena Elizabeth Rajkumar, born in Vizag, was the eldest girl in a family of seven children. She started working as a child to support her family, earning a meager wage to put food on the table. She started tutoring children whilst herself being a teenager. Her love for teaching only grew with time and she went on to becoming a school teacher and subsequently the principal.
She left her home to stay with her husband in a remote village in the North where they started a mission and an orphanage. She took care of the orphans, hiring teachers and tutors for every subject including art, sewing, embroidery. In a time when women were home-bound and expected to look after the household, she travelled the world.
She might have been shoved into the real world to earn but she took one step further and defied the expectations of the patriarchal conservative society in more ways than one can fathom. She did it for herself but more importantly, she did it for society.
She broke the cycle of generational patterns and she did it in the kindest way possible. Her courage and kindness continue to run through the women of her family.
Smt. Tripat Kaur Luthra as narrated by Aarti Singh (Ludhiana)
Smt. Tripat Kaur Ji, is the youngest of nine siblings in Ludhiana. She had a zeal for learning and being independent. None of her siblings were educated. But what proved to be a bigger issue was that none of them supported her either. All her siblings got married and either moved out or were not inclined towards house work. Being the youngest, she had to complete all the chores herself.
She was given permission to study under the condition that she would arrange the money on her own. Hence, she started working and taking jobs like tutoring, stitching, embroidery.
In those days, examination results were announced in the newspaper. She was awaiting the result of her undergraduate final exams. When the newspaper came in, she read it from cover to cover but she couldn’t find her name or roll number. This often meant that the person who had been omitted from the newspaper had failed the exams.
She sent the application for retaking the examination a day prior to the deadline, but due to late postmail, the application didn’t reach the university office on time. She then sent her younger brother to the office in Patiala with the proof of the post. When he talked to the officials about the matter at hand, they disclosed that she had actually passed the exam.
Soon enough after completing her under graduation, she got married and had to move to Delhi. The big city was daunting but also quite progressive. The household she married into supported her notion of wanting to work. By this time she had a year old daughter to take care of, but she didn’t let this deter her.
She joined typing classes which she would attend after putting her daughter to sleep. Soon after completing the course, she got a job three hours away from her house. Things started to change for her as within three years of her first job she was offered jobs from both Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and All India Institute of Management Association (AIIMA).
The job offer from IMA looked tempting with an extra off day per week. When she went for her interview at ISRO, along with her in the waiting hall was a man who seemed like he needed the job more than she did. Ultimately, she decided that an extra holiday doesn’t seem that bad.
She worked at IMA from 1978 to 2009, going from typist to Assistant Manager. Doing everything from tutoring, saving up money, doing the chores, bringing up kids and nurturing a wonderful family, she has been a true perfectionist in every field. She was the first educated woman in her whole family.
She was also the first and only woman with a job in her whole family.
Smt. Kumudini Thapa as narrated by Khushi Thapa (Dehradun)
Smt. Kumudini Thapa Jo, born in the hills of Dehradun, was the eldest daughter in her family and the sole care-taker of her siblings. Coming from a strictly conservative household with traditional values, she was not allowed to get a job. But in her books, a job was something that she had to do for herself.
She secured a job and pursued it secretly.
When she got married, her situation only deteriorated. It did not sit right with her husband’s ego when she presented her wish to pursue her career further. On the day of her final post graduation exam, he locked her inside a room to prevent her from appearing for the exam.
He also did not let her accept a job that she was offered. He not only openly sided with his relatives in a familial dispute instead of his own wife, he never contributed to any household expenses either. She would pay her children’s school fee from the savings of her own secret job.
Till date, she holds her spirits with an iron fist and stands up for not only her own rights but the rights of her children as well. She was the sole provider for her kids. She rebelled against every norm and rule that was imposed on her in the name of tradition and society. She broke each and every hurdle because she realised that at times you just have to risk it all in order to gain some.
Breaking the generational cycle is a profound and transformative journey that will tear you down completely, but also one that will build you up. You’ll gain snide remarks, become unpopular, your family will probably turn against you, but trust us when we say it will be worth it. It will be worth it because you’re not only trying to improve your own life but also protecting your daughters and all the future generations from inter generational trauma.