“The community where I grew up was very backward. Ladies did not go to school at that time. In 1935 my cousin was the only one in the family who was educated. Those days having a girl was a liability. My father told me that the moment the family finds out they are having a girl they would kill the baby when she was born. My father was against it and started preaching that if anyone does this in the village, then they wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the village.
My mother was a very beautiful lady and I looked more like my father. I had dark skin. At that time beauty was described as having fair skin. My Massi (mother’s sister) who visited my parents immediately after my birth said to my parents what will they do with a dark skin girl like me and suggested to my parents to kill me. After this my father banned my massi from coming home. My father feared for my life. My father cared for me and my sisters with lots of love and brought us up very well. He encouraged us to study and get education. Society at that time was really backward and girls didn’t get education. I was really keen to study, so I started going to a district school where I traveled long journey (on a horse) but only some days of the week. I was the first one to go to school and get education in my family.
I completed my 10th grade in 1947 in Pakistan. During that time the partition between India and Pakistan happened. My family then moved to India. My father wanted me to become a doctor, and getting into medicine then was tough. But there were no colleges or school where we lived; even roads were not built.
After a few years of moving to India I got married. I always wanted to study. I was adamant that I want to get further education and get a qualification. My husband also encouraged me a lot to study further. So I did my BA (Bachelor of Arts) in 1954 and then LLB (Bachelor of Law) and became a lawyer. My husband was very helpful during this process. I was the first lady in my district to become a lawyer and continued in this profession. During those days only men would become lawyers. But I took a challenge upon myself and I was determined to change this. When I went to court I was even addressed as “Advocate Saab” (Advocate Sir) which is how men are greeted, as there was no word to greet lady lawyers at that time and most professions were dominated by men.
My father did lots of sacrifice for independence of India and during British Rule became an MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly). My father is the reason I have achieved so much in my life and I will forever be grateful to him. He had a lot of stamina and was very intelligent despite limited education. He will remain my biggest inspiration in my life”. I would have loved to write a book about him.”
Narinder Kaur #womenofdundee