An ode to Phoolan Devi
The Bandit Queen
If my art has consistently been about one thing, that one thing is women.
I’ve always been about women.
Whether it is to speak about the injustices we suffer at the hands of the patriarchy, to what’s it like to be on the receiving end of glares every time we are in public. I paint about, write about and try to capture our dreams, our struggles, our sacrifices, and most importantly, our bravery.
As I’ve grown into an adult woman, even a mature woman, I look back at the women who have helped me get here. I am at that stage of my life where it is crucial to recognize the women who have paved the way for me to live a life freer than my grandmother or mother could even dream of, despite what it meant for them. The unseen, unrecognized, unheard voices, the forgotten battles, the lives snubbed too soon, I worship the women who inspire me to fight, to get up and face my haters every day.
Phoolan Devi, The Bandit Queen, has inspired me since my childhood because after the abuses she suffered as a low-caste, rural, impoverished Hindu woman, a child bride, an unf*ckwithable bandit, lover, and politician, she never gave up. While most women chose and choose to kill themselves when their honor is questioned upon rape, Phoolan seeked revenge on the high-caste-Brahmins who gangraped her for days. Not only did she serve herself justice with bloodshed but she also spoke up for herself and people like her, especially women, by becoming a public servant, contesting in elections and becoming a Member of Parliament.
I’ve learned countless life lessons from Phoolan Devi but the biggest of them all is, no one is going to fight for you. You must fight for you and all women who come after you. Pave the way. Raise hell. Challenge the narrative. Rewrite the course of justice.
Be a Bandit Queen.