Meet Nandani, a public health enthusiast and social worker in the Boston area. Learn more about how Nandani uplifts and honors her grandmother, the special bond they shared, and a bit about how her grandmother defied cultural norms in her home country of Sri Lanka.
1. How do you honor your ancestors or the womxn in your life?
I'll start with my grandmother, Indira Sangarasivam. She was a formidable woman for her time. She grew up in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and identified as a Tamil woman. Tamil culture belongs to a matriarchal society, therefore allowing property and inheritance to be passed down to the women in the family. However, that didn't mean Tamil women were treated with respect or valued beyond there ability to produce children or bring in dowery. My grandmother defied those cultural norms; even though she was in an arranged marriage, her husband (my grandfather) supported her independence and voice. Everything from the simplest things such as wearing her down and unbraided to fighting for *Tamil rights during the civil war. She wore pants and sari's alike and marched in the streets of Tamil Eelam to fight for her people. She would have fought in the female division of the Tamil Tiger guerilla fighters, but my grandfather wouldn't allow it due to him unwilling to lose his wife and leave his daughters without a mother.
My grandmother did hold that against him for the rest of their marriage, but she passed down her independence and free spirit to her daughters. She taught my mother and my aunt never to put a man above their ambitions and pushed them to go above and beyond achievement. That knowledge has been passed down to me, and I honor my grandmother and my mum and aunt through my practice as a public health social worker. I strive to help the vulnerable and underrepresented and ensure that women, specifically older adult women, age independently and healthy.
2. Why is this relationship special?
My relationship with my grandmother was special because she never let me forget where I came from. She taught me Tamil, Hinduism, Tamil cooking, and most importantly, she taught me to stand on my own without letting a man rule over me. My aunt and mother are strong and fierce, so inherently, I picked up on those traits as well! They are all special to me.
3. How have they shaped who you are today?
My grandmother, aunt, and mother have shaped me to be the strong, independent, vocal womxn that I am today. My voice is loud and strong because of them. The Sangarasivam women do not run from a fight, we protect those we love, we know how to have fun, and we know our culture and customs.
4. What is their legacy?
My brother and I are their legacy. As I said above, the three womxn shaped me, and they shaped my brother to be an amazing man. He knows a woman's worth and knows how to stand by and next to a woman of strength without the negativity of patriarchy.
*Take a look at this article written by my aunt for background ( https://surface.syr.edu/ant_etd/56/)