Written to be performed as part of Eastrogen Rising Cabaret to celebrate the women of 1916 in Ireland.
We were born ten years and continents apart,
united by class, education and a desire
for liberation and justice for women and children.
My mother brought me
visiting, helping the post-famine
people, valuable lessons in poverty.
My mother, worried about our Devadasi past,
wanted me married off
as a young girl.
I campaigned for midday meals, my hospital
provided care for inner city children,
jobs for the excluded women medics.
There were those children of a lesser god,
Hungry, abused and abandoned, who found refuge
at Avvai Home, where beggars came for meals.
I left politics early disappointed, but
the babies dying in slums kept
the doctor in me working till 81.
I had plenty to give from what I had learned
and so I gave, to orphan girls, fed well, trained
for government teaching jobs, permanent with pension
Under heavy fire, I crawled
across roofs to rescue
my commander, took his place.
Schooled in medicine, I rescued
abandoned women, fought child marriage,
the killing of infant girls.
I fought for Ireland, with a gun at City Hall
for women, with words in Sinn Fein. Later
disillusioned, I focused on health in St. Ultan’s.
They labelled me anti Brahmin when
I banned prostitution, but my cancer institute
and Avvai House still serve the people of Madras.
The tenements are gone, but
direct provision leave children homeless.
First woman legislator in British India,
I walked with Gandhi, my name on the flag in ’47,
a street in Madras, a Padma Bhushan, I was Vijaya.
With £70 I started St. Ultan’s, it prospered
led the fight against TB,
the biggest killer of the time.
What I gained from a teacher, a father, a king
I gave to the three women who came
to my door and left a doctor, a teacher, a nurse.
I learned to find ways around the when the route
was blocked, created spaces for women to flourish.
I hope by now the power is shared
Working with the vulnerable
feeling their fear, I walked the path of liberation
for our country, our women, our children