Rajasthan is largely a dry and arid land. Life, in general, is hard and for women, doubly so. A deep rooted patriarchy hinders their growth and ingrains discrimination as part of life. Child marriage, purdah and harrasment by in-laws are prevalent. Equal opportunities of education and work is a distant dream for most women.

So it was a pleasant surprise when I met Pushpa and Pushta, holding post graduate degrees and working as forest guards in a remote region of Thar. They are roughly the same age but carry different baggage.

Pushta got married recently. After two miscarriages, she is constantly worried if she would ever be able to provide a heir to her family. A woman’s life is not considered worthy enough if she doesn’t give birth to a son. While Pushpa is a young widow, whose 5 year old son lives away from her due to the nature of her work. Destined to live a life of loneliness, even the talk of re-marriage, for a woman, is taboo in her clan.

As forest guards, in this remote jungle, they have found an oasis away from backward mindsets. They happily live with minimal facilities in the government provided mud-huts. In harsh conditions, deprived of any entertainment, they are their own refreshment and a pillar of support to each other.

Despite being educated and confident, regressive societal clutches are unavoidable. This is the story of changing aspirations of rural women, challenging the gender norms in a subtle and gradual way.

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