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The defiance of the Indian woman
Born on November 14, 1913, my father’s mother, Taimoon Hosein, daughter of Kapooran and Shah Mohammed of Balmain, Couva, may have been the first one in the world with this name.
It was a misrepresentation of Tayammum, the kind of linguistic and historical mangling that clung to many who crossed water and entered the world in new locations across the British empire.
In the year 1946, my grandfather, himself born in 1901 and the son of Sapheeran and Nazar Hosein, went to register the birth of a third daughter. My grandmother wanted to call her Zairee, but my grandfather named her Taimoon, after my grandmother.
Disregarding both my grandfather’s ultimate decision and the official certificate, my grandmother called her Zairee anyway and, eventually, so did everyone else in the family.
Such small acts of defiance are the legacy left for young Indian women like me. There were also large acts of insubordination and self-definition in the histories of indentured Indian women who bravely came to Trinidad as independently waged workers, who unapologetically left men who did not satisfy them, who participated in workers’ public resistance, and whose confrontations with inequality led them to be seen as the wrong kind of woman, deserving of shame, punishment and even death.