The heartbreaking story of 57-year-old, single mother, S Petchiammal is just another reminder of how it’s not easy to be a woman in Indian patriarchal society. As per Indiatimes, in Tamil Nadu, S Petchiammal disguised herself as a man for 30 years to raise her daughter alone ‘in a patriarchal society’.
Recently, the incredible story of S Petchiammal went viral on the internet.
At age 20, S Petchiammal lost her husband to a heart attack. This incident happened just 15 days after their wedding. She belonged to Katunayakkanpatti village, which had a dominant patriarchal society. Pechiyammal, who gave birth to a baby girl, had to start working to make ends meet.
But, unfortunately, it was difficult for a woman to work in the patriarchal society of Kattunayakanpatti. On multiple occasions, she was harassed by village folks.
In an interview with The New Indian Express, she shared how she worked jobs at construction sites, hotels, and tea shops to raise her daughter on her own. But, she was finding it extremely difficult, as she was subjected to harassment, sexual taunts and hardships while working.
To put an end to her suffering, she went to the Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, cropped her hair, and changed her attire to a shirt and lungi. Petchiammal rechristened herself as Muthu. While sharing the details, she mentioned: “We resettled at Kattunayakkanpatti over 20 years ago. Only my close relatives back home and my daughter knew that I am a woman,”
And that’s how she has spent the last 30 years. Petchiammal said she was called ‘Annachi’ (a traditional name for a male) wherever she worked.
She further added: “I did all kinds of jobs, from working as a painter, tea master, parotta master to 100-day work. I saved every penny to ensure a safe and secure life for my daughter. After days, Muthu turned to be my identity, which in turn was mentioned on all documents, including Aadhaar, Voter ID, and bank account.”
Though Patchiammal’s daughter, Shanmugasundari, is now married. But she is not ready to change her attire. She said her alternate identity ensured a safe life for her daughter. For this reason, she wants to remain ‘Muthu’ until her death. Petchiammal doesn’t own a house and can’t apply for a widow certificate. But she has managed to obtain MGNREGS job card.
At IFORHER, we are in awe of this inspiring soul as she fought against patriarchal society to raise her daughter on her own. But, it is sad how even in the 21st century, we couldn’t provide a safe environment for women to walk on the streets or work to be independent. It’s high time to bring about social change and make our society safer for women. Because, if not now, then when?