My grandmother’s name was Kamala. She was born in a small slice of western India at a time and a place where the gift of learning was not equally bestowed between genders. If my father’s memory serves correct, she was married in her early teens and hardly had the benefit of a fourth-grade education. Nevertheless, she raised six children who became college graduates, replete with advanced degrees.
My aunt’s name was Kamala. My mom describes her as the sweetest sister-in-law one could ever dream of. I never met her because her life was cut short on a highway in Uganda, as was the life of her youngest child. My mom and three of her sisters, not yet teens, were each assigned to care for one of Kamala’s surviving four children, a great charge at such tender ages.
My niece’s name is Kamla. She is a biracial child of immigrants, named in honor of the grandmother she was destined to never know. A businesswoman, an athlete, she grew up in an America where her life was less circumscribed by limitations of the Kamalas who came before her.