Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy Women's Day

As is my wont, I read the Sunday TOI and HT religiously (an old habit from childhood). As I read the papers today, they were full of news about Women's Day. Not only had they conducted extensive surveys, they also had the more 'prominent' women in India write their take on the importance of the day/ being a women.

I can only say it saddened me, depressed me, made me feel even worse. I think India treats it women badly. I also think that most of Indian culture is premised on the basis of women's oppression. Though a friend disagrees, what does he know? He is but a man!

India/Indian culture is a multi-headed monster, each of its heads incessantly pecking away at a woman's dignity, hope, freedom, liberty and agency. It never gives up. It often rears its head as a publicised Ram Sene incident, or a Sanjay Dutt news story.
But more often, India manifests itself in everyday small events, that never make the news. You know what being a woman in India is about? It is about slowly surrendering your dignity and hope to the larger beast of India.

It is about being groped in a crowded bus/train every day.
It is about knowing that you can never go out at night.
It is about not wearing what you want to wear.
It is about fighting to go to college.
It is about begging for a chance to study.
It is about choosing/ not choosing your life partner.
It is about dowry.
It is about wanting to learn how to dance.
It is about the liberty to choose/ unchoose to have kids.
It is about how I choose to spend my evening.
It is about public space (or the lack of it).
It is about how I spend the money I have.
It is about traveling alone.
It is about sitting in a pub and drinking (or atleast having the freedom to do so).
It is about having only sons.
Heck- it is even about the aashirwad you get- putrwati bhav:

It is about my mother telling me that she wants me to have a son. Because she could not have one. That she has waited 40 years for a son.
And I don't blame her. She's been mistreated by society who does not respect a daughter's mother. She wants better for me- and in her eyes, the only way to get there is to have a son.

It is about being pitied when you have a daughter.

It is about every girl child that is aborted.
My cousin sister did that. She already had two daughters, and so when her third child was a girl, she had it aborted. And eventually had a son.

It is about every single aunt, uncle and relative who knew about this incident and said it was a good decision.

It is about not getting married. After a certain age, a girl lives with the stigma of being single. She is an object of pity and sympathy- and the victim of every real/pseudo astrologer ascetic who can claim to find a cure for her singleness in her stars.

It is about every vrat, prayer and mannat a girl does/makes to get a husband.
It is about every relative's voice of pity as they bemoan your sorry state.

It is about how 'good girls' don't drink.
It is about why arranged marriages are better than love.
It is about duty.

It is about feeding your husband.
It is about washing his clothes.
Disclaimer- I don't want to say that the above is bad/good. Only that it should be a choice. Not a SACRED DUTY!!

It is about being told that your foremost duty is to keep house for your husband.

It is about sexuality. Or the fact that it should not exist.

It is about the fact that married women should not travel alone. Or leave their husbands alone at home to tend for themselves. How will the poor babies eat, clothe, sleep, drink, whatever?

It is about life. Or the fact that a woman should not have her own.

As I have reiterated often, a woman is not supposed to have her own life outside of her husband, kids and family (gasp! what else can she want!). And as usual, I was talking to one of my relatives (my bhabhi) who was trying to convince me to have a kid. She mentioned my cousin, who just had a daughter, saying that
"Pehle wo free hoti thhi.. ab wo saara din uske (apni beti) saath busy rehti hai"

Subtext: How awesome. That's what you should aim at too. Then you will have something to do with your life, a purpose to this childless existence of yours.
Well, that argument certainly convinced me!

Yes, I believed in female equality. Female freedom of choice. Once.
Now, I too often feel that there is no hope. No hope for any change. Its not about big gestures.
Its about what is entrenched in the minds of India's people. For every Sonia Gandhi, Renuka Chowdhary and Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, there are a thousand silent girls, who wearily give up hope.

It is about parents not wanting to spend on their daughter's education.
With higher education getting more and more expensive in India, parents often make a choice that the girl can go to the local college while the guy goes to an expensively bought place in engineering.

I am sad. I am angry. And it gets me down and drains me of any hope.
For this multi-headed hydra goes on and on... in the life of every Indian girl, eroding her shreds of dignity, never giving up..until she does!
I am just another one of them... tired of fighting, tired of standing up, tired of them all... who never let me be.