The admirable and awe inspiring author of ‘No country for women’ Taslima Nasreen is not only homeless but also without a country. This book is her latest compilation of her very best features. An activist feminist she writes the bitter truth without mincing words about the plight of women in her country. As a member of a democratic society she exercises her freedom of expression whether people like it or not but the consequences are heavy indeed for her. The psychological truth is that a ‘normally civilised’ person cannot hear the naked truth without a gut level feeling of horror and disgust. The rational side of the mind generally stops its functioning where issues of religion and faith come up. Irreverence for religion is not tolerated by many including the women folk. Therefore most women too have found her writings unpalatable and revolting.
The system is powerful indeed. Many systems have many aspects that are oppressive and exploitative to women. We are not blind to the fact that some aspects may be stifling to the men folk too but we agree that the proscriptions are more for women where men have outlets to breathe and experience a sense of freedom. Women are deprived of personal liberty, freedom to make decisions, the right to choose whatever she wants to do with her life in terms of her professional and personal areas. The truth is that the system does suppress individual freedom, can hurt, torture, maim, murder and kill the individual. An individual that is perfectly socialised by the culture adjusts and adapts best and carries the culture and tradition further. The less socialised ones become lesser mortals and become maladjusted and insane. The bold rebels become marginalised, outcasts and homeless.
Let us not overestimate the system too. And we should stop behaving like victims at all times. The truth is that the ultimate intelligence lies with the individual. Among both the sexes the woman is a powerful creature too. Even as she has infinite capacity to adjust and adapt to harsh circumstances, she also has tremendous potential to bring in changes if she wants to. That is, if she understands herself and her strength. That is, if she knows what she wants and her awareness is not just about what she does not want. She is a procreator, a mother of not only babies but also the custodian of culture, religion and rituals. She may not have written the holy laws as they have been essentially made by men but she is certainly the torch bearer of them. If she refused to follow them or if she decided to modify them according to her tastes she could do it. She is endowed with superior intelligence, sensitivity and proper concerns for life. Of course the change would not come so easily. There is always a resistance to any change. It would come gradually if women persisted in their efforts. If women collectively decided to bring in the change the battle would be won.
As a born and practising Hindu I have experienced immense freedom at home to do what I like and follow whatever rituals that appeals to my senses and rationality. I could choose my own favourite God to offer my prayers, my own respected temple I would like to visit, choose any pundit to perform the rituals, and the rituals that I would like to discard or continue. In my community women enjoy enough freedom not to feel suffocated and oppressed. They can assert their rights if they wanted to. If they wanted to is the question.
Do women know what they want and how. Are women clear as to what sort of life they want to lead and how. Women should exercise their rights to see their own dreams, aspire to achieve them and create and recreate their own lives with the colours they like and love. Not only should they own their own homes and their own countries but also think of the whole world as their own. They should create the world of their choice.
Published in Hitavada Women’s World 24 Feb 2010