All of us knew Sheila as a reticent girl, unwilling to make friends, not ready to participate in group activity, staying on the sidelines all the time. With her close friends, she was all right, but would clam up the moment there were some new persons in the group. So, when she got a job, we all wondered how Sheila would manage herself in the new atmosphere. One of our friends, too, worked in the same place and she reported that Sheila was very efficient and quite popular with the bosses. In a short time of two years, she rose in the organisation quite well. She still continued to be rather aloof, but kept scaling new heights at work. When one of us asked her why she continues to be rather reticent, all she said was, “Look, I keep building my inner strength quietly. That has helped me.”
Of course, building inner strength is a major issue with everybody. With women, however, it is all the more critical in today’s world. For, gender equations are becoming rather edgy. Men are not becoming more charitable towards women. So, the need for women to grow in inner strength is becoming the need of the hour.
Unfortunately, however, a good percentage of women do not seem to realise this. Women like Sheila who are conscious of the need to build inner strength so that they gain a better control of their lives, are not found in good numbers. On the contrary, many working women are found to become increasingly superficial in their approach to life, interested more in fashion and glitz rather than substance.
This is one area that should be of greater concern for all women, though there are not many women who are deeply conscious of this dimension. Increasing numbers of women often restrict their thought and action to narrow goals of only garnering a decent job and keep holding on to it through thick and thin.
Of course, there are good numbers of women with career-consciousness. Yet, this number does not match with the number of the other category. Overall, women – mostly working women – seem least concerned about making careful and purposeful efforts to build strengths in their personalities.
They are vulnerable to psychological manipulations by their bosses. They are susceptible to political games men are known to play to keep their women competitors down in professional race. They also seem to get bogged down by work-load at home – husband, children, in-laws…! One does not find many women with a better and greater sense of control of their own lives. Most seem to be drifting along rather than charting a fine course of good life with purpose and plan. This is sad.
Examples like that of Sheila, therefore, stand out. Since I know her closely enough, I can comment authentically that Sheila is of a different class. Outwardly, she may look reticent and unsocial. But once you know her good enough, you realise that she has really built a good reservoir of inner strengths that give her a better and greater sense of control over her own life. That has also made her a calmer person who does not get disturbed by small storms.
Perhaps, women like Sheila still form only a minority of Indian women because the larger society does not seem to make any special efforts to groom girls well so that they know how to build inner strengths during early part of life’s journey. Though women are going for higher learning and though good numbers among them are going into many challenging professions, the larger Indian society still does not attach much importance to building inner strength in the girl child. Of course, one must say that such efforts are not done in cases of boys as well. But the absence of the effort in case of girls is more glaring and therefore saddening.
Such statements may appear rather unjust to most women, but they only state a reality. Despite bigger numbers of highly educated women, the overall stress of the larger Indian society is not on helping the girl child build inner strengths. The stress, on the contrary, seems more on attaining some kind of economic independence so that the girl would be able to manage her life better in times of some familial crisis.
This is only a limited aim. Indian women must go beyond it and build their personalities plush with inner strengths so that life is one extremely purposeful journey, and not an ongoing drift misguided by a notion only of economic independence.