Faraway dream – 14 July 2010

Though this subject has been churned inside out on countless occasions, it irritates me no end to realize that women’s liberation is a faraway dream, at least in India and other similar societies. Far from being liberated, Indian women still find them-selves trapped in senseless male domination that stalls their genuine progress, makes a great number of them feel unnecessarily inferior to men, and rather enslaved than emancipated. And because this situation upsets me, I keep returning to the subject time and again. The thought acts as an ugly reminder to me that many of my species are far, far away from realizing their true potential only because this male-dominated society of ours creates impossible blocks in women’s path all the time.

Here are a few real-life stories:

Savitri is almost as well-educated as her husband who teaches at a college. She is good-looking and smart and practical. At home, she takes care of everything – from going to the market, to the banks, to the children’s schools, to the doctor’s, to social gatherings where the husband is forever reluctant to go, to weddings, and even to families who happen to lose some member.

For a couple of years after she got married, Savitri chose to stay at home and set things in her own way. She was a young, beautiful bride and expected the family to treat her well. But right from Day One, Savitri met with a strange situation – everybody in the family, including her darling husband whom she loved so much, expected her to be a housewife (read ‘maid’). So, when she proposed to start looking for a job, the whole family became hostile.

Still undaunted, Savitri tried and got a really good job in a reputed company. She rose very early in the morning, did all the house-work before sunrise, made tea and breakfast for all six of them, cooked lunch as well, packed everybody’s lunch boxes, and hurried for her workplace where she worked as a front office manager. In the evening, she returned to a hungry household, and cooked a quick dinner though she was herself very tired, cleaned up the kitchen and went off to sleep only to get up again just after four hours. In the process, she brought in good money that gave her a sense of freedom and the family a much-needed financial support.

Yet, the darling husband wanted her to quit the job that gave her not just the money but also a lot of prestige. He played pranks at home, threw tantrums, provoked the kids against their mother, instigated others in the family to rag Savitri no end. And one bad day, Savitri, all exhausted and feeling lonely, left the job.

Harpreet Kaur’s story may differ in detail, but has similar trappings like Savitri’s story. She teaches at a school where her two kids also study for half the fees because they are a teacher’s kids. She carries the kids to and fro school every day, thus saving a lot of money. She also rises very early in the morning, cooks for the family of five, and then rushes to morning school with the two kids in tow. In the afternoon, Harpreet has a few students in her small tuition class. All together, she makes decent sum every month.

Yet, her husband, a businessman, hates Harpreet work. He, too, throws tantrums, at times beats her up, and insults her in front of neighbours and guests. He even tells Harpreet’s headmistress that she is a woman of suspect morals since she spends a lot of time with male teachers in the school as part of her day’s work. In short, he also wants her to quit.

Harpreet, however, is stronger than Savitri. She has refused to quit. She does not mind all the insult and insinuations. She does not mind domestic violence of which she with her kids is often a victim. She is staying put.

Yet, internally, Harpreet is devastated. For, she knows that she is lonely in a full family. She does not understand why her husband and her mother-in-law behave in such a shabby manner. Still, she does not want to quit, because if she quits, Harpreet will have nothing to support her in a true sense. Her job is her security. She is a popular teacher and does not want to quit the job that gives a real mental satisfaction. But, in order to achieve that, Harpreet is paying a heavy price.

There are many such real-life stories to recount and prove the point: In India’s male-dominated society, the woman has to depend upon the mercy of others to pursue her calling.

Of course, let me not ignore the reality that despite all this, lakhs of Indian women are working, making decent money, and contribute to the family kitty in a big way. Yet, factually speaking, let us also not ignore the reality that an overwhelming number of them have to put up with a lot of nonsense from others in the family only because they are trying to come up level with males.

So much for women’s liberation or emancipation!     

Published in The Hitavada Persona Women’s World for 14 July 2010

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