Ask any father and he will tell you how wonderful daughters are, caring, loving, doting, idolising father as ‘My Papa Mama the best’. And yet, Indian social thinkers have found it necessary to have a ‘Save the girl child’ campaign. For, in tradition-bound Indian homes, a girl child is not a very welcome proposition. In large numbers of Indian families, ensuring that a girl is not born at all is an eternal activity.
Alongside the ‘Save the girl child’ campaign, Indian society also needs to run a parallel ‘Save the woman’ movement. This statement may sound funny, or unnecessarily combative. But let us consider some facts before we make such a judgement.
Even though Indian women got their voting right much earlier than women in the so-called advanced nations, even though larger Indian scenario is replete with countless examples of how women have progressed, the reality is that as a society, India does not respect its women appropriately. This is in evidence almost everywhere – workplace, or home.
But let us go to average Indian homes for a dispassionate and non-partisan survey. We will realise that in most homes, women get only a scant respect. In fact, in countless homes, women are treated as second class citizens. Families expect them to be working all the time, in offices and at home, doing things relentlessly for the family, almost a thankless job. But then one example is enough to explain the reality.
This is Malati, a mother of 10-year-old son. She works in a bank that is 20 kilometres away from her home. Every morning, Malati dispatches her husband to his office and son to his school, takes a real quick breakfast, and sprints out to take a bus ride to reach the bank at 9 a.m. By five in the evening, she is back home, not to relax but to get into another hectic schedule that may make even a soldier flinch. For, Malati gives her son something to eat, takes him to his music class, buys vegetables or grocery on way back home, makes dinner for the family, rushes to the son’s music class to bring him back home, helps the boy in his daily studies, serves dinner to all, cleans the kitchen….
But wait. There is something missing in this picture. For, as Malati goes round and round doing things, her husband after work is lodged firmly on a sofa in the drawing room watching television, and shouting orders for a cup of tea, or a glass of water… And if Malati is a little late in doing things to his bidding, she gets heaps of abuses, and an occasional slap on the face…
The picture is still not complete. For, we have also the in-laws, guests, neighbours to make things only worse for Malati. By the end of the day, she is totally ragged and exhausted. Yet, she cannot go to bed unless she cuts vegetables for the next morning, irons the son’s uniform, polishes his shoes, keeps the husband’s necktie, wallet, handkerchief, wrist watch, mobile phone, in one place so that the fellow does not bark like a dog next morning. Meanwhile, she has to give the Ma-in-law a glass of milk, the Pa-in-law his warm water to drink, lock the main gate for the night, switch off lights and fans in the whole house…
In many homes, the picture may be different. In many homes, the people may be treating the women a little more kindly. Yet, in many, many more homes, there are Malatis who actually do not know why they are living life in such an aimless daily grind.
But the picture of the average Indian home is still not complete. For, in numbers much larger than we can imagine, women fall prey to domestic violence of this or that kind. In very large numbers of Indian homes, women are not allowed the opportunity to actualise themselves genuinely, not allowed to pursue their hobbies, not allowed to take small liberties to go out with (women) friends for a movie or a kitty party.
Let me assure you that this is not an exaggeration. This is only a statement of an ugly reality of which the Indian society is to be ashamed.
In fact, the need to have the ‘Save the girl child’ campaign has stemmed from the mindset that is all willing to mistreat the women, misunderstand them, mis-represent them. And this is happening in the society that once sang songs in women’s praise – Gods reside only there where women are worshipped! Bah.
And therefore, we need, alongside the ‘Save the girl child’ campaign, a ‘Save the woman’ movement. That would help us reassert the women’s position of primacy in the society.