Women’s day! Ring any bells? Yes…it is that time of the year again when the world wakes up from its year-long slumber to celebrate womanhood. In India, we have a unique way of celebrating. We take stock of all the successful women we have, from business to Bollywood, and then wave them as placards of a society which values and loves its women. And well…that is about all we do. At the stroke of the mid-night hour, these placards are once again stuffed into big bags, carefully preserved for use next year.
For the rest of the year, women faithfully take up their role as the oppressed, depressed and suppressed.
From birth till death, their lives are claimed by males, then be it their father, husband or son. A typical female in the Indian society spends the first 25 years obeying the rules and regulations set by her father. For the next fifty years (average) she is expected to comply with all the whims and fancies of her husband. If she is still lucky enough to survive, she becomes a full-time, non-paid maid for her sons (Pardon me for my bluntness, but that is exactly how it is.).
So where is the time when she lives for herself? When she does things as she likes, on her own terms? When does she express her individuality? In a country like India, where the girls are not welcome right from the time they are conceived, it is tough being a woman. Each day is a war for survival. There are no allies, just enemies.
The Indian woman has always been expected to take up the role of the ideal homemaker (catch any daily soap to see what I mean). They should be able to resolve conflicts peacefully, stand by their husband’s side even if he is wrong. They should be the ultimate example of patience and perseverance. If she wields her power, it is only for her husband’s sake. She never uses it for her own because that would be selfish and Indian women are not selfish.
Maybe this attitude towards women has roots in our mythology. We have Sita, Sati and Draupadi. Sita, who didn’t say a word when her husband questioned her character. Instead of putting up a fight, she sank down into the Earth. She knew she was right but couldn’t bring herself to oppose her husband. Sati, who jumped into flames, when it came to choosing between husband and father. Who willingly gave up her life, rather than dishonor one of the men who controlled her life. And Savitri, who undertook a long and difficult journey to get her husband back.
Obviously , a married woman can’t raise her voice today because Sita wouldn’t have done that. We do not have choices because Sati didn’t have any. We cannot just dump our husbands, even if he turns out to be an authoritative fool, because Savitri wouldn’t have done that. All along the way, we forget Draupadi, who is often called the very reason for Mahabharat. She defied all the normal marital laws. The very people who want us to be like Sita, refrain from commenting about Draupadi. She, who had five husbands, who claimed back her body when they gambled her as their property, who unbound her hair and challenged her husbands to bathe them with the blood of those who dishonored her. She has always been the controversial one.
From her view-point, Sita chose to go back to mother Earth because she didn’t consider it worth living with a man who didn’t trust her. Sati took the leap because she was fed up of this male-dominated world. They seem to be the most misinterpreted women to me. Their bold actions have been toned down and wrapped in the soothing fabric of ‘womanly duties’. What they did for themselves, has been projected as acts of selflessness and devotion to their husbands by the male pundits and gurus. The result: Unrealistic expectations from the women today.
Women seem to have no voice of their own. All they have is their body and soul, which has also been claimed by the administrators of society. They are worshipped as creators of life, yet their own life is one of never-ending pain, sacrifices and prejudices.
But why go back to their era? You’ll get concrete proof of what I want to say soon enough. This year, Holi and women’s day coincide. See for yourself the incidents of eve-teasing and harassment that the young girls will be subjected to. Is that how we treat our women? Sadly, yes, it is.