The world is celebrating ‘Womanhood’. The UN Secretary General sent out a message about resolutions for security, health and social leadership of women worldwide. A number of articles, debates and thoughts were produced on the empowerment of the weaker sex. The parliament of the largest democracy debated reservations for women in the country to see women more fulfilled. Unfortunately, on the other side, in a tragic and shocking incident, a 21-year-old girl was shot dead in the broad day life of the national capital. Will reservation guarantee the right to live? The answer is ‘no’.
Last month I visited my cousin’s residence just for a day. Here’s the story of one day I saw of her life which I feel is important to share with the world even though it’s nothing new in India.
She is just another woman, but her life belongs to others, not herself. Living in a family of three, her husband is a senior engineer in an automobile MNC. They have a talented (read talent as per today’s world) son studying in standard three. And this article is about the woman, not the rest of two. But her life (post-marriage) is never about her, it’s been about her family.
For her, the day awakens with duties of her son as the kid gets ready for school, and to send an eight year kid to school requires a lot of efforts, if it’s about a single person doing it all. As per Indian family culture, the woman has to wake up early and see if the son’s departure to the school cab is smooth. Else the head of the family will question on her irresponsibleness. Once the child leaves the cement boundary, his father is about to evoke about his day’s schedule, so he wakes up and enters the bathroom straight away. No ‘Good Morning’ wishes from either side of the human couple.
The woman is now concerned about her mate for life, her better-half. She is smart enough, while preparing Tiffin for her kid; she has added some extra vegetables in the frying pan to lower the effort later on. So it’s the time to prepare the rest of the dishes to serve breakfast to her husband. The deadline for all is sharp ten o’clock in the morning when the male candidate won’t listen to any excuses from her if he misses out on anything starting from underwear to the tie. She has a heart which can bear any exploitation on earth, but can’t swallow a disturbed mind of her husband due to mistakes that she thinks of making. Actually those are sere carelessness and irresponsibility of her life partner. For this very reason her preparations for the morning starts a night before as she plans many things in advance for the next day.
Just before 15-20 minutes of his exit, he gears up finally for the day. So he needs everything right there wherever he wants to find something. If he doesn’t find even a specific paper, he shouts at his wife demanding a mere scrap. Human emotions are at severe shock thanks to the rat race of humans in the twenty-first century. She gathered speed to meet the demand. She wouldn’t want to create any further harassment to him as he might create ruckus in the house. For everything else, his voice was filled with arrogance, proving the male dominance in the family. The scene goes on depicting the significance of men in the family where women are just slaves of their needs and wants. By signing a marriage contract, a woman officially and most importantly, socially accepts the slavery for her entire life. The man, has it all in his own house, but wants to get everything facilitated by somebody without offering himself any physical pain. He has taken her as granted as somebody to serve him till the time anybody of them die. Forget love for his wife, he doesn’t have a few kind words of support for her unstoppable efforts to keep his professional life at ease. But he quickly responds his boss’s call with all the telephone etiquettes he has learnt to climb up the corporate hierarchy. He is a man of few words…Sorry, I should say, he is a man of no words. When I greeted him with a Namaskar, he managed to nod his head with fake smile as the rest of the face didn’t compliment those lips. I went ahead as per the tradition to ask if he’s keeping well and he repeated the head exercise looking at me without uttering a single word. I wondered if I was talking to a dumb, probably a civilized dumb. Can I really blame him for whatever he is today or should I blame the societal needs of success which have captivated his mind absolutely?
Finally, he leaves for office with giving much-needed relief to the woman. She takes a breather, but house works are yet to be finished. Here comes the turn to serve the in-laws and guests in the house. In Indian families, if you don’t treat your in-laws/guests well, you are sinful. And those guests feel like offended even if they are aware of the situation inside the walls. So she has the responsibility to keep her guests merry with some great food and most importantly with sweet sweet talk including the stories of joy of her own life (even though there ain’t any). Immediately changing her role, she became the most lovable and caring sister to me. In between all, she had to manage preparing lunch, taking back clothes from the laundry, societal formalities and outdoor works and to wait for her son to be back from school to feed him and take care of his needs for the next day. And then she also managed take me for a city ride along with her son. In the way to a park, she touchingly asks me if I am happy in my life as we met after a very long time. Without answering, I posed the same question back to her. “I am happy about my son. He is everything to me” – she says. The answer was self-explanatory. I didn’t need to go for the second question to know her moral fiber.
Probably, she has accepted the way of life that has been given to her. Serving all day all night with no wrinkles on her forehead and still smiling at times. The smile seemed unreal to me. During the entire day’s life of a woman, I could hardly see a smile or laughter which came from her heart. She tried her best to make my day a memorable one and she was successful too. She has played a successful role of a star maker. But unfortunately she couldn’t find any way to keep herself satisfied with her own life. To say that she is happy about her kid is a consolation prize for the life she lost to her parents ten years back when she got married at the time when she was at the peak of her career. A decade after she lost that all to never get on track.
She has sacrificed her own dreams for her parent’s happiness then and today she sacrifices life every single day to keep other’s happy and cheerful. She is into her early thirties, but hardly aware of her hair turning grey. She never complains about her husband’s sense of being ill-bred. She has no grudges for the life she is leading today. Because she is a woman.
Even if she has, who is there to listen?
I travelled memory lane, when I used to see her being passionate for a career in journalism in her younger days before marriage. Today, I felt as if the terms like ‘freedom’ and ‘dream’ hardly have any relevance for her as the century old men-dominating feudal system still ruling her life and mind. She has succumbed to the idea of ‘pati-vrata-patni’, negotiating each day with her own likes and dislikes for her husband, who hardly is bothered about her individuality, her parents, people who have no roles in her life today, who won’t come to her rescue believing the girl child as ‘parai ghar ki amanat’.
Even though things are changing for women around the world, the rate of change is slower than the snail’s pace. For the growth of humanity as a whole, women must come out of the shells and shocks commanding their minds since ages. Women need to be more sensitive towards themselves, not others. Wherever you be, be yourself. We can’t afford to celebrate womanhood unless women rise up to the cause of their own self-empowerment and audacious living. No doubt, the world will be a much better place to live in when equal number of women (or more) realize their potentials as individuals with equal freedom and opportunities.