Indira, 29. Passionate. Poet. Change agent. Succeasful HR professional. Wife. Daughter. Daughter-in-law.
Many adjectives to describe one person. These are just a few hats that most Indian women juggle. In a speech on women’s lib in India, Indira makes for a good story.
Indira, 29. “Why can’t you settle down?”. “What’s the need to work so hard?” “Why do you have to travel so much for work?” “You should be cooking a warm meal for Ram, my poor son, all alone at home”. These are the barbs and comments that don’t make it to these conferences. But isn’t this the reality of many of the working women in India ?
India, a country which had the world’s first female Prime Minister, is still yet to come to terms with the evolving role of women in our society. It should be no longer be a woman’s responsibility alone to manage the household, or cook, or be the parent. We need to break away from the stereotypical image of the Indian woman.
Men have to recognise that their wives will not be like their mother’s, just as they are not like their father. It’s ok for me to go out and party with my friends, but not if my wife wants to do the same! Why these double standards? Is man’s ego that prevents him from accepting the changed reality? Or his insecurity ? Or have women not fought enough ? Or simply a bit of everything ?
Indira’s parents are from a typical middle class family. Hard working, god fearing, duty bound. But their duty to their daughter often seems misplaced. They got her married, and that was a big load off their chest. But then she should have a child, why delay it. It’s their duty to help her “settle” down. Why do Indian parents define their duty in these terms? Isn’t their daughter’s happiness, which may not be the result of family or mother hood, a larger duty ? Why is societies’ expectation more important than Indira’s desire ? Has thousands of years of “collectiveness” made us bounded by tradition ?
In-laws ! The villains of peace for many women in India. They take a girl, and her jewellery in a big fat wedding. Guests are entertained and everyone dances, so does the bride, often not knowing what lies ahead. The mother can’t let her son grow up; she ties him to her pallu, so that the new girl in the house doesn’t spoil him. Indira’s place is in the kitchen, just hers was, and has been for women for many generations. Why can’t she let go? Why can’t she accept Indira may have her own dreams? Is it ignorance? Is it fear of losing control? Is it years of conditioning? Has the “collective”society made her understand no better ?
In the midst of all this, Indira feels lonely, suffocated, in shackles, but yet does not fight back. Why ? Can she not fight ? Does she not have the confidence and sense of independence ? Or somewhere, her own Indian middle class upbringing makes her want to compromise ?
We are going through the pains of a society that has been the symbol in the world of “collectiveness” that now has found, western educated women who want to be at the forefront of “individualism”.