India’s daughters?

Painting by Ravi Jawanjal, Nagpur

The documentary makes you think. The ban on it makes you think deeper. A rape is what we see on the surface. Like this documentary. It’s the surface of the problem. It has exposed some perspectives of the rapists thought process and that of some other elements of society. A rape is sometimes reported. A documentary is sometimes made. Action is sometimes taken. The law is involved. But, the problem, the real problem lies much deeper underneath. Like the ban. 

The ban has further exposed these deeper issues. It has exposed the stand that a whole country has taken, and the distorted thinking behind it. 

Speaking for myself, I grew up in a family where my  uncle would scold my cousin sister for having more chicken than her brother. ‘This doesn’t suit a girl, to eat so much non-veg!’ her mother would add. Mulinna he shobhat nahi! (This is not suitable for a girl) was a mantra that we grew up with. My father, who himself was an emotional handicap, would tell me to go inside when male guests arrived. Jeans and ‘sleeveless’ was an absolute ban. I even had my hair measured one day after I came back from a haircut, so that he could keep a track of the length and stop me from cutting them next time. No permissions for late night drama/song practice in college. Male friends should not be talked to. They cannot visit home. Married women should wear their mangalsutra and bindi as marks of ownership. So that other males are forewarned that there is another master for this trophy. And widows are looked down upon. They can’t be a part of many rituals. Rules made by men and women. A conspiracy. Restrictions galore. 

Concepts  of equality and freedom get transformed in such a scenario. As a girl, one learns that one has to always fight for it and demand it. One learns that freedom will not be offered on a platter. It’s not a gift. Its not a right. It’s a privilege. It’s luck. 

And now that I am a working professional, the equality card is thrust on me and I am expected to attend emergencies even at 2 am. How I reach the venue is my problem. My safety is my problem. 

I see my maids. They are working women. Their ‘men’ are either alcoholics or good-for-nothing’s. The men sometimes hit them, abuse them verbally and physically. Yet they continue living under the same roof so that socially they are ‘safe’ because of the tag of having a ‘husband’. And all the time their sons observe this ‘arrangement’ and realise the comforts of being born as the male gender. In the villages, most are working women, taking care of their houses and children and cooking meals for their family and then going out as farm labourers to earn that extra rupee. Deft time managers. Adept at managing their routines. And yet yearning for sons. It takes a woman years to realise that her daughters can be her true supports in her old age. Not just her son. And still  the immortal paradox persists in our society, leading to female foeticide. 

A lady conducted school programs for children in Nagpur some years ago and took surveys from kids before the workshops. One of the questions was on concepts of gender equality. In the corporation schools where kids from low socioeconomic strata attended, she found more boys thinking of girls as equals. While in the so called high class schools, she found that more boys looked down upon the females of the species as ‘lower’ in equality! Ask a city homemaker’s child, son or daughter, ‘What does you mother do?’ And he/she will say,’Nothing! She is just a housewife!’ Ignorance! This thought is not taught in schools. It is learnt at home. From parents, grandparents, other family members. Women are as much responsible for this thought as men. It was my grandmother after all who poured that extra milk in my brothers glass, and gave the extra dollop of ghee on his varan-bhaat! So the pompous lawyers and the bright-looking, government-fed, philosophising rapist are not the only ones with their narrow minded thoughts. These concepts are fairly widespread. 

My female patients’ parents voice their thoughts openly. ‘Whatever they say in the media, madam, but a girl is a girl after all. She is paraya dhan! We have to look after her till she gets married. We have to take care of her health and safety till then!’ This is what a father said to me just a month ago!

The concept of woman as a commodity is further endorsed by media, by some so called popular songs objectifying women, by TV serials projecting women as conspiring vamps, by ‘hero’ based films showing women as beautiful damsels needing to be saved. The images are everywhere. Woman is a commodity. In no other species of animals does a female have to prove herself as attractive and beautiful and presentable. As a ‘flower’ in a temple!

A woman is not a flower and a man is not a thorn. Man and woman complement each other. We need each other. We are a complete spectrum of abilities and capacities together. We cannot imagine a world where only one is present. Neurons and astrocytes,  both make the brain. Of course in quality and natural ability we are not equal. There are some things at which the woman is better, by her biology, natural traits and capacities. And there are some at which the man is better. Just like neurons and astrocytes. But safety and freedom are equal rights! 

The ban, the ban on the documentary symbolises and showcases India as a misguided dictator and patriarch who decides on the extent of freedom to be given to his paraya-dhan-naive-little-girl. Lift the ban. Be brave, India! As a country and a culture we must make the changes. This is a beginning. Treat it as one. It’s a crucial crossroad. A rational, sane and respectful action needs to be taken. India! Take it on your chin like a ‘man’. Don’t sweep things under the carpet of the ban. There is anger. There is shame. There is fury. There is pain. Face it. Head on. 

Young Indian girls. Proud to be Indians! Marching and fighting and voicing their opinions. 

I am not a policy maker. I am not a sociologist. I am not an opinion maker. I am just a regular Indian woman, raising her son to be a sensitive rational individual. 

Ask yourself this question, India- Will the young women in India call themselves India’s daughters? Will I proudly call myself one?

Painting by Sanjay Dethe, Nagpur


2 thoughts on “India’s daughters?

  1. Very well written. It truely expresses the malady that our society is suffering from. But, in a country where a king who sent his wife into exile on hearing a common citizen’s comments is treated as an ideal man, and another one who put his brothers & wife at stake in “Gambling” is called “Dharmaraj”, I do not expect any changes in the mentality for years to come.
    These are religious doctrines, and unfortunately we are going backwards as far as religious beliefs are concerned. I still marvel at people like Maharshi Karve and the Phules for their courage and their convictions.


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