My last job that ended on 26th January, 2014 gave me a chance to look into the deepest rural areas of India where I found that being an iconoclast myself won’t change the way tribals of Madhya Pradesh live in their confines of mud houses. They will continue to live with their own rituals and culture. I also got a chance to get the feel of the culture of Rajasthan when I stayed in Balapura village of Uniyara block in Tonk district. There I got to see the sorry state of women where they are beaten everyday and Parda Pratha is practiced. Only a 5 % of the girls make it to class 10th and most of them are married before they see their 18th monsoon. I thought that the lack of exposure to outer world has confined the women to their mud houses and is responsible for their plight. I also had a feeling that the India of metro cities has changed and I am trapped in rural areas where people have such a shallow thinking. On 27th January, 2014, I moved back to Delhi after a span of 6.5 years to join the prestigious NCDEX SPOT Exchange Ltd. It was a double delight for me as I moved to a better job in my hometown. I was happy to get back to sophisticated urban life once again. I was even happier to see my parents happy. The first four months were like one way traffic where I enjoyed every bit of my life. I was learning as much as I can with my travelling job which kept me out of Delhi for 20 days of the month. After these four months were over, I got a project which needed me to stay in Delhi. Hence in the last two months I got more time to spend with my family. The last two months made me realize that nothing has changed in my family since I left Delhi 6.5 years ago. It is highly patriarchal and the women of my family still don’t have any say in the decisions of the family especially if they are pecuniary. I and my sister fight for the cause but fail everyday when we see our mother standing quite in every discussion we have. Mind you, my mother is a post graduate in arts and still has not availed any benefits from her degree. Two of my cousins are living abroad, one in USA and the other in England. But I am distraught to say that both my sisters in law have chosen to become a home maker. Both of them are highly qualified but chose their husband when it came to making a choice between their career and husband. One of my friend who was a system engineer in Infosys, left her job to assist her husband in USA as his house wife. One of my former room mates who I thought was forward looking, works in Pune in an IT company. He married a girl who is an MBA and made her his house wife. He also got a Honda Aspire in his dowry. Needless to say that the parents of all the four girls mentioned above are over the moon. And this all is happening in so called ‘sophisticated and developed’ cities of India. Is this what our women are made of? Whose mistake is it? Who forced them to end their career for their husbands? Why is it always right for a girl to sacrifice and wrong for a guy to do the same for his wife? Will a guy leave his job and go with his wife abroad if she gets a job in USA or England?
The great Indian Culture
If I can’t change it in my home then how can I dream of changing it elsewhere. We in India are not allowed to raise our voices against our elders even if we know that they are wrong. This is not in our rudimentary culture. Devoid of all the support even from their parents, girls in our homes find no place to vent their frustration. Finally they decide to get along their life and make their husband’s life their own. We pray goddess Durga but want our wives to be Savitri (Who brought Satyavan back from the grasp of Yamraj) who will always save our ass. Durga Pooja is celebrated for nine days where every single day is dedicated to a different Avatar of the goddess but our culture has no place for her in real. Women in India are expected fast for the well being of their husband on the festival of Karva Chauth. Why is there no such festival for well being of women? The answer lies in our culture again. I recently saw one of my female colleague leave her job because she got married. Why can’t a man move to the city where his future wife works. Why is sacrifice always on the shoulders of a woman? Our culture is the first wall of our cage made of steel.
Ram, Ravan and Krishna
According to Hindu Mythology, Ram was the best man who ever lived. I will say that he was not even close. A man who renounces his wife even after Agnipariksha, so that society may not point finger at him is no man. But today, we Indians are not even Ram. We want to be Krishna,who is always surrounded by Gopis. Ravana was a better man than Ram and Krishna at least before getting his eyes on Sita. He initially wanted to revenge the insult of his sister Shurpanakha. That was the respect he had for his sister. We in India consider women as our investment, where people even think of marrying a girl who in 5-6 years younger than them, to satisfy their lascivious desires till the age of 55-56 considering the age of menopause of women. We in India, appreciate when Saina Nehwal or Sania Mirza wins laurels for India or when Priyanka Chopra or Aishvarya Rai gets the Miss World crown but when our own daughters try to make careers in these fields, we raise eyebrows on their sports wear or fashionable clothes. Suddenly our culture reminds us that it is wrong. We want a bovine wife and on other hand become a tiger ourselves to satiate our carnal desires. So, these are our options to chose from. We can be Ram, Ravan or Krishna. Given the choices we have, I don’t think anyone is even close to perfect. So here stands the second wall of the cage made of reinforced cement.
Sita is alive but Durga is dead
Our women must have forgotten the bravery of Rani Laxmi Bai but they never forget that they are the Laxmi of their house. They never object to dowry given to their future husband especially in arranged marriages. They don’t like to fight for their career and independence. They are happy in relaxing in their house the whole day even if it means that they will have to eat the food bought from the salary of their husband. For this they also kill the Durga within them. They don’t want to raise any questions on their husbands because they are dependent on them. They happily go to the official parties of their husbands, leaving behind their own friend circle. She may also join a gym or learn new recipes to delight their husband. A necklace they adore has to wait till their husband gets them one. Even the working women cooks for her family each and every time. Why can’t she tell her husband to take equal responsibility for the same. This is because Durga is dead and only Sita is left. This attitude is the third wall of the cage made of bricks.
Even our education system is such that it allows women to top universities and board exams but closes the doors when it comes to equal opportunity in job. We even make our daughters study, only to get them a good husband with lesser dowry to give. When I was 10 years old, I asked my father that why girls are taught if they have to become a house wife in future. His answer was,” To teach their children in future.” Our studies should also include a subject on gender equality instead of Yoga which has been forcefully enforced by some of the states. Our children should be taught from the start that everyone is equal and there is no shame for a boy to be beaten by a girl. Whatever training is given to the boys whether physical or mental, should also be given to a girl. The lack of purposeful education forms the fourth wall of the cage made of mud.
On one hand where I have seen the dire condition of women in our society, I have also seen a silver lining. Some of my female friends are also fighting for their cause and are not ready to give up their ambitions. I also salute those guys who are helping their wives to keep them independent. I will also like to thank the women like Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza who have given us hope that change is possible. But for that we need to break the four walls mentioned above. The easiest one to breach is the mud wall of education. The second one made of bricks will be broken by the will of our women to remain independent. The third wall made of reinforced cement may need a bulldozer of sanity for men who consider their wives a showpiece and a machine to deliver children. The fourth and strongest wall to be broken is of the rudimentary culture. This wall can be breached only by continuous weakening. Some holes need to be done in this wall by renouncing some of the cultural boundaries. Slowly but surely this wall will also fall. This is not an overnight process. This cage has stood for centuries and it can not be razed in a single day, but we should start removing the bricks today.