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Rights – The double edged sword

Every time the media carried news of an atrocity on a girl/ woman there was an awkward silence among the otherwise friendly set of colleagues. While each of the ladies would relate to the victim, the men in general felt like offenders. For the nth time the ladies concluded the free for all lunch-time discussion with “In free India women still don’t enjoy the same liberty as men” and as usual I only heard them out.

This definitely was an unresolved issue as far as I went.  Sexual discrimination was a generic term but could apply to what miffed each of the ladies present there. Someone frets over ’Why should boys have all the fun’ (fueled by the actress Priyanka Chopra’s endorsement of a two-wheeler brand). The others had varying experiences of contending with party-time curfew or even the moral brigade who wouldn’t let them loosen up over a beer in a pub.

In comparison I could only think of foeticides and female infanticides. Those who survive malnutrition and neglect are persecuted when they fail their duty as the son bearing machine.

That the onus is on the man does not matter to people even after it has been scientifically proved. So a lot of women even condone the presence of the concubine in their lives.

Nothing prepared me enough for the depiction of the plight of widows ages ago in the movie ‘Water’. But, even then you rarely saw a widower who hadn’t remarried.

As for a lot of other ladies I wonder if they know it has been long since “Sati” has been abolished and was considered inhuman close to 200 years ago as Raja Ram Mohan Roy campaigned against even in the early 1800s.

The whole gang of ladies had once literally torn me apart when I told them what I felt about their idea of limitations. Their contention was that in a rural setting a girl child suffered because she was not gritty enough to stand up to it. Then someone would make light of the whole thing saying it was not their fault that she chose to be born in Bustar instead of Bangalore — for all we knew she could be a tribal princess while we were all urban paupers.

Someday I’ll ask them what opinion they would have of Disha, the second of three daughters born in the 70s in a metropolis to a post graduate mother and a professionally qualified father. She’d grown up idolizing her parents somewhat because of their self –proclaimed popularity and the respect they said they commanded, to the extent that they were role models for the neighbours who weren’t as educated or half as stylish.

Disha started working while still in college, something the mother touted as the streak of independence her progressive upbringing had fostered. To the world outside Disha’s salary was entirely at her disposal but the fact was that she gave all of it without even being acknowledged for her contribution since “her parents would never live off a daughter’s earnings.”

The veneer of the model mother considerably wore off by the time Disha decided to get married, much to the annoyance of the parents. On a visit home once her mother tauntingly asked Disha if her husband couldn’t fend for her as she’d continued working post marriage. In the same breath she blamed the query on nosy relatives as she was herself well ahead of her times. For the first time Disha looked squarely into her mother’s eyes and told her how she as a child detested being made to wear hot shorts, sleeveless dresses and cropped hair, which her mother considered trappings of modernity.

Then came the most pertinent questions of all – why were the grandparents(who stayed in another city) to blame for not giving permission to take up dance lessons, why did she opt to have a third child and rant all her life later about how difficult it was to bring up three daughters? Didn’t her well-educated mother use her sense of liberation selectively and to suit her purpose? Disha was only told she asked too many questions.

Inequity also took subtle forms like the concern of a husband who wanted his working wife to wrap up whatever she was doing at the stroke of 5:00p.m.so she could be home ‘safely’ before he reached home to a cooked meal and half the chores finished. He may of course have an urgent note to process, want to run an errand for a senior or even pay a fleeting visit to the sports room of the office after work. Oh Disha, one would ask, why can’t you throw a fit or behave coquettish and get your way. Too demeaning she’d say. I pride myself on my ability to juggle my personal and professional life but am waiting for the day when my husband doesn’t sulk at me for staying late in office or bringing work home.

She does stick out like a sore thumb among her peers since she doesn’t sweet talk her way into jumping the queue at the Doctor.

She doesn’t consider it an extension of rights of women to publicly yell at a man who’s occupied the seat reserved for ladies.

She clarified ”Even old men are chivalrous enough to give up a seat (even an unreserved one) to a standing lady commuter so if I have just boarded and need to get off only two stops later I don’t need to exercise my right only to embarrass him with my knowledge of the law.

She would wonder at how some of the ladies dumped tedious office work on the ever obliging  but naive male colleague on the pretext that they had a family to look after, while also exempting themselves of their household duties on  the grounds that they were working women. Is Disha too compromising, unimaginative and uninspiring since she doesn’t use her privileges?  I wonder what my colleagues will say to that….

Being liberated doesn’t just mean eating, dressing socializing as you please. It brings with it responsibility to choose wisely with all repercussions in mind. With the law taking a very strong view of complaints of exploitation of women, it’s relatively easier to implicate but at what cost? Even with the most stringent legislation, nobody can rule out the possibility of all kind of perversions lurking around in an imperfect and dissatisfied world. We have to come to terms with the fact that Nature did make the woman innately strong but physically very vulnerable. It would be foolhardy to expect everyone to meet our standards of ethical behavior. As we usually see, it’s not the best of education but a little common sense or our own instinct that cautions us of dangers. Even at the cost of being called a prude these precautions will go a long way in preventing untoward incidents. Ultimately it’s the woman who bears the brunt, both physical and mental even when it is only trust that has been betrayed.


Posts by SpeakBindas Editorial Team.

3 thoughts on “Rights – The double edged sword

  1. Wow! – was the only word after I read this article. You’ve successfully presented the thoughts on women of today’s era with the example of Disha. Many a times, discussions are held with the theme on ‘Men and Women are equal’, but then there always the lack of belief is felt after these words. The life of village women is worst. Even today, we get to read the news of a woman burnt for the sake of money by her in-laws, and sometimes with the involvement of her husband. Rape, raged, teasing is the common burning problem today.

    And now the urban women, highly educated, with excellent job and salary, can not even live free as a man does. She again, has to take care of household things. I wonder, the equality between men and women in all areas of society is really possible?

    Excellent article, MIRASH. Hats off for your bindas attempt.

  2. neema says:

    brilliant , superb, fantastic ,, mirash, keep it up..

  3. bhoomi pandya says:

    thats wonderful story. stri shashaktikaran ni fakt vato j hoy che hakikat ma su stri ni shakti ne purusho dvara ujagar karvama ave che ? purusho mate stri ni shakti ne bahar lavavi etle ene mathe chadavavi. aj mentality haji pan che kai sudhar nathi.

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