(This is my entry to the IndusLadies 4th Annual International Women's day Contest. )
The daughter-in-law is crying. Tadaaa! Wanna know my fairness secret? CUT.
Sheila happily gyrates, crooning all about her youthful glory. CUT..
Even Angels fall for Axe. CUT..
Munni laments about her loss of reputation. CUT.
Daughter-in-law resumes crying, as the apathetic mom-in-law bitches about her.
“Che, what horrible things they show on TV nowadays? Not even a minute can we watch with family, no?”, remarks my mother-in-law, not expecting any reply, as she settles down to watch the wailing ‘Bahu’, post the break time channel surfing session.
“They have to ban these ads, at least during family hours…”
“These ladies, no shame, ready to do anything for money…Haiyo Rama”
10 AM - I am listening, but keeping mum. I am in the midst of my daily morning frenzy. Oh yeah, nowadays, 10 AM, with the exam season and all that. Packed lunches, plasticized smiles, hurried hugs and off we are, to face the drudgeries of our own lives. Oh, the plasticized one isn’t mine. After all I’m the mother! How can a mother...? Hmmm, well, it is the little boy. Exam tension, you see! And the man… as well. A big day at the office, it seems. I can feel the lack of pressure in the hug. It’s ok hon.
I have to wash dishes before I leave. The maid isn’t in today- she is in the hospital. Her husband is one angry drunkard chap. I should go and meet her.
11 AM – I just reached office. I regret for having taken public transport today, despite my elevated fears after the recent incidents reported in media. That idiot groped me TWICE in a matter of 30 minutes. How dare he? Leave it. I need to start working NOW. A coffee will fix it.
11:30 AM - I’m still pointlessly staring into my monitor filled with some code, chat and FB windows. How could I forget? May be I AM getting old. NO WAY. I’ll definitely do it today. A knot in my hankie will help me remember.
1:00 PM – I’ve finally finished coding that major feature. Now, it’s time to check on the status of the delegated work. Have to prepare for the important call with the UK client late evening. I hope Rohit brings back his tiffinbox empty, and of course his tummy full, at least today. ‘He has nutrition deficiency’, his doctor says. Did I have any of that as a child? I should probably call Mama and find out.
1:15 PM – I’m lunching at my desk today. I really have to go and visit Kaveri. I hope she is ok. Her husband hit her with an iron skillet, her daughter told me yesterday. That girl has just attained puberty and now has her own share of problems in the slum where she lives. Her father himself has tried getting cozy with her, she told me once. I wonder why Kaveri is still married to that monster. Poor Rohit, he is really getting tired waiting for the tooth fairy. His permanent teeth have started popping out already. Before he develops a complex, I should take him to the dentist. Perhaps, an eye check-up too.
2:00 PM – I’ve gathered all the important points to be discussed in today’s call. Why hasn’t he called me yet? Did the appraisal go well? I’m sure he’ll come home with sweets tonight. I’m not making Rohit dance to Rowdy Rathore song during his annual day. I have to talk to his teacher about this. Oh! To hell with today’s idea of entertainment.
3:00 PM – Rohit’s teacher just called. She asked me to pick him up. Poor thing, he’s running temperature. What do I do? I just can’t walk up to my silly Romeo Doppelganger of a boss and talk about skipping the call. I’m fed up of him and his lewd stares. I’ll ask mom-in-law to go with the driver to the school. Sorry Rohit baby!
4:00 PM – I just completed a mentoring session. Rohit has 101 degrees fever. Mom-in-law has given him Calpol. Hope it’s the correct dose.
5:00 PM – Hmm, a talk by the Biocon lady happening at the auditorium? How I wish I could go! Oh, the call is at 5:15, I better prep up.
6:00 PM – Uff! Done with the call. Rohit, Mama’s coming darling.
6:30 PM – This darned bus! Hope Rohit’s fever has come down. I need to help Kaveri in some way, but how? Will she agree for a divorce? Should I, perhaps take her to ‘All women police station’? What if that goonda fellow targets us?
7:00 PM – “Am back Rohit darling! Mummy’s gonna spend the rest of the day, just with you, ok?” I hear myself saying.
10:00 PM – Rohit is asleep. His is afebrile now. The knot in my hankie is now vying for my attention. I slowly untie it as I sit down with my laptop to key in my entry for a blogging contest. I am planning to visit Kaveri on my way to office tomorrow. Time for another knot in my hankie.
The story above may look just like a peek into our own daily lives, but there’s more to it. Reading between the lines, one may observe that the protagonist lady seems to be living in the ‘audience’ mode, rather than the ‘actor’ mode. Most of us exist in the audience mode, waiting for a story to be told, shed emotional tears, ponder, yet slowly but surely, get ripped away into yet another quotidian day.
When I had to choose from a list of topics for this contest, I felt I had to touch upon many of them, as most of them seemed interconnected. A typical Indian woman has to face more than one of these problems on any given day. To elaborate, let’s consider scenarios from the above story:
- The sleazy content in media : Today’s world is all about glitz and glamour. We all agree that ladies are portrayed in poor light. Should we go ahead and say that all actresses must put their foot down and say they will not appear in such commercials/endorsements? That, I’m afraid, will practically never happen. No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb. Especially a beautiful, popular woman, UNLESS, there is a reliable support system in place. A system which censors such content in the first place at least from the main stream media. A system that has people who respect women for what they are, and not how their bodies are. A system that has strong laws for protecting women in the media, or any field for that matter. Till then, but for a few activists, most women will succumb, just the way WE commoners do. We may never know, the divas may aggressively and anonymously be blogging about it somewhere in the cyberspace.
- Motherhood: The protagonist, as we see, is struggling to achieve the ever-elusive ‘Work-life’ balance. Today’s mother certainly has more hats to juggle and more things to brood over. Again, a support system becomes mandatory for the woman to successfully carry out the balancing act – a good, understanding family consisting of the husband, children and both the partners’ parents. While, it may not exactly be necessary/possible to be living with the in-laws under the same roof, maintaining a cordial relationship with the extended family does help a woman in the long run. NO ONE can love your child the way your family does – not your maid, not your neighbor and definitely not your daycare ayah!
- Women’s safety: Should the protagonist have slapped the guy in the bus? Or showered abuse? Obviously not. Practically, no average Indian woman wants to hog the limelight even in a bus, because that sadly makes her more vulnerable to lewd remarks and comments. May be the lady in the story should have handed over the guy to the police? Having read all the horror stories and humiliations against women happening in various police stations, (and even in their own houses by their own fathers and uncles) our leading lady probably decided against it. She feels, ‘Strengthen policing. Weaken moral policing’. Till then, she is reluctantly ready to wash away all the slime with a daily dose of Dettol.
|Courtesy: Google image search|
- Domestic Abuse: Any form of abuse is horrifying and that too happening under the license of marriage is definitely detrimental to all our womenfolk. This, I feel, is something that can be rectified provided the victim is strong willed. Our story captures the apprehensions of an average woman who wants to help a victim and that is totally understandable. This is where anonymity can help. If the lady can call a reliable establishment which can, for sure, help the victim through all the legal tussles, thereby protecting her and providing her a respectable means of livelihood, then no woman would hesitate helping a lady in distress. Such facilities do exist even today, but are dismally inadequate.
- Women in Public life: They are the role-models, no doubt. They are the people the average Indian women fantasize. Yet, considering the percentage of women quitting their careers to fully dedicate themselves to family commitments, I have to say the average Indian woman is yet to come of age. A speech here, a talk there, by successful women isn’t enough to get an average ‘naari’ all charged up. To really get inspired, change must happen at the grass roots level. Every rural and urban Indian woman must come to think that she is entitled to her desires and choices in life, that childbirth/motherhood are just episodes in her life, not the end.
- Empowered women, increasing divorce rates? – Just consider the example of Kaveri. Shouldn’t she file for divorce from a monster of a husband, who is a drunkard, abuses her and even makes sexual advances with her own daughter? Millions of Kaveris have existed and continue to exist in our country, bearing all the torture and trauma in silence. If all these Kaveris get empowered with reliable social and judicial systems, the divorce rate will definitely rise, which will only do good for the woman and the society! And this is just one of the many legitimate reasons for divorce in rural and urban India. There are many more stories, lying there, unraveled.
All that said, I wish to end my post on a positive note. I feel blessed in more than one way. My education which has helped me refine my thought process and my freedom, as an Indian woman, to pen my thoughts and post the same in a public forum, underline the fact that my life is way better than many other women in the world. We do have a very long way to go, but I can say that we have embarked on that journey.