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Independent Indian Woman
|by Seshu Chamarty|
... 65 years too late, and counting
It is a fact that India got its political freedom in absolute terms. She (India) is enjoying her fruits for 65 years and has come of age. This time span is equivalent to almost one’s lifetime. Then, is it not too long for Indian woman, not to have secured those other true freedoms as yet? A typical Indian woman is far behind her male counterpart in many parameters, if development based statistics of the nation are looked at, leaving aside homemaking and childbearing, of course.
Our nation is a collection of peoples – plural intended. This is because we are truly a complex society, namely Bharat. We were once the richest society before the British arrived. India was the cradle to one of the early civilizations. Besides, we boast of world’s first university. Bharat also gave birth to different religions, whose followers comprise one fourth of world population. Our Sanskrit is richer than some of the great languages, viz. Greek and Latin, in more ways than one.
Indian women speak different languages and dialects and sport a variety of clothes, cook varied food suited to the topography and climate, inland or abroad. Still, all Indian women share a unique status of Bharat Nari (Proud and unique as Indian woman). With all this, she is not yet counted equitably on par with men in her social and economic participation in all practical ways that matter.
Where they are elected to democratic institutions as per constitutional mandates, most of them act as though they were stand-ins for her menfolk. This is a peculiar phenomenon cutting across all divisions of caste, creed, language, region and religion.
Thus she has a concealed second-class citizenship that compromises her self-respect and dignity in family and outside. It is something alarming that ought to wake us up to the reality. Pitiably the average Indian woman (found in millions across the length and breadth of incredible India) is still being conditioned by some of the stereotypes that used to be dictating her position through social, religious and cultural ethos that are now woefully outdated yet not recognized.
Why Indian woman lags in many areas vis-à-vis men continues as an enigma to the social scientists (Exceptions in those women who rose are rising to glory are few and far between, albeit their number is favorably higher than pre independence days.). God willing (also our parliamentarians), women reservation bill will be passed finally, provided there are checks against its abuse to her disadvantage.
Unfortunately, even to this day, many age-old social evils and shortcomings mar their uniform development. One prominent reason must be the lack of women’s participation in various leadership hierarchies. Or can we say such inequity is universal on the lines of male chauvinism? Or can we blame such thing called, an Indian mindset—to be complacent about women and girl children as status quo?
Her role in the man’s life is eulogized in Sanskrit texts in a sweeping manner with some exaggerations/ generalizations. One such goes as : “Bhojeshu Mata, Karaneshu Mantri, Karyeshu Dasi, Shayaneshu Rambha – English meaning roughly reads: an ideal wife has dharma, to be a mother while cooking, a minister while giving advice, a servant or slave in actions and a divine courtesan in bed. Are these stereotypes rest in the eyes of husband or remain just as fabled virtues taken for granted?
Why women are not able to raise the bar, despite nothing proves them as weaker to men? Where lurks the vulnerability? Are they soft targets like in the euphemisms such as fairer or weaker sex? Why they are conveniently clubbed by the rulers along with men and referred in all and sundry statistics of emerging India, especially when some pluses are selectively highlighted? Such euphemisms by themselves suffice, calling for more empowerment to break the glass ceilings everywhere else, not merely the corporate world. Especially their progress should be in politics and social life and finally in the men’s mental makeup.
Our nation is yet to address such valid questions, postponing their progress to stand up and get noticed on par with men, shoulder to shoulder. The right attitude towards this should be inculcated among children through school syllabuses and not merely as eyewash in political speeches every five years. Their true independence should be the goal of the entire communities. Is not woman a mother meant to rule supreme in every family of Bharat Mata?
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