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Whether it’s wearing shorts or creating a nuclear family, true empowerment for women is about making your own choices.
Women’s Day has passed and we all felt pretty empowered on this particular day. Thanks to the articles, videos and ads flooding the social media. However I had a very different day and some varied experiences. Here is a snapshot.
I was travelling to the bank on the metro when I bumped into a long lost friend. She was married for almost 3 years and was staying with her in-laws. After the usual tete-a-tete she started denigrating her mother-in-law.
Mrs. Friend: You know, yesterday my MIL tidied up my whole room except my cupboard. I was stunned to see that my room could look so good with such small changes. But it was just this morning that my colleague made me realize that my MIL is interfering and trying to have full control over my husband and I. My room is my private space and she should not have fiddled with my stuff. Now I am so agitated that only one thought crops up my in mind –‘ To separate from them as soon as possible.’
Me (Trying to stay calm at her foolishness): Then why don’t you?
Mrs. Friend: Because my husband loves his parents and he won’t ever buy my point.
Me: Then you should start looking for a job in a new city. Fly down on weekends.
Mrs. Friend (Suddenly with a change in tone): But I cannot even think of living alone. My family is such a support system and I don’t have to care for the meals and even my own daughter. If I move out alone, then all the responsibilities, big and small, will fall on my shoulders. My husband at least shares some of the work load in the house.
Me: In that case don’t fret yourself to ashes on being agitated by others. Appreciate what you have and try to achieve what you don’t. People love to gossip and derive sadistic pleasure by witnessing others cry. Such people make desperate attempts to prove that others are living a life of miseries. They compel otherwise contented people to see the flip side of the coin which is unhappy and dissatisfied. By doing so they have a sense of fulfillment that their life is better than at least that of someone else. Stay away from such personalities. Respect your own thoughts and stand by it. If you believe that your MIL is doing a great job then appreciate her efforts instead of getting agitated under the influence of others.
Bidding her farewell, I rushed to the bank because it was about to close. My Relationship Manager literally frowned at me because I was so late. Her heart was pacing to leave the seat but the clock just refused to complete the time bound cycle. With still 30 minutes to go, she rushed through my documents and started typing while grumbling – “Nobody understands the problems of a working woman. I have kids at home and ageing parents. My day starts so early. I make all the arrangements before leaving for work and again after going back from work. I so wish I could stay back at home and relax.”
I was startled to hear that. Knowing her personally, just a few months back she was desperate to find a job and now having one in hand, she isn’t happy either. While I was still lost in my thoughts, she acknowledged the processing of request and permitted me to leave. However I insisted that I would stay back and accompany her home.
Me: So are you happy with what you are doing?
Mrs. Banker: No way yaar. I am fed up doing what I don’t love. I lwould ove to stay back at home, design my room and cook a different recipe every day.
Me: Then why were you so desperate to find a job? Some pending EMIs?
Mrs. Banker: Na..naa…. By god’s grace my husband earns really well and we can easily sail through with his salary.
Me: Then what is stopping you from doing what you love?
Mrs. Banker: My husband! He is stopping me from being a supposedly old-fashioned wife. He looks upto ladies who work at MNCs and have an identity for themselves. All his friends’ wives are working at good positions in MNCs and just to maintain a social status he wants me to have a job too.
Me: Why are you allowing someone else to dictate your life? Just slogging for a job you don’t like will in fact make you lose your identity instead of making one. One’s identity is defined by his/her passions and thoughts. Every woman is unique and she should not fall prey to such peer pressures. Working outside the boundaries of the home doesn’t make you more respectable. And in case your husband thinks so, please increase his radar of understanding. Stand by your thoughts, passions and work towards making an identity that you are proud of. When you are proud of yourself, only then will others admire and respect you, irrespective of the work you do.
Bidding her farewell and hoping to have ingrained some sense of courage and assertiveness in her, I hurriedly went to the restaurant where we were expected to meet for a relative’s marriage alliance. The moment I entered –
Aunty: Happy Women’s Day beta.
Me: Thank you aunty. Wish you the same!
Aunty: Now we have to accept these modern day traditions. After all, women are getting more and more empowered now. Accepting the modern day traditions would be important to empower my bahu and understand her views.
Me (really impressed): Absolutely aunty. You are a gem of a person.
The girl enters with her father and suddenly I hear aunties and uncles murmuring, ‘Where is her mother? Is she alive?’
Aunty to the girl: Beta, your mom didn’t come?
Bride-To-Be: No aunty. A really important meeting cropped up at the last hour and she couldn’t afford to miss it. But she has sent her apologies and would love to meet you all soon.
Aunty (Not very convinced): just smiles
After a chit chat, the girl leaves with her father. Suddenly everyone starts frowning.
Aunty: This girl won’t value relations. Her mother chose work over her daughter. The daughter will get values from her mother only. I don’t think we should go ahead with this alliance.
Me: But aunty just now you were talking about empowering your bahu. Just because her mother had an urgent meeting, doesn’t mean she chose her work over her daughter. A mother can never choose anyone over her child. She confided in her husband and handed over her responsibility to him. She believed that he will do the best for her. However, she would not have found a way to postpone the meeting or miss it. So once she handed over her daughter in responsible hands, she took up her job. I believe she did an amazing job of managing both the roles efficiently.
Aunty: But a mom is a mom and a daughter is the prime responsibility of a mother.
Me: It is all about equal parenting. The girl is as much daughter of the mother as she is of the father. If a woman is working then her work is as important as it would have been for a man. Doing justice to her work, doesn’t make her less of a mother. I am sure, even while sitting in the meeting, she would be all anxious for her daughter.
Aunty: Ajkal ke bachcon ki soch toh dekho. (See how today’s generation think!) She turned to other family members.
However the boy understood what I was trying to convey and he went on to persuade his mother. I just excused myself to the washroom.
The moment I entered, I was shocked to see a girl applying concealer on the stretch marks on her legs. Till now, I believed that it was meant for certain areas on the face only. I was still trying to come to my senses when she walked upto me and congratulated me for standing up for the unknown girl.
Ms. Pretty: I overheard your conversation. I was sitting just beside your table and you did an amazing job. I hope more people buy your point.
Me: Thank you so much. But if you don’t mind, can I ask you that why are you applying concealer on your legs?
Ms. Pretty: Oh that! Nothing much! My stretch marks are visible when I wear hot pants and they really lower my self-esteem. I wanted to wear something longer, but everyone decided to wear shorts and I can definitely not stand out of the group and look like a behenji. Now my friend spilled the drink and I am here cleaning up the mess and again concealing these stretch marks.
Me: Does your dress define you? Especially when you are not comfortable in it? I might be wrong but there are very high chances that your friends deliberately decided to wear shorts and spilled that drink to embarrass you. Please don’t fall prey to this societal pressure. Wear shorts if you are comfortable in your skin and not because your peers would appreciate you for it.
I personally feel that even as women are getting more and more empowered to make their choices, they are tending to lose their identity. We opt for choices which people force us to. We mould our decisions according to the likes and dislikes of the society. We accept whatever we feel would be looked upto by others.
Empowerment for women is not about doing everything a man does. It is also not about doing anything and everything under the sky. And it is definitely not about going out of one’s comfort zone just because the society wants them to. Women empowerment is about having the freedom to make your own choices and having the confidence to stand by them. An empowered woman is not the one who does whatever the society asks her to do, but she is the one who chooses her own way and does what her heart feels is right.
Top image is from the movie Queen, where a confused Rani (Kangana Ranaut) tries to figure out who she is.
First published here.