Bharatiya Nari

Posted: January 7, 2013

At the cost of sounding unpatriotic, I wish I was born a white British woman in 1950, one who, by the time she turned eighteen in 1968, could participate in the sexual revolution that had engulfed the West. This flower girl could proudly claim that she had done nothing to earn the distinction of being either superior or inferior to her male counterpart, that she had every right to walk the earth with her head held high, an individual and a human being in her own right.

Instead I’m born in a land of idiotic hypocrites who continue to claim in an age of education that women in India are actually respected! That’s why, I suppose, Hindu widows are forbidden from remarrying and Muslim women can be divorced by their drunken husbands just by uttering the word ‘talaq’ thrice. India is one of the only countries in the world that upholds this abhorrent practice. Even in Saudi Arabia, that bastion of Islam, triple talaq is illegal.

Women are goddessesWomen in India are disrespected, subjugated and oppressed. Temples forbid their entry, while scriptures deny them humanity, consigning them to the dustbin of the ‘other’, the place that everyone except upper caste men occupies. If in the cities women are unsafe, in the villages they are mostly fodder for exploitation, to work at home, to labour in the fields and to bear the rapacious appetites of men when darkness falls. Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar in the 19th century exclaimed, ‘Oh unfortunate woman! What crime have you committed that you are born in a country where women aren’t respected?’

And yet we are still asked to believe in the mythology that women in India are goddesses. This fundamentalist image of the Hindu woman is perpetrated by extremist socio-political outfits like the RSS, whose male-only bastion is threatened by the emergence of the modern woman, one who is confident, educated and independent. If women are to be treated as goddesses, the narrative goes, they must ‘earn’ that right. They must live virtuous lives that aren’t contaminated by Western influences. They mustn’t ‘stray’ into the uncharted waters of freedom and liberal values. They must be virginal and ‘pure’, such attributes being defined by the men. And all this while men are allowed their bestial inferiority. After all, the scriptures don’t treat men as ‘gods’, so they are allowed their human follies.

In this narrative, women don’t really need education, especially not an education that teaches them equality and a rational mindset, for then they would question traditional values. Instead they are the flagbearers of ‘Bharatiya maryada’, the vessels for honour. The applecart must not be upset by questioning such a code of honour.

Educated women don’t give a damn for ‘values’ and ‘honour’ and ‘purity’. Mercifully, all they care about is how to find the right pair of jeans, one that suitably flatters their figure and helps them attract the right mate. They are ‘shallow’ and ‘superficial’ because they believe in wearing the right shade of lipstick, one that matches the colour of their top and brings out the highlights in their hair. They struggle, not to veil themselves, but to find the right job, one that gives them economic independence and liberates them from the shackles of an oppressive life at home. They talk to men as equals, and not as figures of authority, and if one of the men is attractive enough for something more than friendship, so be it.

Perhaps flower power is just round the corner in India. And then perhaps, the hypocrisy of treating women as slaves and calling them goddesses will finally its way to the dustbin of history.

Pic credit: ami2amity (Used under a Creative Commons license)

Beyond Pink writes on women's stories in urban India. They could be real or

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  1. Things aren’t so dismal. No doubt a lot needs to be done. Yet through all this there are a lot of success stories in various walks of life. Men who adore Indira Gandhi are a legion so also men who flock Mata Amritanadamayi. There have been and still are several women chief ministers with a large male fan following. There has been a woman President, a woman Chief Justice and there is now a woman speaker. There are many women who are now CEOs of banks and other organisations. Women are forging ahead with great determination in various walks of life.

    • Its quite bad dilip.. I am at the helm of my company.. and the road travelled to get here has been paved with deeply held prejudice.. Things have not changed much in the last decade ..

    • True but undaunted by these odds, you have made it to the ‘helm’ and that’s an achievement. People with prejudices display the same even towards their ilk. Hope you would encourage more like you to go up the ladder

  2. Beyond Pink,

    I understand the anger all of us feel. However, the statement made by Shri Mohan Bhagwat – head of RSS, has been so distorted – that there is no semblance of the original left.

    Please see the video and read the transcript of his statement, where he asked the men to have the right way of looking.

  3. Well, Hindu Mythology has been interpreted in multiple ways. If we look closely most of our goddesses are women who have mapped “uncharted” territories. They took on demon when the so called powerful gods had surrendered (Durga), they dared to remain unmarried and persue intellect(Saraswati at least by some accounts), they were doctors (Manasa), financiars (Laxmi) and dared to “dress” differently too (Kali).
    But since childhood, we have been taught to blankly worship them on “traditional occassions” without trying to inculcate their powerful individual traits like intelligence, fearlessness and ability to look at greater good.
    Educated women can pass on this legacy from our tradition onto the next generation and that in itself would lead to a new revolution.

    • Agreed with Shauna!!
      And all this subjugation of women is done in the name of tradition, culture and religion. And the truth is Indian culture, tradition and reiligion were very fluid beautiful things that have changed over the years and now what we see is the polluted form.

      The original indian culture respected women and treated them as equals in all fields.

    • Agreed to Shauna’s points…. Now people manipulated the true identity of women and humilating them for the namesake of tradition and culture, religion.the most threating part they feel about women is “A women with an opinion”.

      In this Gender bias society women is still trying hard to convience others that she is an human being and she should be treated fairly..

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