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Women of earlier generations are an inspiration for all their achievements – even though they did not have the freedom today’s women enjoy.
Beauty, grace, glamour, mystery – a woman represents all these and much more! As a mother, sister, friend, lover, wife and soulmate; a woman has always been the symbol of strength and dignity since time immemorial. Sometimes hailed as virtuous, courageous, adventurous, strong-willed; but most of the time, not mentioned, not acknowledged. Yes, that has been more or less, The Woman.
There was a time when women barely came out of their shells and voiced their opinions in public. Leading an existence that was confined to their homes and hardly ever noticed by anyone in the household, women led a silent life that, while supported everyone around them, left a lot for them to desire.
However today, in the era of social media ruling the roost, women are finally finding their voice. Quotes and advice from famous personalities – many of them women themselves, who have made it big in the male dominated world – encourage and inspire women to find the meaning and the objective of their lives on their own terms.
Social media is flooded with motivational quotes and messages that tell us to live life the way we wish, irrespective of what anyone else thinks of us. We are all being fed the philosophy that says – our life is ours and we need to set our own boundaries. That no matter what anyone says, we can be our own person. We are encouraged today to not care for those who do not understand what we do and why; and live our life the way we feel right.
As a woman, I love these messages that tell me that there is no need to stick to a stereotype – that I can be the person I want to be; and that just because it has been told to us since childhood that women behave and live in a certain way, I don’t need to continue doing so, especially if I don’t agree with what they say.
But this makes me think; of my mother, my mother-in-law, my aunts, my teachers and all the women of their generation, most of who have done exactly what these quotes tell me not to do.
Barring a few adventurous spirits who chose to defy the notions and norms of their time, the women of yesterday, more or less never set boundaries, or asked anything of life. Never once screaming out for attention or demanding anything for themselves, they have merely led a selfless life that has gone on to support their families. They have struggled and striven so that their children’s dreams could be fulfilled. They have sacrificed their comfort and their conveniences so that their husbands could have their comfort and conveniences.
Just like today’s women, they too were of all temperaments – shy, strong, humble, jealous, you name it! They too lived in a world just like ours – largely male-dominated and patriarchal. They too bore children, like we do today; and they too strove for their children like we do today. Who was there to motivate them? To tell them what to do what not to do? Did anyone ever tell them that it was okay to be the person you wanted to be and not what you are expected to be? That it was okay to dream, so what if you are a woman in the man’s world…..
About a year back, a detergent brand came up with an idea of an advert about men and women sharing work load, which comes to mind here. It goes something like this: ‘Two old women are sitting and chatting. Reminiscing about the times gone by, when women were just beginning to get out of the house to go to work. “Yaad hai, jab didi ne naya naya service karna shuru kiya tha? Sirf che rupiye tankhwah thi! Aur aaj? Meri bahu, mere bete se jyada kamaati hai!” (Remember, when my sister had just started working? Her salary was only Rupees Six. And today, my daughter-in-law earns more than my son.) says one. To which the other replies, “Haan bhai, aurat banne ka mazaa to is zamaane mein hai!”‘ (True dear, the real joy of being a woman is in these times).
It brought a smile to my face, but it got me thinking. Here were two women who were of my Granny’s age, saying it is so good to be born a woman in today’s age, as against being born as one in their time. And I couldn’t help but look back at the women who raised us and our mothers.
Of course, there have been women even in the past who have made it big in this world – Mother Teresa, who needs no introduction; Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly an aircraft solo, non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean; Florence Nightingale, who changed the role and perception of the nursing profession; Emily Dickinson, one of the greatest poets of all times; Marie Curie, the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize and the first person to win it for two separate categories; Hellen Keller, who again, needs no introduction; and closer to home, Anandibai Joshi, the first woman doctor of India and an Indian doctor to be licensed to practice western medicine in India.
There have also been other famous women who have left their mark on the history of the world such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Anne Frank, Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and many more. But despite these shining beacons of light, history has never seen a major voice raised by women on an individual level, in their respective homes.
But things are slowly changing now, with women leading a much more independent life. A life that is free of many encumbrances and inhibitions. Today we live in a world that says men and women are equal. A world that says, women should not be given any less importance or opportunities because of gender bias. We find many women going out of their homes to work, heading corporations, making important decisions at home as well as at work, following their dreams….
Today’s women have a lot of space and are capable of making independent decisions on their own might. Where earlier women lived in predominantly large families and were expected to cater to the whims and fancies of all the family members – no matter elder than them or younger, today, there aren’t all that many restrictions on women.
There was a time when the food cooked in the house had to be what was traditionally cooked and hardly any new experiments in the kitchen were welcomed. But today, we have loads of websites, TV channels, books and famous personalities encouraging women all over the world to try something new everyday. Even children and the men in the house are happier with the variety this offers them, and all is well in the world.
Where earlier most women were almost always dependent on their husbands to care for them, today we see many single mothers capably raising their children and taking care of their families.
Where earlier, it was practically unheard of for a married daughter to have her parents staying with her; today, we find many daughters caring for their elderly parents.
No one frowns when women don’t cover their head in public anymore (though, sadly some still do). Western wear has become commonplace and traditional dresses are more or less reserved for occasions (again with a few sad exceptions).
Today’s women enjoy a certain freedom that many yesteryear women found difficult to even dream of. We can, today, for the most part, cook what we want, wear what we want, do what we want, when we want and how we want it.
What must the women of yesterday think, I wonder, when they look at us today. Yes, we live in a world that is freer that the one they lived in. Yes we have more opportunities today than they had at their time. Many of us are also blessed to have husbands who display maturity and understanding way more than their husbands did (or could show).
So are we making good use of the freedom today’s women enjoy? We need to introspect, look back at their struggles, and look forward to a better tomorrow. Prove to ourselves that “aurat banne ka mazaa to is zamaane mein hai!”
Image source: pixabay
With over 200 published stories, Rashmi is a lawyer-turned-writer, who has always given
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