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There is no concept of personal space of her own for an Indian woman; we are expected to live our lives in one of the many roles that are outlined for us.
As women, someone or the other is always invading our ‘space’- whether it’s our own space or space that we share with others. By ‘space’ here I mean the immediate physical space around me and the mental space that I require to exercise my freedom of choice and will. Here I define ‘space’ similarly and more broadly than Virginia Woolf’s- A Room Of One’s Own.
All my childhood I was always accompanied whenever I had to go out my house. Even as I grew up, my space was a shared space always; either with my well wishers or my violators, and in the future I expect with my dependents.
As a child my own space was always very small or most of the times non existent – with constant intrusions from mostly my parents and my other well wishers. They didn’t trust the society we lived in and didn’t allow me to have my own space. I remember I was dropped and picked up from school everyday till my 8th grade, later I was dropped to school when I changed my school in the 11th grade. I didn’t need anyone to drop me to school at the age of 17-18. But I was never trusted to reach school safely without aid.
How can a woman be expected to be independent and confident in her later life when she is socialized from her childhood to be dependent on others for doing those things which a male of her age does independently. Her space is never her own- someone else is always in her space- either in a gesture to protect her or to violate her physically, mentally or to just intrude for the sake of intruding- be it a relative or a boyfriend or a stranger. My space is never my own.
As the child grows up to become a woman her space is now shared with her potential violators- on the streets, in her college, in public transport, in her workplace. Her potential violators range from professors, friends, classmates, seniors, boyfriend, boss, co-workers.
As the single working woman renting an apartment and staying alone- her nosy neighbors intrude in her space- questions her about matters she or he or they have no business to question about.
As the woman enters marriage, her space is again shared with her husband, her in-laws… and for some women, their husbands and in-laws never leave her space to let her decide how she deems fit to lead her own life or the lives of her children.
Her children are dependents, and often children are forced into the mother’s space – their daily welfare is now upto her. The mundane aspect of the responsibilities of upbringing are terribly asymmetric – not only between husband and wife, but also between the wife and her in-laws. Choosing to be a full time mom or a home maker may be her choice, but people’s expectations bestowed upon such a full time mom are not.
As a woman I need a space to be ME. A personal space which would enable me to be safe from sexual predation and exercise my freedom, my choice, and my free will. My ‘space’ which would help me nurture myself as a person – confident and independent. But society doesn’t let me have my own space. A woman is considered too weak or too vulnerable or even too incapable to have the right to a ‘space’ of her own.
Header image is a still from the movie Hum Saath Saath Hain
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Research scholar with a passion for writing, music, art, cinema and animation.
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