Anupama writes a letter to her 18-years old daughter. Read what she has to say.
We need to stand up for our rights as girls and women, and not let the privileged get away with being violent to us. Together we can.
As the title says I’m a very very fearless lady whom even police on their patrol would question: why and how did I dare to take my lady students to the hospital at midnight alone if necessary? Which I often had to do when I was the superintendent of a ladies’ hostel with more than 400 girls from my college.
I ask: should I wait for a man to help me for everything? Should I depend upon them every time? If yes, then am I really independent? If it’s a question of safety and security, then what are the related agencies doing? Our country is not safe for ladies – why?
Is this ‘danger’ going to be life long? Then for my whole life, do I live with the fear that I have a female body which becomes my own enemy?
What if I think of myself just as an ordinary married woman? I will then live with fear in my own home, where my in laws stay. I will have to talk with an ‘edited’ voice with them. If at all I say something ‘weird’, then that promptly it would reflect on the ‘upbringing and culture‘ of my parental family! I will have to think twice when I disagree with any matter with my husband as my child has grown up and the questions I will be asked are: what will be her impression and what ‘culture’ will she learn? What will she learn from me?
When I go to my workplace, a reputed college, I will have to keep on a big smile even if someone in authority does anything bad, and also, I have to obey them. I’m a gazetted officer so I will have to behave properly. Then when will I live freely as a human being who has very normal wants and desires?
This is the situation of the average middle class women of India. In the name of religion, culture, education, family, society etc., we are being suppressed. Though we teach our students to fight against injustice we act differently.
This happened when I was a student, more than 26 years ago. Once I was travelling with my friend by bus at night. We were startled around midnight by a person who was putting his fingers and palm on my friend’s breast from the back side of the seat. I was very very young, but while my friend was trembling with fear I stabbed this middle-aged man’s palm with a safety-pin in such way that he shouted with pain, and every passenger of the bus woke up and asked what happened?
Blood was pouring from his hand and I felt as happy as if I had won a war. I shouted at that man using some bad language, and demanded that he should leave the bus right at that time in the middle of a jungle, else I would rush to the police station and would give a FIR. People were with me and that man was dragged out of the bus.
All my life I have experienced many instances of sexual harassment, have seen girls tolerating the same, have read about it, and even the present scenario is not different. Hence I react very strongly if it ever happens to me or anyone else. I have slapped so many people in trains, buses, and on the road. Proper behaviour is our birthright. Why should I tolerate miscreants? Why should we?
We teach our students about equality. But do we ‘do’ equality? We put a Rakhi on the wrist of our brother and say, “Bhaiya meri rakhsha karna!” Bhaiya promises to do that (obviously), but why? Can’t we protect ourselves?
When we go to a bank, to a post office, to any interview, for admissions, for any result, we have as our bodyguards our brother or father, why? Can’t we be self-reliant? We should learn to do everything on our own so that slowly it throws out the fear within, and teaches us to face every situation of life very very smartly.
Manu Samhita says that women can’t be independent:
“Pita rakhyanti koumare
Bharta rakhyanti joubane
putra rakhyanti stabire
Nah stri swayranta mahati”
Translation is “Father protects when unmarried, Husband in youth, and Son in old age. Hence a woman is not independent.”
Ramcharitmanas says that women should be beaten:
“Dhol, Pashu, Shudra, Nari
Yeh sab hai dand ke adhikari.”
Translation is: “A drum, beast, shudra, and women should be beaten.”
Why should any of these suffer or be beaten?
Among some parts of society like those staying in slums, women somehow get more independence. They work hard for their bread and butter (roji roti),they can marry another man if ‘left’ by their husband, they can often raise their voice for their rights, but what about middle class women? Their role is so difficult to manage! Only having the slogan “Beti Padhao Beti Bachao” won’t deliver the promised wonders if we don’t learn how to protect our rights in every way, everywhere. Domestic violence to workplace violence becomes dangerous because a lot of us tolerate this nonsense and are scared to speak up.
Utterly dissatisfied with my life and surroundings, I decided to protest against each injustice and protect the girl children of my locality. I try very hard to teach my lady students to be courageous, to be reactive. Mostly I get girls from rural areas who are trained to remain silent, and it’s a very, very tough job to break their silence. I’m a one-woman-army of my college and I never get any support from the college authority and colleagues, rather I most often get threatened, so my family too never support me. But I have taken a pledge to be independent and teach the same to all.
If we demand equality then we have to prove that we are equal in every way with our talent and fearlessness. What a man can do even I can do better, so I try and do it. I also dare to accept failure as I know failure is the pillar of success.
Why should we stay a weaker section? We are not really weaker – it’s all our mindset. We have to talk with our mind every second to be fearless, to be clever, to be sympathetic to ourselves.
Yes the crime rate is increasing on a regular basis but for that should we live in fear always? I think about myself, my daughter, my students…why ?
It is as if we are living in a deep forest with wild animals, not in a democratic country! What about human values? I face so many problems. I’m not a politician; I’m simply a middle class woman, but my struggle for female autonomy will never end. I won’t tolerate any injustice – it’s not a new thing I’m doing. I’m doing it, because it’s a conscious reaction to the overwhelming privilege of masculinity, that has become the dominant gender.
I feel very, very powerful sometimes, and it comes from within. I feel intensely that we can make any woman empowered if we can train the mind. I myself was a house wife for fifteen years, but I decided to do a job and qualified for many national scholarships too. I joined a lecturer’s job being a state topper. So I feel, for emancipation we have to react first. We have to break the silence for ourselves then only we can think of others. If I can’t give justice to myself and mine, then what’s the value of my education?
No one will now dare to mess with me because I have made myself so strong. I never oppressed myself by suppressing my inner voice. No one can kill me because I have made myself a phoenix.
Can’t you? If yes, then the first step is to react against each injustice. Feel the power within.
Image source: a still from the movie Pink
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views. Individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times. If you have a complementary or differing point of view, sign up and start sharing your views too!
Asst professor by profession .I protest against each injustice. Strong supporter of female education and
you are doing great job. i think we need more woman like you.
Thank you so much mam.I believe we will together bring the change.
Thank you mam.
As A Married Indian Woman, Are You Also Expected To ‘Look Married’, And A Compulsary Karwa Chauth?
Who Made These Patriarchal Rules Against Women’s Choices, And Why Should I Follow Them?
I Don’t Feel Ready For Marriage, But How Do I Convince My Family?
To Marry Or Not, And Whom To Marry? The Responsibility For My Choice Is Mine
Get our weekly mailer and never miss out on the best reads by and about women!