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Folks Hate This BBC Article On BP Dakshayani, But What’s The Reality For Indian Women?

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A recent BBC article praising BP Dakshayani of the ISRO, (a core member of the Mars Mission) for balancing work and home beautifully, is facing backlash. Here’s a closer look.

Recently, many on social media slammed the BBC for its article on BP Dakshayani, ISRO’s former head for space navigation and flight dynamics. The title of the piece read, Rocket woman: How to cook curry and get a spacecraft into Mars orbit.’

It’s the gender stereotyping in the article that has infuriated readers, many of whom have taken to social media platforms to vociferously express their disapproval of the international news broadcaster.  

People have issues with the way BP Dakshayani, a prominent space expert and programmer, has been portrayed by lumping her achievements with cooking. Many have even proclaimed it to be BBC’s anti-Indian bias for presenting our women space scientists in such a way.

The heading of the article is definitely very sexist (and possibly racist, with its emphasis on curry). The tone of the article at the beginning appears to be casual, very superficially addressing the major role played by a team of women in successfully sending the Mars Mission into orbit. They just get addressed as ‘women in sarees’ and nothing else.

Stereotyping is indeed evident in the article, be it Dakshayani addressed as the ‘Indian wife’, in her family’s disapproval of further studies, her being compelled to take up household responsibilities after the wedding or her husband not helping her with the same. Yet – a big part of that reflects the gender roles prevalent in most Indian society. What the article has got perfectly right is the juggling, between work and home, that almost every woman in India needs to manage. 

Dakshayani belonging to an older generation and coming from a traditional, conservative family had to work very hard to balance between responsibilities of housework and her career in science. “I used to get up around 5 am because I had to cook for seven, eight people and it was not easy. So I would cook for the whole family and then come to office,” said Dakshayani in her interview with the BBC.  

What is surprising, rather than Dakshayani’s statement, is that as the years have passed, nothing much seems to have changed in society. I am very sure many women of today, can completely connect and relate to Dakshayani’s story and the struggles she narrates. 

It is still considered that women’s first priority has to be husband, children and taking care of the family. However big her dream to achieve something in life is or her other ambitions are, it’s her duty to keep them aside and concentrate on looking after the house.

A few like Dakshayani fight against all odds, toil day and night to get the best of both worlds. Many somehow manage sailing on both the boats, while in some cases, due to excessive pressure from family and the society, women give up on their career goals.

As Dakshayani herself has said, it’s very tough. But with her achievements she has proved to the world that it’s not impossible either. Perhaps what we can take away instead from the whole episode is her never give up attitude and determination to succeed. 

Image courtesy the BBC article mentioned in this piece.

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