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When a woman is told to pack up her career for the sake of a child, she finds her mother’s story all over again.
Yamini picked up the phone and dialled home. A mere three rings and she heard a jolly hello. She smiled and replied, “Hello, Maa (Mother). How are you? Had your lunch?”
“Yes. I am good, Baby. How are you and Yatharth?”
“He is asleep. We can finally talk in peace. So tired, I have no energy left. Listen, Maa. Today, the weather somewhat smells of nostalgia.”
Nandini smiled weakly, “Why, Yamini? Does it make you remember your childhood?”
“No. Remember the day Daadi had told you not to work after Bhai’s birth? Today, I finally understand how you felt. Amma finally uttered those same words to me.”
“What did Sudhir say? Did he ask you to quit?”
“Ask is a very different verb. I was told to do so. Sudhir was present at the table when my in-laws ordered it.”
“But, Sudhir! He knows it’s a crucial point in your career. How about extending your maternity leave? Don’t just up and leave your work totally. I think your in-laws won’t mind with you working from home. Talk your way out into a solution that benefits both sides.”
“But, they won’t listen Maa. I have tried, but they are vehemently opposed to the idea of me working after Yatharth. They have told me to stay at home and take care of my family.”
“So, what have you decided now? Want me to talk with them? Let me try reasoning with Sudhir.”
“No, no, no. If you do that, they’ll think I bitched about them. I will submit my resignation tomorrow to Prithvi. I will leave work, stay at home, and everyone will be happy.”
“Do you think this is the ideal situation, Dear? I would suggest you take some time off and rethink your decision.”
“There is nothing to rethink Maa. My career is over. I need to give up on my dreams. The ones I had worked so hard for.”
Nandini was heartbroken. Listening to Yamini talk, she was reliving the same day but with twice the pain. That day, she had held onto the receiver and called home. Home, as in her father’s house which was not hers anymore, while here at her husband’s place, she felt like a stranger. Society dictates that after you get married, your husband’s house is your own, his people yours; but why is the same logic invalid when it comes to basic liberty and choices? She had announced her resignation to her parents over the phone. Her in-laws and husband made the decision for her, and her own parents agreed.
“Yamini, if you do this, you will lose your individuality. Do not make the same mistake I did. I regret giving up on something I had grilled myself to achieve. I do not regret the time spent in bringing you and your brother up. But, the time I had nothing on my hands; the time I was free was excruciatingly long. I had given up a part of my identity and in doing so killed my independence and self-respect. I had sacrificed my worth in the attempts at keeping your father and his family satisfied. The same routine, the house was always filled with people but I felt so alone; I had lost myself.”
There was a long pause, then Yamini suddenly asked, “Maa, do you regret never fighting for your liberty, your basic right? Do you hate us and Dad for keeping you from something that defined you?”
“Never. It was my decision to stay away. They did pressurize me, and your father did not extend his support. But to let it go was my own fault. I should have made them see reason; made them see that I was capable enough to juggle both. But I never fought for it. That is exactly why you should learn from my mistake and talk your way out. Show them you are capable enough of handling both work and life.”
“Thanks, Maa. You solved my problem. So, tell me finally, if you know the solution and have learnt it the hard way, why haven’t you applied it yet? What is keeping you away from establishing yourself now?”
“Well said, Yamini. Maybe I will do just that and write my story for others to help find their voices.”
Nandini laughed and disconnected the call. The Saturday reading section of the newspaper on top of the coffee table read, August 29th is celebrated as The Individual Rights Day.
In honour of John Locke, whose philosophical writings conceded for the rights of each basic unit of society, the single human being. Locke held that basic individual rights include life, liberty, property, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom to petition the government.
Locke had argued about the man being an individual being with basic individual rights which the government or anyone could never crush or abolish. But he had also stated that man sacrifices many of his natural rights while pursuing a life of protection under society.
Today both mother and daughter understood that in order for others to respect and honour your individual rights, you need to make your choice and stand up for yourself. Fight for your right. Speak up against injustice. Remember, education starts from example. Only a fighter can give birth to a fighting spirit.
First published here.
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