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Begums Of The World, Unite! Lessons From The Popular Netflix Show for The Women of Today

Posted: May 13, 2021

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What lessons can women learn from the Netflix show, ‘Bombay Begums’ to break stereotypes and bring about change in this man’s world?

Life for a woman is never easy; largely because of how society is, the way people are and the way they have been conditioned to think and believe. No matter what we do, how high we reach, what we achieve, certain stereotypes and stigmas continue to be an integral part of our societies, and women have to bear the brunt of most of these.

Every young woman believes she can break the stereotype, that she can be the one to bring about change. Every mother believes her daughter could be the one to change things up, but how much difference has really taken place? Yes, as we move from one generation to the next, things do change, but the progress is too little, too slow.

Stereotypes exist in every sphere of life. We know they exist, but we don’t always realise how deep they go till a situation stares us in the face. A recent TV show that deals with such stereotypes, murky shenanigans and more in the glitzy, glamorous corporate world of Mumbai (Bombay), is Netflix’s Bombay Begums.

What Bombay Begums tells us about a woman’s lot

The story revolves around the lives of five women living in Mumbai, three of whom are from the corporate world, one who accidentally (quite literally!) becomes a part of their world, narrated by the fifth.

What is common to all of them? What brings them and binds them together? And what can we, the women of today, learn from these Begums to make our mark in our own world, our own lives?

The show tells us that for a woman, no matter what her status or position in life is, the struggle to survive in a male-dominated is constant. Despite having the ability to climb higher, she has to prove herself every single time.

Not only do men refuse to accept her in their midst, they also try to make things as difficult, and as unpleasant, as possible for her. In their desire to show the woman her place, they cross all limits, even if they come across as fools. They want to do everything they can to pull her down, make her bite the dust. They show no acknowledgement, appreciation or concern for anything she does or achieves.

For instance, a woman getting hot flashes in the middle of a meeting is reason enough to make fun of her and put her down. It is unbelievable that in today’s day and age, supposedly educated men can actually behave the way the show depicts.

Shouldn’t the woman be applauded, appreciated, and supported to give her best to her job despite such physical discomfort? Apparently not! Let’s make fun of her, instead!

Can you imagine a man putting up with such discomforts and still carrying on?

A woman’s life is a balancing act

Because of the myriad roles she has to play, a woman has to balance many things, which can be extremely challenging. These include the struggles with pregnancy, the challenge of appeasing a husband who is desperate for a child, and meeting work deadlines that are a part of her regular day. But what it takes out of her to do all that can probably not even be imagined.

Another ‘Begum’ in the story, a young confused girl comes from a small town, trying to make it in life in the big city. Yes, she is foolhardy and takes unnecessary chances. What is it that she ultimately wants? Money, power and companionship. She doesn’t want to go back home to marry a man chosen by her family. Is that a crime?

As for Begum ‘Dance Bar Girl’, even if she wants to change her life for the better, the men, the society won’t just let her.

Each and every one of these women takes on the task of keeping their head above water, in a man’s world. That is the common thread that binds all the women together. And though it is disheartening to see them being treated like that, on top of all the other issues of their lives, there is a positive feel to the show.

That is the fact that none of these women loses their determination and resolve.

Strong women lift each other up

The Begums come across as fighters who will not give up. If one uses her position to call out on a mentor and a colleague, another has the guts to file a sexual harassment complaint against a superior, and the others come forward to support her.

They all get together, back each other up, hold each other’s hands to fight their adversaries and stand up against them. It is not easy. The men make it as difficult as possible, but the women just don’t give up.

The show reiterates the fact that women can achieve the impossible if they decide to stick up for each other. After all, women have so much in common. It is so easy for one woman to understand another’s situation, her predicament, which is not something a man can easily do. So then why can’t, or won’t, women do that? Why do they let others divide them? Are women stupid, or does the desire for small temporary pleasures make them lose sight of the larger picture?

Isn’t it time for us women to band together? Isn’t it time for us to let go of our petty jealousies, insecurities and support each other? Don’t they say, ‘..united we stand divided we fall’? Cliched though it may be, there is an important point being made here. There is strength in numbers.

So wake up, girls and smell the coffee! Let us stand up for each other. Don’t let the world divide us and then rule us. Let us be there for each other, support each other, empower each other, and we will each be the begums of our destiny, the begums of our world!

First published here.

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Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years,

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