Feminism Made Me Realize I Must DEMAND My Rights And Privileges Else I’d Never Get Them

She gave me an invaluable tip, “Even if you have a family to take care of, it is you who must take care of yourself and your acute personal needs. Remember, even the most conscientious of spouses and offsprings have their shortcomings

The archetypal Indian woman has by and large been portrayed as a demure submissive obedient wife who seldom argues with her husband or back chats to the buzurg (aged relatives /senior citizens) In fact, there exists a Bangla phrase saat chawre raa kadey na (even if you slap her 7 times she doesn’t whimper).

This low profile requirement strengthens and intensifies further with childbirth and motherhood. Now she must sacrifice her ‘all’ for the sake of her progeny; quit a flourishing career if need be, minimise socialising, give up her hobbies and so forth.

Remember the oft-quoted Doordarshan of long ago wherein the mother – finding the food inadequate – says stoically “mera kya hai mai rukha sukha khaa loongi”(You eat, I’ll manage somehow)? The husband and the kids must be fed even if the lady goes to bed hungry. Nobody cares two hoots about her nutrition and health. Why should they? After all she is a woman!

This is the proverbial ghar ghar ki kahani in our society even today. Even in the most affluent of households, women’s needs mostly remain on the back burner. It could be that either the men folk are too preoccupied, or else the woman herself chooses to lie low the sake of domestic harmony.

Why are women’s needs always on the back burner?

Many years ago I was in conversation with (late) Dr. Manjushri Choudhury (wife of PadmaShri sitar maestro Debu Choudury) in connection with a women’s interest story. She gave me an invaluable tip, “Even if you have a family to take care of, it is you who must take care of yourself and your acute personal needs. Remember, even the most conscientious of spouses and offsprings have their shortcomings,” she had said. Her words still ring in my ears.

My paternal aunt had contacted TB. In spite of tell- tale signs like prolonged cough, weakness, and exhaustion she refused to see a doctor. My uncle didn’t insist either. She spent an entire year just making for herself chicken soup (among other things of course) which reportedly made her “feel better”. Finally when the disease had spun out of control she died on her way to the hospital.

When I fell ill, I had to assert myself more

Though my situation was never so dismal, I got an opportunity to assert myself during the pandemic.

Unrest and tension was rife. Money was short. My family members adopted a casual air towards me. While I was convalescing from my illness they served me the same food which they consumed. But I would have none of it. So I stepped up my demand for a protein rich diet (chicken, fish, eggs) and fruits.

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They had to yield; as a mark of protest they wouldn’t partake of these items. However I couldn’t care less. If I didn’t get back on my feet soon who would run the household? Everything would go haywire.

To make matters worse, around this I had a relapse of Vitiligo (white patches on the skin) after a gap of two years. When I demanded a fresh supply of the (already prescribed) medicines, my husband tried to brow beat me, saying “You decide: rice for all of us or your medicines?”

My rejoinder was “Give me less rice but buy my medicines. If Vitiligo flares up would you like to live with a wife with ugly white patches of skin?” He was dumbfounded but did comply.

When I discovered my hair was in a mess and a hair cut was necessary, I coerced, cajoled the inmates of my home to call in a hair dresser.

During the two consecutive “corona” summers we survived minus air conditioners since  they needed repairs and mechanics were unavailable. Add to it the paucity of funds. But this season, I made a ruckus, yelled and hollered no end, finally managing to get the machines repaired and running smoothly.

Likewise, when my mobile phone broke down completely, they had to provide me a new one since this device is virtually the lifeline of an individual. Surely it must have burnt a hole in their pockets but I needed my pound of flesh.

No more will I let others steamroll over my needs.

Image source: a still from the film Dil Dhadakne Do

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About the Author

RUCHIRA GHOSH

Am a trained and experienced features writer with 25 plus years of experience .My favourite subjects are women's issues, food travel, art,culture ,literature et all.Am a true feminist at heart. An iconoclast read more...

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