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I had once asked my mother, a post graduate, why she didn't have a job, and she had replied that our father preferred her to be at home, and she didn’t wish to disappoint him.
Come Tax Filing time and husband and I, like every other couple, fish out the bank statements, current investment details and plan for perhaps some new investment options.
One of those days early in my marriage, I happened to challenge a particular idea of my husband’s, an option I felt wasn’t lucrative enough, and I put forward my own theory about something else.
As we sat there debating, the family patriarch scoffed as he remarked to my husband, “Your mother has been married to me for thirty years, she trusts my decisions with no complaints. Your marriage is hardly three years old and look, she’s already arguing.”
Unfortunately I’ve been cursed with the inability to instantly counter such comments, especially to elders. But then my husband kept mum too, as the elderly gentleman walked away victoriously.
I did raise the issue though, with who else, but my mother.
“Yes, I agree it was wrong of him. But you don’t need to school an old man, just let it be. ‘Ek Kaan Se Sunke Doosre Kaan Se Nikaal Do.’ Your resilience should be your strength.” Mother advised calmly.
So that meant that apart from managing various aspects of life like work and home, me being strong depended on how silently I accepted all decisions my wedded family made, plus the occasional jibes and other forms of verbal attacks directed at me.
Honestly speaking, until now, this more or less summed up my own definition of a Strong Indian Woman. Be brave, fight all emotional battles by yourself seldom letting others see you fall, swallow your self-respect for making peace, be an epitome of sacrifice.
This is how unfortunately, many daughters like me are conditioned. But now I beg to differ; years of adulthood, wifehood and motherhood now illustrate a different picture.
For every individual, the mother happens to be his strongest figure and influence. Wasn’t any different for me. But now when I look back at my childhood, I realize that my mother, fulcrum of a nuclear family, was perpetually in the kitchen. Packing endless tiffin boxes, catering to different palettes, washing, cleaning; even monitoring our academics for quite some time.
She never broke down, never complained, at least we siblings weren’t aware. But she was always adamant that I, as her daughter, worked for a living. There had been moments when I had thought of quitting my job but she would hear none of it. She was instrumental in making sure that I would always treat financially independence seriously. And I revered listening to her, the strongest woman I had ever met.
Now as I ponder deep, she spent all her life in the apartment, travelling and vacationing were just occasional. I had once asked her (a post graduate), if she cared all so much about my job, why not her own? For which she had replied that our father preferred her to be at home and she didn’t wish to disappoint him.
Goes without saying, for my spouse, it’s his mother who’s the strongest. And why not, the eldest daughter-in-law in a joint family, she tended to her old parents-in-law, young brothers-in-law, husband, her children, other children, many. And not a word ever fell from her mouth. She took it all in her stride, come joy, sorrow, health or sickness. An epitome of physical and emotional strength.
I know of a few colleagues and friends too, who work at office, work at home, and perform all household chores because their families don’t believe in hiring domestic help. And as they run the show all by themselves, I and many of us had often deemed them as ‘Strong Women’.
What if my mother, someone who obviously believes in sending their daughters to work, had put her foot down and insisted on working herself? Should she not have complained? But then she would have ended up disappointing my father and his family and then, let alone strong, she would have been labelled an ambitious vamp.
Or if my mother-in-law had refused to carry all that burden, reached out to her husband, delegated chores to other family members, moved away from the joint set-up, I’m sure she would have been labelled the evil home wrecker. But she never complained.
If the friends I was talking about earlier, insisted on some rest and relaxation, and outsourced their chores, would it make them any less stronger?
I guess it’s the biggest scam ever, that a woman’s ability to turn a blind eye to abuse of any kind, to tolerate more than what she could, to put her family ahead of herself, is the mark of her so-called ‘Strength’.
The moment a woman rebels, speaks up, reaches out, calls for help, raises her voice rather than submitting meekly, she’s branded weak, wicked, vain, callous.
And over time, this sentiment has been very successfully etched into our mindsets. That a woman who doesn’t complain but complies, takes home the medal. For being the best wife, best daughter-in-law, best mother and the best woman. Tags which follow us like shadows.
For me, there’s no particular definition of a strong woman; I mean on what scale do you measure her strength?
So, why are only women expected to be Strong all the time? Also, ever wondered why the entire theory is exact opposite for men?
Image source: a still from the short film Ghar ki Murgi
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Why is that our society defines a woman’s success by her marital status? Is it an achievement to get married or remain married? Is it anybody’s business? Are people’s lives so hollow that they need someone’s broken marriage to feel good about themselves?
A couple of months ago, I came across an article titled, “Shweta Tiwari married for the third time.” When I read through it, the article went on to clarify that the picture making news was one her one of her shows, in which she is all set to marry her co-star. She is not getting married in real life.
Fair enough. But why did the publication use such a clickbait title that was so misleading? I guess the thought of a woman marrying thrice made an exciting news for them and their potential readers who might click through.
Did the creators of Masaba Masaba just wake up one morning, go to the sets and decide to create something absolutely random without putting any thought into it?
Anyone who knows about Neena Gupta’s backstory would say that she is a boss lady, a badass woman, and the very definition of a feminist. I would agree with them all.
However, after all these decades of her working in the Indian film industry, is her boldness and bravery the only things worth appreciating?
The second season of Masaba Masaba (2020-2022) made me feel as if both Neena Gupta and her daughter Masaba have gotten typecast when it comes to the roles they play on screen. What’s more is that the directors who cast them have stopped putting in any effort to challenge the actors, or to make them deliver their dialogues differently.