Who am I? I’m a girl who has just bade farewell to her teens, jostling her way in a hypocrite society, which pretends fairly well to be modern, yet is retrograde to the very core.
On the breakfast table, the other day, as my standard two slices of bread and a mug of bournvita lay waiting for me, my eyes fell on a front page article published in ‘The Hindu’ , ‘Women should be covered from head to toe’- as pronounced by a Khap leader. It took me a good two readings of the same, to absorb the news in totality. For a regular Indian, conversant with everyday happenings, this is not baffling. Diktats like these, dictating the code of conduct and that of dressing, to be donned by women and blaming women living in such Khap dominated areas, is a commonplace thing. Yet today, as I read this critique, something asked me to stop and think.
Whilst on one hand we have women as the face of shining India, assuming positions, unheard and unthought-of years back, yet on the personal front, many are still governed, dominated and subdued by the norms of a Patriarchal society, where standing on an equal footing with males is still a distant dream and where all the blame is still shoved on her. Quoting the views of the said leader in the above mentioned article, “We believe that a woman should be covered in loose fitting clothes that do not attract the male eye. Even a churidar is considered offensive because it outlines the legs.” However this statement has raised several qualms in my fertile mind. Isn’t the whole point about not attracting the male eye suggestive of the fact that the fault must lie with those eyes. And so even if the humble girl will be wrapped in multi-layered attire, that would still not prevent her from becoming the focus of the same pair of eyes. Then what? The blame would continue to be on her.
While this seals the fate of a girl living in a khap dominated area, not very far from a bustling metropolis, where girls have the ‘liberty’ to dress up in whatever fashion they like, yet I feel, the former’s story is characterized by a certain degree of authenticity which is missing in the latter. A village calling itself conservative, and then pronouncing such a decree, to uphold its culture and kinship norms, appears, to quite an extent , to be in a superior position than a mega metropolitan city which on the ‘face’ of it calls itself modern, yet is very far from the same in actuality.
If you peep into a day of a so-called modern girl’s life, you will find that tribulations exist in her life too. Although she is allowed to dress up whatever way she likes and hang out with whoever she wants, yet if she is found raped, there would be people saying she was wearing provocative clothes and roaming with the wrong people, in a wrong place. And because of the alarming security issues growing because of incidents like these, other girls’ movements too would be restricted. The family would have the defense that one can’t control the behavior of ‘those’ guys lurking on the roads and thus the girl should understand and take precautionary measures. Back at college, in case of a fight or a break up, again it would be she who will be expected to understand and again, she will be asked either to take it in her stride or take the blame for it, once again blaming women.
The previous week proved quite tumultuous for me, for a variety of reasons. As a person who suffers from a chronic ailment of overthinking, I was bombarded by a plethora of questions. Questions like; why is it that each time, a girl is expected to be understanding? Why is she expected to take things in her stride? Why is it that she is asked to do a particular thing, rather than being asked what is it that she wants to do? Before I am under fire, from my own feminine specie, I’d like to clarify that when I talk about questions like these, I restrict them to the sphere of personal, rather, more importantly societal life and not percolating the same into the professional world where many independent Indian women have molded the face of business with their steely grit and determination.
It is a sad commentary that we are the same nation whose allegorical representation is Bharat ‘Mata’, where Navratri, a festival involving nine day fasting to appease the Goddess, is celebrated with enthusiasm and fervor, while the personification of the same in the form of Indian Women, is still dis-respected.
However be the society in which she is born, liberal or conservative, yet the Blame will always rest with ‘her’.