Faces Of the Feminine in India

Indian woman and the multiple roles she plays during her life time!

What’s the big deal about this? Infact, tell me, what else did you expect? Is it not for the simple fact that we are human beings that we get to and have to play multiple roles during our lifetimes?

Afterall, we did not magically pop out of some vacuum and neither can we survive in  isolation.   Daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, employee, employer, enterpreneur, thinker, philosopher, political activist, social activist…….oh, the list is infinite. There are going to be as many roles as there are people and interests and interactions in our lives.

I live… I interact…and in every interaction a different facet of my personality finds manifestation.

So why is it that Indian woman and her roles are such a flagarant topic of discussion when this should have been just a normal way of life?

 In the ideal situation, all the roles that the woman plays would not only give her pleasure and contentment but also groom her personality into a multifacet yet well-rounded human being. Whats more, each role would involve and interaction between two or more human beings and would necessarily involve a certain amount of give and take. Both parties can be expected to be at peace if this give and take was balanced. Each would Give according to his or her capacity and would Receive according to his or her need. .

But this is not so…at least, not yet.

Lets not go into how she has been wronged in the past. Much has already been said about how Indian woman has been denied her due.  And for her pains as the Mother and Wife, she was annointed the “Goddess”with the promise of salvation and eternal bliss in the afterlife. Now, theoretically speaking, all this is sounds quite good, but with little practical value.

We knew how to tackle this problem. An educated and informed woman, who is not economically dependent on men … That’s our El-dorado. In fact, this is the basic minimum requirement for women today and this is what we set out to acheive.

Since independence the demand for social justice has become more and more strident and woman’s consciousness, particularly against social injustice, was awakened through the efforts of social reformers.. Well, thanks to their efforts, the society  finds it difficult to ignore women’s cause today and consequently some changes are evident in their status. It is true that women have a better deal today, at least legally and consitutionally.

So much reform and yet the woman continues to be unhappy.

If we were to look  the academic as well as popular media, we find that images of  the contemporary Indian woman  which range from the heroic to the horrifying.   Either she is seen at the receiving end of socially sanctioned individual or collective acts of cruelty at the hands of anyone and/or everyone in her entourage from her parents to in-laws to husband to her insensitive employer. On the other hand we are presented by images of individual woman’s triumphs in the face of oppression. Victim or Heroine, Witch or Goddess, these are the dual images that persist in our minds.

But even as we struggle for the emancipation of more and more women from the life consumed in domestic trivia and try and introduce them into the main stream of economic and social fabric of the nation, we are surprised to find that the women who have already “made-it”, so to speak, are not Happy!!!

Some thing somewhere has been and continues to be very very wrong. Perhaps, this because there is a deep rooted discontent and dissatisfaction at the way things are.

What went wrong?? Why did the eduction and economic independence fail to bring her contentment??

We saw a lack of balance between the roles of the man and the woman. We ventured to  set it right. We decided that we will not confine ourselves to the life of domestic trivia. We demanded more participation in the social and economic field as well, just like the men. And some of us got it too.

Why then are we dissatisfied??

Lets not forget that for a complete satisfaction and contentment in life, all our roles should be in harmony and equilibrium. No doubt the woman has the right to be a economically productive individual and she should make all the efforts necessary to be one but if we were to pursue this role at the cost of other roles in our life, won’t we be we copying the Men and repeating the same mistake that they had been committing for ages viz. not giving due weightage to the domestic roles?

True enough that once we have diversified our field  to include the economic activities to our domain we cannot possibly spare as much time to household activities as earlier. And the fact is that domestic activities did not exactly disappear into thin air… they are right there claiming our attention all the time and haunting us and sometimes dragging us while we strive to reach higher and higher still.

Now the task before us is to live, love, and work inside and outside the home, struggling singly and collectively, with varying degrees of success, to survive.  

How are we going to acheive this herculean task of actually remaking our family, home and social life? We have been trying to acheive this  by trying to broaden our horizon…through education and economic participation…we bring into our lives some new roles.

Now another aspect should be added to this…

We will have to work towards broadening the horizon of the men as well !!!

They too have to be constantly reminded that they have been neglecting their domestic duties for too long now… its time they included them in their repertorie. Let us not neglect the importance of this aspect of Women’s Liberation…that women cannot be fully liberated unless men too are liberated from their age old mindset.

So its time now that we taught our men a thing or two….but in the process lets not inadvertantly “unlearn” what has always been our strength. True and lasting happiness will come when each individual is able to enjoy various familial, social and economic roles to the maximum of his/her capacity. Any skewedness anywhere is bound to cause disharmony sooner or later. No one role, however important,  should be allowed to become so big that it consumes other roles.

 How we are going to go about this is by exercising our ability and capacity to choose what, how and when we want from life. I would expect an educated Indian woman to be able to conduct a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis concerning her own self and her environment. The environment is not going to become conducive for our growth. This task has fallen on our shoulders.. whether we like it or not. Our goals and aims in life should be in view of this SWOT analysis. If we are able to make  our decisions and choose the roles that we are playing at the given time on the basis of this, then our decisions and choices will be realistic rather than idealistic.

Meanwhile we are waiting, praying and working towards the day when  both men and women are able to harmoniously coexist supporting and complimenting each other.

I know this is an idealistic and not a realistic vision. And right after advocating a realistic approach towards life, I have the audacity to dream of something that is so improbable that it just might be impossible. Sigh!

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Thanks Sangeeta for tagging me for this contest, I thoroughly enjoyed this

I want to tagg the following blooger and would love to know more about their perspective on the roles of Indian woman

Shobha

 Totally Teddy

Meena

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5 Responses to Faces Of the Feminine in India

  1. sangeeta says:

    Loved the way you expressed it…

    No doubt the woman has the right to be a economically productive individual and she should make all the efforts necessary to be one but if we were to pursue this role at the cost of other roles in our life, won’t we be we copying the Men and repeating the same mistake that they had been committing for ages not giving due weightage to the domestic roles?

    and here too…

    Let us not neglect the importance of this aspect of Women’s Liberation…that women cannot be fully liberated unless men too are liberated from their age old mindset.

    Any feminist( i have my doubts on this word though) idea cannot survive without the participation of men i believe , it’s not a gender issue actually …

    Idealistic goals can be reached in this realistic world too , i see a few people around me reaching there but still a lot of people have still to work so much on this…

  2. Malar Gandhi says:

    Well-written article, it takes time to be fully liberated, since it is deep-rooted with culture!

  3. Shobha says:

    Well said Amrita …very nice article.
    I visited the site and we have to submit by 25th Feb.
    I think it’s too late now…however thanks for tagging me.

  4. Meena says:

    Thank you Amrita, for tagging me. Am honored you think i can do justice to the topic. On what you have written, I just have one word to say – thought provoking. Makes for a very debatable read.

    The only observation I have is that we, the women of India, are an ambiguous lot. While we have one extreme where the woman is getting to be the strongest link and influencer in the smallest institution called family, there is a huge majority of urban and rural women, bogged down by pressures of conventional thinking.

    Heck – I even know of educated households (I include women here) who say the Manu Shastra dictates women to be controlled first by father, then husband, and finally the son. Wonder if Manu Shastra had something to teach men too?? :-).

    Thanx for such an simulating read!

  5. kavita agarwal says:

    very well said I am quite impressed by ur article .The journey of a woman never ends and the expectations never dies .

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