Thursday, May 14, 2009

To be a woman....

Disclaimer: the author writes the following based on her personal experience. She does not wish to generalize. She holds respect for women and men alike and in no way does she suggest that her experiences as the norm. She firmly believes in exception as a rule.

I have been reading Rabindranath’s short stories along with Ashapurna Devi and a few others, trust me its strictly related to the course at college. The literature pieces we are studying are from the perspective of Indian society and the position of women that was prevalent in the 19th century Bengal. While reading what shocked me, being a 21st century woman, is the way the women were treated then but what absolutely appalled me was, when I tried to co-relate what I learnt with my immediate reality, only to realize we are maybe a little better off but that is only in degrees but the whole issue however remains the same.

I have been brought up in a convent background for 14 years of my life, which I believe makes me different from the rest of my peers. A convent upbringing gives one a highly European stylized life, where a woman is not just taught good manners and just how to be dainty and polite but she is taught to be independent, to question what she receives and to have an opinion and to express it. I believe I have greatly imbibed these qualities which has forever placed me in the firing line of the society I’m seated in. The reason I say this is because of the conflict I have had to face in every aspect of life.

From the time I was an adolescent I was rebellious, fiercely independent, I had a mind of my own and I always stood up for what I believed was right. Over the years I may have become a little mild but I do retain most of my wild streak. Most often I have had to hear “having an opinion of your own isn’t that good for a woman, you must look out” or while helping out mom with making parathas I have had to hear “its good that you are finally taking an interest in these things, this will come handy when you are at your in-laws” or “you are a girl, so you should quit thinking of leaving the city and engage yourself in a teaching course, it is by far the safest” these may sound outrageous to a 21st century woman however these are a reality, and trust me not just mine. Thankfully I have parents who support me in my ambitions, and despite being 21 and going to be a graduate soon, they haven’t yet broached the topic of marriage yet; honestly I feel thankful, for the world subjects me to a forceful realization that I am a girl and there are a set pattern that I need to follow.

I have noticed from my personal experience that often daughters and daughter-in-laws are treated differently, yes even in 21st century. When it comes to dreams of their daughter they go out in support but when it comes to the daughter in laws the conventions and traditions step in. Moreover the groom’s family often put on an air of being superior to the bride’s, an age old mal-practice still exists, where for no apparent reason the grooms family get all snooty and high handed over the brides even though the bride maybe greater in terms of education or culture. The men I have come across are really well turned out, they are opinionated, they stand by what they believe in, they allow their women to be the person they are, and respect them for that, however coming across men who do have an education to boost of and well placed in life but despite that they are male chauvinists in hiding and think being with a girl means owning her, this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to see men who go out of their way to woo a girl but fail to give her, her due when it comes to standing up for her and his choices.

When faced with such situations and judging by the way I violently react to such gender based partiality I am subjected to I am forced to wonder if for me my education has been beneficial or not. My education tells me to protest and not given in to the sheer humiliation I am subjected to because I am a girl. But convention tells me a girl needs to compromise a lot and accommodate a lot of things in life, and if not done so then she has to face bitter consequences. If I react to the gender biases then I become arrogant and haughty and if I don’t I am being a coward for not standing up to what I believe is right. If I don’t keep mum I’m likely to have a tumultuous life, beset with difficulties., and this makes me come to a cross-road where I am to decide which path is right for me.

Sometimes I wish I had a general education then maybe I would have not reacted to such atrocities and took whatever comes my way without questioning. Is there no way out? Are women only meant to suffer and endure without complaining or questioning? I’m about to take a major decision in life soon, my mind tells me it will be an uphill task if I agree because I am what I am and to have a smooth life I need to endure whatever comes my way, which I don’t think I am capable of. But then again if I choose to stand by what I believe I wonder if ever I will be in a different situation than this, because even though exceptions are the rule. They are few and far between.


ANWESA said...

the write up totally appealed to me.u'v given a very balanced approach to gender inequality.a noteworthy post..kudos!

ANWESA said...

me 1st n 2nd too!

Priya Joyce said...

hmmmm...This is an issue..i've thought a lot about..
Not as a teenager but as a mature..girl..
But..since i have never experienced it at my may be..I am not as rebellious...or as serious about this issue as you are.

about the first para..I've heard my dad asking me to help mum..but he gives me options..either this or go out as a boy(as per society) and buy things.
I choose..what i want.
I find it just.
About the second para..I feel..may be that's why..i hav decided not to marry....well decisions change..

About studies..I have seen my friend's going for..Medicine and Engg..(as me) but ultimately..what I have realized of the atmosphere i am in is..yehaa girls will get what the want until...the boy gets more..
anyhow..I have kindaa stopped arguing over the issue..coz may be am better off..or rather may be..I have found..out that the gals for whom i may be fighting could back stab..
After all..basically..moms and moms-in-law r the typical villains.
wat say??

Priya Joyce said...

typos :( chk tat out :)

Phoenix said...

dont worry abt the typos pj thats all fine :)

some good points there :)

Phoenix said...


thanks a ton! :)

i dont want the men to run after my life :)

Dhanya said...

You have got some very good points there in your post, Raka. I agree when you say in this 21st century, people still talk the way they did in the yesteryears. For girls it's all about marriage and settling down after some time. I am glad you don't have to go through those questions yet.

Whatever girls do, it's always somehow related to marriage in the future. Like you so aptly mentioned with the case of making parathas. Anyhow, that's how Indian society functions for now. Guess we can be more liberated when it's our turn to parent kids :)

The Pink Orchid said...

a very thought provoking post Raka..I guess it differs from situation.. in some situations women take charge and in some they surrender, sometimes its by choice and sometimes they don't have any other choice..

AJai said...

Nice post. I personally don't think you're doing anything wrong by standing up for yourself and doing as you want. I'd like and expect other to respect the same for myself. To me there's no reason why any person from the opp sex shouldn't have the same choices. The question here is about convictions. Are you sure you are right? Do you think that this freedom that your folks have given you to choose and decide your life is a good thing? If yes, then you have a duty to be a trail blazer and help the girls who will follow after you. If no, then you can go back to being "an ordinary indian girl". Choice is yours.

Netika Lumb said...

A good post, indeed. And sadly, however modern I may be in my thinking, I can't ignore the fact that yes, at the end of it women HAVE to compromise.. See, there isn't a problem in adjusting;it's only when you adjust and let go of your desires tht I think you are doing injustice to God's greates gift- LIFE.

We people tend to associate most of our decision with some emotion or the other and more often than not, we land up supporting the emotion. And hence, the compromise.

And yes, just to add, I know some very evry educated and enlightened people who do expect a women to make her career choices at the age when it matters most, keeping in mind of the FUTURE of her family(in this case Future family and not even the current one).

Trust me, at the end most men are alike. You may interact with gentlemen but the bottomline remains the same. Ditto. Sadly :(

WarmSunshine said...


I could go on and on and on when it comes to this topic.

Ever since I was a young girl, I wanted to be different. I did not want to follow a st pattern. I'm getting married soon and I realize I just have to be like the rest. It hurt my pride a lot in the beginning, but I have given to quite an extent.

That's all on this topic for now. I should rather not talk about it :)

Take care sweety and good luck in life!

Sumit said...

well I'd say go for it!!!

However, there's a personal question of mine, to which I'm to arrive at a good solution.
Suppose me n my lady, both working, are having quite a decent run at work. Having what folks would call a good life. may be she is doing better than I am. now, I get this career opportunity which is going take me places, a real jump... but it requires me to relocate and my lady to tag along with me would mean to have to quit the job (not desirable)... or stay apart (not desirable n for how long)... the only way out is, don't make the move (can i really pass on dat jump??).
sadly, the more i think about the more i get convinced dat i have to decide on personal life or career at dat aspect... may, I can only cross the bridge wen i come to it.. at this point everything said or suggested wud be mere speculation, or....

wots ur take on this situation?? it cud be other way around too!!

Sumit said...

that comment warranted a post so I put that up, and linked up your post with it as yours made me ponder upon it!!

AD said...

people and society.
two major sicknessess we gotta deal with day in day out whether we like it or not!

this really touched me Phoenix.
i have always wante dto be different and to date i m fighting the people whom i wanna live with in harmony!

they wouldnt let me!
they just wouldnt understand!

Phoenix said...

@ sumit da....

see thats the point...when the call is just is fine... but when a decision is forced upon us then it goes all bad...

for example...if i am married and working in a great firm and all dat.. and i get pregnant.. would i still continue working or give it all up for a few years? if the choice was just MINE then in all probably i would give it all up to have my kid and then go back someday... but id hate it if people generalize that being a girl i should do what is the norm give it all up and nurture a baby...

as for your question.. if you are are married and have a wife who is willing to travel with you...then great.. but if she is not willing to travel...then you both must sit down and think...if you married you must have done so for wanting to be together... if your work took you away and hers didnt allow her to be with you...hen you both must sit down and decide...its on both of you how you curb your personal ambitions to suit your private life.. and the call is ultimately up to both of you..

i have had cousins... where my cousin and her husband were never together even after 9 years of marriage.. they had no life together at all...he was in USA n she in delhi.. both very much into their careers yet in love.. such arrangements are a bit of a sham if you ask me.. why do you need marriage if you are happy apart? or have planned to stay apart.. if you are that ambitious then you must give up something.. maybe in this case your family life.. sounds backward but its true.. why should marriage come in between career if that is what that is most important.. after all you cant have everything in life..kuch paney kay liye kuch khona padta hai... :)

Phoenix said...


you just echoed my thoughts... i cant tell you the dilemma im in.. i wish someone would tell me what to do... :(

Phoenix said...


absolutely right

i just wish im better with my kids.. if i have sons.. i will make him grow up like a man to respect women... and if i have girls i will make them equal to men.. and shield them from the world that forces them to bow their heads just because they are girls...

ki said...

I guess our parents are a bit more libaeral than theirs and we will be more liberal than ours. :)

I was free to choose my subjects in school, my course in college, work every summer... but the inevitability of marriage is always hanging over my head.

Such is life...

Pallav said...

It is difficult for any men to actualy understand, what all women faces..

ya iagree iwth the point.. the diffrence b/w wid daughters n daughter in laws..

the kindof freedom whch u get in ur home, u dont knw whether after marriage u ll get all ths or not..

its really a awakening post for all of us

thanks a ton.. for dropping by.. n for ur lovely comment..
i m touched..

Cheers :)

Ria said...

AMAZING post gurl!!i just hav one thing to say, hope ppl turn a new leaf and i feel everybody shud read this post.

Jinxed Pixie said...

great post....

and the general education part...
just another reason why moral science sucks..

Arv said...

Just be yourself gal :)

and I agree with Ki...

at the end all that is needed is for people to understand the real purpose of living :)

take care mate.. cheers...

NE~ISM said...

I just don't know what to say here. My culture is the same in some sense, then there is this one girl (me) that sets the world down and gives it hell.

I don't know if marriage is for me and I have a mother that tells me to do what I want, she is not going to stop me from doing it my way. My father of course was like Ne, This is your life choose it well and plan for everything as if you are writing a book you MAKE it happen the way you want to. But reality is will I be looked upon as marriage material later if I decide to get married or am I just a forceful lil brat? I know I have took them and have went far out left field. This post means something to everyone I think the girls will just respect this post more than anyone.

Thanks for speaking your heart, cuz in return you have spoken a lot of womens heart! This was great


Kartz said...

You summed it up beautifully... Pity such is the society we live in.

Tagore... And reading the initial paragraphs reminded me of the story in *Kabuliwaala*. (You must have read it...) The Afghan tells the little girl if she is ready to leave for her "suvasur baadi"...

It may be easy for me to say... But I have always believed that it is better to *make* the choice before the choice makes you.

As regards chauvinists, huh... High time they realize that there is *man* in wo*man*. Period.

Peace. Have a nice day.

yamini meduri said...

a 21st century girl's perfect post...!!!

i hope i can give u a 21st cetury girl's comment!!!

hmmm...dear u have pretty good points in ur post..!!

I have come across many situations like the ons u mentioned....but yes, my dad is always there to support me and mom wants s to be independent in our no issues abt marriage so fast..!!

also, i am a rebellion too...i stand up for things that are wrong and fight for them.....i think u know that...!!!

I hope all the girls are the same now...but all r not....there are still some girls in our country who dont come out of the cage and sob for life outside....i pity them....!!!

Woman today are able to think all by themselves but, dear there are certain elements in our society which wont help us be oursleves....i hope this changes sooon....!!!

Good Luck to all the women in the world....!!!

Dewdrop said...

I think most city-bred women are strong, independent and 'rebellious' to the traditional norms that society imposes on us... and in this we have a long way to go to evict these systems that society imposes on us... and i believe it starts from mothers and grand-mothers instilling these thoughts in the minds of individuals which will finally give us a generation of forward thinking people.