Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'Independent' women? What a laugh!

This appeared in the Special Issue of 'The Week'....
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From ‘Peepli’ to Mumbai – such a short journey!

We were at an Independence Day dinner at which two predictable camps had formed without anybody trying – women on one side, men on the other. ‘Our’ designated area (mercifully) was the smoke and alcohol free zone and ‘our’ conversation was restricted to children, cooking and maids (all three were declared hazardous to health – more so than ciggies and booze). At one point a spirited lady declared dramatically, “What I really need in my life is a wife!” That was greeted by much hooting,clapping and thumbs up signs by other ladies.She had certainly touched a chord.Considering this was not really a bunch of bored and pampered desperate housewives, I was a little surprised . Most of the women were first class professionals, as busy if not busier than their husbands – the same guys guffawing in the other corner, enjoying their puffs and malts. Some of them earned more than their mates. And yet, there they were cribbing about traditional ‘domestic’ issues that belonged to their grandmother’s era. Had anything really changed ?
Urban women aren’t having it easy at all, no matter what sociologists say. All that talk of liberation, empowerment, freedom is mainly theoretical. Real life has a different story to tell. Watching this season’s most talked about movie (‘ Peepli {Live}’), I found the characters of Natha’s feisty wife and the invalid mother-in-law far more complex and fascinating than the other stereotypes – simple minded farmers, oily politicians, manipulative TV journalists.Those two females provided a scarily searing comment on poverty and desperation. Their respective portrayals had a deeper impact than the combined efforts of the predominantly male ensemble cast. Just the central premise that a wretchedly poor farmer is left with no other option but to get talked into contemplating suicide by another man Budhia( Raghuvir Yadav,his unmarried brother), is tragic enough. That such a drastic decision is taken without once consulting the man’s wife Dhaniya(Shalini Vatsa) or Amma ( Farrukh Jaffer),says everything about the role women play within family. Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) , the doomed farmer, bumbles his way through the film, hardly opening his mouth,even as he becomes the central character of a ludicrous media circus. But his infuriated, hard working, pragmatic wife is not as docile – she lets everyone have it! It is she who asks the only relevant questions in the movie and challenges the logic of the absurd decision which isn’t going to solve her family’s myriad problems in any way. The bidi smoking old woman is equally fierce while expressing her contempt for her thoroughly useless sons who have made such a mess of everybody’s lives. Since the director, Anusha Rizvi, is also a woman, I’m guessing she thought it important enough to represent a strong female perspective to the unfolding tragedy, in order to counter balance the rest of the content which focuses on men and their preoccupations with status, power, position.
The scenario was not all that different at the swish Independence Day dinner. While the men sorted out global issues and provided quick fix solutions to everything from the CWG to Kashmir, their wives were more concerned about mundane matters revolving around children, health and food. Basics. I am not sure the contribution of this group of well heeled ladies to family decisions was any more significant than Dhaniya’s or her foul mouthed mother-in-law’s in the movie. Back in Peepli, women had no illusions about their own importance. But in our cities, we were silly enough to fool ourselves into believing otherwise. Today,the collective disillusionment of supposedly less disenfranchised women is beginning to rear its ugly head after a short burst of euphoria that lasted a decade , if that. 2010’s ground realities tell a different story. No matter how well qualified a woman is, no matter how much she earns, no matter how fabulous looking she may be, back home she is still viewed in the same light as her grandmom once was, and constantly judged for not discharging her ‘duties’ – in the kitchen and boudoir. She can never be too tired or too bored to cater to her family’s every need. Appetites have to be satisfied at all times, be they food related or sex driven. Woe betide any woman who dares to raise her voice and protest. She is branded a witch ( in our villages) or a bitch ( in our cities ). Either way, she is burnt at the stake of community opinion.
In the 63rd year of India’s Independence, a lot has changed. But a woman’s lot remains pretty much where it was over six decades ago.
Jai Hind!

24 comments:

anamika said...

De!!!

I always thought I am independent woman but now you made me doubt it..by the way are you independent;)

http://www.wiseshe.com

obssesor said...

It's a great post..after a long time!

Mehak said...

i agree with every word you've written.
Excellent post. And the sad part is that I don't even see things changing anytime soon...

bala said...

While going thru post i find a very instigating tendency when on a whole scenaro is not the same for the higher middleclass and above girls. you can see 2 in a group and start making judgements . today in most working girls who are married have servant in the house and they also get ample support from their husbands atleast in the society and place i leave .whether it is a man or women in ahouse they cannot dominate each other just for the sake one is earning more than the other as this is not their office.men in earlier days dominated not bcoz of money but they were brought up. every one forget that one of person who is repsonsible for the same is a mother who is a women and raises a son differently than a daughter.
just for information why is the marriage expenses not shared between a boy and girl parents . has any edcuated girl raised this issue with her parents . has she told her father or mother not to buy gold beyond their capacity.even you who has daughter has never felt the need to bring this issue where girls parents savings are vitually blown off and marriage expenses are one sided.

Radhika Gupta said...

your words compelled me to think...both my parents are working...both doctors...but when it comes to mom.. she not just fulfills her professional duties but also her duties towards the family...without complaining...without questioning...howsoever tired she might be...ultimately she's the home-maker as well...

krunal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pinky Says said...

Loved your post. Can relate to it...nothing has changed. Even though we are working professionals we still come back home at the end of the day to domestic chores et al.

goodluck said...

The solution is stand up and defy bravely. Dont be a doormat. Housewives, you have nothing to lose except your shackles. At the end of the day, the work by women is taken for granted and with a lot of contempt. Thats why women also nurse a lot of contempt and they erupt like volcanoes. The children, the husband all suck the last blood drop and then they throw the hapless homemaker out if not physically, mentally.

Vaidi said...

I have never seen you lament in any of your posts, because that isn't what defines success.

I won't take away everything that you have written... but I strongly believe women are responsible for the outcomes in their lives (especially in cities) and they better accept it.

Assume an unbiased role, collect more references and then probably your post would make sense...

james said...

Shobha, a wonderful post. thanks. james

Jyostna said...

She is branded a witch ( in our villages) or a bitch ( in our cities ). I like the line.
Well,its not the same in all cases, there r women who r otherwise too.

archie said...

Excellent post. I usually enjoy all your posts but this one was really quite amazing!

SuzyQ said...

Seriously ? Just because a bunch of ladies you hang out with have nothing better to talk about than maids and kids, you will label the millions of hard-working (and fairly opinionated and vociferous) women with the same tainted brush ? And if they earn more than their husbands, who says they shouldn't have the right to talk about any darn thing in the world ?? They chosse to, and it shouldn't reflect on what they do with the rest of their lives.

Small Miracle said...

well said!

stuti shah said...

Really a good post. Yeah I do agree that days are changing and now, males try to get equally involved in family responsibility. BUT, still not all women in all class can enjoy real Independance. Yes, a larger class is not independant yet.

AaaDee said...

nice post..agree that most of the women are still not independent and its not just the men that have to issue them an independence but its also something women have to get from there innerself..!!

Sidhusaaheb said...

So, what according to you could comprise "liberation, empowerment, freedom" for women?

Hiring some one to raise the children they themselves gave birth to, in addition to a cook and domestic help?

Many do that and then crib about their children having no 'connection' with them, when the children have grown up.

Consuming alchohol and smoking cigarettes/cigars?

I suppose I don't really have to update you on the health benefits, or otherwise, of smoking and drinking.

Sorting out 'global issues'?

I wonder what keeps them from forming an opinion, if they have the time for even a cursory glance at the daily newspapers, as one might presume they do as part of their jobs, since they are, as you say, "first class professionals".

Shveta said...

de!!
Wonderfull post, i can relate to every bit of that

Women's status has been changed that she should not to sit Home and earn Money but thats additional to their Prime motive the Ghar

In earlier times ghar chalana has 2 parts -- Earning(Husbands)+ Domestic (WIves) which seems more balancing but NOW women arte earning but are Forced to do the 2nd duty as well with all of their energy,,,,,,,,, They have 2 JOBS to perform throughout the day.

Hey MEN ,,, wake up ,, Either go for a Housewife or STOP Comparing today's Women with ur Dadi or Maa

sonal said...

I have just one wish! I fervently wish that Krunal would get off this forum.He is a pain in the neck!!

krunal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Priyanka Rajput said...

Very nice post...you have talked about the fact....its up to you you accept it or not...A woman is still a "woman" independent or not is up to your point of view...

Sri said...

Intruging post, i do agree that many women are still not independent.. but the few i have known actually like being what they are.. being in the shadow of thier family and husbands.. but smart enough to run their home the exact they want.. "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants"

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Goldy said...

Really a good post. Yeah I do agree that days are changing but you know women also change