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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Of a Woman by a Woman

I was reading an article on Women in Workplace and how glass ceilings are being shattered here-there-everywhere. During the past few days, the media has done its bit to woo the fairer (?) sex. Advertisements on Billboards, television channels, print media and so forth... On women, their progress, their achievements and also the flipside of it all....their backward subjugated role in a major segment of the society irrespective of the social / economic strata to which they belong!
Normally I'm the unsentimental kind. Not one to be swayed by the much commercialised sugar dripping DAYS...the Valentine's, the Mothers, Fathers, Friends and what not....they do not touch my heart. The selling of emotions leaves me cold. I dont feel compelled to wish or send a card to the concerned persons in my life because I just cannot contemplate restricting their significance to a DAY per year. And thankfully, none of them care a hoot either for these DAYS!!!

However, today was a trifle different...
On the eve of International Women's Day, the other working woman in my house returned to her home. My live-in maid (M), after an almost month long break, came back from her village. I've spent several bytes of cyber space recounting her workplace activities (here). But after three weeks of super juggling and multitasking, to say that I was elated to have her back, will be an understatement.
This evening when I saw M, I was shocked....the healthy woman who had left my home three weeks back, to meet her ailing mother, had come back a dark, skinny, starved and almost unrecognizable version of her former self. She had fallen ill, she said. And running around for her mother's medicines had supposedly taken its toll.

M too was today's Woman; A working Woman. Not by choice, rather by compulsion. Married at fifteen, widowed at eighteen with a one year old child, she had started working since her child was 2 years old. The child was brought up by the grandmother. M was the youngest of seven brothers and two sisters. When she joined me a year and a half back, I had asked M, a woman in her late twenties or early thirties, why she had never remarried..she still could, I told her. She couldnt, she replied. Her brothers had promised her a piece of land in their village, on condition that she retain 'purity of character', by not remarrying!!!
And we talk of Women's emancipation!
I wondered aloud - what's the guarantee of actually getting the piece of land from the brothers, who do not hesisate to demand money from the widowed sister, for the mother's upkeep and treatment. Their justification was M's duty, apparently, as the mother was taking care of HER daughter!!
"They're my brothers after all...they cant cheat me. And if they do, that's my destiny!" was her naive reply.

The sentimental mushy mood I was in, I forgave her for her work-shirking, lazy attitude. I excused her habit of procrastination and gossiping nature. It was here at my home, her workplace, that M was indulging herself in a life otherwise devoid of any indulgences.....

As you & I wish our women friends and colleagues a Happy Women's Day, basking in our confidence and right to choose, remember we are a minority. In our country, women like M belong to the majority, for whom life is all about a constant struggle, to stay afloat. Choice is not a word they can afford to have in their dictionary. For them, being a woman, is a curse of destiny.



Pradip Biswas said...

I visited your blog and found out the food for thought. What you wrote is a sheer reality.
If you find sometime then visit my blog it may appear somewhat similar.
My blogs shall be from real life incidents and characters which I trid to convert in stories.

SGD said...

Mr Biswas...Thanks for stopping by. Hope I'll see more of you in my blog.

Just visited your site and read the latest entry. It was an great read...crisp narrative style...and it was almost like pictures in words...will keep visiting

Vivek Patwardhan said...

Dear SGD,
The story of M was very touching.
I would say [from personal experience!] that a man becomes more sensitive to women's concerns when he becomes father of a daughter.

The answer of M about whether her brothers will cheat her is disturbing. On one side we must recognise that the dice is heavily loaded against women, on the other we need more who will break the system!!

Thanks for covering the issue so well. And thanks for the kind remarks you left on my blog about introduction. Your introduction on this blog is written very imaginatively too.


SGD said...

@ Vivek: Thanks for stopping by.
Regarding the relationship of sensitivity towards women & fatherhood, you are right....but I think we become more sensitive about others and their problems after become it a mother or a father. We realise all of a sudden that there is more to this world than the I factor. This is what I have realised from personal experience....I am more empathetic towards others & their problems since I attained motherhood.

ugich konitari said...

SGD, You've hit the nail on the head, posting about M, on this Woman's day There are so many M's around us, and yet, every Woman's Day the papers are full of folks who have it all, theorizing about the Day.

Maybe we dont need to have such a specific day. Folks like M would benefit if we treat everyday as Woman's Day for her....

naperville mom said...

M reminds me of our maid in Mumbai way back. She used to get beaten up bad by her unemployed, asthmatic and alcoholic husband...Most of the times, we forget to include 'illiterate' working women in the category of working women... although it's very obvious that they're the ones whose lives're at ransom. Kudos for shining some light there:)

PS: I wanted to comment earlier but each time I logged on to yr site, my son started typing on the keyboard. Looks like he's got plenty to share abt Woman's Day:)

HR said...

Aren't you watching the serial being shown in Color TV channel in the 10-30 PM slot? You will definitely like to watch it.
It talks about nefarious act of killing girl child by different means in a village called Virpur in Haryana.It was shown that the girl was fed with glass splinters before burying the whole body. What type of filthy custom is prevailing in our society? Only a mother could feel the brunt of such losses who had nurtured the foetus for such a long period of 9 months!! It seems in our country the females are outnumbered by a huge margin, something around 927 females as against 1000 of males.
We talk about the issue of women lib, conduct seminars,promote NGOs, participation of Govt. departments directly to enlighten people about the importance of women strength but at the same time we indulge in all sorts of criminal activities against women like domestic violence , killing of girl child, raping minors etc. etc. If at all we are serious in curbing domestic violence we need to enforce very strict laws immediately. Severe punishment should be given to such offenders so that others will not dare to commit such crimes.

The exploitation of womenfolk is not only limited to domestic violence, macabre killing of girl child,destroying female foetus in mother's womb, sexual exploitation of minor girls and in so many forms.
The harassment experienced by M in the hands of her brother is only one form of psychological exploitations.There are other forms of psychological exploitations like restraining girl child from formal education, discouraging females to earn livelihood, ignoring advices in decision making,forbidding them to express their own likings, debarring them to take initiative in sexual acts even after marriage by labeling that as taboo and so on.

It is nice that the author has chosen to write on such a subject which open up the ills existing in our society.I feel such issues will attract more and more people to express their views and participate in healthy discussion. All the best....

SGD said...

@ Ugich Konitari, NM & HR -

The ills of our society, especially the extreme treatment towards women never fail to amaze and at the same time disturb me. While we worship the Goddess or 'Shakti' on one hand, we kill unborn female foetuses on the other. I wonder why this tremendous contradiction....
From the emancipated women of the Vedic Age, why have we regressed to today's society where women continue to be discriminated against?

SGD said...

@NM-Can understand your plight..
Many a times AD too comes and presses here & there and confusion reigns supreme!
And truly hope your little CR and his generation of men become truly liberated (from the shackles of stereotypes) and become sensitive to the women in their lives!