Wednesday, 1 April 2015

My blog, my mind, my choice

We are the privileged lot. Earlier we used to argue to solve the problems of the world, in dimly lit drawing rooms with coffee, tea or a glass of wine and now we talk on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc etc....

There is a lot being said about "my body, my mind, my choice". I wonder if celebrities who survive and thrive on how they and their bodies look, who go around insuring their legs for obscene amounts of money and who are constantly walking the tight rope of what they are comfortable with versus what the "role demands" are really in a position to have a choice. Choice to not care what the media will say if they turned up at an event without make up or without perfect shoes (Aishwarya Rai is still seen giving explanations for why she wore flats at Cannes).

My idea of an empowered woman is Savitri. I met her in Dhanbad, she used to work as a cleaner at my mother's nursing home. She was young and very attractive. She had a smooth dark complexion, wavy black hair which was braided while a fringe teased her forehead. She wore mummy's old saris and invariably mummy would wonder how come the old worn out sari seems to look so much better on her. She wore some silver jewellery on her ears, toes and ankles but her smile, her perfect teeth, her large kohl lined eyes, the flower she always sported on her hair and her seductive gait were her real accessories.

She had two children and mummy used to attend to the younger one's nutritional needs while monitoring her growth, because she was malnourished. With a glass of milk everyday, she seemed to be catching up with milestones quickly. Needless to say both the daughters were always impeccably turned out too, in clean clothes, well oiled hair, flowers and slippers.

The story was that Savitri lived alone with her two daughters. Everybody was aware that Savitri had a number of male admirers, who would make enquiries about her shifts at the nursing home but Savitri was never too excited about anybody in particular and was quite clear in her head, She had been married to a man who never provided for her or her children and whatever little she earned, he spent on alcohol. When she tried to save the money from him, he resorted to wife beating, Quite a familiar scenario but Savitri made her choice. She walked out on him and refused let any man try to control her.

She was happy. She worked hard and learned as she provided for her family. She progressed from being a cleaner to a support worker for the trained nurses. That is the last I heard as she went to work for another nursing home. I hope she is doing well. I wonder if she found anybody worth his salt to settle down with, someone who would treat her daughters well. She should have been on that video saying- "My body, my mind, my choice" and all the bull shit about premarital and extra marital sex as if that in itself  is in some magical way supposed to liberate us all so that we float above the rest of the world as the world looks at us in awe and says- "Wow she is having illicit sex"

Laws were made to empower women. Laws which make men guilty unless proved otherwise have been a deterrant. One nurse was jokingly threatened by her husband's brother, who said "Maroonga mai tumhe" (I will hit you) and she told him in no uncertain terms that today he had voiced the intent for violence and that she was going to let it go but tomorrow if he was to repeat this indiscretion he would land up in jail. This is not unjustified when I think of my doctor friend whose mother in law used to constantly emotionally and verbally abuse her while relating to her instances within family, friends and neighbourhood about husbands who beat their wives if they didn't tow the line. Thankfully the husband, also a doctor, found no incredible reason to give in to his mother's demands and decided to live separately from her.

But then the same laws landed a husband in jail when the wife, a known patient with mental health illness for more than ten years, on medication for depression, committed suicide.

Sadly empowerment and freedom are loaded words. Nothing is black and white or easy, there are umpteen shades of grey in society in every country, in every religion, in every class.

 If it was OK for your daughter to indulge in premarital sex and your husband to indulge in extramarital sex and for your son to experiment being bisexual, I guess nobody really would have the time, inclination or energy to worry about what you are upto and society would be one big happy family, don't you think?

Women should accept that they are superior beings, the ones who give birth and nurture. If a mother can read and write it impacts the kids positively, if she smokes weed, that too impacts the kids and sadly it impacts the society much more than if a man (Savitri's husband in this case) decided to be an alcoholic!

Yes it is our choice, but with the freedom of choice comes responsibility. Yes others' rules should not apply to us but we have to make ourselves capable to be able to live at our own terms. Malala and Kailash Satyarthi are showing the way to empowerment, through education. Not by fancy movie clips starring celebrities opening bra straps!