Once upon a time, when i was naive (naiver?), i attempted to tell my elder cousin that she shouldn’t feed her one and half-year-old son Maggie noodles for breakfast every day. Her response, “I know, i am his mother. How would you know? Beshi paka hoechish (don’t act like a know-it-all)!”
I was 16, and that was my very first (apparent) brush with a woman who was validated by marriage.
Our society (Indian) is filled with a lot of hypocritical ideas of superiority. Being an elder in the family, being rich, being a man, being a woman who is married and then a woman with a son are all tickets to being validated by society in some sense. Within a family circle, if you fall into any of these categories, you can get away with most sins. At least people will not say much on your face.
So, these ideas hit women like pure drugs, and they soar high up in the sky for well almost eternity. Because why would anyone come down to planet earth and be normal?
I do have a sense of why we as a society and women especially depend on these ideas of false superiority statuses. Because we continuously fail to validate the person for who they truly are.
A girl on her own is the least valuable entity (though this aspect has been changing slowly and isn’t true for every household), her chances of studying or pursuing a goal and earning her own bread are dismal, if they do manage to do, so there is little acknowledgement for the same. The basis of judging a woman as a success (in some screwed way)is still marriage and her children.
The family also responds in line with this created reality. The mothers suddenly start dotting on them; the fathers are always talking about the “jamai ji” and how amazing he is! (Another reason why most men in India are jumping to get hitched!).
When women are constantly denied to have an identity of their own by virtue of choices of what success means for them, it is only obvious that generation after generation of women will repeatedly fall into that trap and evaluate themselves against those parameters. As a society, we are consistently willing to subjugate the individual and create a false picture of stability through these dogmatic ideas.
Though the women are increasingly becoming conscious of how society, the family roles and general prejudices are playing a massive part in shaping their lives since the challenges of finding-oneself are so big that it is far easy to lose oneself in the process.
This issue is far more significant and deeper than what a woman does, whether inside or outside of the home, it is at the core to do with who she is essentially. But do we have the time to let our women find themselves?
Married or single, children or no children, lesbian or heterosexual, working outside the home or inside etc. are not identities of a person. They are things one chooses to do or doesn’t. What defines us is much more than these actions of ours. Are we ready to embrace this truth?