The impossibly high expectations that Indian society expects from a woman is thrown in our face everyday through the daily soaps or movies or legends. We and our parents have grown with these very serials, movies and myths.
Every television serial showcases a simple, selfless and magnificently kind-hearted girl. The serial revolves around her marriage and marital life. There are two kinds of marriages: the loveless marriage and the love marriage. According to the first category, the goody-two-shoes is married to a ‘bad’ boy with a ‘good’ heart who was forced into marrying this girl when instead he loved a ‘hot’ super model who is obviously Satan’s progeny. But soon the girl wins the guys heart by making a million sacrifices, suffering for years and taking every insult in her stride. According to the second category, the guy’s family hates the girl especially her mother-in-law. The girl goes through years of insult, blame-games and torcher but the guy hardly ever notices this and the girl in the end does everything possible to make her ‘new family’ accept her. In short, all the women in these serials aim at getting married and becoming the ideal daughter-in-law cum wife despite how-so-ever cruel your in-laws might be.
Though Indian Cinema is slowly involving into an egalitarian arena yet movies with action heroes and slutty item songs only achieve ‘materializing’ women. If it is Salman Khan/Ajay Devgan/ Akshay Kumar’s action movie, women are mere props who come to life when there’s a need to add a 3-4 minute song to entice the audience. If it is a movie like cocktail with an independent professional woman like Veronica (Padukone), the guy marries the ‘pujaran’ and ‘gharelu’ girl, Meera (Penty). Yes, there are directors who aim at quality rather than money we are still far from an industry which gives equal privileges to both men and women.
Ramayana and Mahabharata are two of the most famous myths which have been reiterated in almost every household in India across languages and states. These two myths narrate lives of two women, Sita and Draupadi. Where Sita experiences the very same and even harsher conditions of living while her exile alongside her husband, Ram, yet after her return to her homeland she is sent off to another exile. Rama, the king, gives up on her wife who is today known as the ‘ideal woman’. Why she was ideal? Well she never crossed her husband, did whatever he said even though she disagreed with him and the most important reason is the ‘agni pariksha’ which proved her chastity (but did it help her?). On the other hand is the fiery Draupadi. She is loud, carefree and aggressive yet is forced into matrimony with five men. Is that a real marriage which named her ‘paanchali’ or is it an altered reality of her story of rape? The daughter of fire, Draupadi, is disrobed in front of a complete assembly and all she does is stands and prays for her honor and is finally protected by Krishna, the mighty lord. Was the part where Krishna saved Draupadi’s honor a later edition to prove that men are the protectors?
Can we blatantly discard these ‘morals’ and live life as we want or are these ‘teachings’ truthfully right and we are headed on a path to hell if we go against them? These stories are an intrinsic part of our conscience which cannot be changed, though altered. The present generation lives in an eternal ambivalence of what is right and what is wrong because where the logic commands us to trod, our molded conscience chides us. One might question the authority but in return we are blamed for being disrespectful. Respect and honor have killed many, abused more and are sucking the souls out of us everyday like dementors do.
A little girl, dances to the tune of ‘shila ki jawani’, dresses her doll in bridal clothes and falls for the bad guy who she believes she can change. She secretly wishes to leave her house and run freely for hours or leave for Ladakh on whim. She secretly wishes to laugh like a maniac and be the ‘bad girl’. But at the same time she sees that the society accepts only a Sita, Tulsi or Meera. Even her parents, lover and family reprimand her every time she tries to peep outside the invisible borders of the ‘ideal woman’.
There are so many caged birds, flapping their wings to set free, so what is the solution?
Education. Rebellion. Love.
Only through education can women know that they are being suppressed, can they know their rights, can they rise and fight and can they fly like a kite.
Only by rebelling can freedom be sought because without an upheaval the authority won’t see us and it won’t hear us. We must be heard to be accepted as equals.
Only by loving other women, by accepting them as sisters and not competitors, by supporting them in every thick and thin can we achieve our final destination.
Thus, the three letters E, R and L is the only way for women to break the mythical, delusional world of the ideal woman, ideal for men but a burden on herself. People have tried traveling this less traveled path and that is why we today stand with a few rights such as being allowed to study, vote and put forth our point of view. Yet, it’s a long way to go and I hope we will keep moving ahead.