What a Women Has To Say To Her Country
By Monika Rahar
'Freedom of my spirit is not at the mercy of your opinion. Therefore, I don’t need ‘you’ to empower me rather 'you' need to empower your thinking to be able to accommodate the free and revolutionary spirit of mine.’
Today, I want to express my opinion on how it feels to be a girl, when you are to; live by the 'conduct manual' formed by the ‘aunties’ of your colony, when those random comments by some uninvited intruders leave 'long imprint' on your minds without them getting affect even a bit, when you have to be 'thankful' for getting what you 'deserve' otherwise also, when you feel 'uncomfortable' with your very own existence, when freedom comes at the cost of your mental peace and relationships and when meaning of consent is considered an 'align concept.'
I am Monika, a 21st century ambitious, free, a protected Indian girl who is allowed to dream, set higher goals, and set rules for my life. But, I am the same 21st-century girl who is; impliedly governed by every rule of that conduct manual, affected by every comment of those intruders and who sometimes wishes if she were a boy. Now the question is; if I have everything to lead my life the way I want to, then what is the problem?
Well, this is the problem itself! I am feeling ‘fortunate’ because my family is providing me what I deserve and the fact, that many girls don't even have this fortune, is the reason for my concern.
I think every single girl of this country during her teenage must have faced statements like the following; 'you have grown up so stop playing with children anymore, you should not go out alone often, your clothes should not expose your body' etc. The most important part in a girl's life is played by the most undemocratic, orthodox group of aunties who are always ready to decide her character the moment they see her with boys in tuition classes or on her way back to home from school, forget going for night outs (which will lead to 'her' being the topic of gossip, chosen unanimously!).
Teen-age is often called the spring of life and rightly so given the vigor, enthusiasm, passion that one has towards life. Oh! Here I should mention; the above-stated definition of teenage is 'exclusively' available for boys.
I remember one of the instances when I was in 7th standard, my father was posted in Kapurthala, Punjab and we were living in a rented house in a colony of highly educated people and the owners of the house were a highly educated couple in their 60s. One day, I was playing on my terrace with my siblings and there were some boys in their mid-20s in the nearby house who were seeing us play. To my surprise, in the evening the owner came and said, "Beta now you have grown up, so it doesn't feel 'sober' to play any longer when those boys were staring at you.
I felt 'absolutely' disgusted. The point that I want to submit is; why do we see a girl as an object or a human being having such a body that can stir the sexuality of a man or a boy. To me, I was a kid and to those boys, I was just a 'Bachi' who was playing, but what made Uncle Ji make that statement reflects the problem. It might seem a minuscule thing but for me, it made a huge impact on my mind and I started to hold myself back and overnight this newly encountered reality (which I never wanted to face), made growing up an uncomfortable and anxious phase for me.
Having said that, I am not implying the fact that girls are not given opportunities or resources rather, I think we are living in a time where gradually the awaking about educating girls and letting them dream to do something being created in our eco-system. Even in villages, parents encourage their daughters to study and to be able to do a job. I think the 21st century is a century of great transition and propagation of diverse ideologies whereby so many contradictory interpretations of the 'Concept of Freedom' are done simultaneously. We are living in a time where on the one hand in landmark judgments are passed to recognize the ideals of freedom, privacy, expression, live-in relations and on the other hand we are reluctant to address the realities which lie far beyond these ‘fancy terms.’
We live in a country which is very vast and diverse. On the one hand we have cities where women fight for their right to enjoy partying on the new year's eve or persuading their mothers to let them go out on solo trips or justifying their urge to smoke or drink; while on the other hand, we have a part of India were girls are married at the very tender age of 9 or 10 or 12 years and they spend their entire lives preserving the 'Izaat' of their parents, in-laws, husbands and later on their sons. What I mean by 'a century of transition' is that materialistic facilities are equally made accessible to girls as well but what makes the difference is; at the back of our minds we still have the same society with the same bunch of uncles and aunties who are ready to dig on your character, curb your freedom, make you realize that you have grown up and therefore, you cease to be a human. I feel a lot that what is happening in today's world where people are killed to serve selfish interests of some groups, people are fighting against each other in the name of ideologies 'the fundamentals' of which are 'unreasonable and unjust'.
My biggest fear is the attitude of today's young generation. Take a silent tour of your campus and you'll observe shocking realities that exist but are neglected because the acknowledgment of these does not fit into our purview of modernity and coolness. So let me put out a few of them. Once I was on the campus and I saw a girl 'wearing shorts' passed by a group of boys. They commented on her, to which she replied and when she walked away, she was laughed at and made an object of fun. This is not just one day story; let me tell you an interesting fact; our boys can be great CBI investigators! You point out a girl and they'll tell you her name, department, relationship status and what not.
I think at this point I should clearly state this fact that I am not anti-boys, in fact, I have amazing friends, brother, cousins in my life who have made sure that I am able to be myself and I have huge respect for them. There are many boys and men, out there who in their different capacities as brothers, fathers, friend, life partners, take it as their responsibility to take care of their female counterparts. I am just trying to point out that we are in such a state where we 'justify' every comment, every stare, every morally incorrect or forget morality every inhuman deed as an act of 'coolness' and 'modernity.' This coolness culture is not cool any longer.
To all the girls out there reading my story; Support each other: - Whenever something bad happens with another girl, instead of holding her responsible for not following the conduct manual and fitting into the category of a Sanskari Girl, respect her for her choices and be each other's backbones rather than being backbiters.
Let’s accommodate differences in opinions and life choices: -
I would also want to bring to the light one very important aspect that is very much on mind is that this world does not offer a smooth place for revolutionary souls. Your journey is smooth as long as you follow what is fed to you, the moment you question it your whole existence will be counter- questioned. So girls let’s not disrespect or discard or blame a girl for going out the ‘Sanskari’ category or for doing what you don’t do. I do not drink or smoke or have a boyfriend but I do have huge respect for every such girl who does that so long as she is a good human being and values humanity.
Let’s not misuse GIRLS FIRST: - Privileges are given to us for a purpose and misuse of these will certainly not serve this purpose.
Teach your male counterparts to be a gentleman and condemn every such act that you wouldn’t have liked to experience have you been at the place of the girl at the receiving end. This is a huge problem. I have seen mothers and sisters supporting their sons and brothers blindly and allowing them to go out whenever, wherever and with whomever they wish. Question them! I have seen many boys doing stuff that their parents are not aware of at all. Teach them to be impartial while giving respect and not just reserving it for you and your mother.
To all the boys who are hopefully reading my story; respect a girl and don't judge her for the choices she makes and she won't ask for anything else.
Finally, to all of us there's a very fine line between an act of coolness and that of immortality, so let's not make a joke of humanity no matter how modern we are. Let's not support our friends when they cross the line. This is fine when done in a light mood but when it becomes a part of their nature this should not be appreciated.
If I say, 'Humans need food to service', would you feel odd with the declaration? No! You won't. The reason is; we know this because we are taught from the very beginning that food is important. So, won’t it be possible to make India a place of my dreams if our socialization process teaches us to value humanity and accommodate each other’s differences?
I dream of an India where; I do not have to sit and write about how lucky I am because my parents are educating me and letting me live, where every random boy on the campus doesn’t comment on the character of a girl just because she wears short clothes, drinks or smokes or is someone else’s girlfriend, where the concept of freedom is conceived in its true terms. I dream of an India where teenage girls enjoy the spring of their life by exploring, exploiting their talents, reading great minds, philosophies, listening to new music, knowing themselves, figuring out their goals. A place where their growing up should be dotted with enriching experiences.
Girls and boys let's stop saying, " Yeh India hai, yeah par raise hi Hota Hai." We are a part of a great nation. Let's cherish our Culture and prepare Indian of my dream.