Looking good. Check. Packed the kids’ lunch boxes after having supervised their bath and breakfast. Check. Made badam milk for the in-laws. Check. Getting that fat paycheque this evening. Check. That’s the ideal Indian woman of today for you. She’s the ultimate blend of tradition and modernity, juggling work and home with perfect dexterity. Be it ironing the creases out of her ever-so-busy husband’s blazer, to check if mom-in-law has had her medicines, to helping the kids with the homework- multitasking seems to be such an integral part of her identity, you’d hardly call it a skill anymore- it’s just something she was born with. As we go on and on today about women’s lib, and how she’s stepped out of the purdah, we seem to have completely overlooked the fact that she has probably had to jump from the frying pan into the fire, as she has begun living an almost dual life.
A lot has been said of how today’s Indian woman looks at her male counterpart in the eyes –she is as well-qualified, educationally as well as professionally, as him. Today’s Indian urban woman has stormed into, and conquered territories that were previously ruled by men- and how!
Yet, amidst all this fanfare, the little fact that has probably been lost upon by us, is that though she shares office space with her man, he does not seem to be willing to share her responsibilities at home. And so, what we have today is a breed of exhausted “superwomen.” Society uses that term to spur her to slog harder, fulfilling its own selfish desires; while the superwoman herself loves the tag- it’s an ‘honor’ that has been bestowed upon her, and she tries hard to fill the bottomless pit of expectations they have from her- not living upto which seems like sacrilege, thus making her feel guilty. Remember Radhika Jha form ‘One Night in a Call Center’?
The modern Indian woman is so pressurized; sometimes it looks like stepping out of the confines of her home was probably her worst mistake. Today, not only is she expected to study and earn as much as men, but also to cook, clean and feed the family- traditional wifely duties. Her husband feels no guilt while helping himself to half her salary to pay for his gaming CDs, but finds it derogatory to his ‘image’ if he helped her with her chores.
At the end of the day, drained of the last ounce of energy in her body, when she tries to relax, she is often accused of not taking enough care of herself- contributing to her shabby appearance, for traditionally, ‘looks maketh a woman’! Worse, after the herculean jobs of the day are done to perfection, she still has to be that demure, quiet woman, flashes of whom we’ve grown up seen in our mothers. She can’t afford to be irritated, despite the hard work taking a toll on her, for who has ever heard a good Indian woman shout, or seen her being irritable? She’s second probably only to Jesus Christ when it came to patience and forgiveness. She’s sweet-natured by default, and has never been known to raise her voice. The very qualities that men use to assert their ‘masculinity’ sound the death knell of a woman’s ‘perfection’.
But what can she be, if not shabby and irritated, dear guardians of society? As she tries hard to strike that perfect balance in her dual life, a little appreciation is the least she deserves. If we take her for granted and make it look like letting her stand on her own two feet is something she owed society one for, we’re way too wrong! We’re not doing her favor by giving he her independence, her right to a good life. She’s the ‘ardhangini’ – one of the two halves of a home. Man is the other. In every aspect. And it’s about time he lived up to that wedding vow!