The Unseen Chains

Book-Cover-1Today is Women’s Day and I am celebrating it with the launch of my first book, “Who Shall I Be Today?”, a book of poems that celebrates the various moods of a woman.

As I prepare for the launch this evening, I realise I am so blessed! I have the freedom to be me! The freedom to write; to express myself; to earn and spend my money as I want. To be friends with whomever I want to; to learn as much as I want to. Yes, I am so blessed.

Yet, there was a time, when I forgot that I could do all this. There was a time when I let the reigns of my life be held by what I believed was well meaning society.

Though my parents gave us a lot of freedom to be ourselves, somewhere they too succumbed to society. Upto the age of ten I was allowed to roam about in shorts and tees, climb trees and play with the boys as if I was one of them. Suddenly the only clothes in my closet were dresses. My hair was no longer cut. I was told to sit properly and talk like a lady, no more loud laughs and no running barefoot on the streets.

And though I rebelled initially, I eventually gave in and fell in with the universal woman’s goal of getting married and having kids and living my entire life devoted to the well-being of my family. Somewhere “I” got lost.

I stopped writing for a long time, or if I wrote at all, it was just scribbles in my diary, or poems penned at irregular intervals. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy being a wife and mother. I did, I really really did. But I also wanted to be Sunita.

I realised that all my friends had disappeared and all our friends were actually his friends and their families.  We ate out when he decided. We bought clothes that he approved of. We went for holidays when he decided we should go. Not a bad life at all.

However, compared to a lot of my friends, I was still lucky. I was able to choose if I wanted to work or not. Even when I didn’t have a job my husband never really questioned how I spent the money. I had my own bank account and my husband never asked me how much I had in it.  I could buy all the books I wanted. Enrol the kids in whatever classes I felt they required. That was after all my realm.

My friends were not so lucky. A lot of them had no access to money. Their bank accounts even today are totally handled by their husbands. They have no say in any major decisions regarding the kids. And heaven forbid if they even think of having a male friend!

This in today’s urban educated India. Yes, we are free. We are educated. We can make our own choices. Or can we? There are so many hidden chains that bind us and I have realised that it is we as women who perpetuate these chains by accepting them.

What happens if you challenge them? What happens if you start taking decisions on your own instead of giving in to the stereotypical bharatiya nari? Which by the way is not the true bharatiya nari. How can it be in a country where we have women who have shown their mettle over and over again, be it Durga Ma or the Rani of Jhansi or an ordinary girl like Neerja?

Today on Women’s Day 2016, the theme is “the pledge for parity”. And it seems to be taking longer to reach that parity. In fact, it is sliding backwards in a lot of places in the world.

And it made me wonder. How can I help work towards parity? And the answer is that it all starts with me. If I as an educated woman cannot believe in myself enough to make sure that I am treated on parity, what hope is there for others?

So can we at least take this pledge: Do not let yourself be treated as a lesser being. You are an equal. Act like it!

Do not let yourself be treated as a lesser being. You are an equal. Act like it!

I am not talking of a rebellion but just standing up for ourselves, just putting our views forward, just leaning in. You may be surprised at the reaction you get. A lot of people take decisions for us because they do not even realise that we want to take decisions for ourselves. We just need to step in and take charge of our own lives.

So what do you say?  Do you take the #PledgeForParity starting with yourself?