Born in a typical middle class house of the 80s, she was bestridden merely as an object, considered unworthy of the love of her family whose bounties were restricted to her brother. At the age of 4, she was sent to school, a place where the first thing taught wasn’t the alphabet, but the art of making round rotis, her school being her mother’s kitchen. She was taught to cook and clean and groomed to be a dutiful, submissive wife to her mostly unruly, abusive and brash husband and then married off with dowry to bear children and the atrocities of this world merely at the age of 11.
Her hands were dyed with henna, her head covered in a red veil smeared with vermilion and her arms wearing red glass bangles, all the elements of an Indian bride. Terrified she was, being scrutinised for her beauty and her skills in making “chai” for the neighbourhood ladies who mocked and made fun of her juvenile demeanour. Instead of being treated as the goddess of the house, she was treated as a mere subject, brought to work in the day and please her husband at night.
Cut to the second scenario. Born in a middle class house of the 20th century, she wakes up in her pink room overshadowed with her parents and her family with gifts in their hands, for it is her 11th birthday. Standing at the threshold of womanhood, her mother knows that she now needs to know about what it actually means to be a woman. Daddy’s princess, and not his liability, she gets all she wants- a good education, good trips and a great family. She goes to a private school, speaks flawless English and is confident unlike the latter one. She is a wanderess and belongs to no man to define her. She isn’t married off at the age of 10 but is allowed to wander free and make her presence felt in the world.
The stark difference we see in our very own Indian society isn’t too bleak to go unnoticed. The difference in the status of girls has changed drastically, making them the pivot they deserve to be, around whom the society revolves. Great examples of women revolutionaries, from Coco Chanel to Mother Teresa were always present, but such personalities were a mere few.
The liberalization, education and modernism of the society has helped the girls get their position back in the Indian society that had deteriorated in the Post Rig-Vedic period where women, gambling and drinking were taken alike. Now their mothers don’t force them to cook and clean but allow them to study and dance. The father doesn’t collect money for the dowry, but plans for the higher education of his little princess. Her future husband won’t molest her now, for he knows that she is backed by a father and her own education, which makes her independent enough to live her life on her own terms and not be dependent on man.
Difficult to achieve in totality for each Indian house, but the scenario isn’t utopian.
Imagine all people treating their daughters and sons alike. Then the picture I painted for the 20th century girl won’t be modern art to be understood.
About The Author
Maatul Singha (SD College 32)