I fly even with my wings broken and
a mind full of desires,
no matter how insignificant,
if I am not better,
at least I am different.

JUSTICE OR INJUSTICE – IT’S ALL ABOUT TWO EXTRA LETTERS

One thing that we see in abundance around us is Injustice. Every morning when you read a newspaper, 90% of the news reported are directly or indirectly related to some kind of injustice. Be it a rape, honor killing, domestic violence, female foeticide, money laundering etc. And what do we do about it? Read and forget? Sometimes, a bunch of citizens will arrange a candlelight vigil for protesting against a rape incident. Sometimes, a good lady may offer help to the maid to report the domestic violence to the police. But what is the end result? Do these efforts help? Are the efforts enough in the first place?

Raising voice against injustice is no joke. One needs a great deal of courage to stand for self or for others. And this is exactly where a common man lacks. Nation’s leaders have left a great legacy of fighting injustice. Contributions of Raja Ram Mohan Roy towards abolishment of Sati and Child Marriage, Mahatma Jyotirao Phule towards setting up education system for females, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar towards untouchability and caste discrimination go a long way in shaping up our nation. But are we capable enough today to continue this legacy? Another question that comes to my mind is, is our system capable enough today? Not enough courage coupled with insensitivity (of humans as well as system) is an even more dangerous combination and paves a stronger way to injustice.

So what do we need to fight injustice?

1) Reinforcement of Law: With all due respect to the judiciary system, our laws do need an upliftment. I fail to understand why we need 10+ years to convict a rape accused. Worse is, chances are high that he walks free on various grounds like mental ill-health, juvenile age etc. A crime is a crime, how can the accused be forgiven on such petty grounds? Why the accused is not executed, especially when we know that they are guilty, beyond all doubt? We have some excellent examples from our neighboring countries about how do they deal with rapists. Why can’t our laws be changed for better? Rape accused is just one example of many. There are various other areas where the accused though guilty are living a peaceful life while the victim is dying in misery. If the perception in the minds of the people is that the judiciary system is denying justice, there is no place a common man can go to asking for justice!

2) System Revamp: By “system” I mean any authority that runs this country selfishly and illegally. Be it police, politics, media, just anything. We need to have these completely revamped. Sure, there are a few honest exceptions, but it is indeed shameful that even today we hesitate to approach the police to report any kind of incident. It is even more shameful that the big fat politicians are filling up their own pockets in the name of needy. Recruiting inactive MLAs just because they are a dignified personality in sports or films and paying them a salary of lacs of rupees is a complete injustice to the citizens. While media may show that they are doing an excellent job by running with cameras and questionnaires to the targets, what needs to be questioned is the authenticity of the news that are released? How much of it is fabricated? How much of it is bribed? How much of it is true? These three are the clutches of a common man without which he is left crippled. It is important that these systems work together. They do, even today, the only difference is they work together (inter-connections) for the betterment of their own and not that of citizens.

3) Shift from Sympathy to Empathy: Indifference in humans is growing day by day. They witness an incident, sympathize and forget about it. Partially because they feel crippled because of law and order and partially because they are too self-centered. It is common to exclaim “Oh it is really unfortunate” or “so sad” as long as injustice is happening to someone else. But ever wondered what would such guys do when it happens to them? They won’t be able to do anything more than sympathizing with self. It is high time that we put aside the sympathy and feel the empathy. Unless we are able to really feel what the victim is going through, nothing inside us is going to prompt us to take any action. The most common example is accidents. People are busy making videos of the accident rather than helping the victim. The victim is literally left to die. And this comes from lack of empathy. Can there be a bigger injustice?

4) A Little more Courage everyday: Yes, we need to be braver than yesterday. And that cannot be taught. It has to come from within. We need to be strong enough to raise voice or take measures against any injustice done to us. There is no point in playing the blame game. It will take time to change the systems that run the country, but we can change our mentality faster. We must get rid of “It’s OK” attitude with which we swallow a piece of injustice every day. Be it getting chocolates in place of change at toll plazas, or touch and go episodes at crowded places. We must learn to stand up and say “NO, IT IS NOT OK”. It is important that we start to bring this change with ourselves. This small step will eventually lead us to have enough courage to help others in need.

5) Awareness & Education: This is the most important requirement for fighting injustice. It is very unfortunate that most of the victims of some kind of abuse do not know that they can raise the voice against the ill treatment given to them. They fail to understand that it is not the just the ordeal done by the stronger but it is injustice in reality and someone can help them (perhaps!) The most common examples are laborers who are denied the basic minimum wages, a housewife giving in to the hardships imparted by her husband. They feel it is just the way of life.  They need to be aware about how to distinguish the way of life from injustice. And for this, we need a solid awareness and education. While schools are doing their part of teaching children about good touch and bad touch, what are they doing to sow the seeds of courage in case of any unfortunate incidents? When media runs a campaign about reporting how a rape happened and how a prisoner (on account of some hideous crime) has had a tough life, what is it doing to let the common man know what their rights are or how can they safeguard themselves from injustice.

Justice or Injustice – It’s all about two extra letters. Screaming and whining because of injustice is very common, but we need to go a step further. We need to speak up; we need to bring in the change! If every one of us decides to take baby steps mentioned above, collectively we can remove those two extra letters from Injustice and get Justice for all.

SILENT ISN’T GOLDEN IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

It’s almost a regime for me to talk to my bestie.  We share our deepest darkest secrets, hearty laughs, saddest moments day in and day out.  Few days back amidst such exchange of emotions she told me about a brawl that broke down in the premises of her husband’s office following a missed call.  You heard it right it was just a “Missed Call“.

Her husband is a good friend of mine as well.  It’s about a missed call that he made to his female co-employee and it was unintentional, more of an accident as he was trying to call his father and ended up dialing her number which was next in contact list by mistake.  Within a fraction of seconds he disconnected the call as he realised the goof-up he made.

It all began with that accidental call.  Soon there was a revert and it was the husband of that lady on the other side. “Why you are calling my wife at this hour? (It was only 8PM), “Do you call often?” He was quite derogatory in his remarks.  Nothing seemed to pacify him or make this moron understand the fact that it was unintentional.  He was adamant on seeing my friend in his office next day as if he had some old scores to settle.

Next day as expected that man landed at my friend’s office.  He was raring to initiate a scuffle and create chaos to be seen by everyone around.  But thanks to few good confidants of my friend, that was averted.  But that didn’t stopped that reckless rogue from spitting venom about everyone including my friend.

The underlying issue was his ailment of doubting his wife’s loyalty towards him and their relationship.  Suspicion is his middle name.  He would always point out at the way she dresses, a tinge of make-up on her face would set the wheels of his obscene mind churning, would keep a track of her minutes, would always make it a point that she is always under his thumb especially in front of his family which is dysfunctional to the core.  To sum it up – he is mentally ill with an apparently healthy abode.  All this garbage can still be branded and gulped down as “Male Ego”, “Chauvinism” which is  more uncommonly common in society like ours, though unacceptable.  But what surprised me, in fact stunned me was that woman’s stand.  When my friend asked her about her stand about her husband’s behaviour, rather misbehaviour she dropped her shoulders and sighed saying “What can I do? What stand can I take? I have to put up with this.  And anyways you shouldn’t have created so much ruckus here in office, Sir!”.  

That was something unbelievably stupid coming from a financially independent, educated woman who takes care of an unemployed (by choice) husband who himself has his past relationships peeping (in fact resting in his drawing-room) in his present with his wife having full knowledge of it, still making no bones about it. Had it been from an illiterate and dependent person, that would have drawn some sympathy.  This lady only attracts ire.  Few may hold a different opinion but inability to stand up and against such oppression in the name of family, love, values makes her equally guilty.

I want to re-emphasize that she is equally guilty as her silence is encouraging her husband’s sadistic and patriarchal approach where a woman is deemed to be acceptable if she is a silent spectator. She will prove to be a culprit to her daughter (who is just two years old) and her dreams.  She is doing nothing but preparing a ground which would allow her daughter to grow up with a mentality that a woman can’t question a man.  There could be two possible outcomes to such a cowardice approach of that little girl’s mother:

  • That could kill the confidence of a budding spirit. Since parents are the first role models for any child, looking up at her mother’s way of handling issues (very much passive) there’s every possibility under the sun that she would accept things lying down in future without any objection, without any contest and let out a foul cry blaming fate.  Unfortunately, this is the environment majority of girls grow up in. “Pati Parmeshwar Hota Hai” (Husband Is God) is the tonic girls are made to mug up breaking them from within, doubting themselves and leaving them always to search for a shoulder to lean on. I pity the poor child!
  • She might end up as a rebel with no cause.  A child needs love and mutual respect as catalysts for a healthy development.  But in the case at hand it is mental harassment, emotional abuse, fear, oppression that play constantly in front of her eyes and in mind in her growing years.  And it’s proven that with such a volatile and disturbed environment kids might end up being bullies or rebels.

To avoid any such occurrence in future that lady should raise her voice now even if it means walking away and out of such a rotten relationship.  By the way I forgot to reveal one twist in the story. This lady chose her partner (love marriage) and was well aware of his ways even before the marriage was consummated.

Is it Love or pure ignorance or self-degradation?  In this case I clearly see that this lady’s sensibilities are paralyzed beyond repair to put up with such a scrupulous person with her self-respect at stake every single minute.  In order to be acclaimed as a doting and pious wife she has completely laid herself on pedestal enduring character assassination at the drop of hat.

I understand, ego daunts a relationship but lack of self-respect isn’t saving it either.

Do think about it.

STOP BEING A VICTIM AND OWN IT!

“She is level-headed and opinionated!”

“She is a feminist!”

I have to say, when it is needed, I have spoken out loud and talked about my opinion though it has created repercussions both at personal and professional level. I have been stereotyped as someone who is ‘outspoken and rude’!

It happened when I took up public health after doing bachelors in Dentistry, despite my family’s wishes for me to continue it and run my own clinic. It happened when I raised my voice on unequal pay scale at office for same positions and prevailing gender bias. It happened when I fought for ‘price for marriage’ and rose against the concept of dowry.  It happens all the time when I have to defend myself whenever I disagree to follow the ‘norms of society’ set for a woman.

“A woman should not work late at night; a woman should only wear certain type of clothes; a woman should not drink alcohol or smoke; a woman should not have male friends once she is married; a woman should do as her husband says or if he ‘permits’; a woman has no life after divorce, she should continue living with her husband no matter what; a woman has no right to property, she is a liability”.

THE LIST OF WHAT A WOMAN SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT DO IS NEVER ENDING!

I have had to speak out quite loudly against ‘gender-based harassment’ at workplace. Just because I am a woman really does not mean that you have the right to belittle me, or making me feel like I have achieved something out of favors by men or by pleasing them or I am not good enough to lead a task just because I am a woman! This happens often in my job and many women face the same issue, and I have had to be strictly vocal about it. People will mistreat you if you take injustice lying down!

MY RAISED VOICE HAS HELPED!

It has made it possible for me to reach new heights in my career and getting promotions much before men in my office. If you deserve something, if you have worked hard for it, you should not remain silent just because you are a woman!

When you raise your voice, you make yourself known, and people know that there is someone who will not back down, who will not be silent. That is why I believe that raising your voice is a good thing. It helps people see others’ point of view, and make sure that they know why there is a need to speak up, especially against injustice.

Most of the time oppression against women start in their own families and are in-built in women. Indian women prefer to depend on their male members for financial and safety measures. Emotional and financial dependence of women gives birth to egoistic tendencies in men with negative mindset. They start imposing their decisions on wife and other female members of the family.

Even the most ambitious women face the injustice at workplace almost at every stage, employers hesitate to hire young women fearing potential pregnancy, if they do get hired the pay scale is always less than males, they fall much behind their male counter-parts after marriage due to responsibilities of family, many women drop out to raise children. Working women, especially in rural areas are monetarily and physically exploited by men either due to inaccessibility to credit sources or due to lack of laws to help protect them. Women also fall victim to social evils like infanticide, inhuman treatment to widows, especially in Northern India, Bengal and Rajasthan or polygamy in southern parts of India.

Women have faced tremendous injustice over the years, often due to women’s own lack of courage to face situation. Instead of silently bearing all the atrocities perpetrated against us, women should raise their voice against injustice; create awareness amongst women about their rights.  Women should channelize their efforts by forming women groups, linking the disadvantaged to NGOs and legal firms and getting heard, by writing and publishing articles, organizing workshops and seminars.

MAKE VOICELESSNESS LOSE ITS WICKED GRASP, GET YOURSELF HEARD!

GENDER IS JUST A BIOLOGICAL DIFFERENCE, NOT A WAY OF LIFE

I have a girl and I love her to bits, as I imagine every Mother in the world must do, regardless of the sex of her child. But even though my child is my everything, the centre of my universe, there was still a fraction of a second when I betrayed her and wished she was born a boy.

Did that surprise you? It surprised me too when it happened. When I lay motionless,  barely conscious in the operating room, and when the Doctor pulled her out from the gaping hole in my belly, she held her up for me to see her for the first time. I was overjoyed to see my baby finally, but right on the heels of that pure joy came that sickening moment which was the biggest betrayal to my baby girl. Because in that moment, however small it was, I wondered how it was that I brought forth a girl, when its a boy I had prayed for?

It’s true, I wanted a boy. People used to tell me how myopic my views were, how archaic my reasons sounded for wanting a boy in a family that was overflowing with boys. They accused me of being patriarchal and old-fashioned. They didn’t know the real reason, and I told no one because I feared a backlash if I did – I didn’t want another girl going through what women go through every day. To be specific, what I went through. If I bore a girl and brought her up only for her to be stared at, catcalled, or heaven forbid, touched or violated by some disgusting leche; or even to see her being mentally tortured or conditioned into believing that she was weak, that she had only one job in the world, or that she was secondary to someone, it would break my heart just like it breaks the hearts of millions of mothers out there who have daughters who have faced the ire of the world for being a woman. No mother would want her child to suffer through things like differential treatment, lewd stares, periods, leaving her home for another, dowry, domestic violence, family pressure for babies, and the list goes on…  But the heavens gifted me a girl, and now I wouldn’t exchange her for any number of boys.

But am I the only one who wished to have a boy for the reasons that I enumerated above? I suspect not. There are parents who have wanted a boy for reasons far worse than mine. And that’s why we have baby girls being killed off in India – a nation known for its reverence to its vast array of goddesses, yet infamous for little regard to the women in their own homes.

I will not go into the gory details of what female foeticide and infanticide are and what the stats say about them. If you wish to know that, please click here. I’m here to discuss the reasons behind it. And my own story is part of the perception that fuels this problem. I know that women, in general, don’t have it easy in any part of the world, but I can only attest to the situation in my own country. In India, a female child is unfortunately considered by many, an unwanted commodity, who has to be fed, clothed, educated only so that she can be the nurturer for someone else’s family. And even though it is this girl who is going to eventually perpetuate the family of another, it is the burden of the girl’s family itself to bring the dowry. Is that not the wrong way around? Forget that, why must there be a dowry at all for a ‘family member’, or for a ‘human being’? Is that how families should begin – by a barter of the boy’s hand for money or gifts from the girl’s family? Who’s genius, twisted and mercenary idea was it anyway?! But dowry remains the prime reason why girls are killed in a mother’s womb or right after their births in India. The economic strain of rearing and the eventual loss of a girl becomes the reason for their doom.

Where does the problem lie? I believe it originates from our beliefs that there is a difference between a girl and a boy, apart from the biological ones. We rear them up from infancy to think that they are bound to certain ‘roles’ in society because they were born with certain body parts. I also believe that the problems faced by Indian girls and women today have their origin, partially, in how we bring up our boys to consider themselves the ‘superior gender’; the other half originating in women themselves who think that a girl is a commodity, to be hawked away at a price. The problem of female foeticide and infanticide persists even in the modern era because of our skewed perception of what a girl signifies. To most traditional and pseudo-modern Indians, a girl signifies a freeloader. Like every freeloader, she is taken for granted and treated as secondary, in matters of health, education, occupation, even in marriage. Who wants a freeloader? No one. And so, no one wants the responsibility of raising a girl, but they only want the ultimate benefit a girl brings – the furtherance of the family name. What noble intentions indeed!

To be sure, there are laws, government initiatives, family planning programmes, free education initiatives and other sops offered to parents to deter them from sex-selective abortions and infanticide, but to eradicate the problem from the root we must teach ourselves that a gender is not a ‘way of life’… it’s only a gender, a biological difference. 

I bet if we were to bring up a boy and girl in isolation they would exhibit emotions and preferences conventionally ascribed to both their own gender as well as those ascribed to the opposite gender. It’s only when society and cultural influences come in, that the gender stereotypes begin to emerge in a child. My girl, for example, loves cars instead of dolls, she digs shorts, not skirts, she won’t allow her hair to be pulled into a ponytail , she won’t wear ballerinas, but shoes and has a morbid fear of headbands. She loves any activity that involves getting filthy and tumbling around, and her emotions are never tempered by any feminine restraint. And yet there are times when she’s affectionate, motherly even, and does not flinch from being a diva – like when she says ‘cheese’ for the camera! She’s at once, a girl and a boy, and all of that is because SHE IS HUMAN. 

Perceptions like ‘you must cook because you’re a girl’ or ‘you must be strong because you’re a boy’, may have originated in necessity, so that the man could forage for the family while the woman tended to the home, but those times have come to a close. We live in an age today when our technologies and our education afford both the genders the ability to be either the nurturer or the bread-winner, or even both. Then why must we doggedly hold on to the archaic beliefs about ‘gender roles’? Why should we as parents perpetuate those stereotypes? Why teach our daughters that they must be demure, pliant, understanding, forgiving and kind ONLY because they are girls? And on the contrary teach our sons to be fierce, strong, unabashed and sharp ONLY because they are boys? Are these attributes not human attributes? Why must they be divided to define only a type of gender? 

Being parent to a girl should not be a burden, but being parent to a human being, requiring the same amount of care and effort that one puts into the upbringing of a boy child. Even if our worries about our girls are founded in the loftiest of good intentions, it’s ultimately a way of telling our girls that they are somehow weaker than boys. If we are to breed stronger women, we must start by making them stronger at home, bringing the change in our families, our perceptions, cut off traditions that teach us otherwise, and only then can this become a nationwide, or a worldwide change.

But until this change occurs in the upbringing of every child, boy or girl, and every family member, there will always be an ounce of worry attached to the birth of a girl.

 

OH BOY! IT’S A GIRL!

1st time in the labour room:-

Me: “Dr, what is it? I wanted a girl”

Doc: “Wait for 5 minutes.”

I apprehensively waited & the doctor said “It’s a boy”, showing me the baby.

My baby gender wish vanished the moment I saw my baby and held him in my arms.

Throughout my pregnancy, I kept praying for a girl. I didn’t like when anyone used to bless me saying, “Doodo nahao, puto falo”, which means may you bathe in milk and give birth to sons. In my heart I used to cry – why can’t people give blessings for a girl, why does it have to be ‘putravati bhava”?

When my son was born, most of the people said now that a boy is born first, I can sit back and relax. I kept telling them that being a female, I wanted a baby girl, not for any other reason, but fascinating about their endearing clothes, making their pretty hairdos, indulging in gossips when they grew older and all that.

2nd time in the labour room:-

I was pretty sure this time that it’s going to be girl. I bought some ‘pink’ stuff also. My 4.5 year old son and I were so confident that we named ‘her’ Zara.

The moment I heard my newborn cry, I sprang up to see and confirm if it’s a girl.

I shouted at my doc: “You delivered a boy, I wanted a girl!”

Doc: “I can take this baby in that case”.

Me: “No…It’s MY baby!” Everyone had a hearty laugh!

My husband and my cousin sisters were worried that I might go into depression because they knew how badly I wanted a girl and also planned accordingly. But, the sheer fact is that the moment you know you are carrying a life inside you, you fall in love with it, whether it’s a boy or girl.

However, the heart-rending truth remains that in many families, the male baby is given importance and that too at the cost of taking the lives of the newborn girls. Every time I read or watch any news of girl infanticide, I feel poignant and enraged.

How can anyone be so cruel and heartless to kill such a beautiful creation of God?

Instead of “Ladies first”, it’s “Males first” in our country. Even in today’s changing times, our society is so biased against the females. Many parents don’t believe in higher education for their girl child. Because of raucous boys, girls are restricted to go out after the dark, whereas the boys are born to roam freely anywhere anytime.

Even if a woman is working and earning equally as her husband, she is supposed to give her cent per cent towards her house and family members. A woman isn’t supposed to fall sick, whereas the entire house will be concerned if her husband has a headache.

And it doesn’t stop here; we have put restrictions on her during ‘those days’. She isn’t supposed to offer her prayers, just because she has got her periods. My mother used to say, “Why restrict when this is also a part of the nature?” True, if God isn’t biased, so why are you!

Times are changing. Our generation has been able to mould a lot of things, but still a lot needs to be done. The other day my son told me,”Cars are for boys”. I immediately corrected him, “If a girl likes to play with cars, she can. No toy is girl or boy specific, just like you play with your kitchen set, a girl can play with cars as well.” I keep telling him that girls are equally strong as boys.

She is the creator, the core of all relations;

She makes the world a living place with her emotions;

Everything is just beautiful when she is around;

She can do wonders, why do you frown?

Don’t cut her wings, you will cry;

For she is as good as a boy.

Let her live, give her a chance;

Else, without her we will go into trance.

GRIEF OF A MOTHER IN A WOMAN

Mother – embodiment of love, pure love and sacrifice. Won’t elaborate more as no number of words can ever describe what a mother means.  It’s every woman’s heart yearning to be a mother.

So was mine.  And God did answer my prayers.  But my boon didn’t stand longer and I had a miscarriage.  My dreams shattered.  But I am fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of motherhood again, now I am a happy mother of two.  But not every woman is fortunate. I personally know women who had more than two miscarriages.  And the deep sorrow that follows can never be explained in plain words.  It’s not about the physical pain but the psychological trauma a woman – a mother undergoes.  The child may be unborn for the world but it’s very existence can never be ruled out in thoughts, dreams, deeds and words of a mother.

To add to all the pain of a mother undergoing this crises situation the question that rubs salt to the wound is “when will you become a mother?”, “still no child?”.

I don’t know how many could agree with what I said but why bearing a child becomes a very important matter of discussion right after first year of marriage of a couple.  Then wherever that married couple goes to attend functions, ceremonies this question follows them – “any good news?”.  I failed to understand why matter of personal decision acquires status of common issue.  Matter becomes worse for working women, because she is always labelled as “selfish, career oriented” who doesn’t want to be a mother soon.  What if her decision to be career oriented is a matter of compulsion and not choice.  She might put on a brave face but the amount of pain she is feeling, no one knows.

And if a woman is having difficulties in conceiving because of medical issues, then she is subjected to more trauma and societal pressure.  She is called different names if you know what I mean.  So important is bearing a child in one’s womb that people won’t even mind breaking off the marriage for that sake.  But the sad part is no one questions the male counter part if he is having any medical issue. The entire burden has to be beared by woman. Grief is so deeply rooted in such cases that could possibly lead into depression.

The issues discussed above are beyond human influence but what about the cases where a woman is deprived of blessing of motherhood intentionally. I am talking about killing of a female child in womb itself knowing its orientation.  How cruel is that?  Male or female, both are equal for a mother then why she is subjected to such trauma as if she determines the sex of the child?

In all of the aforesaid situations the sorrow, the pain felt by a woman is beyond comprehension for any soul except the mother herself.

What could be done in order to console and comfort in such emotionally draining and demanding situations. Since no words could act as medicine, it’s better to stay silent on that issue.  If words are silver then silence is golden. Talk to the lady about her interests, household chores or anything else under the sun except kids if it hurts her.

Respect her space, period.  We are no one to decide what age is apt for pregnancy for any woman.  We should mind our own business and let them theirs.

And finally “Adoption”:   Yes you heard it right.  For any woman who for what so ever reason can not enjoy the motherhood biologically adoption is the solution.  I know what I am talking about is a very bold step and still a taboo.  But nevertheless it could give all the happiness a woman aspires for as a mother and could give a child a home and a hope.  Because parenting and feeling of being a parent is more about responsibility and love and it has nothing to do with DNA structure.

Do think about it.