I read this article on The Life and Times of the Indian Homemaker (IHM). I love IHM’s posts and I love how her blog gives Indian women a place to call their own. Everyday, I’m thankful for the issues she brings to public eye.
As I read this, I found myself mentally adding a clause to each of her sentences, like this –
“Because in this environment a girl is being seen only as being ‘useful’ or ‘useless’ to men.” , only if her family leads her to believe so.
“she must strive for the approval of men, their neighbours, colleagues and extended families – this mindset has created a society where everybody knows what every woman must do or not do.” , only if her family led her to believe so.
And so forth. You get it, right ?
And, her family led her to believe so if they believed so themselves.
So today, sitting a few thousand miles away, this Indian girl presents and ode to her family, for never ever believing so.
My hopes for my home country are that every family begin thinking a little less about society and it’s never ending demands, and a little more about their little girls. This is a long shot, and most of the part of me that believes this will happen someday, is dead. But here is the ambivalence – I am living proof that this can happen. And so are most of my girlfriends that were not only allowed, but encouraged lives of independence – far away from home, allowed to be alone and become strong. Make choices, Make mistakes. Kill roaches. (ok, had to put that in there!)
The thing is that education and engineering degrees, do empower women the way they do other people. Just, not when the little woman is made to earn them, grow up, and then be married off to a conservative family come graduation time, her skills and knowledge forever buried, never to be seen again.
This was the number of girls in my four years of engineering college (or somewhere in this ballpark). The class was roughly about 50 strong each year. Many girls dropped off because they had no idea why they had enrolled in the first place, couldn’t comprehend it, and failed. Few were married off somewhere in between.
The rest of us, graduated and looked like she-males by the end of it. (We also understood way too many filthy jokes than originally intended.) One of them certainly knew nothing (and still doesn’t) about how to make a perfect Roti and certainly does not care.
The ones who failed, were probably more intelligent and more capable than all of us graduates combined. But, the text books were written in English (which was not their first OR second language), and I can make an educated guess that when they went home, their priorities were not to do homework or assignments. Their families wanted them to be ‘girls’.
At this same time, I would go home, grab a snack, watch some TV, and then study. I’d leave the gosh awful subject on electric currents and circuitry for when my Dad returned from work and then cried help. The point is this – I have a Dad who would care to explain those stupid circuits to me, helped me with my engineering drawings (God knows I can’t visualize in 3D), and Calculus. I also had a grandfather who would dig into his 60 year old civil engineering reserves to explain some strange mapping techniques to me when I was in my first year of engineering. I have a mom who’d kick ass proof read every English essay and a Grandmother who’d ensure I had all the chocolate cake in the world to keep me happy when I was studying for those semester exams.
At the same time, those girls were probably being made to drape themselves in sarees and make chai and sweets to try and impress an eligible bachelor from the community. And if said effort went any way other than instant marriage, it was probably their fault. And today, that is the extent of their self esteem. What they are in someone else’s eyes. Or, what they’re not. What their skin color is. Or rather, what it is not. What they presented as dowry, and surely, what they did not.
So today, this girl who will easily build you a web application, a Facebook application or maybe even a basic circuit with a switch and a bulb, proudly says that she is not qualified to not burn those Rotis. And when he was standing about at the ripe young age of 18 being told “One of these girls will be cooking for you in the future“, this girl’s family was probably saying “Hell, no.“