Sometime back I read a book ‘Dear Zari: The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan.’ The entire book reflected on the issues Afghan women have dealt with and are dealing with till today. Many readers had many reviews about the book, some even concluded that Afghanistan might be the worst place for a woman to live. For the entire time during reading the book, my mind reflected on only one thought. How far is Indian society different when it comes to women? India is considered well-developed when compared to Afghanistan. We are even providing financial and military aids to Afghanistan. We have Internet, malls, educated people, co-education schools and jobs. But, when it comes to the place of women in the society,are we better than many other places in the world? We live in a society where in some girls are getting the best education, yet they are scared off roaming alone on the roads. We live in a society where in some girls do not have any education. Dear Zari reflects on the real stories of Afghan women. Here, I tried to reflect on few stories of Indian women.
A woman suffers everyday, her husband drinks away her hard-earned money in the form of alcohol and beats her up if she refuses to give away money. Her two daughters work along with her in the fields, she is reluctant to bear one more child, but her in-laws want an heir to carry family name. She wonders what name and fame has her drunkard husband established that he needs a son to carry. But, she cannot question for fear off getting thrown away from the house. Her fear is not about money. She is more hard-working and earns more than her husband. She is scared of the society. What would the neighbors say about an estranged wife. How will she get her daughters married? A girl is accepted even if her father is a drunkard, but she is not accepted if her mother is estranged. Her character is in question. So, she bears one more child and this time some God among the millions of Gods blesses her, she gets a son. Her husband celebrates, he drinks more than before. She could not work during pregnancy. The family finances are low.
Her daughters grow up and soon reach puberty. Men have evil eyes on them. She sends her son to get educated in the nearby town. She does not realize the need to educate her daughters. She cannot decide to send her son to fields and send her daughters to school. She cannot compromise a Son’s life for a daughters. She does not realize that she is giving the same life as hers to her daughters. She does not doubt if her Son will turn out like his father. She has hopes for her son, not for her daughters. She does not even know that she has to educate the girls about puberty and the changes their bodies are going through. The only way to protect them is to marry them off. With no money to give away, she marries them off at an early age to a man twice their age. And they continue their life much similar to their mother.
There is another woman who is enough educated to educate her children. Her Father considered that she did not need more education. If he educates a girl more, he has to search for a more educated man for which he is incapable. Her married life is good, her husband takes good care of her. She bears three children one after the other. Bearing three children and feeding them has drained her out. She is no more the beautiful young bride. She spends her entire day taking care of in-laws, children and household. She does not even use a maid to save the money. Her husband can boast about every promotion he gets. But, she has nothing to boast about, all these jobs she does do not earn her money, they are mere responsibilities. She cannot go about boasting about them. Her in-laws appreciate their sons’ hard work and the pay he gets home. But, not hers.
There is one another woman who is well-educated and is working. She earns the same as her husband and takes part in financial decisions too. Her in-laws do not appreciate, they think that she is proud. She justifies that she is self-dependent. They complain that she is postponing her pregnancy in her attempt to earn more. They want a grandchild to play with, they want someone to be part of their retired life. Finally, she gives in and bears a child, a girl. Sex does not matter in this family. She feels great about it. She knows a friend whose family was very unhappy that they do not have a boy to carry on their legacy. Her in-laws are different, they are having happy time with the baby. But, times of joy are over, she gets back to work. She juggles between preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner for the family, feeding baby, running late to office, reaching home late, having to attend conference calls after dinner, waking up midnight when the baby cries. Her in-laws complain that she has not fed her baby enough, it is not good for her health. They soon leave to live with their other son in a different city. She seeks her husband’s help in taking care of the baby. He says I am busy, she says I am also working, he says to shift to some project with less work, compromise with her job, she asks why he cannot do the same, he remarks that she is too ambitious and selfish and leaves the argument. Years pass by, few years back she was as competent as her male colleagues. But she is not. They are all promoted, but she is not. She is assigned lame jobs. She compromises. She works with no satisfaction, no élite in her work. She sees her daughter growing up, she sees her daughter growing up in a society where women irrespective of their age, irrespective of their culture are abducted and raped. She fears for her daughter’s security. She reflects on a thought, is there a free will for women in any part of this society? Is there a place in this country, where women can live equally along with men.
Cases of prostitution, rape and domestic violence are very much prevalent in Indian society also. Parents sell the girls due to lack of money. Educated women in their attempt to live independently are scared of roaming alone. Women do not know which kind of transport is safe for us. Women can be abducted on roads, in autos or public buses. Women are teased in metros while others watch the show for free.
A family sends a boy to far away towns and cities for education, but make the girl work along with her parents in the fields. Women themselves are blind to the need of educating their daughters.