I recently saw an amazingly positive advertisement by Mahindra Rise called #ladkihaathsenikaljaegi.
Ladki ke haath kamyaabi tab aaegi,
jab ladki haath se nikal jaegi
Have you ever wondered what this phrase, ladki haath se nikal jaegi, actually means? I think quite a few of us, if not all, must have heard something like this being either said to us or someone known to us. It clearly defines the societal and cultural boundaries a girl must adhere to in our country. Predominantly, for the family’s reputation.
But who put those boundaries? And why?
I come from a family of three girls, and strong parents with great focus on values. Being the youngest of the lot, I was encouraged to be independent, to have my way and take individual decisions right from childhood.
Our family culture has always been highly democratic. For every decision, each of us had to give a vote and a viewpoint. And that, itself slotted me as a spoilt brat – as I had a say in family decisions right from when I was 10-12 years old! When I chose law as a profession, there were enough voices and opinions all around us dissuading my family from encouraging my decision – because I was a girl. I questioned everything, so people around me often commented – ‘how will you ever adjust in your marital home?’
I moved out of home when I was 18, to study and then work. I worked hard, studied hard, made a successful career for myself. But no one was happy with my progress, because I refused to get married. Even now, people ask me why I am single. I am sure quite a few of them are convinced that I have some sort of a problem, as I am not yet ready to take on a family of my own. In fact, now every health problem I face, even a headache, is diagnosed by people as arising out of loneliness.
Ladki haath se nikal gayi, uh?
I fail to understand why are we so rigid about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in certain silly things but not in major things. The way I look at it, dominating someone, taking advantage of someone, abusing someone are all things which should be unacceptable. And not someone trying to live their life on their own terms!
We only put a leash on things we are scared of, that we cannot control. A girl is like that. With boundless energy, limitless patience and an amazing will to succeed at whatever she does. Giving rise to the need of putting a leash on her, so she can be controlled at all times by society.
And unfortunately most women do not know their own strength, because of the conscious effort of society to not let her realise it. When I see an urban woman struggling within the realms of deep patriarchy, I cannot but think of the elephant that has been chained on a small nail! A lot similar to the elephant, we women have been deeply engrained with the thought that we are dependent and cannot break free. While the shackles that bind a woman are so easily breakable (predominantly because of her inner strength), she never really breaks it.
And then when a strong powerful woman comes along, she gets to hear a lot of unkind things – a slut, too aggressive, spoilt, must not be getting enough (sex) etc. These are some of the remarks I have heard about strong, no-nonsense women. Including me.
Bottom line – our society lacks empathy. We see the unsmiling faces of people and judge them, without understanding what caused their unhappiness. We judge people for not being very helpful and friendly with us, conveniently overlooking what we might have done to cause their cautious behaviour.
People ask me very often about #metoo and why women come up with their stories after so many years. I have only one answer for them. Because a girl is punished for being the victim. Such is the irony of a girl’s life. When someone touches us inappropriately, the first emotion we feel should ideally be anger, but instead what we feel is shame. We are ashamed to be vulnerable. We are ashamed of the fact that someone wants to victimize us. Because we are told it is our fault. Because it is our freedom which will be taken away first.
If she speaks up, there will be rumours and accusations of how she wanted it and encouraged it. If she speaks up, she is the only one who will lose her freedom of movement. If she speaks up, she will be called brazen. Because talking about touching, voluntary or otherwise, is not an appropriate subject. In such a scenario, isn’t it better to not worry about what others think of us or say about us?
Let us all pledge to ‘get out of hand’, kyonki haath se nikalna achha hai!