Nepal | January 22, 2020

Bliss of freedom

Not every woman’s destiny

Prof Shiv Sethi

We keep celebrating International Women’s Day, and our heads are held high with pride. But the question is, are our women really free? Most of them are still under the gritty grasp of slavery, which is the outcome of male chauvinism

A sane philosopher pertinently articulates that if you love someone, set her free. If she comes back, she is yours, if she does not, she was never yours. I see eye to eye with that anonymous philosopher but to a limited extent.

When someone is in deep love, he will possibly make his all out efforts to possess the object of his love and desire.

This possessiveness can at times reach the height of mania. The lover usually becomes very desperate about his love and begins to feel like exercising utmost control over the partner. This is the point where many of the relationships begin to fail and end in sheer fiasco.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau says in his highly famed book ‘The Social Contract’ that man is born free but everywhere he is in chains, and it is also right that no one likes to remain in fetters even for a fraction of a second.

A caged parrot can never be at ease. Even in a cage of gold the imprisoned bird is often found restlessly fluttering and flapping its wings in its attempts to break the bars of the cage and fly in the vast open sky.

Subjugation of any sort is disliked by both animals and humans alike. Unfortunately India has been very notorious in its slavery system.

The great kings of the yore have an ignominious reputation of keeping a large number of slaves, who used to be always available at the beck and call of their masters, but those human slaves had a miserable life with abject conditions to live in.

In the grand epics like the Mahabharata we come across numerous references of the slavery system.

Although today, the evil custom of slavery is no more in practice in the sense it existed in the bygone ages, yet the medieval mindedness of men has not ended fully.

The slavery system is still prevalent in its different manifestations. It has only changed its colour and contours. The feminist writings of modern age writers like Kamla Das, Shashi Deshpande, Venessa R. Sasson and so on shed a flood of light on the heart rending lives of many women who are still doomed to domestic slavery, which is inexplicably suffocating.

These hapless women mutely bear the brunt of smothering domestic drudgery akin to a caged bird in the prison of their household. The thraldom of patriarchy has not loosened its octopus grip over many a woman.

The most loathsome practice of the Pardha system (a religious and social practice of female seclusion prevalent among some Muslim and Hindu communities in South Asia) that has been sternly lambasted by many intellectuals like Amitaz Dharkar is still flourishing unabatedly in many parts of India and many other countries as well.

The symbolic veil in which women remain wrapped is beyond any penetration.

Perhaps, it is too thick to be blown off. Undeniably, the modern day women have attained many milestones. They rub their shoulders with men in several spheres.

Women empowerment is the catch phrase that has gained a lot of currency and held everybody’s fancy also (but it is just a fanciful idea).

Some women from the elite and privileged classes have the freedom to roam after the sun sets. Some of them have also got the luxury of freely frequenting pubs and bars in order to ease out the burden of their anxieties.

Social mores have also undergone a transition to an extent. There is certainly a bright light on the other end of the tunnel.

But how many of the women are fortunate enough to bask under the glory of that light?

The saddening part of the story is yet to come by. The bliss of freedom is not in every woman’s destiny. It brings a huge disgruntlement to a sensitive soul to witness the fact that the regressive mindedness is still there in the air in many nooks and corners of India.

Still the birth of a daughter in many families is considered not an occasion to rejoice over.

The heinous crimes like rapes have not been fully eliminated. Girls are deprived of the requisite education just because they have to be married off and surrendered to some other family one day.

Male child fixation has given birth to many more crimes and gruesome situations.

While watching a crime show on Sony TV, I was appalled to see an educated family fall prey to the ruses of a quack Tantric and mercilessly slaughter an innocent child in the neighbourhood just because the gullible parents were convinced by the eccentric Tantric that if they sacrificed some child of tender age, they would be blessed with a male child.

It is not an isolated case. Many more ghastly tales of the same ilk are there to petrify us.

We keep celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 every year, and our heads are held high with pride on this day.

But the question, with which we are haunted every moment, is, are our women really free? And the answer to this is a big No. Most of them are still under the gritty grasp of slavery, which is the outcome of male chauvinism.

The barbaric episodes of the female foeticide and rapes repeatedly hammer the point that many of us are still the prisoners of our own wanky thoughts when it comes to women.

It is time to alter our attitude visa-a-vis the women of society.

 


A version of this article appears in print on November 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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