My freedom is mine; I am born with this, a gift from Mother Nature. But this freedom is mistaken for the term widely used in Indian society— ‘allow’. 

My friends and family think my husband allowed me to study and work, and that’s why I’m so independent. But hear out my side of the story, too. 

Independence

We, women, are conditioned with the thought that we must get permission from the men in our lives. Till we are married off, we have to take permission and make sure our father ‘allows’ us to do things a certain way, depending on the conditioning of society. 

Once we are married, we make sure our in-laws ‘allow’ us to do things we like, only if they approve of the idea. Once the husband starts earning well, most of our decisions are taken by him. We will only be ‘allowed’ by our husbands to do things we like if he thinks it’s right for the family and makes his parents happy. It’s as if we, women, don’t know what’s right for our family.

Once the son grows up, it’s the son who decides for the mother. Then we do things to please our sons. Then comes the daughter-in-law. We do things as per her likings in order to please our son. The thread continues to shift to grandson as we fear he may ask us to leave the home in our old age.

The word ‘allow’ is a factor that is instilled in us from the day we are born. The day a girl is born, she becomes a ‘liability’ as the father has to earn enough to pay her dowry, entertain guests in the marriage and make sure gifts are given well to all the in-laws. All the hard-earned money of the father is blown up for others and nothing for the girl, who might need it as security for her future.

Karma

Many a time a girl may go through physical, mental, and emotional abuse at the hands of her own relatives. Now, if she says a word about this, then it’s her karma that is to be blamed. It’s due to her past life karma that she was abused. 

Sometimes, I feel this karma theory is overrated. It’s an easy way to put the blame on them. It’s our actions and lack of mindfulness many times that make our actions go wrong. Wrong parenting can ruin a child emotionally forever. Many scars can never be healed. A mark remains always to be seen. That’s why it’s important to connect to the child emotionally, and a channel of communication must always stay open. 

Once we blame karma, we are free ourselves from our actions. So easy… lol

Finance

A son is sent to the best school, but a girl needs to save her father’s money. Till she is married, her life is shaped by her father’s mental conditioning. Then comes a big leap, her dream man comes in only to make sure he has a maid without allowance. She cooks, takes care of all, but is anyone even taking care of her needs?

All the ancestral money is for the son as he is the heir. Son may blow up the money however he thinks is right. If the daughter-in-law speaks, she becomes the greedy one. Once she is married, she belongs to the in-laws, like a suitcase shuffling from one hand to another. Any problem she faces, her father says, “Don’t come back as a divorcee, it may ruin my name in society. Just sit in a room and don’t talk.”

Dream in the hell, can she? 

Now, if the husband is not able to earn, the girl is forced to ask her father, or relatives for money, so that the husband can stand up on his feet. She may even have to sell her jewelry to pay off her husband’s bad debts. If a man drinks in society, he is treated and spoken of with big pride, but if a woman drinks, she becomes the one who ruins her home. 

Why is the picture of perfect women portrayed to be standing in the kitchen and cooking in an orange saree?

Since childhood, I had a great aversion to entering the kitchen as I had a notion that once in the kitchen; we remain in the kitchen and that becomes our well and we can’t think beyond food. Maybe that’s why I can’t cook well to date (see that’s why I don’t invite too many guests home.. if ever you are coming home, be prepared to eat healthy but non-tasty food).

Well, in 2003, I had got into an animation company in the USA, but could not gather the strength to live my dream as I was trained to serve the husband and in-laws only.

But, when I left for the United Nations in 2018 to represent my country on women’s empowerment, I was flabbergasted. A dream come true! And it all came through my work. My work gave me the independence to fly and see the ocean and go beyond the well (hope you know the story of the frog in the well. It thinks that the well is the world. But the fish makes it realise that there is something called an ocean. It’s then that the frog realizes the different perspectives of seeing things).

Sometimes we just need that one hand to pull us through. And that hand came to me through my work (remember the ‘Dor’ movie train scene). I was trained to think that I was born in the best religion. But my notion broke when I went to the United Nations, New York, and saw what amazing things women were doing out there. They were all doing something meaningful with their lives.

Religion, society, the family have nothing to do with our happiness. We have to build on the virtues and be truthful. Truth can really set us free. Canada is a country with 50:50 gender equality in parliament. We have not even achieved that in our own house where the son is the sole owner of the father’s income and the daughter stands nowhere and so is the daughter-in-law. She takes care of all, but hardly anyone pays her a decent allowance. She has to stand up for herself.

I stood up for myself and earned my independence. This came from my own earnings. It is important to earn, and this can be done only if we train our daughters to be equal to our sons. The training has to come in her upbringing or she has to struggle to find it on her own.

Where I went wrong was that I was looking for my happiness in pleasing my father, in-laws, husband, and son. But this stopped when I turned 40. I decided to live for myself, fulfill my dreams, do things that make me happy. Many women don’t even know what they like or dislike. 

Many hate to wear sarees but still are wrapped in the 6mtr cloth coz their in-laws want that. How can a father-in-law decide what you have to wear?! Seriously!

I remember the doors being closed on me in my hometown as the mother-in-law thought I might spoil her daughter-in-law by asking her to stop working as a maid but to keep a help instead, or by asking her to wear what she liked and not what the father-in-law wanted her to. They pay a maid more than the woman of the house. 

We think we are modern but purdah, dowry, the seclusion of a widow, sex abuse are still very much prevalent in our country. We all need to work towards uplifting women on the whole.

Self-realization

Mahaveer, Buddha changed the world only after they realized their own truth. What’s our truth? How can we make others happy when we ourselves are not happy? If you want to make your family happy, do what makes you happy first.

I realized where my happiness comes from, my work and my books, go realize yours.

Women’s empowerment is a social responsibility. 

We talk bad about the West many times, but I feel the independence women have there, if we Indians get that, we might easily be flaring to the top ten happiest countries of the world.

Nobody takes a decision for me. It’s my sole right and soul right. It’s the free will that we have to learn to instill. Women need to stand up for themselves. I did and so can you!

I am smiling as I end this blog, a big smile. I know you will stand up for yourself… promise me you will.

Let’s celebrate each day as Women’s day.

Bali Flying high with my besties in Bali
Fly high, girl! 1 River Rafting
Fly high, girl! 2 At United Nations with my Japanese friends

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Dr.Jayshree OM

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