It is a general observation that I am having over the past few days as an individual and as a woman in general. Women, I had observed over the years (with my mother and aunts), never really wish or thrive to take the front seat for anything, how much educated they may be! Women tend to be satisfied with the success and achievements of their husband, brothers or any other male member. I am person who is in that stage of her life where she is trying very hard to build a career and make a place for herself in the society, coupled with the fact that she tries very hard to change people’s mindset about age-old tranditions and customs that degrade women and promote gender equality.

 Our country is currently in such a state where we have witnessed a huge number of “she”roes, especially clad in hijabs and burqas. The video from JMI University recently that went viral couple of days back lead us all to think that “we are not the weaker section of the society – when need arises we can anything (even more) than men can!” Though men are generally termed as the protectors and maintainers of women, women gather up all their stored courage and come out to fight and protect, whenever need arises – I guess this same point was proved by the teenage girls of JNI when their male friend was beaten up by the police!

However, around the same time something happened to me, which lead me to mull over all the incidents, raise questions on myself and come up with a suitable answer. I work as the Head of the Department in an academic institution in Mangalore and I have a male colleague heading another department in the same institution. We both work at the same designation and are very well coordinated with each other, in respect to our duties. The day the video of the “she”roes from JMI went viral, we both were called for a meeting with the institute management. Usually in these meeting, I prefer to speak minimally and to the point because busy people don’t really like lethargic and dragged conversations. Hence, I limited my speech to the minimal. My male colleague, who is blessed to have the linguistic advantage over me in this region of the country, spoke animatedly and without any sort of hesitation. Though the focal point of our meeting was discussed and suggestions were made in accordance to what we wanted – there was something else that kept on lingering in our head. When we are in the company of a man, whom we see is leading in the correct and proper manner, do we prefer to fall or rather step back? Do we let man lead us always as they are “The Heroes?”

I have been raised in a women dominant family – my late father and mother always encouraged us to fight our battles ourselves and never for once did they make us feel till date that we are daughters and not sons! I still remember the day when I scolded a man, on my way back from school, for throwing orange peels on the road when I was aged 8. That day, I feel, was my first instance of “speaking up and taking a stand against wrong.” In fact, this is the one thing that I constantly keep on urging all my girl students – “to speak up” – not just in class but in life. But then, why do I fall back when I am in “my male colleague’s” company – why I forget or fail to raise valid points, which I later realize I should have said or asked? Is it because when me, or any girl/women in general, is in the company of someone trustworthy, especially the opposite gender, we feel that it is always better for him to lead?

I know my situation here was in stark contrast to that of the ladies of JMI – they were fighting for their lives there and I was not fighting for anything at all! But I just felt an irony when I contemplated both situations because they both involved “women.” Maybe the Almighty has bestowed a huge amount of inner strength and courage on us – to be used in sheer times of necessity and distress – but at other times, we accept the realms of patriarchy without any complaints; maybe that is why it becomes so easy for any working women to give up her job for the sake of her family! But this leads me to raise another question – is it also the reason why we go on submissively tolerating domestic violence (something I am strictly against of)?

I am still not very satisfied with the explanation that I have provided for myself because this explanation again raises a series of contradictory questions but I would want the readers to really reach out to me and provide me with valid answers!!

Dr Ishani Chakrabartty, Assistant Professor and Head, PAFGC, Mangalore University

ishani.kaushik@gmail.com


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