“How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being.”- Oscar Wilde
Modern Indian Man has never had it so easy -a good job, a satisfactory income, a home to return to at the end of the day where he can pull off his shoes and socks and put up his feet, waiting for his wife to smother him with service and attention. What's more? His loving wife works and earns too! A modern Indian woman's life is tough. She has many burdens to bear and a very hectic life to the point of being overworked and worn out much before her time.
A magnificent person who does it all smilingly and earns little by way of respect because all that she does is considered a right by the others she serves out of love and affection.
Which makes us wonder...What is a modern Indian woman? What is expected of her?
Paradoxical as it may sound, a modern Indian women is expected to have all the goodness of a Bharatiya Nari with the best traditions of Savitri distilled in her and at the same time she is expected to be modern in look and outlook.
She must care for the elderly and attend to their wants, cook, clean, sew and care for the children and at the same time, go out, work from morning to evening and contribute to the family's kitty.
She is expected to be good at her job and make progress financially and be a go getter. At the same time she must be demure, have good communication skills but be soft spoken and submissive, be sophisticated without being brash and manage a career while giving full attention to everything that needs to be done at home. It is play second fiddle all the way while contributing the maximum to a family.
She should be enlightened citizen committed to make our home, our country, our planet a better place to live in. But... Why do Indian woman even put up with all this? What is in it for her?
Is it the society and the fear of “what people will say” that keeps Indian modern women committed to a path where she has to bear the maximum burden in a family.
As a modern Indian woman she has to take care of her looks to bring it at par with current expectations of modern and trendy but not so much as to step an invisible border, again defined by Indian society. She can wear trendy but not revealing clothes.
She can behave like a modern girl but not mix freely as western girls do. It is against Bharatiyata. To her credit, she does manage things rather nicely while being an enlightened global citizen.
Bharatiyata is one word that encompasses the entire tradition and way of life in India handed down since millennia, even laid out our epics and religious books.
Who will take care of the elderly in the home, attend to all their wants if not the woman in the house? However much she may have studied, even possess a post graduate degree and holds an executive position, in the home her roles are clearly defined.
The home is her domain and she is expected to and does most of the work like cooking, cleaning and ensuring everything is neat and orderly. Taking care of the elderly naturally devolves on her by default.
There are parents in a family but as far as Indian families are concerned, it is the modern Indian woman who balances a career life along with taking care of the children, attending to all their needs and ensuring they study and do their homework.
It does need a strong mental and physical backbone to do all this and surprisingly most career Indian women these days manage it rather efficiently.
However, as it happens when there are too many expectations and bonds in place, a rebellion happens. One can see this all around us.
Modern career women, even before marriage, clearly define what is expected of a marriage, what she will do and what she will not do. Caring for the elderly certainly does not figure on her list. “Put them in a home for the aged,” she is likely to say. Cooking and cleaning are other responsibilities she wants to be shared or to have someone come in and do it. “Am I a house servant?” she will say.
Just like the boys, she too wants to party and go out. Savitri may have been fine but she didn't have a cell phone, an always on IM system and so many office responsibilities that carry over to her spare time. “My job is important too,” she will say.
The father is expected to share in housekeeping and upbringing of children. May be this is all to the good as modern Indian man learns about the meaning of equality as the modern Indian woman increasingly puts her foot very decisively down on a number of issues.
Pressures of modern education, tight schedules in the family and increasing inroads of western influences means the values of Bharatiyata go flying out of the window and into outer space.
Parents are keen to see children have a good career and naturally no one has time to learn or inculcate traditional Indian values. It is fine to see all of those in movies. Those modern Indian women who have had the benefit of a traditional upbringing find themselves in the Bharitiyata trap and wonder what is so fine about such a rich heritage. In this paradoxical land with a confused mind and identity crisis we see modern Indian women as representational: one genus wrapped and trapped in traditional saris and the other roaming free in modern jeans and tees. Fascinating!
The modern Indian woman is evolving and mutating. Society needs to evaluate change and give Indian woman her due. It is time to redefine Bhartiyata in line with current trends to give women more rights, more voice and above all, consideration.