Born in a Bengali community and to super cool parents, Women’s Day did not have much significance for me till I reached my mid-20s. Honestly, who cares about 8th March when all you get is a rosogulla at school and a few boring speeches in the assembly. You do not even get a holiday. Even in college, I never understood why this was so important.
I graduated from one of the popular private institutes in India, where girls dominated the batch with an equal distribution of power between both genders. Yes, of course, there were a few more restrictions placed on girls but that never bothered me. I had nowhere to go after 2:00 pm; who cares if the hostel timings are till 10:00 PM or 12:00 AM. I remember my batch-mates used to complain a lot regarding the dress code. First years not to be seen in jeans, short dresses were frowned upon even when super seniors wore them during events. I was indifferent to all those. Who bothers dressing up when your batch mates have already seen you in your weirdest attire, and you don’t need to step out of the campus when it provides everything (not to mention that I was a fashion disaster and that too never bothered me).
In a country with the lowest per capita rate of rapes, I was living a protected life at that time – protected by family, friends and sometimes rules. Nirbhaya case was just another crime – the brutality of which would have been equal even when inflicted on men. World trade centre, Hotel Taj massacre, genocide by Hitler – all these were heinous crimes too – far gorier when you think of the scale. Except for GDs or debate competitions, nobody else bothers about keeping rape statistics in mind when all around, you see no trace of differentiation between two genders. Majority of my friends till college were men and they rarely made me feel any different as a woman. They laughed at my jokes; my class notes were always important to them. I am not saying that I was the heart of their attention but what I am trying to say is, there was no striking difference in behaviour to shake me off my indifference about this issue. I always felt life would be like this, or even better when I will start working and earn independently.
Independence! What a beautiful thing to say! I will be earning my living. I had secured my place as an employee in one of the leading telecom companies in the world. I felt I earned it all. I could go anywhere I wanted. I could stay outside until the time I wanted. I could wear anything I wanted. Eat anything I wanted. The whole world seemed to me like an easily accessible toy. I WAS INDEPENDENT!
Or Was I?
The consciousness of my identity as a woman started pricking me when I started living on my terms. Ironical isn’t it? I realised how unsafe I was– physically and emotionally. Nobody cares why I was late. All they care about is that it is past midnight and you are on the streets – all by yourself, and so you might have gone off to party with strange men. Nobody cares why you are in front of your laptop screen sipping coffee at 9:00 pm in the office. All they care about is that you have got the highest increment that year and so you might have slept with your boss. I remember reading an article where it said – people stop questioning when you are successful, and that’s wrong. They never stop questioning. Responsibility, ethics, morality – these are just shackled by conventions when it comes down to women, even in the most progressive communities.
I remember there was a time (especially when we were transitioning from a child to an adult) when having a boyfriend did not go well with society. “Ladki to haath se gayi, this girl is such a disgrace … she is hanging around with a guy”. I did not realise when the same society changed its statement to “the girl has reached her marriageable age, and yet she is single. She is supposed to think about her dad, get married and reduce his burden”. It seemed all of a sudden my professional career became an extracurricular activity while marriage, bearing children and everything started taking up the lion’s share of the curriculum. The same people who used to praise me so much every time I got promoted to a new class with flying colours looked at me with mockery.
When I gave them the news of making it to an IIM expecting their blessings, they said, “What is the use of your education when you could not get anyone to share your life with till now”. It seemed I should have only one aim now – get a guy and settle, sacrifice my career as it is useless. In a sense, they were right I guess. My parents denied my money. They cannot live off their daughter’s earnings. Is this why I studied so hard so that I can make a perfect trophy wife for someone else? Or cater to the needs of someone else’s life when the one who gave birth to me, raised me fulfilling all my necessities and demands are ageing each day?
In a country like India, where a large fraction of women are denied the most basic rights, my problems are just like the monotonous rant of a silver spooned kid who wants more. What more can you expect when you are receiving a masters degree at the age of 27. I had a dream of earning an education from the masters of their field, and that happened after CAT 2017. What I faced were just a few pebbles on the way. I am lucky. But how many of us even get the right to dream? Most of us don’t even get the basic right – education, or more basic - respect. We form half of the human resource in our country. We have what it takes to be the finest leaders. We are the managers who have proven themselves in all fields. Denying us equality is like robbing our nation from half of what it is supposed to achieve. Let us not deny anyone from their share of opportunity.
Let us all create a nation, where all of us are equally respected, where we DO NOT NEED to celebrate a day reminding how special we are. Because what we want is not some special treatment but equality.
About the Author
This article is written by Proma Chowdhary, a PGP 1 candidate at IIM Nagpur. She completed her B.Tech from KIIT, Bhubaneshwar and then worked for 3.5 years with Ericsson at their Kolkata office. Before joining IIM Nagpur, she had B-School admission offers from NMIMS Mumbai, Great Lakes Chennai, IMT Ghaziabad and IIM Vishakhapatnam. Apart from academics, she is passionate about singing.