Celebrating women, like many other soft issues, is a special outcome of industrialization in the West. India has been sensitive to not only equality of the genders, but the value of women in making life happy as if it is Gods own habitat. It was professed that wherever women were revered, the Gods resided there. This incontrovertible fact was acknowledged thousands of years ago and put into practice. Women icons of the ancient period are revered even today in India. From Anusuya, the wise to Sita the pious to Laxmi Bai the warrior, the list is very long. For brevity we need to come to our own times.
Even at the beginning of our new form of democracy, India started with equal rights to women under the Constitution of India, which came into effect from 26 January 1950. Due to loss of freedom for several centuries, India went into a defensive mode, whereby women receded into the backyard. When life and honour itself is under constant threat, protection of women becomes more important than anything else. Indian women were equal partners in the freedom movement, going to jail and suffering incarceration. Nothing could stop them, nothing kill their spirit. They owned the responsibilities of creating new India after 1947 with equal elan. They occupied the highest offices, made a mark in all fields: social, political, financial, academic, scientific, technological, legal etc.
For us the word “woman” includes “man’ as in wo+man. That brings me to a question that I pose today to everyone: can someone put a comma correctly in the following formulation- “man without woman”? Can it be read as: man,without woman? Or should it be read as: man without, woman”? Or it is not possible to put the comma? Isn’t there an inherent equality? Is there any scope for the one dominating the other? Isn’t it like a perfect wheel keeping one ahead of the other before the positions get reversed? That will solve the whole debate of gender issues emerging out of an industrial culture. Is getting a paid job, taking away half her time every day, the best way to empower her or there are better alternatives? Can monetary empowerment of women alone suffice? Where to begin and where to stop in this search for total empowerment of women to make them happy?
A few unsettling developments need attention. There are, no doubt, significant achievements in empowerment of women since international attention was focused by the activists and advocacy groups. However, an unpleasant but the most disturbing issue relates to matrimonial divorces. The number of divorce cases has been on the increase. More legal treatises and judgements have been written on divorce cases than fiction or poetry on women in the past five decades! Has the world become less romantic? Nobody can enjoy life without being able to absorb the romance of living in this beautiful world. Why is it that there are millions of women in jails for crimes that were unthinkable even 40 years ago? Has it brought more inequality in their life? Is it a case of over-empowerment or under-empowerment? Has this definition of equality made the women more unhappy than they were before it?
Women’s search for happiness has to continue for many years before making any concrete success. I know only one thing: if the woman in not happy, nobody is happy; if the woman is happy, everyone is happy.
What makes India one of the happiest among the first five countries in the global happiness index? Women, of course! How do they do that? They are one and multiple- daughter, beloved, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law etc (in fact, English language can’t accommodate all the terms of her social status). They run the homes. They manage the family. They are the source of happiness. Under new age influences, that happiness is turning into unhappiness for many women. Political offices in millions are going to demand their services when 50% reservation for women becomes the law, denting the happiness of their personal life. They are left with no time for themselves.
Isn’t it time for the International Women’s Day organizers to devise a healthy and happy routine for the modern empowered woman? Or is it only re-inventing the power house of happiness in life? My personal view in the strictest positive sense is that nature has endowed the woman with so much empowerment that she can empower all others. She is the power house.
Today Holi is being celebrated throughout India. It is the festival of colours. This is a day for gay abundance. Colours are applied to the people and coloured water is sprinkled. Men and women play with colours on this day. There is no discrimination on the basis of gender. It is time when change of season is being witnessed. Harsh winter is over, even as it tries to linger on, like the youngones trying to play Holi late in the afternoon though it is time for bathing. There is another cause for celebrations- the crops are getting ready for harvesting. Good returns are expected. The mood is thus happy.
Happy Holi to all.