RANJINI BALAN

Reading Mudmayee Chaturvedi’s “The bits and pieces of freedom” (Open Page May 25) and Srividya Sivakumar’s “Women, freedom and what it means to them” (Open Page June 1) was like staring into a mirror. There are many of us who can identify with the freedom that has been so condescendingly bestowed upon us and yet feel that innate sense of being enslaved by conditions, clauses and footnotes in fine print that come along with it.

The New Woman’s expectations have gone far beyond the pursuit of a desired lifestyle. True, we can make our own choices in education, career or marriage, but it is only superficial. What lies beneath this glossy coating of “pseudo independence” (due credit to Ms Chaturvedi for having defined it with such panache) are protocols governed by the very givers of it. The hidden assumption is that perhaps this independence will appease our need to feel liberated, while later on we maybe expected to compromise more than what we bargained for.

Balancing act

I hail from a matriarchal family where women have the upper hand in almost all matters. But it only pertains to their delimiting roles as daughters, wives or mothers. We have been encouraged to pursue academic or professional interests but without disturbing the delicate balance of domestic life. When I tilted the balance to favour doctoral studies over marriage, eyebrows were raised. With immediate effect started unsolicited opinions revolving around my matrimonial prospects. I have been told that today, men are more tolerant of their spouses’ interests and that I would be “permitted” to study even after marriage. My question is – why do I need to seek approval or permission for a freedom that is de jure mine? It is a blatant decree stamped in the name of a begrudgingly conferred consent.

A friend with a promising medical career, decided to go back to work a year after she had a baby. Of course prevailing norms and family opinion expected her to oblige to her duties as a full time mother. Nevertheless she was able to take care of her child and work quite efficiently. The beginning of motherhood does not necessarily mean the cessation of individual existence. Women can multi task with ease nowadays. They just need to be given the space to do it.

When juggling marriage, children and career it’s very convenient to put our lives on hold so that theirs run smoothly. But for them to be compatible and adjusting to our needs is wishful thinking.

Right to exercise

For many women music, arts, theatre and other recreational pleasures of life have become non-existent merely because of the lack of approval and encouragement from their husbands or children or others. One of them explained very simply that she had lost the freedom to make the choice on her own long back. The untold irony is that for many of these women, freedom is not taken away. They just give up the rights to exercise it.

And whatever vestiges of it remain is lost to the deep and dark recesses of time.After all we are the best judges of our own happiness. So to my fellow women I say- the sky is yours. Spread your wings and soar.

njini33@gmail.com

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