Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Multitasking Stree

The Indian Stree or woman, a man's consort has had a path breaking journey in India.  Today, she walks tall besides her man, having faced oppression  since ancient times.  

Tulsidas wrote, "Dol, gawar, shudra, pashu, nari, ye sabe tadan ke adhikari".Translated it means, Animals, illiterates, lower caste and women should be subjected to beating." Thus was the Indian mindset.  Not surprising,   that for a long period of time,  Indian  women found it difficult to break free of such twisted mindsets.

In the olden days women had to bear the brunt of social malaises . Sati ( act of dying at the funeral pyre of her husband), Jauhar by Rajput women (  mass suicide when their husband's lost a battle), child marriage, widow remarriage, Purdah (veil), little or no education for girls, devdasis ( A custom in South India where girls were dedicated to gods and lived an entire life as servants of god, living on alms received by the temple).

It took social reformers  in the 19th century to bring a bout a radical change in the status and role of women in India.  One of  the most earnest social reformers was Raja Ram Mohan Roy.  His stance against the ritual of Sati resulted in Lord William Bentinck banning Sati in 1829.  He also raised his voice against social evils like child marriage and widow remarriage.He founded the Brahmo Samaj for emancipation of women.  Other social reformers were Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekanand, Swami Dayanand Saraswati.

More recently Our Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi was instrumental in improving the status of women in India.  He said, " Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity". His encouragement resulted in Sarojioni Naidu, Vijaylaksmi Pandit, Aruna Asif Ali, Suchitra Kriplanbi, Rajkumari Amrit  Kaur actively being in the forefront of the Indian freedom movement 

Today's Indian woman dons  multitude roles.  Her life begins as a daughter in a home.  As she grows she is a sister to her siblings.  From a tender age she is made aware  that  a daughter and  a  sister she has to be an active contributor to the household.  Be it taking care of her siblings or giving a helping hand  in the household affairs, thus sharing the responsibilities of her mother.

After completing her education, she chooses a career and becomes economically independent contributing to her parents and  herself.   As  she comes of age, she has the right to choose a life partner, and if this does not happen her family and friends  find a suitable match for her.  Thus begin's her life's journey  as a wife and daughter-in-law. As she becomes a married woman and forms ties with her new found family, she never fails to play her role of a sister and a daughter even after marriage.  She continues  to support her siblings and takes care of her aged parents , especially if she does  not have a brother to take care of her parents in old age.

As a wife she walks along the journey of life, sharing every responsibility, joy and sorrow of her new family.  As a daughter-in-law she is instrumental in looking after her in - laws and being a pivot for cementing relationships in her new avtaar as the daughter-in-law.

And one day she becomes a mother. She now  has the twin roles of balancing her family and her profession.  While many women skilfully manage both with the help of support system of in laws who take care of her kids, some others depend on maids to manage her kids.  Yet others choose to take a professional break while many women give up their careers  for family.  Being a mother is perhaps  the most important role of her life.  She now has the monumental task of shaping her children's mind set and destiny.  She gives her children sanskaar, or values .She goes  out of the way to give them the facilities  she might have been denied as a child,   and she strives hard to keep up with the changes of the new generation, understanding that there would be many changes in the upbringing of her kids from her own times.

Parenting is a challenge and she happily takes it up in her pursuit to raise her kids who are balanced and will be a  valuable  citizen of the society.

As an employee, she shares the highs and lows of her colleagues.  As a good co worker at work she displays the spirit of congeniality and team work.  She shares and bears the added responsibility of work whenever a colleague is going through a personal crisis.

Her work domain is diverse.  She can be found in every strata of profession.  Women in India have adorned high offices as Prime Minister, President, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition.  They  are making their presence felt in all arenas.  We have Smt Pratibha Patil as President, Bachendri Pal, scaling the Everest, Karnam Malleswari  winning medals in International events.  Education, Sports, Politics, Media, Art, Civil Services, Bureaucrats, Culture, have all seen women achievers. 

In the last phase of her life she turns a Grandmother.  She dotes on her grand children, telling them stories and facts of bygone times.  She pampers them and  strives to give her grand children everything and anything she might have missed out on,  while raising her own children.  Her dreams are no more hers but those of her grand children.

In the past decade a lot has been done to recognize a woman's caliber and improve her rights. A decade back, Government of India declared 2001  as the year of Women's Empowerment. The National Policy of Women's  Empowerment was passed in 2001.  Last year Rajya Sabha passed the Women's Reservation  Bill, ensuring 33%  reservation to women in Parliament  and State Legislative bodies.

Women have already made the transition from  the kitchen to Cosmos.  The late Kalpana Chawla is a shining example of this.  We have also made the  change in perspective of a housewife to that of a Home Maker.  Now the need of the hour is to add a new role to the Indian women. We need to acknowledge  women who quit their jobs to look after home and family as Home Managers  and to recognize their efforts as a Profession rather than a thankless job.  If  the women of our country rally  around this issue, the day will not be far when a woman gets monetary compensation for being a Home Manger as opposed to getting revenue from her spouse as a good will gesture to manage her home.  Heres's wishing that the day is not far when Home Managers  will be economically independent. 

So, through her entire lifetime, the Indian woman juggles various roles efficiently, giving so much love affection and care to  her loved ones, truly in the spirit of nurturing.  

This post is an Entry for Indusladies  International Women's  Day contest, " A Perspective on Roles of Indian Women".

P.S. I am happy that my post has made it to the Top 10 entries :)

I am tagging 3 friends:  

Here is the link to the contest details :

Wishing you all a very happy International Women's Day!


  1. Good post, Abha. Just reading this made me feel like the life of a woman is so tiresome! Not that we don't think about it, but you know, when one reads in as a third person, it seems like a super daunting task, and one that we don't realise we ourselves perform each day :-) Three cheers to women!!!

  2. @writerz Yes it is a daunting task esp after marriage. ditto.... 3 cheers to women!

  3. Very nice take on the topic.I loved the way you portrayed women in different roles.All the best for the contest.

  4. Excellent .. loved the post :) I hope that sums up my take on the topic


  5. Great post...and explained so very well..all the best for the cotest.

  6. Awesome post!! You've explained the different roles very well by highlighting them! Congrats for being in the top ten also :)

  7. How many roles we play during our life time !! Nice post Abha....My best wishes to you for the contest. :)

    Did Tulsidas write that one ??? Very weird....

  8. hai,

    even now the media,especially visual media , most of the time show-cast/portrait women as a decorative article, abusing women, wicked women and so on. Some senior or star actors dialouges are that women should not talk much, they should be calm, they should obey the words of the men. what is pity in this is most of their fans are women and they enjoy this. the words of bharathi came to mind - nenju porukkuthiliye.


  9. @ Uma yes indeed we play so many roles in our lives. thanks for the wishes. I came across the quote by Tulsidas on the net, so i assume it is quoted right.

    @ Punitha A lot has been done for improving the status of women and a lot needs to be done too. You are right, merely changing the laws will not be sufficient. what is required is a change in mindset at he grass root level. What does ' nenju porukkuthiliye' mean?

  10. Great Post Abha - Loved the article !! Keep it Up

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