By Apoorva Puranik:
Being a single woman in an alien city, away from your comfort zone, thrust into a space which is not yours is a scary thought to begin with. The responsibilities of being a new comer to a large cosmopolitan city of the likes of Mumbai are huge, unfathomable. The onus of carrying one’s ‘Izzat’ and upholding one’s ‘sanskar’ is burdened on the shoulders of the woman, who bravely decides to open up the doors of her dreams for once. She feels going to the city as being liberated from the clutches of boundaries and restrictions behind her, but little does she know that in this new ‘promised land’ of hers, she is differently, if not more is still bound.
Along with being new and alone in the city, the highest responsibility that comes along is that of ‘being a woman’.
Public spaces today demand a reason for them being used by a woman. Loitering on the streets, at the bus stop, on the marine drive promenade, on the ‘kite’ is strictly restricted to men as they cannot be questioned for their purpose of being there. However if this is followed suit by women, it takes no time for eyebrows to be raised and tongues to lash out at the audacity of these women to be out without purpose.
Recently, gender experts from a legal news service surveyed that, India ranks 4th in the list of most dangerous places for women in the world. Our country is so largely and so clearly divide into the westernised ‘them’ and the Indian ‘us’ that bridging the gap seems near to impossible.
Gender divide, apartheid and discrimination have long been an integral part of the ‘civilised and cultured’ society we boast of. The ‘little hapless woman’ attitude has been so thoroughly infused in the minds of the people at large, that even the woman herself is astounded and confused and questions her own ability.
We as a country have been boasting about the diminishing differences between towns and big cities, but is it so? Leave out the big multiplexes and fancy restaurants that have marked their place in a lot of towns lately, the status of women, the cultural difference, the economic revenue etc. have a sharp chasm of difference.
You see the saree clad woman of Mumbai in the local trains, the loud and ‘care for nuts’ attitude of the Delhi females, the smart intelligent retorts of the Bangalore girls. But what happens to the remaining percent which constitute a much larger number of women?
Recently, the rape of an 18 year old at Kalyan station near Mumbai comes as a rude shock to people living in the phantom world of being safe in a big city like Mumbai. However, the intricacy of a heinous assault like rape is also linked to the chastity of the woman before the incident. The crime apart, the first question that comes into minds of the society at large is “what was the woman doing there/with them/at that time of the day etc. It is ultimately the fault of the woman for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Today, the reason why women have come out to rebel with a gimmick like the ‘slut walk’ is mere frustration. It is anger, boiling to its fullest which has been put on a simmer by the society. For the socio economically liberated woman of the city, to the docile small town girl to the ignorant tribal woman, it is always been and will always be ‘Your chastity is your responsibility’
Liberation may be a distant dream, but in every corner of the country we have a young teenage girl, with mehendi on her hands, standing in front of the mirror and asking herself… why me?