By Dr. Bhavna Mittal:
I recently had to give a presentation on the health system and status prevalent in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It turned out to be a rather easy yet dismal task, depressing and predictable. A few improvements here and there could be accounted for, no doubt, but overall the picture is more gloomy than rosy. While I collected information for the presentation, the despicable data and the sad statistics; I realized how facts and figures bring to a more concentrated focus – things we already know.
The health status in UP is deplorable, we all know that, but even I was shocked to see that while the female sterilization rate was 16.5%, among the men it was between 0.1-0.2%. The figure clearly outlines the shadows of ignorance and darkness prevalent in the Bimaru state. Literacy is still low and among the few girls who join schools; a large number drops out to enter into the institute of under-aged marriage and each of these girls goes on to produce on an average 4 children in her lifetime. Life expectancy has reached 60 but there are thousands still for whom each pregnancy brings with it the danger of impending death.
Why am I talking about all this? Because I’m a UP ki chori. My life however has been starkly different, comfortable, and I can claim to understand the rural-urban divide and the gender inequality that persists with respect to health access, but I really can’t understand what people go through.
Education was top priority in my home. My mother’s gynecologist was instructed to tie up her tubes following the birth of their second child irrespective of the sex of the child (I have a younger sister).
So basically overall the going has been good. No one brought up marriage in my home when I was 18 but seven years since my 18th birthday I am for the first time aware of the gender inequality/insecurity a girl in a rural household probably feels when she is pulled out of a local medium school so that her brother can go to an English medium. The situation is obviously not comparable by any standards but the onus of being a girl and an Indian girl at that suddenly seems a little more understandable.
I am now heading towards the dreaded late twenties when even in this age, a girl is supposed to have a last name that’s not her fathers. It’s not that I believe I’ll lose my identity or individuality by this social institution but then it’s not an educational institute where you are required to enter at a stipulated age, right?
They say-“What’s the problem beta? What’s stopping you? Your life won’t be stifled; your professional ambitions won’t be halted; boys are very modern these days”. Then the over-weight middle aged aunties give the examples of the Pepsi lady (woh boy cut waali!) aur woh ICICI waali who wears beautiful pearl necklaces.
As they slip into a mundane conversation over a new pearl set the richest of them recently purchased, I smile and just nod my head. I begin to wonder why they don’t understand that I am not aiming to be some alpha woman, I just have my own theory as far as marriage is concerned. Here goes:-
I’ll marry for Love, not for security, stability or sex else it will result in divorce.
It’s as simple as that. It’s my theory, it suits my sensibilities.Period.
Now coming to the last bit of my title, well it’s a reference to the movie- Girl in yellow boots. To me it depicted the story of a girl who pursued what she believed in.
Hope is a good thing, I believe, it’s important to hold on to it. And that’s exactly what the yellow boots seemed to say to me, they signified her hopes of finding her father. Each one of us has our own hopes and though like the yellow boots they may seem ridiculous to others, it’s important to have them. Her yellow boots gathered dirt along the way but the yellow colour always managed to stream through the dirt and yes in the end there was more mud than the sunny yellow but then as Gandhi said- “Almost everything you do will seem insignificant in the end, but it is important that you do it” because no one else will.
Also in the movie, the girl tells her boy friend in all honestly that he was nothing more than a distraction for her. That’s the kind of thing that scares me when it comes to getting hitched- A marriage that exists to distract me from the fact that I am actually all alone, an institute that distracts me from the fact that I am more in love with the concept of having a husband than with the man my children call their father.
So, I sincerely request everyone to please let me hold on to my yellow boots, my hopes , my beliefs. Maybe in a few years I will give in to conformity, but till then kindly DO NOT DISTRACT ME. I have so much more to do with my life. Don’t you think that too?