I am a 24-year-old Indian woman. I belong to a middle class family and am a resident of a state which has, since its birth been in a trance facing the no-stable-government-no-stable-CM syndrome. Which state you ask? Let it be. Who wants to discuss the torn condition of India on this day! Isn’t today the day of parades, patriotic songs on blaring loudspeakers, tricolour sandwiches and high flowing flags? Isn’t today the day of speeches filled with shameless lies followed by echoing claps? Isn’t today the day of independence?
I am sorry India. Sorry I can’t write a sugar coated article. I am also sorry that I am not producing before you something iconic and something that has never been read before. I am sorry that the number of chains around my legs exceeds the number of wings I have been given to fly. I am sorry for being a negative voice in your bright day filled with lots of saffron, white and green. I am sorry because even you know that there is nothing happy about this Independence Day.
While there are many different things to discuss about independence and the state of this country, I choose to be selfish and talk about myself today. I shall talk about me, the 24-year-old Indian woman. And before you proceed, please take this in the form of a warning that I am going to talk of the same old things you often hear about women. If you are bored of them already, you have no right to read a word after this, because trust me, you won’t understand. I am not sure if I would have been happier if I was this age when India was celebrating its 30th or say, 45th Independence Day. In fact, forget happier; keeping up with the celebrations of today, let’s talk of freer. I am not sure if I would have been freer then. But I can tell you without an ounce of doubt, that I am not free today.
I am not free to move out of my house after 6:00 p.m. alone. Yes, 6:00 p.m. in my state is the time when if you come back home, and you are a girl, and you live with your parents; you meet very angry eyes. Angry voices on phone if you don’t live with your parents. And then, after that 6:00 p.m. talk on how no place is safe, and my 67th reminder to my parents that I am a grown up woman who can take care of herself, I am not free to be guiltless. Because why should I blame them for worrying for their daughter when parents of those sons who can rape after 6:00 p.m. should actually be blamed, and those I-am-a-powerful-male-breed people who rape, and stalk and fling acid on women should be blamed instead.
I am not free to be the modern Indian woman who does not want to marry before the age of 28. I am not free to decide my career path without hurtful taunts. I am that 24-year-old Indian woman who is not free to decide at what age she wants to give birth to her first child without being looked down upon by numerous and humongous number of eyes. Nowhere did I say that those eyes will pressurize me to take a decision against my choice, but I am definitely not free to avoid those looks, shut those eyes and strangle those voices.
I am not free to decide when I can meet my boyfriend without thinking a thousand times, because that’s not a good thing for me. Because, and I quote a few honourable men of my society here, “because I am not THAT type of a girl”
I am that woman with whom many others of my age won’t be able to connect because life isn’t the same for all. But I am also that woman who constitutes a large section of the country. I am to be blamed for it you say? Like many others who fight for their independence I should have done the same you say? Well, for all you know, I did fight. I fought and won the freedom to write these words.
But I am still not free from the eyes, the voices, the sneaking shadows after dark.
Not free from the taunts, the fear and the desire for a law which shall punish those who touch me without my permission.
Not free from the image that my country has painted for me, for a woman. And I am sure you all know what that image is. Please don’t shrug and avoid eye contact with your conscience with an excuse that you are unaware.
I am also not free to give this article an author’s name, because I am not accustomed to be so free to express myself. You laugh at me because I am a coward who didn’t even have the courage to write her name in her article? Why did I write it anonymously you ask? Let it be. Who cares for that answer! Isn’t today the day of crushing Indian flags beneath huge, red beacon car tyres on every Indian road?