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‘Why Are We Chained In Our Mangalsutras, While Men Go Scot-Free?’

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Why do we leave our home to be a part of the man’s house? Why does the baby get the father’s surname? Why do we go through an identity crisis? Why do biases exist against the dresses which women wear? Why are we chained with the mangalsutra, bichiya, sindoor and choodis, while men go scot-free? Why do only we perform Karva Chauth for their long lives? Finally, am I the only one who addresses these challenging questions on a day-to-day basis?

Since childhood, I never understood the rationale behind these questions. I have the habit of asking ‘why’ for every norm that is customary or implied. To get the usual response, ‘Beta duniya aise hi chalti hai,’ (Child, the world runs like this.) is bizarre for me. I’m perplexed by the modus operandi of our society. More importantly, to see the women in agreement and in sync with it. Again, these are my thoughts, and not related to a specific person. I’m not making a statement degrading the image of men. All I’m trying to say is that I find it highly difficult to stay in ‘a man’s world’.

I don’t expect it to be a woman’s world either, but I seek equality. I did not take my husband’s last name, not because he’s a Muslim (as if that ever bothered me), or because I love Srivastava (I always felt it’s too long a surname), or because there is a lot of paperwork involved in changing from one surname to another. Many women don’t change it to avoid that hassle. I didn’t change it simply because I did not expect him to take mine. As mentioned before, it’s just about equality! This being said, I’m head over heels for my man. The hardships I have survived and still can survive to sustain this relationship is unthinkable for many, but I feel that loving someone does not imply losing one’s self.

Image provided by author.

A girl might earn as well as her spouse does but is not given credit if she does not exhibit an interest in cooking. She could be great at her highly acclaimed job but is recognised more for her hot paranthas. Don’t shake your head in disagreement, as this is prevalent in our very own society. Luckily, I got a sasural where I earn equal respect as my husband. I can talk with my in-laws with ease and check them whenever they go wrong, much to my mom’s dislike. We often get into a heated argument as she begins with a dialogue which drives me crazy – “Beta, ladkiya ko ye shobha nahi deta.” (Child, all this doesn’t suit a girl.) In my family, we’re two sisters. Honestly, I’m glad. Firstly, since there’s nothing like sisters bonding, and secondly, and primarily, because I would have never understood the extra privilege my brother would have accessed from my parents, if any.

If a woman prefers to work more than maintaining a home, then she’s described as a highly independent, modern and even a ‘Jhansi ki Rani’. Similarly, if a man loves taking part in domestic chores, he’s looked down upon. So, even if someone tries to make that change, he/she is precluded by the society. I can’t help but wonder who made these rules and why people still abide by the old rules of ancient books.

As you may have guessed by now, I love my identity and independence. I earn not only to contribute to the GDP but also for my inner peace, a thing that is of utmost importance to me! I compete with my husband at every stage of life – studying, working, weight-lifting. Like him, I too can carry bags of 15-20 kgs with ease. I love to see a family where couples work as equals and share mutual trust and respect; where a daughter/bahu is given the same privileges as a son/damad. Yes, the society is changing and most of my women friends are lucky to have life-partners who understand them; yet most of us go through this turmoil on a daily basis.

God is kind enough to bless me with a baby girl. In future, I would like to see her act and think the way I do – to spend her sweat and blood for the man she loves, to take pride in being someone’s daughter and wife, at the same time, to be an independent thinker, an entity of her own!

A version of this article has been published elsewhere.
You must be to comment.
  1. Manas Mohapatra

    I’d love to know your response to the dilemma of sur-naming your children. Do you invent a new surname or use a mix of both you yours and your spouse’ surnames 🙂

    1. Saumya Srivastava

      Well in that case, I should introduce you to my daughter – Mysha Jawed Srivastava 🙂

  2. Manas Mohapatra

    Loved this piece

    1. Saumya Srivastava

      Thanks Manas 🙂

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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