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There’s Only One Way To Not Be Called A ‘Bigdi Hui Ladki’

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Editor's note: This post is a part of #BHL, a campaign by BBC Media Action and Youth Ki Awaaz to redefine and own the label of what a 'bigda hua ladka or ladki' really is. If you believe in making your own choices and smashing this stereotype, share your story.

As I write this piece, it’s around 1:30 am and I’ve just gotten back home from a fun dinner with old friends. A male friend dropped me home to the horror of every person who saw us. The walk from the car to the lift and till my apartment door is a reminder of how ‘bigdi hui’ I am. Every person I met on the way greeted me with stares and impolite questions about my whereabouts, with some peppering of sage advice, on how I must avoid being seen with boys at this hour.

This five-minute span is a pretty constant representative reel of my life or that of so many other young women I know. Vandita does something, in 99/100 cases, Vandita is being a ‘bigdi hui young Indian girl’ who doesn’t appreciate the freedom ‘given’ to her (Yes, Vandita also speaks of herself in the third person sometimes, you must try it!). Simple, everyday acts of just being sometimes lead us to being labelled as ‘bigdi hui’.

For women, such labelling starts way earlier, and there is also a certain negativity around defying societal conventions that bring the tagged labels with them. Whereas for men, many times, it is tolerated, humoured or seen as a rite of passage. Unfortunately, with women, it is almost always seen as besmirching the honour and name of one’s family and every ancestor who may have had the misfortune of sharing your bloodline.

Let me tell you of one such bigdi hui ladki, me.

I was a little school girl who wanted to believe that I could create change, my leadership was termed as bossy and this was the first time I was termed as bigdi hui for asserting myself. This repeated again and again, in various settings, till that label stuck. I was the ‘bigdi hui cousin’ at family dinners and the person the more ‘innocent’ ones were asked to stay away from. Why? I wanted to have the freedom that male members of my joint family enjoyed. I wanted to wear the clothes that made me happy. I wanted to be seen as a person beyond my body type. I refused to get married at 21. I refuse to have children at all. I can outdrink most people on a good night, and truly, on a bad night too. I date people I want to date. I am ambitious. Oh and I’m also a woman, so double whammy.

So where does this leave us? You are bigdi hui if you decide to wear clothes that show the amount of skin you are comfortable showing. No, no fair. Didn’t you know strangers get to decide how much of your skin you must show?

You are bigdi hui if you assert yourself at your workplace and decide to not take the sexist, misogynist behaviour constantly directed at you, be it sexually coloured remarks, having someone else take credit for your ideas or just constantly be interrupted by men. Did you not know that it is a favour men do by allowing women to be in the workplace at all?

You are bigdi hui if you’re 40, female and single, with or without a sexual partner or any sexual history at all. Why now? Because you haven’t given in to your role as a woman on this planet – that being one of child rearing while married to a man (other sexual preferences not allowed).

You are bigdi hui if you decide that sex with your partner is fun and have lots of it, without any contractual relations with them. Did you not know that it isn’t you but your neighbours who decide your sex life? Otherwise, you may be in danger of being termed… bigdi hui (seriously though, what did you think would follow?)

Refusing to marry or have children is seen as being bigdi hui. Wanting to live a full, sexually liberated life without marriage is seen as being bigdi hui. Refusing sex with the man you may be married to is seen as being bigdi hui. Asserting yourself at your educational institute or professional workplace is seen as being bigdi hui. Having a thought, an opinion, a voice, is seen as being bigdi hui. For women, wanting to be treated as equally human is seen as being bigdi hui.

How do you change this? You change this by being the best damn version of yourself. The version that you like. The version that is kind and compassionate because nothing else matters. You also change this when you refuse to think of someone else as bigdi hui, when you stop your parents, that uncle (we all have that one) or any person from labelling someone else for their life choices. Bearing testimony to the words of someone else without saying anything is just as much an offence as speaking those words yourself.

Go ahead, be a little bigdi hui, it’s a lot of fun, I promise.

Note: A lot of this is satire or just venting, please understand the irony or ask me to explain it.

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