Equality for women! Where's respect for them in the first place?

A girl in her early teens leaves her village near the Sundarbans in West Bengal to seek a livelihood in the City of Joy, to earn money to educate her older brother. After being exploited initially, she finds loving people in the home of a well-to-do family. But for how long will her joy last, before she is forced to return to the Sundarbans and marry? Your guess is as good as mine.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I have edited the story of a woman ill-treated by her husband and forced to lead a life of her own without her children, but who recovered her poise and accepted life with equanimity. A remarkable story of courage against the odds. Luckily, she’s doing well.

Sangha and Urnila come from India’s neglected northeast. With their families left destitute, the two girls arrive in Chennai and are taken care of at the Love Care Centre. Sangha has dreams of bagging the job of an airhostess some day, while Urnila hopes to become a nurse. They persevere and work hard. How are they faring today? We hope they are doing well.  

Then, there is a poignant story of students, mostly girls, walking non-stop for two hours and more to reach their school in a remote part of Kashmir. Despite lack of some facilities, they never complain. They hardly miss a class and wish to study to become teachers and doctors and to make a place for themselves in society. A lesson for some of our city-bred children, you’d say?

Can timid, shy women gain self-confidence, learn to run a business and stand on their feet? Yes, they can.  Project Eco, established by the YRG Medical, Educational and Research Foundation, Chennai, not only encourages entrepreneurship among underprivileged women, it has turned many into respectable breadwinners. Yet another example of how women, once they are given a free hand, can excel and prove a thing or two.  

It makes for quite an unusual sight – a woman carrying passenger luggage at a railway station. But in Chhattisgarh's Raipur Station, Maanbai and Parasai do just that. While one inspired another, together they now inspire other women. Life is not easy at all, but they find happiness in what they do.

The last example possibly exemplifies the nature of women in general. They are easy to please, create little fuss, are absolutely devoted if you are faithful, will do anything for you if you show them you care, even become great lovers and teach you a thing or two… But that (showing them you care), unfortunately, seems to be hard coming. We seem to be born in a culture that despises women and takes perverse pleasure in taking every opportunity to leer and sneer at them.

Now, how in the wide world did I get into all this? Well, while my daughter was in the midst of her learning lessons with her car, I noticed drivers on the pavement and other good-for-nothings watching her very effort closely as if to say, let’s see how you do it. Even as she drives there are many who take a second or third look to see if she’s doing OK (negative vibes, you bet). All of it makes me wonder whether things might have been different in a developed world. And the strong feeling I get is: YES, it would. Also, why are we talking about 33 per cent reservation for women when it really means nothing on the ground. It's no wonder it hasn't happened as yet, and even if it were to some day, do you really think it will make any difference? Ha! And if this is indeed true of Indian cities, what about the much, much larger swathe that is rural India? Isn't it a curse being born a girl in India? Where's television and, eh, Arnab Goswami?


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