THE INDIAN WOMEN TODAY
The times have changed radically, and the Indian woman of today is no longer reconciled to her traditional role as a mere housewife, a mother or a daughter. Whether it is higher education, or the general and fast spreading enlightenment about rights and privileges, and the concepts of equality between man and woman, that are responsible for the distinctly notable awakening among this section of mankind, it is difficult to say. Perhaps the change in attitudes and the increasing demands for a better status in life and a more important role in national life are the cumulative result of all relevant factors operating simultaneously. The more enlightened women of today take delight in recalling that woman was regarded in ancient times as the perfect workmanship of God and the glory of angels.
But the typical Indian woman, especially in the urban areas, is a specimen of the perfect workmanship of God, a symbol of self-sacrifice, an angel in human form, a source of eternal joy, devotion and everlasting love and affection. Far from it, countless women, notably those who are well-educated or otherwise qualified for certain types of jobs, are eager to get employed and become economically independent Generally, the desire to get jobs is prompted by the eagerness to supplement the family income in these hard times, but this is not always the case.
There are cases of women who take up jobs in order to earn some money for their personal use, on sarees, ornaments, cosmetics, etc., and in order to live like modem women. Not every Indian woman even in the towns and cities is a butterfly or a society woman, but some indeed are. Their tribe is probably increasing with the continuous fall in ancient values, the change in the age-old concept of the Indian woman as a devoted wife, mother or daughter, and with the impact of modern education.
Again, women are supposed to be unique refining influences, and many of them certainly are. But quite a number of them are not. When a city woman, believing more in the modern concepts of women’s lib, is becoming increasingly aware of her rights in the world today, it is futile for the parents or the husband to expect that she would confine herself to the kitchen and attend to her duties to the family with devotion and earnestness. Domesticity is, in fact, no longer favoured by thousands of Indian women; they seek independence and freedom from the “boredom” which they associate with the home and the care of children. Why, they ask, should they be expected to serve their husbands when the equality of sexes is guaranteed by the Indian Constitution? Why, so runs the argument, must they be regarded as inferior beings when they are not so in any way?
It is not for nothing that the modern woman is believed to be jealous, quarrelsome, selfish and more conscious of fashions, dress and physical makeup than need be. Are we to accept the modern woman as she is because our society has become materialistic and there is all-round deterioration in moral values and ethical standards of conduct? Are men any better in the performance of their duty? What is the justification for men regarding themselves as superior beings? How many husbands, some people ask, share the domestic responsibilities with their wives? Can we blame the various declarations, such as the Mexico Declaration on the Equality of Women, 1975, and the various resolutions passed by international organizations prescribing equal wages for equal work? The Constitution of India also lays down that men and women are equal in status and that there should not be any discrimination on grounds of sex in any area of employment or in respect of rights and privileges.
But to deplore the attitudes of the “modern” woman is to ignore the majority of Indian women, especially in the rural areas, who toil at home t, day after day, without grumbling and without a protest even when they g are ill-treated by their husbands. The vast majority of them are still devoted, re self-effacing and silent sufferers. Many of them have been debased and to exploited, and yet they continue to accept their fate as if God ordains it. ie To them the World Plan of Action for improving the lot of women all over t the world carries no meaning. The rural Indian woman will continue to do her duty to her family, irrespective of illness, indisposition and the y general talk of women’s lib.
The enlightened section of Indian womanhood—several of them hold positions of responsibility, such as minister ships, manager ship, executive posts, company control, policy-making assignments, and educationists and there are some legislators too. Mrs. Vijaylakshmi Pandit was President of the U.N. General Assembly for a year, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi served as Prime Minister for over a decade. They brought credit to the country and some of them perform their household duties too and do not neglect their children. Even today the typical Indian woman has a better sense of responsibility, a better image in the country and abroad and a more secure future than the women of the West who frantically seek jobs and leave their husbands and children to look after themselves.
It will be relevant to recall what Plato said about women. In his scheme of things women are assigned a place of complete equality with man. The ancient Indian sages have all regarded women as the very symbols of patience, fortitude and sacrifice. The recent talk of liberating women from the boredom verging on bondage has both a positive and a negative aspect. The loud pronouncements about the rights of women are valid up to a point; when overstressed they are likely distort to unpleasant consequences and distort Indian life in millions of homes were the husband and the father are the principal wage earners and where women are required by custom and tradition to look after the home and the family.
In the Indian context, it is not incorrect to say that the modern “liberated”, fashionable and socially busy society women are ill fits. The question whether a world ruled by women would be free of corruption and full of joy and laughter seems irrelevant in such a context. Women are more honest than men, it is true, but the physical disabilities and handicaps hardly make them suitable for the generous duties in the world outside the home. Only a small minority of working women is successful; the majority of them are known to be inefficient in administration and have little output.