Women Rule!

Women rule and oh don’t we know that? To keep it short and sweet and concise in one article would be a disgrace to this topic which can have volumes of novels dedicated to it. Coming from a family whose women never shied away from aiming for the sky and having a scoop of it in their plates, I can vouch for it – women do rule!

It may go much farther than I am aware of, but my awe for the women in my family begins with my grandmothers. One of them stood out in society as a Sanskrit scholar, an ardent composer of ballads in Sanskrit. Had domestic responsibilities and the stereotypical demands of the twentieth century society not taken her into their fold; she might have found a place in the literature of our times.

When I leaf through the olden pages of her creativity armed with my pidgin knowledge of the mother of all our languages, I often wonder if those beautiful words could have made it on crisp paper stamped by printing ink.
The other grandmother went into untested virgin waters for her times. She donned the paintbrush and easel in an era when art forms were seen with suspicion and veiled behind the walls of taboo when patronized by a woman. The dedication and hard work that went into her work is evident in every warp and woof of her canvas. Due credit goes to her family, for not being swayed with the waves of the erstwhile conservatism of society.

Now when I sweep my eyes admiringly over the ancient walls of our ancestral home, adorned with her paintings, each reciting a saga of her times, I cannot help but wonder if these could have been museum walls instead of house walls.

The answer to my questions filled with wonderment is probably in the affirmation. Then why did they not ring true for my grandmothers? Is it because no matter how forward their families had been, they had not broken out of the shackles of a patriarchal culture? Is it because, during that time and age, the belief was that a woman was not made of the fabric to tear down the hitherto insurmountable boundary walls of skill and talent? The belief often turned into self-fulfilling prophesies for women like my grandmothers. Their skill was a transient thing of joy, to keep them amused and out of mischief till they were appropriately married off. The knitting needle held more value as a talent than the pen.

I shudder to think of being confined to such a dead-end corner where my skills would have no more meaning than my Xbox, an amusement. It pushes my brain (that has the tendency to slip into laziness and call upon mediocrity) to a realization; the realization of being born into an era, location and family where women are given the chance to push the limits of their own talents. To make the fullest of my talents in the wake of the opportunities thrown at me, I realize, should be my aim.

And just as I begin to revel in my glory, my eyes turn to the not so rosy flip side of the situation. It is the same era, the same location…a different family, frozen away an eon in time. A set-up where life comes down hard and fast, like unforgiving sleet, on a woman beginning when she has not even blossomed into a woman. As I look out of my car, armed with my brand new driving license (something that would have remained a dream not even dreamt of, just three generations ago), my eyes are forced to scan an old slum shack. The girl was no more than twelve, but as she squatted before the harsh stinging kitchen fire evoked by wood, it was clear that the weight of responsibilities on her shoulders had added the maturity of a decade to her. As a cynic would point out, “Women rule!”

The very next instant, another sight catches my eye. A young girl, barely out of her twentieth year, dressed in the fabric advocated by Gandhi, straining her vocal cords, making her speech on Women’s rights heard across a crowd of a myriad of ideologies in the slum. It would not have taken the afternoon sunlight to know how some ideologies were totally out of phase with the young girl’s. The crowd had smatterings of women caught between influence and dilemma.

The traffic did not allow me a longer stay at the place. But one thing was clear. A case of a handful of women having a share of the sky in their hold does not dissipate the humongous clouds lumping over the sunny day of the truly free woman. A minority of pilots, scientists, assertive career women-cum-home managers cannot offset the unenviable clout of the disadvantaged majority.

Yes! Women rule! But the territory is still diminutive. It is high time we looked out for Napoleonic expansions. Education and awareness are the generals of this war we must embark upon.

Shruthi Venukumar

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