Puppets or Living?

As I travel to my office, I see women working as daily wage labourers on the roads of Delhi. They clean the road, excavate shallow surfaces, carry bricks and do all the other extreme physical labour demanding jobs their male counterparts do. It looks they both have the same challenge. But with one look at these workers, you can distinguish how much more hard it is for the women. While the men workers wear a pant and shirt over which they wear the safety jackets, the women workers work while wearing a saree, their head covered for protecting their “modesty”, and over this saree they wear the jacket. Apart from the work that they do, the uncomfortable attire that I see makes my eyes and heart tired.

Women construction workers.
Image : https://www.indianwomenblog.org/17-hour-days-and-minimum-pay-the-life-of-female-migrant-construction-workers-in-india/

Women be it from any religion, and region have always been collectively pushed back to become second class citizens. Their modesty has been used as a weapon against their own selves and the society. We the educated and professional ones too face this every day. A married woman for instance has always been given enormous number of “symbols” that distinguish her from the others in terms of looks itself. The men on the other hand have nothing to impose on their persona. This outlook is gradually changing now, especially in the urban areas. Women like me do not carry this badge to show the world that we are married. We can make the choice of what we want and what we would like to do willingly. This power to make a choice comes through education and self-reliance.

As a human being we must have the choices from which we choose what is what someone as a human would like to do that makes them feel happy and confident. Since we don’t live in a Utopia, these choices can only be made available if you are educated. Education is the most empowering thing a person can get.

Unfortunately today there is a whole issue going on in Karnataka based on women’s attire yet again at an educational institution. What they are wearing is being questioned by none other than the torchbearers of culture and knowledge, i e. “Men”. Ironically it comes from the very place where the women could achieve the sense of choosing their lifestyle as humans. But alas, we women be it from any religion are considered as relations first and humans later.

The woman that I see working on the road, protecting herself and her modesty, doesn’t have this choice of choosing her lifestyle. She was denied the power of education, that could have lead her to maybe if not a better job but atleast the rationality to choose atleast her attire. So let the women and girls read and learn, and then based on their own understanding decide what’s best for themselves, both in terms of their looks and life. Everyone breathes for themselves, stop thinking women to be on ventilators.

कितनी गिरहें खोली हैं मैने
कितनी गिरहें अब बाकी हैं

पांव मे पायल, बाहों में कंगन, गले मे हन्सली,
कमरबन्द, छल्ले और बिछुए
नाक कान छिदवाये गये
और ज़ेवर ज़ेवर कहते कहते
रीत रिवाज़ की रस्सियों से मैं जकड़ी गयी

उफ़्फ़ कितनी तरह मैं पकड़ी गयी...

अब छिलने लगे हैं हाथ पांव,
और कितनी खराशें उभरी हैं
कितनी गिरहें खोली हैं मैने
कितनी रस्सियां उतरी हैं

– गुलज़ार


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