I recently read an article on women and independence and wanted to share my two-bit. What does independence after all mean to women? It is true that our Indian system, does not give us enough space to be that way. From living a sheltered existence at home before marriage, when family typically manages almost everything a girl needs – from how she travels, to her shopping, to where she studies etc to the married life when the husband does everything the dad would!
As a girl, my dad was often out. A great many things that my mom and I would have rather have him do were done by us. When I think back about those times, I remember they weren’t that easy. But, I believe, those are what made it so easy down the line. When you drag your broken-down two-wheeler for miles without having a father or brother to call, move houses independently, bribe telephone walas to get a connection (back then), go meet officials from random departments like electricity, water etc when you move houses, chase construction workers to fix things, pay bills, ward off crazy stalkers, chase mice and lizards out of your house (yeah, trust me this one ain’t easy for us girls!), all in your teens, you know there is only one survival skill that is of utmost importance. Independence.
True independence for me came with my first job. It can come for others who have had a chance to live in a hostel or share an apartment. You are finally financially independent. I remember the headiness of my first job! Wasn’t that the best time of my life? No accountability to anybody, No real responsibilities, no rush to get married, a steady income to splurge with friends, no immediate plans to study more! In short so much freedom! I remember how easily I would travel back then alone without any qualms. In ST buses to unknown destinations and remote villages, walk happily on the streets of the city just happy to be there alone, take long walks on the marine drive after work every day and just enjoy the solitude. The café culture hadn’t caught on to a great extent then, but even those years would see me enjoying my cuppa chai at now I think were shady restaurants and to hell with the glances I got from other tables. I wonder where that spirit has gone now. Why do I require people about me now?
Circa married life, suddenly, I have become dependent. Perhaps it is just easier now that I have someone to do some of the heavy lifting that are more of ‘guy’ responsibilities that I didn’t have a chance to pass on earlier. I need company to travel, to shop, to watch movies, plays, to eat out. I need someone to plan the trips I travel on. I need opinions and affirmations to buy a utility, to invest my money, to decide the menu of the day. I need someone to call people to get things fixed at home if they are broken. I pretend I can’t reach the top shelf of the cupboard and I can’t lift the tiny suitcase to put it in. Suddenly, I have assumed the responsibilities I never asked for or like. Like cooking, managing the domestic help, de-cluttering the house, and keeping everything in its place.
Many of these things have made my life easier. But off-late I have wondered, is too much dependence a good thing? After all, if I could go watch a movie alone, wouldn’t I be able to watch more movies given that I will never be able to watch one with my husband till the time my daughter is older!? I would have bought that coveted closet a long time ago and would have made worthy investments instead of waiting on for advice on what to do with them. If I can explain to my family that exercise, writing and reading are not ‘extra-curricular’ activities for me..They are a part of who I am. Now wouldn’t that make me fitter, and happier? Being able to do the things I love?
Perhaps we women need to reassert some of that independence, flavors of which we may have tasted at some point in our lives. To find some time to get away from the humdrum responsibilities, that will continue to bind us. To be with friends, to be alone, to seek oneself and to be able to do things for oneself.
On that note, I hope women out there, find ways and time to get away. Companionship and family are amazing things, but finding time for oneself, spending it with friends and doing the things you love can bring satisfaction and contentment.
In that spirit, I will plan the next trip alone! Just to get the spirit of self-discovery and the confidence to do things alone back! Stay tuned for updates.