Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Guilt -- Of Being A Woman

Many, many years ago, as a ten year old, I had read a column in a children's magazine, it was titled kaash main (I wish), the magazine had invited entries from its young readers and had published some of those in one of its issue. While reading that I had noticed that while all the boys had wished for things like toys, train rides, sports goods, rockets, the works. Girls – quite a few of them, had wished they could be boys. I did not get it. Why would some one want to be a boy? As I grew up, I saw their viewpoint. I saw little girls being discriminated against, I saw women being humiliated, I saw girls being confined to homes while their counterparts, often brothers, enjoyed uninhibited freedom – of word and action.

To me being a girl was – and has never been – a cause of concern, I have never seen it as a deciding factor for anything in my life. The women and girls of our family were loved and respected as much as the men and the boys were,  sometimes even more, but never lesser. The women I grew up with – my grandmothers, mother, aunts – were all educated, independent, self respecting, self-sufficient women. At a time, when women hardly went out of their houses, my dadi travelled alone, around the country, ditto with the other women. They were strong, resilient, powerful. Never meek or weak. Although not many of them went out to work, but work, according to me, is never the determining factor of a woman's standing in her family and in the society. If it were, our housemaids would probably be the most empowered among all the women.

And then I went to work, where I met an absolutely different set of women: ambitious, career oriented, independent, empowered and often single. They earned their money and spent it too, they lived in their own houses and drove their own cars, paid their bills, travelled alone, spent money on themselves. These were women who lived their lives on their terms, the kind every one aspires to be. A tribe I was proud to be a part of. 

With time, however, I realised that although diverse, the two sets of women had a lot in common: they were responsible, smart, intelligent, loving, honest, ambitious, headstrong, sensitive, independent, powerful, and guilty.

Those who chose to work were guilty of not spending enough time at home, those who chose to marry and stay at home were guilty of not contributing to the household income, those who had children were guilty of having them too soon or too many, those who did not or chose not to, were guilty of not having any. Each one of them had something to feel guilty about. 

Being a woman, I often find myself struggling with the same feeling: for not paying enough attention to family when I have had to spend long hours at work, for being incapable of carrying my first baby through the term, for not spending enough time with the two I eventually had, for not being the best at work anymore, for quitting and living off my husband, the list goes on.

A few weeks ago, I happened to be at the Indira Gandhi memorial, where among many other things, I saw some pages from her personal diary, which have been printed and put up on the wall, one of which read, " I went to live with my father, at the Teen Murti House, The Prime Minister's residence... My father asked me to come over and set up the house for him.... I used to stay for sometime and go, it became more and more difficult to leave. My husband was then working in Lucknow, he did not appreciate my going away.... I was living for about half a month in Lucknow and half in Delhi."

Even the Prime Minister of the biggest democracy in the world, a woman known to be fiercely ambitious and courageous, a ruthless politician and a strong leader, went through her share of guilt. She was, after all, a woman. 


  1. Everyone has to play different roles in his/her life and there is no reason for feeling guilty because every one goes through different type of challenges. The success lies in doing the best possible in the present moment. Those staying back home are contributing much more than those working at jobs by taking care of the children and making them good human beings and citizen besides taking load off from their husbands mind about the home and family responsibilities. Behind every successful man there is a women supporting him.

  2. I know what that is like Anubhuti.
    I have been in that situation several times starting with witnessing a girl from my class who openly admitted that hates to be girl and that is she won't give birth to girls.
    Another was my best friend who kept saying several times about her desire to have her gender changed.

    The ultimate situation was when a teacher asked "how many of you are proud of your female birth?"
    Out of 200 women only a few raised their hands (including me).
    This is spreading and these girls see their birth as a curse. One girl said that all the boys born at the birth should be girl at the next birth and all the girls should be boys at the next birth. It means, either way women are the inferior sex according to her, and all the things feminist have achieved are to be spat on.

    1. Karthika, I agree to a certain extent. Although I am not a feminist at all, I do believe that women and girls need to be treated a lot better. Even in families where they are treated well or at par, there are elements of bias, which perhaps are so deeply engrained in our system that we cannot see them.