College/University: Amherst College, Amherst, MA
School Attended: Cathedral & John Connon School, Mumbai
Junior College Attended: Cathedral & John Connon School, Mumbai
In Afghanistan, the men go off to war, says Banaz, a thirty-two year old Afghani woman, a mother of seven, but it is the women that fight their whole lives.
(Time Magazine, December 2001)
Being born a woman in Afghanistan is reason enough to enter into the demoralizing, inescapable battle against the hated Taliban regime. Despite the recent disintegration of the Taliban power, the indelible scars and bruises on these womens bodies and minds are hard to escape.
While I go to school everyday, girls are being smuggled into dark stingy rooms where they are taught clandestinely, risking their lives. While I bother about which college I am going to attend for the next few years of my life, girls of 15 are being burned for not doing their husbands laundry properly. While I choose what I wear every morning, there are women who cover themselves from head to toe in burkhas, in the sweltering heat, so that they do not run the risk of drawing the attention of men of the community. While I spend time with my family and friends, women are tortured by their husbands, who believe that their holy book, the Koran, gives them the right to control their many wives in whichever way they please. While I wonder what I will be when I grow up, doctors and other professionals are prohibited from pursuing their careers because they are women.
I, too, am a woman from a developing nation, but I have been born into a life where I can make my own decisions, where I can be whatever I want to be without being limited by the laws of my country. But I am among the few, more fortunate women in India.
I look around me everyday and I see the plight of the women begging on the streets, the rag pickers, even the sweeper and washerwoman who work in the area and then I see myself and a few lucky others, and this triggers off in me a feeling of sheer frustration and outrage.
What really bewilders me is the fact that, in India, a nation that is renowned for its diversity, culture and tradition a nation where equality is a fundamental right women are tormented and beaten for not being able to pay enough money as dowry to their husbands families. Here, in blatant as is in Afghanistan, but that does not mean it doesnt prevail. A woman, in most sections of societies in India, is treated no better than an object that is bought and sold in the market. Her only use to work in the kitchen and keep her husband satisfied. In India, a girl may be deprived of an education because she obviously isnt considered worth it. Instead, she is married off at the age of 12 or 13, just so that her fathers debts to the boys family are paid off.
A Hindi movie I saw recently called Chaandni Bar, based on a true story, really moved me. It was about a woman who moved to Mumbai with great dreams and ambitions of what this vibrant city could offer her. Instead, she was forced to become a dancer at a cheap beer bar and finally, even a prostitute in her bid to try and provide a better future for her children. All is vain, as life comes full circle and her daughter, too, becomes a dancer at Chaandni Bar. The poignant irony is truly thought provoking. However, more than the movie itself, the response of the people in the theater, as the movie progressed had more of an impact on me. We were surrounded by men who were titillated by the image of a woman gyrating to music while being offered money. They whistled and clapped and the true essence of the movie which was to highlight the futility of womens aspirations was totally lost to them. At first, I was simply disgusted by the attitude of these men. But then later, I realized that in most sections of society, the sorry plight of the women of Chaandni Bar was an accepted, normal part of life, and therefore the movie was, for them, nothing but a source of amusement and entertainment. I am definitely not justifying the appalling attitude of those men, but, really, the society we live in allows them to get away with such an attitude to women. I should have known not to expect any different reaction from them.
Obviously, something needs to be done about the sorry situation that women are amidst today. A change in attitude towards women and their vital role in society is an absolute must. And this change is something we have to try and achieve in our lifetime for the sake of the girl who has dreams just like I have, but while I am pursuing my dreams, her dreams are crushed by the narrow confines of a bigoted, unequal society.