Where women are respected : यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते

The power and strength of a woman is not unknown to mankind. In India, women occupy a special place. Be it in culture or mythology or in daily lifestyle, women have always had a treatment different from even God. This can be observed when a pious Hindu starts his day by invoking Gayatri, a female deity and even in such invocation, a Hindu utters “matru devo bhava” first and then the rest of the prayers follow. In fact, Indian society at large respects women, sometimes unintentionally. This might be the reason why even though Karan Johar fills his movies with sugar candy dialogues, he would never be even comparable to Suraj Barjatya.

Our eminent historians would like us to believe that women were never respected in history of India. They, being eminent, are supposed to say that. They have their own reasons. Even in today’s India, there is no dearth of women who are confident and successful. I have had the privilege to meet and get acquainted with some very confident women.

At school, teacher Saraswati taught us in our seventh standard not to overdo things. Being a child it was natural for us to overreact when we answered her questions correctly. She used to gently put a stop to us with a witty joke. Slowly we, at least I, understood that overdoing things doesn’t help.

Teachers Malati and Jayasree taught perseverance further into my ninth and tenth standard. They were instrumental in making us realize the importance of not giving up while keeping it in view the practicability of a given way of doing things. Education they say should enhance ones character. It certainly did in my life. These were the teachers who laid the foundation for a good future. Not that male teachers were not part of my education – they had their own role to play.

Later on as I moved into early twenties, I could meet Lalitha, who always aspired to be an IFS but had to settle for something much lesser due to certain personal compulsions. She was a brilliant orator and I am quite sure she is today too. Whenever she used to speak during debates/elocution competitions, the whole auditorium used to go absolutely silent as if some one like Margaret Thatcher was on stage. That was the command she used to demand through her speaking skills.

When I moved to Bangalore to join Infineon Technologies as an intern trainee, Rashmi was assigned my mentor. Heres a lady who comes from a middle class background and could make the whole project management (right from the people in Munich) believe that she could handle everything related to one huge part of the under development chip. Her job during the project included travel to Munich to speak with some engineers in Synopsys for customizing certain parts of the chip. It was her maiden trip abroad and her trip was a huge success. Her guidance during my internship was amazing. The confidence exonerated by her was exemplary.

After I joined Infineon in 2007 and as we started working on the same project into early 2008, I could work with another lady in the team – Chandrakala. Heres another lady who could quite simply change the whole direction of the project through her reasoning and confident composure in talking to team members. Both the ladies that I could work with so far have shown me one thing. Gender doesnt matter in today’s world. Confidence does.

The thoughts keep on pouring out of my mind. The recent developments of Women’s Reservation Bill were just catalysts to this post. I wanted to write on these thoughts for a long time now.

Lets assume this particular reservation bill were implemented in 1950 itself. Even with that assumption, neither of the teachers Saraswati, Malati, Jayasree, nor Lalitha, nor Rashmi nor Chandrakala would have benefited. They would have achieved what they did with or without this constitutional right. It is not reservation or State’s lineancy, but their quest for excellence, in what they do, that let them be the best in their respective organizations.

If you ask them today, they would feel happy that such a constitutional amendment is being done. But if you ask them if it would really help them, the answer would be a resounding no. I am damn sure about it.

These ladies gained their respect in society by simply doing their best in their job. Today whenever I meet my school friends, we always talk about our teachers and especially Saraswati, Malati and Jayasree. The reason is that they did what they did with a great amount of confidence.

Whenever I see a female confidently putting her opinion across in a room with majority of male audience, I think of Lalitha. Wherever she is, I am sure she is making a lot of difference to her organization because as far as I know she would put her best foot forward. The same is the reason why every Rashmi/Chandrakala will certainly make a great difference in every corporation.

They didn’t avail any reservations, not even during their education. The key to increase the number of such confident women in society is not in giving them reservation but in enabling and encouraging them to make a difference. Today, a working female gets more tax benefit than a working male. This is good. This will encourage a middle class father to choose the right guy for his daughter. With such tax benefits, the groom’s family would have no objections in allowing the bride to work even after marriage. A job in a female’s life gives her financial support and would give her the confidence to lead the family even in an eventuality.

Instead of providing reservations in legislature, GoI should first increase security for women in India. This doesn’t mean that every woman should be provided with a constable as body guard. No. Here are some suggestions that come to my mind even without applying much thought:

  • Use technology. Provide special provisions for women like emergency telephone lines especially for women.
  • Provide safety and security in Working Women’s hostels.
  • Provide quality self defense training to those women willing to learn self defense at nominal prices.
  • Provide better amenities in hospitals for pregnant women.
  • Provide special scholarships the female students who continue their studies into graduation and post-graduation.

Actually these are nothing new. Gujarat has been exemplary in implementing many of these. These are not doles. These are not goodies. These are basic requirements for a woman to move confidently in the society. Narendra Modi has been so instrumental in implementing them that his staunch opposition of the likes of Aamir Khan (he called him mass murderer after events in 2002) were left flabbergasted!

GoI would do better to follow the Modi example and stop this non-sense of extended reservations. Many middle class families are feeling sick about the unending saga of reservations and the numbers against reservation is increasing by the day.

The imperative is also on parents in the society to improve the living conditions of a female. The way they are bringing up their female children itself is, I think, flawed. In fact I think how parents in India teach their children how to move in society needs to change. I had the privilege of a very good bring up. More on that in my next post.

Title Courtesy: Practical Sanskrit Blog on Women. I was moved to tears when I read Sashikant Joshi’s post.

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