In our part of the world, women have always had a conflicting identity. They are supposed to be the docile Sita, the amorous Radha, the devotional Meera, the powerful Durga and the sacrificial Sati. In the midst of so many different roles that they are expected to perform, the real woman seems to disappear or at the very least, the woman’s ego or “I” appears to have amalgamated into one or more of her “selves”.
A society is a human construct. Role play supplies it with air to breathe and blood to survive. Every individual is assigned a certain role that they are supposed to perform. If they don’t, they are tagged as ‘aberrant’. However, it is also true that despite different societal roles, a certain kind of hierarchy exists regarding their execution. For instance, a woman has to play the role of a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother.
A man too has to play the roles of a son, a brother, a husband and a father. But the job descriptions are pretty strict and the forgiveness meter for any mistake is quite low when it comes to women. A female is replaceable but not pardonable; she is revered but allegedly needs protection; she is believed to be fragile but is expected to be strong; she is expected to have emotions but not opinions; she is a Goddess to be worshipped but a witch to be condemned; she is the mother who bestows the ambrosia of life and a slave who works to death without a whimper. A woman who lacks any of these “womanly” attributes is condemned, ridiculed and segregated. The life of a woman is a puzzle; her heart is a maze and her eyes are the pools of countless mysteries. The patriarchy society has traditionally been unable to solve the enigma that a woman is.
The binary between the male and the female is not just an Eastern construct. Even in the West, women have been given their rights much later as compared to men. Moreover, the binary between the two genders exists even today. However, the difference lies in the fact that in the West, up to certain extent, religion was supportive of the concept of gender hierarchy. The Adam and Eve story and the tale about Pandora’s Box clearly point at women as the reason for all the sufferings and the ultimate downfall of mankind. In the East, the scenario is different. A woman is considered a Goddess, the female deity, an equal counterpart of God, the male deity. Festivals are observed celebrating femininity. Goddesses rule the ethereal world by governing the areas of Power, Prosperity and Knowledge. They are the Creators, the Nurturers and the Protectors.
It is impossible for any modern woman to play out all the roles expected of her.
However, the societal reality stands in stark contrast to this ideological belief. The societal roles that have been assigned to the women are considered secondary. A boy is preferred over a girl. Many girls do not even get to see the light of the day since they are brutally murdered in mother’s womb. A “man” is supposed to look after “his” family. A woman is the first to rise and the last to eat. And biological make up that enables her to conceive a child is taken as her biggest drawback in many cases.
Granted, that the stereotype is changing with times but the stakes are higher too. Today, women no longer remain within the four walls of their houses. They venture out into the world to bring to use their skills and abilities. Nevertheless, they have still not been relieved of their “assigned” duties. As a result, today’s women are living on a double-edged sword. They have to juggle their time between their career and home and when work comes into the picture, it just opens more doors to the arena of identity crisis. The answer to the question “Who am I?” gets even more complex given the increasing number of roles women are being asked to play.
A woman in a formal suit with a bindi on her forehead tapping her laptop keys while changing nappies would perhaps best portray an average woman today. It would not be a wonder if the “modern” women were to light a lamp and start rummaging through their past and the present, while searching for a foothold in their future