Is the Indian woman truly free?

 Most of us have been conditioned to NOT say no. We're afraid that we will be disliked. We fear confrontation. We are mostly conditioned to put others before ourselves. This is especially true if you are an Indian woman, and more so if you are an Indian mother.

Countless Hindi and other regional cinema, advertisements and popular media has elevated mother to the status of a 'all bearing, ever-loving, ever-forgiving, sacrificing, selfless soul.' Social conditioning too is such that women feel an urge to shoulder the major responsibility in the house. If socks and underwear  or any such thing are missing or misplaced, it's always 'Ask Mom.' Instinctively we try and 'fix things.'

I have spoken to countless women who travel for work, and most of them 'make arrangements' to have the house running smoothly. They put systems in place. They have people living with them.They instruct their house-helps. They have sorted out  child-care arrangements.

To this day, I haven't yet come across any Indian man who has to do that when he travels. He just takes off and leaves it to the wife. Even if the wife needs to get to work, she manages the home perfectly. If she is a housewife, then of course it is seen as 'her job.'

People treat you the way you let them. In marriages, how spouses treat each other is a pattern of behaviour  that has evolved and emerged, over the years. In most marriages, there is a subtle 'balance of power' that comes into play. Moreover, if the financial control is with one partner the balance tilts favourably towards the one holding the purse strings.

The labour force participation by women in India is one of the lowest in the world. According to world bank data, for India it is just 22.1 % Just imagine! Nearly 80% of working population is male. Were India to balance her workforce, we would be 27% richer.

From what I have understood (from personal interviews, where I have spoken to many many women), Indian women 'adjust' because they have no choice. They aren't earning enough to support themselves and their children. They are afraid of social stigma. They have no parental support. They lack financial awareness. So they stay in marriages which are stale; They immerse themselves in their children and home;  'It isn't so bad,' they tell themselves (or each other).

They mostly say YES, because the can't say no. It's easier to 'adjust' and be ever-loving, ever-forgiving ever-sacrificing. After all, you are exalted or  even deified for it. Never mind  if your soul is slowly dying. You will be remembered for your sacrifices. At least by the cinema and ad-film makers.

ps: My book 'The Secret Wishlist' is about a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. The book resonated with thousands. It was while doing my research for this book that I first started speaking to women about these things.


  1. A very well written post mam.

  2. Hi Preeti,
    Pure fountain of exasperation springing out from your heart for an issue that affects you as a thinker deeply and as a woman too. You are not just a story teller...You commit yourself to issues that disturb you and raise them in your fiction. 'Fiction' that can be called 'Life' represented on pages. It's a strong way to give voice to your views and force people (as readers) to think. That's why I got attracted towards your writing in the first place. There have been many contributors to this self sacrificing "Nirupa Roy" type image of women especially if she is a Mother too. Mainly, because it serves the greater purpose of males themselves to be not bound to any responsibility other than earning. In that too they are feeding their ambition and desire to kiss professional success. But not only the paternal society, the other women, especially one generation older too share the pie in this insensitivity towards a dreaming and ambitious woman. Eventually generation after generation female spirit keeps getting crushed under tons of expectations from her that arouse suddenly after her wedding. She is made to believe that she ought to sacrifice herself at the alter of marriage and motherhood. She is zombified to think dreams and happiness of others as her own now. But this has to change. No knight is coming over to do the honors...the onus is on us the stand up for ourselves individually and collectively and grab the reigns of our life and decisions in our hands. Hope our feeble voice gets amplified each day to finally reach the deaf years of our society.
    Thanks for speaking up for million souls who go unheard.

  3. This is somehow the reality of our society :(

  4. Hi Preeti...What you had said here is very true in every woman's life!!..The sad part is she succumbs to her family , and in that her personal desires are nipped in the bud !!When is this so called " system " going to change ?

  5. Absolute Truth.
    I love the way you portray the real issues in the society in your books.

  6. Hi Preeti,

    Thank You for another very informative and very relevant article. This is not just the case of women in India, but all over the world with Scandinavian countries as a maybe exception, but India is one of countries which stays on top of the list just below some of the South Asian Countries and Middle East. In India, we tie women to home glorifying them to be domestic goddesses who brings happiness to everyone's life and we expect them to derive their joy from others happiness. I have a lot to write on this topic, but bit crunched for time. But I am hopeful as we have come a long way from the time women could never hold jobs, own property, have a bank account or even vote. We have come a long way, but there is a much longer way to go before women and other minorities can live their lives on their own terms and still be accepted in the society. We just have to work that hard to achieve this dream too. Coincidentally read couple more articles on the inequality we face and giving it below just in case anyone wants to read ~ Indu.

  7. I totally agree with your thought.

  8. This a lovely article. This is been so relatable. I can easily connect this whole scenario of mindset existing in my family only. My mother who does a lot for my family but still is not able to get that share of dignity which she truly deserves. The main issue being with it is that she is a housewife. For her own life and for her children lives she has to be wholly dependent on my father. Not only this , when women themselves face such kind of stigmas with them , they tend to pass on to their children also( especially daughters). Its worst implication I and my sisters can witness really well. I really feel angry over this sorry state of affairs. But still the urge of change has to be felt and need to be executed asap. I don't know that I will be able to change the depth of this mentality. But will surely provide my mother with her share of dignity.
    Thanks for sharing these feelings . It just touched my heart.

  9. At least women should have power to choose our own thought and emotion ,she should be more aware of person living in her emotion and thought is depleting or increasing her life energy.


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