At 4 feet 8 inches, Renuka could be called quite short. A woman with the gait of a bird, she was perpetually in a hurry – hurry to go to someone’s house to clean the floors, hurry to rush back home to make 40 chappatis, hurry to drop her children to school, hurry to give her husband the exact calculation of her income, hurry to listen to all the admonitions from her mother-in-law.
Renuka is my maid, the woman with whose calling bell my day begins. Even though she might be going through hell in any quarter of her life, one thing that remains constant about her is a warm smile. She shoulders the accountability of her family. In a family consisting of her in-laws, two children and a perfectly capable husband (who thinks it’s her male prerogative to not work and bask in the glory of his wife’s earnings), she is the only bread-earner of the family. I know she is not the only one when it comes to shouldering the responsibility of her entire family all by herself, but since I see her every day, she comes across to me as a woman of immense pluck.
The International Women’s Day is round the corner and we are already loaded with women centric articles, videos, and social media activities from every quarter. So when already transported into that very mode, one morning while Renuka was busy scrubbing the floors, one random thought crossed my mind. I and many others like me are sympathetic about Renuka since, she undergoes endless troubles and is the only bread-earner in her family. All her husband does for a living is snatch away the money that Renuka earns after working as a maid in innumerable houses in Bomaby’s suburb, Powai. We shower sympathy on her, call her lot to be poor and helpless and curse the husband to our hearts’ content. But isn’t what she does, done by plenty of other men as well, whose wives are at home. They are the bread earners while their wives are mostly at home looking after the domestic chores.
My motive here is not to downplay Renuka’s efforts or hard work but just to point out that why have we assigned the stereotypical roles to males and females in society. Why is it that men have to earn a living and women have to manage a family? And more importantly who delegates these responsibilities to individuals. It’s funny how girls are given dolls and boys are given balls ever since they begin playing. Why make individuals so conscious ever since they take birth? In a family, why are women assigned all the domestic chores while men are always expected to brave the adventurous terrains of the outside world? Why are certain behavioural traits associated specifically with males and females?
Renuka’s role in the family is earning money and her husband’s is that of taking of taking care of domestic responsibilities. My problem lies with the fact that people (and even I am included among those concerned lot) instead of applauding her efforts to earn a living for the entire family, only end up sympathising her and showing mercy on her plight. And that leads to my having problem with the entire hullabaloo over the entire Women’s Day celebration.
What’s the logic behind assigning a day to celebrate womanhood? A day to sing laurels on the ‘second sex’! Doesn’t that reinforce their inferiority even more? Doesn’t it make it apparent that they are the downtrodden lot and so need a special day to feel happy about themselves? We never celebrate Men’s Day with so much élan as Women’s Day. Instead of celebrating just a day in a year, why not give women the respect they deserve every day? Why not give them their due for their worth in all walks of life? Why not treat them as equals for their contribution and dedication? Why not pay them equal compensation like the men folk for the work that they do? Why not stop treating them as commodities instead of humans?
Let’s applaud the millions of Renukas all around us who are awe-inspiring in their accomplishments, in whatever they do. They manage home, they do great at work and the best part is amidst all they manage to keep intact their beautiful smiles. So let every day be a day for celebration, a day to bow down to these amazing ladies and celebrate their glory.