Women’s Day Special: From Mangalyaan to Maan-Samman

a_1  H x W: 0 x
Moumita Dutta, Project Manager for Mangalyaan_ Nandini Harinath Project Manager,
Mission Designer & Deputy Operations Director for Mangalyaan 
This Women’s Day, let us pledge to support every woman and help her fulfil her mission in life, be it the Mangalyaan or getting Maan-Samman (respect and fame). That would be a true tribute to the struggles and successes of every woman
Karyeshu Dasi, Karaneshu Mantri, Bhojeshu Mata, Shayaneshu Rambha, Roopeshu Lakshmi, Kshamayeshu Dharitri, Shat Dharmayukta, Kuladharma Patni”.
Take a good look at the virtues the Bharatiya Naari possesses, as described in the above verse. When can anyone describe a person with such attributes? It is only possible when he/she sees that the women in his/her society have such attributes or virtues. The verse uses the word “Kuladharma Patni” which means “the wife who upholds the Dharma of the entire Kula or clan”. This itself means that the women of Bharat were those who are so capable that they not just look after their husband or nuclear family alone, but look after the needs of every individual in the combined family consisting of many members. For those who would want to say that this meant lifetime slavery to a family, I have just two things to say – the word “Mantri” and “Rambha”.
Today we are always made to think that it is the Western woman who is more evolved, educated, capable of handling her finances, free as a bird to do as she pleases, indulge in all the pleasures of life and that the Bharatiya woman is “treated as a second class citizen” (the recent words of starlet Sonam Kapoor). We are called a Patriarchal society which needs rescuing as per the standards of the West. The Western world is so forward in their thoughts that they still need a “Women’s day” to celebrate being a Woman. They need a whole day to pamper themselves and be pampered when we Bharatiyas just dust our saris or salwar kameezes and do our work, while asserting our identity as the “woman of the house” without making a noise about it. Woe on the family member who thinks that other than that one day, all other days belong to them!
When PM Modi started giving out Padma Awards to sons and daughters of the soil, it really exposed many of us to those women who despite the material shortcomings, went on to truly embody the spirit of “Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavantu” and helped people, environment, forests, rivers and soil, crops and nature alike. They worked, not for awards or recognition, but because they recognised the role they played as a child of the country, to preserve her resources and save her from exploitation. This picture of a frail woman, carelessly draped in a sari, devoid of any external make-up is so far removed from the pictures of women that appear in the advertisements put out for “Women’s Day”. The inner strength that these women embody is so different from the external aggressive stance put out by women in the ‘liberal’ world.
To rephrase, “Strength is as Strength Does”. The International Women’s Day serves as a reminder for the discrimination that women face in their everyday lives, anywhere in the world, and the effort being taken to wipe off such discrimination. When any woman stands up for her rights, she is encouraging ten more to stand up for their rights. This is good. Bharat is the land of incredible women like Revathi Ramachandran, who became the Director of Kalakshetra after the chair was vacant for a year. She was a keen sportsperson and Captain of the Tamil Nadu State Basketball Team before she decided to pursue Culture and Dance full time; Sharmila Biswas, a well known Oddissi exponent who has tried to explore the feelings of Shurpanakha in her dance form – while many try to show the heroines of any literary work, she went another way; Deepa Malik who surmounted all her handicaps to win medals in Paralympic Games; Meghna Girish, Mother of Martyr Major Akshay Girish, who everyday reminds millions of us on Twitter to remember our soldiers and our duty to the Nation; Savita Rao, a simple but dedicated environmentalist who’s life mission is “India First”; Manoshi Sinha, a young author who’s written about the forgotten heroes and sheroes of our civilisation; Uma Anandan, a lawyer who fights cases and exposes conversion and corruption in TN like a tigress; Sharada Narayanan, a lady who did her Doctorate after marriage and kids and went on to co-author a book on Gita Govind; Chandralekha V.S, an acid attack survivor and IAS officer – there are countless more of such strong ladies – if you were to meet any of these strong women, you’d be struck by the sheer lack of any effort to project themselves as ‘Feminists’. Then what makes them strong, what makes them the ideal ‘poster girls’ for Women’s Rights? It has to be the fact that though they have every reason to demand for their Rights, they chose to pursue their Duties!
That’s exactly what the story of Bharat is all about – from the richest to the poorest, we do not have a day dedicated for any class or sex because life is not about any one day – it is about respecting all 24x7, 365 days of the year. In Saundarya Lahiri, the first verse says that without Shakti, Shiva is nothing but a Shava (corpse). Without the presence of the feminine, the masculine is incomplete. This is the teaching and the soul of our Nation. Many point out to the problems faced by women in our country – educating them, breaking the glass ceiling, careers after marriage, lack of voice in the Parliament or the various governmental bodies or institutions, social apathy and more. Yes, this is true. We have lagged behind on many fronts and we do need to improve on these fronts. But there is another truth which makes us triumph at a faster rate than many other Nations – when a lady decides to face all odds and rise, there are enough good Samaritans in society who help her – this could be a member of her family, her friend or even a stranger. This gives us hope and this is the reason why some of the fabulous new schemes of the Government, like the Mudra Yojna and the GEM have women in the forefront as beneficiaries and part of success stories.
Coming back to the verse recited in the beginning, I wish to draw attention to the use of the words Mantri and Rambha. This is enough to show that in families, the opinion of the woman is taken, especially in important matters. Everyone has Dadis and Naanis (Grandmothers) who ruled the family and especially the family expenses, with an iron-hand. It is also a fact that women in our culture never had to hide their sexuality or feel shy about it, especially with their husbands. Yes, with the advent of the Victorian lifestyle, women too were made to feel ashamed of it, but even today you will find many works of literature and poetry and even films by women, who have explored their sexuality, sexual desires or even other desires very boldly. It other countries, they would have to be labelled as ‘feminists’ but here, they are free of such trappings. One would never have called Amrita Pritam or even Gauri Shinde (the writer and director of English Vinglish) a feminist, but they have written about issues which every woman can relate to.
This Women’s Day, let us pledge to support every woman and help her fulfil her mission in life, be it the Mangalyaan or getting Maan-Samman (respect and fame). That would be a true tribute to the struggles and successes of every woman.
(The writer is a Mumbai-based columnist)