“Care for a coffee break?”, I asked my colleague, peeping into her room. She looked at the papers strewn on her desk with a frown and shrugged. “You go ahead. I have work,” she smiled weakly. “No, come along,” I said, “It will only take a few minutes.” As she grudgingly joined me for coffee, I thought about the transformation I had seen in her since the last six months. She had transitioned from a salwar-kameez to a saree. But there was more. From a woman who was always vibrant and eager to take on tasks, she had quietened down considerably. She now spoke only when she was spoken to, laughed less and always looked weary and worried. It was as if someone had sucked the life out of her.
“What is bothering you?”, I asked, trying to probe, “Did someone at home say something?”. She shook her head and sipped her coffee. I sat there quietly looking at the thin film of fluid flooding her eyes.
“Does anyone even have to say something?”, she finally said. “How can you ignore the raised eyebrows or cold vibes when I enter the house an hour late? Or the way someone bangs his plate when I’m not able to cook a delicacy, as I am in a rush? Or, the expressionless back I have to face when I go to bed.”
I didn’t have to ask for more details. A woman can fly best when her family becomes the wind beneath her wings. But not everyone is lucky to have understanding people at home. As you juggle between home and work, trying to be a perfectionist at all ends, you need help. Lots of it. It doesn’t help when someone dictates your choice of clothes or timings or your food habits. It is story I have heard so frequently that I didn’t need to ask anything more.
The other day, the sight of a new library exhilarates me. “I’m going to spend my evenings studying here!”, I exclaim excitedly. “And who is going to cook dinner at home?” pat comes the comment from my colleague instantly. Something pops loudly inside my skull. Would he have reacted similarly if one of our male colleagues had made the same statement?
Mindsets. Archaic. Ingrained with the wisdom of centuries. Frozen in time. Stereotyped.
And then, I look at the news about news. The blackening of TV screens. The choking of voices. The need to censor every voice of dissent.
This is all pervasive. Not gender specific. Not region specific. Not country specific. They begin with clipping our wings. And we remain silent, because we don’t want to create a scene. This saga repeats itself day after day. We suffer in silence, as we have been taught that it is not dignified to speak up. There is no other choice- this will end with crushing every voice of reason. By stripping our dignity. By shrinking our souls.