• Under the Raintree Festival

'A Privileged Future' by Pratiksha Shenoy

I pulled over at the state museum and asked Ira, my daughter, to wait at the entrance while I parked the car. She looked at the place I'd brought her to, and with a perplexed look, asked me- "The museum?”


"Yes, the museum. There's something here that I want you to see".


She looked at me again, like she was trying to read my mind, and the honk from the car behind us, cut short her mind reading attempt and prompted her to get down.


I parked and as we walked into the museum, she was guessing already.


"Our independence? "

"No"


"Cultures and traditions? "

"No"


"Agrarian history? "

"No"


"Weaves of India? "

"No"


I was smiling at her curiosity by now. As we walked through the various sections of the state museum, we finally reached the section that was recently set up.

The plaque read- "Women's Revolution Against Gender Bias"


I told Ira, "It was a daily struggle for women to fight against stereotyping where their body was valued more than the mind. A woman may have had the skills, knowledge, willingness to learn, the desire to excel, but the one most commonly talked about trait was her looks. “You’re so pretty! You shouldn’t be doing this technical job” or “You should consider make up, and dress up a little, you’ll land the job for sure!”. Women were taught to engage in pointless rituals that took up so much of their time which they could have used for other meaningful pursuits. We also faced a society that looked at our body first; it hardly ever listened to what our mind had to say."


We went through the exhibits which had pictures of women who rebelled against the corporate biggies, for not valuing the meritocracy of women. It had their stories in an audio visual, which Ira listened to earnestly.


After going through the section, she asked "Did all this really happen? "


I smiled and said "Yes. Things are positive and different today because of what these women stood for and fought for. You can now go for an interview and not be judged for your looks. You are eligible for your promotion solely because of your skill and talent. You can sit at the table heading a meeting or lead a huge project purely because of your merit. If it wasn't for them, people would still objectify women and value their body over their minds. These women decided that it is time to wake people up from this slumber of indifference, and drill it into their heads that stereotyping women is unjust, unfair and offensive, and it must end if the society needs to progress.


And as you just saw, they pushed organizations to guarantee a safe and harassment-free work environment. They urged them to put in efforts to instituting and enforcing mechanisms for the same. They also helped confront gender stereotypes present at workplaces by sustaining systems that evaluated them on the basis of their skills, experience and qualifications and provided compensation for their abilities and not their gender. They advocated that any society that fails to bind the dynamism and creativity of it's women is at a massive disadvantage. They believed that there was a strong need to start from the grass root level- educate the society and bring about a transformation in the thought process. And this is how they were able to make paradigm shift in this issue."


Ira was lost in thought for a while. As we walked towards the exit, she said "Thanks for today Amma. I had no idea that women had so many struggles at the workplace and had to fight against the system to make the scales even. I'm glad that stereotypes don't exist anymore. And I now know what I will be talking about in class for my speech.


By the way, I loved the quotes section. My favourite one is by Sheryl Sandberg- 'Next time you are about to call a little girl “bossy”, say instead: she has executive leadership skills.' I'm going to remember that one!"


I smiled and said, "I'm glad you liked it. After all, it's the mind that matters".