An Open letter to women to inspire them to live life on their own terms and not lower their standards or dreams to please our patriarchal and regressive society.
Like many Indian women, my sister and I were raised in a middle-class family. There were constant discussions about ‘log kya kahengey’. Rather than being told to follow our hearts, we were constantly reminded to view it from the lens of what society would think of our actions.
“You can’t wear this and go? Log Kya Kahenge!”
“Why were you out so late with your friends? Log Kya Kahenge!”
“You can’t go on trips alone with your friends! Log Kya Kahenge!”
“You can’t marry that boy! Log Kya Kahenge!”
“You can’t answer back to your uncle and aunty! Log Kya Kahenge!”
In short, most of the decisions at our home – from clothes to career to the man whom you want to marry – were expected to be taken with one key objective: To please our unfair society!
Don’t get me wrong, my maa and papa loved us. But, as parents of two daughters, they lived under the immense pressure of raising their daughters right. Because in a patriarchal society, the only thing worse than having two daughters is to have two outspoken, rebel, and free-spirited daughters, who are anything but sanskaari! Our house was a constant battlefield where our loving but society-obsessed parents kept raising us to please our hypocrite and judgmental society happy!
Hardly our parents knew that whatever their daughters do, society is never doing to be happy. Because their daughters’ biggest crime was that they were women!
My sister and I really tried hard to please society; to make our parents proud. We studied hard, got scholarships, scored great grades, graduated as gold medalists. But, our patriarchal society refused to see our achievements. All they could see was our gender! Society just saw that we were women, who needed to get married by age of 24.
Though my sister and I made sure that we do everything as our parents say, we made one mistake – a mistake that changed everything. We made the mistake of dreaming.
We rebelled to see dreams which made us believe that we were more than our gender!
So when my sister completed her graduation, she told my parents that she will do post-graduation. She declared to every relative, who wanted her to tie the knot, that she won’t get married till the day she starts earning for herself and her family.
Her fight for her dignity and dreams were seen as a sign of rebel or a war against society. Our parents were blamed for giving her too much independence. Even, her education was blamed.
But my sister refused to budge. She refused to give up on her dreams to please society. In the fear of ‘log kya kahengey’, she refused to lower her standards to just fit in. As a person who always believed that she was born to stand out, it was impossible for her to give up on herself just to fit in.
And if it wasn’t for my sisters’ revolt, my sister and I would have never fought for our dreams. She wouldn’t have become a dentist and I wouldn’t have been a marketing professional.
As I write this letter after 12 years of that incident, hardly anything has changed for women. Still, our patriarchal society shames and insults women for living life on their own terms. Still, our patriarchal society expects women to give up on their dreams. Still, our patriarchal society expects women to lower their standards to fit in.
But as I am raising my daughter, I refuse to bow down to the norms of our regressive society. I refuse to raise my daughter under the constant fear of log kya kahengey; I refuse to let my daughter lower her standards to please our regressive and unfair society.
Rather than fitting in, I will raise my daughter to fly and stand-out. Will you too?