Jaipur, Jan 23 (PTI) During her travels in the Mumbai local, writer-journalist Nilanjana Bhowmick would see women chopping vegetables and kneading dough, a burden of household chores in addition to their professional work where they would spend the entire day.
It struck her then that these women did not have the option of hiring domestic help or simply saying no to this work, because that ability to say no comes from a place of privilege, the author of “Lies Our Mothers Told Us: The Indian Woman's Burden” said on Monday here.
“When we say that nobody is asking us to take this burden, we are taking it ourselves, we are talking from a very privileged point of view. We have that choice, but a majority of women in India do not have that choice. They cannot say no, they cannot say no I am not going to leave my job and follow my husband around the country,” Bhowmick said.
She was speaking during a session on the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
“My mother also travelled by train, she was a cop, but I knew my mother wouldn’t do that. So that’s where the privilege comes in. We have internalised that to have it all, we must do it all. But it’s not a choice for a majority of women in the country,” she added.
She, along with Kanta Singh, deputy country representative of UN Women India, also talked at length about the “son preference” prevalent in the country.
Bhowmick noted that it was common among parents to refer to their daughter as son, something that has a “debilitating effect” on women’s mental health.
She recalled an incident from her childhood when her father talked about his daughters as being “more than his sons”.
“A lot of Indian parents say that ‘you are my son’. But I am not your son, I am your daughter. If a girl is working and also taking care of her parents, they would say this is our son. That has a very debilitating effect on women’s mental health. I haven’t been able to forget that experience. And we have come a long way, society has changed but I still remember the day, it is stamped in my memory,” the UN Women editor said.
Singh, a mother of two daughters, also recalled from her experiences that women in her village would tell her that it is a must to “have at least one son”.
“I still remember that they also made you feel insufficient, not blaming them because they are also conditioned into thinking that women won’t be respected unless they bear a son,” Singh said.
“I think mothers in particular are made to think they are responsible for having sons,” she added.
The 16th edition of the JLF saw enthralling conversations by some of the leading authors and thinkers from across the world including Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah, Booker winning authors Bernardine Evaristo and Marlon James, oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, writer-politician Shashi Tharoor, and writer Chigozie Obioma. PTI MAH BK BK