Independence: Are we really free?

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#SheToo

Where her mind is without fear and her head is held high

Where education is her right

Where her world has not been confined by narrow domestic walls

Where words and actions resonate with respect and understanding

Where her tireless striving is recognized and valued

Where the respect for her gender has not lost its way

Into the dreary desert sand of patriarchal tradition

Where her mind is valued and encouraged to expand

Into ever-widening thought and venture

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let every Woman awake.

Are we really free?

I had just finished my latest article on freedom.

I was proud of my article. It was an exploration of the progress mankind had made over the past decades. It described how, within a short time span of 50 years, most of the world had moved from monarchies and dictatorships, and now lived freely and with dignity.

I walked to the living room, feeling satisfied and proud.

She sat in the sofa sobbing, her body curling into an almost foetal position. Her face was strained and her body was wracked with fear, anger and shame. I could sense her feelings of violation.

I knew that she had endured one more indignity that women (and the world at large) consider the accepted lot of women everywhere.

I sit close, wanting to soothe her, to tell her that I care, that I empathize, that I understand.

For a person who writes hundreds of words a day, I was strangely speechless.

How could I presume to say anything?

I have never been groped. Or treated like a piece of prime meat.

I have never been undressed by hungry eyes. Or looked at with leering greed.

I have never been spoken to while my breasts have been fondled visually.

I have never been pinched and been expected to believe it is a compliment.

I have never been owned. Or bartered, Or sold.

I have never been murdered by my father to protect his honour.

I have never had my clitoris sliced off by a rusty blade to prevent impure thoughts.

I have never been raped. Or violated in any manner.

I have never been told that my brother needs to eat first, as he is a boy and thus, is more valuable than me.

I have never been sacrificed through an abortion because I lacked a penis.

I have never been burnt alive because my parents did not fulfil my husband’s wants.

I have never been told that it is my fault because of the way I dress.

I have never been called a bitch because I refused a pass.

I have never been called a slut because I did not.

I have never been deemed unclean once a month, every month.

I have never been considered a cost. Or a liability.

I sat there for a while, unable to speak, to move, or to do anything to assuage her pain, her indignity.

I got up heavily.

I went back to my laptop.

I erased the article, word by word, my fingers hitting the delete key with increasing violence.

There is no way the world is free, I thought.

How can we call ourselves free when fully half the world is prey to the other half?

How can we call ourselves free when destiny is scripted by gender?

How can we call ourselves free when we cannot even assure women of basic fundamental rights of life, free of violence and hurt, free of suppression and coercion, free to choose and to speak and to live on their own terms?

We are not free.

I shut the laptop and allowed my tears to fall.

 

(#SheToo verse – The lines are a modification of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s immortal lines, “Where the Mind is without Fear and the Head is held High…”)

Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is an engineer, manager and leader. He has worked in shipping, manufacturing, services and offshore logistics. He has extensive experience in building greenfield companies and turning around distressed companies. He has worked in MNCs, family-run businesses and PE-owned enterprises. He has served as CEO/MD for over 10 years in three companies.

He graduated in Marine Engineering from DMET and holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore.

 

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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