Tag Archives: Women’s liberation

Made In Heaven

jadhavs

If I ask him about HIS health complaints, he points at her and says “Ask her, I don’t know”.

Mr. Hanuman Jadhav brings his wife Mrs. Laxmibai Jadhav regularly for follow ups, keeps all her records filed date-wise, brings all the medicines and asks me to do the best for her, adding “Don’t worry about the expenses, we can buy for her any medicine you want”. He has no source of earning, but his children provide for them.

“She has looked after me, my home and grown up my kids. I am nothing without her” says this retired foreman of an electric company. He spent his life roaming all over Maharashtra with his family, wherever the govt. transferred him. His old wrist watch and simple clothes reveal his humble state of life’s affairs. He is minimally educated, does not know the words “Culture” or “Gentleman”, but is better cultured and more of a Gentleman than most who know those words!

He patiently listens without interrupting till she finishes all her questions. He does not behave as if he is her ‘Master’. Then at the end she asks (rather orders) me to examine him. If I ask him about his complaints, he points at her and says “Ask her, I don’t know”. Then she blushes and lists all his complaints, and he usually agrees. The only argument they have is about the other one “Not eating well enough”.

In the end she always says “My illness is not important. He must stay healthy at all costs. He has worked hard to keep us all well”. As they leave, she does not forget to remind me that I am like a son for them.

They do not ever complain about each other, not even as a joke with hidden shades of truth!

We rarely see this respect and equality for one’s own spouse, even among the best educated. These two have not read any literature, nor seen any movies about women’s lib. Since the last five years that I know them, they have been one outstanding example of genuine, heavenly love only dreamt by those in the ambition industry. Even the most educated and elite seldom treat their spouses as equal.

These two are still so shy, they urged that I stand between them for the pic!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Housewife, or Outwife?”

“Housewife, or Outwife?”
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Isn’t your wife working? She must not waste her education.. She has such good opportunity..” he asked.
“Yes, she is planning to, but after the baby is at least three months old. We have taken alternate leaves. What about your wife?” I asked. I knew his wife was a qualified postgraduate doctor.
“Oh she wants to stay at home and look after the kids. There is no one else at our home to take care of the kids. My mom has knee pain. She feels that once the kids grow up to 10 years, then my wife should join duty. I said okay, anyways I am earning enough!” he replied.
“Then why did you ask about the waste of my wife’s education?” I thought, but didn’t ask. I was used to these questions.

Although a single now, I was once married. My parents had gracefully lived like friends till my father passed away, so there always was a culture of true equality without any “culturally sweetened” excuses at our home. “If at all there has to be a preference, and you two disagree, prefer what your wife wants” my father always insisted. So naturally she studied and worked as she wanted, made her choices. There were no discussions about superiority, neither any hidden rules of dominance at our place. This has a compromise: when both are equal, and there is no “dominance”, fights/ arguments over differences increase. Still this was any day better than a traditionally hidden slavery system.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

But there were these friends, relatives and strangers, who kept on continuing the evergreen Indian business of “frankly poking their noses” in our affairs. From advice about what to eat to when to have children, they all had individualised suggestions for us, notwithstanding the knowledge that we were both qualified doctors!

One of my uncles was famous for spending his whole life at home before and after work reclining in a sofa. His day started with shifting himself from his bed to the sofa, ordering his wife to ‘paste his brush’, make tea, heat up water for his bath, keep his towel in the bathroom (all this while he read newspapers or watched TV), keep his office clothes ready, make his favourite dishes for breakfast, tiffin and dinner every day, and telling her and everyone else how much he loved her. Although she was an art graduate and sung well, she didn’t get any time for herself beyond his chores and raising the four kids. As aunty herself smilingly said she enjoyed doing all this, other working women in the family kept on speaking about her in ‘belittling’ words, of her being lucky to be ‘just a housewife’. Every other day, uncle’s friends came home for dinner / drinks / card games etc., and aunty kept serving their culinary wishes.© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

This very uncle was once chatting with me at a marriage ceremony. My grandma sent some tea with my wife to the room where I sat with this uncle and many guests, most strangers. As she handed over the tea to me, my uncle, in a ‘classified diplomatic high volume” voice, started: “Rajas, she is a doctor. She is equally educated as you. How can you ask her to make tea for you and bring it? Is she your slave? You must treat her as your equal”. As the whole room and over 40 eyes stared derogatory at me, I expected her to reply, but someone called her and she left.

I was reluctant, but one must never give up the wars for dignity.
“Why should she be a slave even if she is less educated or even uneducated?” I asked him. “Do you mean to say that a differently educated woman is doomed to be a slave? Why must your wife cook for you? Why must she be responsible for everything from your clothes to cleaning of the house to raising the kids, while you order her like a personal assistant? I have never even seen you getting a glass of water for yourself” I retorted. The ‘seniors’ in the room interfered, reminding me that this was not the way to ‘answer back’ an uncle.

Years passed by. We divorced. Kids with me, and an ever demanding career of a specialist doctor, I realised further more how difficult it is to attend to the house chores alone. From handling groceries, maids to schooling, how insufficient it is to have only two hands and only 24 hours. God helped, and I have survived.

This caused one definite change in my practice. While asking women the history, we were trained to ask “Are you working or not”? (and the usual answer used to be “No, I don’t work, I’m just a housewife”). Now I ask “Do you work only at home or also outside?” . Because I know the housewife works far more than the workwife, but without any remuneration or respect. The job of successfully growing up children is any day over and above any other!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

“Someone has to look after the family. I can earn and provide as much as she wants. I give her whatever she wants. She has to choose a career with lesser responsibility, so someone is available for kids. She loves taking care of me and the children. This is our tradition, our culture. Men hunt, women nest”. There are so many sweet excuses of murdering a woman’s career! Well what most men hunt are women’s dreams and where most women nest are prisons with golden walls. The immense clever deceptive wordplay that goes into hiding the simple truth “I think women should look after home and live a secondary life while men have a free will” is amazingly accepted by even the best talented men in our society!

Be it doctors or any other profession, a “lesser career” for a woman is taken for granted by those who claim to love her.

“She should be happy about it: she has to just sit at home and enjoy, while I do all the hard work” said the national level director of a telecom project.

The second side: “I like doing it for my family” some women say, and if they do, how perfect it must feel!© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

It is not my business what others decide among themselves. But when people who “encage” their wives in the confines of a home start talking diplomatically about gender equality or why other people’s beautiful and able wives must start working etc., when they flirt with their officemates / colleagues while expecting wifey dear to keep dinner ready when they “return tired”, I cannot stop reacting without a sizzle in my words.

There are no easy answers for the ritualistic mindsets though.

One of my patients suffered with a very bad form of Parkinsonism, and was bed-bound for over five years. His perfectly healthy wife once broke down. “I have taken care of this man since the first day of our marriage, done everything he wanted. He was always busy, day and even many a night, outside the house, I have always been lonely all through so many years. I used to pray to God that I get some good time with him. The thought of making any friends, some other man never touched me. But he never talked to me about love. Never realised I was burning inside for true friendship with him. Now he is home all the time and wants me never to leave his bedside. But now I am tired. Now I clean him, feed him and just think: what had I done wrong to deserve this kind of a punishment?”.
When he passed away, we heard two reactions: “He is now relieved of his pain” and “She is now relieved of having to take his care”. What no one spoke was about the loveless, friendless 50 years of a woman’s life.

“You are so brilliant, hard working and yes, beautiful ,” said a senior professor, to a bombesque colleague friend of mine, gently patting upon her back, “you must make a great career.. Do let me know if you have any problems, I have many connections”. “Yes, Sir, may I ask what madam (your wife) does? Is she a doctor too?” asked my friend. “No, she stopped after MBBS. We married early, you see!” he replied.

Later that evening, as we sat at Nariman Point watching the sea, I asked her opinion about what the professor had said.
The breezes were noisy, and so was the sea, but the single word that she used for him made a hundred red faces turn towards us.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Female Foeticide versus Lifelong Socio-cultural Sadism?

 © Dr. Rajas Deshpande

Whenever female foeticide is discussed, many self-crowned intellectuals run the horses of their pseudo-western philosophy against the entire medical profession. Some irresponsible media asks opinions of the very same majority people for whom our desi government has to run billion dollar campaigns, educating them to shit in the toilet. Might as well ask them the solutions for global warming, terrorism and corruption!

What does our society do once a female child is born (again with the help of doctors)? 

Daughter, Sister, Wife and Mother: almost every female around us (except probably a girlfriend) is taken advantage of, ordered around, made to compromise, told that she must accept the limitations of being a woman, and in general made to live an enslaved and dependant life, under sweet names of love, responsibility, security and a “bad world for women out there”. Who makes this bad world?

In many cultures, the girl child is fed poorly: typically the ghee and sweets and “costlier” food goes to the male child, especially in big poor families. Even the rich and educated are seen having many daughters in a hope to have a male child, and after having one, spending far more on that male child. The girl child has little freedom to dress by choice and play, and is forced to believe from pre-adolescence that kitchen and bedroom are her workplaces for life. Many parents are averse to the idea of their girl child going to parlours or theaters and opting for friends, hobbies or even hairstyles of her choice.

Many parents do not spend upon the education of a female child, the “prime investment” goes in educating the male child even when the female child is smarter, intelligent and hard working.  A girl wanting to pursue higher studies is mentally raped by umpteen relatives who pressurise her parents into shame if she is not “married away” before 25 years of age. (RAMP syndrome: “Relatives Affected with Marriage Psychosis). The dreams of a female child are killed every moment, almost all her active life.  Most men in all fields opt that their wives “look after the kids and home” even if equally educated or better in some cases. While some recent generations encourage equality, this is only urban. A girl is trained to think and say “ I enjoy staying at home and looking after the family as this is what a woman is supposed to do. It is okay for the husband to come home tired or drunk, hit me if angry, and in general to take me perpetually for granted”.

Let a grown up girl walk on any street in India and watch our “manly” public’s eyes following her. You will understand how many of them truly respect women. Let a woman grow socially or at work, and observe the comments of her colleagues about her character. Let a woman decide to marry for love, and there are open decrees to kill her. In a country which runs local trains with one out of ten coaches for women, and reserves four out of twenty seats for ‘ladies’ in a bus, how many people really care for equality of a female foetus and it’s life? In a country where women have to be elected by reserving electorates across male-dominant cultures, who will enforce respect of a poor girl child?

In a society which wakes up to graphic contents of rapes and murders of females aged few months to upto seventy years, how many will stand up actually when a female is being raped or murdered? It is easy to shoot hate content against an educated, civil, non-violent community of doctors. It is easy to blame an entire profession for the faults of a few greedy doctors. Do these “pseudoactivists” have enough courage to stand up against their own female-enslaving culture? Do they have courage to treat their own wives, sisters and daughters at par with men in their own family/ community?

 On every street in every metropolis, hundreds of children – girls and boys- are made to beg naked, dancing, cleaning cars and ever hungry. Where are all the activists who fight for the agony of unborn female foetus? What are your plans for the already born female children begging insecure across the country on every street? Also, one wonders about their views on “male foeticide”, a common abortion. How come male child murders are forgiven? Some of these “pseudoactivists” are like typical orthodox husbands, who flirt with their female colleagues at work talking about freedom, but take an offence when their wife talks to other men.

Female foeticide is ugly, bad blot on our society. It must end. But please stop pinning the entire blame on the medical profession. The facts mentioned above are enough proof that even without the doctor being involved, our society continues to be extremely unjust and cruel to women. Introspect. The female foetuses must be saved. But after their birth they must also be nurtured, loved, respected, treated with genuine equality and given equal socio-cultural freedom. Do these activists have guts to fight for that? There should be a precondition for every “activist” of this cause to adopt at least one girl child, and look after her proper food and education giving her complete freedom.

Activism for females should not stop once they are born.

PS: The radiologists and gynaecologists / obstetricians have a lot more practice beyond and unrelated to abortions, and are far more human in caring for women than most of the society. None of the doctors starves without this “abortion business” as claimed by some activists and media. In a country where there is huge shortage of expert doctors, it is ridiculous that they have been made the easy targets for everyone’s mudslinging.  

Jai Hind.

(c) Dr. Rajas Deshpande