Dignity for all

Fiona FernandezEven as all of India is still simmering in the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, and an increasing number of cases related to harassment, molestation, rape and even death, keep getting more column space and air time, in our publications and social media platforms, and on television, respectively, a few realities faced by Indian women, in the larger picture are yet to find plausible solutions.

Take for example the case of women who’ve been victims of emotional neglect, matrimonial discord and unhappy family lives, as they yearn to break free and seek peace of mind in a safe, happy set-up outside this stifling environment. It’s a scenario that pans across the rich, the middle class and the poor. So, while some of our American and Australian TV portray examples of women living contented lives in blissful surroundings, putting their skills to use, getting on with their routine lives sans the questions, in a positive mindset despite the eventuality of entering into autumn of their lives in solitude, the scene in India’s big cities is far from rosy.

This journalist came across a case recently, in Mumbai, of an upper middle-class woman in her late 50s, highly educated, skilled in her profession, who was seeking for space outside an unhappy marriage. Her options, despite being ready to shell out good money for this life, were next to none. This, even in so-called cosmopolitan, free-minded, up-scale Mumbai. She didn’t fall in the ‘old age’ category, nor was she sick and nor was she unskilled. Yet, she was, and continues to hit dead ends with finding a space that was safe, clean and that offered her peace of mind, within or even in the outskirts of the city.

One shuddered to hear her trails that lead to poorly managed homes run by good souls (bless them) on shoestring budgets. These were filled with old aged and ill folk abandoned by their families and loved ones; some living just a stone’s throw away.

Most had negligible funding (thanks to low lifetime deposits) and naturally, very basic amenities – the frames you’d recall from grainy documentaries of residents living in homes in far-flung, dusty, tier III towns in the other India. Then, one heard of options like ashrams being explored. These, at times, tend to lean towards spiritual zeal and religious jingoism that can put off the most tolerant of beings. Her search continues. And, as options keep getting ticked off, leaving the familiar security of a known city, for a far-off, unknown abode in the Himalayas, or the like, looms large. And this is a story straight out of 'Modern' India.

One cannot but ask about the futility of all our state-of-the-art hospitals and world-class doctors where we advertise India as an ideal destination for medical tourism on the one hand, but are unable to heal the emotionally sick and downtrodden with proper, safe abodes.

What sort of civil, sensitive society do we live in when such deep, pressing issues at the very core of a woman’s freedom to exist, continue to remain unsolved? It might appear like a tiny ripple in what seems like a vast ocean. But sadly, yet another remainder that the woman in India will continue to have to fight the odds and look harder, for what’s rightfully hers.

The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY

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