Malala was plain lucky that she survived the gun attack on her head by the Talibanis in Pakistan and today she is safely ensconced in London in full media glare, safe from the attacks of her tormentors who would not think twice before cutting off her head if they could.
But not every girl is born with that kind of luck. In India from the time she is born she is bound by chains of stereotypes at every step compared to which a beheading once by the Taliban may actually seem like a blessing.
As a child she is treated as a second class human being if there she has a brother. And if she does not have a brother all the worse for her because the whole household will be considered unlucky and an object of pity till one is born.
Ironically, even after earning accolades for successfully sending the Mangalyan to the Mars in the first attempt, if the woman does not beget a son it is the wife who will be cursed! That is the kind of scientific temperament that we are raising toasts to for the commitment and dedication of some scientists.
In many cases she is turned out of the house and in case she survives this ignominy because the family cannot get hold of a full-time bonded labour she would be told to mind her place and of course, her tongue.
As the girl child grows out of her teenage fantasies to join college or taking up a job she learns more lessons on what not to say, not to wear and not to do. The more her creative and thinking faculties are developed the more we hasten to shackle her, scared that she would act like the proverbial ‘bull in a China shop’ if she starts behaving ‘naturally’.
The values that she is supposed to inherit as Sanskar for ‘her own survival’ are decided by the herd of men and women of a particular set of mind in the group she is born into that go as ‘society’ in legal parlance.
If her group is governed by the Khap panchayat even God cannot save her because politicians will not risk losing their solid vote-banks to protect the dignity and self respect of a female.
The dreaded Khaps can issue the weirdest orders take away the cellphones from girls, don’t allow them to wear jeans, get them married off at the age of 16 to prevent rapes ( in other words subject them to marital rapes) which is not a crime in India. The list of such diktats are senseless, endless and growing.
This list is indirectly proportional to the technological advances in the world. Which means that if technology opens one door for making communication easier these cowards going by the name of Khaps will slam four doors and windows shut for the female species.
But one issue on which our hydra-headed society across all regions and religions and faiths is unanimous is that females must get married. Men who remain bachelors are blessed and pure souls but women who dare to defy the law of Nature do not deserve to be born.
The choice before the female species in this blessed country is wide open- remain unmarried and be called characterless or get married and lose your identity and become identity less.
Life after matrimony in the great Indian society is another story altogether -more complicated than in any other country and putting the potential Malalas into a real spot.
Ever since a girl starts speaking and understanding she is told that she must behave properly- not to talk to strangers, not to laugh loudly even if she is watching a cartoon on TV or comedy circus and absolutely never use her own mind.
All this is to prepare her for a married life after. Every girl knows that a marriage is a one-way traffic. Like the chakravyuh in Mahabharata the Indian woman knows how to enter matrimony but she is left to fend for herself if she wants to get out of the mess it has turned into. Her parents have washed their hands off her and her in-laws have turned into foes forgetting that she is also the daughter of someone.
If like me some of you thought that inter-caste marriages, either arranged or love marriages were making things easier a seminar on ‘Women and social media,’ that I attended opened my eyes.
One of the researchers read out a paper after talking to some women who had volunteered to add to the spirit of national integration by opting for such marriages were left to fend for themselves when asked to cook dishes for their new family.
Since they were ashamed to call up their moms for every recipe they had to finally join the Facebook cuisine groups where their anonymity was their best friend to bail them out.
My own experience tells me that under such extreme pressures and swimming against the tide most of the time if a woman stands out and achieves a status for herself she deserves more than just a Nobel Prize.
By: Amitabh Srivastava