Who is the 'Modern Indian Woman'?

Who is the 'Modern Indian Woman'?

Who is the 'Modern Indian Woman'?

Nikita Khosla has lived many lives. The daughter of an army officer, she was educated in different schools and had lived in several cities before she went abroad to study.

Yet, her secure, relatively comfortable life did not get in the way of achieving on her
own. She worked at a prestigious IT company before choosing to pursue her MBA at the University of Oxford. Nikita’s journey, like thousands of Indian women, throws light on the challenges of redefining who the ‘Modern Indian Woman’ really is.

Modernity minus values

Values seem to be at the core of questioning this. Take for instance,what young men look for on matrimonial websites these days. With just a little amount of time, it is easy to see the checklist the average Indian man looks for in a partner – fair-skinned, non-smoker, non-drinker, right caste, a slim body type and a medium height. But if this dream list were to go by the typical single girl who works, it is pushed to the fringe. The buzz-word in most of these websites seem to be the vague phrase ‘modern yet traditional’ – a word that has constantly been used over the past decade to imply that the ‘suitable girl’ could work but she will still be expected to live up to traditional family expectations. Does such a woman exist? In India, the pressure begins early to ensure that such girls are groomed.

“I receive interests from all kinds of people, mostly genuine but some are ridiculous as well. There seems to be a pattern with most male profiles out there, while most of them say they are ‘ok’ with a girl working, they expect her to balance life at home at the same time,” says Anjali, a 27-year old PR executive whose parents have registered her on a matrimonial website, “None of the profiles these men put up say anything about doing their bit about managing a work-life balance. Having said that, there are profiles where some men wish to find a girl who they can just connect with, but then those are rare.”

The responsibility of upholding cultural values seem to fall entirely on the woman, and women who wish to concentrate on their careers seem to feel the pinch of it.

New-age empowerment

Despite societal pressures to uphold traditional values, however, several Indian women in the city are now openly experimenting with dating, single meet-ups and live-in relationships and defying norms.

Rashi, a professional who recently moved in with her long-time boyfriend in Bombay, told me,“I know that people judge me all the time. I find that people whom I haven't met in my building question me about it. I have even had the security guard at my gym ask me about it. Yes, it was a difficult choice to make at first because I was mostly worried about how our families would react. But once our families agreed to the decision, we didn't really worry about what anyone else thought.”

Like Rashi, many women are pushing boundaries like never before and redefining what had long been seen as modern; a girl in western clothes who has no ‘values’.

 “I feel that empowerment is more in the mind. Even if a woman doesn’t work and only manages her family, she can feel and be as empowered as a woman who manages both a family and career,” Nikita suggests. “My mother had to move around with my father every two years and hence did not have a career beyond teaching in schools. The fact that my mother didn’t have a stable career didn’t make her any less empowered. She makes all the financial decisions in the house, she invests money in the stock market and her opinion is valued and heard. As a matter of fact, on my wedding day she refused to do ‘kanya-daan’ saying I will always be their daughter and girls are not commodities to be given. That in my eyes is true empowerment.”

While change is slow, there are signs that things are indeed changing. And one fact remains – that the term ‘Modern Indian Woman’ is an anomaly and will continue to be.
As writer Diane Mariechild once put it, ‘A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.’

 Perhaps, the time has come for us to start accepting that the beauty of womanhood doesn’t lie in compartmentalizing differences but in accepting all these qualities that help make us whole.

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