Bring on the change

Bring on the change

Krishna Kumari takes a brief look at the things that changed the life of Indian women

I picked up this book I brought from the library with a lot of excitement and just flipped through it to feel it, to smell it and then it fell — a newspaper cutting that someone had used as a bookmark. I love these moments — somehow, reading an article from an old newspaper cutting is very different from reading it the day the paper comes. And guess what this article was about — bicycles and how it changed the world. Somewhere in that article, they referred to how the bicycle is considered one of the foremost triggers for women’s emancipation in the western world as it allowed women to go out freely, not be dependent on the man of the household and how it influenced what women wore and how it allowed women to socialise more. Interesting, isn’t it?

I started wondering about what could be considered as one of the foremost triggers in India. Definitely not a bicycle! Education? For sure. Go back a 100 years and women going to schools was unheard of — most of them were getting married off before they attained puberty. What else could be a top contender? Birth control, of course. Once again, it requires us to go just a couple of generations back to see women in our families who had eight or more pregnancies, with tales of miscarriages, stillbirths and then raising five or more children not to mention the life risk they faced in many of these deliveries.

I called my nearly 80-year-old mom and posed this question to her. Pat came her reply — it is the mixie! She mocked me for thinking about the various options. Isn’t it obvious, she asked? In the context of Indian cooking, one is always grinding, powdering, crushing, pounding the various ingredients — cooking was a whole day affair — before meal times women laboured in front of the fire and rest of the times they were converting the raw materials into various other forms in preparation for the next meal/to store for the near future. With the advent of the mixie, women found more of the most precious resource available — yes, her time and less physical labour. Giving her some respite, some relief that bound her body to the chores. Yes, of course, I would consider this a topper amongst the “things”. What do you say?

Does it matter? Yes, it does...to think of the women just a couple of generations back and to reflect on the journey until now to help us decide where and how to take it forward, to make sure we just don’t take things for granted — be it the “things” we use on a day-to-day basis or education or birth control and what not!

(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian woman & proposes actionable strategies set in the Indian context.)