Friday, June 12, 2020

The Woman That I Am - Not A Book Review

I don't think I need to give a rationale as to why I picked up this book as my next read... I guess the title itself says it all :)!

I had decided to club three book reviews in one single blog post from here on but this book deserves special attention.... Not only because of the title alone... But because it's a compilation of stories of 30 women and writing a review for this book is like writing a review for all those 30 beautiful pieces of work in the book.... Each of which made me feel special for the woman that I am.

Cover Page & Title

I simply loved the cover page. It just couldn't have been anything else. A perfect cover page design for signifying 'The Woman That I Am'. A simple picture which somehow instills that feeling of celebration within.... The celebration of womanhood... The celebration of Acknowledgment.... For the Woman that I am... You are... And we all are. Very nicely and in all it's simplicity the cover design just says it all....

Book Sneak Peek

I loved the very concept of the book... As in, we all happen to read various blog posts, articles and pages on womanhood and it's various aspects... But mostly in a disjoint manner. Each of them have a different story of struggle... But to bring it all under one fold... In the form of one book... Is such an amazing concept. When you read the stories of each one of them.....each experience being unique of the trysts faced... Yet each that you can identify with... Each a distinct celebration in itself of the enigma of womanhood.

While one story speaks of a woman trying to find her value at home another speaks of her trying to empower herself in the true sense of being able to choose between career and home.... While some other speaks of a mother and it's definition and some other of societal ideologies of ages being associated with marriage and motherhood. The book is a collage of experiences.... Very real and very true... Which every woman experiences without fail.

An ode to the book & it's title

While, I strongly believe that the word 'Feminism' has got terribly abused over a period of time and so much so that it has started to overbear on the very concept of womanhood. I say this because I feel somewhere in that fight of equality we seemed to have missed the cause. Let me try to illustrate my point.....I pay an ode to this book for bringing out the 'woman in me' to write down my thoughts today :).

The 'Door mat' Feeling

So, if a door mat feels like a door mat... And sees no worth of being a door mat then who does it expect to garner it with it's deserved worth. And if the door mat finds itself to be of utmost value.... So much that it's placed at the entry point of every house... To serve a very important purpose without which the entire house is at the mercy of the dirt evading it's space..... Then does any one really have to explicitly tell or uphold the door mat's worth?! In simple terms, if the door mat were to realise it's self worth it does not have to wait for anyone's endorsement and for all you know it can even probably see it's worth in other's eyes... The very ones it was searching before to find that worth.

Basically, value or worth is what you give to yourself... No one else can give or take it away from you. It doesn't matter who you are... A homemaker or a career woman... If you feel like a doormat... Others will treat you like one! Seeking value (not begging for it!) is like a mirror... It will show you what you want to see... If you see value in yourself the mirror will also show you the same. And let me assure you.... The feeling of door mat has nothing to do with financial independence.... You might be an ambitious career woman earning decent pay checks and still feel like a door mat!

The word 'sacrifice'

Coming to sacrifices....I don't know if there is some abnormality particularly in me or anyone else also feels the same... But with all honesty, when I see those superwoman mothers being honored for all the motherly sacrifices that they have made for their child snaps and forward messages on Mother's Day it makes me cringe. Why does a mother have to be propagated as a superwoman.... If someone is doing all those superhumanly things as a mother.... Kudos to her... But why is that being set as an example. And what's with the word sacrifice really?!

If I choose to give up my job for my child .....or if I choose to continue with my job after a child... They are choices we make as a woman. Why term them as sacrifices?! Even if you do so... Are you trying to say if a mother chooses to continue with her career and is leaving her child back home with a baby sitter or at a day care is not making any sacrifice?! Is sacrifice only restricted to career aspirations and persuasion of hobbies and nothing else?!

Every choice that we as an individual make... Be it a woman or a man... Is accompanied with costs to be paid... Or as you call it sacrifices to be made. Anything you want to pursue in life wholeheartedly will lead to sacrifice of something else.... It's just one life and millions of aspirations... You can't possibly pursue all. 

Let's not abuse this word sacrifice. I choosing to be a mother is a choice.... I choosing to quit my job so that I can be with my child is also a choice. I cooking for my child... Helping with his homework.... Taking care of his/her likes/dislikes/rants.....sleepless nights etc is what comes naturally if you have chosen to go on that roller coaster ride of motherhood. And you do all this naturally because when you see that smile on your child's face you feel gratified and rewarded for more than what you had laboured. And in doing all this do I crave to see myself as an inspiration to my child. No, I don't... How can I... I want my child to do better than me in life.... Better in all respects. And for him/her to grow up to be better than can I be the inspiration.... If I am the inspiration then my child will grow up to be like me... Not better than me!! 

In other words, motherhood is a choice you made to feel good for yourself then why belittle this divine feeling by terming it as sacrifice?! And why ask for endorsements on this too.... And why propagate the thought of sacrifice?! Motherhood is a divine feeling to be cherished and lived then why make it sound like an accomplishment waiting to be recognised and awarded!

'No time for self'

Yes, unfortunately a day is designed in such a way that it has only 24 hrs.... Sadly we can't ask the Sun to has not got that far yet!!

In this world and age which is moving at lightening pace let me ask a simple question again.... Who do you think has any time (unless really worked out in the schedule) in his/her jam packed schedule for himself/herself on this planet Earth?! Unless you are like a log with nothing better to do in life everyone else are fighting to adjust their day in those sacrosanct 24 hrs ! Everyone is running against that race of time. So, please pat yourself that in whatever you are doing... That is be it household work... Or at office... Or juggling with both... Woman or man for that matter.... No one has that sought after 'Me Time' have to fend for it yourself as per your definition. It's like salt.... Add as per your taste... And it's always in small quantities and a very important ingredient.... You forget about it... It's to your peril.... You add too much of it... Peril again!

Fight for Equality

Yes, we must fight.... If we don't fight for our own right... We won't get it. True... Very True! But what are we fighting for.... Equality in what? Should we not define it?

Somehow this fight has also got twisted and bent towards 'monetary benefit' and finances. For equal amount of work the pay definitely should be equal....I completely agree....  but what about unequal amount of work?!

A and B have equal amount of work in an office. Both are equally sincere and equally hard working and let's assume for ease sake both are women in this case. A goes on maternity leave for 6 months and comes back. Now, it's time for appraisals. So, who should get promoted or the better rating/increment/bonus. Just incase B does get all these things why does A feel betrayed? Did A achieve any less in the whole process? Or is it just the money and the promotion that defines and is the only measure of achievement here? What about the creation of a life here by A... Why doesn't she count it towards her achievement for that year? If B was a man instead of a woman in the example how does the entire logic change?

Since our fight for equality has somehow got limited to just this petty issue organizations in India have given a 6 month maternity leave (instead of 3 months earlier)  and some organizations have assured no downfall in appraisal ratings because of the maternity leave and of course no firing during the leave period. That's it.... But we have missed the bigger picture here in just fighting for this teeny tiny piece of equality. Many new mothers still leave their jobs after a while... Even after these rules.... Do you know why? Because after a point the equal pay thing doesn't matter... All the mothers need is some flexibility. And when I say flexibility it's not in terms of having a crib in the office building but flexibility in working hours.

If organizations could give work from home options.... Half day work weeks... Or flexibility to choose 3/4 day work weeks still retaining the concept of equal pay equal work... Many women wouldn't have to embrace motherhood and leave their jobs. Even today many companies ask reason for gaps in CVs and don't appreciate it even if its for child care reasons. But how much are we fighting for these things?! Somewhere in that fight for equal dignity we are losing the race to equal pay ! 

And if the fight is for equal distribution of household work... We will come to it below. And for everything else, we are more than equal....we know that....well, so then what's the fight for?! 

Equal work distribution 

Yes, the household work and when I say household it means everything from the cleaning of dishes to procuring the earning to run the household.... Distribution should be equal. Very justified ask. 

The ask sounds silly only when we start segregating the work as 'menial' and 'non-menial'. If we ourselves call the work we do as menial and valueless I guess it's difficult to expect someone else to value it. Cooking, washing, cleaning.... How many times have you heard anyone say it with pride.... What do you do.... I take care of essential services of household without which survival is difficult.... I cook, wash and clean. Does any one answer that way?! If you crib and complain and call your job menial then that's the status it will attain and so it has. And after the work has been branded as menial the fight on distribution of it begins!

And just for a hypothetical argument... Look around.... All essential services are underpaid and taken for granted.... But that doesn't make them of any less value.... People can only clap and cheer for these essential services....and cant be more thankful.... as they are invaluable!

The Asks

The problem on the list of asks from a woman is age old... Not a novel one. In fact, we should be truly lucky to be born in this generation where atleast a few of us have had the privilege to earn our rights. 

So, coming to the asks.... Yes they are many... Innumerable... Should be beautiful, fair, modest, shaant and susheel (let me not spoil it with the English translation), able to do all the house hold work (or sometimes should do!) .... And added to all this a new feature these days should be educated and  EARNING (you are clever enough to add the greater than smaller than symbols...!!) Long list. But my only humble submission....if you have just one attribute of this long list...that single one in the bold capitalized... They why fall prey to honing the other attributes which you don't have and which seem to you like a compulsion forced upon you. What's stopping you from walking out if you find it unjustified ? The list is long and injustice it is... Yes.... But if the doer is a culprit so is the one who succumbed to the injustice especially when she is not a dependent. Don't you think?! 

The Real Problem

Having said that, not that it's a wrongly understood fairytale story for any woman here. Only a woman knows what it takes to be a woman. There sure are real problems (even if I don't talk of the bone chilling crimes and the innumerable societal taboos) and in all their gravity. All the above might hold true for the privileged class.... But the social issues rooted elsewhere are manifold and need to be addressed.

Unfortunately a woman not so well educated or maybe uneducated.... Who was neither given the right to pursue her studies nor any exposure.....and was made dependent and left at the mercy of the societal conditions and beliefs.... Devoiding her or rather stripping her off the confidence to be able to stand on her own if need be....and with all this if fate is against her... Then the problem is stark and real. But it's also very unfortunate that that very woman doesn't know about any of the above fights nor are these fights reaching her! 

Celebration of womanhood will be true and complete on that day... When even this woman will be able to celebrate that woman in her. 

So yes,  till then .......let's keep taking these baby steps by compilation of thoughts and experiences through such books. If I pick and choose stories of this book the essence of the book will be lost as each story is real and each story is unique. 

So, if you want to be a part of the joy in the celebration of womanhood... Come take a step towards it by downloading the book

Link to download (free for limited period) is here

Link to my own book 'Dots And Streaks' is here (free download for limited period). 

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Jyoti Jha said...

Wow, this is absolutely brilliant Ira! Loved your reflection on the Anthology, and in awe with your thoughts about being a woman and the exigent roles associated with her. You have penned them precisely and beautifully. Cheers �� to celebrating womanhood and redefining certain terms associated with her. ��

Tomichan Matheikal said...

I had downloaded this book and started reading too. But got stuck on the way. I should return.

sivaranjini said...

Ha...thats a unique review and you so much dear :)

Saibal Barman said...

I have downloaded it for two reasons....your observations indicate that the collection carries sensible portrayal of issues concerning stiffling state of womanhood and aberrations from the issues owing to misconceived paths in securing honour of the womanhood....secondly, the topic has been one on which I had devoted little time to prepare myself for preaent ing a paper on empowerment and perception shortcomings before our National Academy...
Your observations are poignant and hit the bull's eye in running sequence
It is not only womanhood, which has lost or been deviated from its path of pursuit to attain true stratum of worthiness, but most of the social inequalities have had same fate....what is, furthermore, worse for woman empowerment and equality, concerns the the perception or individual or both....the process and implementation...the ideas and assimilation in process....
Yes, there are many questions...mostly wilfully unanswered and some half-answered and some wrongly answered...all these are moatly admitted in continuing assessment of 10th Millennium Goal...
These are all papers and reality, women are the first layers, often only layer, of victims in social, racial, communal, economic inequalities and oppressions...and also of religious doctrines and rituals...the empowerment has often touched the thread of the starting ribbon...the women in Ghana now have the right to lodge FIR on domestic violence, but the rural women have to justify to even a boatman why she is going to police and unless he allows her to ferry, she cannot simply register her ordeal...
Kishen Chander, one of my most favourite Indian writers of the last century, wrote "Mahalakshmi Pul" which started with six Sarees laid upon the bridge railings and the tale unflods the unfathomable depth of inequality, worst being for women, while it progresses...
The perception corruption is social mostly, supplemented by powers of the interpreters of other fronts...and the corruption bears a universality in gender perpetration...little less for other forms of empowerment leads to corruption until value-system gets the right layer to use the power to secure right, and use right to secure equality and use equality to secure values...the cycle needs to be free to move
Anyways, spoilt much of space on your page, but I don't regret as I understand how serious you are on the issues and how intense are your feelings to introduce the stories to other readers so that at least one or two or a few more will try to understand what they need to feel and what they need to regards

Srishti Rajeev said...

This is absolutely brilliant. I keep re-reading it hoping that I didn't miss a point. Thanks for this clarity!

Chetan Maheshwari said...

I liked your approach and liked the way you have organised your thoughts....i completely agree with your views on sacrifice and that it is women's choice to do something for their kids or not , b

Chetan Maheshwari said...

Also li k to your book is not working

Ira Mishra said...

Thanks so much Jyoti... It's the book which gave voice to my opinion too :)! I should thank you all for coming together in the making of the book and raising the thoughts.

Ira Mishra said...

Sure sir... Hope you enjoy the celebration in it's true sense :)

Ira Mishra said...

Welcome :) Thanks so much for stopping by to read my post

Ira Mishra said...

Thanks so much sir for penning down your thoughts in so much detail on my post. It's admirable when men identify with the true cause and contribute to it. As you rightly said, the fight for all social inequalities do start in the right spirit... But somehow with time the very cause they are fighting for gets abused... While we blame few voices who are doing the damage and are the loudest.. We cannot undermine or forget those voices which may not be heard as they are not loud but are quietly working in the background to serve the purpose... Wish we could bring those inspirational voices to the forefront so that more could join! I will definitely look for the book you have mentioned. Thanks once again for being such an encouragement....hope you enjoy the read and find those pieces in the book that do resonate the true cause :)

Ira Mishra said...

Thanks so much for your good words Srishti... I am glad you could connect to my post :)

Ira Mishra said...

Thanks so much Chetan... For reading my post and letting know of your thoughts... I am glad you could connect

Ira Mishra said...

Sometimes the blogchatter site goes down because of overload... Maybe if you try again Tomm or so it should work. Even I am unable to go to the site right now...

Lopamudra Barman said...

Very interesting observations made by have a very unbiased analytical mind too under the depth of your poetic triggers much interest in knowing it wishes, Ira !

Ira Mishra said...

Thanks so much for your appreciation ma'am :)