Around Independence Day every year I ask myself the same question - What does Independence Day mean to me as a woman? Does celebrating the independence of my country from foreign rule mean I am independent in the real sense? Or do I have to delve deeper to know what it really means or what it should mean? This year I want to try and address this.
Freedom to choose
Being a woman, I want the freedom for women to make their own choices regarding a lot of things. I do not like the baggage that comes with those decisions though. For example
– you can educate yourself but you should study certain streams only as it will not hinder you in running your home smoothly after marriage (read careers that keep a woman away from homes for longer durations). Or you can go out but be back by a certain hour and your clothes should be decent (a word open to interpretation).
For me, real independence also means to live my life the way I want to, without fear. I want freedom from fear of being judged, freedom from fear of falling short of the expectations that
the society has conveniently earmarked for a woman, freedom from fear of being sexually harassed, freedom from fear of disappointing my loved ones and so on and so forth.
Freedom from oppression
I will feel free the day I will hear less or no news on women rape cases, girl child abortion, eve-teasing, dowry deaths etc. I want a day when women get to live in an equitable society, a day when a woman can walk freely on the roads even if it is midnight. I am looking forward to a day when a girl child will be considered a blessing instead of a burden, that day I will truly feel independent as an Indian woman.
Freedom to make my own mistakes
Freedom also means the liberty to be wrong. I should have the freedom to commit mistakes, I’ll have only myself to blame. And when I do succeed, I’ll only have myself to thank for, I think this is worth the bargain. All decisions should root from me which I think is a good thing. I truly believe that when you're not under the influence of other people that you get to know yourself more and what you're capable of. Don’t you think life will be a waste if you're still wondering who you really are while lying on your deathbed?
Freedom to be accountable for myself
If you crave for independence and freedom then you better be responsible too. Independence might mean freedom to me but it also means to be responsible for myself. If you don’t want your mom or spouse to tell you that you forgot to eat your dinner or clean your wardrobe then do it on your own. True independence is to learn to be responsible for every aspect of one’s life: one’s health, one’s career, yourself if you truly want to be free.
Freedom to have 'me-time'
I also believe that a parameter to gauge whether you are truly free is if you are able to give yourself some ‘me-time’ and not feel guilty about it. If a woman respects herself, she will
crave for some time for herself during the day. I know I do, I make it a point to take out time for myself everyday to do the things I love, like reading a book, watching movies on OTT
platforms or just sit and do nothing. Nobody is allowed to demand my attention during this time, not even my kid. Women shouldn’t have to be always busy, doing things for their family- that’s freedom.
Freedom to make my own financial decisions
As soon as I completed my post-graduation I joined a newspaper office as an editor of a youth magazine, it was then at the age of 23, that I learnt my first lesson in economic independence. With my money I could buy gifts for my parents, as they refrained from buying much for themselves preferring to spend everything and more on their kids. I brought gifts for my siblings as well and no one questioned my spending, the happiness on my siblings’ face was an added bonus. I tasted the sweetness of economic independence from a very early age. And so it has been until now.
Freedom to be 'me', even after marriage
I remember the day my spouse came to meet me, he asked me what my expectation from marriage was, I remember saying, “That I want to keep working after marriage.” So, even though my spouse has a transferable job I have worked wherever we were posted whether going to an office or working on online projects even though they were not a friendly space then as they are today. My spouse too does not expect me to share household expenses but I pay my kid’s school fee and the fee for her after-school extracurricular classes on my own. Other than asking me if I am saving enough and filing my IT Returns on time he does not bother what I do with my money. I buy clothes of my choice for my family and myself. I buy jewellery for myself if I want to. Marriage should not mean compromise; it should mean companionship with mutual respect and love. Marriage should liberate you not tie you down.
I dream of an ideal world where women are respected for who they are. The day when women feel truly liberated from inside will be the day of independence for me, in a true sense.
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
The views expressed are the author's own.