Being a girl in an Indian family often means that I am constantly burdened with restrictions, whether it is in the name of safety or ‘log kya kahenge?’ During my teen years, going to birthday parties or meeting my friends became a hassle and strict deadlines were imposed on me. So, I too learnt what all teenagers excel at- the art of lying. While a quick glance at the news is enough to help me understand why my parents felt the need to keep me safe at home, the restrictions on my freedom stung.
Safety concerns for girls and women are so ingrained into our lives that it becomes hard to enjoy ourselves. Women are burdened with the awareness of gender-based crimes from a very young age. From the moment they begin getting unsolicited advice about their clothes, body language etc., each venture outside the house begins to feel risky.
From a very young age, the onus of ensuring safety is placed on women themselves. Rather than changing the male mindset, society prefers telling women to dress modestly and not to go out at night “for their own safety”.
Safety Concerns And Society’s Judgement
Even though it was easy to sympathise with my concerned parents, the restrictions and deadlines I was under in the name of safety felt suffocating rather than comforting. While the main concern remained safety, it is undeniable that the ‘log kya kahenge’ syndrome also played a role.
My nightly excursions to eat shawarma at 10 pm almost came to an end after one of my father’s colleagues told him that he often saw me roaming around at night. My parents knew I went out around 9 pm but as soon as they realised that other people had taken note of it, suddenly stepping outside at night became an issue.
I was more concerned about how a man I have never met or interacted with was able to recognise me simply because my dad had showed him a photo of our family. I thought it was creepy that he not only identified me but that I had no idea about who he was. It also bothered me that a complete stranger had the power to change my routine by simply dropping a sly comment in front of my father. What parents were more concerned with was the possibility of the family being judged due to my grievous misdeed of leaving my house.
Suggested Reading: Dear Society, Why Is Log Kya Kahenge Always A Girl’s Headache?
Dealing With Strict Deadlines
The stifling restrictions lead to me feeling suffocated and bubbling with resentment. While my friends could go on trips and attend sleepovers, I had to be home by a certain time or deal with hours of lectures.
At one point, even stepping out of the house to complete my academic work was being side-eyed and judged. During 12th grade, I learned at 10 pm that I needed to print out my report and submit it the next day. Filled with panic, I went to my friend’s house and used her printer. The 20-minute excursion to a house that was only five minutes ensured that I would not receive negative marks for a late submission.
I thought my mission was an absolute success and was filled with joy, however, my grandfather was more worried about potential rumours my short trip might spark, rather than my academics. I expected judgment for forgetting an important submission, instead, I was asked, “What will neighbours think if they see you roaming around on a scooter at night?”
Despite the dictate to be home by certain time and stay out of my neighbour’s judgmental eyesight, I managed to enjoy my youth and go out by lying and making up excuses for being home late. Today, my family is also endlessly proud of my ability to navigate the city. They don’t seem to understand that if I had abided each time they insisted I stay home, I would have never familiarised myself with the area. It’s ironic how Indian parents are proud of their children’s independence after spending years stifling it.
Views expressed are the author’s own.