Chup: Breaking The Silence About India's Women speaks about what goes on in the lives of urban Indian women and how they deal with the patriarchal structures in life. When social scientist Deepa Narayan, started writing this book she wanted to highlight “breaking of the pretence that we have about ourselves”.
Narayan implicitly compares the research that she did with the educated women of the privileged section of the society with women from developed countries like the US. She talks about the comparison and says, “It happened that way because after I did the research and started writing about it I was curious about what the published research said and I was again startled to find that there is very little research on middle class and upper-class women in India despite the numbers but there is a lot in the US.
So for example, women are afraid to speak up is a very well-established finding in the US but not in India. And so it is in the background that the comparison becomes in a sense between the modern women in India as well as in the US.”
BREAKING THE PRETENSE
From the comparison, Narayan found that privileged women from both countries are in some level of pretence. “Because when you are highly-educated, highly-trained and think that you are a feminist, it is very uncomfortable and embarrassing to see behaviours in yourself that clash with your intellectual belief.”
“There is a great denial around women’s body and total silence around it in middle class even today in India but on the outside, you see a lot of sexuality on television etc.
The other similarity that she found is the paradox of women’s body and sexuality between women from India and the US. “There is a great denial around women’s body and total silence around it in middle class, even today in India, but on the outside, you see a lot of sexuality on television etc. that’s the same in the US as well. What’s different in India is the silence of sexuality. In the US it’s the opposite as society sexualises girls very early. However, the consequences of both behaviours is basically saying it is the men and the society that have claimed women’s bodies and not women and girls themselves."
Narayan through her research also saw that both in India and US educated and talented women doing very important jobs are actually afraid to speak up. They especially fear speaking up in the company of men. “If you don’t speak up, you lose your presence, your ability to argue, which eventually takes away your self-confidence.”
'Chup' is about your life as a woman in modern India and about the women around you. It deals with general questions that we all have about our rights and empowerment and it gives a sense of togetherness in the sense that there are thousands of women like you who are struggling with similar issues as you are. It is a must-read to understand the complexities that modern Indian women are living in.