70 years of Independence but no freedom for women

India completed 70 years of independence on 15th August, 2017. But so many of her women are still confined to home and hearth - rarely given a choice or opportunity to grow any wings beyond being 24/7 housekeepers, cooks and cleaners. And yet, so few raise a voice. So few protest. Most are content to let the status quo continue, under the garb of 'tradition' and 'culture'. Let me say it out aloud - Indian culture, you've had your time in the sun. Now, please make way for the egalitarian and free society that women here truly deserve.

I used to think that the country has changed; that my life would be no different from a man's. After all, our ancestors sacrificed their sweat and blood to wrest control from the English. And the best freedom fighters weren't just men - women, children and the elderly; everyone joined the fray. Everyone believed it was a cause worth dying for. And look where we are today. Many women in smaller towns and villages still don't study beyond school and even if they do, their degrees collect dust on ornate shelves while they don saris, jewellery and sindoor, sacrificing their lives to nurturing their husbands, children and in-laws. Maybe that aunt who makes perfect rotis could also draw up fool-proof building plans. Who knows if that sweet sister-in-law has skills beyond laundering and pressing her family's clothes? Developed countries have compromised with ready-to-cook meals, modern gadgets and the aide of other agencies wherever required. It's not like women there don't care for their families or have children. It's just that they do a lot more than that - they do what makes them happy and brings them professional satisfaction too. But we Indians remain loyal to our home-cooked food and maa ka pyaar. And guess whose dreams, abilities and potential remain crushed under mortar and pestle? All the women in our families - able, sensitive human beings who have committed no crime other than to be born with a different set of reproductive organs.

To men, please stop expecting perfect, elaborate and lavish meals thrice a day. It's all right to take shortcuts as long as you're eating healthy in the long run. Please recognise that you are no better or worse than the women in your life and you both deserve to be equally happy, whatever the route to that may be.

To women, please stop pulling each other down. Be nice to your daughters-in-law and don't groom your daughters to be perfect wives. Groom them to be great human beings and to contribute to their families and society at large in whatever way they deem best.

To everyone, freedom means little if we don't have it in our own homes. All change is not bad. And we don't have to adhere to traditional gender roles. Women can lift heavy bags too. And men can also learn to cook. Exchanging skills and sharing in responsibilities will NOT lead to the breakdown of households. And happiness means more than order or perfection. In fact, it means everything.

Here's hoping that the current generation fosters a fairer India.