Why do we fall for the conventional?

A few days ago I somehow managed to pick up my books for this semester, while I still tried to settle my thoughts as college comes to an end and I move towards another chapter of my life. Last year particularly enlightened me, kudos to the mentors I came across and the usual ups and downs of life.
Before I begin to ramble too much, let me tell you why I decided to pen my thoughts down! My syllabus this semester for Indian political thought speaks of thinkers who contributed towards the construction of modern India but there was something different. While Ram Mohan Roy, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Gandhi, Ambedkar …all famous men, of course found their mention! There was someone I had never heard of, the story of Pandita Ramabai and before you think that I am utterly bored of life ( which I kind of am ) and ready to inform you about my syllabus, there’s something more to her story than us ordinary women.

Reading Of her escapades, I was intrigued by how much one woman in the 1800’s did for a greater cause. She traveled on foot, living a life of pilgrimage, learning Sanskrit ( a language prohibited for women at that point in time ) during years of famine, losing her immediate family at the young age of 16 and landing up in an unknown city called Kolkata, that time a hub for the brahminical reformers. For them she was an ideal ancient Indian woman, the time was ripe for her entry. She was glorified as a form of Gargi or Mayetri and encouraged to enlighten the public in her own words. She spoke and she spoke fervently in favor of women emancipation and education.

Soon she stumbled upon the sacred texts, the Vedas. As she hopped from one text to another it became clearer that one thing bound them together and that was the demonization of women and the belittling of Shudras. Ramabai had lost all faith in her own ancestral religious inheritance. Dealing with personal, loss of faith… She desperately needed a form of the almighty to devote herself to. Perhaps, this led to her enchantment towards Christianity and its principle to work for the humanity. It was in England where she took up Christianity but refused to budge in front of the Christian missionaries and challenged them in every way with her own perception of Christ. Next, was the USA… While she faced a heavy backlash at her homeland for her unconventional nature and adoption of Christianity, Ramabai conducted successful lectures in the USA, picked up on English and even published a book “High caste Hindu women” calling for the American women to help the downgraded widows of India, who were refuted by the society! Here she gathered enough funds to set up her much-awaited housing for the widows and called it Sharada Sadan near Pune and continued her much recognized social work, despite severe opposition until she breathed her last at the age of 64!
This is what happened with her in short or not…

Moving on, it made me question us as women, today in the so called 21st century. Yes, things are better; we have come a long way fighting for what should be ours rightfully but are they truly ideal? Are we truly liberated? Is half of our population really treated as equal to the other half? And most of all what have we given back to women like Pandita Ramabai? Have we really done her any justice? Spoken of her enough or taken her work forward?
A woman in the 19th century lost her immediate family and was left practically all alone …well she tied the knot with a man called Bipen Das Medhavi and bore a child called Manorma but here too she challenged the societal barriers. She married a Bengali Shudra, choosing him over several proposals from high cast Marathi Brahmin men. This was unlike several reformers of those times who spoke of a casteless society but never dared to break the caste barriers. Up till today, we remain a handicapped society with the burden of caste over our shoulders. When we speak of social cohesion why don’t we practically apply it, why don’t we break these barriers which hold us back? When she could do it at that time and age, why can’t we?
She lost her husband within a short span of time and was left all alone again with her only child. She had no skills beyond her hold over Sanskrit or her knowledge of the sacred texts, she did not let helplessness take over. From a grief stricken 23 year old, she went onto become one of the most controversial women of her times, then why do we let our challenges creep on to us? Why can’t we challenge the society instead? Why do we silently let this patriarchal world take over our ability to think and learn in our own way? Why don’t we instead fight for our self-reliance? Why do we fear to state what’s wrong with us?

As a child women are groomed and reared in a manner that all the things which are “appropriate” according to others seem right and the acts which are “inappropriate” are questioned at the drop of a hat, regardless of what we feel. Why do we accept ourselves as mere objects of lust, who are to be domesticated, who if are lucky enough to achieve some level of education and land up in a job are moved towards marriage? Why do we have to impress the others with our beauty, our fairness, our cooking skills, our temperament? and if it has to be so why doesn’t our partner go through the same? Isn’t there more to us, much much more to us than this?
And nature of our society does not only take a toll on us women, men share a part of this burden too. They are painted as being “Mardana”, “strong”, “head of the family “, “the torch bearer”, “the bread earner “.. And so on! I mean the rush for conventional, high paying jobs, sacrificing your own dreams and ambitions, for what? Why can’t men and women be equals in the private and public sphere? Why can’t they both equally contribute to their family in economic terms?
Why can we be inspired from those who have contributed heavily towards building a better world in terms of gender roles and why can’t we move towards modernity in its true sense? Why don’t we question ourselves enough and move away from what’s conventional but wrong!