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"The modern woman is confused"

Source: Westside Plus – Sunday May 14 2006

Summary: Varkha Chulani talks to WSP on her book ‘For the Thinking Woman - Addressing 6 Common Feminine Concerns’ and how today’s women have to cope with a lot more than their earlier counterparts


In today’s day and age especially in an urban setting, women’s lib is something that’sPress conference at book launch considered dated as a concept. So why is a book like you’re relevant and who is your target audience?
My book isn’t a propagation of women’s liberation at all. It is a self-help book and would work beautifully for men too. In fact I wish I had titled it ‘For the Thinking Man and Woman!’ then I guess people wouldn’t be misled into believing it’s a bra burning, feministic, hate your men, book. The book is an attempt to help women lead happier, healthier lives. It came about with the surge in women clients that came for psychotherapeutic help in the last couple of years. As my first book - 7 Mantras for Teenage Success - was a culmination of increasing teenage clients seeking help about 5 years ago, women seeking help made me write this. It would work for any woman between age18 and 100! Any woman who wants to break free form self-imposed shackles of misery and emotional turbulence can and will benefit from it.

Why does it sometimes appear that instead of being freer, the modern liberated Indian woman is simply more tied down? And how can she get out of this situation?
I think liberation is a very misused term and the urban Indian woman is going out to prove that she is ‘liberated’ alas in a very, very self-defeating way! The question we need to ask ourselves is, is what in the first place is liberation? Is liberation defined by smoking, drinking, colouring hair, changing sex partners, dressing down to the bare minimum? Or is liberation a change of attitude, where every woman believes that she has a right to happiness. That she deserves better. That’s she is worthwhile to herself just because she exists. That she is first a person. That her fulfilment does not come from being a daughter, a girlfriend, a wife, mother and so on. Liberation does not mean embracing superficial ideas but thinking through what fits each best. How liberated are you in thought, what orthodoxy’s do you still believe, what practices do you follow without any logic or consideration, are some questions liberated people would ask.

What are the major pitfalls for modern urban Indian women?
She is unfortunately a confused woman! She doesn’t know what she wants. She isn’t comfortable with herself. She tries to ape others and be what she inherently cannot be and she then runs to her shrink to sort herself out! But why would she have to? If she only followed her own guidelines, developed self-trust and self-belief, and got a better understanding of who she is and what she wants, would there be a problem? But she doesn’t want to be unique and distinctive. She wants to be a clone! She copies, imitates, pushes out from her head (or rather tries to push out and it comes back ever so strongly!) her line of calling and hey presto then this urban woman is a mess and who is responsible for her condition? Nobody but herself! Yes, God gifted us with the ability to have both, intelligence and a child bearing capacity, little realizing that we silly women would drive ourselves around the bend because of it! So we have guilty mothers trying to bust themselves at work and then over compensating for their absence at home! So no major pitfalls for the urban woman, except her self-created ones!

Are there any simple guidelines to identify and then rectify being a non-thinking woman?
A non-thinking person would be a better word! A non-thinking person is one who gullibly without questioning, debating, disputing, agrees to societal held norms and views. “This is the way it’s done”, is a message he gets, and then without consideration agrees to, and continues to practice. So we have the dowry system, the caste system, atrocities towards women, etc., because an unthinking person has accepted his ‘elders’ and societies views as the gospel. He hasn’t asked, “Why should it be so?” He doesn’t ask, “Where is the evidence for this belief?” He dares not raise his eyebrows towards authority, and he continues to remain in the grip of age-old though not necessarily sensible beliefs, ideas and views. He can rectify it if he develops the ability for enquiry and if he discards the concept of ‘respecting people in positions of power, authority, elders’. He can become thinking if he is ready to be a kind of sensible rebel. But then our schools would have to encourage children to question, but then again ours is a culture, which promotes conformity and hates individuality!

Its getting harder to find suitable partners and support systems for thinking women - where will this lead?
Well hopefully the times they are changing. But are they? I honestly don’t know. Yes, a thinking person would have trouble. But trouble is only a pain and it only means that the thinking woman would have to work very hard to find a thinking man! But then if a thing is worth having, isn’t it worth striving for? A self-assured man wouldn’t mind a thinking woman. And I would hope that there are at least a few around. Support systems - well I don’t think systems like crèches, house helps, etc would honestly distinguish between thinking and non-thinking. Thinking by the way doesn’t mean harsh, crude, crass or rude. You can be very soft and thinking. Very feminine and thinking. Very gentle and thinking. Why do people synonimise thinking with no feelings or harshness? Women think! But don’t lose your feminineness. We have enough men here, why on earth would we want a masculine woman!

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