Indian women do not have to look far when looking for role models. Just turn the pages of Indian mythology and stories of women and goddesses who made a mark can be found. Each of these women had a powerful tale and their story was told because they did not conform. They all had flaws and refused to be on a pedestal. They loved, lost and conquered. Sometimes they faced compromises which they accepted but at other times they fought back.
Durga, Sita, Draupadi, Savitri and Radha are celebrated because they did not follow societal norms. They broke free when they found oppression. They are epitomes of love, anger, determination and jealousy hence being a complete human and not just a perfect being. It is the flaws that make us interesting and not perfection. Most importantly they were fiercely independent, they are known inspite of the men and not because of them. They loved with abandon but once scorned, their fury knew no bounds.
Durga or Parvati mercilessly pursued and vanquished the demon Mahishasura in her anger. Savitri refused to let her husband die and fought with the God of death Yama with her intelligence and wit till she won. Draupadi though a princess faced her share of hardships with a brave front. She was always known to speak her mind and live the way she wanted. Sita loved her husband and followed him to the forest on his exile but once scorned she did not let him determine her self-worth when her loyalty was questioned. The love story of Radha and Krishna is a celebrated one even though both went on to marry other people.
India celebrates Navaratri (nine days festival when the Goddess- Devi is celebrated) with abandon. Durga Puja in Bengal, Saraswati Puja in Kerala and Navaratri celebration with dandiya-ras dance as tribute to Ambe Mata in Gujrat. Culminating with Dashera or the tenth day when the victory of good over evil is celebrated across the country. When we celebrate the Goddess are we awarding the same respect to the women in our lives? Not just men but are women respecting each other as daughters, colleagues, bosses, mothers or as daughters in law. Do we have varying degrees of respect allotted to a woman depending on what she wears, if she is married or single or if she gave birth to daughters or sons?
Once Navaratri is over, is the Goddess to be abandoned and forgotten? Is this a festival only for nine days of revelry and nothing more? When we celebrate the Goddess are we forgetting the live woman and taking her for granted. Women are not always Goddesses and might not rise up to the challenges posed by society. She might need help to rise from the effects of generations of playing second fiddle to the men. A little bit of respect will go a long way for the women in your life. She does not want a pedestal from where she can’t get down neither does she aspire to be a foot-stool from where she can’t rise. Do not abandon Her after nine days only to resurrect Her next year.