International Women’s Day observed annually on March 8 is considered a very special day for women. This is a day when the whole world celebrates womanhood and salutes woman’s achievements. Although one is aware that there are several pressing issues which needs to be addressed such as women’s health, economic status, rights, education, welfare, violence against them, girl child etc which I am sure will be discussed and written threadbare by writers and thinkers all over the country and the world, on my part I would like to focus my thoughts in a more positive light and use this as a platform to pay my humble tribute to all those women who have brought about a major metamorphosis in the life here, with their thinking and attitude.
Barely two decades back, women in this quaint port city of Mangalore would not even dream of going outside their homes and working for a living, let alone literally go and do it. For majority of them belonging to the upper strata, it would either be housework, tending to children and husband’s needs and kitchen chores or work in the fields and home, for women from the lower income groups. Of course the former did go to schools but it rarely went beyond high school education but today the scenario is completely changed.
There is a tremendous transformation in the outlook and attitudes of the women folk of both the younger and older generation here, what with the world becoming a smaller place due to the advent of mobile phones, television, internet, radio (FM’s), shopping malls and many other mass means of communications now reaching into the remotest corners in-fact right into village homes. The impact is tremendous indeed. If one were to venture into any of these village homes one will surely spot women, children, old ladies sitting in front of a TV watching the latest local soap operas and in between taking in the news and public interest messages and even national news.
It does not really need much prompting before discussion and debates open up on the state of affairs in the city, then with regard to the State politics and finally even the problems ailing the economy and varying viewpoints on the policies of the government, sometimes raising to a crescendo, making one wonder sometimes if this is a debate going on in the floor of the parliament or inside a home. Such is the intensity and volubility of the raised voices and impassion-ate debates. However, it does bring forth with it some refreshingly new streams of thoughts, in the bargain.
Similarly radical changes can be seen with regard to the attire of the city women folk, who have coolly discarded off the cumbersome traditional ‘sarees’ and replaced it with the comfortable ‘salwar kameez’ or sometimes even long skirts and jeans either going for their daily rounds to market places, temples or taking children on their scooters to school, and then going off to work, while the husband in most cases even sharing in the household duties and helping in the upbringing of children.
Moreover, now women are becoming increasing health and figure conscious, and as a natural corollary religiously putting on their track shoes, going for morning jogs either at Kadri park or Mangala stadium or doing yoga on the terrace or you are sure to find them sweating it out in the gyms which have mushroomed at strategic spots in the city or better still doing aerobics or joining dance classes teaching salsa and jiving and for those a bit lazy, you will find them sitting in front of the television sets and following the instructions of Baba Ramdev Maharaj and doing their morning pranayaam.
If this is not enough they have even started becoming increasingly conscious of their looks, so ‘Voila’ what have you, a visit to the local beauty parlour for regular facials, eye-brow shaping, hair cuts, waxing, hair straightening, coloring, perming, massages. Then there is the function for application of the traditional mehendi on hands and feet, as it is a regular marriage season in the city, with a round of ceremonies to go with it. Furthermore the city is bustling with corporate meetings, seminars, festivals, functions and parties literally everyday. In no way would the womenfolk be caught being at their dowdy best. This in turn means they got to have the very best of clothes to go with it, which in turn has given rise to several boutiques and fashion stores and tailoring outlets, with majority of the buyers being the local womenfolk from here and of course the new immigrants to the state from outside.
If all these outward embellishments is not enough and you would like to know how their minds tick, well then you got to catch them either en-route to office or on the stairs or doing exercise, and out pops a passionate discussion on the sad state of affairs of the road, sanitation, health issues. Sometimes the viewpoints range from topics pertaining to the state right up to the national level. And of course women being women can’t resist sprinkling the conversion with liberal doses of local gossip, just to create a few giggles and peals of laughter at the secrets exchanged, thank God some things just don’t change.
However, what stands out from these regular normal chit-chats is a desire for self expression, an opportunity to express one’s individuality, a thirst to expand horizons beyond the confines of a home and hearth. Many of them of course disclosing they would like to do more with their life then just being in the kitchen and looking after the home, with no time for their own selves. It seems almost as if a job undertaken outside their home will give them a seal of independence and reaffirm their self-worth and image beyond being a housewife, which is in a way a bit sad, as being a home-maker is in itself a full-time job and a tremendously worthy one, as their contribution is crucial in imparting value education to children. In this context womenfolk are indeed the true conscience-keepers of society.
Moreover one also notice nowadays a lot of self-employed women entrepreneurs, taking up side businesses like preparing pickles, condiments of spices, preparing packed hot meals for office goers in tiffin cases. There are several women politicians, social workers, and those participating in ‘anganwadi’ programmes, health and environmental issues. There are other flexi-timers who taken up jobs as insurance agents, then there are the women-folk in the rural areas who take up beedi rolling and choir, mat weaving and other similar vocations which has freed them from toiling under the hot sun in the fields and given them a chance to earn a decent income.
From the above its quite clear that winds of change is sweeping all across this coastal city. Once upon a time a young boy and girl seen in each other’s company would have been an instant topic for gossip. Not anymore, there is kind of nonchalance about it, a shrugging of shoulders. Now it’s a normal thing as hordes of outside students, immigrants, officials from other states have come here for education or other reasons and quietly assimilated and merged with the local populace. Similarly modernity is creeping in with the opening of fast food joints, malls, multiplexes, commercial complexes, IT industries, educational institutions, hospitals and camps etc. All this has definitely brought about a change in the attitudes and mindset of particularly the women folk who now want better options for their girl-child, which they probably never had. Moreover even on the social front they are now more open to the idea of their daughters going in for love marriages, provided the boy is well-qualified and hail from a decent family.
All these may seem like small changes but soon these will be the stepping stones for future giant strides to be taken by the women of Karnataka. I won’t be surprised if one day a women from Mangalore will occupy the president’s post, not to forget that today our president is a women herself Smt Prathiba Patil. Of course, there is the iconic Aishwarya Rai Bachchan who is a role model for every girl in the city as to where one can reach, if one has a set goal in mind, so also Shilpa Shetty another Mangalorean who won the hearts of the stiff upper lip Britons with her dignity and charm in the face of the toughest odds, who now is literally hero-worshiped in UK. So all I will say to my Mangalorean sisters – Way to Go. Keep the flag of the City flying high. On March 8 this International Women’s Day, I salute all of you for your courage, aplomb, spirit and determination in the face of so many odds, trying to bring about a change in your lives thereby being the torch bearers for generations to come.
Author: Shuchi- Mangalore