I happend to see this lovely advertisement by Dainik Bhaskar ‘Zidd Karo, Duniya Badlo‘ which loosely translated to english means ‘Be stubborn, Change the world‘. The video mainly features children and has a lovely message about how a little girl is stubborn about studying and resists being dragged away from school by her father. Her friends help her and finally the father gives in.
The advertisement is good, it hits home, it communicates well and is 2 minutes of positivity. All that is well but maybe because the video features so many little girls this particular thought crossed my mind. The way we Indian girls are brought up, being stubborn is often equated with a term called ‘Ahamkaar‘ which means egoism. No, not when we are little girls. We are adorable then. Our zidd/ stubbornness is very adorable, too. It is when we start blossoming into young ladies in our teens and thereafter when we often hear this term being used for us if we refuse to comply to norms.
Be it speaking out our mind, not complying to the stereotypes or being steadfast on what we want in life, we are defined by that one word – Ahamkaari or the one who is egoistic.
There is this young lady, I know. She is educated, has a job that gives her financial independence, knows what she wants in life and is vocal about it, when asked. She is not just vocal about it, she also takes action to make that a reality. So, though a bit unbecoming of the Indian tradition of staying at the parents house till she is married, she bought her own place and moved out. She is aware of the kind of person she is and the kind of adjustments she can make and hence decided and conveyed long back her decision to not get married. So, this lady is hard working, independent, focused and sticks to her goals. And yes that requires a certain level of stubbornness. And guess how do most of her relatives describe her when they happen to gossip about her. They call her Ahamkaari! A woman who refused to comply to the social norm of getting married at a certain age, manages to live all by herself is egoistic and will have to pay the price now or later. That’s the social verdict as far as she is concerned.
While her younger brother too follows something similar. Runs his own company, is financially independent, stays in his own house and has no plans of getting married. And going by the social norms he too is past his marriageable age. Is he called Ahamkaari? I have not heard such a thing yet. He is called successful, talented, focused and stubborn. But I am yet to hear anyone call him egoistic and link all his life decisions to it.
Why the double standards?
Is wanting to live one’s life not complying to stereotypes ego? Is being aware of self and not hiding it ego? Is wanting happiness ego?
Every person has a different source and definition of happiness. It is only our social conditioning which has set a user manual for us that these are the things that will give us happiness. While there are many women who find happiness in creating life and nurturing it, there may be some who find happiness in imparting wisdom to children who have been abandoned by their creators. While most men may find happiness in hanging out with their buddies every weekend, there may be some who find happiness is spending that time at an animal shelter. To each his own. Or her own, maybe?
Can we allow that as a society? Can be stop labelling the stubbornness of a man and woman differently?
Why does it has to be – he is determined, he will go miles; she is egoistic, wait till she faces the consequences.