July 28, 2010
Visit to India ....continued
The United States of America, one of the most developed democracies in the world, has yet to elect its first female president, but India has Pratibha Patil for President, and she is not the first woman elected to lead this country; Indira Gandhi the charismatic Prime Minister is remembered worldwide as a visionary and a very shrewd statesman.
That perhaps explains the remarkable female population I see in New Delhi that seems to have infiltrated every aspect of society despite its apparent male dominance. This is true at every level; for example, though it is the 'dhobi' who owns the 'ironing stall', it is his wife who appears to be running the show. The 5 feet nothing woman has borne some eight plus children in the last 15 years, and still flashes the widest smile while limping (due to polio in childhood) door to door collecting clothes for ironing, which she brings back to you at the end of the day neatly ironed by the 'dhobi' who sits put in the stall. However, that is not all she does; she also cooks two meals a day for her family and packs lunch for two of her sons who work on daily wages. It was she who came to me with that charming smile flashing from ear to ear asking me to recommend her sons for permanent jobs somewhere. She blessed me profusely and praised me to the skies making it near impossible for me to refuse her request, and soon after I found myself asking a rich and influential friend to find the 'dhobi's" son a permanent job! Clearly the illiterate, 5 feet nothing woman had done her job well.
Women all around me seem to be at par with the men, be it riding a motorcycle to go to work, or working night shifts at call centers to make good money. Even the construction sites, that are innumerable due to the oncoming commonwealth games, have a fair number of female labor which would shock a foreign visitor. The women appear frail, but manage to balance with ease loads of at least 30 pounds on their heads, some of them carrying an infant tied on their backs!
Well...the power and capability that women of New Delhi possess may be a revelation to any westerner who has grown up on PBS and National Geographic documentaries that have for decades depicted Indian woman as demure and voiceless. That is not how I see them here! Indian women seem to be running the show today in this land known for its practice of 'Sati' and 'dowry deaths', and the world needs to be aware of that.