Travelling in cars with male drivers who made fun of women behind wheels, sitting in classrooms where boys and girls had designated seats away from each other, walking to the loo with a handbag to "transport" a sanitary napkin without anyone noticing, and of course, watching Bollywood/Mollywood/Tollywood/Whatever-wood heroes raise their hands at the female leads to show them their place - these are all the influences that I, and scores of other Indian girls grew up under. Surely not the best of circumstances to be raised as women of the 21st century.
But do want to know the good news? The good news is that we Indian women seem to be fast learners. We seem to be outgrowing these very influences way sooner than anyone would have expected. We're educating ourselves. We're finally ditching trashy life-lessons from our movies and picking up the right books. We're finally calling out the wrong we see in this world and standing up for the things we believe in. My generation of Indian women has come a long way and I'm proud of us.
Take my best friend Punchy for example. Seven years ago, we were silly college freshmen who couldn't plan beyond a week of our lives. And that planning mostly revolved around the fantastic food we wanted to eat and where to find it. I wouldn't argue that much has changed till date. Maybe the range of planning has been extended from a week to about three months in the future. But do want to know where she is today?
She's at the International Women's Day convention at the UN Asia Pacific Headquarters.
Her mother sent me a message this morning saying, "Wishing you a very happy Women's Day. Proud to see daughters like you."
I honestly don't know how she even notices me under the bold shadow cast by the woman her daughter has grown up to become.
Today is a very important day for women worldwide but I believe that after everything that's been happening in our country, today is an especially important day for women in India. Because in recent times, we have been ridiculed for having an opinion and we have been trolled for releasing a propaganda for peace. We have been molested on the streets for welcoming the new year and we have been raped for trusting a friend. We have been told that we need curfews to control our crazy hormones. We have been made to feel guilty for not getting married before the age of thirty and we have been asked to feel ashamed for seeking divorce from an abusive partner.
But we survived. No, we thrived. And we're here educating and empowering our daughters and little sisters. So here's to us! And to many more years of fighting, pushing, striving, surviving and thriving.