Where women die of stress

I came across this story in Mumbai: A 36-year-old female police constable died of work overload. She suffered from stress and hypertension.

Mumbai female police

The main report, the allied reports and the husband’s version all highlighted the fact how her taxing office schedule – stretching to 12 hours a day – was the culprit. Doctors’ version on how the work timings in police job are erratic and far too long was taken. However, there was simply no discussion on what his husband too acknowledged: The woman returned home after 12 hours of duty only to tend to the household chores.

Did that not add to her already stressed out life?

I am not suggesting the women should refrain from all household work because she they are employed. However, we all know by experience that the majority of this burden invariably falls on women. The work that should be shared by all members of the family becomes a sole person’s duty.

Surveys have shown how Indian women are the most stressed out in the world.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/06/28/idINIndia-57960320110628

Analytical reports in foreign publications have highlighted, often with horror and disbelief, that “it wasn’t at all rare to hear of successful professionals who woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch for children and parents-in-law, put in a full day at work, then returned home to clean up after the extended family and prepare dinner”.

http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/08/why-are-indias-women-so-stress/

The reports have added how women, in an attempt to conform to the paradigm of “ideal daughter,” “ideal wife,” and “ideal daughter-in-law,” lose on a personal space altogether.

When women work professionally in India, we feel it is a priviledge they must pay for.

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Why I Do Not Like Asaram

I never liked Asaram (Bapu). Why I would care to like or dislike him, you might wonder. But when nine out of ten families in my colony worshipped him like he was Lord Vishnu’s avatar in Kalyug, I could not ignore him.

Image

I remember the ladies’ weekly get-togethers to pay tribute to the “great” soul, singing kirtans and chanting “Asaram Chalisa”. To the uninitiated, this Chalisa sings of the Godman’s journey from birth to, well, attaining enlightenment (whatever that means). It recounts miraculous incidents from his life such as how the boy showed early signs of being a divine incarnation because a stranger emerged out of nowhere upon Asaram’s birth and gifted the family a baby palna carved in pure gold. In the great soul’s own words, any wish would come true if a disciple read the Chalisa 108 times.

I have no issues with Godmen/women in general. But with this man, I had differences in particular. The opinion built as I happened to attend a public discourse by him organized in the city. A mini-bus was arranged to ferry scores of men and women from our colony and around to the venue and back.

I was almost forced into listening to him but I never mind experiences. The lecture, in fact, opened me to the knowledge that since crores of men/women were grasping his words as the Gospel truth, the change in Indian mindset wasn’t happening anytime soon. Why, not less than several lakhs were packed in that ground.

He began with extolling all the sacrificial women of our ancient history for purely being sacrificial. Enumerating exemplary faithfulness/chastity/modesty of ancient Hindu females, Asaram emphasized on his point by adding that this was despite the men paying little attention to the marriages as they were busy changing the world.

Next came a list of do’s and don’ts for women. But what got my goat was his casual dismissal of the profession of a telecaller in a call centre.

Sample what he preached:

“My heart pains to see what our bahu-betiyan have to face in these filthy places. They are molested and even raped. I appeal to those women to come to me for help; I’ll suggest better ways of employment,” he said, while I shuddered at the thought that a majority of those keen listeners would reject a call centre job for their daughters/daughters-in-law the first thing they return home.

Now, I am no fan of this profession. But I personally know at least two girls who could bring their life back on the tracks thanks to the quick money these jobs provided even with average academic credentials (definitely without facing what Asaram spoke of). One of them had been forced to substitute her English-medium school education for a Hindi-medium Government-aided one due to the untimely demise of her father. The girl made more than Rs 20000 a month, enough to rent a small flat in Noida and continue her education through distance learning from a management institute. Today, she is the centre manager at a similar call centre.

Listening to this highly damaging sermon, I seethed even as the crowd nodded vigorously, some, I suspected, with tears of guilt for granting too much liberty to their women than they deserve.

‘Bus roko, bus roko…’ I screamed.

While I constantly hear of rapes all around the country, two recent cases  shook me to the core. One was the Delhi rape incident, for the honest reason that I have traversed that route a number of times and done similar late night movie adventures. Second was the recent case of a photojournalist in Mumbai, because I belong to the same profession.

I am not being selfish, only candid. My heart goes out to all the women who have had to deal with a brutality as this, but when misfortune falls on my ilk, I shudder all the more.

My mind wandered to the past, recalling several situations I found myself in during college and job that could well force on me the same fate. But thank God!

Here is one.

I had joined Delhi University’s Miranda House College after school. To ease commuting from my home in Ghaziabad to the college, my father had fixed a car pool arrangement. It was safe, economical and time-saving.

One day, however, the taxi did not come and I had to depend on public transport to reach college and back. I had Physics practical classes that day, which meant I would be in college until 6 pm.

I had tied up with a fellow commuter so we could return home together. She ditched me at the last minute, shamelessly telling me how she was staying over in Delhi with a friend. I did not know the road map to Ghaziabad, but knew that I was supposed to catch a particular bus from a nearby stand that would drop me to the Ghaziabad-Delhi border, also called Seemapuri border, from where I could take a shared auto till home.

The bus arrived not before 7 pm. I was already nervous, as I had not stayed so late in Delhi before. An infamous blue line bus, it was loaded with passengers. Trying to ignore and fight off the lewd glances that men threw, I finally got a seat at Kashmiri Gate stand. Slowly, I observed that more people were leaving the bus than stepping in. I had told the conductor to drop me at the border, but I hardly knew all the landmarks that led to the destination. I blamed myself for not being too attentive in the last few weeks since I had joined college.

By Seelampur, the bus was almost empty, sans the driver and conductor and it was close to 8 pm. I wondered if I should leave the bus too. But auto seemed more dangerous an option and it was beginning to get dark. I did not ask the driver how far is the border, fearing it would give him ideas. But I casually said that the bus has taken more time than usual. “We are almost there. Be patient,” the conductor replied, fixing his gaze at me and checking me out from head to toe.

To my horror, the conductor suddenly stopped talking to the driver and came and seated beside me.

I was trapped. I was numb. My heart was beating so loud I knew the conductor could hear it. I gathered courage and asked him to sit somewhere else. He did.

I got up and went near the door and ordered the driver to stop. He didn’t. “I can’t on the middle of the road. Be patient. We’ll be there in a minute,” he barked. Suddenly, going off the busy road, he took a sharp left turn and into an isolated lane. I must have turned white. I came down to the lowest step, and screamed a faint scream “Bus roko, bus roko…”. He did.

I jumped out, sprained my ankle but ran towards the main road. Thankfully, it was not far but I was very exhausted and panting heavily.

Straight, I went to a petrol pump I saw and asked for directions. I was convinced I was quite far from the border. “Madam, you are standing right there. Cross the road and you can see the many autos lined up towards Ghaziabad.”

I know my poor attention to roads and directions were to blame. But, a small-towner, I had the first taste of the dirty Dilli on that day.