Women of today have broken all boundaries to carve a niche for them selves playing multiple roles as a wife, daughter, and business executive; she is found juggling all her roles with ease. In boardrooms, in courtrooms, on screen and in society they have broken all boundaries. They have risen from their marginal lives to craft their futures on the centre stage. The women have proved to be a global force; whether it is the corporate boardroom or the parliament they have over come all crises and redefined the definition of leadership. Mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, they have balanced their cultural expectations while shaped their careers into reality. For some, the mothers in laws have been pivotal, for others it is their mothers who have pushed for careers they could never have. For others still, it is their husbands, partners and children who have promoted, supported, even travelled with them on the long and dusty road to recognition.
Nowadays, across the board, from the professions to politics and from arts to business, the feminine paragons of our times are taking charge of their lives, competing with men in the public sphere, succeeding in their jobs, re-scripting their family lives, nurturing their children, running elegant homes and maybe doing a little social service on the side. There is no gender tyranny. The most powerful politician at the moment in India is a woman, who hovers over the throne, as our Lady of Salvation. We have had three women chief ministers. Not only India’s grand old party, three others are headed by women. And in the national opposition party, pretty masculine in its ideology, there is a woman one of her kind- the only sanyasin in politics.
These facts reveal the evolutionary traits of the Indian women in power. The most dominant of them did not acquire power. They inherited it. It is a narrative that begins Indira Gandhi and continues with Sonia Gandhi, such captivating characters like J. Jayalalitha, Sushma Swaraj and Mayawati populate it, and the plot is powered by the mandate of ancestry and paranoia of power. The first woman prime minister and the daughter of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru had to outsmart father figures to create an image of her own, following her footsteps is Sonia Gandhi who took the reigns of the oldest party of India, Congress, when it was fighting for its survival and emerged as a winner.
There are others who did not inherit power but acquired it through their own struggle. Mamata Banarjee is a counterpoint to the ancient masculinity of Bengali communism; Uma Bharati sees herself as the Sita wronged in the party of Ram. Both in their own separate ways are rejoinders to the politics of men. There is a new breed emerging in the form of Vasundhara Raje, Kumari Selja and Mehbooba Mufti, president of the Peoples’ Democratic Party who was the force behind her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to quit the Congress and set up PDP (1999) wrestling Kashmir Valley from National Congress in 2002.Brinda Karat set her foot on the political front with her Marxist ideology and has since taken Baba Ramdev and many other dominant political faces in her stride. She is also the member of the 17 member politburo and member of Rajya Sabha since 2005.
Women have raised their voices like rebels fighting for the deprived ones, Megha Patkar and Arundhati Roy have been the spokesperson for Narmada Bachao Andolan and it is their efforts that protect the poor from losing their homes in the region.
Women have shed the doormat image and emerged as the bold heroine. Heroines like Zeenat Aman changed the idiom of the Bollywood heroine from a doormat to sizzler with her role in movies like Qurbani and Satyam Shivam Sundaram while Shabana Azmi with her fiery, gutsy and true to life roles became the first crossover actor among all. Glambassodar Ashwariya Rai moved on to be Hollywood’s the best-known Indian face. We have our very own Mallika Sherawat rebelling against the conservative norms to create a bold and sexy image of her in bollywood. India has a history of giving the maximum number of beauty queens to the world which some how has been out numbered in recent years but the history is magnificent. They are everywhere found selling everything from haute to washing machines and rule the field of creative excellence. Credit goes to Ekta Kapoor and her K serials to change the image of women from self sacrificing idealized ladies to the all gutsy Tulsis and Parvatis who are experts in the kitchen and the executive corridors of business. It may take years before we still consistently see an Erin Brockovich on Indian screen, but we surely have come far enough as characters like Kittu, the bold journalist adorn the idiot box.
The power corridors seem to be incomplete without women, they are here and they perform vital functions that impact the organization’s growth, they play their role in mergers and investments. Some of the best Companies in India have ladies playing the pivotal role. They are young and bright and full of revolutionary ideas. Sulajja Firodia Motwani, 34, the joint MD of Kinetic Motors was recognized as a young business leader by the world economic forum and is responsible from saving her company form the doom merchants when Honda walked out in 1998. Sangeeta Singh is the first woman to hold a senior position at Wipro Technologies; Singh is the youngest vice president and also the chief marketing officer. To add to the line are Pooja Shetty, Director, Adlabs, Films Ltd. Rakhee Lalwani, director of sales, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. Meher Pudumjee, chairperson of Thermax. Vandana Luthra of VLCC. Madhvi Puri Bach, head, corporate branch, ICICI bank to name a few.
1.25lac women graduate as doctors every year, this is 50% of the total number.21% of India’s software professionals and 25% of science and engineering graduates are women. Women head 77210 of the 6.38-lac village panchayats. 18% of the total numbers of people who are employed in India’s organized sectors are women. India is a country with the largest number of professionally qualified women, especially doctors. It is also a country where girls top board exams, yet it has one of the world’s lowest rates of female mortality. The attitude of the modern woman, her confidence is scintillating, invigorating and inspiring. Yet when some soar ahead, there are others who are left behind fighting for their survival. This seems to me the difficult question that India faces today with regard to its women.