Are educated Indian women more well off than their grandmothers in terms of quality of life, choices, societal expectations, etc? The right kind of education shatters many oppressive ideas one grows up with and for Indian women that has actually become a problem. Because in India these ideas remain within the walls of the university, women are clueless as to how to respond when they get home and are faced with the same oppressive ideas they had been asked to unlearn at university.
Indian women have come a long way since being cooped up at home all day long and dying on their husband’s pyre. Now most middle class Indian women are also breadwinners and add significant amount of money to the family income. And since they have to work, they are also educated at the best universities. On the whole it would seem like a great time to be born an Indian woman. However this very notion of the ‘liberated Indian woman’ has become a bane for the actual educated Indian women. Middle class Indian parents do not recognize the need for feminism or feminists in their households because they assume that they are being very progressive by giving education to their daughters. Though it is undeniably progressive by national and international standards, this very education stifles and restricts women more than ever before.
While their parents expect them to study in a way that secures them a job, educated girls explore a world of ideas, possibilities and choices that they had never been ‘granted’ before. While in the university they discuss freedom, choice and all the ‘-isms’ that matter today, they come home to find that their parents are merely waiting for them to secure a job before they can be married off. This utter disregard and lack of validation for their ideas and opinions at home can be extremely depressing and oppressive to these women who have scored marks at university for the very same ideas. The difference between home and university can be so huge that women are forced to select between these worlds and because of the cultural setup, many of them end up choosing home over university.
The condition of the women who work is deplorable because while women have entered what were traditionally men’s fields, the reverse has not happened. This disparity has a huge consequence on the workload of women who are now expected to work two full time jobs – one at work and one at home. Half a century earlier, women used to slave at home and now they slave at both work and home and have to do a great job at it ( lest they be termed the careless, irresponsible mother or the inefficient employee ). In Kerala, an Indian state which is exceptional in terms of Human Development Indices, women chopping vegetables on the train for dinner as they go home at the end of a long day, is a common sight. So many women walk this tightrope and some of them know that they don’t have to, but they still do.
Sometimes having jobs does not imply that women get to keep them. In several upper middle class homes, depending on where her husband’s job is and on the transferability of her job, almost always the woman quits her job to live with her husband. It is also a very logical decision because obviously the husband always earns more than the wife. In these kind of arranged marriages , having a job increases the prospective groom traffic to a girl’s house, the same reason why most girls are taught classical music and dance (Apart from competition with the neighbour’s kid).
Thus, education in present day India produces a generation of highly frustrated women who are stuck between the worlds of university and home, unable to express themselves because of the cultural baggage that forces them to acquiesce to their parent’s wishes. So, in a middle class Indian home, education acts as an ornament worn by girl to attract suitors in her direction or it is a result of the financial need to have two working adults to cover the family expenses and is definitely not aimed with liberating women. Liberation is the unwanted child.