“Gulaami ki zanjeer me kya bandhe, jab desh 1947 mein azaad ho gaya.”- Kishan
Before finding out the reality, my mindset always directed me towards believing that men always dominate women. Women in rural areas participate little in decision-making in all spheres of life. However, the rural immersion exercise at Nimach Kheda village, forced me to challenge the accumulated stereotypes in terms of how women contribute their ideas and participate in the welfare of their families.
Significant answers came my way while interviewing men from Nimach Kheda village. Questions, such as, whether wives participate in decision making related to conceiving a child, freedom of employment etc. Many nodded their heads in approval. “Woman should go out and equally support the family as men”, one of the interviewees put it. In this case, both husband and wife work together at construction sites. Afterwards, I decided to interview the women from the upper reach of the village, which is generally inhabited by the people with lower socio-economic status. There as well, a majority of the women were found to be equal stakeholders in decision-making. The 39-year old Leela Goswami is one such energetic woman, who dons many hats, a ward member, and a Self-help group member. Her confidence in churning out the statistics heightened the obsoleteness of the stereotype. Nevertheless, responses such as, “Mere pati har jagah saath jaate hain, meri toh yehi problem hai”, “Mere pati jyaada smart hain” also emerged during the conversation.
A group of old women, sitting at the doorsteps, observed me taking interviews. They wanted me to ask some questions to them – now what could one expect from them? Orthodox beliefs, right! By the way, isn’t it another stereotype? However, here as well, my stereotypical mindset helplessly rolled down the small hillock. Responses such as, “loving husbands”, “never dominated or discriminated were spelt out in the group. Moreover, amidst all the stories, one character that stood out in my mind was Parwati. Having been abandoned by her husband eight years ago and single-handedly nurturing her five children, she still displayed an affectionate and empowering smile. How could she? I questioned one of the million stereotypes. I thought I would be able to say, normally we city bred bourgeois do. This time, the experience was completely different. However, the dilemma persists – have they buried the stereotypical ghosts in Nimach Kheda while the faces of these inspirational women faded away in distance?