This is an extract from the pages of a modern Indian woman's diary. Anushka is one of many women who become collateral damage in the battle between tradition and progress. The questions that are fired at her represent an inkling into the lives of such women who are subject to strict scrutiny at virtually all hours of the day.
"So, what are your hobbies?", asked Jai. Anushka sighed internally. Her mother had forced her to meet him (and had already named the children she was hoping they would have together). She politely replied, "I enjoy adventure sports and boxing". In the pause that preluded his next sentence, she mentally prepared herself for yet another chauvinistic opinion delivered with the repulsive confidence that stems from a deplorable sense of entitlement. And she was hardly surprised when he said "All that is okay, but how do your parents allow all this?! And are you going to continue jumping off planes and trains after marriage also?!". At this point, Anushka wished the butter knife near her left wrist would turn into a revolver. "Since when do parents have to 'allow' their full grown children to pursue hobbies? And why do his parents even 'allow' him to spew this garbage?"
It had been an hour since they had been sitting in the dingy Chinese restaurant playing twenty questions. His first question had been "So madam, what is your weight? So thin you are!". "Slightly more than your IQ!", she had thought to herself angrily. Forty-five minutes later, he had asked: "So, any boyfriends before me?". Anushka held back the vomit that threatened to splatter onto his ridiculous black and gold shirt upon hearing the word "boyfriend" with reference to him. Before she could reply, his phone lit up and emitted the lyrics of a sleazy item number from a lesser known Bollywood movie. "Saved by the objectification of women through disgusting lyrics!" she thought with a wry smile.
Two weeks ago, Anushka had been interviewed for a corporate magazine in which she admitted to being a feminist much to her family's horror. From the moment they had read the offensive word on the glossy magazine page, they subjected her to anxious interventions. She had sat for hours on end and listened to her extended family, friends and parents draw connections such as "Do they teach you all this feminist nonsense at corporate meetings?" and "Are you watching too many of those stupid American TV serials?". This was followed by her mother emotionally blackmailing her into meeting "suitable bachelors", putting out matrimonial ads in newspapers with the words "ex-feminist" thrown in apologetically for good measure. Anushka made it a point to use these newspaper pages to scoop up her dog's faeces every morning, smiling at the nosey neighbour aunty as she did so.
Her current meeting was with "suitable bachelor" number 37 and she was considering going back home and telling her family that she was a lesbian in order to avoid such meetings in the future. But she knew full well how that would turn out. In all probability, her mother would organise visits to every single temple within a 100 mile radius where she would prostrate herself and dramatically beg for justice after which she would sob and ask what she had done to deserve such cruelty. Anushka shook her head and tried to answer his latest question- "Do you wear extremely short skirts very often?". The old TV set in the restaurant blared as an obnoxious news anchor accused a woman of corrupting society through her fashion choices. "Enough is enough", thought Anushka and told him that she wore short skirts, short dresses and bikinis as often as he wore positively hideous shirts.
As long as such questions are asked, achieving equality in the true sense of the word is impossible.