The month of August usually means a celebration of freedom and independence in India. We make a huge deal out of it. The festivities continue all month and we’re all suddenly new people who cannot do without our individual freedoms. This year, however, the pandemic has made us think about what freedom really means. There are those of us who want the freedom to work from home, sit at home and wait till this situation is better and then there are those of us who can’t stand being at home all the time, and want the freedom to get out and live a life, within permissible limits and taking all health precautions into consideration. These are both valid freedoms to want.

This lockdown got me thinking about the freedom women have in India. From curtailing their right to do as they please, go where they want, live how they want to live – in India, we control women in every possible way. In 2020, we’re still telling women that we men know better. Want to avoid being raped? Dress a certain way, don’t go out at night and always have a ‘strong’ man around. Want to be happy in life – learn to cook, give up your personal freedoms, get married to the man we choose and live as per the rules of your husband and in-laws.

Just a few days ago, a girl I know was forced to accept a proposal for marriage from a family chosen by her relatives. She had no say. Another friend’s fate was sealed just by looking at her horoscope! It doesn’t matter what community or religion you belong to in India – apparently if you’re a woman, you just need to accept what is decided for you!

Is there really a point celebrating this independence then? When in the 21st Century, our women are still forced to bend backwards for everyone and accept life decisions that they have no role or say in? I mean, I am aware that our culture and traditions are threatened every single time we demand for the emancipation of women – what will our insecure men do? The biggest fear is losing control, no? But, it’s 2020 for God’s sake! Can we at least consider the opinion of our women in matters relating to their own lives? Is that really too much to ask for?

And lest we forget, prayers for all who lost their lives during this pandemic. We shall overcome this together and get stronger. That I am sure of!