Effecting Change: Rebelling Against ‘Indian Woman Syndrome’

“Smile quietly” was in the contract I signed when I agreed to be born an Indian and specifically a woman. We are raised to smile quietly because of “what the people would say”, and we are raised to smile quietly “for the sake of the children”. Two principles that I ferociously rebel against, and which I refuse to subscribe to, something that has become such a pandemic that I refer to it as the “Indian Woman Syndrome” although it extends deeply to Indian men alike.  Even in progressive times, this seems to be the mind-set that Indian people STILL adopt.  And sadly, as a result, we stay as sick as our secrets – that which we refuse to acknowledge, face or speak about.

As an Indian, specifically a woman, I was supposed to stay in my marriage for the sake of the kids. Because, what would people say if I chose the alternative? So I stayed. For a while, until death became an option. And I realised that my choice to live my life in sacrifice, wasn’t serving anyone, least of all my children – MOST of all myself.

So I left. Twice. Two marriages, several relationships and jobs and people – everything that didn’t serve me or make me happy. I went against the grain of what I was SUPPOSED to be, and chose to be real. And yes, people judged. Harshly. I lost friends and family. The words I was called and the judgment thrown at me stung me terribly. Enough to make me want to shrink back.

But I didn’t. Because there was something inside me that screamed louder than any of the names I was called.

Saying “fuck-it” to the ideals society prescribed for me meant choosing to turn my insides out, and with that meant not only making different choices, but also doing it vocally. I began writing my truth, living my truth and BEING my truth. And as I shared my life through my words, my truth started setting others free to share THEIR truths. Because there are people, Indians specifically, who knew EXACTLY what I was feeling, who shared the same hopelessness and helplessness and despair but stay in bad marriages or relationships for the children and because of what people would say if they chose to be selfish and do what makes them happy.

This limiting belief system perpetuates the cycle that I see continuously with Indian people. The antiquated, indoctrinated beliefs predominantly stemming from religion that promotes patriarchy and teaches us to live in sacrifice. The need to put on facades in an effort to save face has caused so many Indian people to lose themselves and live existentially, miserable and hateful of the world. This in turn gets repeated with their children who emulate what they learn – the boys become misogynists, the girls, doormats – and without any concept of what authenticity, aliveness, freedom and love truly means. Ingrained prejudices are carried forward and we do not progress as a culture or the collective human species.

So why choose to live in that limiting way?

To try and be liked by everyone? What a waste of a life. Because no matter how hard you work or how self-righteous you think you are, you will never EVER make everyone like you. But, if you make yourself heard, if you live a life that’s true, you will find the RIGHT people to love and be loved by. You would encourage your children to be real and teach them, through example, about self-love and true freedom of expression. Can you imagine the possibility of what the world could hold for them or you if you expanded your belief system instead of following old ideologies that had no place back then, certainly not now, that only serve to make people conform?

Be a rebel. Live your truth out loud. And see the ripple effects of what that authenticity, peace and aliveness does for you, your children and then the world at large. When you choose YOU, you give others permission to do the same for themselves. I am a living testament of that, and so are my children who are happy, well-adjusted, emotionally stable, kind and loving kids NOTWITHSTANDING the fact that I left their dads. Or perhaps…because of it.

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2 Responses to “Effecting Change: Rebelling Against ‘Indian Woman Syndrome’”

  1. Farhana haffajee Says:

    I think you are AMAZING for being true to yourself.. Inspite of life’s harsh lessons, you still standing.. As a woman, mother, it is not always easy to get out of bed and fave the world… Yet you did.. Well done.. Your story is truly inspiring…

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