By Rhijuta Dahal/ @RizDh
After taking a few days off, buying train tickets months in advance, I realised last weekend my Dashain was likely to be blocked. Ahhh, the perks of being born a girl in a Nepali Brahmin family. However, having not seen my family in months, I decided to trek to the colder and rainier part of England.
On 11 October, Tuesday, a day before Dashain Tika, marked a day of the Girl Child. Being born in a Nepali family, I know I am extremely fortunate to be where I am. I got a good education, I was allowed to make my own decisions when it came to what I study, my career, and I can make my own decision when it comes to when I want to get married and who I get married to. I rarely get told what to wear/not wear, where I live, and most importantly, where I go. My freedom means everything to me, but I am aware that a lot of females in Nepal and other countries are stopped or questioned and coerced into making a decision because of their loyalty to their family and society. I came across this video which shows the challenges women face across the world, at times, stopping women from reaching their potential.
What surprises me about gender equity in our society is how often people believe that women are the weaker sex. Women need looking after, they are often seen as besahara when single, which often reminds me of the song I came across called ‘Afnai Sansar Ma Kina’ by Albatross. One of our family friends was talking about his daughter and he was very surprised to how brave she was. The reason he was surprised by this was because she was a girl. I couldn’t help wonder how many men and women in Nepal /Nepali society think the same. Thinking about it, there’s been numerous conversations where my mother has hinted/said that I might be all alone in future because I am not married. What’s ironic about this is that the same society worships Durga and other Devis.
Independent, strong women are rarely a role model in our society. They are often portrayed as someone whose life is incomplete in media. Bollywood and I have had a very old relationship and with time it had gone sour. I grew up in the 90s when watching old movies on Saturday afternoons was an event. These movies often revolved around a family with a daughter-in-law who was a great maid in the house and would sacrifice everything for her husband. In 90s Bollywood it was more about courting, but again, if the ‘heroes’ weren’t stalking to get their girls, the ‘heroines’ were often portrayed as damsels in distress. When I sat down to watch Piku, I was ready for the more recent, more ‘modern’ Bollywood, but I was definitely not expecting it to have a strong female lead. What I loved even more about the film was how it didn’t give any focus to marriage.
By the end of the film, I admired how strong Deepika Padukone’s character was. I admired how respectful Amitabh was of women and how they should be heard (in one scene, where his brother’s wife speak and her husband tells her not to butt in, he tells him that she should be heard). I loved how a woman’s character wasn’t judged by her sexual freedom. And in the end, when Piku’s father dies, Piku doesn’t break down like the women from the 80s, 90s and 2000s Bollywood, but she’s strong and handles it like how anyone of us would. It was so refreshing to see this in Bollywood. And just like Queen, I was very satisfied with how the film ended. Kudos to Bollywood for showing a relatable character in very mainstream media.
As Dashain ended, I did get a window of opportunity for my Tika and blessings. I no longer need to live as long as Drona, be as hardworking as Dasrath, or as intelligent as Bidur. We all know a woman’s life is incomplete in a Nepali society without a husband, especially a woman in her 30s, so with that in mind, my parents blessed me for my health.