HER WORLD Sunday, July 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Dulhan wahi jo degree thukraye
Illustration by Sandeep JoshiANOTHER year’s board examination results are out with girls predominant among the toppers, and once again most of them have opted for the non-medical stream. Many of them have no clear goal in mind. Answers to why they have chosen their subjects range from, ‘my parents wanted me to,’ to ‘all my friends were joining’ Clearly, the replies are not of focussed students intent on a set career path. At the most, they say that they want to get good jobs in the IT industry.

Life after divorce
Kompal Grover
HENEVER a daughter tells her father: “I can’t bear it any more. It is all over. I am coming back to you. Save me” His heart sinks. He neither wants his daughter to come back to him forever nor does he want her to die by inches at the cruel hands of her in-laws. The reason behind his thought may be anything — financial stringency or samskars but the biggest block is the society.

Komilla SuttonStarlet turns stargazer
Komilla Sutton
WOULD compare my life to a musician who has played all notes to perfection and used them to form a perfect raga. The varied experiences of my life, came in handy for me and helped me to relate to people as a friend, philosopher and astrologer. Success came to me in a routine manner, without any fuss or jubilation. It was, as if it were a way of life.

Traditional beliefs erode her position
PROPOS of B.M. Singh’s “Male Viewpoint” (July8), the new millennium woman is neither independent nor does she have time to saunter about in beauty parlours and gymns. This might be true of a few exceptions among the elite. She is shouldering a dual burden at home and at work and in the process undergoing tensions.



Dulhan wahi jo degree thukraye

ANOTHER year’s board examination results are out with girls predominant among the toppers, and once again most of them have opted for the non-medical stream. Many of them have no clear goal in mind. Answers to why they have chosen their subjects range from, ‘my parents wanted me to,’ to ‘all my friends were joining’ Clearly, the replies are not of focussed students intent on a set career path. At the most, they say that they want to get good jobs in the IT industry.

A handful of them have stars in their eyes as they speak of their dreams. These are the ambitious ones who dream of a software career in Silicon Valley — if not the US one, at least in the Indian one. One wishes most heartily that their stars burned bright all their lives. One can’t help wondering how many would put their professional degrees to their intended use, more importantly, after marriage?

In the 80s, a study had been conducted on women engineers. The researcher had made an effort to get a list of all the women engineers of India, especially the early ones and tried to find out what they were doing then — whether they were working or not and if they were, what kind of jobs they held. It turned out that less than 40 per cent of those whom she managed to track down were employed and less than half of those were actually putting their degree to its intended use. The rest? Well, they had settled down to happy matrimony and forgotten about being engineers.

Have things changed much since then. Sadly, no; at least not in this part of the country.

Today, the percentage of girls to boys in engineering admissions is roughly about 1:4, with the percentage rising to 30-50 per cent in Computer Science. Of these, the number of girls taking the GRE route to study abroad is too miniscule to merit a mention here. In the IITs, it is just about 3-4 per cent of the total student force.

The purpose of these figures is just to point out a pertinent fact — the girls who make it to the engineering courses are the crème de la crème. It makes it doubly sad therefore, when the girls choose to, or are forced to, twiddle their thumbs at home or work at jobs that clearly underutilise their potential. What is more significant is that this often happens after marriage as a career is often equated with being bad wives/mothers.

A technical degree should by rights be put to its full use if for nothing else, then at least for the amount of effort and money it entails. It is a sheer waste of brainpower too.

Why do girls opt for engineering at all? Apart from the fact that the conventional science degrees are of little practical value these days without an added management degree, the other reason is a more compelling one. Sociologically, it spells status and prestige. To say your daughter/wife/daughter-in-law is an engineer is definitely more prestigious than saying that she is just a graduate or even a postgraduate.

The girls I spoke to were indignant at first. “Of course, we’ll work! What do you mean, we’ll sit at home?” Each one of them protested vehemently, but on gentle probing, the truth slowly emerged.

“I’ll definitely work for a few years before getting married. My parents have spent a lot of money on my education and I want to return at least some of it by earning, ” says Krithika, a second year student of electrical engineering in one of the private colleges.

And what after marriage? “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll work, but I’d like to get a convenient job.”

Convenient? One wants to know what she means by the term. “You know some job that would not mean neglecting the home. I want to be a good homemaker.”

One is constrained to point out that according to many studies, career women not only are good homemakers, but also rear confident and independent children, who are often achievers as well.

“Maybe, but I’d want to be at hand for my family,” she shrugs.

Ritu, who has completed her degree in electronic engineering from Punjab Engineering College, is appearing for her IAS exam. She confesses to always wanting to become an IAS officer. Then why did she choose engineering? “No special reason, just because everyone else seemed to be taking up this stream, and I needed a degree,” she says with a disarming smile.

Several girls I spoke to even acknowledged that they were doing their engineering studies so that their marriage prospects improved. From the days when parents flaunted their sons’ engineering degrees to get a good dowry, today a girl’s technical degree is added to the dowry. Is it emancipation in reverse?

Mrs.K, admits that this was one of the considerations for sending her daughter for a technical degree. “Of what use is a girl’s degree to her parents? We only want her to be happy in her husband’s home,” she says simply. Though it would appear that all girls look towards a job, it takes a back seat when pitted against marriage and home, as it does for Kritika. When it comes to convincing their parents and later their in-laws, they find that it is easier to take the path of least resistance, vis-à-vis a career.

“One has to think of the family and maintain peace,” mumbles Ruchi.

“We have no choice. Our parents wouldn’t listen,” says Manika.

It is rather hard to believe that girls who can talk their parents into sending them to live in hostels away from home, wear daring dresses, have dates with boys, and live it up in general, can’t have the courage to talk them into letting them choose a career. One is then forced to conclude that most of the time, the girls themselves are not averse to opting for matrimony over a career. That way, they conform to social mores and the responsibility for their plight rests on someone else!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against marriage or children and I am the first person to agree that family is important, but if that were to be the primary concern, why waste a technical or medical degree? I’d want to know whether being a mechanical engineer makes a woman roll out better chappatis, or whether having a degree in electrical engineering makes her iron clothes better? I bet that many of these women don’t even change a fuse when it comes to it!

Meet some of the girls who opted for home over career:

Namita, a computer engineer quit her challenging job that made her ‘tired’ to take up a job as counsellor in one of the computer centers. Her talent was clearly wasted there and she was frustrated, not to speak of getting less than half what she earned in her earlier job, but she had to work only for a few hours in a day.

Reena is a mechanical engineer and was earning a handsome salary in a big firm before her marriage. She continued working for a while after marriage, but soon found the pressure too much and quit. “It is difficult to manage within one income and I’m bored to tears, but my family comes first,” she says, making tea for her husband who is flicking channels in the living room. My heart weeps for another degree rotting in the wardrobe.

Tania, a civil engineer, whose marriage has been fixed for later this year, is another girl who would not think twice about quitting her job in a computer firm. “I’ll continue in the job if my in-laws ‘allow’ me to work,” she says docilely. I find it hard to believe that this girl was a firebrand in her college.

Doesn’t she enjoy her work? “Theek hai,” she says, with a grimace. Obviously a case of underutilisation of her degree.

In-laws are happy if their bahu works in a bank or school, preferably a government school, or even a government office. The lower the position, the better. For them the perks are many and responsibilities next to none. But to take up a challenging career is far from the minds of the average girl herself, as it would mean commitment to the work. Women are known to refuse promotions because that would entail more responsibilities or a transfer.

If this is case with middle-class families, it is another story in affluent families. Money is not the concern here and unless the family is forward looking,, a working bahu with a career is not very welcome. So the girls sit at home, attend kitty parties, go shopping and look after their husbands’ and childrens’ needs. Some enterprising girls do take a stand. “I’ve to do something,” they say indignantly. And they do – usually start a boutique or some such ‘business’. Do we need engineers to do this? Any girl with a smart head can efficiently run one.

The other day I met a woman at a friend’s place. Her two little daughters, who had accompanied her, were restless, when suddenly the older of the two, had a bright idea. She called to her sister, “Let’s play dulhan-dulhan,” commandeering her mother’s dupatta.

They then proceeded to dance, giggle and simper, just as the countless girls on the endless shows on television. Their mother is an electronic engineer, who had given up a job she enjoyed after the birth of her first child, as that had been the condition her husband-to-be had put before the marriage. “That’s what I wanted too,” she says lamely.

I have a bone to pick with Suraj Barjatya for ushering in this regressive trend with his potboiler Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Thanks to him, every other music video portrays a marriage sequence and every girl imagines herself to be a heroine a la Madhuri Dixit and lives in her own dream world of handsome beaus, for the day when she can also deck up in all her finery and cavort around Sometimes I feel if our mothers and grandmothers had a point, when they protested that higher education was not necessary for a girl. “After all, they have to manage the chulha-chauka some day, no matter how many degrees they get,” they’d say.

When girls use their technical degrees to get husbands, it is a mockery of the preparations for two whole years by thousands of hopeful students, who have been denied seats because of them. They have lost their tickets to a better career — to these dowry and status-seekers.

Will someone please make technical degree holders sign a bond , so that they work at their professions at least for 10 years Till then, little girls will start by playing ‘dulhan-dulhan’ and end up being real life dulhans — after they get their technical degrees, of course!

(Some names have been changed on request.)


Life after divorce
Kompal Grover

WHENEVER a daughter tells her father: “I can’t bear it any more. It is all over. I am coming back to you. Save me” His heart sinks. He neither wants his daughter to come back to him forever nor does he want her to die by inches at the cruel hands of her in-laws. The reason behind his thought may be anything — financial stringency or samskars but the biggest block is the society. What will people say? The society, always suspicious as it is, will never let her live peacefully even in her parents’ home. For how long can a father protect her? For how long will she be able to bear the stigma . Perhaps the mental torture then will be worse than the one she is facing now. But he has to do something for his beloved daughter.

If dowry alone is the problem, he may beg or borrow to satiate the hunger of his daughter’s in-laws. The problem gets aggravated if the boy has an extra-marital affair. A sensible, educated girl with strong family values tries hard to make her marriage work by bowing to her in-laws’ baseless reasoning that guys of today do even worse deeds than their dear son . Now there are only two options with the girl — either to tolerate the illicit relations of her husband or to snap her relations to maintain her own dignity. If she is brave enough, she decides to walk out. Then comes a stage of “negotiations”, “adjustments”, “discussions” and even high-voltage quarrels but with no meaningful results. A woman is confused about what will happen and the next moment in her life.

The case worsens if there happens to be a child too out of the broken marriage. The in-laws want to snatch the child from the mother by arguing about his being their own blood. Sleepless nights and traumatic days follow a woman from the day she stops bending as she is already at the verge of breaking. Finally a case of divorce with “mutual consent” is filed in the court otherwise a routine case of divorce may take years to decide thanks to clever advocates and wax-like laws. Anyhow a Lok Adalat grants divorce in a short time. Much to her satisfaction the girl gets the custody of her child. The girl is now stamped as a divorcee. Who gains and who loses is quite clear. The boy is free to have his way. The trauma through which the girl has to pass is beyond expression. She gets a job thanks to the excellent education her father gave. She faces the raised fingers of the society bravely.

Dejected parents again start searching for a suitable groom for their daughter. But lo! Even a man who himself is divorcee, shamelessly wants that the girl should not be so. Another says: “Sorry, I want an issueless partner.” Why this injustice again only to the girl? A divorcee’s child is as precious to her as is the child to a man. How can a man expect a woman to leave a part of her ownself and treat another child as her own. It’s true that it’s a man’s world and he does whatever he wants to do.Is it really manly to write bluntly in the matrimonial columns “only widows apply, divorcees please excuse!” or “only issueless widow/divorcee may apply”. . Many of us who face similar situations do so and leave our most precious child to bring up the kids of the second husband. Should we not equip ourselves with the best possible education so as to be financially independent? Should we not stop brooding over our gloomy past Should we not be proud of ourselves that we tried our best to save our marriages, but we had to save our self-respect too.

If we start taking a firm stand on our own decisions, the men too will have to change their attitudes. It may take years to happen, but we can sow seeds for the women of tomorrow.


Starlet turns stargazer
Komilla Sutton

Komila Sutton or as old timers would recall Komilla Virk, was an actress introduced by Dev Anand in the seventies. She could never make it to the big league as an actress. A former, Miss Bombay and a well-known model, she also acted in regional cinema be it Punjabi, Telugu, Kannada etc. Komilla worked with many directors in Bollywood after being introduced in Ishq Ishq Ishq by Dev Anand. What is most surprising is the direction this 1953 born gave her life. A topper in high school from Modern School Delhi, she graduated with economics honours from Lady Sriram College. She is one of the few people who can play the jaltarang well. At present, she leads a quiet, simple life in England as an internationally recognised, successful vedic astrologer and author. In a first person account, she talks of the way her life steered her to a different course.

“I WOULD compare my life to a musician who has played all notes to perfection and used them to form a perfect raga. The varied experiences of my life, came in handy for me and helped me to relate to people as a friend, philosopher and astrologer. Success came to me in a routine manner, without any fuss or jubilation. It was, as if it were a way of life. I feel I should have carried on with my studies since I excelled in them. If I had opted out of them for the lure of glamour and fame at Bollywood, I should have branched out into direction or production and stayed on in Bombay. Today I realise the power of destiny and how every change in life without our knowledge is taking place for some pre-ordained goal or destination. I wasn’t given a chance to explore my full potential in Hindi cinema and felt stagnant in a world of super five star culture with all its recognition and applause. Every one in the world of cinema has to deal with being popular on the outside, and terribly insecure inside. Each one has to constantly fight the demons of rejection and failure. Nothing and nobody is for keeps. You are just as good as your last role. Added to this were my few broken relationships. To combat all this, I started confiding in a friend, Ajit Sinha, who is a Sanskrit Scholar, well-versed in the ancient Indian art of astrology. He would explain to me the hand of nature in all my experiences. The configuration of the planets at the time of birth presents a map of your life. No one has a constant period of good or bad luck. The cycles of time touch our lives in their own unique way. In 1983, I moved to England and became a pioneer in introducing Indian art and handicrafts through my shops at Victoria and Waterloo Stations, in U.K. My consultations with Ajit continued and he became my Guru who helped me to understand Indian astrology.

M.K. Gandhi, the Queen’s own astrologer was located near my workplace. I would often pay a hefty amount for his opinion and he would invariably overshoot the extent of appointment time to explain the hand of nature in our lives to me.

Consciously or subconsciously, I was learning all the time. My shops in London closed down as England hit recession in early 90s and I moved to Romssey to concentrate on my shop of Indian handicrafts there.

To augment my income, I took a chance at palm-reading on certain days of the week in my shop. This caught on and gradually I found myself totally engrossed in astrology. The local radio and TV station started hosting my show regularly. One day I was invited by the Astrological Lodge of London to give a lecture on vedic astrology. This was followed by a lecture at the behest of the Astrological Association of Great Britain.

These lectures were to help western astrologers understand the concept of Indian astrology. I realised the need to teach our astrological concepts to the West and started holding regular classes in London.

In order to fulfil my need to teach, I decided to write my first book The Essentials of Vedic Astrology. The book was highly acclaimed. One day a client, Amanda, who was a writer, got a call from her publisher inquiring whether a vedic astrologer would be interested in writing a coffee table edition. This is destiny! I was the natural choice. Thus came along my next book, Vedic Astrology, which was followed by The lunar nodes: crises and redemption. I have already started work on the fourth book. All my work has been translated into German, Russian and French etc. I have clients the world over and maintain contact through my website.

Over a period of time, I have had the privilege of being the Chairperson of the British Association of Vedic Astrology. The chief patron of this association is David Frawley. I am also on the board of The American Council of Vedic Astrology. In the USA, we are on the verge of opening a non-profitable and charitable institute for the study of astrology and hope that in India too astrology shall soon be studied seriously as a subject. I am not here to convince or change non-believers but neither would I shirk an active debate be it so!

But yes, operators with little knowledge have maligned astrology. Astrology actually involves an extensive study of the world, the universe and substances that constitute it and in-depth research of our Vedas, Upanishdas and books on religion. It involves an ability to understand and rationalise. Along with all numerological calculations. What is required peaceful acceptance of life and having of one’s instincts.

As an astrologer, my advise to clients is not based on what I want done, but what my client can do within his social, spiritual and economic environment. So much of my work is also to guide them on to the path of accepting what is ordained for them. Astrology gives you the power and strength to understand and deal with the obstacles and enjoy the good fortunes.

(As told to Teena Singh)


Traditional beliefs erode her position

APROPOS of B.M. Singh’s "Male Viewpoint" (July8), the new millennium woman is neither independent nor does she have time to saunter about in beauty parlours and gymns. This might be true of a few exceptions among the elite. She is shouldering a dual burden at home and at work and in the process undergoing tensions.

Even after "learning and earning," a woman is still longing for her acceptance as a human being. She is still considered a commodity and despite constitutional and legal crutches to support her, is a lesser human being.

She is a victim of traditional beliefs which erode her position and status. The Biblical story of Eve’s obduracy and transgression has not been forgotten. Says the Bible : "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church; and he is the saviour of the body." (Eph, V. 22-23). And again: "A husband may be an adulterer or a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife because of his sins, yet he is still her husband...." (St. Jerome). Similar observations have been made in Tiruvalluvar’s Tirukural, a Dravidian classical text on ethical living. "Men who dote upon their wives never achieve great gains, and men of great ambition avoid that very thing. The riches of a man who fawningly follows a woman’s lead will buy him only shameful shame." (Kural, 901-902). Poor sage Manu , he is ubiquitously condemned and quoted for some of his observations on women, while other holy men who sometime made more dastardly comments in the same context have been absolved by academicians and mediamen.

The magic mantra for marital harmony "Haar Mani" (accepting defeat) is applicable to both husband and wife. In the ‘sacred’ contract of marriage, a woman has to adjust to the whims, wishes, expectations and desires of her husband and the members of her in-laws family; or else she is tormented. There is no such binding on man.

Dr Usha Kapoor, Jalandhar


This is with reference to the article, "The Portrait of the New Woman by B.M.Singh" (July8) I would like to add that new woman of today is a product of women’s liberation and is completely misinformed as well as misguided about the concept of Women’s liberation lies not in going to pubs, night clubs, wearing revealing western dresses or crossing the norms of civilised behaviour but it lies in acquiring education to become financially secure and well-equipped to run the family. Women’s lib does not mean giving too much importance to the ‘self’ all the time by a woman since she is more educated and financially secure as compared to the woman of the late 60s and 70s. Due consideration has to be accorded to all members of the family to which she belongs. She has to carve out a small world for herself as well as for her husband and children. The lifestyle of the so-called New Woman has added more problems to our social set-up and has resulted in infidelity, divorces, breaking up of families, negligence of the family members (especially of the old people) by the daughter-in-law in her avatar as the "new woman" of the millennium. Parents must be clear about the concept of liberalisation so that their daughters are so mentally evolved and educated that they make up their homes rather than break them up. This applies to the "New Man as well !

Rajeev Goel, Kangra (HP)

Tough fight

This is with reference to the article "When the going got tough, they toughened up" by Teena Singh (July8) in which the writer has written about the heart-rending loss and disillusionment of two women in two different scenarios, their brave battle against all odds to lead dignified and meaningful lives.

It is a sad fact that when a person faces bereavement or when a relationship snaps, a person is simply reduced to a heap of rubble, devoid of the wish or will to live. To come out of this scenario means being reincarnated from a heap of ash, like the proverbial Phoenix. To rise out of this state and live once again, needs real courage, resilience and a very brave attitude. It is a slow and tough job, but well worth it.

Hats off to both the women.

Amrit Pal Tiwana, Kalka

Female face of Aids

The article ‘The female face of AIDS’ by Angana Parekh was quite distressing.

The fact that 47 percent of the adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide constitute women groups, NGOs and other health organisations. It is high time that these groups propagate the use of microbicides and other contraceptives which greatly reduce the risk of transmission of HIV.

The Govt. of India, instead of quibbling about the UN figures for orphans from AIDS in India should make efforts on a war footing to contain the spread of this deadly disease. The Prime Minister should call an all-party meeting to discuss the serious consequences of AIDS which has already consumed 22 million precious human lives.

India can ill-afford to let this issue remain unattended and become the worst -affected country in the world. If poor and middle income countries like Brazil, Thailand and Uganda can confront the disease and contain its spread, India too can.

Manan Gupta, Kapurthala

If you don’t stand up for yourself...no one else will

I have heard quite a few people talk about female foeticide without really knowing the meaning. Feeling bad about not knowing something so many people do, I asked my mother. She explained that female foeticide is a ruthless custom of killing a female child before or after birth. I can’t believe how heartless a person can be to kill a foetus just because it’s a girl. A tiny life who has not even opened her eyes and seen her mother or father or anyone, for that matter, is killed before she can be born.

She is punished for a crime she has not committed or shall I put it this way, she is punished for a crime which is no crime at all. I fail to understand, what glory or happiness does a boy bring to this world which a girl cannot. It is an actual fact that a girl is always more affectionate, lovable and caring in comparison to a boy. She helps her mother to look after the household and these days women are working shoulder to shoulder with men. All of us have seen the board results and it is obvious that girls have outshone the boys. In rural areas, girls are married at an age when they have barely started blossoming into women. They are treated like slaves. Is there anything wrong in being a woman? Absolutely and definitely not. If there is any man who thinks that, I would like to remind him about a very important thing- If it was not for your mother, you would not have existed. Your mother is also a woman. How would you have come into this world if your mother would have been killed before her birth? If there is any woman who disagrees with me, I have a piece of advice to offer- you have not done any thing wrong. You should be proud of the fact that you are a woman. I am extremely proud of being a female. Why is their so much injustice in the world as far as women are concerned. They are the ones to be killed at birth or discriminated on the basis of their gender and God knows what all!

A girl should be as welcome in this world as a boy. Her birth should be celebrated and not cried upon. She has as much right to live as a boy and nobody can take that right from her. Its her life. Let her live the way she wants to. — Shifa Joshi , Class-IX, Vivek High School