The Veil

I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. … We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.
Malala Yousafzai

Women are the new torchbearers of the 21st century! Aeons of oppression and a regressive image of women, finally changed colours in many parts of the world. So, who is stopping us from voicing our opinions? Is it the society, the ‘Male chauvinists’ or women themselves?

These are deep questions embedded inside every woman’s subconscious!

Here, I would like to share an interesting anecdote.

While I was working for a popular Indian Television Soap’, I went to promote the show and the channel to the interiors of Madhya Pradesh, India, where a T.V actor was a rarity.

I landed in the city of Gwalior and was ushered into a decent lodging. In a few hours, with a manager and the local team, we headed to a village named Ambe Gaon, two hours away from the city!

Women in Ghoonghat’ (veils) was a common sight. The day was packed with meetings and ended with a huge event where I addressed almost 8000 people, you can count that as the strength of the village. All the way I wondered why women in villages still follow such staunch traditions?

The next day, we visited the Gwalior Fort! This was a heritage site maintained by the royal Scindia family. The most interesting part was my tour into the fort.

It was a huge fort almost the size of a township, with invaluable architecture, ancient paintings, writings adorned on the stone walls. The tourist guide insisted on accompanying us for a a small fee and took us through the fort. After a long walk inside the innumerable chambers of the fort, we landed at a spiral staircase that headed five floors down, until we reached the basement. This was called ‘the Bhool Bhulaiyya’ !

The basement had a dried pool, high ceiling walls and just a peep hole for the light !

The story goes that, when the men went to the battlefield, all the royal women and children took refuge in these cellars! Well, the first thing that struck me was Rani Laxmibai’s bravery! A woman who was a terror to the British army that occupied India in the early 20th century. Tying her child like a backpack, she rode the horse and jumped from the fort walls to hit the enemy! Her name was etched in gold in the history of the struggles of Indian freedom fighters She stood as a stark contrast between the veils and the swords!

On my return, a question haunted me. Why did the royal women chose to stay in veils? Why were all of them not in the army with Rani Laxmibai? Was it for the children’s sake or was it the society or was it simply their mental make-up?

In the 21st century we have women flying planes, we are leaders in corporates, banks, businesses, universities et al ! Then why is a section of the human society still suffering? Why are we still counted as the weaker sex? Why the word oppression only for women? Have you ever heard of a man in a veil?

Mahatma Gandhi said: ” The day a woman walks free in the midnight, is when a country attains true freedom!”

When women stop being suppressed not only by men but by other women, society and not just ask for freedom but feel free, is when the utopian dream of a century of women will become a reality!

Signing off! Yours,

Neelima Neel 🌸🌸

‘Iam born free!’

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