I arrived in India with my preconceived ideas about gender inequality and arranged marriages and caste systems and, as always, cos I am a curious soul, I wondered how my beliefs and experience as a female born in the UK compared to the reality of females born in India.
On this International Women's day, I find myself with time and the motivation to write on my blog.
I enjoyed conversations with Indian born friends in the ashram about their experiences, family lives, generational differences, love, marriage, caste, politics and progress. It was truly enlightening and absolutely fascinating.
When I arrived in Goa, I saw something very different to what I had heard and seen in the cities. Life for women and girls in rural areas is not easy and gender discrimination clearly exists everywhere. I witnessed women walking, carrying heavy baskets of vegetables on their heads. I witnessed mothers carrying babies begging from tourists on the beach. I witnessed disabled, blind and old women begging at bus stops and outside restaurants. I saw many poor people without shoes and torn clothes and it was obvious that government efforts to outlaw mistreatment of the lower castes was not working everywhere in India.
Meet my lovely friends, Nithya and Torbin.
Nithya is a feisty, educated, independent and empowered 27 year old from Bangalore, Tamil Nadu.
Torbin is a 30+ married man from Kerala who now lives in Australia with his arranged marriage wife and 2 young children. Both are qualified yoga teachers as well; yippeeeeee!!
Nithya has a boyfriend from another State and damn I can't remember which. But I do know that she chose him herself and both her parents know about him and are OK with it. I also know that, his mother, on the other hand, is not OK with it. She wants an arranged marriage for her son with a woman of her choice. Although, these two have been together for over a year, Mother will not even tolerate talk of Nithya and even complains about the "darkness" of Nithya's skin. She cries, threatens, coerces and manipulates her son and will not accept that he should be free to make his own love choices. I was shocked when I learned this.
Torbin and his wife accepted an arranged marriage and met on Skype calls on 2 occasions before their marriage. It works. They have 2 adorable and adored children, both work in the tech industry in Australia and enjoy their relationship. He said, it was much easier than he imagined, to grow to love his wife. He also said that it is probably because he is a KAPHA type in the Ayurvedic body tradition, meaning he is too slow and lazy to do anything about it. I think he was joking. I hope he was joking.
I also read an article in a newspaper whilst in Bangalore, which explained that in only a few years almost 80% of the population of India will be paying income tax. For us this may seem odd as we are so used to paying income tax. it's a "so what" situation.
with so many people doing poorly paid physical jobs for cash, there is a huge percentage of the population who are not in the income tax system.
Things are moving there at a pace and India is in full development. I just hope that the beauty of a yogic lifestyle is not lost beneath the progress and development.