By Priyanka Sheoran
On my first day of school, my father accompanied me till my classroom door in my Shalimar Bagh school in north-west Delhi. I was small and needed somebody to take me to and from school. But as I grew up, the scenario still remained the same. I was accompanied by my parents till the last day of my school.
I thought the scenario would change when I got into college. I completed my Bachelor’s and then Master’s but the scenario hardly changed. This “accompanying” business began to get on my nerves because I wanted to be on my own.
In 2014, during my Master’s, I decided to find work outside Delhi for my internship. I chose to work in Himachal Pradesh where I travelled alone, stayed and worked alone for two months. That became the turning point for me.
After completing my Master’s, I joined an organisation in Madhya Pradesh where I stayed and worked for more than two years. There, I got the opportunity to not only travel alone for work, or to visit family, but also for leisure. I travelled solo all across India at this time.
I found my partner while I was on my journey of self-exploration and solo-journeying. We instantly connected. Our families met and things worked out perfectly. We got married three months ago. My marriage is not only a transformation of my status from being single to married but also from a civilian to an army wife, as my partner is a serving officer in the Indian Army.
After one month of my marriage, I had an interview for the Young India Fellowship in Delhi where my in-laws accompanied me. I liked having them with me to see the university. Personally, I love involving my family members in whatever I’m pursuing as it helps me to build their trust and confidence in me and my work.
Soon after my interview, I decided to visit my biological parents for a few days for the first time after marriage. But my in-laws didn’t let me travel alone even when I knew which bus to take and where to get down. It was their “love” that they wanted to accompany me. After a few days, I travelled to the station where my partner is posted. Again, I was accompanied by my family members because I’m new to the family and they really “love” and “care” for me.
I started living with my partner in the army station and joined army wives for various get-togethers. Even for a distance of one kilometre, I would be asked to take a Gypsy vehicle instead of going alone walking. Mind you, this suggestion comes only when we really “care” for someone.
But though this protection of “love” and “care” comes with a lot of comforts and fewer worries, it also takes away the freedom of being with oneself.
Recently, my partner had to travel somewhere for a day and was not allowed to take me along. I was okay staying back alone, but a senior lady called me (out of “love” and “care”) and insisted I stay with her for the night instead.
After a few days of this experience, I was told that my father was unwell back home. My partner suggested I visit him and stay over a few days. That’s when I took a solo train journey after a long time of about three months. I stayed with my parents, helped them in whatever capacity I could, and then returned on my own back to Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, where we are currently posted.
This step was important for my own sense of freedom. Now that I’m back, my partner is out of station for four days and I’m staying alone. Yesterday, another senior lady invited me to stay at her place instead, but this time, I said that I’m okay by myself. I am 25 years old, after all.
Through my experiences, I’ve realised that love and care come in the form of over-protection for women in India, be it your biological family or your in-laws or friends. Over-protection with a layer of unjustified fears of the unknown is something I’ve been fighting against for a long time.
My social venture BAYA — Be As You Are is based on this foundation. Through my organisation, I want young Indian women to constantly challenge this irrational fear of being alone, and free themselves to be whatever they want to be. Being on your own makes you stronger, happier and helps you in knowing yourself better.
For people who love and care for their daughters, sisters, wives or female friends, please find ways to communicate this love and care in some other form instead of over-protection. If you really care for her, make her strong enough mentally, physically and emotionally so that she could face life’s toughest situations on her own without having any fears.
If you really care for her, teach her to say “NO” when she doesn’t want something. Teach her not to compromise her own wishes because of others’ happiness. Pamper us with gifts, flowers or anything but not with over-protection!
Follow BAYA on Facebook. All photos courtesy Priyanka Sheoran.