Women in India: Mastering the art of facemasks before and after Covid-19

the art of facemasks

The struggle is real when it comes to removing some sort of taboo and stigma from an Indian household, which it holds tighter than relationships.

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic where thousands of people and migrant workers struggle to reach home to their loved ones, I’m privileged enough to be back on my mother’s lap. The fight with the virus might be long but victory is certain. Soon masked faces will be the new normal but what about the incorrigible masks that people wear all over their face.

A pandemic increased the number of domestic violence cases in India removing one of the two masks people wore. The news of China’s rise in divorce rate after lockdown went viral and social media was flooded with memes. However, it might not be the same case here, I wonder why?

Watching movies infused me and my mother’s time at home. It became a routine for us to watch a movie each day after lunch while enjoying every sip of tang. My mother said “How is this movie Thappad?” To which I replied, “Haven’t watched it yet but heard it’s good.” So, this one afternoon we decided to watch Thappad.

I could tell from her expressions that she was enjoying the film when it started but strangely, those expressions on her face changed after the interval which hinted she was losing interest. Those wandering eyes and a question mark on her face validated my doubt.

After the completion of the movie, I asked my mother curiously if she liked it. Her reply startled me as I was quite impressed by the film. My mother remarked, “To leave her husband for one slap is too much.” When I tried to explain why even a slap is a form of violence and no husband has the right to do so. She added, “I understand, its fine for your generation, but it will take a long time or maybe a lifetime for ours to leave one’s husband for that reason.”

The amount of conditioning society has put in the mind of our mothers or women in general are disturbing. The fact that one slap is more normalized than a divorce is the harsh reality. Women in our country are brought up to tolerate so much nuisance, they forget how to draw a line and think for themselves.

The lockdown will be lifted soon, but the stigma of divorce might stop many from going ahead with it. There are women out there who are voiceless and scared to open up. For them domestic violence is nothing unusual. The external and internal wounds would be covered with a smile, a masked smile where the eyes and words don’t match.

The patriarchal society which we live in paralyses its women physically, emotionally and financially to such an extent that they forget to speak up for themselves. A home becomes a terror house yet they are forced to play mute and withstand the atrocities of the household.

In addition to that the society never fails to add on to the miseries. The list is endless when it comes to the demeaning remarks and gender biasness caused to women in this country. Even in this 21st century there are many who prefer women to be voiceless.

There are instances where women themselves deny having gone through domestic violence because of their vulnerability. The locked doors and denials is all they can think of.  The generation role is not necessarily true when it comes to any sort of violence. It is definitely the stigma and conditioning with patriarchy playing the upper hand.

That one movie made me scrutinize every minute detail of this society we live in. I’m sure my mother will be convinced that no generation is obliged to deal with any sort of violence be it a single slap or verbal abuse.

But the women who are overruled by the sentiments of their family and society might carry on the legacy to be the ideal wife who has the right to contemplate everything except her. How will they carry the weight of a mask along with the heaviness in their heart?