Navratri is a 9-day Indian festival that involves the worship of the feminine spirit, power and divinity. Specific colours are symbolic of the rituals associated with each day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if India respected its women the way we worship our goddesses? Here is a 9-part series that aims to celebrate women through the 9 colours of Navratri. These are simple examples that probably capture a very very small percentage of the countless challenges that women face on a daily basis in our country.
Day 2: Today’s colour is green. Depending on the law, society and circumstances, the idea of freedom or even choice is a far-fetched dream for many women. For me the green symbolizes those an escape – women who’ve been able to fight the system, make their own decisions and carve their own paths. Those who’ve been able break free from everything that’s held them back, including themselves.
Day 3: Today’s colour is grey. For women who’ve had to fight unimaginably hard battles and are still fighting for justice.
Day 4: Today’s colour is orange. For all the women (especially domestic helps) who work odd jobs and long hours to be able to support their families and afford their kids an education. I think we have a lot to learn from this country’s fiercely strong didis/akkas/bais.
Day 5: Today’s colour is white.
In some parts of India, widows are isolated from society and abandoned by their families. Apart from wearing only white and being forbidden to participate in festivals, in extreme cases, widows are also to shave their heads and suffer psychological abuse. Last year, thousands of widowed women, who typically dress in white, gathered in Vrindavan to celebrate Holi, breaking a 400 year old taboo. While these traditions are changing in many parts of India, this comic is for all those women who’re still seeking acceptance, and more importantly, fighting for a life of dignity.
Day 6: Today’s colour is red. Female infanticide and foeticide is shockingly common even today in India, and is a desperate measure taken (usually by parents) due to financial reasons, fear of social isolation, lack of family planning, dowry costs, etc. India outlawed the dowry system in 1961 and sex determination tests in 1994. Yet we hear of female infanticide cases quite frequently. I know of a couple, who, hoping for a son, ending up having 8 daughters. All of us have heard these stories. There are a bunch of government initiatives and NGOs that are trying to prevent this act. I’d like to think that there is hope, and the situation is changing.
Day 7: Today’s colour is royal blue. The gender pay gap is an issue not just in India but worldwide. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, and some even call it a myth. I don’t think we can generalise, but what we can do is call it out if we’re aware that it exists in our workplaces. And not settled for less.
Day 8: Today’s colour is pink. Women everywhere think negative thoughts about themselves – I come across so many women who think they’re too fat, too thin, too short, too lanky — there is always something wrong. We try on a dress, and even if somebody tells us we look fabulous, we want to think otherwise. We seem to obsess when we look into the mirror. I’ve figured that the most amazing feeling in the world is to look into the mirror and see somebody who’s beautiful, confident and ready to take on the day. That in itself is most battles won 🙂
Day 9: Today’s colour is purple. Women in India face numerous daily battles – whether in rural or urban areas. Safety is still a big issue — a world in which we can walk without fear seems far away. Overcoming challenges is easier said than done. Yet we have so many women who are doing wonderful work and empowering other women across the country. Hats off to them!
I believe the true spirit of Navratri lies in celebrating not only our goddesses but also the women all around us. Who, if you ask me, are goddesses in their own right.