Sania Mirza, one of the finest tennis players produced by our country, has been in the limelight umpteen times -- ironically, more often for various controversies than for her glittering sports career.
As she launched her biography Ace Against Odds, she probably didn't suspect that she'd be smashing an ace into the court of a senior and well respected journalist. Sania was questioned on when she plans to "settle" down given that her biography spills no beans about impending motherhood or retirement from tennis. Sania who is currently ranked World Number 1 in women's doubles is at the top of her game. She has had an illustrious career as a sportsperson and is still going strong.
Yet, none of that is protection enough from being lobbed with the eternal question all women must face in some form, irrespective of colour, creed or nationality: "When are you going to settle down?"
What is alarming is that even the most successful women have to justify their actions to a perpetually judgmental society.
When it comes to women, there is a universally laid-out path, which if tread, will lead to her being "settled" and thus fulfill the very purpose of her existence. She must marry, then bear children and eventually relinquish her career goals to be the epitome of sacrifice and be a devoted mother whose only purpose in life is to look after her offspring.
Most of us claim to believe in equality between the sexes, but this utopian state will come into being only when we treat our women at par with men. Like men, women ought to have a right to determine as to how they need to lead their life. A woman may have the gift of bearing life, but she is more than her womb. She is a person who like her male counterparts wants equal opportunities and the freedom to pursue a career without being judged. Instead, she usually finds that she must justify herself repeatedly, even after proving her mettle professionally.
The good news is that women from all over the world have started questioning and challenging this warped up concept of how a woman should lead her life. We are bashing the body-shamers, we are following our hearts, taking up professions that once were stereotyped for men and finally as Jennifer Anniston beautifully put in her recent write-up, taking steps towards creating our own "happily ever after."
All I can do is hope that a day will come when we will not be put on a pedestal and expected to behave like saints...
But it is not an easy road. It is a formidable task as society took generations to evolve into what it is today. It cannot change overnight. Even now, if you are single, you are haunted by queries about when you plan to attain "matrimonial bliss". Once you're married they want to know if there is a "bun in the oven" yet. If you do have a baby, then you are a vile and selfish parent if you do not intend to beget a sibling for the firstborn. So, the expectations keep soaring and it is exhausting to keep pace with them. What is alarming is that even the most successful women have to justify their actions to a perpetually judgmental society.
But women like Sania Mirza, who have the grit to stand up against sexist remarks and thwart them, give the rest of us hope. In speaking out, they stand up for so many women around the globe. "Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all," Emily Dickinson wrote long ago. And so all I can do is hope -- hope for a better tomorrow for women, hope that a day will come when we will not be put on a pedestal and expected to behave like saints, but looked at like human beings who just want to be happy. And I hope, one day, no one will question the road that will lead each one of us towards our own individual happiness.