Career vs Marriage, Motherhood: How society confines women within limits and Shakuntala Devi breaks the mould?

The society puts a lot of restrictions and boundaries on women, but women like Shakuntala Devi break the rules and live their lives on their own terms.
Career vs Marriage, Motherhood How society confines women within limits and Shakuntala Devi breaks the mouldCareer vs Marriage, Motherhood: How society confines women within limits and Shakuntala Devi breaks the mould?
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Pinkvilla reader Tanya Goel has this to say about Shakuntala Devi:

The obsession of our society to confine a woman within boundaries is insane. You could become anyone, and yet people would like to tell you what is and what is not in your limits. Some of us become victims to this, knowingly or unknowingly. While there are few, of course, for whom not even the sky is the limit. They choose to ignore everything and everyone that questions their ability to have it all. One of those who dared to challenge all these norms was Shakuntala Devi.

Like most of you reading this, I too, learned about the prodigal woman, courtesy her recent biopic, ‘Shakuntala Devi’, which was released on OTT. It is safe to say, this one is going to be a benchmark and an inspiration for all the movies about female protagonists. Vidya Balan, who played Shakuntala Devi, practically owned every scene and every dialogue she delivered. It makes me wonder, what a boss woman Devi must have been in her real life. One can say heads turned wherever she went. The movie portrays every dimension of her life so well, and the whole cast and crew needs to be applauded for that.

It is clear that Devi was years ahead of her time. Boundaries and labels didn’t make sense for her. She wanted to do whatever her instincts told her. Which is why she was gutsy enough to take a stand against her father for depriving her of her childhood. She didn’t think twice before leaving her husband for the betterment of her career. Devi was always unapologetic about her decisions. But what I wonder is, how many girls and women actually get such an opportunity or choice in life? One thought that was there continuously at the back of my mind while watching the movie was the debate around career vs marriage and motherhood.

The one place where she faced the most trouble was her role as a mother. The movie goes on to depict how her daughter, Anupama (referred to as Anu), was sick of her mother not being a ‘normal mother’. Anu was torn between two continents and two parents who wanted different things from life. Why this movie is one of its kind is because it breaks the legacy of Bollywood films focussing on the relationship of a father-son duo, or conflicts between two partners. A relationship between a mother and a daughter is a blend of all the flavours possible. Women all over the world have to make compromises with their careers, jobs and goals. They are only considered as ‘settled’ once they’re married and have had children. A woman’s D-day, the day she gets married, is considered to be the most, and sometimes the only important event of her life. The next best I believe is when she becomes a mother. I don’t mean to rubbish them at any cost. My point is, there shouldn’t be a This V/S That for women. The responsibility of raising a child is not of the mother alone, and it’s time we accept and normalise it. A particular scene in the movie depicts it really well when Shakuntala and her husband get into a heated argument about taking care of their daughter. Her husband Paritosh points out that he has been taking care of their daughter while she was touring for her shows. This is when Shakuntala takes a stand for herself and says it is not a laureate winning worthy task he’s performing, by taking care of his own child. 

Frankly, she took a stand not just for herself, but for so many women out there who are made to feel guilty for not doing enough as a mother. And I say this for the mothers working at home and outside both alike. It is expected of women to simply give up all their goals once they’re married, and/or have had kids. Her only focus, obviously, should be on raising a family. That should be her only goal to be achieved with a hundred and one percent success. The problem is systemic and somewhere or the other we’ve all played a role to further enhance it. If marriage and motherhood can come as a package, why is it so hard to accommodate career into it, too? Choosing between either shouldn’t be a dilemma that a woman must be forced to face. Women who choose to take a maternity, and child care leave are often shown the exit doors. Another problem many of them face is when they want to step back into the career line after a long break. They are either not given jobs at all or paid far too less than their male counterparts for the same role. 

A movie like this is an eye opener that a woman can choose what’s important to her, and it’s nobody’s business to question it. I have to use this space to also mention, no woman should be shamed for choosing her children over her career, either. If we’re all talking about being feminists, we must let go of our judgments and biases against certain things. Shakuntala Devi was determined to decide her own path and followed it throughout her life. She chose her career and excelled there. Even though there were instances where her daughter was highly disappointed, she was able to turn her heart too. So ladies, the next time someone tells you to balance your life choices, please know, you’re a winner and you know what’s best for you. You can be a great CEO and a great mother. You can be a great mother and choose not to be a CEO. You can be a great CEO and choose not to be a mother. And there’s nothing wrong with any choice you make. Pay no heed to those who have a problem with all that you do.

Disclaimer: This is user-generated content. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pinkvilla. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author. 

Also Read|Shakuntala Devi Movie Review: Vidya Balan delivers a calculated performance; raises experience to n-th power

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Anonymous 2 months ago

A very true and convincing article.career motherhood.

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