Its been a different experience in the state of Rajasthan when I got to visit some not very known places. And I a girl in an Indian suit popularly known as the churidaar was out of place. The place had moved on with respect to availability of mobile phones and its usage but not so much in values.
The Bharat that I saw had women clad in beautifully bright dresses (lehangas). And wearing beautiful jewelry from nose rings, to earrings, kamar band, bangles, tikka, kadi, toe rings, just about everything you can imagine. Every married woman was wearing it, young or old. These women take care of all the household chores, the cattle rearing, the children and various other tasks, all this in their traditional attrire.
But was it really beautiful or is it a symbol of being chained to the husband or the family. I saw a 16-17 years old girl who was married. I identified the same by her attire. She was wearing a bright yellow lehenga, it had painstaking embroidery. Along with that she was wearing all the above mentioned ornaments. The weight of the girl would have increased about 7-8 kgs because of her attire and the jewelry. There was hardly any place to stand in the jam packed bus. Yet everyone around and the girl herself didn't find anything amiss. For them everything was completely normal. This is Bharat.
On talking to one of the male teachers of a government school in the area we found out that under age school going girls are silently married during vacations. This happens so that no one comes to know about it. They aren't sent away to their husband's houses (as that happens only when they are legally allowed to get married) but they are made to wear kadi in their ankles. Kadi is a heavy anklet usually made of silver, weighing 500 gm. This the married women have to wear in both their ankles.Other kids on seeing the kadi tease these girls. This is one of the reasons why girls leave school as they don't want other children to make fun of them. This is Bharat.
I was looking out of the bus's window and saw 3 women. The elderly lady was sitting on the bench sipping tea. The younger women were squatting in front, sipping tea with their ghunghats uptil their nose. This is Bharat.
When me and my friend (a girl) were staying in the block and everyone seemed to know about our arrival. We were looked at as though we were aliens in their land. It seemed very difficult for people to accept such boldness and independence from women. We were stared at by every passing person. We were asked as to why were we in the block, where were we from, where were we staying, and many other such questions. Clearly people couldn't accept it. This is Bharat.
Our country is full of paradoxes. On one side we are doing (whatever little) for girl's education on the other we silently accept girl child marriage. In the corporate girls are taken as equivalent to boys atleast it is an accepted assumption but in villages girls are a liability. The goddess Durga is given most respect but the daughter in law is like an unpaid servant during the day and an unpaid escort during the night. This is Bharat.