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Traditional barriers and orthodox beliefs are like nightmares and they haunt us constantly. The Indian society is quite natural at self creating some notions which are hurtful to the sentiments of others. One of the many notions would be the negativity and burden associated with the image of being a “single mother” in a country like India. The society is not very accepting when it comes to a woman raising a child by herself. A lot of assumptions and beliefs surround her, which make it a challenge for her to raise her child. Whether she is a divorcee, a widow or a just a woman who has adopted a child, the beliefs surrounding a single mother are varied and negative.
These negative assumptions are circled around her not being able to create an ideal life for her child without a man’s support whether its financially or otherwise.
In the recent past, this thinking has evolved to witness a change and single moms are now being perceived to be liberal, courageous and even supported by their families. A liberal mindset has kicked in and there are some beautiful examples of women who have been the mothers whom we can look up to. Defying the societal norms, they have raised their children to be their potential best and have struggled to create the ideal lives for them. Although, for celebrity single moms, people might think that it’s easy as they have one track medium to earn money, but it is harder than one can ever imagine. Constant public eyeing on the child’s whereabouts and the mother’s relationships with other men can create a grey space for making judgments and putting them in bad light. They are in constant limelight due to their status and position.
Kudos to celebrities like Nina Gupta, Sushmita Sen and Chitrangada Sen Gupta who have been successful in playing a dual role and keeping a thin, clean boundary between their personal lives and their careers.
With responsibility, comes strength.
It is often witnessed that when one actually faces the storm, one learns to fight it right. Madhu Kishwar, professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, and founder-editor, Manushi, points out: “Any woman who manifests extraordinary strength and is totally unafraid of men begins to be treated as a manifestation of goddess Durga. There are many such mini-Durgas everywhere.” In Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga, is depicted as a warrior goddess who has eight hands. Her hands are equipped with weapons of different kinds assuming mudras. These mudras represent the teachings. Goddess Durga represents “Shakti” or empowerment in the literal sense.
The single mother in India can be very well depicted as a form of “Shakti”. Goddess Durga was equipped with weapons like the chakra, the trishul, the bow and arrow, the lotus flower, which come into play when excruciating circumstances were thrown at her. In India, if a single mother is capable enough to be an independent individual, she is considered to be strong and influential. She is supported strongly by her maternal instinct to work even harder in order to provide a good life to her child. She knows that she is the prime supporter, so hard work and dedication comes naturally to her. Here, she uses the “chakra”, which symbolizes duty/righteousness. But, the barriers aren’t easy to overcome which include the societal judgments about her career and personal life, the pressure to remarry and the pressure to be the idealistic mother.
Things have taken a drastic turn and now, she has learnt to ignore what society would say. She is done bothering about what people would say if she comes back late from work or if she is out for a drink with a colleague. The society, the neighbours, the relatives don’t matter to her now. She is strong and independent. Here, the fearless trait of her personality plays the part. She is fearless now because the only thing, which matters to her, is the fear to lose her child. Here, “detachment” comes into play, which is symbolized by the lotus flower. Her world has space limited to her child. She has learnt to exhilarate confidence no matter what the outside world outside makes her go through.
She is judged when she wears a fitted dress, or a skirt or something, which looks good on her. She is not supposed to woe men, as now she is considered “unlucky” or “unacceptable”.
The mothers of the “eligible to marry” men won’t like her, as she has been “touched” already. But, that doesn’t shatter her confidence. Here, the bow and arrow weapon comes into play, where she believes in not losing her innate values when faced with difficult situations. All these judgments are not easy to deal with and to live with. The only way she can get over them is by ignoring and accepting the fact that choices and perceptions are subjective to oneself. She is now a symbol of solidarity and here the “Trishul” comes into play, as she uses her innately reserved courage as a weapon to fight the societal biases.
By relating the weapons possessed by Goddess Durga with the defense mechanism used by the Indian Single mother, one can say that the onus of being a single mother is as powerful as fighting alone with the world. She inherits the “Shakti” and uses these weapons to protect herself and her child from the society. Its not easy to be a single mother in India, she struggles to survive through the societal pressures, the set norms and the orthodox traditions.