Essence of a Woman.

On International Women’s Day (amongst other things) women were described as the epitome of selfless sacrifice and silent suffering. An email forward describes how special women are.

She cures herself when sick and she can work eighteen hours a day… She smiles when feeling like screaming she sings when she feels like crying…

Tears are her way of expressing grief, her doubts, her love, her loneliness, her suffering and her pride…


Sarpanch Ashuba Khan thought women could do better than that. When reservation made her the Sarpanch,Β  her all-woman Panchayat changed lives in Neemkheda village in Haryana. [Allytude thanks for this inspiring link!]

Built a pucca road, primary health centre, girls’ junior school and 72 toilets! Primary school upgraded to secondary school. Enrolment shot up from 97 to 800

For the male panchayat members, alcoholism did not merit punishment. For us, it became the number one crime. Now no alcoholic in Neemkheda gets home-cooked food.

(Till now it seems the Panchayat used to spend all the funds organizing gigs and fairs.)

Men mock them but the all-woman panchayat members aren’t bothered.

“Apart from illiteracy, gender was also generously used against them.

β€œThe men ridiculed us saying women are meant only to dance inside the house,” says 56- year-old Salma.

β€œWe said why are we then made to work in the fields, fetch water, fetch wood?

They said the panchayat is different.

We said just wait and see.”

We were lucky to have had Dr Ambedkar and Jawahar Lal Nehru fighting for our rights . We take our right to vote for granted (so do our politicians).

This little poem gives a glimpse of the bitterness women in the West felt during their struggle for the Right to vote.

Alice Duer Miller

From a Man’s Point of View

WOMEN love self-sacrifice
Suffering and good advice;
If they don’t love these sincerely
Then they’re not true women really.

Oh, it shocks me so to note
Women pleading for the vote!
Saying publicly it would
Educate and do them good.

Such a selfish reason trips
Oddly from a woman’s lips.
But it must not be supposed
I am in the least opposed.
If they want it let them try it.
For I think we’ll profit by it.

They too expressed their ‘suffering’ with more than just tears.

Essence means, ‘The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something.‘ Can we really define the essence of a woman (or the essence of a man)?


38 thoughts on “Essence of a Woman.

  1. “She cures herself when sick and she can work eighteen hours a day… She smiles when feeling like screaming she sings when she feels like crying…” — sounds like those countless self-effacing heroines Bollywood/regional cinema used to churn out!!!

    It’s a shame that media chooses to portray women in unrealistic ways till now. Look at the the stupid reality shows, the skin lightening ads — in comparison women who have really made a difference are hardly get any air time! Great post as usual.


  2. Am I first?!!!
    Hats off to all women.. I think we are born caring, and kudos to that virtue!

    Me- Pal it’s nice to be caring, but do you think all women are caring? I think we teach girls to be caring and boys to be manly and unemotional. Life is tough for emotional boys, and very tough for girls who are not ‘giving’ and caring, I think it’s unfair that we force everybody to fit into our rigid ideas of how they should be … don’t you think so?

    The snippets about Sarpanch was so inspiring! How do you get such info IHM? Brilliant!

    Me- This is thanks to Allytude πŸ™‚ I think I must give her credit for this link. Let me edit and thank her now πŸ™‚

    As for the final question.. can we define the essence.. ohhh..rather difficult, methinks!! Also surprised that after all these years of evolution, we do not have this simple answer :-)))))

    Me- Maybe Pal, because each of us is unique and special. πŸ™‚


  3. we need for more women like the sarpanch.
    A tyypical MCP attitude ” women love self sacrifice”
    even i have heard men and children telling the woman ,” you love doing things for people, you sacrifice, this is your own will — we never asked you to do so” such thankless people we have!!!!


  4. The poem by Alice is so relevant right now. I’m disgusted reading all the reasons many MPs are opposing the reservation…most of all that some good male MPs may lose their seat…the assumption being that no woman could be good enough to take their place, and that it’s a tragedy for women to get men’s power. Blech!

    Me- I agree starsinmyeyes. And this when women have proven how well they handled ‘men’s power’. This example from Haryana also shows how many reservations we have against women coming into politics even today – the only difference is these reservations are unchallengeable because one does not even acknowledge they exist. I found this link inspiring..


  5. Women love self sacrifice….ha, if I put it in simple terms its exactly like when we as parents expect our child to take part in some activity, we keep satisfying ourselves by telling everyone “oh she loves spelling, she loves remember spellings, she is going to be spelling bee, its her goal” The child is listening and knows that parents are expecting me be certain way and makes that his goal because he doesn’t want to fall short on our expectations. This is what society has done with women, it has imposed a so called perfect woman picture and expects us to be that and when any of us is not like that, we are termed as failures as a woman.


  6. I have seen many of my friends asking me why women need reservation this equalized society, giving me n number of examples for the same. According to them it was meant for poor and less privileged… I badly wanted to ask them “R u staying in India”, may b in urban India, where we naturally don’t get time to even think “the scream from the neighborhood is due to women abuse, not an act from some mega serial”. But i thought it better to show them the other side, than just giving a talk……… I am sure most of the youngsters in India might feel the same way.. that when his or her mother n sister is working n having a great life what issues women might face..?? Its a total unknown area for him/her.
    Sadly the people who needs to bring up these issues are more interested in hiding it and putting veil. Coz this is a society where bringing up a girl child is still not welcomed in a good way, if you think this is only for poor, let me tell you that i have my personal experience of seeing it in one of the largest business houses in southern india………………
    Any one wants to comment???????


  7. I hate it when the “scrificing nature” of the woman is glorified. We need to tell the women to stop doing that and start living for themselves. And frankly, I don’t think an individual can spread happiness while she is sad and depressed herself


  8. cant tell u IHM much i love your posts !!!

    I know how it is …we are taught to be caring , nurturing , sacrificing ..and also to learn to be happy that way !! and if u dont , there is somethng wrong with u , and what makes me sad is when educated women of my generation think and talk like this ,like a dormat , born to serve man .

    so good to see women in power doing progressive work …thats why i think we have that ray of hope that things will change for better when women will get power and posts …

    one of my friends said there is bad politics at higher level in coorporates and it is actually not a place for nice women to work …she said she will be happy staying at lower level ..i told her ” lets reach at that level and be in a position that we can stop such incidents and exploitation. we cannot shut our eyes and stay calm”


  9. It is inspiring to hear about Sarpanch Ashuba Khan, I am sure that there are hundreds of cases hidden out there to hsow how women rule and rule well…
    But I still feel education is the right way not reservations…wont we then emphasis the fact that we are different or weaker than the rest!


  10. It is such a disgusting thing that “sacrifice” is forced down our throats! I am upto my neck with this nonsense , and hope that the next generation can do better! Hats off to the all women panchayat!


  11. Good post. Much have changed for the better for women in last 100yrs and lot more have to change to reduce the gender gap further.It is always good to look back to see where we were. My mom used to tell us a real life incident that happened in her family may be 75 yrs ago. A girl child my grand mother’s kid sister, abt 9yrs old developed severe loose motion and a request to bring a doctor to the house was ridiculed by the men of the house .A doc then was a rare commodity and to bring doc to the house to treat a girl was unheard of then.That girl considered by many as the smartest of all the sisters died in 2 days.Denial of treatment may not be there now but alarming trend of missing girl child especially among upper class families of some States of India is worrying.

    The example from Haryana is inspiring and proves many a point, It exposes the hollowness of bahu-beti criticism,The propaganda that women elected to legislatures can do nothing else but just warm the seats for the men in the family is a gross underestimation of the potential of women political workers of our country, Let me warn you against too much expectation too. Women legislatures will be as good or as bad as their men counterparts. Powerful and rich families may still control our polity unless a level playing field is created in regards to election expenditure. But with the creation of large pool of active women politicians the WR bil can help in great deal in breaking gender stereotypes in our society.


  12. There was this grandaddy of an argument that some of us had with our colleagues at work, w r t the Women’s Reservation Bill being passed, and one neanderthal actually had the gumption to shout across our staff room – Women should be allowed (please note, allowed!!!) to work outside the home only after she is 40, by which time her family (kids) would have become fairly self reliant, she would have made the home stable… blah blah blah…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So, the reservation for women, he said, actually blocked chances for much “Better” male counterparts, as women anyways were going to be only puppets there!!! To say he was shouted down, and almost decimated was an understatement, but the fact remains that large numbers of our educators still have this thought. This guy is teaching little children!!! His wife, incidentally, is a teacher!!!! Talk of double standards!! So having a lot of men in the village, who have, unfortunately,have less access to education, say the same thing, tells you one thing doesn’t it, about the essence of a typical Indian Male?

    As for women, though it is slow, there is a definite movement toward self esteem, and its expression in the willingness to take up cudgels against oppression, and work pro actively for the betterment of all, not just her lot!

    Kudos to that Sarpach of Neemkheda! It really inspires, reading about real time heros like her!

    Me- Usha it’s so good to see you here πŸ˜† πŸ˜€

    I am amazed at every woman who is able to be successful despite being surrounded by people who think like this. Shows we still have reservations against women being ‘allowed’ to work out.


    • @Usha. This is so similar to the argument we have been hearing earlier that a girl joining an engineering college is depriving a deserving (as if the girl is not deserving) boy of the seat!


      • yes shail i have heard it many times ..why waste money in engg studies for girls …let her go to govt degree collge and do b’ed …teaching achi hai girls ke liye …better save money for her marriage ….:)


  13. Essence of a woman or a man for that matter is like essence of a perfume.. too much of it and you choke and a small whiff of it delights you..

    What I mean is.. one cannot define what a woman or man is.. defining stereotypes makes us less than what we are..

    About panchayat.. thats wonderful.. you think Womens’ reservation bill will make more such women to come forward?

    Me- It might make it easier for them to come forward, … I feel we could do with some de-reservation for men, seeing how much custom and culture discourage women’s participation in a hundred little ways. 😦


  14. I have had guts full of this ‘sacrifice’ thing and how it makes a women happy. I think treating a women like a equal human being instead of expecting her to sacrifice all the time will make her more happy.

    Regarding the Reservation Bill, I am against any kind of reservation but this Bill looked like it will give the women the push that they need to get into the jury is still out on that one ! BTW, when I was discussing it with my husband, he asked,” what happened to all that equality talk ?”. I think, may be, they should put a time limit on it, it shouldn’t be forever like the other reservations we have.

    About equality 2Bs mommy, I feel this Bill will create a better environment and opportunity for equality.


  15. I love reading your posts IHM…a woman is an enigma, no one can understand.She expresses views, is called a feminist…when sacrifices for her family is treated like a doormat.when in the role of a fulltime mother\housewife she is treated like a worker who has no regular time off, and is thus a vacationless class.
    I hope the story of this Sarpanch inspires if not all atleast some….It is really important that such She heroes be recognised and celeberated.


  16. IHM, there is one point in your post that I would like to stress. The fact that reservation made it possible for the woman sarpanch to make positive changes in her village. It gave her a position and back it with authority. The reason why I’m emphasising on this is because I saw many blog posts against the women’s reservation bill. They really should be reading your post. If reservation enabled change in a village, imagine what it could do in the Parliament.

    It is easy for us, as women who have opportunity and an enabling environment to say that we do not want this. But we forget we are actually the face the of a FUTURE India. Our country is in transition. Women face many disabilities – lack of education, proper healthcare, prohibitive social customs. Women have to battle the RIGHT TO SURVIVE. We need proactive legislation.

    People say that reservation will only put more puppets in power. Real power will be wielded by men. Is that reason enough to say that there should be no reservation for women now? Certainly there will be those who will leverage this situation. But who said change happened in a day? My grandmom studied upto grade 3, my mother completed high school and I have a post graduate degree. Its a transgenerational process.

    Sorry, I seem to have gotten carried away. I was rather disturbed – thats why. Great post by the way! πŸ™‚

    Me- Deepa this is exactly how I feel about the Bill. I am really glad to read it put so clearly and succinctly. Thank You!


  17. Woman is something a Man will never understand…being a doormat out of habit rather than attitude, is how I would describe the Indian woman. She has been imprinted with this from the day she was born. So has man, imprinted to think that woman exists for him.


  18. I hate all definitions of woman as the all-sacrificing, ever-smiling even in sorrow sort of doormat woman popularized by such forwards, literature, movies et al.
    “She cures herself when sick’!! What the hell is that supposed to mean?? No wonder some (or most) neglect to give her timely medical assistance. I know of a woman who had been suffering for years and years… she could not eat many foods and ate very little too. Nobody bothered to find out why while she cooked and cleaned for everyone just as before. Finally, when they took her to the hospital, the doctor gave her just two months to live. I am sure, all in her household had been waiting for her to cure herself while smiling through her pain and tears till then. There are many like her.

    It is heart warming to read of the achievements of the all-woman panchayat at Neemkheda village.

    Me- Shail the saddest is when women also think of their ‘sacrifices’ as a positive thing. 😦


  19. A lot of social change has been brought about by reservations for women in Panchayats. That is one of the main reasons I support reservation in the parliament too. While we are still a largely patriarchal society and change has been slow to come, change is coming and we must do what we can to be a part of it. You are doing your part by discussing issues


  20. The description of women as sacrificing, suffering souls ought to end… How shameful to celebrate suffering and justify those who inflict suffering on women.
    Those who take pride in women (or men or any other living being) being sacrificers/sufferers can defintiely do with a dose of common sense.


  21. Knowing that you respect equality, I hope you do a post on the Essence of Man!

    And still I think, 1 example of a Panchayat doesn’t make a definitive argument for women’s reservations.

    Me – Rakesh Panchayat reservations have made a difference in many other places too, and will continue to do that in the years to come. No miracles, just a gradual improvement – and when the mothers are happier we will slowly see better lives for children too. A large amount of male population in rural India is addicted to alcohol (Gandhi made this observation years ago) … I can’t understand why we don’t see serious action to help them 😦 And of course there will be women who will as corrupt as any other political leaders.

    The last line of my post is “Can we really define the essence of a woman (or the essence of a man)?” – can we? But I would love to do a post on this… πŸ™‚ Just you wait now πŸ˜‰


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  23. β€œCan we really define the essence of a woman (or the essence of a man)?” – can we?

    Let me introduce some jargons πŸ˜›

    Yes,we can,actually πŸ˜› From a population, select a random subset of individuals, study them , extract their attributes , draw a hypothesis on the test statistic, confirm if it is a representative of the sampled population , if yes , voila – now you can define the essence of a woman or a man ,and people cant refute it πŸ˜€ (chi-square test)

    This means,implicitly, that the Essence attribute graph will be a normal distribution graph – meaning that a majority will conform to certain attributes, (mean of the distribution), and gradually, the number of persons deviating from this mean would decrease as the deviation from mean increases.(bell- shaped graph or its variation)

    This implies, that is only a statistical way of defining practically what the essence of the man or the woman is. In reality, ideal cases dont exist,and only deviations from the ideal cases.
    Since ideal cases can never exist in reality, we can easily define them – ideally- as to how things ought to be.

    More realistically(or ideally?), from my limited experience, Essence of a woman- i’d say is her innate warmth ? (maybe i’m fortunate,but i ve never come across a sadistic woman).
    And for men, it ought to be their honesty.

    The Essence of a Human should be universal values and principles. The world will be a better place.


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