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Last night when I spoke to my friend in New York, she sounded distressed and disconcerted. She even shared with me that she felt suicidal at times because she hasn’t met her friends for weeks now. And all I could do was nod in agreement. But after I hung up the phone, I started analyzing why didn’t I or the females that I was in touch with in my vicinity, were never so expressive, needless to mention we all were equally upset.

When I started reading about lockdown and mental health, I found that women were more affected than men.

On looking into several research works, I was quite convinced that with schools closed, women are taking on more childcare responsibilities, and more homeschooling, than men which may be leading to women working less or giving up their jobs entirely. Or, they may be feeling less satisfied by the work they are able to fit into their compressed time. With families stuck at home and no paid help available, women also tend to do more domestic work, like cleaning, cooking etc even when they also have paid employment.  Another fact which can be sadly sighted is women are also losing their jobs more than men. Also even if women earn well, they do more domestic chores as compared to their husbands. Another crippling issue was domestic violence; India has reached a record of 10 year high only during this lockdown.

 Now with all the conclusions in place, I had another mind boggling question which needed all my attention; why was I not affected? Am I very happy with this lockdown? Am I a superwoman to do all domestic chores and yet be calm about it? Do I like this routine? Do I love the constant company of my children and husband? Was I tired of socializing? Don’t I have friends who miss me? Don’t I miss the days when I would crack a handsome business deal? There were many such questions but the answer to all such questions was NO!

Then what was it, which made my friend so sad and at the same time, under similar circumstances made me accustomed to this new normal so soon? It was because; this is how my brains were programmed all these years. I was taught throughout my life that a woman is an epitome of patience and forgiveness. Women should be responsible enough to appease their families, friends were never given any importance. Women could not ask for things they are not entitled to. (Strange enough, the entitlement is decided on what basis remains a mystery to me even to this day).The fact that I was educated, married to a gentleman was having much more on my plate than I could ever demand.

Now, as a reader you must be thinking, where does the problem lie? If I am happy while others are stressing themselves during this lockdown then my life is flawless. But I along with many innumerable women in our society envy those females who can speak their hearts out. How over the years, the buried silence makes us lifeless puppets with our strings attached to someone else's authority. How if we ever speak up in public, among men, there are hundreds of fingers pointed to mute us that very moment. And if you do not stop, and in case you get the support of few men you become one femme fatale!

 Well, if we again resort to data, Andrew believe them about 86% of Indian women who have experienced violence never sought help, and 77% of the victims did not even mention the incidents; mental, physical and sexual to anyone because of the fear of abandonment firstly from their own families.

So, a lady in India may be heavily dressed up with designer clothes and weighty jewels but deep inside she may be experiencing a tornado of emotions yet she may seem to you absolutely fine because you are unable to see that invisible lock on her lips and her heart.

Rita Harlalka
Speech Coach

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