This weekend while I was at Mandvi by the sea, I read (in less than 24 hours) Unbound – Indian Women at Work by Gita Aravamudan published by Penguin.
I read an interview of Gita Aravamudan about a month back in a copy of Gobar times, a supplement of the Down to Earth magazine I found in the cafe at Darpana – Center for Performing Arts. After looking for this book  and Gita’s previous work ‘Dissappearing Daughters (which by the way in most bookshops and online stores is marked under the name of Abdul Kalam because he wrote a foreword sigh!), I found ‘UNBOUND’ online on flipkart
Savitha. V of Just Femme (my recent delightful discovery) an online, Indian Feminist magazine has written an excellent review here on the book.
This book narrates the achievements, struggles and challenges of the Urban, Educated, Indian women in the organised sector. I emphasize these aspects because the book has been criticized for not portraying the struggles of the women in the unorganised sector. See review here by T.K. Rajalakshmi who makes some valid points and many I agree with. I asked myself the same questions as Rajalakshmi when I finished the book.
The book does not necessarily claim to address all working women (even if the title might suggest it) as Gita clearly talks to and about urban working women in the organised sector. Writing about the inequalities of the working women in the unorganised sector would require another book dedicated to this topic to do it justice.

Gita narrates through interviews the struggles of the Indian working women today (I am not going to say organised sector everytime but in this post that’s what I mean unless mentioned otherwise). She addresses some important concerns of the Urban Indian Working women today:

  • Female model of achievement vs male model of achievement
  • Sexual harassment, the laws and gender stereotyping
  • Society’s reactions to successful, modern working women (here she talks about Consortium of Pub going… referring to the atrocities done by the Sri Ram Sena in Bangalore back in 2009) 
  • Women in the entertainment industry and the default stereotyping they have to fight and the objectification they are subjected to in their lives off screen.
  • Successful working women and Dowry – a reality (How many more women need die/be tortured before dowry gets taken seriously)
  • Working women and motherhood and the guilt that haunts her, thanks to the years of social conditioning
  • Women breaking and entering with a boom into male domains – Bar tending, DJying, High Profile chefs.

Did you know that till not so long ago it was illegal for women in India to work after 20:00 and be employed in places where alcohol was served. More archaic laws (that were amended) to be discovered in the book.

The book was a pleasure from the beginning to the end. Whatever little criticism I had I dismissed coz every thing could be better but sometimes you need to appreciate that it exists and Thank Women this book exists!

As I struggle with my own identities as a professional, as a feminist, as a working woman in a marriage, I identify with the women interviewed in this book. We working women of the 21st century are living the change as we go about our lives we are making the change towards gender sensitive relationships and working environments, and eventually, the society. Thanks to the hard work and struggle of our predecessors – the 20th century working women who paved the way! We can now work beyond 8pm and have women’s rooms in our workplaces 😉

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