Shakuntala Devi – A Mathematician or Crusader of Women Rights

Yesterday Amazon Prime primered “Shakuntala Devi.” I am not into Math at all, but I wanted to see it because of the brief on Amazon, which read, “… it humanizes her as a woman and mother…”. We have been idolizing the concept of motherhood for centuries. I feel as a society; as an institution, we revere motherhood for two reasons:

  1. To expect the impossible from them. Much like God can do anything and everything, so can mothers. Of course, it is an ego booster for mothers who feel that they can bend over backward, spend sleepless nights, not eat nutritious food, but still log in 80-100 hours a week with a SMILE. You see institutionally; it is possible to expect the impossible if you raise the bar. And that’s why mothers have been compared to God.
  2. And Since mothers have been compared to Gods, no one needs to take care of them.

I might sound too critical and cynical, but I strongly feel it was a thought out, comprehensive strategy to collaterally destroy any chance for a woman to enjoy an equal place in society. And those were some questions, Shakuntala Devi, as a woman, as a mother raised. When I watched it, even my heart hurt when she abandoned her child for Math or luggaged her around the whole world to pursue her passion. That I felt was selfish. But then the question is:

  • Why couldn’t the husband accompany her? She rightly pointed, if the husband was going around the world, wouldn’t that be expected of her.
  • Why is a mother expected to give up her career (read passion)?
  • Why are we not able to see our mothers as women who need to live their passions and dreams?
  • Why is it that they always have that extra responsibility of helping us long after we have grown up?
  • Why is it that they end up sacrificing themselves ?

While we as women might expect the society to change and offer us the opportunities to live our life, we need to understand it in our soul and heart and mind that no one is coming to help us. We have to push our boundaries ourselves and create a new normal. We have to first consider ourselves human enough much as anyone else in the family before they can rise up to our needs. We need to stop living the life of a super human and be proud of it. We have to learn to be able to puruse our passions and create our lives, own our lives and be proud of that.

While we and our mothers, consider making this a new normal, today on #friendshipday, can we as children vow to look at our moms as another human being, be friends with them first without the huge expectation. Let’s take away the baggage she lives by so that they can live their lives on their terms. Shakuntala Devi started this conversation a long time back. Still, unfortunately, there is a lot that needs to change even today. Thanks to Anu Menon for bringing this story to light so that the fight the great mathematician started can see the light of the day. It is an opportunity to question the stone age beliefs and “live and let live” once and for all. Here’s to Moms who Own Their Happiness!!!

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