I used to think being a woman was easy. This could have been because I was naive, protected and grew up in a rather sheltered bubble. It wasn't until very recently in my life that this bubble burst and the realities of being a woman settled in. The reality was filled with struggle, constantly being treated like a 'lesser than' version of men, having access to fewer spaces and opportunities, and a whole lot of second-guessing myself. The realisation left an unsettling feeling in me, one I'm still trying to battle every day of my life.
I grew up in a family where opportunities were always equal for my brother and I. My education was as important as his. My dreams put on a pedestal, just like his. Our parents went out of their way to make sure that we were equipped and adept enough to achieve the dreams we had. But as I stepped into the real world, as an adult Indian woman, I began to realise that my reality was not the reality of most women, even immediately around me. Some of my closest friends were getting married because they were now of a certain age and their parents were worried about "log kya kahenge". Colleagues were quitting because their in-laws didn't want that their bahu should work all day. "Ghar ka dhyan kaun rakhega?" Little by little, with every second woman that I met, my bubble burst a little.
It is a sad reality that woman and men are not treated as equals even in today's day and age. Patriarchy and misogyny refuses to walk out of our lives. In all of this, though, I have to say, there are some men and women who come as a saving grace - looking to and succeeding in making a difference.
My wishes for 2018 would extend to everybody, but as a woman, I cannot help but be a little biased towards my own gender - because, let's be honest, that is the need of the hour. Here are a few things, that as a woman, I cannot wait for in 2018.
I'm not the biggest Bollywood buff. Perhaps that is an ironic statement to be making in an article that starts with more than just a passing mention of a soon-to-release Bollywood film. Regardless, one of the things I am most looking forward to in 2018 is Padman. I have to say, Bollywood has for the last few years, been on a rather impressive streak. Yes, there are those mindless comedies that the masses still enjoy, and perhaps they do serve a purpose, given the stressful lives most people lead. But with films like Padman, that are telling true and important stories, Bollywood seems to be moving ahead by leaps and bounds.
Padman is the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a man who tried to make the sanitary napkin more affordable. Muruganantham's quest for and curiosity towards a more affordable version of the sanitary napkin began when he saw his wife using a cloth during her periods that he claimed he wouldn't even use to clean his bicycle. It shocked him to see that his wife was resorting to such an unhygienic method because if she wanted to buy pads, she'd have to cut it from the family's milk budget.
Padman is an especially important film for a country like ours, and in a time when menstruation is still such a taboo topic. Families refrain from talking about it openly to their daughters, and girls feel ashamed to be seen carrying a pad in a workplace. Girls still drop out of schools when they hit puberty because they can't afford sanitary napkins. For a man to step up and not only speak about it, but also try and do something about it entices the hope that maybe, change is not too far. 2018 might be the year a few more people open their eyes and minds, thanks to Padman.
2. More women standing up to harassment, in their workplace or otherwise
In an ideal world, what I would be looking forward to in 2018 would have been the end of harassment, everywhere, for everyone. Men and women alike. Unfortunately, no matter how grim this may sound, the world we live in is far from ideal. So wishing harassment away altogether, would be, to say the very least, naive. What I am hoping for and perhaps we all are hoping for is for more women to speak up when faced with any kind of harassment. I'm hoping that women everywhere will unite and stand up for each other against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world - regardless of where they come from and how powerful they think the harasser is. There is nothing that should make you feel like it's not worth standing up for yourself.
Or Padmavat, as it is now going to be released as. This is a film that has me wishing the very best for it. No, not because of all that hype around it. Not because I love Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh (Yes, they're all my favourites). It has me wishing the best for it because even after all that ruckus, it seems to be close to beating the bullies. From members of a royal family that claim Sanjay Leela Bhansali didn't take their "consent", to the violence and all sorts of absurd accusations made by the Karni Sena without even watching the film, to the open death threats made by fringe groups - there seemed to be a never-ending sea of chaos around and preposterous talk around a film that hasn't even had the chance to be viewed yet.
Despite all the negativity and the Rs 10 crore bounty on her head, though, Deepika Padukone along with her director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, refused to cower down or be bullied. They've continued to appeal to the CBFC and are so close to the finish line, I can't help but feel a sense of second-hand relief and pride on behalf of all the people involved in it. And even though the dropping of the 'i' from the movie's name is a fairly ludicrous solution by the CBFC, I'm still hoping the film releases without any more controversies, people love it and it goes on top be the biggest hit. The bullies need to be shown their place and to understand that threats are not greater than reason, logic and the law.
4. Under The Sorrow Tree, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni won the world over with her book, Palace of Illusions. Her version of the Mahabharata from Draupadi's eyes shook many lovers of mythology and managed to evoke emotions in even the most stoic among us. It was a beautiful tale of a woman struggling with what the world has ceased to rid itself of, even now - patriarchy. She was a brave, strong woman, yet I felt like all I knew of her from the tales told to me by my grandma, were of her "cheer haran". There was so much more to her story and her character than that, and Divakaruni, in my opinion, brought it forth in an admirable way.
This is why her book, Under The Sorrow Tree, that is still in the works, has me waiting with bated breath. It is her depiction of the Ramayana from Sita's eyes. Sita has always been an important female figure in our culture - and her story stemming from Divakaruni's imagination and research, I feel, will be a pathbreaking one.
5. More sports-women getting their due
While this is something every woman in every field deserves (and it still is a far away dream), women in sports especially feel the brunt of the misogynistic environment we live in, it seems. While there are women like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, Mithali Raj, and many others who have, and are, paving the way for other women athletes, the credit, respect, recognition and remuneration they get in comparison to their male counterparts is negligible.
Here's hoping 2018 will see more women get credit where credit is deserved.
6. Ocean's 8
With a star cast like the one in Ocean's 8, can you really blame me? They've got Sandra Bullock in the lead, with a group of badass women including Mindy Kaling and Rihanna, trying to rob a necklace at the Met Gala. An all-women star cast planning a heist at the most fashionable event of the year. We've got to to give the ocean's franchise a big up for this one.
7. Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi
That Kangana Ranaut had a rather tumultuous year, is no secret. From her mini outburst against nepotism on Koffee with Karan to her very public spat with Hrithik Roshan, Kangana's year seemed to never have a dull moment; and not always in the best way. After all that talk about her personal life though, we're really excited that this queen's much awaited film, Manikarnika is slated for release in 2018. Kangana is playing the role of Rani Laxmibai; fitting, I feel, given the warrior she's proved herself to be through all the various battles she's had to fight against Bollywood's who's who in 2017.
8. Cardi B's new album
Cardi B is a name most know, thanks to her song 'Bodak Yellow'. The single, released by Cardi B in 2017 went viral and topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks, making Cardi B the fifth female rapper to ever lead the chart. She also became the second-ever female to do so with a solo output after 1998. Her debut album is expected to release in 2018, and it might just be the single most anticipated hip-hop record of the year.
Cardi B was born and raised in New York City, and first gained popularity and attracted attention for talking about her career as a stripper on social media. She soon became an internet celebrity through Instagram thanks to her "no filter" attitude.
New York Times called Bodak Yellow, "the rap anthem of the year". We can't wait to see what Cardi B will come up with this year.
What are you hoping to see in popular culture in 2018? Tell us in the comments below.