In this episode of Womenlines ‘Books for Excellence Show’, author Nilanjana Bhowmick joins host Charu Mehrotra to discuss her latest book, “Lies Our Mothers Told Us: The Indian Woman’s Burden.”
Bhowmick shares the inspiration behind her work and the journey of bringing the book to its final form. “Lies Our Mothers Told Us” takes a critical look at the gender inequality prevalent in India’s middle class. Bhowmick highlights how this leads to women feeling like they need to be “superwomen,” even at the cost of their mental and physical health. Using data and personal anecdotes from women across the country, Bhowmick questions whether the patriarchal society’s notion that “women can have it all” is too steep a price to pay. As a journalist with over two decades of experience, Bhowmick’s insights on gender and development are highly respected. Her work has been recognized with three international awards and has been featured in publications like the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and National Geographic Magazine.
With over twenty-one years of experience as a journalist, Nilanjana Bhowmick has received three international awards for her outstanding reports on gender and development. She began her career as a producer for the BBC Asian Network in Birmingham and worked as a correspondent for TIME magazine’s South Asia bureau in New Delhi. Her work has been published in various reputable publications such as the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, and National Geographic Magazine, including non-fiction work, poetry, and short stories featured in multiple international anthologies.
In the nineteenth century, pioneers like Savitribai Phule, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam, Medha Patkar, Kamla Bhasin, and many others fought hard and achieved equal rights for Indian women in various aspects, such as universal suffrage, inheritance and property rights, equal remuneration, and prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, among others. These pioneers believed that their daughters and granddaughters would have the opportunity to have fulfilling careers, participate in the social and political growth of the country, gain economic independence, and become equal partners in their marriages. However, despite these achievements, the demands of capitalism and the persistence of patriarchal attitudes have led to Indian women continuing to lead lives that are hard and unequal, especially when compared to their male counterparts.
On average, Indian women spend 299 minutes on housework and 134 minutes on caregiving per day, which is among the highest in the world. They bear 82% of domestic duties and are burdened with work from a young age, leading many to drop out of school and forego financial independence. Even those who choose to have a career, are expected to do the majority of housework, childcare, and caregiving, resulting in a “double shift”. While these issues affect women across the country, middle-class Indian women face a unique challenge due to their families simulating an environment of empowerment at home, which leads them to try and be “superwomen” at the expense of their mental and physical health. Journalist Nilanjana Bhowmick explores this gender inequality that underpins India’s middle class in her book, Lies Our Mothers Told Us: The Indian Woman’s Burden, using data and personal stories to question whether the idea that “women can have it all” in a patriarchal society is too costly.
If you’re interested in learning more about the complexities of gender inequality in India, be sure to check out “Lies Our Mothers Told Us.” Order now at Amazone-‘Lies our mothers told us: The Indian woman’s burden‘!