I was watching this TED Talk by Kiran Bedi, a well-known policewoman from India. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that she is perhaps the most well known of all police personnel in India,  men or women.

In the video she talks about how she tried to change how the police force’s approach to criminals with the concept that police should prevent rather than only detect crime. Its an interesting video to watch overall, but there was one thing she said in the video that caught my attention.

She says she was one of the privileged few women in India in the 50’s who were allowed to study and work as per their wishes, inspite of being one of 4 girls in the household. Her parents encouraged her and her sisters to study as much as they wanted, but in doing so, they had to go against their own families and were on the verge of being disinherited from their land. This is the kind of situation that was supposed to have been prevalent in the 50’s, and the lack of opportunities there existed for women.

Coming back to today, fifty years from Kiran’s Bedi’s growing up days. Just yesterday I was chatting with my house-hold help. A 40 year old lady, Lakshmi Didi is raising her two teenage kids by herself because her husband does not want to leave their land in the village, and she feels living in the city is important for her kids education and future.

But, she lamented, she could not take any decision about her or her kids future on her own, even though she is feeding them and clothing them. Why? Because she is a woman, and a woman in her society cannot be expected to make any rational decisions, even if she is independent and has proven herself umpteen times to be capable. She had to face an uphill task to convince her relatives to educate her only daughter, and finally decided to do so without their support or blessings. How long Didi will be able to hold on to her ideals and continue her daughter’s education is entirely dependent on her financial situation, which so far, she has been able to manage.

Seems like what the India of the 50’s had for the middle class women, the India of the new millenium has for the poorer class. Its a pity that a few generations of talent will go waste in the process.