Navya, Najma and Sreedhanya on auditing individuals and need to claim freedom

A vibrant outlook by three eminent women on individual definitions of freedom, auditing individuals and the need to claim freedom enlivened the post-lunch session of Manorama News Conclave 2022.

Sreedhanya Suresh IAS, actress Navya Nair and political activist Najma Thabsheera discussed the lofty thought, ‘Care to leave the individual alone?'.

MMTV’s Shani Prabhakaran, who regulated the session, started with a disclaimer. “Though those on stage are all women, we won’t be just talking about women, but individuals in general. Just that women can often talk better about this subject, than men. You might not like everything we say, but that need not stop us,” Shani said, before rolling out the conversational carpet.


What's a developed society?
The speakers started off discussing what they call a developed society. When Navya latched on to Shani’s previous sentence – we have the freedom to say what we want and we will – and said only in a developed society does such an opportunity exists, Najma differed slightly. We are yet to get there, we are in an aspirational stage, she pointed out.

“We still have thoughts on caste, inequality and more within us, but we pretend as though they don’t,” she said. Sreedhanya explained that while Kerala is progressive in many ways, we still tend to comment on how others should dress, eat etc. So, we are still getting to the ‘developed’ stage".

“There are three kinds of people among us – those who accept their freedom and others’ freedom, those who enjoy their freedom but don’t let others do so, and those who feel that they can’t use their freedom, though they have the right to," Sreedhanya said.

She said women in the middle and lower middle-class strata of the society mostly tend to feel like they were in the third category.

"We can claim to be developed only when we accept each other’s space without encroaching into each other’s,” she said.

The panelists then dwelt on how to claim freedom for the individual to be left alone.

“Nobody can give it to you, you should fight it and claim it,” said Navya.

The recent film ‘Bheemante Vazhi’, which portrayed heroism through an unconventionally strong woman who pins the hero to the ground, was also mentioned at the talk in the context of Haritha, of which Najma Thabsheera is a part.

When Shani used the film to draw a parallel about the stand-off between Haritha and the Muslim League, Najma said: “We are a group of girls fighting for our space to find our personality. Whatever issues we confronted, exist everywhere, bursting to wait at some point.”

Sreedhanya felt freedom should be claimed by using all the opportunities to the best possible extent.

“There are many who asked what I was looking for while trying for IAS. All I did was move ahead, toppling one hurdle after the other, be it financial or knowledge-related. And I believe that’s how one should go about it,” she said.


Auditing the individual
Do we understand the limit to which we can audit an individual? Najma says that it is a disease that we are conditioned into suffering.

“Some don’t even understand that it is a disease, they consider it their right to audit others. I’m not saying you shouldn’t audit at all – if you are doing it, do it properly,” she said.

Shani also sought some insights on a line of thought that tends to the idea that an individual staying happy is a problem.

“We glorify selflessness, sacrifices and the like too much to think that personal space is not important, especially in the case of women. We should have our happiness and some time to ourselves to also achieve our dreams,” said Navya.

“Life is not just about responsibilities, but it’s a beautiful journey blending many experiences,” described Najma. “Women tend to say sometimes that their spouse is ‘helping’ them in household work. When does someone ‘help’ you? It’s when that duty is primarily yours. In the case of our household chores, isn’t it both partners' equal responsibility,” Sreedhanya wondered.

The point impressed Navya and made her say, ‘I have never thought about it that way.’

“We should normalise men doing household work and women following their passion,” the young bureaucrat said.

The panelists agreed there was no need to stress on the requirement of a role model, as every individual is unique.

“It’s also important that families start with the practice of leaving an individual alone,” concluded Sreedhanya.

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