I was born in a small town named Pilani in Rajasthan, to the second son of three, in a farmer family hailing from a remote village in the neighbouring region. But that, for me, wasn’t the interesting part of this story. What however I could never have enough of, was how my then Captain of a father, distributed peydaas (a stamp of celebratory sentiment) among not one or two families, but the entire colony! Much to the shock among many back in his family and village. I used to love the idea of being a celebration for doing something I had no part to play in, being born.
However, as life, society and experience happened, that story took over a different meaning once I began to read the subtext. People back in his village weren’t shocked about him being able to afford ‘peydaas’ for the whole colony but about him doing so for me. My father was an exception to the norm which didn’t approve of his joy over the birth of a girl child for his firstborn. And I belonged to a statistically shocking minority of girls who enjoyed that privilege.
I don’t know how drastically has that statistic changed, but I do know that not very long ago, a young girl hailing from the same region as my father’s village, became the first ever woman commando to be indicted in the BSF, a 51-year-old establishment. She stood tall and beaming with her arm around her father, who couldn’t have smiled a wider smile. Each time I come across a similar success story about a woman excelling in the field of sports, services, entertainment, banking, politics or any arena where she blossoms alongside or outside of her biologically expected domain; I begin to dream of a world where this won’t be an anomaly anymore.
This year as we celebrate the 69th Republic Day of India, I wish for a future that nurtures, encourages and protects every young girl whose aspirations aren’t curbed due to her gender. Who isn’t told that going to school is of no use as all she needs to grow up to be is a wife or a mother. I wish for every man and woman in a place of authority and responsibility to realise the imperative urgency of every girl child being assured of just and equal opportunities. A reality which stirred me by existing in an unexpected walk of life, when in late 2016 I was made aware of women not being allowed to serve in combat roles in the army up until February that year. Ever since, The Test Case, hinging on that subject, which I have had the deepest privilege of being attached to, has compelled me to share what I took away from this entire journey.
In its creative attempt not just at provoking the ideologies or the politics of defence, and addressing the globally rampant struggle of gender discrimination; being a hyperbole it’s a story aimed at reminding any and every one watching about a basic fact, that the only way a woman can be held down from her flight of fantasy is if she’s denied the right to earn the same license as a man.
I hereby salute and applaud all the loving and nourishing men and women who have made mine possible, both on and off screen. Here’s wishing the same for every girl reading this.
Happy Republic Day and Jai Hind.”