Let me breathe, let me fly, let me see the world. By Rishali Yadav A few lines that seem so unreal for a woman, especially in a country like India. We always talk about women empowerment, liberation, freedom and many such things, but have we ever tried to think if women are actually free in this country or still struggling to be? If we would ever want to travel or do things on our own, we would definitely be surrounded with questions like why are you going alone? What’s the need? Aren’t you scared? Will it be safe to travel alone?
Bringing about the much-awaited change in the society, the writer of her own generation Anuradha Beniwal, a former-chess national champion who currently lives in London and teaches chess has recently launched her book titled Azadi mera brand, depicturing the meaning of real freedom and woman empowerment. Born in Rohtak and brought up unconventionally – home schooled initially, Anuradha persued her further education from Miranda House, Delhi University. Anuradha belongs to a state which has always been in the news for some or the other reasons related to women. In Azadi mera brand, she writes not just a tourist chronicle of India and 10 European countries she travelled, but as a matter of fact it is written by a Haryani Jaat from the perspective of a middle-class family, who achieved success even after many setbacks and still continued her determined search for sovereignty and is now living life on her own terms and conditions.
In an interaction with Woman’s Era, she talked about Azadi mera brand and many more aspects of azadi (freedom) for women in India.
Tell us something about the book Azadi mera brand.
The book is about my travel across Europe. I strolled throughout central and eastern Europe. It’s a description of my solo travel experience without having any agenda and sufficient money in hand for that matter. The book is all about travelling and as not many women do it, it is termed as azadi; had it been done by a man it would have been called adventurous. It’s also about motivating every woman to go out travel and experience because the world is so safe.
Why have you written a book on travelling when you could have written on chess?
See, frankly speaking, I am not a writer. If I was a writer I would choose a subject. I am travelling for many years now. So, I am a traveller first and became a writer because of my travelling circumstances took that shape and the book has been published.
From a sportswoman to an author, why this shift and how difficult it has been for you to come this far?
It has not been difficult at all for me. This is not a predecided shift. It happened because circumstances took that shape as I said earlier.
You write about women’s liberation in Indian society. What is it which forced you to think in this way?
Whatever moves me makes me write. And one thing that moves me to think this way is why it is so difficult for a woman to travel alone. It’s just a simple job or task of going from one place to another. So, why do we need to be accompanied by a man or need to have permission for that matter? There was a time when I could not even cross a road alone. I needed to have somebody’s help but today after so much of travelling, I feel so powerful and secure that I don’t need anybody with me. As I said earlier, whatever moves me, makes me write and I hope with this book I can bring a change in the mindset of women to feel secure even if they are alone.
How difficult and easy is it for a woman to raise her voice against the patriarchal society?
It is not at all an easy task. You have to worry about a lot of things. I cannot force anybody to do things; it has to be done by them only. I can only show a direction but cannot force a woman to move. At the end of the day it is their own fight and they have to make a fight on their own. My story can only inspire and not fight for somebody else. It’s just that you have to work hard, be powerful and strong because azadi, empowerment or freedom doesn’t come easy, one has to earn it. It is very difficult to live your life on your own terms and conditions.
Can you describe how the role of women in Indian society has changed over the course of your career?
I have seen very positive changes in the society. It’s amazing to see how women are equally participating with men in the society and making their own identity in every field. Women are changing and changing only for good. And I see only the positives. Maybe, because I am in a different shape and with a different outlook now, but whatever it is, it’s wonderful.
As an Indian, what aspect of India are you most critical of when it comes to women?
I am extremely critical when it is said to a woman that she has been given a lot of freedom. A woman today can earn economic and emotional freedom. One thing I still feel a woman lacks is the freedom to feel safe, secure and travel alone. Why is it so difficult for women? Let her walk alone without questioning her and labelling her character. Why is this not happening in society? I believe this is a kind of freedom which society, a man and everybody else has to give to a woman. It cannot be earned by her. It has to be given by the society.
Despite the experiences you’ve had abroad, you still write about India. Has the foreign perspective ever limited your freedom of expression?
India is my country, it is my roots. I could not think of anything else. If I had to write about other country I feel like an alien.
As far as the perspective and limitation is concerned it has, in fact, widened my perspective rather than limiting it. I could clearly see the difference and feel it. I could sense the difference women have in different cities of a country or so. It gave me a perspective of a lifestyle and culture in a distinct manner
What message would you like to give to women in the Indian society?
I would just say go out! The world is a beautiful place, it’s very safe, kind and generous. The world is safer than your own house. You just need to go out and explore things with courage and dignity because I feel whatever abuses happens to women it happens within their own four walls. Just go by yourselves and encourage yourself, no matter where. The act of doing it yourself gives you courage.