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By Dr Maitreyee Joshi

Well, I am an eye doctor and so many of the social issues I encounter are seen through the lens of being just that. This is a very small incident that I grasped from my daily practice which shows how the very small choices that she makes can disempower a woman and also the women who share life with her.

I had a regular patient, a lady in her late fifties with a cataract. Surgery was advised as is a most predictable sequel to anybody suffering from cataract. The lady told me that she is ready to get operated on but she will need at least a week because she stays alone and has a daughter whom she has recently married off.

She had to call her to stay with her since I had advised her that she will not be allowed to do all the cooking, cleaning and other household activities for at least 3 weeks. It is important because she must keep herself away from dust and fumes. The daughter came on the day of the surgery and seemed absent from the surgical scene of her mother. She sat scrolling through the pictures of her and her new husband on the mobile in the waiting room of my hospital. When I told her that the surgery went well, she did not even smile the way other relatives do for they are relieved that the operation is successful and there are no complications.

Later before leaving, the mother of the girl and my patient requested me," Doctor, please tell my daughter that she has to arrange help for me for at least 3 weeks. She says that she will leave in a week. She says that her husband and in-laws would not like it if she stays away that long. If you tell her, she will at least try and ask their permission.”

The girl said, “ My husband would not be able to stay on his own for so long.”

I have wondered since then, why can’t the girl decide to stay and help her mother for medical reasons, be firm and tell her in-laws and husband that she is here for an important cause and not for fun? Why has she given away all her decision making power in the hands of her in-laws and her husband? If she needs them in all desperation, don’t they need her too or she is supposed to be like an owned slave? Has she not dis-empowered herself and the other woman, who happens to be her mother. I felt sad because in front of me sat 2 women, who had made themselves helpless for the choices that they had made and no one else.

By Dr Maitreyee Joshi

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