[In this exclusive interview with The Male Factor, Vedic Philosopher and Vedic Feminist author Indira Meshram who has recently penned down an extremely enlightening book titled “How I Achieved Real Success – A Happiness Guide for Modern Women” explains why women should reject modern feminism and endorse a traditional lifestyle.
While her in-depth research on feminism makes her book unique learning experience for all including MRAs, in this gruelling and long interview she has explained many other aspects in the lives of women.
Since this is a long interview, it will be published as a series on Vedic Feminism under the main series Vedic India. This is the first part of this interview series.]
TMF – Do you think the name of your book could have been different? If yes, what that could be?
Indira – A few titles that I considered were ‘Vedic Culture for Modern Women’ and ‘The Fulfilled Woman.’ But the publishers suggested that the title should reflect the fact that this is not just an academic study but based on my own lived experience. That’s how we settled on a title that indicates that the book is a combination of my personal experience and advice that I would like to share based on extensive research: ‘How I Achieved Real Success: A Happiness Guide for Modern Women’
TMF – What according to you is – ‘success’?
Indira – It is more than the brief exhilaration of attaining a particular goal. ‘Success’ is a deep sense of accomplishment, where at the end of an endeavour one feels peaceful and happy.
TMF – If the restriction was for the protection of women, then Vedic women were made more vulnerable and the society left them at the mercy of men. How is that justice?
Indira – If I understand your question correctly you are suggesting that it is unfair that women should be put under restrictions because in reality it made them more vulnerable and allowed them to be exploited by unscrupulous men. Yes, that is unfortunately what happened in some cases and that is the reason that women have become suspicious of traditional culture. However, that is not the fault of the culture itself, but of how it has been misapplied.
Let us consider an analogy. India has an extensive legal system but it is common knowledge among Indians that one cannot be assured that justice will be served even if one is innocent or has a water-tight case. This is because currently the system is not being practised as it should be – there is corruption at various levels, there are delays because of the sheer number of cases and so on. This does not mean that the Indian constitution is to be blamed – just that the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Similarly, with the passage of time and the influence of the West, actual Vedic culture has deteriorated to the extent that it is almost unrecognizable. Previously, women were happy to be protected in their homes and remained under the care of righteous men – nothing unfair about that.
TMF – You said, your book will inspire women to lead a successful spiritual life. (pg xxiii). Why should all women strive for a successful spiritual life? What about those who do not believe in spirituality?
Indira – The thesis of my research is that spirituality is an essential part of being a fulfilled woman. I have learnt that lasting success is achieved when we look beyond our immediate, material needs. This means that if we are only thinking about satisfying our body and mind, we are likely to get a feeling that something is missing. Why else are many rich and famous people often the most unhappy as well? It is not a question of whether we ‘believe’ or not. Spirituality is part of everyone’s personality – whether we want to access it or not, depends on each individual.
Many things that I discussed in this book will make complete sense only when discussed in the context of living a wholesome life which seeks to harmonize our body, mind and soul. Vedic culture works because it is centred around God and spirituality. Women can either chose to accept the word of God revealed through scriptures or chose to follow the ways of the world taught us by modern education and media. The result of abiding by the suggestions of modern philosophers is in front of our eyes – the society is practically dysfunctional at the present moment.
My proposal is that with an open-mind, women should consider turning to spirituality and seeing for themselves the positive change in their own lives and in the lives of their loved ones. If one finds the right sources, one will discover that spirituality does not have to be blind following, it can be approached very scientifically and logically. Even if they do not believe, they can do it as an experiment – meet with some people who have a deep conviction in their heart and practice according to their advice. We do so many crazy things in life these days such as bungee jumping or white-water rafting. Why not try something that may give us a refreshingly new perspective towards life?
TMF – You agreed in this book, that “today women are in a position to take their own life choices”. (Pg xxv) – Don’t you think that is a gift of feminism and not the traditional society?
Indira – Yes, I agree that the current choices offered to women are gifts of feminism. That doesn’t mean that I’m condoning it – I simply state that as a fact and suggest how women can use it to their advantage. At the same time, as I point out in the book, feminism started out with the intention of creating more choices for women, but it quickly devolved to doing the same thing that they accused traditional culture of doing – limiting choice. They protested that all women were expected to be housewives but now they are pushing all women to be career-women. Either way, it is forcing a cookie-cutter approach to the lives of women.
An important point to note regarding women and choices is that it is not true that women in the past did not have choices and that every woman led a completely stereotypical life. Of course, they all were expected to take care of the affairs of the home, but besides that, there was an entire range of activities that they could choose to do according to their temperament, much like the modern career-women. Some would-be artists, poets or writers, others would be teachers instructing children and other women, some would-be actors, singers or dancers and would have performed for a women-only audience. Apart from that, they would often have the same skills as their husband so that they could also assist them if required. It is described that women of the royal household were expert in diplomacy and would often advise their husbands. They learnt archery and could even ride horses. Similarly, the farmer’s wife or the potter’s wife would know the basics of their husband’s craft and could give a helping hand when required.
TMF – Vedic lifestyle revolved around a ‘God’. What about those who do not believe in ‘God’ and want to be happy ‘in their own way’?
Indira – Well, we’ve seen what happens when people want to be happy in their own way. Very often they are not! The laws of God take a holistic approach. The scriptures have a framework for the entire society. It is not designed to serve the needs of only a particular group of people. But the modern approach is to look out for oneself. This often creates an imbalance because in our attempt to achieve happiness we may step on someone else’s toes, and it may not be the best for us in the long run.
In the context of women, feminists work for the welfare of women but when they recommend that women think of themselves first, above their husband and children, women will be encouraged to throw in the towel when things become difficult. Ultimately, this does not benefit women because they cannot be happy in isolation. If instead, they follow a more dutiful approach towards life, based on God’s word, they will weather the hard times and find themselves happily surrounded by grateful family members. One may claim that it is possible to be good and moral even without believing in God, but history has shown us that it is difficult to stick to the straight and narrow path unless one is God-conscious.
TMF – A traditional life will encourage women to go back to inside the four walls of her house. How can society then benefit from the awesome skills they can develop and many of us men, can’t?
Indira – Certainly, there are many things that women are expert at and economically the society seems to be benefitting from it. But there’s a hidden cost to achieving that. A woman may be very successful at her job and may steadily rise up the corporate ladder. This gives benefit to the company she is working for and by extension benefits the society in one sense. But if while doing that she is unable to support her husband in his career, he may not be able to work as effectively at his job, so that’s a loss. She may not be able to support her children and they may not be as effective in their studies or future jobs, so that’s another loss. But perhaps the greatest loss is that husband, wife and children are all more stressed than they need to be. They are less happy and peaceful and this loss cannot be measured in terms of simple economics. Doubtless, women are bringing their awesome skills to the boardroom, but they are getting torn between home and work and are ultimately not happy. And if women are not happy, society cannot be peaceful.
Every individual has several talents. The best way to organize a society would be to utilize the skills of the person in an area where he or she is indispensable. I would like to point out that while women may be capable of making amazing contributions to the industry, they are irreplaceable as mothers and for that, they need to be home with the children. Also, in the past, there have been many successful, prosperous civilization which did not depend on women being part of the workforce.
The point of a discussion revolving around women returning to the home and hearth is to establish it as a valid and desirable option, even for educated young women – for their own sake and for the sake of their families. Hypothetically speaking if all women were to quit the workforce it would create a huge gap, but if they do it willingly, without resentment, and are satisfied to be home, they will be such a source of inspiration and background support that the men will be able to work to fill the gaps.
TMF – Srila Prabhupada advised that women should be the energy behind men’s success. If they can really have such great energy, why not utilize for their own good and success rather than spending all of it for someone else?
Indira – It is important to understand that when a woman is the energy behind a man’s success, that success is not the man’s alone. It is their success. It is considered a joint effort. Just like earlier in India when the husband would go out to work and the wife would take care of the house, whatever money the husband earned was the family income, it was not his money alone. So, in this case, also the women are achieving success, even though they may not be directly involved in the effort. They are not spending their energy on someone else’s benefit alone, they also benefit from it.
Of course, women can use their talent for their own success and that’s exactly what they have been doing in recent decades. But research points out that it has not given them the satisfaction that they hoped to gain from it. It appears that according to their inherent nature, men are happier going out and working hard to look after their family and women are happier when they are sheltered and are providing background support, away from the limelight. It seems counterintuitive in today’s world where everyone is encouraged to go out and earn, but several women who have quit work to be Stay-at-Home Moms – like me – can vouch for it.
Get a copy of her book – here
TMF – What about men (like me) who do not need any encouragement from others (like women) to succeed? Why can’t individuals be taught to be self-motivated to succeed in life?
Indira – Again, this depends on what exactly we mean by ‘success.’ If you are referring to succeeding at a job, then yes, one can be taught to be self-motivated to achieve that kind of success in life. That’s what our education system is geared towards – churning out men and women who will be efficient workers. It is just a matter of gaining the right skills. But if by success you mean leading a happy and fulfilled life, that would include both financial and emotional stability. For most people, this comes from having a stable family life. It comes from being a part of a stable society, free from crime and corruption. This can be achieved when both men and women work together in complete synergy, complementing each other.
TMF – If you keep women under a protective umbrella, they don’t learn to protect themselves. Imagine, if Mata Sita knew self-protection techniques, she could probably save herself from Ravana without the need of a great war. And if Bhagawan Sri Ramachandra was weak and couldn’t rescue her, she could have died in the custody of Ravana. So, what is wrong in empowering women and teaching them self-defence techniques?
Indira – An ideal society is one in which women, children and old people do not need to protect themselves. Able-bodied men are ready to give them protection. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. However, it is up to every one of us to make a change. As women, we can inspire the men in our family to give that protection and we can agree to graciously accept such protection. We can look after the young girls in our families so that they don’t need to be in a situation where they have to defend themselves against men who are trying to take advantage of them. I’m not against teaching women self-defence, but we need to understand that it is a lamentable state of society when women are forced to protect themselves. Teaching the girls taekwondo or giving them pepper spray may be necessary, but let’s be clear that it is just a practical, short-term solution. This is not empowerment. This is, in fact, encouraging women to accept the world the way it is. The real solution is to examine where we as a society have gone wrong and then try and correct it.
For the record, Mother Sita was more than capable of destroying Ravana on her own, on the strength of her chastity. But she desisted from doing so because it was Lord Rama’s dharma to rescue her when another man has kidnapped her, otherwise people would consider Rama to be weak and incapable of defending his wife’s honour. It was appropriate that Ravana was severely punished for his cruelty. It is a misconception that women in the past were weak and helpless. In most cases, they chose not to use their strength unless absolutely necessary. Strength is not just physical strength. The real strength is the strength of character and we have innumerable examples of women in the past who showed tremendous courage and resilience.
…To be continued