Twisted Fable with Dr. Vidyottma Jha
Dr. Vidyottma Jha is a lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court of India. She is also an author and public speaker.
It’s going to be an interesting journey reading how she looks at the smallest things of life and the few principles she follows to be an accomplished person.
Why law ? Do you think being a lawyer makes you more powerful as compared to other people ?
Law is a very interesting discipline and inculcates within its purview a wide dimension of every aspect of life that we deal with be it family or property, constitutional issues, environmental issues, commercial or social issues. It touches upon everything possible. Hence, for me taking law as a profession means taking up an enormous responsibility in terms of time, commitment and financial investment. Though law school and passing the bar exams can be quite back-breaking and onerous, the motivation can depend primarily on the what are the good things about this profession, and the glimpse of it out there on the horizon; for example; the perks and rewards; prestige and honour that it brings with it as the lawyers are among the highest paid professionals.
In my opinion the career as a lawyer has been a hallmark of prestige for generations. Not only do they have impressive degrees but a certain authority over others that places them in an elite circle of professionals who command respect and manifests the definition of success. The professional status of lawyers has a unique status as they have an attractive, charismatic and glamorous image perpetuated by media. Besides, it is intellectually one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet. Lawyers usually work in various areas which gives them an edge in understanding and dealing with things like helping to patent a trade secret to devising a trial strategy, to forming a multi-million dollar merger. They are problem-solvers, analysts, and innovative thinkers.
Therefore, the Attorneys have a very respectable position in society. They are in a unique position to affect societal change as lawmakers and leaders. To add to it, they are the ones who write the laws, rule the courts and hold influential positions in government. They’re also in a position to impact top policymakers and leaders and to affect change around the globe. Thus, I conclude by saying that ‘yes I feel powerful’ as being an Attorney gives me an immense strength in terms of every aspect one can imagine. It is fulfilling, constructive, worthwhile and valuable.
Do you feel that we still live in a patriarchal society and why ?
In India the condition of women has always been depressed and dejected. The Government has passed a number of legislations to improve the condition of women but it is still to reach the desired objective. According to the statistics and UNICEF India’s Report on Child Sex Ratio, the birth of female children has been on a steady decline. States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana have recorded more than a 50 point decline in the child sex ratio.
Women form about half of the population of the country but their situation has remained grim for centuries. They’ve been deliberately denied the opportunities for growth in the name of religion and socio-cultural practices. If we talk about the social-political plain, we find that the women have suffered from the denial of freedom even in their homes, repression and unnatural indoctrination, unequal and inferior status, rigid caste hierarchy and even untouchability. Thus we see that the religious tradition and social institutions have a deep bearing on the role and status of women. To improve the condition of women there have been number of protest movements within the Hindu fold like Buddhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism, Veer Shaivism and Sikhism contributed to some improvement in the status of women. Particularly regarding religious activities. But they continued to regard women primarily as mothers and wives but inferior to the men in the society. If we trace the history from the middle of 19th century reform movements like Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, etc. championed the cause of women but nothing concrete could be achieved.
The women in Indian society are still suffering. They are a victim of humiliation, torture and exploitation. This does not end here; there are many episodes of rape, murder, dowry, burning, wife beating and discrimination in society. All these ghastly incidents happen because men predominate the Indian society. Women are a victim of male domination in the respective sphere of life; especially in the financial sphere, over decision making on resources and also on the utilization of her earnings and her body. The condition of women is more miserable in rural India with respect to various socio-economic aspects. Poverty is one of the important characteristics of India due to which better healthcare and higher educational opportunities are far reaching dreams for their children. The girl child is mostly treated as a ‘silent lamb’ born to suffer all the evils existing in the male-dominated societies. The traditional beliefs and customs are yet to change where patriarchal systems and gender stereotypes still exist in the family and society. The male child is still preferred over the girl child as sons are considered as a means of social security and women a burden. A woman due to her subordinated position suffers fears of discrimination, exploitation and subjugation and as a result becomes the victim of several social evils like child marriage, sati, polygamy, purdah system, female infanticide, forced pregnancy, rape etc. It is due to this discrimination and violence that the sex ratio of women is affected. The main causes of violence are unequal power relations, gender discrimination, patriarchy and economic dependence of women, no participation in the decision-making process etc. If we expand our horizon and assess the condition of women in global perspective we find that women and girls together carry carry two-thirds of the burden of the world’s work but they receive only a tenth of world’s income. The condition of women in India is also grim in every field of social life. They are paid half of the money their male counterparts earn for the same job. India is predominantly an agricultural country where women do more than half of the total agricultural work. But their work is hardly valued. On an average, a woman worked 15 to 16 hours a day unpaid at home and underpaid outside. If we look at the educational statistics we find that the literacy rate of women in India is much lower than men because boys receive more schooling than girls. India is one of the 43 countries in the world where the male literacy rate is at least 15% higher than that of female rates. The educational deprivation is directly proportional to poverty. However, in India there has been change taking place for quite some time. A modest improvement is gradually coming up in the educational level of women. The government has taken many steps in this direction post-independence. The present government’s program ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is also remarkable step by the government to fulfill the need and aspiration of the girl child. The government has passed many women-specific legislations. A National Commission for Women was set up to act as a watchdog on the women issues in 1992. Many programs in the areas of education, health, and employment have been initiated for development of women, rural as well as urban. The review of the status of women in India tells the story of a fall in the status of women to an abysmally low position from a relatively high-status and notability of the Vedic times. The fall in status has led to a socio-economic and religious-cultural deprivation of women. Of course, there are certain initiatives in the country, especially after the independence towards raising the status of women. But still, patriarchy exists in our society and there are many miles to go to reach out the goal of gender equality.
One thing that makes you feel proud of yourself ?
Feeling proud of ourselves comes from a reasonable or justifiable self-respect. It is a kind of happiness which comes from some act or possession; success and achievements. How we take pride seems to depend heavily on our definitions of success. It starts with the values we believe in like the value we give to the work and the role we play. A strong sense of purpose that pushes you to perform at your best and also prepares you to handle any problems that arise. The more you can see a positive impact from your work, the prouder you’re likely to feel about yourself. Though it’s a personal approach; it can also have a major professional impact. Pride comes with the realization that you make a difference. It all comes down to pride; it is something one invests in and ensures it is visibly demonstrated. Hence, I take pride in my work, my struggles and the odds I’ve overcome as I own everything that came in my way. It’s my journey and mine alone. I take pride in being the voice of unheard people or the voiceless so to say. I take pride by being punctual, dressing acceptably, maintaining a positive outlook when encountering problems, and by going above and beyond what is expected of me. Giving the bare minimum is not acceptable to me. I take pride by working to the best of my ability and knowing that my small contributions impact the organization’s goals.
What is peace for you and where do you get peace ?
Peace is a state of being and a deep sense of harmony within. It’s difficult to put in words but to put it forth precisely peace includes everything from quietness and calmness to a sense of appreciation and respect for all the little and big things in life. It also includes losing interest in judging yourself or rather a great sense of contentment. It means a sense of acceptance of one’s own being where there is an increasing tendency to let things happen on their own rather than trying to make them happen; taking refuge in the point of stillness inside, instead of taking refuge in the things of a world which changes on a moment to moment basis. Peace implies harmony in the family, society, countries and a desire for all to have this experience to extend this feeling to others. Hence, peace is not a condition but a state of mind. It is like truth or freedom, love and happiness – not so easy to describe or define but to be felt and understood. It exists within us. It’s present within so it’s there-in everyone; no matter who you are, where you live or what you believe. We only need to be aware of it. Sometimes however, we are so caught up in distractions that we become absolutely unmindful of this heartfelt and gratifying feeling of profound peace within.
Inner peace is a choice, and many of our habits are responsible for that. Our habits determine how much peace we get in our lives. I find it in spending time in nature, focusing on things and situations I can control, being true to myself, exercising, eating right, being true to myself, asserting myself, doing good deeds, de-cluttering my space and mind too, practicing meditation which is very calming, easing my expectations, giving myself advice and time and trusting myself.
One perspective that people have about life and you would like to change ?
If we ponder a bit about life we find that life is all about perspectives and perceptions. It is the way people see life including the way they approach life and all that they’ve stored in their personal experiences. We may find few things as absolutely right or wrong. We usually have two different perspectives on one thing; they are either good or bad or even right or wrong. While one set sees life from the perspective of anything that goes on as long as it makes you happy, another set sees life as there are boundaries you should not cross. There are billions of people in the world seeing things a lot differently compared to the other person. This complicates life because instead of seeing the similarities we share, we often focus on the differences which lead to disagreements and fights. Hence, we see that simply making a switch and attempting to see from a different perspective could help many of these problems die down.
All this makes it evident that one’s perspective on life determines how they relate to people and how they handle relationships and troubles, and how you live in day-to-day happenings of life. There is a need to realize how important the perspective on life is because we often feel that as long as other people’s opinions and decisions do not affect us, ours should not affect other people. But that’s not true rather our perspective on life does affect the people around us. The perspective on life matters so much that it can either make or wreck a relationship. A bad or negative perspective on life affects everything and everyone around you negatively. You end up being angry constantly and not being able to accept other people’s perspectives while on other occasions you find yourself complaining and stressing over things that simply require a small shift in your perspective.
Having a good perspective on life gives people an edge over everything they do. Firstly, it lets you be more open to seeing from other people’s perspective and thus making it easy for you to create meaningful relationships. Secondly, it also gives you a lot more reasons to be grateful and happy. If you live a life where you are constantly showing gratitude and being happy then you tend to have lived a fulfilled life. Thus, perspectives matter as they are great shapers of ideas and visions. It is something that helps in expanding the horizon of thoughts when shared with others. I don’t want to change or suggest people’s perspectives rather I entreat them to deliberate over everything that they come across in their lives.