Editor's note; We start our International Women’s Day specials with a host of writers discussing different issues.

‘Feminism is not just about women; it’s about letting all people live fuller lives -Jane Fonda

In school I was familiar with ‘Mothers’, ‘Fathers’ and ‘Childrens’ Days. But the first person who wished me a ‘Happy International Womens Day’ was Anand Natarajan, my Mother-in-law. That was almost four decades ago.

Ever since I have been wondering why we women felt the need to have a special day for us. Was it to honour ONLY our tribe; to delight in our newfound freedom; to partake of the joys of womanhood; or merely to gloat? That no matter what, women can do everything a man can!

Unfortunately we are so busy trying to prove this newfound theory, that we sometimes forget that our uniqueness lies in proving to the world that we are not mere contestants in a gender combat. Just by burning a part of one’s body apparel, one can hardly disregard certain physical endowments.

Man and woman both have designated characteristics. And even if we do manage to interchange the parts of the provider and the nurturer, our biological task as donor and child bearer can never be reversed. So. We are not here to participate in any competition but to lead parallel lives; to toast each other’s distinctive capabilities and to revel in each other’s matchless roles to perform differently.

It took centuries for our fragile frames to come out of the dark caves. It has taken decades of patience to emerge victorious by fighting against the stale winds of confinement. We had to climb multiple steps on a never ending ladder of success, to finally shatter those impenetrable glass ceilings. But at least we did it. We battled the storms to embrace the fresh winds of change.

Things are good now. And we can rest assured they will always be. So we can relax and celebrate Women's Day. Or can we?

I don’t think so. Not when you live in a patriarchal society, whose roots are so strongly embedded in political and cultural movements that for some, ‘liberty’ is still a far cry.

In reality, in rural areas and even behind closed doors, We the Women, stand like the ‘Statue of Liberty’- with a blazing make believe torch in one hand, with legs firmly rooted to the ground. Mind you, all the ‘movements’ by our leaders, whether political or religious, actually don’t have any religion. Their only purpose is either to dominate, to quieten or to mislead us, thereby threatening our very independence once again. These commanding elements don’t have any developmental agenda for us either. They don’t have any enlightening modifications. They don’t have any progressive reforms. And they don’t have any liberal amendments. Either for us Mahilas or for our Betis. They don’t. Period.

If they did, most in the petticoat clan would still not be subjected to the heinous crimes committed all over their bodies. Their minds. And their souls.

If they did, the mushrooming Madrasas would be recognized as educational institutions ensuring progressive and not regressive education.

If they did, the multiple Khap Panchayats would not mortgage the basic human rights to the so-called honour of the clans.

If they did, there would be more Institutes to train women to also become Muftias so that with proper ‘enlightenment’ they can also pronounce the Fatwa at the drop of a hat. Or apply for a ‘Khula’ even before the three dreaded T words are pronounced.

If they did, women would not have to hide behind anonymity and shame and abandon their children at the mercy of missionaries.

Those who demonise Religion (be it ANY religion) to serve their personal agenda are no better than those who use it to perpetuate everything that it opposes in its true sublime form.

Therefore, rather than joining in the celebrations, it is time to listen to the alarm bells and alert our feminine senses. Rather than seeing from the point of view of the strong and the powerful, we need to reshape our own perception of how we view things. We need to sharpen our meek voices and use it as a tool for the right to speak. And the right to be heard.

Katherine Hepburn once said that if we obey all the rules, we will miss out on all the fun! We don’t want to do that right? So it is time to wake up and not only smell the coffee but also go make it ourselves. The way that we want to. The way that it should be. Without any spiritual, political or religious leaders telling us the ‘exact’ procedures.

And while on the method, let us not forget that too much coffee will bring about a bitter taste. Too much milk will lighten the situation. And too much sugar is always dangerous.

Therefore, what we need to concoct is the perfect mixture- a classless, uncensored, democratic brew that is palatable to not only the feminine tongue but to all those whose speech is curtailed by the powers that be.

The tepid taste that will perhaps once again bring back the nostalgia of a warm neighbourhood that we all grew up in. A coffee that will resonate with the flavour of the pluralism and co-existence of an India that once was.

Not a lukewarm beverage which will find its way into cold and detached social ghettoes. Not one that will be savoured only by the political ruffians, the melodramatic media and the provocative clerics. And definitely not one where the weaker ‘sects’ will be ordered to serve. But not allowed to sit down and relish.

But. To expect powerful leaders to show any understanding, or shape a modernistic path for us, is like expecting a snail to win in a race full of hyenas. So it is up to each one of us to open our eyes. Our ears. And our reason.

This year, let us make this ‘International Womens Day’ extra special by reminding ourselves that all people, not only women, are born equal. Everyone has certain rights and a freedom that must be respected and protected.

Let us not be led into believing that these powerful phrases can benefit only women, because they don’t. Everyone connected has so much to profit from dismantling age-old gender norms. Or superstitions.

Let us create an atmosphere where all are inclusive. Where we do not see men as men, women as women but humans as a whole.

Let us, on this special day, also strive to celebrate it as an ‘International Humans Day’, by coming together with our shared commitment to protect and promote everyone’s rights. Both domestically and internationally. And by doing so, let us ensure that everyone enjoys a life free from discrimination, violence and injustice.

You don’t have to know rocket science to understand that co-existence, and NOT confrontation is the only answer for survival and prosperity. To quote Maya Angelou- ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’