Throughout time, women have had to face challenges whether small or big, all over the world. Gender discrimination happens everywhere to this day, whether women are discriminated against for a job, stripped of some rights, or underestimated in someway or another, we can still see that they are viewed and treated differently. Of course it is evident in some places more than others, and considering that I lived in Saudi Arabia all of my life, I can definitely see the difference. Women in Saudi Arabia are way more sheltered, and they are deprived of lots of things that men aren’t, like driving, or getting superior jobs in companies.
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In this case, “The Rooftop Dwellers” allows us to explore this struggle in an Indian cultural context. Moyna, the main character in the story, faces challenges in life directly caused from being a woman. Moyna is a young lady trying to make it on her own. This seems like a simple concept, but when put into the socio-cultural context that it is in, it becomes much more complex. This was a time when women were viewed as inferior to men; most believed that they should go from their parents’ home to their husbands’, and nowhere in between.
Instead of being respected and appreciated for trying to make a career for themselves, “leaving the nest”, and being independent, they are looked down upon. The Indian society is highly prejudiced against the female gender. Basically a male dominated society, decision making at family and political level is almost single handedly handled by the men. (www. destinations India. com). Therefore, for Moyna to make the bold move of moving out and living on her own shows much courage and motivation. She left her parents’ house and Moved to Delhi for her new job in a publishing company for a literary review called Books.
This attempt to make it on her own brings about personal growth and a struggle to prove herself to other people. As we discussed in class, it is evident that this story is written from a more feminist point of view. We sympathize with the woman, and see her struggle through her own eyes. Unlike other stories we read like Punishment where we can see the women are inferior to men, The Rooftop Dwellers shows us a more personal and up-close aspect of the issue. Throughout the story, Moyna is being judged, mistreated, and even disrespected.
She has to struggle in her job, stand up to her landlords, and deal with Delhi’s men’s womanizing habits. Moving out of the hostel was her first step towards independence(although she was evicted), because a women’s hostel is where a single woman is “expected” to stay. This is because although they are not at home, a hostel still provides a somewhat safe and sheltered environment where all the single women can stay together. This arrangement is not a very comfortable one though; there was nothing there but the essentials, she didn’t have much space, and she had to shower under a tap.
She also obviously had no privacy because there were so many women there, it was even mentioned that “If she left the door ajar, every girl going past would look in, scream, ’Oh Moy-na! ’ and come in to talk,” (3103. ) Staying in that hostel and accepting that way of life in itself shows her determination to become an independent working woman, despite the weaknesses she displays as the story progresses. It becomes apparent from her very first encounter with her new landlords that they don’t take their tenants very seriously and don’t feel the need to treat them in a professional manner.
When Moyna enters the living room, she finds the family watching the show Mahabharata and they don’t shut if off or even look away from it, but tell her to sit and watch it with them. The fact being that she’s a young woman probably encouraged that behavior a little more. When Moyna is looking around for houses, she is turned down by many landlords because they “had nothing but fear and loathing for the single working woman. ” She doesn’t understand why they would see her as such a source of inconvenience and trouble when she is only an inexperienced, naive girl trying to make it in the real world.
It seems like Moyna’s situation is not helping her sex and relationship status together play a role in making her struggle even harder. Although this was a time of change, where more women were becoming independent and getting jobs, they are still not fully accepted into the community. Granted, it’s better than older times when they had no rights whatsoever and were not able to make decisions on their own, but they still haven’t obtained the level of respect they deserve.