Read my latest article on Womensweb:
Read my latest article on Womensweb:
Every time I write an article, I receive some personal messages and comments from men:
But what about the men?
Your articles are biased…Not all men are like that.
One guy I know even went to the extent of saying that he feels “discouraged” to be good to the women around him – dropping girls home after a party, not passing lewd remarks on scantily dressed girls in a pub, because he felt that men no longer get any “recognition” for being good in India, thanks to the “feminist wave”.
When women send me their stories and experiences, they are very elaborate and specific. They tell me EXACTLY what it is that is bothering them – whether it is pressure of getting married, struggle to manage home and work along with expectations of in-laws, lack of support from husbands etc. When men send me messages, they are usually just one liners – What about men? Not all men!!
I really cannot write a full article based on that! I write about women’s problems based not only on my own personal experiences, but also experiences shared by women, both known to me in personal life, and unknown to me, who have connected with me in the blogosphere. If a man would actually send me a personal story, about the injustice that he is facing because of society, I will care to write about it (believe me). I am also very much interested in knowing what are the issues faced by men.
Feminists are not men-hating, bra burning, home-wrecking women, provided we care to understand what the whole movement is about. I am in no way saying all men are bad, and all women are good. But I want to tell the men the following:
I have been groped in a crowded public place..
I know a girl who was abused by her relative as a child.
I know of an educated woman who was made to abort a girl child.
I know a former colleage who suffered sexual harassment at work..
I know quite a few women whose husbands have hit them.
I know of women who have been raped by their husbands.
I know of women who could not do MBA because they were told if they don’t marry soon, they would end up alone..
I know of women who spent most of their late teenage years and early adult life studying hard, but gave up their careers for children (They may still have a job, but not a career).
Many married women I know, are expected to take care of household chores, and cook / clean before and after working hours.
Most of the weddings I have attended, are funded by the bride’s side of the family. There may additionally be a car or cash gifted out of “love” as well.
Please ask the women you are close to, if any of the above has happened to them. Maybe every woman you know, will say yes to atleast one of the above.
So, next time I write an article from a woman’s point of view, please do not undermine it by saying “What about men?” Don’t make everything about men…
I get it. Gender stereotypes damage everybody. It is not benefiting anybody. Men who want to leave their jobs to study or work on a start-up or stay-at home dads feel the pressure of society to “provide”. Men get abused too but cannot tell anybody for fear of being ridiculed..I know that some women are filing false dowry cases, and bringing about shame to the ones who actually need the laws (more on that in a separate article)…
Please share such stories with me, if it has happened to you or somebody you know. I will be happy to publish it. But please don’t just say “Not all men!” Not all men are bad. We never said that!! But yes, all women are suffering, in some way or another, just because we are women. Instead of getting defensive, acknowledge the problem, and work towards making things better.
1. Next time your friend says that she is afraid to take a cab late at night, don’t tell her that the city is safe and she is unnecessarily panicking. It is not. Understand that she lives in fear..
2. Stop forwarding those sexist jokes on WhatsApp! They are not harmless and certainly not funny. Especially the married men jokes that I hate. These jokes only support that idea that women are objects to laugh at. A male friend of mine sent me the following joke:
Jet airways launched a scheme where a husband can take his wife free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all wives asking about their experience?
99% wives replied
and When was it??
Do married men really have women throwing themselves at them? That women will jump at the first opportunity to travel with men who are not their husbands? Is cheating a joke? What if I edited this joke:
Jet airways launched a scheme where a wife can take her husband free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all husbands asking about their experience?
99% husbands replied
and When was it??
Is it funny anymore? Do we circulate jokes like this? I guess because women don’t get to go on business trips (sarcasm!)? Or maybe society does not consider it acceptable that wives could cheat on their husbands, and then laugh about it too!
3. Don’t just support women empowerment on social media, or in discussions where women are present. Apply it in your daily life. If your friend is maligning a woman’ s character, ask him to shut up. Even if there are no women around to applaud you.
4. Don’t be proud of yourself because you “allow” your wife to work, or visit her parents or go out with her friends. You don’t have any authority to allow her to do anything. You don’t own her.
5. If you genuinely care about women, and treat the women in your life well, they will respect you and appreciate you. Don’t get offended by every “feminist” article. They are very much needed, and are here to stay.
You continue to be the good person you are..
A married, working mother of two has asked me to write an article on how husbands have become more of a liability for working women. Based on her experience, and that of most married women she knows, she has sent me a list of ways in which her life and her husband’s life has changed after marriage. I have tabulated her list below.
Even before you read this, my apologies to the good husbands / fathers out there. I personally know a lot of men who share all the responsibilities. So please do not get offended by this. It does not apply to you. For parents of such men, you have done a good job raising your son right. And finally to the wives of these husbands, I am happy for you!
Now for all the men who are described as below, please read this and be considerate to your poor wives!
|Studies, gets a job, get married.||Studies, gets a job, gets married.|
|Financial burden reduces - Rent , home loan, car loan shared.||Financial burden reduces - Rent , home loan, car loan shared.|
|Takes care of husband, his parents, sisters / brothers-in-law.||Now wants to be taken care of by wife. Treated as VIP by her parents/ sisters / brothers-in-law|
|Does household work - cooking, cleaning etc. Manages job.||May or may not participate in cooking/ cleaning but expects his wife to keep house in order. Manages job. Financial burden shared.|
|Needs permission to visit her own parents. Takes care of and serves husband's parents.||Already pampered by own parents. Wants invitation to visit wife's parents. Treated like a VIP guest there.|
|Has a child. Takes care of the child, feeding, bathing, changing diapers, homework, children's birthday parties, extra curricular activities. This is in addition to cooking, cleaning and regular household chores. Manages job.||Has a child. Expects all of this to be taken care of by wife. Manages job. Financial burden shared.|
|Takes care of herself, husband, in-laws, children. Manages job.||Cannot even take care of himself. Manages job. Financial burden shared.|
|Life changes drastically. Loses prime years of her life in serving in-laws, husband, raising children.||Life changes drastically. May lose his freedom of going for occasional drinks with other non-productive buddies.|
I had ended this article here originally. But seeing the comments on Facebook, I thought I need to write more in order to make it balanced.
I know that not all men / women are the way described in the table. This was based on the reader’s experience. The problem lies with the expectations of the gender roles in India. I would like to share the experience of a close friend of mine who was struggling in her new marriage, managing home and office simultaneously. She was being judged by her in-laws, her husband being absolutely insensitive to the pressures she was facing. Her husband’s salary was now being spent exclusively on the home loan that he had taken before marriage. Her salary was spent on paying for rent, and every other household expense. She would come back home to a grumpy husband and in-laws who felt she focused “too much” on her job and did not take care of their needs. Her mother-in-law told her that she is being “allowed” to work for her “social life”, that does not mean she can neglect the household work.
The girl went to a counselor, to seek some help in saving her marriage. She told the counselor that it is unfair that both the husband and wife are sharing the finances and only she is expected to do the household work. Sharing the the exact conversation that took place between the girl and the therapist.
“Why do you work?”
“For my financial independence.”
“So, if you were a millionaire, you would not work?”
“I would probably still work, because I like to. For my own confidence, intellectual stimulation etc.”
“So you are working for yourself basically. Your mothers, grandmothers did not work. It was their primary responsibility to take care of the household. Your husband and in-laws are allowing you to work, for your own enjoyment. The least you owe them is to ensure that their needs are taken care of. You can work as long as you take care of the house and them. I am also a working woman. If my husband wants food at 3 am, I get up and cook for him. From where did you get the idea, that if you work in office for your ego, he should also work in the house?”
And this was a certified therapist who does marriage counselling!! We can only imagine the mentality of an average household. A woman who works is made to feel guilty or grateful. A man who does household work or takes care of the child is applauded for “helping”. It is because of this inequality, that I feel compelled to share these articles.
A distraught reader has shared her story. Although this article is inspired by her e-mail, I have written it in first person, and it includes my personal views.
I had a love marriage. We both belonged to different castes. I really liked him. I thought since he likes me enough to convince his parents for the marriage, he would support me all my life.
Some things went wrong here and there in the wedding, as we did not know the rituals of the other caste well. This caused constant disapproval and taunts from my in-laws who ensured that my family and I were made to feel worthless about the incompetency of organizing a wedding. Whether it is a love marriage or an arranged marriage, a newly married couple is trying to adjust to each other. Living with a person is difficult, and we were just getting started to get used to each other’s likes, dislikes and lifestyle. I wish people understood this, and left us alone instead of sabotaging our relationship from Day 1.
Nobody likes to hear things against their family. If somebody in school, college, office, streets spoke ill of my family I would have felt like punching them, and shut them up. But this is marriage, and I am a woman. So, what I must do instead is smile at them, remain quiet, polite and calm, serve them, take care of every need of theirs and not show any sign of discomfort and complaint. My parents are ignored and insulted as per the likes of my in-laws. My husband never calls my parents, unless I force him to although my life revolves around taking care of his parents.
I follow a daughter-in-law manual customized by my mother-in-law. It includes getting up at a certain time, cooking to the tastes of different individuals, praying to a certain idol, washing hair on a certain day and any other ritual which they may consider necessary for survival. Yes, I say survival because if I deviate from any of the above, it may result in threats to terminate the marriage!!
My husband is currently working in another city. Should I take up a job in that city and move with him, or continue living in my hometown are all decisions that are taken by my in-laws. It feels awful to be continuously controlled by somebody else. When I try to say something, I am shamed for being disrespectful, rebellious, for overreacting and being too sensitive.
My in-laws and husband are not happy with me. They feel that I talk to my mother much too frequently and that I have not truly considered them my own. I wish my husband understood that for me to feel included in his family, I must first feel included in his life. And that will not happen unless he shows some support and affection towards me.
Ever since I was little, I was told that getting married is important from my security. That a girl cannot live her life alone in this big bad world, and she needs someone to protect her. I guess I am secure, I live with people, so no outsider can come inside the house and attack me. As secure as a bird in a cage, or a criminal in jail.
But what is my crime? No matter how much I try I am told that I am a miserable failure. If my parents treated my husband the way his parents treat me, he would have never seen their faces again. But, here I am being ill-treated yet running after all of them and struggling to make everything right. But they are what’s wrong, so nothing will ever change.
I only feel resentment towards my husband and in-laws. There is no love left.
I watched “Badrinath ki Dulhaniya” after trying my best to avoid it. I am not a big fan of mindless entertainers, but the family wanted to watch it. The niece is a big fan of Alia Bhatt. Sister likes Varun Dhawan. Parents believe that life is stressful enough, why not go to the theatre to have a good laugh and watch a “light” movie? Friends had told me the movie is about dowry, gender equality, and women empowerment. Alia Bhatt is an interview had said her character is a “feminist”.
So, this was enough to convince me to sit through what I had expected be a very tortuous experience. From a social perspective, although they have given a disclaimer that the movie does not promote “dowry” and other “social evils”, and the events are dramatized, I could not help but cringe at the stupidity that unfolded on screen. This article is inspired by but not limited to the movie.
The movie begins by giving a shameless (and unfortunately true) account of dowry in North India.
I am now diverting from the movie as I have witnessed this in the state that the characters belong to in the movie, adjacent to my home state. “How much is your budget?” is a common question that initiates the discussion of arranged marriages. Even parents who consider themselves righteous, who would never accept / give bribes and are against corruption see no harm in this. The tolerance level for evil is high. Daughters who try to speak up against dowry in all its forms are shut up by saying that they would end up alone if they try to act smart. They are told that this is the culture, this is society and this is how ALL GROOM’S FAMILIES ARE. Either they marry into one of them, or become an unhappy, frustrated spinster all their lives. Choice is theirs, and what an empowering choice it is!
They are also fooled into believing that the wedding is just one event. Once they are married, they will live happily ever-after with such (greedy, ill-treating) families. Most women give in and the disaster begins.
1. The boy cannot speak against his father
Badri cannot speak to his father against his greed for dowry. There are two reasons for this. One, he is an unqualified man heavily dependent on his parents’ money. So, rebellion will not do him any good. Second, being a regressive man himself, he probably does not see much harm in the privileges of patriarchy.
He represents the quintessential Indian man. He “respects” his parents (Depends on them for money and therefore, does not have the spine to speak up against them). Dowry from a woman’s family does not offend him. Her rejection does.
2. Stalk, gag, put a girl in car trunk as it is “love”
Stalking and harassing is taken to another level. The message is clear. Keep pursuing a girl despite her being persistent about saying no. Even if you beat up random strangers outside her house, gag her, and stuff her into your trunk it is all acceptable as you are in “love”. The girl who should by now realize that you were not just uninteresting enough to reject in the first place, but also immature, abusive, unstable and dangerous will instead realise that this is “true love”!!
3. Molestation of men
In a strange and absurd scene, Badri gets touched and teased by a group of men. Vaidehi gives him something to cover up, and all his friends laugh at him, embarrassing him. This was supposed to be a comedy scene.
All over the world, people are becoming sensitive about the fact that men get abused too. Men are being encouraged to speak up about it. It certainly is not a reflection of their masculinity. Sadly, the entire scene made a big joke out of an issue that has globally just started gaining some momentum.
4. I want to be a “Beta!”
Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt) is a “feminist” who wants to work and be independent. In one of the scenes, she says she tried so hard to be the “beta” of her family.
This is the most demeaning thing to say. What the hell does it mean? That a woman must be a “son” to be validated? Then the man-child, good for nothing, lover boy tells this “feminist” character, “Tum to beti hi kamal ki ho!”
Whoever wrote the dialogues has no clue what feminism is. No feminist would ever say she wants to be a beta!!
The ending of the movie is intended to be a call for social change. Badri finally speaks upto his father, and is supportive of Vaidehi’s dream to work.
I don’t care. Three hours of non-sense does not get redeemed by this ending. Bollywood, please spare us the rubbish. Or at the least don’t make claims for making socially reformed, women empowering movies.
The Supreme Court in a recent judgment has held that A Hindu son can divorce his wife for the cruelty of trying to pry him away from his “pious obligation” to live with his aged parents and provide shelter to them.
Justice Dave, who wrote the judgment has said that insisting her husband to live separately from his parents is a western thought alien to our culture and ethos:
“It is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from his parents on getting married at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meagre income,”
I have been trying not to get upset with this judgment. A child should take care of his parents. Our parents make utmost sacrifices to bring us up, and when they need us in their old age there is no doubt that we be there for them, in every way. I also feel that if person wants a divorce, the court should facilitate it. But the sexism in this judgment is infuriating.
When a woman “tries to pry a husband away from his pious obligation” to live with his aged parents, it is cruelty, and that too serious enough to be a ground for divorce?
What about when a man and his family separate a woman from her parents, physically, emotionally, financially? How many married women get to send money to their parents? How many women in India have to seek permission to visit her own parents? After the gracious in-laws “allow” her to visit her family once a year, she comes back to a scowling family, irritated at the very thought of her being still close to her family. Some very low human beings even have a problem with their daughters in law/ wives talking to her mother on the phone frequently. If a woman could file for divorce on such grounds, divorce rate in India would be 100 percent!
I want to ask the Supreme court that our great culture promotes respect for elders but these privileged elders are only elders who have given birth to sons? The ones who have daughters don’t have a difficult old age and certainly do not need their daughters to take care of them? They should be punished for giving birth to a girl child! The girl who they love with every ounce of their soul, and spend their life savings on, should grow up to be an unpaid maid for a family she had not known for 20-30 years of her life, and she should spend the next 30-40 years of her life forgetting herself and them.
Who wants to have a daughter?
Let us continue to preach about our misogynist culture but please don’t be surprised with female feticide.
The other day my friends and I decided to move from one party venue to another, in a different part of the city. With one bike, no cars and a non-availability of the Olas and Ubers, we were struggling to plan the logistics to reach the new destination. One of the girls, Sia was already high and was not comfortable riding her bike. Rahul a friend of ours offered to ride her bike. Another guy rode pillion with him while Sia joined the rest of us in a cab.
“Why are two of them coming on a bike, one of them could have come with us in the cab.” I asked.
“Because Rahul (who is riding) does not know the way, and the other guy does not know how to ride.” Sia replied.
“Oh God! They are both like girls – one can’t drive and one doesn’t know directions!” remarked Kunal with a hearty laugh.
Sia and I both pounced on him! “Hey! Women can drive and follow directions!”
“Oh sorry to offend you feminists! You demean men when you like and use men when you like. Poor Rahul is riding your bike. Someone else will drop you home after the party. Convenient!”
And he got me thinking…
Feminism is not about demeaning men. It is about gender equality. But if the idea of a woman being equal to a man is demeaning to a man, then that pretty much explains why feminism is needed in the first place.
Feminism actually benefits men. In this example, a gender stereotype towards women was used to insult a man. Who said women cannot drive or follow directions? Why should we believe that all men should be ace drivers with a perfect sense of direction? Who are these generalizations helping? Women? Men? Men cannot cry, calling men sissies are all extremely judgmental thoughts on conforming to gender stereotypes.
Women also end up using regressive terminology without realizing that they are degrading themselves. I have heard girls say this about their boyfriends in consensual relationships once it is over:
“He used me!”
I don’t think women should think of themselves as something “usable” ever. It is a self-depreciating term. Wouldn’t the same woman complain if somebody referred to her as “used”?
Many people ask me that women talk about equality and yet expect men to pay on the date, hold the door and offer to carry the heavy luggage. I think feminism and chivalry can mutually coexist, and personally I am a big fan of chivalry. To me chivalry is more than just the acts of paying a bill on a date but about the overall values which a man holds and the respect he shows towards women.
Does that make me a hypocrite?
I can’t help but share the thought of a dear friend of mine who is not a feminist for the above reason.
“Men should not treat a woman equally. They should treat her better!” she says.
If chivalry is against feminism, then shouldn’t feminism be good for men? If a woman wants chivalry should she not talk about feminism? If a man does not believe in feminism should he atleast be chivalrous?
Would like to invite thoughts from readers and I hope men participate in this discussion too.
We are looking for a very “adjustable” handsome “Biba Munda” (docile boy) for our lovely, confident, well accomplished and beautiful daughter, working as a senior executive in a reputable company. The boy should have been well schooled in Indian culture and should treat all elders in the family with respect. He should not have been involved in any relationships before his marriage, and his first should be to our lovely daughter. He must also enjoy a good reputation in his mohalla (neighborhood). After marriage, our daughter will not ever see her current boyfriends again.
If the need arises after marriage, the boy should be willing to give up his career and take care of the wife and children and bring up the children as successful people. With our daughter’s permission, the boy can occasionally go out for men’s only night outs, but only after finishing up all the household work and cooking dinner for the family.
Expensive gifts from boy’s parents to our family members are most welcome and actually expected on certain festivals. We shall welcome the boy to our family with open arms and treat him like our own son. All we ask for, is that he be subservient to us and never disrespect us in public or in private.
In our society, we do not appreciate the boys talking to strangers, especially ladies. We do not think that boys from good families should “mix’ with girls except for our relatives.
To respect and serve his in-laws will bring him good luck and prosperity since our aashirvaad (blessing) is very powerful. On an everyday basis, the boy should only go to sleep onlyafter all the family members are satisfied and have gone to sleep. My daughter is used to getting bed tea in the morning, and that is the first thing that the boy should do after getting up early in the morning. The boy should also attend all parent teacher meetings at school and help children with their homework.
Occasionally, guests will come to live with us and the boy should keep all of them very happy at all times. Our daughter likes to go to the gym and he should make energy drinks for our daughter and give it to her before she goes. The boy should also be very well versed with all the religious rituals and often visit the temple with his mother in law. Trust us, if the boy obediently does all this, we will bless him and he will “Doodho nahao, falo and phoolo“.
Believe us, he can do much more, because our daughter is the one who will work after marriage and the boy will just “sit at home” and he will “just” be a house husband. So, he can take care of all the shopping etc. Since we also want our daughter to pitch in, she can manage all the financial matters in addition to keeping a job where she will be forced to have coffee every one hour and chat at the water cooler because of work pressures. She will be very tired by the time she comes home because she will have to use her brain the whole day.
Expecting to hear back soon with a photograph of your son.
Sounds ridiculous and unfair?
If you do not like the above ad, pause for a moment and think about the sacrifices which women make to keep the men folk happy. Let us be fair to women and have realistic expectations!
About the author:
Sunil Kakkar, an IIT graduate and a Computer Engineer, is passionate about writing poetry in his spare time. He writes romantic as well as social issues based poetry in Hindi, Urdu and English. Here is a link to his Facebook page.
We all love daughters. The sweet, caring and loving daughters who have always been the custodians of the family values.
But does a daughter not have her own identity and her own aspirations? And does that make her any less of a good daughter?
Mr. Sunil Kakkar has written this beautiful and empowering poem on ‘daughters’.
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Maine Aksar Samaaj Koh
Balidaan Diya Hai
Apne Man Ko Maar Kar
Bahut Si Khushiyon Ka
Tyaag Diya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Maine Aksar Ma Ka
Saath Diya Hai
Rasoi Mein Kathor Parishram Kar
Mehmannon Ka Khaas
Khayal Kiya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Mere Babu Jee Ne Aksar
Mujhe Pe Naaz Kiya Hai
Auron Se Bewajah
Daant Khane Par Bhi
Maine Apni Nazarein Jhuka Ke
Apni Tehzeeb Ka
Pramaan Diya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Maine Aksar Bhaiyya
Ka Kaam Kiya Hai
Unke Mauj Masti Kar
Ghar Aane Par
Daud Ke Unka Swagat Kiya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Maine Aksar Yeh
Sweekar Kiya Hai
Rajkumar Toh Sapnon
Mein Aate Hain
Pati Ka Aachran Kaisa Bhi Hoh
Banu Main Ek Adarsh Patni
Sab Ka Yeh Sapna
Maine Sakaar Kiya Hai
Magar Aaj Waqt Badal Raha Hai
Ek Wajood Hai Mera Bhi
Apne Andaaz Mein
Apni Zindagi Jeene Ka
Maine Man Mein Thaan Liya Hai
Kadam Se Kadam Mila Kar
Main Bhi Ab Aage Bhadoongi
Meri Bhi Ek Hasti Hai
Meri Bhi Aakanshaayan Hain
Maine Bhi Kuch Kar Dikhaane Ka
Sankalp Pura Kar Liya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Main Aur Ma Bhi Ab
Poori Dooniyan Dekhein Ge
Ghul Mil Kar Aapas Mein Humne
Khilne Ka Prayaas Kiya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Apne Bhaiyya Se
Umeedein Hain Meri
Thoda Waqt Nikal Kar
Wohi Mere Nakhrey Uthaayenge
Khush Rakhein Woh Hamesh Mujhe
Maine Unhe Aadesh Deeya Hai
Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na
Main Usko Apna Dil Doongi
Izzat Joh Karega Meri
Dil Se Mujhe Chhahe Ga
Aisa Hi Pati Mujhe Chaahiye
Maine Babu Jee Koh Bataa Diya Hai
About the author:
Sunil Kakkar, an IIT graduate and a Computer Engineer, is passionate about writing poetry in his spare time. He writes romantic as well as social issues based poetry in Hindi, Urdu and English.
This poem was originally published on his Facebook page “Suneel Ke Dil Se”
Sometime in late 1990s
I hold my tiny daughter in my arms as she gently strikes my face with her chubby fingers, enjoying as her aptly baby sized payal (anklet) rubs against my cheek. My daughter — Jiya, who came to my life 2 years after my son Rehan.
About 20 years ago
I grew up in a modest Indian household consisting of 4 siblings, I being the only daughter. A typical story of any other woman in that time and age. My story no different from theirs. I grew up going to a government school while my brothers went to the elite convents. I came home, helped my mother cook and clean while my brothers had the privilege of playing cricket, watching movies, lying around all day doing nothing with similar non-productive peers, all united by the benefits that came from being born with a certain alternative chromosome. “You are a girl, you should know household chores. You have to build a home and nurture it all your life.” Amma (mother) would say.
About 8 years ago
I managed to get into a college through scholarship. My brothers enjoyed their college life. They wore bell-bottoms inspired by Amitabh Bachchan. They drank. They smoked. They stayed up late at night, saw pubs, saw the city. I wore my modest salwar kameez, my dupatta pinned appropriately. I came home as soon as the classes got over. “Girls should not wear short skirts and hang out at night. If something happens you would regret all your life.” Amma would say.
Before I could write my third year exams, Baba (father) announced that I would be getting married. The boy’s name was Anil, a qualified paediatrician. But what about my degree? I wanted to study further and become a professor. “Your true happiness lies in finding a good husband. He will give you a good life.” Amma would say.
Fortunately, Amma was right about Anil. He was a good man. We had a blissful marriage. But part of my dreams, ambitions remained unfulfilled. I would live vicariously through my daughter. I would bring up my daughter the opposite of the way I was brought up. My daughter would be equal to my son.
5 years later
Jiya and Rehan attend the same school. Jiya has always been smarter than Rehan. She is talented too. I let Jiya pursue her hobbies. She is a good student, a good swimmer, a good dancer. Unlike my mother, I never force Jiya to develop her culinary or other domesticated skills. She spends her free time doing things she likes.
15 years later
My Jiya has grown up to be such a beauty! Oh what a life, my precious Jiya. She is a star. She is a straight A student in college! She wears the most fashionable outfits, attends all parties, she hangs out with friends, she even has a few drinks sometimes and has had a couple of serious boyfriends. There are no restrictions on my Jiya. “Girls and boys are equal. You live your life on your terms with your choices. You are a strong, independent woman”, I tell her. My perfect daughter whom I have vouched to give a perfect life.
24 years later
Jiya is a qualified lawyer. She has married a classmate of hers, Kunal. They both are a perfect couple with a son. Jiya never left her job. She has a maid at home who takes care of her son while she is at work. Jiya and her husband share the household responsibilities just like they share the finances. Kunal does the vacuum cleaning, cooks, helps clean the dishes and even takes turns to watch the baby while Jiya takes a break. How times have changed for better! I wish Amma were alive to see how men and women are meant to support each other in an equal relationship. Poor Amma with her limited, regressive thinking! Rehan is also married to lovely girl, Mira who he met at medical school.
Sometime in the present day
I am shopping for my grandson, how I love showering him with gifts! The phone rings -Jiya calling. “Ma” comes her terrified voice even before I could say hello. “Please come home immediately.”
“What happened Jiya”.
“Just come home soon Ma, I will tell you.” She is sobbing.
The three kilometre ride seems like eternity. What could have happened to my Jiya? Did she have a fight with Kunal…No. they are a mature couple. Maybe the baby is unwell.. Is Kunal alright..?
There is a police car outside my house and random neighbours stand outside whispering. A chill runs down my spine. As I enter, Jiya comes running to hug me “Ma, Rehan bhaiya (brother) has beaten up Bhabhi (sister-in law) badly, she called the police. Police has arrested him…Papa has gone there with Gupta uncle…..”
The rest was a blur. What a big mistake! As if my Rehan would ever beat up a woman! He is my son. A respectable, progressive, civilized family like ours! My perfect son. Why is Mira filing a false complaint against my poor baby…?
I reach the police station. I see Mira — her eye is swollen and black. Her lips are bloody red, a visible cut. Her hand is resting on her stomach, an injury possibly from being “kicked”, is what I hear.
Her staged bruises look so real! Where is Rehan? My poor boy is being framed. Have the police hit him the way they show in Bollywood movies? Oh God! I silently pray, wiping my tears “Amma, look what has happened, please protect my son. How our lives have been wrecked! I will get my son out of this mess…My baby..”
Rehan appears with a constable holding him. Anil is there with Mr. Gupta, his lawyer friend, has managed to arrange for a bail it seems. Rehan looks stressed, but thankfully he is not hurt. I go and hug him. We come back home. Jiya and Kunal are also home. I’ll make him a good cup of tea. I want him to relax before I ask him how this happened. He already looks so traumatized…that Mira…How could I be so wrong in judging that girl? No no.. She was always Rehan’s choice but still I had liked her, approved of her. I never imagined she could go to the extent of harassing us like this. What a lying, manipulative woman! What a poor upbringing. Her mother should be blamed for raising such an irresponsible child.
I put some ginger in the tea as I carry the tray to Rehan’s room. The door is slightly open. I can hear his voice. He is talking on the phone, to a friend perhaps. Finally opening up to somebody, my poor distraught boy..
…..“She is just impossible…Doesn’t even give me dinner once I reach home…I have to do my laundry myself.. Tortures me with her feminist equality shit all the time…Doesn’t know how to cook. You should see her chapatis…Bloody arrogant idiot.. And just see the way she drinks at parties, the clothes that she wears. F***** whore. That woman is completely out of line. I have slapped her so many times to control her but the bitch doesn’t understand she has to behave like a woman. Just because she earns a few bucks, she thinks she wears the pants in the relationship. I whacked the crap out of her this time. And look what the snooty slut did, straight to the police….”
Present day…or centuries ago?
I freeze. Struggle to hold the tray with my trembling hands. I run to my bedroom and shut it tight. As if I could shut what I had heard.
I lay in shock in my bedroom amidst the precious moments of my life captured in numerous photo frames hanging on the wall. My whole life came flashing in my mind. Pictures of a 5 year old Jiya and a 7 year old Rehan holding trophies at a storytelling inter-school competition. Me standing with them, a beaming, proud mother… I was so engaged in ensuring that I raised my daughter to be equal to a man, I forgot to raise my son to be a human.
My Jiya was taught to study, to play, to not be in the kitchen — her role reversed. But Rehan was never taught to even fetch a glass of water himself. Yes, I thought I progressed as a mother by paving the way for my daughter, out of the kitchen to the study room. But when it came to raising the sons, I was no different from Amma. Amma’s sons had never seen the kitchen, never did the laundry. Neither had my son.
Amma’s daughter was never allowed to hang out with friends. My daughter went wherever she liked, chose her clothes, her hang out places, her drinks, and tried things that the youth at her age yearn to explore. But while my daughter was taught to respect and value her freedom, my son was never taught to respect women and their choices.
The anxious nights that I spent worrying about Jiya returning home safe from clubbing, Rehan hung out with friends leeching at womens’ legs and cleavage, judging them for their clothes and calling them “sluts”.
While I taught a 9-year-old Jiya to fight for her rights and to voice her opinion and speak up, I forgot to teach an 11-year-old Rehan that he should not scream at a woman, that she is another human, an equal with choices, and not his slave.
While I praised my son-in-law among relatives and friends as “ideal” for helping out my daughter in the kitchen, I failed to notice that my working daughter-in-law struggled to find support as she returned home every night, exhausted mentally and physically, only to hear Rehan scream at her for not heating his food and offering it to him on his couch.
I remembered to instil a feminist streak in my daughter, but I forgot to delete the inherent chauvinistic mentality embedded in the psyche of my son, possibly the curse of the Indian man. I endeavoured to change the society, a better and a more balanced place, enriched by my self-sufficient daughter. But the imbalance that has been created is far more disastrous. I have inflicted another antiquated, chauvinistic, loser with a skewed sense of masculinity in the already wretched society in the form of my son.
Amma’s smile behind that frame garlanded with dry flowers seems to be mocking me.
Originally published on Women’sweb