I am giggling inside for the kind of comments I will get for this. In this age of Male-Bashing FEMINISM, I stand as an Anti-Feminist. Instead of “Free the Nipples”, I stand for Freedom of mind. Thanks to my dad!
As known by most, I am a super pampered child! First girl of the family, I was spoiled by my grandma, loved by my maa, protected by my brother and treasured by my papa. Generally every girl is, but my story is a little different. Everything in my life has been an exaggeration, like my grandma used to feed me grapes without its skin, okra without its seeds and oranges without its seeds, threads and the white peel over the slice. As a result, I could not eat them like most of you and so was laughed upon by everyone who saw me eating. When I was a child, it was awkward to be laughed upon by everyone, so I tried to swallow them like others. Did not like it at all and slowly stopped eating them outside my comfort zone.
During one of the walks with papa, I narrated him the whole story and asked if I was doing anything wrong. He smiled and said – ‘You are one of the lucky ones in this world to have a family. You are blessed to have a family who loves you to no end and pamper you like maybe no one else ever. Cherish it! People are insane, they laugh on anything new, they laugh in bewilderment, they make fun in jealousy and they tease others for the difference they have from others. What do you want? Do you want to be like them, who have never seen such love and care? Do you just want to fit in a crowd or be different and blessed and be yourself?’ My answer was evident and things were clearer. Since then, I choose to eat things my way and do things the way I like and trust me, now I am proud of the fact that I am different.
I have always been a sports-girl. I have aced the relay, the solos and the balance races all my life and everyone at school had acknowledged the fact. Every year during the selection of the participants for the annual sports day, the house mistress knew that I would make the group I belonged, proud and I thought 2009 wasn’t any different. We stood in a que waiting for our turn to participate. I wasn’t over confident but I reasonably knew my strengths and therefore was excited. After 25 minutes of struggle between the students and the teachers, the selections started one by one. On your mark, one, two, three…….
I started and suddenly, stopped! I saw my friends and classmates getting ahead of me and there was I, standing just almost at the starting point. Teachers were cheering me to run, to win, to make them proud. I was wanting to ace it again. But there I was, like a statue. I realised that some things have changed, somethings become evident now and I was becoming a girl from a child. I saw the boys standing and staring at girls and their moving body parts. I was shocked. Maybe shocked isn’t the right word, but there was an unexplained unprecedented feeling, and this was definitely not a nice one. I was a tomboy all my life who preferred basketball over gossips, pen-fighting over dancing and playing cricket over watching the sport. This was weird and I was not prepared. I had just got periods a year ago and I wasn’t really accustomed to it by now and now this! I walked and finished the race last, just for the sake of my father, who told me to finish what you start. I was disheartened, not because I wasn’t selected in the race but because now I wasn’t free to run and jump.
Weeks went by and on a particular day when papa and me were just walking silently, I asked my father if being a boy was better? He looked at me and continued walking. A couple of minutes later he said “This is a stupid fight that people are fighting. God has made everyone as a unique individual, be it an animal or bird or plant or human. What if fish compared itself to an elephant and cribbed and strive to be giant and powerful like him? Fish has its uniqueness in being a fish. The way it can swim, elephant cannot. If you wanted to pet a fish, you can. Can you make an elephant your pet under normal circumstances? No na? Similarly among humans, men and women are different. If men try to become like women, they will lose the uniqueness that has been endowed upon them, so is the case with women. A woman can bring another life into existence, no man can do that. A woman has patience and perseverance of a level that men cannot match in his lifetime. What do you want when you enter our home?”
I said “Maa”.
“See! She doesn’t just reproduce and multiply, she makes a house, home. She makes it a place to come back to. She brings in happiness to the family. If men were better than women, why would men not marry men, we always want the best no?” He saw the confusion on my face and continued. “What is going inside your head?”
By this time I forgot the reason why I started this discussion in the first place and started flowing with papa. I questioned “But papa then why do girls want to become like guys? They must be better no?”
Papa smiled. He said “People are becoming foolish. Girls are stupid to think that they have to become like boys. They are striving so hard to be equal to boys that they are forgotting what it is like to be girls. It is the inferiority within, that makes them feel that boys are superior and thus they want to be in their position.”
I wasn’t still convinced and I further argued “But papa, men earn, and so they have the position of authority in the society and hence the girl feels inferior because everytime they want to fulfil a wish of theirs, they have to spread their hand and depend on someone. Men cheat and leave and the girl is left behind with no money to support themselves, so they want to earn like men. Plus I have seen my friends, their brother gets a better treatment all the time. Aren’t girls bound to feel this way?”
My father sat on a bench nearby, sensing that the discussion could stretch a little longer than he had imagined in his head. With a smile on his face, he started again “How much does your maa earn?”
“And how much do I earn right now?”
“You are not earning anything right now papa.”
“How much do you earn beta?”
“₹ 3000, papa”
“And how much do I earn?”
“I told you na, abhi you are not earning anything, you are helping maa and taking care of us”
“So, I being a man, am not earning anything right now but you two being women are earing and helping the house run, right?
“Yes, but the point is…”
He continued in middle “The point is that money isn’t your life. Anyone can earn money from any point in their lives as per their own wish. Teachers at your school are mostly women, right? They are earning well! Maids at our houses are all women, they are helping their house run smoothly or maybe they are solely managing their houses. So first of all, money doesn’t make you superior or inferior. Did you not love your maa a year back when she wasn’t earning anything or do you not love me now because I am not earning at this point?”
“So? Since when did money become so important? We both can earn a lot together, but do you want pocket money or a parent with you when you come home, someone to give you food, ask you about your day, help you with your school, make you a better person? Money helps you live your life easily, buys you bread and butter, pays your school fees, but people make your life better, they make you want to live in the first place. When you have a life, only then will you want to make it easy.”
I was listening to him with full attention when he said “I know where are you coming from, there have been good people and there have been bad kind. Men can cheat and leave, so can women and we all know examples of both. If a man behaves badly, you want to replace them by being like them. Does it make sense? Aren’t some women bad too? Don’t you know good men? And count the good ones and the bad ones right now. Who wins?”
“So? Think about men, they don’t generally have an option whether to earn or not. They have to figure out things, no matter how. Isn’t that unfair to have that responsibility? Women have a choice to earn or to not earn, do men have the luxury of such choice? Should men crib and cry for that like women do?”
“So there shouldn’t be equality?” I asked.
“Equal human rights, yes! Right to live, right to resources, right to access to things, etc, definitely, yes!”
“So why is there reservation for women if they want equality?”
“A woman body is different from a man’s body, right?”
“You have stomach aches on some days, right?”
Hesitatingly I said “Yes”
“Does any of your male friends suffer from such an issue?”
Now I become shy at such questions which indirectly talks about menstruation. I know, infact we all know that our fathers and brothers have bought sanitary napkins for us when our mothers force them to bring it from the medical shop, but you become awkward for some reason.
“No” I replied.
“Look, the body is different and so is the basic nature. It is a beautiful difference. Cherish it. Women suffers more because of knee and joint pains than men because the way women are made, their calcium and iron levels in blood fluctuates and reduces more than men. So there is a reservation for women in buses and elsewhere. If in a bus, you find someone in pain, don’t you stand up and offer your seat to them?”
“So when everyone is aware of the difference and issues women face, isn’t it basic courtesy of everyone to give them seat or reservation so that they don’t have to tell anyone about their aches and discomfort everytime? But ofcourse, there is use and misuse of everything. If you aren’t sick and an ill man stands in front of you, shouldn’t you offer your seat to them?”
Papa gets up with the same smile on his face and said “World is a beautiful place, embrace the differences, and feel blessed for what you have rather than looking at someone else’s plate and thinking that they have got better than you. Life is not fair. It’s not meant to be. Learn to embrace it rather than complaining. If it was fair, why would some be handicapped since birth and you be privileged with your healthy body and mind? If life was fair, doesn’t everyone have a right to be born with the same economic and social status? Whenever there is an accident of an emergency, all you hear is save the women, save the children, save the elderly people. Have you ever heard anyone say – save the men first? But they aren’t cribbing for the evident bias. They are also human, they are also working for the family, they are also earning, they also have feelings. So why do you save them last? Why don’t you respect their share of hard work and sacrifices? Just because they are not yelling with banners in hand, they don’t deserve equality?”
And I smiled. So did my papa. It was a smile of understanding where I understood what my father was trying to teach me and he understood that I was becoming an adult and was starting to face life. On our way back, we just walked silently absorbing the things we just talked about.