Monday, July 31, 2017

Behind the veil of tradition

The series of incidents I will narrate henceforth, are all isolated. Some of them may even appear to be lighthearted in nature. But the reason I am going to narrate these incidents here is provoke some thought in the readers’ mind. The incidents so to speak, are a recollection of a person I know, but it could be any of us, or all of us.

First, some facts...
  • The person in this narrative is a woman
  • Lives in the tech-capital of India
  • Owns multiple pets
  • Prefers an asocial lifestyle
  • The city in question is supposedly a great place for women to thrive as most people are well educated and from decent families

About a year ago, during an official dinner, her colleague made a remark in passing which had a sexist undertone. When she tried to discuss the matter further, bang came the formidable F word. Are you one of the feminist types? - was the question. Turns out, Feminist is the most dreaded F word of our generation, even more than the other four letter F word.

A year on, another official gathering, mostly comprising of men. Well, to put things into perspective, she was the only woman in the gathering. In an attempt to humour the guests of honour, one of the colleagues quipped that the city they live in has weather just like a girlfriend aka unpredictable. To this, the married guest of honour quipped that the weather of his hometown is like a wife aka hot and humid. While she did have a comeback on the tip of her tongue, the distastefulness of the entire conversation left her muted. She could have retorted saying that the city they were in has the climate like an engineer’s career. As distasteful as the others’ remarks, and below the belt. That could get her tag of “a bitch,” wouldn’t you agree?

A colleague at work boasting about her cab driver’s driving prowess. How wonderful that he manages to get her home faster than other drivers as he’s swift, even on the wrong side! But the other day, they got stuck bumper-to-bumper with another car coming from the opposite direction. She (the colleague) was aghast because the car on the opposite side (read the right side) was being driven by a woman. Now, how can a woman drive at all, leave alone driving on the right side of the road?

And then the mass-molestation incident happened in some city on the New Year’s Eve. How could those women be wearing whatever they were wearing (nobody knows what they were in fact wearing), and how could they be so drunk (again, nobody knows if they were drunk at all) was the collective question asked. Men will be men after all!
This woman in question has more than a couple of pets to make her house a home. She is regularly asked a nagging question, “where will you leave your pets when you get married?” Is that even a valid question is what she wonders. Why is a woman expected to leave her life behind if she gets married? Her mother has a bigger worry of how will she find a partner with all these pets at all? Men apparently don’t appreciate women who have pets, or life of their own.

On a given Monday, one of her colleagues was asked by another, “how was your weekend, bro?” To which, his riposte was, “Oh! Married men don’t have any weekend.” Needless to say, the comeback was collectively lauded. The women who overheard this conversation were left wondering who will take a note of the man-babies. The ones who can’t find a missing pair of sock without crying for help from their ever-caring mothers and/or wives. But no, women who talk about these matters are tagged as “cribbing wives”. How can a devoted wife complain about her husband not being responsible for his health? Tch!!

And then one day, this woman did something unimaginable. She chopped off her long manes and showed up at work with a cropped look. Want to guess the best question that was thrown at her? “Have you joined some sort of women’s liberation association?” While she was expecting, and did get questions like, “did you have a breakup?” this question took the cake. She did retort saying that she doesn’t need to join any association as she is the association.

The best incident of all is yet to follow. During a general discussion around the festivities of Diwali, a colleague mentioned how he was stuck as the only “boy” in the girlish task of painting Rangoli in a group of girls.

For the uninitiated (read international) audience, Rangoli is a form of traditional art painted at the threshold of Indian households during major festivals like Deepawali. Some households in India follow the tradition of painting Rangoli every day, although the tradition is slowly dying as the women of the household are getting busier in their life, professional as well as personal. Why women you ask? Well, read on…

On being asked to define stuck, he retorted saying that it is a women’s thing to do. Upon being further questioned as to did he lose his moustache, the visible sign of masculinity, in the process of painting Rangoli, he walked back to his workstation and sent a Wikipedia link. On being asked about the context of that link, he responded saying that “traditionally” it is supposed to be done by women. What ensued was a long discussion on tradition vs progress. On being schooled about patriarchy, the same young man denied having any knowledge of patriarchy in Indian society. He went on to say that what she was talking about might be from some other civilization but he is absolutely not part of that civilization. On being asked if he agrees with the caste system as well, since it stems from the same tradition, he absolutely refused.

A while ago, a friend and I were talking about feminism and patriarchy, and he made a beautiful point that all the isms aside, we should strive to be progressive. The friend in question is someone that I refer to as a closeted feminist, for a progressive society gives equal right to all participants, and the freedom of choice too.

For the flag bearers of patriarchy in the guise of traditionalism fail to realise that this patriarchy is killing their fellow brothers too. It is same set of men who visit other countries and come back whining about the tradition of racism. It is the same patriarchy that is keeping so many men from following their dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, a painter, a cook, a homemaker. It is thanks to this patriarchy, that there are so many gays in our society, married to the opposite sex and leading dual lives.

And so we continue watching the charade of #SelectiveTolerance.

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