Wednesday, March 11, 2015

I am India's Daughter and this is MY story

Today I read a blog with the same title and thought, why not continue this like a chain. Let every India's daughter have a say... good or bad. We all have experiences that count to make it the country that it is. I also read today about how an Indian student was not accepted to a research course because he comes from the "Indian rape culture". I also read today about some money exchange between Leslee Udwin, the Ford Foundation, the rapist on death row etc. I have been reading for some days stories from both sides of the coin- the people who believe the documentary is all well and those who think it is, even if in part, unfair to Indians to be portrayed thus to the world. 
Cant say I care about the ban. The ban means anyone with access to social media can watch the documentary, but the man (or woman) who, may be, needs a mirror put up in front of his/her soul, will not be able to watch it and be shamed. The victims parents deserve to have their story told. The victim deserves to be known as a symbol  of the modern Indian woman stepping out of boundaries to face the world with head held high. The growing tree cut down too soon, brutally. The ban is totally misplaced.
What is required is a balanced counter view, to say to the world that the documentary is one sided. Very one sided. The story of the friend who got beaten up, and stood by the victim till help arrived... who tried everything he could till the end, that didnt catch the world's imagination. He is an Indian Man too.
So this is my story.
I am the elder of two sisters. My grandmother, a double MA, taught me there was science behind every tradition, whether it is fasting, or not entering the puja room during ones periods. Only we make a tradition into a hard and fast rule, is what I learnt. Once one sees the base science behind it, one can make a decision about following a rule or not. My grandfather was the one who told me, an idol is a doll till it is worshipped and life is breathed into it. Again, this gave us sisters the freedom to choose to follow our own spiritual paths; even though our family is very religious, we both turned out to be black sheep in this respect. Not that all was rosy, my grandparents were huge traditionalists. But they gave us enough brain fodder to question those traditions ourselves.
My parents were not trying to bring us up like sons. And neither were they trying to bring us up like daughters. We were just children, and not once did I feel otherwise. We were taught to play sports AND to sing. To cycle AND to draw. It did not enter our minds till puberty that we were girls and should or should not behave in a certain way. We were groomed to become engineers, only neither of us wanted that.
I had cousin brothers with whom I played rough and tumble from childhood. My elder cousin taught me to ride a bike... in secret, so he wouldnt be scolded. When I fell and scraped my knee and his bike was dented, we cooked up stories and laughed about them.  My younger cousin brother knew I was better than him in writing and knew he was better than me in chess. My elder brother who joined the army is still my hero, who always told me the world was my oyster and I should never 'settle'! There was never any sense of privilege in any brother or sister as we grew up. We were all equal in each others eyes. At least I never felt otherwise. 
Growing up in a coeducation environment, I have had friends who were boys, from my childhood and I still do. Never once did I feel unequal to them. The competition was fierce during exams between close friends. If one got better marks at one subject I had to get better in another. And no, math or literature was not part of that equation. 
My college friends were as much there to smoke together in the common room, as they were to protect us returning very late at night from the college fest. My boss right now runs a company overridden by women, and has always championed equality in the workplace.
Today I have a daughter of my own and I feel hurt when I see her surroundings so full of sexism and chavinism. We strive to tell her every day that she can do whatever she puts her mind to, NOT whatever a boy can. We dont want her to realise she is a girl till she attains puberty. She should play football as well as with her barbie dolls. Maths is her favourtie subject.
Today I just work part time to take care of our child in an alien city. My husband would be happiest if I were the bread earner and he could play a more inclusive role in his daughters upbringing. By the way, he would never enter the kitchen, but he never asks me to, either. He does not wash his clothes but he does not want me washing clothes either. It is not my JOB to do the housekeeping or the laundry. Its just the roles we have assumed because his career went way better than mine. He would suck at housework, I do very well in it thank you. And in our long time together, there has been no discussions about what clothes I wear, where I go for work or to unwind, or about changing my surname. Not once, not ever.
Only when I am late, he wants me to call and tell him how i am returning, give him the taxi number and details. In school, my dad threw a fit if I returned after 9 pm. As a young woman, my male friends I would be out with, wanted every girl to inform them of the taxi or auto registration number and sometimes the drivers name. Every male friend would walk me to the bus stop and see me safely inside the metro. My boss would never allow me to go home in an unregistered cab even if it meant I would have to wait till midnight till someone was available to drop me.
Which brings me to the point of the documentary. There are people out there who we have to stay safe from. Any woman who travels by public transport would have at least one horror story to relate, as have I. They are there in every country, every city. In a male dominated society, where most men see their women being mistreated from their childhood, economic hardships mean they become hardened criminals with inhuman, twisted, abnormal mindsets. Maybe this country has hundreds of men like that.
But there are also hundreds of men who protest in the street shoulder to shoulder with their female counterparts in Delhi or Mumbai. There are those men who wear skirts to show solidarity with women in Bangalore. There are students in Kolkata who overthrow deans in protest against their friend being molested. There are those men living in slums who work double shifts to educate their daughters in English medium schools (yes, my maid's husband does). For every man who beats his wife there are five who encourage them to finish their education.
It is not that we should not weed out the scum. Shame the wrong doers, the wrong thinkers, punish them. Hang the monsters out there twice over. But for the sake of my father, brothers, male friends, husband and thousands like them in this country, dont create propaganda that says, even covertly, every man is like THIS or like THAT. This country does not need another ban. This country needs to change  mindsets, one chauvinist-misogynist at a time. This country needs to weed out the thought that a daughter is ill fate, that a woman not in the house is a threat to their manhood and power, and that requires not just education... that needs upliftment of a whole section of society from the degrading poverty they are living in.