Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A few good men

I am, and always will be a staunch feminist. But I am also traditional in many ways, rooted and God fearing. And as I grow older, I see the lines between the binary blurring, with many more shades of grey than just fifty. It is difficult being a woman in India, but it is not easy being a man either. And while feminism is a great ideal to pursue, we must not forget to acknowledge the good men who stand by us, and help us in our fight for gender equality.

I have, for long, been itching to write my views on feminism, but given that there are so many written already about it, I feel this is something that takes precedence over it. We feminists don't acknowledge our men enough. And that is not nice of us. It doesn't do us much good.

I was raised by two very educated parents who were working full-time. We always had the luxury of a cook and a cleaner at home. My mother, though a good cook, was not expected to spend long hours in the kitchen. If the cook was on leave, everyone pitched in, including my father. He used to make the most scrumptious breakfast, and would gladly be our teacher in the kitchen. On days when my mother had to leave early for work, he would patiently braid our hair, which were very long BTW, and make sure our tiffins were packed. Many times, he would attend to his patients with our younger brother sitting on his lap. He was super proud of his girls, who were star performers at school, and he never had a doubt that we would be career women. He would wake up at 5 am many days to tutor us, and emphasized that getting an education was top priority. He ensured that meals were served on the table, and talked to us about our day, about science, about the news, about religion and philosophy. Since we are practicing Sikhs, there was never any restriction on our entering a place of worship. Menstruation was not a taboo subject, and I always told him upfront the exact reason why I was feeling unwell. I feel lucky and privileged when I say, that he had as much contribution in my upbringing as my mother.

It should not take you long to realise that this is an unusual kind of a father by Indian standards. Most fathers in India contribute little to the house except bringing a paycheque. It dawned on me pretty late that my friends and colleagues weren't raised by men who believed in gender equality, and this was an exception rather than a norm.

In a country ridden by sexism and patriarchy, in which women are as guilty (or even more) than men, in keeping it alive, must we not be grateful for the good men? Must we not acknowledge their contribution in our lives. There are many things that privileged feminists take for granted, and easily dis, and it's not doing them any good. Don't get me wrong, I have been careless too, for I didn't know that the things that I thought were normal, others had a hard time perceiving.

It's only when I came in contact with women from myriad backgrounds that I realised how tough life is for most women in India. Despite being educated, a lot of the women aren't able to pursue a career or chase their dreams, because their husbands don't allow them to. Of course, independent women don't need anyone's permission, but how good can life be if two people living under a roof disagree all the time. Imagine how miserable my gynaecologist mother would have been if my father insisted that she always cook him three hot meals a day, or that braiding hair was not a man's job. Not even once in her life was my mother told that she couldn't have the keys to his cupboard, a reality that millions of women live with everyday. I was aghast the first time I got to know that men like this exist. The petty things they do to feel powerful, and suppress their wives. Most women have no say in the financial decisions of the house, even if they are earning themselves, and a vast majority are expected to provide details of how each penny is spent. Men portray themselves as Gods for being the 'breadwinners', while the women are treated no better than a bonded labourer. Many deal with domestic violence on a regular basis.

There was a recent post on the 'Humans of Bombay' in which the lady questions why does the society place men on a higher pedestal? As she rightly says, the husband is as responsible for the child's upbringing as she is. But you see, the truth is, it takes a good man, a courageous man, in a patriarchal society, who will agree to attend a PTA meeting, which has traditionally been the mothers' domain. If he got a round of applause from the other mothers, he deserved it. For, just like it takes a woman of grit to foray into a man's world, it takes a man of substance to foray into a woman's world. Please applaud him. Encourage him. So that others around him feel encouraged to do the same. So that he has something to look up to when someone shamelessly calls him 'Joru ka ghulam'. Why must we not be grateful that men like him exist?

So, my dear ladies, if you are a homemaker who is loved and respected by her husband for her contribution to the house, please acknowledge the good man. If you are a career woman, who can balance work and family with the support of her spouse, please take a moment to know how lucky you are. If you are a young girl who is encouraged to pursue her dreams by her father, please be grateful for his presence in your life. For it is good men like these who are helping us in making gender equality a reality. For these are the men who help lay the foundations of a society in which feminism is not a bad word.

With love and thanks to the three most important men in my life - Papa, VA, and PJ. Who have been real pillars of support, and never questioned my choices in life, no matter how ridiculous they seem.

Love,
H




14 comments:

  1. Very well written, beta and I must say kudos to your father and must say I am proud of my son.The way he is helping you to pursue ur dream and the kind of father he is...is amazing and worth mentioning.
    One comment for those who you think are suffering..slowly and patiently try to change the situation you are in. Put ur foot down where need b but don't over react for u want to or listen to ,to a so called feminist.with my experience in life I can say u can achieve what u want ,without overreacting,if u have the will amd patience.life is adjustment for both male and female..or u can say..wife and husband, after all.
    Proud of you harkeerat for appreciating the important people in this journey called life..
    Very very well written..
    Bless you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words and comments ma. You are an inspiration to all of us. Blessed to have you in our lives

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  2. Very well written harkeerat....this article is an eye opener for me....blessed to have a life partner who has always held women in high esteem...would aim to raise my son in same fashion who will want to grow up as a man who holds respect for all rather being just a perfectionist...

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    1. Thank you Divya. It is a blessing indeed. And proud of moms like you who strive to raise good sons.

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  3. Very well written harkeerat....this article is an eye opener for me....blessed to have a life partner who has always held women in high esteem...would aim to raise my son in same fashion who will want to grow up as a man who holds respect for all rather being just a perfectionist...

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  4. Very well written Harkeerat. I have been feeling an overdoze of these " open letters" going on from different planets;) and your write up is indeed a breath of fresh air. I agree that its a much needed and necessary revolution in support of women but it looks rediculiously fanatic when they fight over home maker vs breadwinner..which mom is perfect! Well just saying:p

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    1. Yes indeed Deepa, even more ridiculous are the crazy definitions they keep adding, like the right to show bra straps. Such things are trivialising the great goal of feminism, and turning it into something laughable.

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  5. I think the three men in every woman's life father, brother and husband play a very important role.If you have caring father,supporting brother and loving husband your lifeboat will sail smoothly through the live ocean.God bless you.

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    1. All said and written....u definitely are a special father and person, dr saheb.I always hold you in high esteem....Hats off you.

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  6. Thank you Papa for everything :)

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  7. Very well written beta. This is a remarkable article from you.
    Living a good life with your family is the greatest happiness one can get.

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    1. Thank you ma. You have always been our best friend and guide. Thanks to you and Papa :)

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  8. The most perfect person in the eyes of kids is the person who gives regards to their mother.It all started from your father who was always supporting your mother & the image was builtup in your mind from early childhood.You are lucky enough that your parents also came from the same broughtup as yours & hence tradition continued.I wish this tradition continues in each family.Very well written Harkeerat.u

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