To the women in my life

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To the women in my life,

There are those who are remembered for their memorable work; work which has gone down in history. Frankly, history was never my forte. I am writing today to commemorate, to praise the memorable work of those whom I will always remember. I do not need world history for that. They are those who are a part of MY history. And that’s all that matters most. Knowledge is subjective; one can choose the information they want to assimilate. It is, hence, vulnerable to filtration. Perhaps that is why education at its earliest stages is consistent – to ensure you do not overlook the basics in your search for the specific.

I always complained to my Father about what the school thought was the necessary basic education. I had different views. As much as I wanted to study that water has the molecular formula – H2O, I wanted to be taught how to write a check (cheque). As much as centrifugal force intrigued me, I wanted to learn how to drive. As much as I wanted to learn how to invite a friend over for a birthday party, in both, English and Hindi, believe me, I would have appreciated being taught how to write a follow-up email after giving a job interview. I am unsure if I wasn’t paying attention at school but I know that all of the above, I learnt outside of it. My idea of schooling was different. It still is.

So, what did I learn and from whom?

The person I am today is either because of society or because of my stance against it. There are always two sides and you take the best from both. There are many things I find unfair and hence my disapproval toward it. That brings me to all the teachers in my life. We learn through our senses and I learn through observation. I have been observing my Mother, my teachers, my friends. I have seen what they do under an array of circumstances, emulate and improvise upon that. And I am glad that I had/have them in my life to teach me.

One of my teachers is my dear dear friend Ms. Apoorva Mandhani. And the other, who is a part of the same breath, the same heartbeat, Ms. Darshana Mishra. Their opinions matter to me, in a way that I can’t describe. I was once told that friends and family differ in importance. I understand. But importance is not the common measure here. My parents are first in rank under a different category altogether. I know that ultimately it is a joint discussion between the three of us – my nuclear family – that leads to most decisions. Also, many a times, I have done what I’ve felt is right because my family has given me the freedom and my friends have shown me how. I am not talking about importance or who comes first. I am saying they are important. Period.

Why the sudden confession of deepest admiration? It is because of a short story Apoorva insisted I read. By Chimamanda Agozi Adichie, “We Should All be Feminists”, is a story that not only explains the term “feminism” but also tells you how to incorporate that. And I would like to thank Apoorva for the same. Also, would like to mention how much I admire her for introducing me to such things.

You know what’s funny? She herself was introduced to that text by a man. So, awareness exists! Oddly consoling. The fact that that’s a consoling idea is ultimately sad. Equality should be a norm, like calling morning, morning. It should come naturally.

If I ever am asked about the situations I felt I was treated unfairly, was spoken to derogatorily or treated condescendingly, not because I deserved it as a human, but more so because I am a woman, the ear the interviewer would have to lend me should have to be a Nobel Laureate – a recipient of the Nobel Patience Prize.

Yes, I have been told it is my fault that I was looked at. I invited it all upon myself. Apparently, telepathy exists but has been wired to interpret a mental “no” as a “yes”. I cringe at the thought of who has told me that it was my fault. I am disappointed that I have never been able to correct their perception. I failed them because even though I have learnt a lot from them, in other respects, I could not impart a concept I believe in, to them. They are my friends, but I did not do my job as a friend. I apologize.

Yes, I have been told that I am 22 years old and that I should start looking to settle down in a couple of years. Yes! I have been told that if I want to continue studying, I should look for a man who will allow me to do so. I cringe at the thought of not only having to possibly share the bed with a human, whose “permission” will decide my future, but also at the thought of who has told me that that is what marriage is. I failed them because even though I have learnt a lot from them, I could not impart a concept I believe in. It is always my choice, my wish. If I have to take my future husband’s permission for anything, and I say permission, not opinion, then it will be ME who will either allow him or ground him to or from going to a party. I will decide if he can continue working or not. I will decide if his mother can stay with us or not. I will decide if he is allowed to be satisfied or not. Unfair? Who am I to control him? Well, who is he to control me? I am thankful to my parents for showing me that marriage is a two-way street and it is a mutual compromise. I am not saying I am all about the “I”; I understand it is a “we” but I prefer “you and I”.

Yes, I have been told that my bill will be paid for me. The actual phrase is, “the one who invites should offer to pay.” It so happens, that is almost always the case. So, I don’t pay. I will always offer to split, but the choice is actually up to the other person. You take the offer or you leave it. You offer to buy me a drink, I’ll say yes if I please, no if I don’t. If I say yes, don’t bring feminism into the picture. It was a question, respect my positive answer. I was never going to judge you for not spending on me. Come up to me and talk. The conversation is what I will remember, not the bill you paid; not the money you flaunted.

Yes, I have been told that it is easy for me. After all, I can get married and that should take care of me – financially or in any other way. Isn’t that sad? Apparently, I sat with the boys in the classroom to different end results! One shall receive a bonus at work, but my future financial security is the  gold that the bonus will buy. I went through the grind of education to see a man with the same degree, off to work, and to see my degree on the matrimonial resume, being evaluated if I am worthy enough to be ground, albeit differently.

I must admit – I do not know what feminism exactly is. I must admit, I utilize my femininity as a mean to my ends. If I call myself a hard-core feminist, you will tag me as a hypocrite. But what you fail to realize is that I do so because it is hard to be a woman in a man’s world. It is hard to stand up for yourself, with the fear of being abused. The day that changes, I promise, I will too.

And that is why this post for the women in my life. I know I have company when I rant about the troubles I face due to gender inequality. My company is the group of women in my life. And I am glad and grateful that they are there. They support me and introduce me to ideologies worth holding on to. They show me how to do it and that’s how I’ve learnt.

The conclusion is, there isn’t a conclusion. There is only a solution. A lifelong debate, the competition of men v/s women, requires a solution, not a conclusion.

“I went to play hide-and-seek.”

“I read this book today.”

“I nearly slept in the history class.”

“I took the GRE, I’m going to America.”

“I met this person and I think I like them.”

“I got the job!”

“I think my boss hates me.”

“I lost the promotion to the other contender.”

“I am getting married.”

“I must take care of my parents.”

“We’re pregnant!”

“I’m considering taking up teaching.”

“The baby is crying, diaper change?”

“It is time to give our daughter away in marriage.”

“I spoke to the Doctor, they said I have Cancer.”

“I’ve had a full life.”

Did you guess which gender spoke the above lines? Are the primary experiences different? The path of life, different?

“She should not wear such clothes.”

“He touched her? She should not have been alone in the room with him.”

“Why was she out this late? No doubt she was gang raped. She invited trouble for herself.”

“You need not go abroad to study. We’ll find you a suitable boy to take you there.”

“Settle down, your biological clock is ticking.”

“Do not enter the temple, you are impure.”

“You are not a virgin? Oh, I ‘made love’ to 10 different women, but you are not a virgin?”

“I lost the promotion to this guy at work.”

“I feel like my presence in the creative team is just symbolic.”

“I think you should resign and take care of the house.”

“Why do you want to eat out? Didn’t you cook?”

“I don’t think you should take this job, I work here and can’t move.”

This is how a woman’s experiences, on the same path of life, are different.

This is still about the women in my life. I see them deal with this and succeed. I have nothing but pride in my heart and mind, for them. I am in awe. I admire them. They have broken the norm and have taught me how. My Mother was the breadwinner of her own family. She earned more than my Father once upon a time. My Father taught me that there are real men in this world, because he was okay with that. There wasn’t an issue at all.

I am the son and the daughter in my small nuclear family. But why be two different things? I am the offspring, the ward, the child. No need for a gender classification. I will take care of my parents, settle down in life and live. Boy or a girl, this is what a human actually does. I’m human. I’m proudly a human woman. That does not change anything. The sooner both sexes understand this, the sooner everyone becomes a feminist, sooner we all become anti-sexist, the better for humanity, as a whole.

Dhwani Hariharan

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all the beautiful, strong WOMEN out there. Happy brewing, happy reading! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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