Monday, March 7, 2011

Toasting Men

My grandmother was a fairly liberated woman of her age. She did not fall into the category of the Khadi clad freedom fighters like some of her aunts, though she was nation conscious; she was not educated beyond high school, though there were women graduates in those days; she was not allowed a career of her own, though she was economically provided for on par with the men in her family.

Yet to me she was an emancipated woman. She had a fair share of say in the affairs concerning the family. She was never forced into subjugation nor humiliated within the family. She was loved and respected and she lived with dignity.

I know I sound dubious and hypocritical. Yes, she was confined within a system. She was not allowed to become a lawyer like her father and grandfather before her. She was married off at a ridiculously early age. But she was never allowed to be felt inferior to a man in any other way. She was always valued as a person, both in her family of birth and that into which she was married.

To a majority of women today this is not emancipation – simply not enough in life. But then, there are perhaps infinite definitions of emancipation. One woman’s target may be bizarrely high or incredulously low for another woman.  What works for one need not for another.  And yet we find that all of us who belong to the sisterhood are in a constant attempt, whether feeble or massive, to enhance our status as women, i.e., to enforce our presence only as EQUALS. 

In this effort of being an equal, some of us are luckier than others, and it is perhaps not altogether prudent to pat our own backs. For change in such cases is not immediate, nor does it happen in isolation.
Here I feel we should thank those men who have eagerly tried to help us. But more importantly we should also thank in all earnest, those men who have stood back passively and made a breach in the wall through which more of us could enter where we want to be.

My great- great- grandfather, the legendary lawyer of our family, at least stood back when my grandmother decided to educate herself further, much later in life; he stood back and she enabled her daughter and granddaughters to realize what she dreamed for herself.

My Toast: “To all men who understand and support us.
Also, to all those men who understand us but simply stand back,
not tugging us in when we are dancing forward towards equality and dignity.”

Celebrating with a Bang

Last night was one of the worst nights of my life. My niece was born. NO!!NO!! That’s not why the night was worse than bad. On the contrary it was truly one of the most exciting days of my life. A baby – soft, sweet and most cuddly; a girl, taking on my role in the family in the next generation; and the pleasure of a new born in the family without me having to go through the pangs, pains and phews of motherhood. 
All day long my excitement was beyond control. Night set in finally and being over excited as I was, I prolonged the curfew hour for myself; the rest of the household was asleep. Just when I was about to drift off to wherever we drift to when sleeping, I realized I was not the only one celebrating.

“Pom Pom Pom Pom”: the ungainly, embarrassing and hilarious sound that accompanies a ‘baaraat’ in Delhi. So somebody was getting married. Well, good for them; wish them all the luck and happiness. But hold on. It was nearing 1o’clock in the night. Euphoric, irritated and generous at the same time, I thought the over excited family might be forgiven a few minutes of loudness. After all it’s providing the high they needed to enter into an alliance. Not everybody downs the essential peg.

POM POM POM POM. The music was getting louder. It was definitely disturbing, but then this is Delhi, so you just get used to it. Fireworks!! Now that’s where my ‘friend of the environment’ consciousness was irked.  Wasn’t it enough that we pollute the already chocking air during Diwali? If the denizens of our dense country were all to announce their holy matrimony with pollutants, our air would be denser than densest.

 “Oh, please” I could hear sneering voices. “Don’t be such a party dampener, how many times does one get married?” Er, mostly, only once. “Moreover it’s the environment ministry’s concern. Not ours,” Now many other sneering voices had joined the first sneering enthusiast. So fine, crackers!! Conceded.

 Ha! Ha!!  Now what? Murphy’s law is definitely unavoidable. ???? The Loud Disturbing marriage troupe wasn’t moving away!!! A traffic jam?  No, the party seemed to have lost their way. They rallied to and fro on the same road for more than 20 minutes; hovering over every inch of the road for the same amount of time …they must be arguing and deciding over the right road to choose.

And just when I thought the bandwale couldn’t humanly continue playing ‘music’ {a word used only as a substitute for a worse descriptive that might invariably hurt the sneering enthusiasts’ sentiments} any more, they seemed to have fallen collectively into some kind of frenzy. The kind that we see in the South Indian “Ammavari Jaataralu.” Or maybe it was their answer to high tempo remix.

And with all this frenzy of celebration, loud and incessant outside on the road, and calm and softer inside my home, I was only praying that my children don’t wake up disturbed, and decide to replicate the example for celebration set by the marriage brigade to announce the arrival of their cute cousin.

My prayer:

Thank you God
For the world so beautiful
May all children have pleasant dreams
May all parents have restful sleep
May the neighborhood have noiseless nights
May the denizens have better social consciousness
May your Divine Justice be more immediate
Or else
May you endow us
With more patience and trust [in you]