Tag Archives: father

Celebrating women for a day

Here is an article I wrote for Hindustan Times a couple of years ago. For my readers in India, let me know if things have changed for the better on the streets, in the houses, at work …

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In 1909 some women textile workers in New York went on strike. After thirteen weeks of relentless opposition they won for themselves shorter working hours, better pay and a right to unionize. This uprising in those bleak times was recognized by marking March 8 as International Women’s Day.

One day out of 365 to appreciate women and all they do.

It wasn’t till Ponds’ publicized the celebrations on the telly did I come to know of the festivities across the globe. I felt happy. Here I was, a sixteen year old studying in an all girls’ institution exchanging spirited Archie’s cards on a solemn occasion. The significance of the day for me? We got free candies!

Apart from that one treat, everything else remained the same. I carried the same 4-kilo bag to school. I attended the same boring chemistry and physics lectures. I came back home to have the same daal-roti. And ended the day doing the same math homework.

Was it any different for my mom? Not with her nine-to-five office routine and household chores. She even wondered aloud while watching TV one day, “What’s all the fuss about?”

And really, what is it about this one day that is so special for you and me? Is it that the male species puts a pause on violating women on this particular day? Is it that women are spared obnoxious looks or comments while crossing streets? Do men stop touching us without our consent in crowded buses and trains? Are we given the dignity we have a right to at our workplace or our homes? Are we taken seriously, even if for a day?

Or really is it just a symbolic day to continue the fight that was started a century ago?

And what happens the morning after? You browse through your newspaper and find coverage on demonstrations for women’s rights, inaugurations of women’s exhibitions, celebration of the spirit of being a woman! And right beside these extensively glorified news items there’s a small nondescript column – 16-year-old gang raped in Satoha district.

Seven years hence television channels continue to celebrate the ongoing struggle of women in every corner of the world. I feel sad.

Who needs a reason?

I, for one, do not need a day to make me feel special. I know I am.

I do not want to be treated like a queen for a mere 24 hours. I rule my world every day and I do it with pride.

I do not demand respect at work or at home as an excuse on 8th March. I deserve it each day.

I do not want equality for I am not competing. I know I am superior. And this I say on the basis of my stronger genetic make up.

I do not want any honors bestowed upon me to mark an occasion. I am a woman – and that’s honor enough.

Maybe we could just do away with International Women’s Day and institute an International Men’s Day. Father’s Day sure has its contenders but what about a day that recognizes men, regardless of their paternal status? I wonder why we don’t have one date set aside to celebrate the spirit of “manhood”? Or is it that men can be celebrated only when they become fathers?

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I am my own woman

We were newlyweds at the Lucknow airport checking in for our flight to New Delhi, onwards to San Francisco — we had been assigned seats a couple of rows away from each other, so we requested to be seated together. The agent refused. “You don’t have the same last names,” he said.

Wait. What?

I was still wearing the traditional new bride jewelry (the red and white bangles being the most distinct give-away) and despite repeated attempts at clarifying we were husband and wife and I had opted to retain my maiden name, he wouldn’t budge. Finally he called his supervisor. I, in turn, called my dad, who had come to see us off, to vouch for our matrimonial status.

After half an hour of back and forth, we finally got adjoining seats.

It was bizarre.

Two years later we made our first trip back as a married couple. During the last leg of the flight, the attendant asked my husband what he wanted to drink. He said, “Coke” and the attendant moved on. I turned to my husband and asked, “What about me?” He gave me a blank look and shrugged. I shouted “excuse me” a couple of times, but apparently it didn’t register. A couple of minutes later, the attendant got my husband and me the same drink.

I don’t drink Coke. So, I said to him — “I didn’t ask for this. In fact, you never asked me what I wanted!” He immediately shot back, “He is your husband. I assumed you’d drink the same thing as him!”

(Needless to say, we’re never flying Air India again.)

And I was treated like this during our entire stay — we were in Rajasthan for a week and the auto-drivers wouldn’t negotiate with me … they would only talk to my husband. The locals we engaged with would see through me. Some even gave me the look that said loud and clear “Shut up!”

I felt suffocated. And offended. Here in my own country, I had no voice. And I realized that all these years, I had only been my father’s daughter. When he “gave me away” on my wedding day, I became my husband’s wife.

That was all there was. My identity as an individual was determined by whom I belonged to.

For 21 years, my parents had sheltered me from the sexist attitudes of the relatively small town we lived in. The two times I stepped out of the house (once to do a year-long computer course and the second time for my job), I lived in the metros — Delhi and Bombay seemed to treat independent, working women with a tad more respect. Or so I felt in my limited experiences.

But having been exposed to life in the States where I was known for my work, respected for my professionalism, and recognized as “bright young asset” to my team, gender aside, going back in that environment made me realize how good women have it here. Here I have my own identity, my own place, my own voice. Decisions aren’t made for me and people acknowledge me as an individual.

I am valued for who I am, not the family I come from or the guy I married.

And heck, why do I have to be the only one to “belong”? Just as my husband married me, I married him. So, he “owns” me as much me as I own him.

And my name is a big part of my identity, just as his is for him.

I don’t necessarily claim to be a feminist, but it feels demeaning to me to be discounted just because by accident of birth I happen to be a female. I, too, have a place in this world. My place. My status. My identity.

I take pride in being a spirited individual and want to be recognized such. So what if I am a woman?

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P.S. I thank my parents and my husband — the former for raising me to be a self-respecting person and the latter for bolstering my confidence.

Submitted as a non competitive entry for Indus Ladies International Women’s Day blog contest.


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