A story of love, loss and second chances by Nikita Singh, releasing this Valentine’s Day.
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That rare species – an Indian man who is enlightened enough to own the atrocities committed by men on women through the ages, and apologizes for it!
There has been a reluctance on my part whenever I am tempted or prompted to write about women. Being a middle class Indian man in his early twenties who has been brought up in a town far away from the metros, I have struggled with my own inhibitions, most of which were and still are about women. I mean, what do I write about women? More importantly, do I deserve to make a comment about women, given the country and community of men I belong to?
Let me narrate a recent scene from my life. I was in my village to attend a thread ceremony. The two little boys with their heads shaved and kohl in their eyes sat silently inside the pavilion, as perplexed as they could be, looking at their father and the priest. Outside, on the porch, around fifty men of all ages sat on red plastic chairs with their eyes fixed towards a makeshift stage. A man wearing red pants and yellow shirt was addressing them.
One by one five female performers came and entertained them over the next hour. The performances were uncomfortable to watch and the crowd reaction was lewd at best. Meanwhile, the two boys, hardly five years old, with their heads shaved and kohl in their eyes were done with their business and they also came and joined the fellow men. They sat on their father’s lap and everyone had a good time. Those who understand what a thread ceremony is, might find it ironical, given the fact that it is meant to pass sacraments to boys.
Agitated and confused by the scene, I went in to a room where my mother and other ladies were sitting and complained about the happenings among their men.
One old woman responded in the most amusing way, “When my husband was alive, he would put two of those bimbos on both of his thighs.” Her tone was proud and at the same time quizzical, “You should also go out and enjoy. That is what men do.”
Even before that, even before I understood the difference between ‘men’ and ‘women’, I remember clearly how our classroom looked. The benches were neatly divided into ‘girls row’ and ‘boys row’. At the age of ten, I was once given the most dreaded punishment of all time. I was made to sit in the ‘girls row’ for one entire month. The teacher to invent that horror for me was also a lady. I sometimes find it funny how all these giant public schools in small towns claim to be ‘co-ed’.
Being ‘educated’ in such ‘co-ed’ environment, it is only natural that most Indian men are confused and hence comfortable with their earned ideas about gender definitions. The sex education we get are mostly from our coeval friends, who themselves have learnt through the great info-graphic that is porn or even more so through Bollywood. Since, most of Indian men learn through this ‘education’, they are often unable to see women beyond their appearance.
It was only when I went to college and met some amazing young women that I was able to break my own conjectures. I remember finding it difficult to digest that a woman could drink and smoke and still be ‘good’. My eyes would go big like potatoes when after classes, a girl and a guy shared a smoke. Those times taught me to see a woman as a person first.
When I was able to do that, I realized that women are far superior human beings than men. Their capacity to withstand pain, their compassion for another human being in addition to whatever they were achieving professionally won me over. Even there, I found the men talking trash on the drop of a hat as soon as some girl outperformed a guy. As soon as a girl was successful, she was marked a slut by the male fraternity.
It seemed to me that all the money spent by the parents of these young men on their education was a waste. If you can’t respect another person, what is the point of getting educated? But then, how many men can actually see women as anything more than just women?
I don’t want to talk about how the patriarchal thinking has wronged women over ages. It is out in the open, it happens everyday, everywhere. Every time a woman is tormented physically or mentally for being a woman, I feel more and more ashamed of being a man. I find it ironical how a country like India – where people are hyper-patriotic about their ‘mother’-land and worship a certain ‘goddess’ for wealth – treats its women so pathetically.
Years after years, whether it is the board exams or Olympics, women have been proving their worth and yet most Indian men are unable to remove their glasses of gender prejudice.
On this women’s day, I want to apologize on behalf of every ignorant Indian man, to every single woman in this country. I want to apologize to my sister, my mother, my aunt and maid. I want to apologize to every woman who works as hard as a man, maybe more, whether it is inside a corporate office or in paddy fields. I want to apologize to the sex workers of GB street and Kamathipura; to every bride and wife for what goes inside a house. Being an Indian man, what else can I do anyway?
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Image source: By Garry Knight – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link. Used for representational purposes only.
Writing keeps me sane.
This is a fantastic read! But please don’t feel bad and apologize for a system that you have not devised or created. You and me are part of this system. Fortunately we aren’t accepting the system as it has been handed down or chucked at us. There are many women and men who understand that change is important and that we can bring about that change even if it is only one step at a time! Education can be a leveller and equaliser if only we use it to question and reform. If we view education as only a means to get a better job with a fatter pay check then we have defied and denied ourselves its purpose! Education must force us to think deeper and analyse customs, traditions and practises that cause imbalances in power, privilege and dignity and we must find ways individually and as groups to change these to bring equilibrium. Traditional patriarchy has caused its own downfall and crumble it must. As a man, you have enormous opportunity to hasten this process and push against the system slowly but firmly -starting from within your own family, your workplace and your environment. Women too are pushing against the system to right the gross imbalance but they still have a long way to go. They must also remember that once empowered and powerful they do not make the same mistakes men did on gaining power – they have to guard against becoming unreasonable and irrational, ruthless and exploitative to the point of being unjust, unfair or just plain ridiculous!
Hi Sonia! Wow! I am glad you enjoyed reading it. Apologies for being apologetic :p
This is such an unusual piece…I mean a man apologizing to the women, for all that they have been subjected to, wow!… True that few things just don’t seem to change in our patriarchal society, but as long as there are men like you who realize that certain things are not acceptable, there is still hope and as more and more men start thinking likewise, things might look better, at least in the urban areas.
Thanks Jaishree! The change you are talking about, is best for all! 🙂
Hi Anurag, it’s good to read a man acknowledging the wrongs done by men, but it’s not only Indian men but men across nations and continents, castes and religions who have been treating women as dirt. You don’t really need to apologize for what you haven’t created or are doing. It’s heartening to have more men like you accepting the sexism who willingly choose not to perpetuate the abhorrent practices of a biased social order.
Thanks for writing on a platform accessed primarily by women.
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