The ‘Cleanliness Drive’ That Made Her Son And Husband Respect Women

Posted: June 26, 2019

Misogyny is deep rooted in our society. The protagonist resorts to an ingenious plan to make sure that her husband and son treats women with respect.

Tarika took her place at the dining table and started serving herself breakfast. Her husband Aman and son Sudhir were already seated there and were busy with their meals. While Sudhir was pushing the poha across the plate, Aman was engrossed in the newspaper and his hands seemed to be mechanically moving towards his mouth. Tarika wondered if he even knew, what was on his plate. She would have just let them be and would have quietly finished her breakfast and left for work, had it not been for what Aman uttered.

He was glancing at the paper as he spoke, “Women these days, don’t know how to behave sensibly and then keep shouting about harassment.

Tarika gaped in shock as she uttered: “What did you just say?”

Aman put the newspaper down and looked at her a tad irritably, “I didn’t say anything blasphemous, that you are giving me this look. Women should dress and behave responsibly, if they don’t then they have to face the consequences.”

Tarika looked at him with an expression of disgust, wolfed down the last few bites of her breakfast, gulped down the tea and got up to leave. “What sort of a dress are you wearing? Who goes to work dressed like that,” bellowed Aman.

Tarika was confused at his sudden outburst. She wondered what was wrong with her dress. This was such a pretty and comfortable dress. That was when Aman walked up to her and pointed at the cold shoulder design of her sleeves saying “What kind of sleazy style is this?”

Tarika was now fuming. This was a regular with Aman, he believed his gender gave him the authority to control and regulate everything specifically the opposite gender and when they did not abide by his guidelines, they were only worthy of being berated or shamed. But, today he had managed to get on her nerves really fast and she was infuriated. She picked up her bag and keys and stormed out of the door, while Aman kept glowering in her direction. Sudhir silently watched the incident that transpired before him.

Tarika kept thinking of Aman’s words and his narrow-minded views really got on her nerves. But over these years, she had learnt that trying to reason  with him or attempting to cleanse his thinking would only prove to be a worthless exercise, because he would never accept he was wrong. So, over the years she had stopped expressing her anger or even paying heed to his words, except on days like today when he crossed all limits. But, she wondered if she was right in keeping quiet. Was her silence the reason he was becoming increasingly stifling with his views?

These thoughts kept troubling her throughout the day. In the evening as she headed home, she decided to take the slightly longer route. She hoped the walk through the park on the way home would clear her head. But, what she saw at the park only added to her woes and gave her a rude jolt.

Sudhir was perched on the boundary wall of the park with his group of friends and they were engrossed in a conversation. When she moved slightly closer, she realized they were jeering at  the group of girls standing at the bus stop on the opposite side. Before she could get over the shock, the words her son spoke broke her heart into a million pieces. “Look how they are dressed, seem to really lose a lot” he guffawed.

She could see the discomfort the girls were in and it pained her to see that her son was among those responsible for causing the discomfort. She did not want him to know she had seen him and quickly walked home. That night she kept wondering if her silence was the reason, Sudhir had become like this.

The next day morning as a harried and exhausted looking Tarika arrived at the dining table for breakfast, Sudhir looked at her with a smile and said, “Good to see you dressed properly today mom.” It left her shocked and angry. He was turning out to be just like his father.

Her worst fears had come true and she desperately wanted to set things right. Suddenly her eyes fell on the words in the newspaper headlines “Swachhta Abhyan” (cleanliness drive).

That’s when it struck her, what was needed was a cleanliness drive. But,this time to cleanse the narrow-minded and stifling thought process. She knew this would not be easy but this was one adventure she was all game for.

The method Tarika devised to get the message across to Sudhir and make him realize his mistake was harsh, but she knew it would definitely prove to be effective. That evening again she took the same route home and spotting him in the park, called out to him and ordered him to come home with her immediately. Sensing his mother’s mood, he found it better not to argue and followed her home. He sat there, waiting for her to berate him but she went about her work. After a while when he could take it no longer, he spoke “Ma, aren’t you going to say something. Why did you make me come home if you were just going to make me sit here?”

“To tell you the truth, what I saw you doing was repulsive enough to make me not speak to you ever. But, my shouting or admonishing will do no good and you will continue living with that misogynistic ideology. So how about walking in the shoes of the girls you were jeering and troubling with so much glee? First-hand experiences, teach you the most important lessons in life” Tarika replied with her voice seeped in anger.

Sudhir was at the same bus stop the next day, his face covered in his mother’s scarf exactly the same way she did it, dressed in a maroon polka dotted t-shirt and jeans. He hated doing this, this weird look annoyed him. Why couldn’t his mother just simply shout at him and get done with it.

It was barely five minutes since he had arrived at the bus stop that he heard sounds of hooting and wolf whistling. Shocked, he looked up and saw his gang sitting on the wall at the opposite end of the road. He heard lewd and sleazy comments directed at him. It made him cringe in discomfort. As he moved further back into the bus stop, he could see a man sitting on the bench staring at him lecherously.

Sudhir looked away, feeling scared. He wanted to run from there, but his mother was waiting in the next lane and she would bring him back here. 15 minutes is what she had said and he had to bear it till then. He found an empty corner in the bus stop and went to stand there or rather hide away from everyone in the farthest end of the corner.

That is when he saw two other men on the opposite end of the bus stop, stare at him with expressions of disgust and turn away. He could hear them speak “These girls wear such indecent western attire and then act all scared when all this unwanted attention is directed at them.”

He was shocked. He was covered from head to toe. Even otherwise why was he being blamed for other people’s lecherous nature? Playing their words in his mind again he realized, those words sounded like his own. Isn’t this what he did every day, shaming girls and judging them for the clothes they wore and labelling anything, they did as attention seeking behavior. He had considered those two men weird and regressive, but wasn’t that what he really was? The honking of his mother’s scooter broke his reverie. He was unusually silent the rest of the day. He felt miserable about the way he had behaved till now.

The next day morning Tarika was pleasantly surprised to see Sudhir in the kitchen, while she was sipping her coffee. She didn’t remember the last time he had been awake this early. He walked up to his mother and hugged her. “Sorry mom and you were indeed right experience is the best teacher,” he said in between the sobs. Tarika hugged him back, happy to see her plan had worked and she had been successful in making her son realize his mistake. But this “Swachhta Abhyan” that she had started was still incomplete. She prepped herself to begin the second phase of the adventure.

Aman returned an hour later from his morning jog, Tarika stood there glaring at him “What kind of sleazy clothes are these. Who exercise in such indecent clothes?” She bellowed at him pointing at his shorts and t-shirt. The annoyance and disgust in her voice sounded familiar to him, only that it had been directed at him for the first time. He stood there confused and upset trying to figure out the reason behind his wife’s sudden outburst. She turned around and walked away with a mischievous smirk on her face. The adventure had begun.

Image Source: YouTube/Raanjhana

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