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Gender Neutrality — How My Mother and Grandmother Raised Me

As we were growing up, sometimes I would be in the kitchen as my mom would not be well. She used to send my brothers into the kitchen, "Go and help her, and you also cook, no point sitting in the room and watching TV."

I was born in a very small town of Bihar. Considered as one of the most backward regions. The city ended within a radius of 2kms and everyone knew everyone. Resources were scarce, but relationships were abundant.

Somewhere in the corner of the city was our very modest house, on a vast piece of land. Walls made of brick and clay, roof was made of baked clay tiles. If it started raining, the plastic cover would go up, and we would look for the corners of the room where water was not dripping.

There were cows in the backyard, vegetables that grew in the front yard and a small piece of land dedicated for the beautiful dahlias and red roses and carnations.

We had a joint family, a family of nearly twenty plus members, and my grandmother ruled all of them with iron fists after my grandfather passed away.

One of my earliest memories was the discussion between my mother and my grandmother. My brother was sick, and my school admissions were due, and my grandmother said, “We don’t have enough finances to send both the kids to convent school.”

Investing in daughter’s education is better than paying dowry

My pallu wearing, totally aligned to her mother-in-law, mom said, “The girl can go to the convent, we will put the boy in government school. It is more important to get the girl educated.” My grandmother agreed wholeheartedly.

I went to the best school in the city and my brother the next year was put in a government school, though the year after somehow even he was admitted to the same school where I studied.

One Holi I was very upset, all my friends had new dresses, and I was wearing the same old, a faded midi. I was very upset and refused to eat anything at all.

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My mom called me aside. Instead of getting angry or upset, she said, “We don’t have enough money, you can choose either to wear good dresses or get the best education, with the latter you can dream of anything and get it. The choice is yours, and I leave it to you.”

I remembered that lesson through my entire college life, and I still remember it. My dreams have always been important to me and I ensure that I work hard for it.

Kitchen is for everyone, including our sons

As we were growing up, sometimes I would be in the kitchen as my mom would not be well. She used to send my brothers into the kitchen, “Go and help her, and you also cook, no point sitting in the room and watching TV.”

So today my three brothers can cook as much as I can, and they all contribute to the family as this is the way they grew up.

My mom or grandmother never ate leftovers or ate in their spouse or children’s plate or waited for the men and children to first finish their food. I always thought it was normal every practice, until I got married and there was a huge fuss around that!

While many mothers near us asked their daughters to look good, and spoke about marriage, my mom’s motto was clear. “Everyone ultimately gets married, if you can’t stand on your feet, it is not something that is going to help. I will get you married only once you are financially independent, else you are going to sit at home with me.”

We were never tracked, where we went, where we are coming from. The understanding was simple, it is your life, you want to make some sense of it, do it, you want to make nonsense of it, your choice!

Practice of gender neutrality begins at home

While my brothers were supposed to do the cooking, I was also supposed to get chicken and mutton from butcher’s shop, get the parcels booked at post office, get bank drafts made at the banks. So basically it was about gender neutrality and making each one independent.

Chath puja is the most auspicious day in Bihar. Even if I had my periods, my grandmother said, “Come inside, what kind of puja is it if my children cannot participate!” There was absolutely no taboo in my house.

Why should daughters not help their parents with finances?

When I started earning, I still had my brothers who were studying, this continued after I got married. My parents considered me equally responsible as my brothers for family responsibilities. There were no statements like, “We don’s take our daughter’s money,” and all of that.

My parents were very clear that I had my responsibilities towards the family, and I was also very proud with the contributions I made. We got the power, and we got the responsibilities, me and my brothers, all in equal share.

I could hardly ever see anyone gossiping or telling my mom anything about our inter-caste marriages or court marriages or live in relationships. She never entertained any discussion, she stood so strong in our support that no one in the world could question her conviction.

There is so much to learn from each generation

Her one line answers were simple, “My children are very responsible, intelligent, they make the most fantastic of decisions.” Now, who has the power to question that abundant confidence.

We may blame the society, we may blame the level of education, we may blame everything around us for how we treat our daughters and daughters-in-law or raise our men. But what I learnt from the ladies of my house is priceless.

One who was just literate and another who was a graduate but a housewife, belonging to very small town, in traditional sense, pallu wearing ladies, not at all financially independent, was that we are all very powerful.

It is our conviction, our will power and the willingness to start that change that we can make. Small steps make a huge difference.

Be the change that you want to see in the world!

Image Source: Still From the Film Pagglait’s Trailer, edited on Canva Pro

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About the Author

Anamika

A complete favorite of myself. An individual first, then a mother , a wife, a sister , a colleague. An absolute believer in equality and the power of Individual. I believe that life always offer choices and read more...

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