I have been reading the scattered snippets of writing that were part of the Blank Noise Project...smart pieces which capture the experience of Indian womanhood, pieces which scream out what it means to be single, educated and hence available in India. These are experiences most women can relate to and vilify as they are/were perpetrated by that stereotype lout/creep/Road side Romeo. But what about those people who knowingly/unknowingly let you know you are a woman, that you are somehow different (and by different they mean inferior)? What about them? What about them who do not grope, poke or wink but leave you feeling angry anyway? Like…
The Folks Who Wanted A Boy Really Bad: Back home during our growing years my parents moved from one company allotted quarter to a bigger, better one frequently. With each move came a change of neighbors and friends. But wherever we went we would always have at least one neighbor with a large family of eight. Of the six children the first five would usually be girls followed by the lone, precious and often sickly boy child. Sometimes it would also be six daughters and the lone son, or four daughters, a son and another three daughters (“they got greedy” explained a helpful Aunty). If you are confused, the children are listed in decreasing order of age above.
The Girls Who Grew Up: Then around sixth grade, most of the girls in our play group vanished. We were told they had “grown up” and were not allowed to run wild with the boys anymore, unlike us. Yes, immoral little fiends like us who had the misfortune of being born to educated parents with fancy notions of rearing girls like they were boys!!!
An Aunt Here: After getting really good marks in the board examinations a distant Aunt nullified my achievements by proclaiming to all and sundry that it was much easier to raise daughters as they are genetically disposed to being obedient etc. etc and hence by the law of induction do well at school too!!
And A Teacher There: The friendly instructor for engineering entrance examinations who would let the class know (once in a while) that though girls might get through Board examinations by mugging up the syllabus, they could not get through engineering entrance examinations that way. So they had better take cooking lessons instead of wasting their Dad’s money.
The Old Woman: In the ICU waiting area in Tata Main Hospital she asked me if I was married and on being told that I wasn’t, responded “Isi liye to Papa ki tabeeyat kharab hai*”. Incidentally I was waiting for news of my Dad who had suffered a heart attack the night before and filling in for my Mom who was visiting her sister who had just lost her husband. At seven in the morning after a sleepless night she just left me dumbfounded…I nodded and moved on.
Or The Countless Well Meaning Folks: who always ask about the number of siblings one has as a conveninet starting point for conversation. And on being told about the younger sister always reply with a well practiced, subtle disbelief "No brothers?” Are we not complete without one? Once again I nod my head.
And The Techincians At Work: who insist on helping out the "young lady" who does not desire it.
* That's why your Dad is ill. I don't think I need to explain the social connotations for this one.