Yesterday morning I was returning from a temple visit. I feel necessary to mention here that it is a temple of a goddess and lot of devotees visit every day, nearly a thousand on Sundays. I hired a rickshaw on my way back from the temple and reached the market area which was flooded with vehicles, clogging narrow lanes. The driver did what he was habituated to do. Honk mercilessly. Normally, don’t honk and don’t spit on the road are the two advices I give to every rickshaw driver……. in my mind. There is no point speaking aloud. But today, may be I was in want of some peace or may be the noise was unbearable that I uttered one of the advices to the driver, as mannerly as possible- to be easy on the horn. Though he did not argue, as soon as I turned, he honked the horn with same zest or rather more inspired. I did not turn back. Being a woman, a spat in public is still not a thing I will dare. Not even at this point when the nation is boiling and we are thinking that change is at the door. Nor can I think of reporting to a non-present system which controls traffic violations. Imagine, if there was a traffic policeman standing there, he would have thought of me as a problem creator. If he yelled at driver after hearing me, I should have felt blessed. Lodge a complaint? And you are one demanding woman!!!
This is not the first time for such an experience. Try as decently as you can, your disapproval can be ‘provoking’ for men. Being aam aurat is worse than being aam aadmi in the Republic of India. Men or the social setup, even today, hate speaking woman. Women are not encouraged to voice opinion even at family forums. So publicly expressing woman is a taboo and having to listen to her is quite insulting for men. There is a certain compulsion of modern times to be somewhat liberal; otherwise it’s a common belief that women have no brains.
If we try to differentiate demeanor towards women by the urban-rural divide, it can surprisingly or shockingly challenge your conceptions. We have seen how urban families (or even NRI’s who conveniently choose to take a medieval India with them abroad) who use their gyaan on cutting edge technology in identifying female child and getting it aborted or village folks who prudently adapt and mold to the demands of the new age. I have concluded that it depends on the family, irrespective of its surrounding. It happens like at home they prefer the century old things in the name of tradition while their encounters with outer, modern world are a compulsion, a world they would have liked to dismantle. They have hard time accepting that times have changed and ‘let men handle the deals’ is simply not feasible for various reasons. And that is how you see the clash of two different times running together. Right now, for a significant populace of India, liberal ways are obligations of prospective commercial needs of the time.
Honestly, isn’t our society, in heart of the heart, still thinking that if women don’t dress improperly (definition of improper clothing can be as weird as it gets) and stay locked in homes after 7p.m, be on guard with whom she is talking to in the neighborhood, don’t laugh hard or explicitly and listen to their men (this is most important) this rape thing simply won’t happen? I said in heart of the heart because for now ‘this is not the right time to say such things’ when protests are ongoing and the death of the rape victim is a recent past but these views will come forward once agitating, immature youngsters cool off.
I have no doubts that some change in system will follow after these agitations. Some laws, some promises will be fulfilled. After all, the election year is coming. Any external change can be brought with persistence and determination. Internal change is difficult because we have to agree or accept that there is a problem. I doubt there will be a change very soon in psyche of our patriarchal society where the key to the problem lies.
Wishing us a new bright sunrise after these black days, Safe New Year!