Sharing an email from Ek Hindustani Ladki in response to the previous post – How old were you when you first noticed any gender bias anywhere…?
I knew when I was about 7 or 8 years old that there was discrimination, sensed that it was wrong, but I didn’t have the courage to oppose it… Instead I swore to myself that when I have children, it would be different. I swore I would not do the things or say the things I saw some elders say or do with girls.
The first time I spoke up, I was about 16.
I questioned an elder in our family, when he joked about how a man beat his wife and his neighbours intervened and warned the husband not to ever beat his wife again or they would beat him to pulp.
This elder said, and I am translating, “What has the world come to, if a husband can’t beat his wife, then who else can?“
This made me angry (and I am not easily provoked) – such obvious lack of respect for the victim, because she was a woman! I told him, “The man was lucky he wasn’t my husband cause if he was, I would have poisoned him the first time he beat me.“
He said I was a girl, I couldn’t do such things, I assured him I meant what I said. Also, that I wouldn’t marry a man who thinks beating his wife was acceptable. This respectable, elderly relative told my parents to marry me off before I finished college and got out of hand. I smirked at him, I knew I was not going to allow that to happen.
I did get a scolding from my parents for showing “disrespect” to an ‘elder’. I never touched his feet after that episode. My mother said I was being a disobedient and arrogant daughter, she thought it was good to take elders’ blessings (by touching their feet). I told her, he might bless me with thoughts like, “I hope her husband beats her.” This made my mom laugh. Then, I told my mother that she did know I was right so at least when she talks to me, she shouldn’t act like she cares about this person.
This was an ongoing drama, I avoided being around him as much as possible – I couldn’t tolerate his presence.
Another elder was an Uncle who I saw make my aunt’s life miserable.
One day, when I was about 18, I was at their place and he started his usual pushing and shoving. I picked up the hot chimta (spatula) that I was using to roast chappaties and told him, unless he wants me to brand him like a buffalo that he was, he better back off. Yep, got blasted for that too… my parents told me that I was too young (hah!) to interfere in my aunt’s marriage and that it was between them… I told them I didn’t regret saying what I said and I would do the same if he gave me a sliver of a chance.
Later the families intervened because my mother and my other aunt and uncles refused to let this aunt of mine suffer…They had a meeting with this uncle’s family and then things sort of cooled, there wasn’t any more pushing or shoving but they didn’t want them to divorce. I don’t think my aunt ever had any idea that there were better options, better men out there… but I guess that is her choice… I still keep in touch with her.
It all seems petty now but it still riles me when I see these men. For all my forgiving nature, I find myself being very unforgiving of particular trespasses. On the other hand, I realize that there are things I did, said and thought as a newly married bride that went against my own principles. I craved the acceptance of my husband’s family. Now I know better. It took me many of years to think differently, to unlearn the conditioning, to feel less guilt. To be more accepting of myself, and not make myself into what others expected out of me.
I am not all there yet, but will definitely get there.
– Ek Hindustani Ladki.
So, Ek Hindustani ladki ko gussa kyon aata hai?
EDITED TO ADD: What would you have done if you were in place of Ek Hindustani Ladki? Have you ever been in similar situations?