An email: “I picked up the hot chimta that I was using to roast chappaties and told him…”

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…?

Dear IHM,

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?

34 thoughts on “An email: “I picked up the hot chimta that I was using to roast chappaties and told him…”

  1. There is so much conditioning which is there to unlearn, right from how girls should respect and take blessings from elders and what do they bless… “hope you get married early and have sons”! I did once tell an elder that i want only daughters, no sons. My reasonings were different then, but now too that stands… maybe not so strong. I just want 2 kids, doesn’t matte whichever way.

    The most prevalent bias I have seen is when a girl starts her menses for the first time, then the hoard of restrictions which come upon her. Dresses are changed… play timings change, play groups change. More stringent measures to ensure that you are involved in household activities, which was not at the forefront till date. This I believe is a gender bias.

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  2. The worse part is that those uncles will never realise that they did something wrong.
    But, Hindustani Ladki, you did well. Really well.🙂
    We all are proud of you!

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    • Seriuosly these uncles (sometimes aunts as well :)) are so proud of their thinking process and they feel we the younger generation are just a lot of disrespectful people when we try to correct some of their outdated and hard-wired facts..

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  3. I did that when I was 12. Not more of gender bias, but out of disgust for the man who beat his wife. Since then, my anger has always been condoned upon. I get angry at injustice and cannot forgive people who disrespect their partners and call them names. I get wild when I see people paying their way through education/jobs and have lost many friends for my anger on this regard. As the email writer says – For all my forgiving nature, I find myself being very unforgiving of particular trespasses.

    It is a gender bias, now I realise.. Infact, someone told me Kannagi’s anger burnt Madurai ( a tamil story) and that women’s anger is not permissible. For which, I responded – so Yudishtra’s foolishness ( to play a game he is bad at and wager a shared wife) is still permissible. A good girl, irrespective of her status, education and country can never get angry.

    Thinking of a tamil poem here ( sorry, i am too regional in my inspirational poetry readings) on how the tamil poet Bharati speaks on how controlled anger is a unleash of energy from a woman.

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    • Its off the topic but i want to ask

      ( sorry, i am too regional in my inspirational poetry readings)

      Why are you being soorry for it???

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    • Arch, remember the famous Rajinikanth dialogue
      “adhigama aasa padarura aambalaiyum adihigama kova padura pombalaiyum nalla vaaZhuthada sarithiram kedaiyaadhu”
      Translate d as “history says that a man who desires more and a woman who gets angry have never lived a good life”

      A biased statement

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  4. Not petty at all, email-writer. I think you did exceedingly well, and the fact that these men still annoy you is both unsurprising and understandable.

    Just the other day, I had two new wet-behind-the-ear joinees assigned to my staff at work, and as is the custom at my workplace, I had a bit of an orientation chat with them.

    Among other things, I told them that in the course of a career and in life as well, you always run into situations that are intolerable, run into acts that you find unforgivable. You must NOT make peace any and everything you see. You must NOT just say ‘chalta hai’, and get on with your life as best you can. Change things. Be polite, but shout, rave and complain all the same. If it is at all in your power, do something about the situation that you so resent, instead of just tolerating it forever. I’m not saying you should go crazy about it and try to change the world to fit your needs.

    I’m saying that you should not be meek as a lamb. It does not always reward you to try and change things, to try and clean up the system, but in life, you’ve got to take your chances. Never compromise on your core values for the sake of monetary gain, or even just to maintain peace.

    It’s this kind of drive, this fire, that separates the wheat from the chaff and you, email-writer, are wheat through and through.

    I do feel that you have the right balance to succeed and to be happy.

    The very best of luck to you!

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    • Loved your response..yes we have to stand for ourselves and sometimes for others as well at one point or the other otherwise this world wont let you live..

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    • “I’m saying that you should not be meek as a lamb. It does not always reward you to try and change things, to try and clean up the system, but in life, you’ve got to take your chances. Never compromise on your core values for the sake of monetary gain, or even just to maintain peace.”

      That is an ideal situation, that is difficult to live up to, for a woman in most parts of the world…We are drilled right from our childhood to maintain peace, create harmony, learn to hold our tongues, be Humble(read be subservient), work for the family(read sacrifice for the whims of those who are powerful in your family). Most women live really suffocating lives, and few get to the point of standing up when they cant take it anymore, and its usually not courage, its that point where they begin to feel “I have nothing to lose by doing this” Or “I dont care anymore, anyway life is hell” and their rage takes over. And there is the other side, where the woman becomes overly dominating and suffocates the others in her life, a role reversal with the male counterpart…a sort of overcompensation from fear of being dominated. It is hard to strike that balance of being who we are, without needing to go to either extremes. What we need, is a gradual change in the way we parent our children and that requires a lot of self knowledge on the part of the parent…it is a spiritual quest of sorts.

      Of course, the above is just my observation and attempt at understanding why we are the way we are…not a scientific one.

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      • Mysoul,

        Call me an idealist, but I say difficult does not equal impossible. It is difficult to raise your children well, but you try. It is difficult to balance the myriad relationships in your life but you try. It is difficult to get to the top in a pyramidal hierarchy but you try to do it all the same.

        No one can strike the perfect balance between meekness and assertiveness, but life does not demand perfection. The idea is not to achieve the perfect balance, but to achieve a reasonably good balance, to realize that you do not have to tolerate everything that is thrown at you, to realize that you don’t have to forgive and forget everything. Some things are unforgivable. One must realize that.

        Yes, a lot of women live very suffocating lives, but let’s not forget that so many of these women beat the tremendous odds stacked against them and leave their suffocating lives behind as a distant, unpleasant memory.

        Parents can only do so much. There are so MANY siblings out there with absolutely different life trajectories. The beliefs and values your parents ingrain into you are a fundamental part of your personality, but they are only one part. There is a large area of your personality that your parents do not define, the area that is defined by the environments YOU are exposed, the things YOU read and see and hear, the things YOU experience, all tempered by your own unique way of looking at things. Most of us are very different people from our parents, hold different ideas about various things. Most of us also hold the ability to change our own personalities if we so wish. Let’s outdrill the childhood drilling.

        You cannot just sit around and wait for your parents to realize things, wait for the world to become a bit nicer. You didn’t ask to be born in a stiflingly patriarchal environment, but now that it has happened to you, you might as well sit up and focus on making your own life a bit better. Might as well get up and demand your due, because, guess what, you’re a person too and have the right to be treated as one. It shouldn’t be about courage or rage or compensation.

        It should be about your duty to YOURSELF.

        That’s what I’d like people to realize. That’s what I’d like the women in those situations to realize. That’s what the writer of this e-mail knows already. And that’s what we must commend in the most extravagant of terms.

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        • I am in the idealist club too…:) I understand, difficult doesnt mean impossible. We do the best we can under any situation. I was looking at the state of things as it is. A reasonably good balance is what I look for too. Perfect, is only what works for us well.

          I wasnt blaming parents. I was considering why the women today tend to be in the place they find themselves in, and sadly one of the factors is the drilling and the fact that the way our society is made, doesnt allow her time to restructure her thinking. Research by social scientists on behaviour that shows the children pick up the parents prejudices as young as 2-3 years old and perpetuate it, so I mentioned change in parenting style. Teachers in schools too give out hidden bias that the children then learn and perpetuate. The idea that girls can or cannot do certain things, that boys should and shouldnt do certain things is a cultural bias that is passed on from the elders in the community to those who are younger. Most of us learn to be different and do different than our parents(thank heavens! for that), it is an ongoing effort.

          I like the way you worded this “It shouldnt be about courage or rage or compensation. It should be about your duty to yourself” That is my dream too. That more women see that building themselves into a strong, empowered woman is a Top Priority in Life. Everything is doable, it just takes time and effort and I want woman to make that time and put that effort when it comes to themselves. That is the only way we can change the unpleasantness to the pleasantness.

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  5. More power to you, Hindustani Ladki!! Loved your story!

    I particularly liked the fact that you refused to touch the uncle’s feet after that episode.

    I also had an uncle who visited us often and was given to making very misogynistic statements in the course of normal conversations, though he never went as far as condoning wife-beating. My parents generally ignored him but I used to get into heated arguments with him all the time –he gradually learned to hold his tongue in my presence.

    I

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  6. As a 13 year old I did not have the courage to squarely blame my father for hitting my mother. So when I did burst out one day, it was against both of them, “Why can’t you let your children live in peace?” But the implicit message to father did not go unnoticed. He then and there complained to my mother (what irony) that, “Look my own daughter is speaking against me!” It was indeed a shock to him that I said anything at all because by nature I was a docile, dreamy and accepting child.
    Not that much changed after that; what happened was I insulated myself, cut myself entirely (emotionally) away from my parents. As a young girl, I just couldn’t understand the ‘honeymoon’ periods and the fierce fights and beatings. I blamed my mother too for ‘answering back.’ But I also knew that NOTHING justified ‘beating’.
    My father used to hit me too for lapses of childhood. One day when I was 12, after he had hit me for something or other I hadn’t done (but in reality it was his own anger he was taking out on me), I simply looked him in the eye, turned my head with pride and walked away with head held high. He never hit me after that.
    I admire you Hindustani ladki. most times growing up, what I had wanted to do was kill myself though now I wonder why I should have thought so.

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  7. I’m very glad you did what you did email-writer. It is rightly said that a woman’s anger can’t be tolerated by anyone. Just that we don’t become angry for things that we actually should. I wish I could do/say things when I was young too, because I’ve witnessed these things. But I was too much in conditioning and living with my parents. That sounds so lame right now. I hope more women raise their voice and become angry when it is needed.

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  8. Well she certainly has more guts than I could ever imagine! I’m sure that uncle didn’t want to take the chance of becoming a branded buffalo. But the sense of entitlement that some men have is unbelievable. They still believe that they are deserving of respect. I can’t even begin to understand what goes on in their twisted minds…

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  9. Yay to you!

    It never helps to keep quiet. The way you say it can certainly be modified in order for it to be acceptable to the other party, but say it you must. Sometimes just a subtle hint is enough – the other party will realise that you will not take nonsense. At other times a very in-your-face garam chimta approach is required too.

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  10. Dear Ek Hindustani Ladki,

    I think you’re amazing. Amazing for having demonstrated the courage to stand by your convictions and more so having done this within your family. That is, in some ways, far more difficult to do than taking on people outside the home.

    None of what you fought against was in the least petty. It is these things that unfortunately or otherwise make us the very inequitable society that we are so they are all worth fighting against. I just wish more of us were as unforgiving of some of these trespasses as you have been.

    Good luck!
    S

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  11. In continuation to my previous comment, let me salute you.
    You are no hindusthani ladki. You are a hindusthaani naayika.

    I too am fed up with this Indian tradition of always respecting gray hair or baldness in elders, irrespective of their other merits.
    When they behave like jerks, it is perfectly alright to refuse to respect them or seek their blessings and also actively oppose them.

    A man who raises his hand against a women, whatever the provocation, is nothing but scum and deserves no respect from anyone. The only exception is when he is innocent and is protecting himself from a mentally deranged woman who physically attacks him. Even then his response must be confined to acts to prevent damage to his own person. He must not attack in return.

    You have my unstinted support in what you did.
    May other young girls and women look to you for inspiration.
    Regards
    GV

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  12. Wow! How courageous of you to stand up for your aunt! Yes, we’re all slowly getting there… it take so much effort to peel off the layers of conditioning… and it has be begin with the knowledge that there is conditioning which makes us behave in a certain way, and it is not the only way. Every person deserves to feel liberated and in control of his/her own life and choices.

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    • There are quite a few people who I would never bow to or ask blessings from. Then there are times when people specifically tell you to bow down to certain elders, when you are pointedly ignoring them and indulging the others. I absolutely HATE such encounters.

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      • You could always respectfully say that you dont want to take their blessings or that you dont take blessings from people you dont like. Use a modulated soft and sweet voice to say that…that way they dont have a reason to be miffed or argue with you and walk away when their jaw drops. (giggling)

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  13. Claps! Claps! Claps! **Standing Ovation**

    I’ve not encoutnered families where there is open physical beating. But I have come across where a different power game is at play.

    Have you beent to houses where there is laughter, cheerful banter…until the man – the father and husband – walks in? The atmosphere changes instantly as if someone’s turned off a switch. There is a sudden silence, conversation if any is subdued, heads are lowered and everyone is so wary and tense. The man ‘speaks’ only in grunts, and if he speaks out full sentences, it is usually a rude scolding.

    I think of these families where the wife and children live in perpetual fear. I think of these men who squeeze fear day after day. I think of the irreparable emotional damage on the children – who more often than not achieve stupendous academic success; they would study what the father has ordained them to study. I think of the sheer mental agony of the wife – perpetually yelled at, perpetually subdued, perpetually ignored – not a kind word, not a word of respect or love – just being ordered about like a peon. It is a life imprisonment of the worst kind – to be subjugated all through one’s life – first by the parents and then by the husband. And the only happiness you can draw is through the achievements of your children. What a grave tragedy! To not even have the opportunity to think what it would mean to be free – to be happy for happiness sake and not be dependent on someone else to bestow happiness.

    Generally these men ‘change’ after they retire – but what is the use I think? After having throttled all possible happy moments, after leaving the children emotionally stunted, after erasing all feelings, desires, ambitions in the wife – these men now say ‘I am free, now I will loosen up a bit.’ What a waste of their own lives – where they never brought a warmth, a genuine smile, a kind word – where their family only owes them fear and awe and not love…

    yes..each time someone talks about the ‘indian family values’ i want to stuff dirty socks into their mouths.

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    • //each time someone talks about the ‘indian family values’ i want to stuff dirty socks into their mouths//
      Virtual hug of gratitude for you for coming up with that hilarious idea! I would very much like to see that happen / do it myself, someday🙂

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      • ha ha…yes…I hope it happens some day😉 I esp get angry when people incoherently talk us down about how we are ignoring the indian family values and ‘blindly’ praising the west. i mean just because we discuss the problems in our social setup, these ‘indian value gatekeepers’ take it for granted we are supporters of broken families, free sex, drugs and irresponsible breeding (all hallmarks of ‘west’ apparently).aarrrghhhhhhh

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        • LOL @ stuffing dirty socks into their mouths…someone should make an emoticon for that, so that at least in the virtual world we can actually do that. I usually tell them that the day Every Indian follows traffic rules on the roads and stop peeing and spitting on the streets, they will have my Praise, until then others get my praise.

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  14. I can actually see myself in this girl…. I have spoken out aloud in such situations be it in family or socially outside…. I live in San Diego, and the kind of boys I see here, I feel I am in a village with pathetic hypocrites… Urrrgghhhh they make me so mad! Because I speak out against their biased type of thinking, they consider me cheap and ‘lowly’….. I have just a couple of friends here, but those who are, are the most broad minded people…..
    You rock girl, and if we ever have the pleasure to meet, I get a feeling we will hit it off…🙂

    P.S. You were right with the way you behaved with that uncle… As far as touching feet goes, respect has to be earned…..

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  15. Hats off to you, EK Hindustani Ladki! You serve as a great example for the rest of us. There have been times when I’ve wanted to clock certain male relatives for the way they behave with their wives, but have somehow been unable to do anything. Could I borrow some of your courage the next time?

    I have an aunt with a verbally abusive husband, and cannot handle being in the same room as him. He practically controls her every breath. I rant about it to my mum, and have thought about speaking to my aunt, but she’s very submissive, and other people insist he’s gotten much calmer over the years. I haven’t seen them for years, and when I used to,I was like 7 or 8, and it was often in the presence of various other aunts and uncles. I remember, as a kid, I was always so scared of him, and would always run away from the room whenever he entered. But now, his behaviour just makes me so angry that I think next time I see him misbehave with my aunt I’m going to call him out on it.

    I firmly believe that those who cannot use their words (wisely), use their swords (or hands, or belts, or yelling). Its really shameful how relatives who are aware of the precarious situations some women face do nothing to assist them. Sometimes I get angry at my mom for not saying anything, but then I get lectured about the time that my aunt grew up in, and the way she was conditioned to keep quiet and respect her husband. It makes me sick, and so, so glad that my parents have raised me to raise my voice in the face of injustice.

    So props to you for standing up for what is right, and serving as an inspiration!

    And thank-you IHM for this priceless blog that’s inspired me to start writing.

    Star

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