Two encounters over the past couple of days made me realise that we have a long, long way to go before women get accepted as beings with brains and abilities, whatever they might be.
The first one was professional. Another photographer, albeit the kind we like to say ‘the normal, traditional photographer’, at a wedding I was shooting. As we generally do, we started talking about where our studios etc are. He boasted that he had five studios in a part of the city. I demurely said I work for myself and have my own company. At the end of the shoot, he asks me for my ‘boss’s’ number, so he can pass on whatever projects to him. I was a little offended, so I told him I was the boss and I employed two people. He didn’t seem convinced. I guess I shouldn’t wait for any leads from that end.
The second incident was with a kid… a 8-year old at a local chat shop. I asked him if he went to school. He said he did and he served chaat in the evenings.
“Where are you from”
“How did you get here?”
“People manage to get around everywhere.” (In Hindi – logon ka kya hai, kahin bhi pahunch jaate hai)
I was amused by the philosophical words from an 8 year old. I asked him so how did you get here.
Followed his brother into the big, bad city for his education.
“Women work here. Its weird.” he said.
“Don’t they work back in your town?”
“No. Why should they work? Don’t you have fathers, brothers or husbands to earn money? Women shouldn’t be working.”
I was a little amused and a little horrified by his thought. I told him that me earning enabled me to pay the 10 bucks for the chaat I was having, but I’m quite sure he wasn’t convinced.
And he’s just 8 years old. Even with his ‘exposure’ to the city, he isn’t particularly convinced that the million or so population could be right. That women need to work. In his eyes, perhaps for now, women are things that need to be protected and guarded because of family honour. Perhaps he doesn’t even know what family honour is all about. They are terms that are bandied about in his house, and it makes him feel all grown up to be taking care of it. Maybe he even feels very grown up to be able to earn so the women in his family do not have to go out.
But if he was a mere decade later, how would we react to the same? A mere decade later, if he continued to think that women shouldn’t work and be out of the house, and the ones that do are fair game?
He’s a little boy from a little village. But there are scores of little boys from little villages, who grow up to be men in cities. What is the attitude they grow up with? Resentment towards the rich because there is never enough money? Resentment towards women who do not stay in the house and do their jobs? Resentment towards all those things that they could not have?
Or just the idea reinforced that women should not be allowed out to work, minus any justification for this.
The traditions in India often have no justifications. They are mere “because it is so” words that we follow. You are taught at a very young age not to question elders as form of respect. You are taught to respect what they teach you, even if it is something as silly as “women aren’t allowed to work” or “you aren’t supposed to eat meat on a particular day of the week”.
So what happens when you grow up and what you see is contrary to everything you were taught?