Day 115: And yet we never support our girls

Any trouble in married-land and we are already ready with our guns pointed at the girl. H and her married life has proved to me that marriage is invariably a union of two dysfunctional families, one that makes your own weirdeties seem like the better of the lot. It’s also a union where one party invariably makes more sacrifices than the other and they spend the rest of their lives either making up for it or being morose about it.

What is critical for them to realize is that sacrifices are expected, and are justified as long as they are balanced out. I’d like to see the man live in Bangalore for a month, working from here, while building his social circle here. He would understand exactly what H is going through after moving to KL to start her life with him.

Invariably, the woman is expected to make the grand sacrifices, of her economic, emotional and social stability, and is expected to fit in seamlessly into the newfound circles. Any inability or trouble in doing that is automatically deduced as the girl’s disability and poor upbringing. Any leniency or support from the man’s side is seen as him being a pussy or wife-whipped. He himself walks with the superiority of having done a favor, while a relationship is equal work from both ends.

What got me thinking on these lines today was the conversation with dad, when he almost seemed apologetic for his daughter’s temper and the trouble in the marriage. It’s funny how little they had made an effort to see what might be causing the ill mood, the trigger from the other end. I dared him to tell me one instance where the mother of that son would have accepted his flaws openly. To her, he is the unspoilt unpolished diamond from the lines of South Africa. And on the other side, we let our daughter take the stab for everything, even something like marriage that takes a village to run the show right.

The patriarchy was evident when he justified himself by saying, ‘How can I say that the guy is at fault when I’m sitting in his house and eating his food?’ What happened to the part of the meal that his daughter had paid for? I thought the house automatically became ‘their’ house because what is his is hers. No?

That’s why I say the girls should stay home with their mummies all their lives, S. Then you have the comfort of the same bed all along. Aaah those pleasures.” Scotch

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Day 100: You don’t have to sing like me, you only have to sing like you

PsychGoddess showed up fresh in the morning, and the Sunday was worth it all.  We started the day off with some dosa, coffee and loads of life. Scotch was the most excited of the lot though. Having spent so many months with only me, she was all out of bounds for another company.

Adopt, Don’t shop

Since the trip to Bhor, I was in awe of PsychGoddess and her perspectives on life. That awe transformed into respect, and one of a different level, when I found out that her son was an adopted child. H and I have had conversations about adoption in the past; it’s been a decider for me on a number of prospectives. But they’ve typically sounded wishful thinking, and something that we’d have to battle against the world to see it through. Talking to her about it made it seem very relatable; doable of sorts.

It’s clearly a big decision to choose to give life to a child that has been abandoned. But a few things she said will stay with me if I get to that point of having to make that decision.

  • It’s not your right to have a child, especially to adopt one. It’s the child’s right to have a decent life. And that always trumps every other justification you might have in your head.
  • If you’re a married couple adopting, each of you has to decide for yourself, if you, as an individual, wants to have a child.
  • Every child reacts differently to the knowledge of her adopted status. Know your child enough before having that conversation. And even then, anything might happen. Be there.
  • Do not overcompensate for the status of the child. At the end of the day he’s your son. And he needs to realize that being adopted doesn’t give him extra goodies than any other child around.
  • Be open and speak about it in the house. The more hushed the conversations are, the more the child feels different.
  • Leave no opportunity to remind the child that she is loved and wanted in the family. It is all that matters.

Marriage

It’s always refreshing to hear PsychGoddess’ perspective on marriage. It changes you, she says, and warns me to be prepared for even the most sensitive men to give up their views when in this institution. It’s very uplifting to hear men, and boys, like SPD and GardenMan talk about the status of women, and to see them empathize with the lopsided role of women in the society. But to imagine that all this would change when they get married makes it seem like the soul sucking institution that I’m imagining it to be.

I believe more in the idea of spending time together, living through the good and the ugly. None of the pain and the joy would be changed by the fact that you’re legally bound by marriage or not. Not being married, but living together somehow puts you on an even scale. Societal expectations from the roles of the man and the woman no longer seem to apply. And it seems less stressful to explain why the man stays at home to cook or why the woman wears pants all day.

And if marriage seems like a logical celebration to the past, the time that you’ve spent together, then by all means – do get married.

Finding Ram in Kabir

A great perspective that PsychGoddeas introduced me to this time around is the Kabir Project. What started off as a project to find Kabir, as the opposite of finding Ram, ended in a beautiful collection of hymns and poems that seem to talk about life more than religion.

She signed us up for a Kabir singing workshop today and I was excited to try out something I’d normally never do. We reached the studio, Shoonya, early enough to soak in the beauty of how the terrace had been transformed into a positive living space. Mental note made for future terrace spaces.

When the event started, a group of 28 very different people got talking and singing about Kabir. The group was led by Vipul Rikhi, who worked as a translator at the Kabir Project. The song for the day was called ‘Haalo ri mori sajni’ and it deserves a post of its own. The workshop was well conducted, and we spent enough time talking about the lyrics, and listening to him sing it that a number of the participants were singing the song like naturals at the end of the 3 hours.

What caught me off guard was the silence that I felt inside me when the whole group finished singing the song one last time. We’d talked about detachment and the palace of colors, had laughed at each other’s singing voices, and had held each other’s hands through the stress of singing in smaller groups. But in the end, as we all sang together, I felt a strange attachment with the idea of the group while still feeling extremely detached from it.

Oh! And Vipul was super hot with his salt and pepper and the beard. ❤

Singing or not, I’m happy that she is here. She made me a special batch of upma, anf I had it with a side of amma’s mango pickle. She even bought me fresh dates for dessert. It’s only weird she left it all on the kitchen counter, and it was a little tough reaching them all. But I managed.

Can we keep her, please?” Scotch

Day 33: Mis(re) presentations, Adoptions and Brahmins 

Long rant alert

Mis(re)presentations

Attended a national conference on Service Learning today and got a chance to present a paper on my project experience as well. These sessions are always wonderful to attend as they bring in a varied perspective to your purview, something that the four walls of a classroom cannot. I ended the day with lot of learnings, content-based and otherwise, and had some wonderful conversations.

I added a few pointers to my personal set of life lessons. Let’s see:

  • When you’re presenting to a group, it’s extremely important to know your audience. When experts in rocket science sit for your presentation, please skip the part where you define a rocket and then go on to define science. I think they get it!
  • Pay attention when someone else presents. If you’re the third on stage, and you’ve seen the first two presenters define rocket and define science already, move on. I think the audience gets it too!
  • Fake accents do not win you extra brownie points. If the degree of your fake accent increases as the size of your audience increases, then you have a problem. The audience might appreciate if you stick to the fake accent from one region. But when you switch between American, British and Australian in one sentence, we see through your Chennai convent education.
  • Respect every individual. You are a teacher, not the almighty. The day started with a professor pulling out a girl from the crowd, for some transgression, and yelling at her in front of a packed auditorium. He snatched her ID card, almost manhandled her out of her seat, and asked her to get out auditorium. The regressive, repressionistic form of discipline he used is from generations past and clearly points to the authoritative role that teachers held in the decades gone by, where their position as a teacher automatically let them rule over young minds. It is the kind of discipline we are moving away from in schools these days and here is a ‘progressive’ university practicing  such a ridiculous practice. No mistake on the child’s part, no offense by a person, warrants public humiliation. She deserves her dignity and definitely needs her voice to explain her position. If not, why don’t we all raise our hands up and “Hail Hitler!” as the guillotine is lowered?
    • I was shocked by my own non-intervention in the scene. I am sure if this were an event in a public setting I would have jumped in immediately. Then what stopped me today? Does the environment of an educational institution automatically dull our principles and values? Are we conditioned to not question teachers to such an extent that we no longer speak up against the wrong-doers?
  • There is value in the minor details. Service and service learning are not the same. While I’m not undermining volunteerism or any form of service, I am particular about the difference between those and service learning. It hurts me when professors slide critical attributes like reflection and community need-based solutioning  under the carpet and charade their internship and volunteer ventures as service learning. It hurts me more when experts designated to correct the course of these professors ignore these details, with the sole aim of not offending the hosts.

Adoptions

As insightful as the conference was, the return drive was the highlight. Sid and I spoke about a number of topics that mastered to both of us, ranging from the aristocracy of teachers to the flawed institution of marriage and the growing superficial nature of modern life. But what struck a strange chord was our conversation about adoption.

India does not have a dirth of orphaned children looking to find homes. And yet, a majority of the society still looks at adoption with a disapproving mindset. It’s either considered the last option for couples that are biologically challenged to procreate, or a fancy of the rich and famous in the country. I am reminded of the conversation with a prospective dude, who told me his reasons against adoption. He believed that lineage and genetics were very important and he’d want his family genes to be passed along. Anyway, it’s not like he was ‘incapable’ Huh! Each reason to raise the population of the country, and not adopt, is more absurd than the next.

There is definitely a serious case of lack of awareness. But there is the other aspect of ease of access as well. The more I read about adoption and its proceedings, I realize how complicated the process is deemed to be. Singles are automatically bumped low in the list of prospective adopters. Single men are worse of, placed right at the bottom, next to maybe a golden retriever that wants to adopt a baby. A number of orphanages and adoption agencies are run by Christian missionaries and they bring in their religious pre-dispositions into the whole process. And at the end of the day, the legal system is so complicated that the entire process can last anyway between 3 to 5 years. We move paper work through desks while a child rots away without a family to its own.

Some taboos are so deep rooted that it may take more than a few generations to change.

Brahmins

Speaking of generations and lineage, I finally exited my extended family’s group on Whatsapp. While the group has a consistent flood of annoying posts, ranging from immature Good Morning images to an overload of cat memes, what tipped me off the breaking point today was their plea to sign a petition to ‘Stop the hatred against brahmins’. While dalit women are raped in public and tribal children are forced to take arms instead of books, here’s a progressive community worried about not getting their share of attention.

The country, why even the entire world, is  fueled by this race frenzy right now. Supremacists reign high and low and everybody wants the outsider to stay outside. Why not be the progressive caste that can see past these trivial, man-made differences? Oh! But there’s reservation for the Muslims and the Christians and the tribes and other castes, but not us? Valid point. But aren’t you the ‘superior race’? Haven’t you been endowed with enough prowess to earn your IIT-IIM degrees, to migrate to the US and to vacation in a new country every year? Let’s be the one race that is not petty now, shall we? While you sit on your holy ass, and earn top-dollars for the American company that funds your next vacation, there are people fighting for their basic rights, their right to life, against a racist society. There are girls fighting against patriarchy to attend school and women fighting against ancient customs to end abusive marriage. So, please!

Oh S! You seemed to have gotten too riled up now. Why not go the labby way? Find a comfortable spot in the sofa, and curl up?” Scotch