I’ve been thinking about writing this one for so long but as a sworn procrastinator, I usually need a trigger to write, a moment of inspiration or a kick in the hind if you may, to get started. The aforementioned inspiration usually comes to me from the most unlikely of sources and mundane of activities. This one sprang from an itch courtesy of a dish cleaning detergent(the commonplace Pril) and a mountain of dishes with leftover food in it, courtesy of the menfolk of the household. While I gulped down the lump of disgust caught in my throat unwillingly and carried on with the revolting task at hand, I decided to put pen to paper, basically vent it all out.
From the time I could observe, internalise my observations and draw my own conclusions, I’ve looked at menfolk as a rather privileged lot. I would like to from this point onward refer to them(menfolk) as ‘Raja babas’(it gives me an unusual, cheap thrill). I wouldn’t say that I’ve been tortured under the yoke of patriarchy but haven’t we all, women from educated families doing considerably well for ourselves, at different points of time in our lives, been recipients of the horrors of patriarchy, from the everyday common, utterly absurd to downright offensive?
If patriarchy were a person, I would imagine him to be lazily sprawled on the couch, with a bag of chips placed on his distended stomach, scratching his balls to glory, laughing raucously at the idiot box and belching intermittently. Pretty disgusting, isn’t it? Aren’t we from time immemorial inhaling the fumes of Patriarchy’s flatulence. As a feminist belonging to no particular school of thought, floating in an ocean teeming with sharks of patriarchy(I fear am being too repetitive), trying to make sense of my life as a human being first, then the gender I was assigned(by God or daddy’s chromosome), I feel a little burdened, maybe slightly more than the raja babas. Alas! It’s hard escaping the fact that you’re a woman, don’t get me wrong I love being one but I do detest the gender roles dumped on me solely based on the virtue of being one.
I was first faced with gender roles and its implications when I observed that raja babas could make a noise and eventually be exempted from menial household chores. Not only raja babas of filial relations but raja babas in general were awarded this special privilege. Mothers of raja babas would chide them sternly at first, then ruffle their hair lovingly and tell their daughters. ‘Beta, he’s a boy.’ I don’t know about the others but I certainly didn’t take too well to this notion of boyness.
What happens when you raise a raja baba? It’s quite simple, really. Just like children grow out of their cute phase so do these raja babas. What is worse is that, they grow up with a distorted, glorified image of themselves, forever demanding the perks of boyness and a general disregard for the labours of others. In no time the inconsiderate raja baba goes from being a gangling teenager(maybe still cute) to a prick of a septuagenarian(not even remotely cute), wrecking havoc especially in the lives of the unfortunate womenfolk who have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis.
Dear mothers of raja babas, I know you’ve waited with bated breath for the birth of this glorious, little angel of a man who will carry forward the family lineage, wipe your tears and care for you in the twilight years of life, but do you really want to handicap him in a way that he grows into a boor with barely acceptable toilet manners. Do you want the wife and daughter to berate your ‘ladla’ every living day of his life? I’m sure you don’t, so get your act together woman, for the sake of posterity! Do you want a whole generation of men begging of their wives and daughters for piddling favours that raja babas believe is their privilege and also the rightful duty of womenfolk. Aren’t we supposed to be the nurturers? Do you think a woman (wife/daughter) has no better job than bringing up your son for you?
As for the effect that raja babas have had on me, I’ve grown to detest their kind, I look at them with disdain and do things for them with a cold contempt sprinkled with mirth. The mirth stems from the spectacle of their total ineptness at accomplishing the simplest of tasks without assistance of some sort from womenfolk. It continues to blow my mind to this day. It would be wrong to brand them all as raja babas. Of course, there are many who’re sensitive, responsible and not domestically challenged. In fact there are so many women who could give the worst of raja babas a run for their money with their appalling disregard for the labours of others and their ‘I’m privileged and this is beneath my dignity’ mindset . But I’m sure that their kind is numbered. I’m just glad women are waking up to this issue and breaking free from gender stereotypes.
I remember this episode from my favourite Indian show ‘Sarabhai vs Sarabhai’. Indravadhan(husband) realises that he’s losing an argument to his wife and his ego is obviously bruised beyond measure when the phone begins to ring. When Maya(wife) suggests he answer it, he says, ‘Mein mard hu.’ To which she replies laughingly, ‘Indu uski complaint tumhe apne mummy se karni hogi. Mein uska kuch nahi kar sakti.’
This is exactly what you can expect if you give your raja babas a privileged treatment. Treat them like you treat your daughters, they’ll probably grow a spine in the process.