A year back, I was travelling with my 4 year old daughter to Denmark. My panicky husband teamed me up with two other better halves, husbands of whom had already made their way to Denmark before them. Three different families united with a single goal, 'follow their husbands to their place of work.'
As I reached the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, I saw no one waiting in the airport as told to me by my husband. So I make a quick call to my husband and he provides me with the respective numbers of the fellow accompanying ladies. I make a quick check with the ladies only to be told that they will be arriving a little late because of a bad storm that had hit the city in the late evening and had left the city vandalised. So I decide to go ahead with the check in formalities and wait in the lounge for the ladies to join me later.
I see a woman with a bright blue pants walking towards me and asks me, "Hi, are you Jyoti?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Hi I am Shweta."
Okay so you are one of the fellow ladies who have been hooked up by our husbands. I thought. We exchange the pleasantries and I went ahead and asked her about the whereabouts of the other damsel in distress.
As the damsels in distress came together, I quickly noticed that there were two 4 year olds travelling along with us; one mine and the other was a boy of the third lady. Soon I notice the two kiddos getting along and starting to play with each other. As the kids got comfortable, the ladies started with their chit chat.
My daughter had a favourite doll that would accompany her everywhere. So when there is one toy and two kids in the same room, the bickering for the sole toy isn't too far away. So the boy soon starts to squabble my daughter to share her toy with him. But "favourite toys are not meant to share", said my girl. And the little boy starts to cry and hanker her further.
At this moment the mother of the boy says something that I never expected an educated mother like her to say. She says, "Boys don't play with dolls. And why are you crying? Boys don't cry either."
Wow! This is how we demarcate the boundaries for our kids; this is how we isolate our boys from our girls. I was astonished to see how a simple toy and an act of showing your emotions have now been shown in the light of being weak and how roles have been ascertained. Boys do not cry because boys are meant to be strong. Why? Well because we have grown up seeing our fathers being the head of the family and playing a dominant role in the day to day activities; whereas our mothers have played the coy role in taking care of the family, going through the daily hardships of raising kids, doing the household chores and sustaining a dominating husband. So if you are the boy you are the future head of the family; you are the leader and leaders have to be strong; leaders do not cry because crying is the sign of weakness; and leaders cannot be weak. Dolls replicate babies and taking care of babies is the woman's role so boys cannot play with dolls because they are meant to go out and work and earn money to sustain the family whereas women are to stay at home and raise kids; so the dolls suit the girls better for their future roles.
I sometimes think how our actions and the things we say impersonates our sexist mentality lying dormant within us; given a chance it sticks its head up. In the Indian Society patriarchal values are so skin deep that we cannot think unconventionally; whether knowingly or unknowingly. We have grown up seeing people around us playing androcentric roles doled out to them through generations. Although we try changing our ways of thinking and acting, unburdening of the obvious is often very difficult. I really hope and wish that we are able to shed away these gender-centric roles and archaic beliefs and raise a generation which embraces open-mindedness; open-mindedness towards treating and accepting women in equal platform; open-mindedness in understanding that raising and sustaining a family needs collaboration and co-operation from both the man and the wife; because they are the pillars of strength and support for the entire family and one cannot do away with the other if we aim to achieve a balance in our family. Hope people get educated along with getting literate and along with getting a degree. And hope we do not raise our daughters who raise their sons telling them that 'boys don't cry'!!