Almost 7 years ago, I was playing virtual tennis with one of my cousins. Back then, he was 6 and I was 19. After spending a couple of hours playing with him, I excused myself saying I had assignments and projects to work on.
He promptly responded saying, "What’s the point of that? All you will be expected to do is cook through the week, watch some TV, go out shopping with your friends and spend all the money your husband earns."
I was taken aback, actually no, I was flabbergasted. Firstly, not all women choose to do that and second and more importantly, it was evident that a woman or a man who manages the entire house, works without a break, almost always eats last, sleeps last, wakes up first and barely gets any free time to enjoy is equated to a 'leech' for lack of a better term.
This 6 year old, practically useless kid, had a picture of my future or for that matter the future of almost 50% of country’s population clearly scripted in his head.
"Who teaches you all this," is all I said to him then. His parents were around and they just laughed it off. It was not a big deal for them but for me, that episode is etched in my memory.
Now, my parents are doctors, extremely successful in almost all spheres of life. Happily married. My sister and I were raised in a very free environment; we were allowed to go out whenever we wished to, all they were concerned about was basic safety. If we were to come back after 1:00 am, the keys were given to us, we could take the car out always, there was never any compulsion of learning how to cook, clean, serve or even to make our own beds.
Education was given prime importance. We spoke openly about topics that might be considered “controversial” otherwise. Household responsibilities were divided between mom and dad equally. Not once in my life had I heard either of my parents tell me I had to be a certain way because I was a girl.
What’s strange is the fact that my mother grew up in a fairly modest and old fashioned household. If I have to believe what she tells me and I have absolutely no reasons not to, her understanding of the way this world functions began after working for about 5 years. That’s almost a third of her life later.
When she realized what a setback it can be in a world where the competition is ruthless, she ensured both her daughters were not subjected to the worldly biases. I shouldn’t take the credit away from my father for following her lead in bringing us up the way she envisioned, fighting the odds and simply loving us unconditionally.
The way I would want to react to the statement made by that 6 year old has evolved as have I over the years. Back then I wanted to slap him, I felt like giving a piece of my mind to his parents but now all I want to do is tell him to let his own experiences teach him things so that his opinion is not influenced by what random people blurt out in casual conversations.
I have read a lot of articles asking the society to bring up their sons differently instead of nurturing the daughters in a way that makes them ‘ideal marriage material’ but now that I think of it, the problem is way deeper than that.
How will we ever modify the way majority of our parents or their parents were brought up?