Sunday, August 8, 2010


Flamingo London called & asked to interview me on 'Indian Women'. Me in my hat of a sociologist as versus market researcher.

When someone actually asks me, I don't know where to begin. Like the tufts of grass we take for granted around us. Highlighting the unseen fertile humus we walk over daily. All the gender-benders we take for granted around us. Ways in which society maintains its patriarchal hegemony, and the lopsided inequality between the (higher) groom's side of the family over the (lower) bride's.

Take for instance, my trip to Delhi last week. Someone I work with there - let's call him Vikram - is a Northie married to a Mumbai-wali. Wifey is expecting a baby in Sept - their first, and her mom came up to Del from Mumbai to bring her home. In the tradition of Western India, a girl comes home to deliver, in the cocooned environs of her maika.

Vikram's mom told her sambandhi and I quote: In our tradition, we do not have this 'sending home' stuff. Our children are born here. However if you insist, you are free to take her back.

Whereupon the visiting mom hastened to say 'No, oh no - She is now your daughter, and of course you know best' and quickly went back to the city she had come from.

Not a breath of anyone dreaming to even ask the young mother-to-be what she herself might wish to do.
But everyone else is talking with her best interests at heart, so where is the problem, is the likely surprised response to such a question.

End of story.

Well, not quite.

Earlier in the day, over lunch with our visiting foreign clients, we had ordered a range of dishes. Both veg and non-veg. Gosht, chicken reshmi kebab, fish tikka et al. Vikram, a true Punjabi. who used to love his chicken, declined to touch it.

Palak paneer and dum aloo kashmiri sufficed.

Why? Because his wife had tacitly convinced him to turn vegetarian. She was not around over lunch, and we asked him if he would like to try a part of a dish. No! he said. Firmly.

In other words, wifey is not as helpless as one would think. She had quietly ensured hubby dearest leaves non-veg for the purer veg food - always good for health.

My feeling is: at a delicate turning point of life (unborn baby), it was best not to tempt fate & eat the forbidden. In India, veggie is always the satvik 'godly' option after all.

Whatever it is, just when we think we need to sympathize with the hapless lot of the woman, she turns around and shows you her awesome invisible (invincible?) power.

This is India.


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