For my second post on this blog I had been requested to write on the #roadnottravelled but I had planned to write on empathy and its importance in the upbringing of a child. The news of the rape of a woman in an Uber in New Delhi made me change this and go into introspection mode.
The problem is not with the Delhi Police, Delhi Government, Uber, immigrants from U.P. or Bihar or an inadequate number of CCTVs . The problem is how we are raising our children, especially the boys and the sexist mentality that we have engrained in our society. This is reflected by how we think, which results into the vocabulary we use and then manifests into our actions.
“The problem is how we are raising our children, especially the boys.”
I believe (in India and many parts of the world) there is a basic lack of empathy, etiquettes and kindness, and a severe imposition of what one gender should do and what the other should not. For instance this incident that happened with me a few years ago.
I was back from University of Glasgow for my summer vacations and some family friends had been invited over for lunch. That day I had decided to prepare a few dishes (I have been a foodie since I guess I was born and began cooking when I was 7. My parents have encouraged me tremendously to follow my passions.). When the guests arrived I was in the kitchen, adding a few finishing touches.
This auntie (an old family friend) enters, comes directly to the kitchen and sees me chopping some vegetables for a salad.
“Arrey Beta (Oh son), why are you in the kitchen? Boys should not be in the kitchen. I don’t let my son enter the kitchen, though his sisters assist me with all household work.”
“Arrey Beta, why are you in the kitchen? Boys should not be in the kitchen.”
Tongue tied, in my mind it went “WTF”. I did not know if I should display my contempt or show respect to an ‘elder’. My mum overheard this and said, “In our house everyone contributes to everything. From cooking, to at times washing clothes and dishes, to even cleaning the toilets. Both my children assist in all tasks (I have a younger sister).”
Auntie seemed aghast. She picked a piece of cucumber from the chopping board and walked away.
The solution is not just education. This ‘auntie’ comes from a well healed, higher middle class family. She has a university education and has sent her daughters to university too. She is an NRI. So education in its current framework is not really the solution. And saying that instances like this do not happen in modern, financially wealthy and educated families is a farce.
It is sad that it is women who are instilling this mentality in children but I have experienced this with men too. A few months ago one of my dad’s friend was at our place one Sunday morning. I guess my parents were still sleeping or were getting dressed for the day, so I went into the kitchen, put together some cookies and juices and served it to this uncle. His reaction when he sees me walking with a serving tray in had, “Beta, tum kyu yeh sab kar rahey ho? Tumhari behen ghar pe nahi hai kay? Ya aur koi nahin hai?” (Son, why are you doing this? Isn’t your sister at home? Or someone else to do it?). He was basically implying that a domestic help or a woman should be serving him and I being a boy (and of the ‘superior sex’) should be…well doing something else.
We as a society have created strict categories of tasks for men and women (this segregation exists for different castes, religions and states too) if these tend to interchange it is considered blasphemy.
“Arrey saab, yeh kaam aap kyu kar rahen ho? Aap aaram kijiye, hum inhe saaf kar dengey.”
An instance where this was not gender directed happened in August this year. I was accompanying my dad on an overnight trip dad to Aligarh. In the morning I was sitting in the guest house, polishing my shoes when the cook walks in and says, “Arrey saab, yeh kaam aap kyu kar rahen ho? Aap aaram kijiye, hum inhe saaf kar dengey.” (Sir, why are you doing this work. Please go and rest, I will clean them for you.) I thanked him and said that there is no shame in cleaning one’s own shoes (or for that matter, one’s own mess!) As if it was below my dignity to clean shoes. I have been polishing my shoes (and at times of other family members) since I was in Kindergarten, everyday.
This issue just does not end with eliminating casteism, sexism or with sensitisation. It has to do with the vocabulary we use and how we have over time made the disgusting and unacceptable into the acceptable and at times casually entertaining.
I was shuddering then and as I type I shudder now.
This incident occurred in the interim period between school and university (so well before the Nirbhaya incident). A classmate from school forwarded a SMS (we didn’t have WhatsApp or smartphones then :O) which was supposed to be a joke of the day. It went something like this. (I was shuddering then and as I type I shudder now.)
‘Pappu’ (some random man) sees another man raping a woman and joins him. Upon being asked by the crowd of onlookers why he joined the other man, Pappu responds ‘gang rape = team work’. I shudder to think how as humans we have gone down to such extreme levels of lowness and barbarism that equating gang rape to team work is circulated as a joke via SMS without the batting of an eyelid.
I replied to this ‘friend’ with a lengthy SMS stating how he should be ashamed of even circulating such a ‘joke’ and should introspect on what he makes of the world and that I do not want to maintain any contact with him. Ever. I went on to delete his humber and the message but the impact of the message has left me scarred and scared. Scared that there are maybe hundreds to thousands of boys like this in India, who have an appetite for such crap and they could be anywhere. And scarred by what we have ended up doing to our society and early education. And it is certainly discomforting to know that he obviously hailed from a well educated, financially wealthy family and studied with me in which is considered a reputable school in New Delhi/NCR – Amity International.
What I overlooked at that point was the text mentioned ‘crowd of onlookers’. A caricature of what actually occurs in India. A crime or act of violence in broad daylight and people turning their gaze away or into their smartphone screens or capturing the crime but not going forward to stop it.
Coming back to the point about everyday sexism we experience in India. I feel it is an utter shame that we have created a generation of boys (and men) who need a woman to serve them a glass of water, or make their bed or polish their shoes or cook them breakfast. This attitude and illusion we have created that it is the duty of a woman to serve and the right of a man to be served has brought this foreseeable doom to our nation.
Just creating strict laws and mechanisms to enforce these laws is not sufficient. Lowering the juvenile justice age is not the only solution. Putting CCTVs all over the city will not magically wipe out crime against women. We need all of this alongwith a robust ecosystem for nurturing young and impressionable minds. Many parents become parents and are at sea on how to guide their little ones, we need a system to assist in doing this.
Throwing money into education will not solve this. Only investing in shiny, expensive technology won’t solve this. Making more IITs won’t solve this. Making and giving AADHAR cards won’t solve this. Banning companies won’t solve this. And passing the buck certainly is not solving this.
Calling to hang the rapists will not solve this. I am angry, my friends and family are angry and the nation is angry, but guiding our anger into a thirst for vengeance is not the solution. Our thirst for quick vengeance in the garb of justice is certainly a shame as this article points out. Also the death penalty or life imprisonment is not a long term solution, it may work as a hard hock short term one but never a sustainable one. Adding to the strict laws, with a robust mechanism to enforce them needed with and added layer of support from user centred technology to maintain records, track offenders and never letting them repeat a crime.
“As a nation we have focused too hard and too long on creating more engineers, doctors, lawyers and MBAs but have forgotten on creating humans.”
Also, what will solve this is the acceptance that we have made a mess of our society and our so called ‘culture’ and it has to be rectified;now. The acceptance that as a nation we have focused too hard and too long on creating more engineers, doctors, lawyers and MBAs but have forgotten on creating humans. The non-acceptance to any behaviour or vocabulary that encourages crimes against women (or different castes or religions). And the demand and active effort to reform our school education system from where just academic scores are measured and competed for into an ecosystem where the teachers, parents and institutions work towards the nurturing of a child. Where subjects like home science or vocational education are not looked down up and are not considered the alternative but the acceptable and the mainstream. Where an equal importance is given to emotional intelligence, mental intelligence, academic intelligence, spiritual intelligence, social, moral and political awareness, environmental consciousness, entrepreneurship, empathy and kindness.
“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.” -George Carlin
This may sound like a far fetched, impossible and unachievable dream, because it is. And that is the precise reason we must have the audacity to dream such a dream and charge towards it with a sense of urgency. Tough problems have tougher solutions. We must face this challenge (and numerous others) not because it is easy but because it is hard. In the process I hope it brings out the best in us, irrespective of where we come from, what we believe and where we want to head towards. Only then shall this nation (and humanity) rise, spread its wings and soar.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” -John F. Kennedy, Rice University, September 12 1962.
2 thoughts on “Boys should not be in the kitchen.”
Your article is an excellent analysis of the current situation of India. You say of nurturing children to be more compassionate and so on, but do you propose any solution as how to achieve this?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Talat. I believe it would be unfair to write a few paragraphs and provide an overly simplistic solution to the current situations. Hence, over the course of the my next few blogs I would be writing about my thoughts on education, business and life; as well as sharing my experiences travelling and running a start-up and working with another (both in the education space). I hope these combined posts will collectively shed some light and provide some essential lead.