Exclusive open letter by Tahira Kashyap: Keeping quiet, enduring it is unreal
Tahira Kashyap calls out the hypocrisy against women, lends support to #SmashThePatriarchy amid the ongoing case
Like a phoenix, she will rise. And by she I mean feminism, which is being crushed everyday. Why would I choose to write about this much-trodden topic now? Perhaps my threshold of tolerance has been tested in the last week, jolted by this new wave of anger against patriarchy. All of the talk in the media, the chatter on twitter, the footage on my tv screen, re-awakened something in me. And so in the last week when I had my usual share of experiences - the usual experiences that happen to every woman, every single day - I lost my poise.
We are currently in Chandigarh where the trees are outnumbering the cows by the roadside and my mother's fixation with her jamai is trying my patience. A few days ago, we had a small get together at home. Trying to redeem our ancestors of their bad habits, both the men and women of the house were serving the guests.
While I offered a plate of hot tikkis, a distant relative wearing a Salvador dali mask , not the one that covers the entire face but just covering his mouth, symbolizing only one kind of resistance- the stretch in the cloth which was trying to accommodate his buxom cheeks, looked mighty impressed with my husband and the way he was helping me out. He made a snide remark while slipping two tikkis into his plate, " beta you should look after your husband, feed him more greens". Before I could react, my wise mother quickly put two more tikki's in his plate and ushered me, the ticking time bomb, aside.
Needless to say I was appalled at first. But once that feeling subsided I wondered why I was expected to feed greens to the man? I understand when my father expects me to give some greens to Jyoti, the cow, who comes to our house every Monday and to also give 20 rupees to her accomplice. It's only fair that Jyoti has such an expectation, though I doubt she discriminates between which gender feeds her but what was this tikki-munching man thinking?
Red hot with anger, I turned around and went up to the relative and said, "actually he is making me a salad tonight, I'll ask him to make an extra serving for himself'. I was tempted to crush his toes as I made the speech, but held myself back and simply stomped out of the living room. After all, who wants to deal with name-calling? I mean with 'vishkanya', 'gold digger' and 'Bengali women' doing the rounds I don't want 'khoon ki piyaasi', 'toes crushing' 'Punjabi women' to start another wave.
I was later on pulled up by another senior family member for my behaviour. I agree I was being harsh but was amazed by the offence taken. Perhaps every time a woman is called 'haramkhor', 'fucking m#$@#chod' on live feed, we should go out protesting too…oh but aren't we already? Yet when we do, we are loose cannonballs who are frustrated and need to be trolled with rape and murder threats on social media, a platform that has not only encapsulated our lives but defines the very nature of it too.
I remembered my trainer in Mumbai. More so now since the weighing scale is replicating the ascending graph of our nation's coronavirus cases. I remember one day after a tough, sweaty session I shook hands with her. Her hands were rough, and full of bumps. Some of the callouses had literally turned green. She smiled at my look of shock and said "I need to work hard, I need to be on top of my game. Have to stay fit…always". And so after her six to seven hours of personal training sessions she would take out time for herself to train for another hour or two, before running back to her four-year-old daughter.
In my training with various gym trainers for around 15 years I have observed 90% of male trainers are unfit with their muscles generously layered with fat. They may not always have been this way, but once they have found a certain recognition, they let go of themselves. And it doesn't matter as they all still had a huge clientele .
The women trainers, on the other hand, were 100 % fit despite thyroid issues, PCOS or having delivered multiple kids via cesarean. Yet they ended up with perhaps half the clientele than their male counterparts. Why this discrepancy? Because like many other professions and life in general, women always have to prove themselves. It's a constant struggle, a constant point to prove.
The next day I went into a meeting with the real estate agent who was showing us the first drawing of our family home that we all recently bought in Panchkula. Attending the meeting was my not-so-skinny half now (prep mode for his shoot), his brother, sister in law, the agent and his assistant. It was a fun meeting full of excitement and anticipation.
The agent threw open the charts on the table. We huddled over it trying to figure which room should go where. As the four of us were mulling over where to have an exclusive master bedroom space for mom-in-law and father-in-law, the agent's assistant jumped in with an ingenious suggestion. " We should have a service kitchen along the main kitchen, both the Khurrana bahus would want an exclusive space to cook nai?"
The boys were generous and only gave the poor chap an astonished look. But us girls weren't that generous. This time I looked truly bloodthirsty. I think he saw embers of fire burning in my eyes. Figuring out he had said something wrong, the assistant quickly changed the subject. Till date every time I meet him and offer to get something exclusive from the kitchen for him, he vehemently refuses. I guess he doesn't want me entering the rasoda anymore.
There is something drastically wrong with the general outlook towards women. The expectations are unreal. "How is ignoring a lame comment by a roadside Romeo unreal?" You may ask. It is unreal. Keeping quiet, enduring is unreal. Even before puberty hit me, I have been bottom pinched so many times that I, like every Indian girl, have lost count - be it standing in queues outside a single screen theatre or lining up outside a mandir waiting for a chance to pour milk over shiv-ling and see the linga 'drink' it. Somehow I never got to experience the latter as I opted out of the line after getting groped. And I was all of 12 at that time. And that too at a pious place. If someone had called out these filthy minds for what they are, perhaps I wouldn't have to experience what I did. And if we don't call out now and have zero tolerance for the smallest of remarks how can we ensure the safety of women and children?
Some people say that feminists shout too much at everything, that they go overboard. Let's play a game I recently read about - "can you reverse a proposition and get the same results?" And so each time a remark is made, or some undue expectation is thrown at us let's try to put the man in that situation. For instance, "both the Khurana sons will want an exclusive space to cook " or "did madam allow you to shoot while the kids go to school?" I can add an entire list of questions and this is from a place of privilege. I can't begin to fathom (but don't want to ignore) what must be happening to the rest of us across different strata of the same patriarchal society. So until the equation becomes equal, "roses are red, violets are blue, let's smash the patriarchy, me and you"
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