We believe in several things because we are made to believe in them. I was speaking to high school girls. They were shocked when I said that my friend was followed when she was in burkha, covered head to toe. They found it funny that old ladies can be raped. One girl said its impossible for them to remain unmarried, after all they were girls. There were similar comments from many others.
Girls should stop attending school after puberty because … boys will be there at schools.
Oh!! You don’t know cooking?? You are an Indian girl, you have to cook someday for your family.
A two year old got raped – Her life is ruined!
Acid was thrown at a girl- she shouldn’t have provoked the guy!
That boy doesn’t go out and shop things for home?- make him wear his sister’s dress.
That girl wears jeans like boys?- tell her she’ll be raped!
It was very much understandable that she was honour-killed!- she was going to have a love marriage!
You should always cover your breasts, because no matter how good a guy is, he will always check out your breasts first! You should always make sure that boys never know that you have got periods.
You should not make boyfriends, they’ll use and throw you.
That girl doesn’t want to marry?- she must be shy, that is all.
She still doesn’t want to marry? Tell her about that aunt who stayed alone because she was career oriented and now she feels so alone and unsafe.
I believed all this. I think all girls do. We believe because we haven’t seen anything different or we are not shown anything different. We are in a closed room where we are taught and brought up in a certain way and made to believe that this is the only way to life. When people tell you not to read a particular book, not to watch a particular programme/movie, not to dress a particular way, not to go out at some particular time or to some particular lane, not to make friends with someone…they ensure that you remain in this room so long that you never even have access to any different thoughts. You become what they want you to be. You remain where they want you to remain, in the room, without any knowledge of the existence of any other world other than your room.
I met a woman who brought a different world to me. A world I never thought existed. She was from London. I must have been 14 when I met her. I didn’t have much idea about what life was. But everything she said made sense.
She said that there in London, you can wear what ever you want, even short skirts and no one bothers. Here, the more you are covered, the more men try to peep into you/ touch you. I was fourteen and I knew what this was. When ever I went in bus, there would be a hand grabbing my hip or touching me. I don’t know if what she said was true. I will know when I go to London myself. But sure it was a new world to me. It was a world where you could walk without the fear of being molested.
She told me that her daughter wanted to go star gazing. She thought it was a stupid thing that teenagers did. They went near a beach at night and gazed at stars. She allowed it even if she thought it was stupid. She felt that kids should feel free to talk about anything and everything they want. Her son knew that it was a function for the coming up of age of his cousin. She was proud that he could talk about it. It was a world where you dint have to hide your napkins all time.
She said she talked to her daughter about love and attraction. She said the best thing I have ever heard-‘I don’t want my daughter to fall for the first boy who smiles at her.’ That’s how I would like to raise my daughter someday. It is a world where you don’t have to hide things. You can love. You can make mistakes and still have your mom beside you. No forced arranged marriage or no fear of honour-killing.
She asked me how I felt about arranged marriages where you marry someone you met only once or without having met sometimes. I said I haven’t thought about it. She said that I must be too young to understand that. (Now if I think of it, my cousins were married at the age of 16!) She told me of her relative, a woman who was forty years old and unmarried. She would joke about the boys that were lined up for her. She was happy with her life and didn’t want to marry just anyone. And we thought that if girls don’t marry they are unsafe and are under threat of rape and murder. We just didn’t know that there were nuns who didn’t marry at all. There was mother Teresa everyone admired. But no one wished a daughter like her. We didn’t know about the domestic violence and even worse, marital rape which isn’t even a crime. It was a world where a girl was not just a burden, born to be married off and bear children.
She spoke about how students start earning for themselves to fund their studies and no job was less than any other job. A world where you could make your own choices.
I ‘m sure there will be many ugly things there too. There is rape and murder everywhere. But I see very few such moms here. I don’t see such society at all. I have started dreaming of a world better than what it is now. A world very different from the room I have lived in. A world where I will not have to account for every breath I take, every thought I have or everything I do. A new world…