Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Stereotyping The Stereotypes

Most times, we confuse the traditions and the culture with feminism or stereotyping. I have debated on such topics and also on topics like "multitasking- a man's cup of tea or a women's expertise!".  And to realize, that few of my life experiences are neither of the above four topics. We simply end up stereotyping stereotypes. We define our life.

[Photo courtesy:] A cute meme to go with, courtesy google.

Dating back to the late 1980s, the old, fragile lady that she was with hunched back, black strong glasses, few remains of teeth. She had the best warmth, wisest words, love-filled talks, and compassion filled life. My great grandmother, who affectionately held my wrist, and with her failing vision, she would sense my wrist, hair, and cheeks and admire, "you are now doing metric.?"
For that generation studying in Grade 10 meant doing a metric. "Nah, still in 7th", I would tell.
She would then pour out her wishes. "OK, once you finish your metric is when you will marry and I wish I live to see that".  At times she would simply rephrase it as "I will witness your wedding and then go". Her go meant straight up to heaven. Her path to heaven had one last event, that was my wedding.

I still do not conclude this as a stereotyped formula. I was brought up in an educated family that never preached me, ideal orthodox feminine model, however, my great grand mother's wishes touched our brahminical family matrix and her beliefs.

But, the contrast happens when we decide where to draw a line. I mean, today, my male friends do the dishwashing every night and I do not envy their working wive at all. Working full time or not, I prefer he be away from the chores. That is my choice.

At times, I find it funny enough to realize this. One of the best domestic fun times for my kids is when they, with their father sit back and decide "MY" travel to India. Yes. When it was time for my travel alone to India on a personal call, my kids become too empathetic with love. Both are exclusively at my service how I should extend my return ticket and how they will find their comfort in my absence in Doha.

Be it a major missing, yet they wait to showcase their skills of self-survival. I wasn't skeptical about that but I was aghast how the scenes changed sides when their "father traveled'! Both seemed absolutely different. Now, he is the busy bee as for him, Work is worship. It is fine with us. But the envious part is when "he" travels. He walks in the home from the office one evening and announces "tomorrow is my travel on work". Wow.
That would be so unlikely with me. "I am traveling tomorrow", if I said this, I would be traveling max to the Lulu Hypermarket. Huh. Not out of the country.

How at times, I wish I could pack my bags too without making a lengthy to-do list and the endless calls to the cook and the maid, and lesser said better but the unending instructions to my kids. I can still do. But my life is my choice and I have made mine. My own "stereotype". Some call me a saint, some alien. It is not important though.

I mean I could be straight silly basically. Or simply "be like a girl", myself. Analyzing those school time race days of mine, I had finally managed to race the speedy Gonsalves of the school almost till the finishing line once. But collapsed just little before the line. All I had to do was get up, and run crawl or drag myself touch the finishing line to hold the victory trophy. And there he was, my classmate, yelling,  get up and run. In desperation, he almost wanted to hold out a  helping hand and I sensed that. "Stay away from me you, yeah", that was my attitude towards him, and by then all the runners had touched the finishing line.

Ahh. Let me blame my generation. winning was not my priority. I was more conscious, about "you boys, stay away from me." Like I am an untouchable. So foolish as well! Years later I tell my mirror, "you foolish girl, you missed the win you deserved".  And my ego says "never mind, my great grandmother would be so proud of me".

She often caught me to question "I again saw you running around with the brats around the temple". Yes. Staying in the temple surroundings we all "brats" ran around like scattered mice playing serious random games, calling out each other names, at times yanking at each others collars or hair even! But my argument with my great grandmother was " how did you spot me from the grilled windows, from a distance of at least 10 m distance". But what I failed to notice was her extraordinary skillsets of analyzing me with her failing eyesight. 

And somehow, I shared a special bonding with her. None of her instructions affected my thought process, on not to mingle with the brats and "stay indoors like a good girl". Yet I became her favorite, feeding her snacks that were forbidden for her health, in the absence of other family members.

However, over a while, stereotyping the stereotypes got some fruitful results. I fell for her charms and almost stopped being a brat. By the time, I was doing my "metric" I would sit by her side as a pet dog, as I studied my subjects for the board exam that she so much waited! And she sat hunching her back with her dark cotton saree, folded hands chanting random mantras. In between, she would talk to imaginary people all by herself self and I would simply stare at her and smile to myself.

I was no longer on the streets pushing my cycle pedals for hours with my friends, or in the basketball courts all afternoon. And the other way too was a surprise. She had turned more insomniac with age, and stopped asking about my wedding!

It took these thoughts of mine to the realization that "stereotyping" was a phenomenon to be so obsessed with. For some, it is a miracle or a taboo, for a few an entire career, sometimes a debate topic. For the rest, it may be the big bang gender stereotype challenges and status quo. An unexhaustive list as it may sound.

To me, stereotyping stereotypes became a realization.