I was in a wedding, the kiddos in tow. My kids love the extravagant Delhi weddings. Of course, the fact that they get to guzzle all the soft drinks they want, and binge on the array of desserts does have something to do with it, but I suspect it has to do with the music and the dancing too.
Weddings are also a place where relatives by the dozen, meet, exclaim on how much the kids have grown, and give them a tight hug, or a pull of the baby cheeks. This is also a time when my ‘ideal bahu’ (daughter-in-law) avatar makes a guest appearance, as I touch their feet in respect.
As the kids grew up, they picked up the habit from us, the parents. It began with the grandparents, and then to all and sundry who seemed to be people we did the exercise (pun intended!) with. While the grandparents are a very enlightened lot, there are relatives who are yet to accept concepts like gender equality.
Thus, in this particular wedding, I greeted an elderly aunt with much respect. My son, being the energetic five-year old that he is, immediately took on the game of ‘feet-touching’ too. Needless to say, the elderly aunt was ecstatic to receive this token of respect from him. Not to be left behind, my daughter, all of nine, decided to garner some brownie points too.
But the moment she bent down to touch her feet, the aunt gasped and said, “Oh, but girls in our family don’t touch feet.” A perplexed nine-year old was not able to understand why she was not given the same blessings.
A little later, a conversation between the still-confused none year old and the relative in question (yes, I have a persistent daughter ):
Little G : Badi Dadi (Elder Grandmother) why didn’t you let me touch your feet?
Elderly Aunt : Because I love you very very much.
Little G : But doesn’t you love my brother as much ?
EA : Oh, but in our homes, daughters are like Devi (Goddesses)…. So you are like a ‘Devi’ for me.
Little G (still thinking hard): So that means no girls should touch feet? What about Mamma? She is also a girl. Why can she touch your feet?
EA : Well, you will not touch our feet – not your parents or us. You will touch the feet of elders in your home. (Noticing the perplexed expression on her face, Dadi clarifies)…. When you get married.
This is where I had to interfere and take her aside to prevent any further conversation on the same topic. But some damage had already been done – I discovered that Little G was not very happy with the way things were. She looked at me through spoonfuls of the ice cream, and said, “But this is my home!”
I assured her this most certainly was her home, and she could do all the stuff her brother would – including touching feet if she so felt like it! She hugged me and rushed off to play, the worry out of her mind, the ambiguity no longer visible to her.
While I discussed this with my Mother in Law, she was sympathetic with my concerns, but she said that ‘this is how the world is’. When I question further, on why the world is such, she patiently explained to me that every societal norm that was ever made, revolved around the fact that girls would be married off one day, and would cease to be part of their birth family.
Hmmmmm………. So, they were pampered to bits in their families, only to be treated like second grade citizens in their ‘married to’ family! Wow – that certainly made sense!
But this set me thinking – why do we have rules that create differences in two children?
- Dowry for one, property for the other
- Family name for one, soft corner for another
- Education for one, ‘Training’ for another
- “Budhape ka sahara” for one, “Paraya Dhan” for another
So, are we saying that we have differential rules to facilitate the roles of our sons and our future daughters in law?
Who gave us the right to decide our kid’s role in our lives? We stay with our sons and pine for our daughters, while cursing our daughters in law. We stay with our in-laws, while wishing for the company of our parents and envying our brothers.
At the end of this angry rant, an ancillary to all these ‘rules’ – do we have kids so that our ‘Budhapa’ is taken care of? Well, I know that for many of us, it’s a vehement ‘NO’. So then, why can’t we do away with differentiating ‘rules’ for the little ones?
I leave you with a beautiful piece from the Lebanese poet Gibran
“You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.