When I bought this necklace from a shop in Khan market in New Delhi last year, I had visions of me in a floaty white kaftan on a beach somewhere, whiling away my time as I waited for my foot massage to begin (wearing this necklace of course). In reality, I live in the UK, it is winter and the chances of me getting a foot massage on a beach are about as high as Karan Johar calling to buy the film script I wrote. Therefore, I am sticking to my earlier resolution of incorporating my vacation purchases into my daily wardrobe and not waiting for special occasions to warrant wearing them (as discussed in an earlier post – Mirror Work ‘Jhloa Bag’: Vacation Finds With Everyday Wear).
On a different note:
All parents have their own parenting philosophies and I have mine. I firmly believe that characteristics that we want our children to display as adults are characteristics they must observe on a daily basis in their childhood. Children are far more likely to ‘do as we do’ than ‘do as we say’. In my opinion, the foundation for mutual respect and equality between the genders must be laid at the very beginning of a child’s worldly experience.
To this effect, a good friend of mine, Tina Trikha, who is as fabulous a writer as she is a mother (I have referenced her work in this post – Happy Mother’s Day: ‘Rescue Mission’ Lace Sari and a Much Awaited Book), penned this letter to her son on his 10th birthday. I thought the letter articulated a very important message very well and I asked her if I could share the letter on my blog with my readers.
One of my proudest moments as a mother came a couple of years ago when you lost a squash match to a girl. You were both playing in the under-9 age group category. You shook her hand at the end of the game, just as you had been instructed to do, and stepped out of the court. You looked sad, with your head bent low. As you gathered your belongings from the bench, some of your friends and other players sniggered at you. One even said, “You lost to a girl! How could you?” You said nothing back to them.
I watched you looking out of the window during the car ride home. “Are you ok?” I asked, unsure of how you were feeling. You nodded. And then turned to look at me. “Mom, it feels horrible to lose. But I don’t understand why the other kids made a big deal about me losing to a girl. She played better than I did today.” Your 8-year old mind couldn’t understand why anything other than ability and skill on the court mattered. You were sad about losing, but you showed respect for your opponent.
A few months ago, you told me that you hadn’t understood the instructions for an in-class math assignment because you were daydreaming (your words, not mine!). So, you had asked the “smart girl who is really good at math” in your grade for help (your words again). She graciously helped you out.
And just before the winter break, when we were talking about your track and field class in school, I noticed the admiration in your eyes for a fellow girl student who is better than all the other students (boys and girls) in the high jump. “Mom, she FLIES over the bar! No one else comes close.”
I have learned a lot about gender equality from you. I’ve learned from you that true gender equality means turning a blind eye to stereotypes on what boys and girls are “supposed to do” or how they are “expected to behave.” It means letting skills, capabilities and hard work be the only determining factors. It means not making excuses based on gender and giving credit where it is due.
Tomorrow you will turn 10. Double digits! It’s an exciting milestone. Hard to believe how quickly time has flown by. I am writing to you today because a lot of the beliefs that you seem to hold naturally will be tested in the coming years. As physical differences become more pronounced your current mixed-gender sports teams will become separated into boys and girls teams. It may not be long before you hear “locker room banter,” where women are spoken about in impolite terms. Some of your friends may describe this talk as “harmless and natural,” but it’s a slippery slope. I hope that when that talk happens, you will take offense. Not because I want you to think about your sister or your mother when you hear it. But, because it is wrong. Have zero tolerance towards it. You will hear people say, “Just chill. It’s just talk.” Remember that it isn’t too long before words become action; becomes part of regular behavior and attitude and ultimately defines the character of a person.
Don’t let your character change, my son. I still have a lot to learn from you.
Thank you for visiting my blog and have a great weekend! Happy Lohri!