Tuesday, May 20, 2014

No-Nonsense Chayaisms from the 80s… Girls will be boys


                                                          Girls will be boys
“What do you want to become when you grow big?” I asked my three-year-old niece Mini. Pat came the reply, “I will become a boy when I grow big!” curious, I asked her why, “Because,” she said “I can cycle faaast.”  Suddenly, I was transported by time machine to the day my dad had asked the same question and my reply was, “I will have a house and lots of children.”
Mini and I seem to represent the changing trends in women’s values, over the years. On one side of the scale is the girl who relates womanhood to home hearth and motherhood, while on the other you have a girl who wants to ‘be’ the other sex and do things hitherto related to that. No one had consciously told either of us that this or that is what you are to do, yet we had formed our own impressions.
Sixty  five years ago, father and mother represented the two sexes. Father meant going to work and brining money and mother meant cooking and sewing and looking after us.
Our brothers always played games like ‘police thief’ or doctor- patient. If they did admit us into their fold, it was to either be caught red handed as thief or writhing in pain as patient.
We were quite content brewing  imaginary broth in miniature utensils or singing lullabies to cosily wrapped up dolls. If brother wanted to join in, it was as father and he would growl in what he thought was a commanding masculine voice “serve my food quickly, I am late for office”. We would scuttle around him solicitously and looked pleased that he graced our playtime!
In school we learnt the intricacies of chain stitch and French knots and the secret of making fudge that does not stick to the pan. Our teachers taught us how to sit with our palms resting docilely in our laps, to drop our voice and speak gently, to walk with a gingerly gait and lower ourselves into a chair and cross our legs at the ankle.
We were sent to ‘convent schools’ so that we could be trained in the art of being ‘good’ girls. In composition class, we wrote lengthy essays on ‘my ambition in life’, which was invariably centered around being a good mother or teacher or a nurse – the only professions suitable for girls.
Times have changed and I’m not too sure if we are gong the right way. Girls like Mini who represent the ‘new generation’ not only want to ‘cycle faaast’ but aspire to become boys, as if that was an achievable goal. A three-year-old sees in herself some handicap that she thinks can be overcome by becoming a boy! Her dream is bound to be thwarted and I shudder to think of the impact it may have on her.
I sat and explained patiently to her that she can ‘cycle faaast’ as a girl and showed her photographs of women cyclists, pilots and parajumpers. I told her that she can also go to work like dad does and so also cook like her mother. She listened intently, a faraway look in her eyes. I heaved a sigh of relief and got up. “Aunty”, she said, “When I grow big, I want to be a boy.”