Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Woman smart, Man smarter

My parents have only two children. Both of them daughters. It doesn’t matter to them that they don’t have a son, but it apparently does to a large number of strangers who always commiserate with them about their lack of sons. That my sister and I are both reasonably well educated and financially independent, matters little to them.
right now, I am in Arunachal, which I thought was better than the northern states in the way it treats women. They do treat women better, but women are still not considered to be equal to men at least in some tribes.
We went to a couple of Nyshi houses in and around itanagar, the state capital. Nyshis are the most dominant tribe in this hilly, thickly-forested state in terms of population. Seems like polygamy was a common practice among this tribe. The richer you are, the more the wives you should have. It is a status symbol and the other wives do not even mind. In fact they actually encourage it. Apparently it helps to have other women around the house to split their chores in the house and the field. And of course, if the first wife doesn’t have enough sons, a second or a third one is almost mandatory.
And it was while I was talking to one of these women, one of them said my parents don’t need a son, because I am as smart as a boy. She meant it as a compliment and I will take it as one. It is just that I am a wee bit disappointed because I expected more of Arunachalis.
And tomorrow I am off to Majuli, one of the largest river islands in the world and the seat of Assam’s Vaishnavite culture. More on that later.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The homeless

I met a homeless woman at a shelter recently. She had been abandoned by her husband after he married a much younger woman. She had three kids from ages 2 to 5. She had lost a four-month baby to Delhi's cold. But she was proud of the fact that her kids were going to school. She was happy to be able to sleep in the shelter at night. She was absurdly grateful to the people who had arranged the shelter. What gives her the right to be grateful for so little? Why is she grateful and not resentful? Why does she accept a system where the keepers of law are her biggest predators? Why do we talk about India's booming economy when the state had failed a quarter of its population abysmally at every level--be it health, law and order, livelihood, basic living conditions. How dare we talk about India shining, when India is most definitely not shining, at least not for Yasmin and her children.