Why feminism is good for men

The other day my friends and I decided to move from one party venue to another, in a different part of the city. With one bike, no cars and a non-availability of the Olas and Ubers, we were struggling to plan the logistics to reach the new destination. One of the girls, Sia was already high and was not comfortable riding her bike. Rahul a friend of ours offered to ride her bike. Another guy rode pillion with him while Sia joined the rest of us in a cab.

“Why are two of them coming on a bike, one of them could have come with us in the cab.”
I asked.

Because Rahul (who is riding) does not know the way, and the other guy does not know how to ride.” Sia replied.

Oh God! They are both like girls – one can’t drive and one doesn’t know directions!” remarked Kunal with a hearty laugh.

Sia and I both pounced on him! “Hey! Women can drive and follow directions!”

Oh sorry to offend you feminists! You demean men when you like and use men when you like. Poor Rahul is riding your bike. Someone else will drop you home after the party. Convenient!

And he got me thinking…

Feminism is not about demeaning men. It is about gender equality. But if the idea of a woman being equal to a man is demeaning to a man, then that pretty much explains why feminism is needed in the first place.

Feminism actually benefits men. In this example, a gender stereotype towards women was used to insult a man. Who said women cannot drive or follow directions? Why should we believe that all men should be ace drivers with a perfect sense of direction? Who are these generalizations helping? Women? Men? Men cannot cry, calling men sissies are all extremely judgmental thoughts on conforming to gender stereotypes.

Women also end up using regressive terminology without realizing that they are degrading themselves. I have heard girls say this about their boyfriends in consensual relationships once it is over:

He used me!

I don’t think women should think of themselves as something “usable” ever. It is a self-depreciating term. Wouldn’t the same woman complain if somebody referred to her as “used”?

Many people ask me that women talk about equality and yet expect men to pay on the date, hold the door and offer to carry the heavy luggage. I think feminism and chivalry can mutually coexist, and personally I am a big fan of chivalry. To me chivalry is more than just the acts of paying a bill on a date but about the overall values which a man holds and the respect he shows towards women.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

I can’t help but share the thought of a dear friend of mine who is not a feminist for the above reason.

Men should not treat a woman equally. They should treat her better!” she says.

If chivalry is against feminism, then shouldn’t feminism be good for men? If a woman wants chivalry should she not talk about feminism? If a man does not believe in feminism should he atleast be chivalrous?

Would like to invite thoughts from readers and I hope men participate in this discussion too.

The unwed mother

I watched two episodes recently on a popular Indian television channel which narrates true incidents of crime. One was the case of a young unmarried woman who committed suicide because she thought she was pregnant. Another was that of an unmarried girl who tried to terminate her pregnancy herself in a crude way, and lost her life in the process.

Another episode featured the story of a girl who was unknowingly videotaped in a consensual sexual act by her then boyfriend who later threatened to upload it on the internet once she moved out of the relationship. The girl and her current boyfriend ended up murdering him, and that is how they gained access to the pen drive which had the video. I have seen a similar concept in a Hindi movie where a family goes to great lengths covering up the accidental killing of a boy, protecting the “honour” of their daughter who was videotaped by him while taking a shower.

What is the message that this conveys to our girls? That their “honour” is more important than their life? And what is this “honour” anyway?

Is it a crime to be an unwed mother? Is it shameful? Does the society shame the unwed father?

What kind of a society is this where the woman is shamed no matter what? If she is raped, she should be the one hiding in shame although we acknowledge that she is a victim. If she has a consensual sexual relationship with somebody she likes and gets pregnant, she is still shamed. If the person she trusted breaks her trust and makes a private act public, she is again humiliated. When she is forced upon by her husband in a marital relationship though, she has no rights. Then, she would probably be shamed for not cooperating with him.

In one of the shows I saw, the uncle of the dying girl who was assumed to be pregnant refused to take her to the doctor, saying that if people found out she was an unwed mother, nobody would marry her sister!

If that is the worst that could happen – nobody would marry her or her sister, so be it! Since when did getting married become more important than being alive? Does it make any sense giving birth to daughters and raising them only to consider their lives so cheap?

When are we going to teach the girls that they have the right to their bodies. We should educate them and guide them to make informed choices. Her body is hers and what she does with it is her choice. It is time we stop treating it as the custodian of the family’s or the society’s values. Her sexual choices are an aspect of her personality. They do not define her character. They certainly do not determine anything as far as the family and society is concerned.

I wish every parent would create an environment where they would tell their daughters that no matter what, they would be there for support. If she becomes a victim of misuse of a picture / video she should be told that it was NOT her fault. It was a mistake – the person she trusted turned out to be a wrong. It was a judgment error, but not a crime.

The criminal here is the boy and there are laws in place to take action against him. Whatever humiliation she may face because of it would be temporary but she can recover from it. If an unintended pregnancy occurs, there are options available. We should not just provide education to our daughters, but empower them to face any situation in life with courage.

She saved her marriage. But what about her life?

Would like to share the story of a family friend, changing the names for protecting their privacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Agarwal arranged the marriage of their daughter, Purvi to Anil. It was a lavish wedding, just the way we like it.

Within the first year of marriage, it was detected that Purvi had a cyst in the ovary. Anil and his parents complained that they had been deceived into marrying a ‘defective’ girl who was not good for doing any household work. Purvi along with her parents were taunted for hiding her condition prior to marriage. Her parents explained that they themselves did not know. Why would they not treat her daughter and instead marry her off, if they had an idea. She was their beloved princess after all. But it was of no use.

Purvi was operated. But she continued to be in pain. Few more visits to the doctor and some tests revealed that she was suffering from cervical cancer.

Chemotherapy started. Purvi was in terrible pain. She used to wash her own clothes, cook, clean and even go grocery shopping. She was just like an any other Indian daughter-in-law, the expectations, the taunts, the humiliation were not spared. The fact that she was suffering from cancer did not matter. Empathy and care was too much to ask for.

Her parents would come to visit at times and stayed with her. Anil’s parents had a list of grievances from the good for nothing daughter in law – how she sleeps too much, is always tired, does not cook and clean well. They were also disgusted with the fact that her parents came and stayed with them shamelessly during the chemo sessions.

Purvi’s parents were also not able to understand how grave the situation was. They were hoping their daughter would get better. One of their friends suggested that they bring her daughter to their home, in another city for the treatment. But the thought of the married daughter not staying with her husband was unthinkable. They did not want her marriage to break-up. It was a new and delicate relationship and they did not want to aggravate the already tensed situation by hurting her in-laws.

Finally, Purvi’s mother mustered some courage to have a candid chat with her doctor.

“When will my daughter fully recover?”

“There is nothing that can be done now Ma’am. I am sorry.”

Purvi’s parents took her daughter to their home, by humbly requesting her in-laws that she has become a burden on them, and that they volunteer to take care of her.

Purvi died within six months. Her husband and in-laws did not bother to visit her at the time of her death or at the funeral. However, Anil received the sum under the life insurance policy in Purvi’s name. After all he was the lawfully wedded husband. Till date, Purvi’s jewelry is still at her in-laws’ home. Her parents feel that they don’t care about materialistic possessions when the most precious part of their life is gone.

When I imagine Purvi struggling from cancer, undergoing chemotherapy and trying to please her husband and in-laws, physically torturing her already weak body, I feel pained. She was trying to save her marriage, more than she cared about saving her life. Nobody could save her from cancer probably, but she could have lived the last couple of years of her life in peace with loved ones, and not inhumane and greedy people who just viewed her as an incompetent maid.

I do not understand what is this pressure in India for girls to stay in absolute horrible marriages. Why do we bring up our daughters with the mentality that marriage is the sole purpose of their life? What kind of fear / hesitation / respect stops parents from protecting their daughters from such evil people who think that their cancer suffering daughter should mop the floor more neatly? Because these unkind people happen to be her in-laws / husband?

Marriages are not made in heaven. They are made right here on earth. Purvi was not married to a God. She was married to a selfish, undeserving human – who did not love her or care for her.

It is okay to end a chronic marriage. It will not be the end of a daughter’s life. Sure, it will bring sadness. But not for the whole life. For some time. She will recover. She may find happiness.

As long as she is alive and healthy.

An Indian daughter-in-law is labeled uncultured and rebellious – Here is why

Experiences shared by several readers, friends and some memories from what seems like another life have compelled me to write this article. In India, a lot of daughers-in-law are made to feel rebellious and uncultured because they do not blindly follow tradition. In-laws get a lot done in the name of “culture” and “respect for elders”. The husband rarely supports the wife and sides with his mother. A Daughter-in-law (“DIL”) has shared the following ways in her mother in law (“MIL”) has exercised control in her life. This has resulted in a lot of unpleasantness and disharmony in her marriage and fights with her husband. Here is what I think about it.

1. Deciding when and for how long DIL visits her parents

Not letting a woman visit her own family is cruel and inhumane. No good can come out of this.

2. Taunting or forcing the DIL to pray

Nobody can pray on demand. A person who believes in God feels connected and does not need to practise religion. They may do so by their choice. Or not. The whole purpose of praying is to attain inner peace. The “religious” MIL who is constantly creating discord in the home by scolding the DIL for not praying proves the point that religion does not teach right from wrong!

3. Deciding what the DIL should wear

Especially at her own wedding or any other important weddings in the family. Again, nothing but control. No adult should be told what to wear.

4. Deciding which days DIL can wash her hair and the appropriate time to cut her finger nails

There were all kinds of traditions in the past which may have some logic at that point of time. Personally, I do not understand why I cannot wash my hair on a Tuesday or a Saturday. I respect everybody who does believe in this. I do not have a problem with those who do. My problem is with the people who force others to following illogical traditions and judge them as being rebellious for questioning it! Not washing the hair and not cutting finger nails in purely unhygienic! And NOBODY should tell us what we do with our bodies.

5. Deciding the name of grand-children, and whether or not they can attend western dance classes

Where does the interference stop?

I honestly do not see any logic in any of the above. What is sad is that the MIL tells her son that her sentiments are being hurt as a result of the DIL not respecting her wishes. The husband is happy to side with his mother and yell at his wife for not following his mother’s orders.

Wake up Indian men! What if YOU were asked to do the above by your MIL?

And no the DIL who refuses to accept the above is not uncultured or rebellious or lacks respect for elders. She is a normal human being with a brain of her own and not a robot who is programmed to follow instructions.

To all DILs who have been humiliated for not following tradition. Please don’t let yourself be bullied and put down. There is nothing bad about you. Your MIL is a control freak and your husband is spineless. Don’t let your parents ask you to “adjust”. There is nothing wrong with you. It is your husbands who needs to change and stand up for you. Husband may say that he cannot change his mother because she is old and set in her ways, so you should change. Again, there is no sense in this. She still seems strong enough to control you and ruin your happiness and wreck your marriage.

When will the MILs realise that they are ruining their children’s lives for the most immaterial things? They need to back off and stop poking their nose in their adult children’s lives. I understand they may have been treated like this by their MILs. And they may even consider themselves “too nice” compared to them. I have news for them:

Times have changed. DILs have stopped taking shit.


I know that a lot of MILs are not like this. And I am glad to know that. I am not trying to generalize. This article is based on a certain perspective shared by some readers.

Subsequently published on Women’s Web: Link

Present day matrimonial ad


Image source

We are looking for a very “adjustable” handsome “Biba Munda” (docile boy) for our lovely, confident, well accomplished and beautiful daughter, working as a senior executive in a reputable company. The boy should have been well schooled in Indian culture and should treat all elders in the family with respect. He should not have been involved in any relationships before his marriage, and his first should be to our lovely daughter. He must also enjoy a good reputation in his mohalla (neighborhood). After marriage, our daughter will not ever see her current boyfriends again.

If the need arises after marriage, the boy should be willing to give up his career and take care of the wife and children and bring up the children as successful people. With our daughter’s permission, the boy can occasionally go out for men’s only night outs, but only after finishing up all the household work and cooking dinner for the family.

Expensive gifts from boy’s parents to our family members are most welcome and actually expected on certain festivals. We shall welcome the boy to our family with open arms and treat him like our own son. All we ask for, is that he be subservient to us and never disrespect us in public or in private.

In our society, we do not appreciate the boys talking to strangers, especially ladies. We do not think that boys from good families should “mix’ with girls except for our relatives.

To respect and serve his in-laws will bring him good luck and prosperity since our aashirvaad (blessing) is very powerful. On an everyday basis, the boy should only go to sleep onlyafter all the family members are satisfied and have gone to sleep. My daughter is used to getting bed tea in the morning, and that is the first thing that the boy should do after getting up early in the morning. The boy should also attend all parent teacher meetings at school and help children with their homework.

Occasionally, guests will come to live with us and the boy should keep all of them very happy at all times. Our daughter likes to go to the gym and he should make energy drinks for our daughter and give it to her before she goes. The boy should also be very well versed with all the religious rituals and often visit the temple with his mother in law. Trust us, if the boy obediently does all this, we will bless him and he will “Doodho nahao, falo and phoolo“.

Believe us, he can do much more, because our daughter is the one who will work after marriage and the boy will just “sit at home” and he will “just” be a house husband. So, he can take care of all the shopping etc. Since we also want our daughter to pitch in, she can manage all the financial matters in addition to keeping a job where she will be forced to have coffee every one hour and chat at the water cooler because of work pressures. She will be very tired by the time she comes home because she will have to use her brain the whole day.
Expecting to hear back soon with a photograph of your son.


Sounds ridiculous and unfair?

If you do not like the above ad, pause for a moment and think about the sacrifices which women make to keep the men folk happy. Let us be fair to women and have realistic expectations!

About the author:

Sunil Kakkar, an IIT graduate and a Computer Engineer, is passionate about writing poetry in his spare time. He writes romantic as well as social issues based poetry in Hindi, Urdu and English. Here is a link to his Facebook page.

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

We all love daughters. The sweet, caring and loving daughters who have always been the custodians of the family values.

But does a daughter not have her own identity and her own aspirations? And does that make her any less of a good daughter?

Mr. Sunil Kakkar has written this beautiful and empowering poem on ‘daughters’.

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Maine Aksar Samaaj Koh
Balidaan Diya Hai
Apne Man Ko Maar Kar
Bahut Si Khushiyon Ka
Tyaag Diya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Maine Aksar Ma Ka
Saath Diya Hai
Rasoi Mein Kathor Parishram Kar
Mehmannon Ka Khaas
Khayal Kiya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Mere Babu Jee Ne Aksar
Mujhe Pe Naaz Kiya Hai
Auron Se Bewajah
Daant Khane Par Bhi
Maine Apni Nazarein Jhuka Ke
Apni Tehzeeb Ka
Pramaan Diya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Maine Aksar Bhaiyya
Ka Kaam Kiya Hai
Unke Mauj Masti Kar
Ghar Aane Par
Daud Ke Unka Swagat Kiya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Maine Aksar Yeh
Sweekar Kiya Hai
Rajkumar Toh Sapnon
Mein Aate Hain
Pati Ka Aachran Kaisa Bhi Hoh
Banu Main Ek Adarsh Patni
Sab Ka Yeh Sapna
Maine Sakaar Kiya Hai

Magar Aaj Waqt Badal Raha Hai
Ek Wajood Hai Mera Bhi
Apne Andaaz Mein
Apni Zindagi Jeene Ka
Maine Man Mein Thaan Liya Hai

Kadam Se Kadam Mila Kar
Main Bhi Ab Aage Bhadoongi
Meri Bhi Ek Hasti Hai
Meri Bhi Aakanshaayan Hain
Maine Bhi Kuch Kar Dikhaane Ka
Sankalp Pura Kar Liya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Main Aur Ma Bhi Ab
Poori Dooniyan Dekhein Ge
Ghul Mil Kar Aapas Mein Humne
Khilne Ka Prayaas Kiya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Apne Bhaiyya Se
Umeedein Hain Meri
Thoda Waqt Nikal Kar
Wohi Mere Nakhrey Uthaayenge
Khush Rakhein Woh Hamesh Mujhe
Maine Unhe Aadesh Deeya Hai

Main Bitiya Rani Hoon Na

Main Usko Apna Dil Doongi
Izzat Joh Karega Meri
Dil Se Mujhe Chhahe Ga
Aisa Hi Pati Mujhe Chaahiye
Maine Babu Jee Koh Bataa Diya Hai


About the author:

Sunil Kakkar, an IIT graduate and a Computer Engineer, is passionate about writing poetry in his spare time. He writes romantic as well as social issues based poetry in Hindi, Urdu and English.
This poem was originally published on his Facebook page “Suneel Ke Dil Se

The Antithesis

Sometime in late 1990s

I hold my tiny daughter in my arms as she gently strikes my face with her chubby fingers, enjoying as her aptly baby sized payal (anklet) rubs against my cheek. My daughter — Jiya, who came to my life 2 years after my son Rehan.

About 20 years ago

I grew up in a modest Indian household consisting of 4 siblings, I being the only daughter. A typical story of any other woman in that time and age. My story no different from theirs. I grew up going to a government school while my brothers went to the elite convents. I came home, helped my mother cook and clean while my brothers had the privilege of playing cricket, watching movies, lying around all day doing nothing with similar non-productive peers, all united by the benefits that came from being born with a certain alternative chromosome. “You are a girl, you should know household chores. You have to build a home and nurture it all your life.” Amma (mother) would say.

About 8 years ago

I managed to get into a college through scholarship. My brothers enjoyed their college life. They wore bell-bottoms inspired by Amitabh Bachchan. They drank. They smoked. They stayed up late at night, saw pubs, saw the city. I wore my modest salwar kameez, my dupatta pinned appropriately. I came home as soon as the classes got over. “Girls should not wear short skirts and hang out at night. If something happens you would regret all your life.” Amma would say.

Before I could write my third year exams, Baba (father) announced that I would be getting married. The boy’s name was Anil, a qualified paediatrician. But what about my degree? I wanted to study further and become a professor. “Your true happiness lies in finding a good husband. He will give you a good life.” Amma would say.

Fortunately, Amma was right about Anil. He was a good man. We had a blissful marriage. But part of my dreams, ambitions remained unfulfilled. I would live vicariously through my daughter. I would bring up my daughter the opposite of the way I was brought up. My daughter would be equal to my son.

5 years later

Jiya and Rehan attend the same school. Jiya has always been smarter than Rehan. She is talented too. I let Jiya pursue her hobbies. She is a good student, a good swimmer, a good dancer. Unlike my mother, I never force Jiya to develop her culinary or other domesticated skills. She spends her free time doing things she likes.

15 years later

My Jiya has grown up to be such a beauty! Oh what a life, my precious Jiya. She is a star. She is a straight A student in college! She wears the most fashionable outfits, attends all parties, she hangs out with friends, she even has a few drinks sometimes and has had a couple of serious boyfriends. There are no restrictions on my Jiya. “Girls and boys are equal. You live your life on your terms with your choices. You are a strong, independent woman”, I tell her. My perfect daughter whom I have vouched to give a perfect life.

24 years later

Jiya is a qualified lawyer. She has married a classmate of hers, Kunal. They both are a perfect couple with a son. Jiya never left her job. She has a maid at home who takes care of her son while she is at work. Jiya and her husband share the household responsibilities just like they share the finances. Kunal does the vacuum cleaning, cooks, helps clean the dishes and even takes turns to watch the baby while Jiya takes a break. How times have changed for better! I wish Amma were alive to see how men and women are meant to support each other in an equal relationship. Poor Amma with her limited, regressive thinking! Rehan is also married to lovely girl, Mira who he met at medical school.

Sometime in the present day

I am shopping for my grandson, how I love showering him with gifts! The phone rings -Jiya calling. “Ma” comes her terrified voice even before I could say hello. “Please come home immediately.”

“What happened Jiya”.

“Just come home soon Ma, I will tell you.” She is sobbing.

The three kilometre ride seems like eternity. What could have happened to my Jiya? Did she have a fight with Kunal…No. they are a mature couple. Maybe the baby is unwell.. Is Kunal alright..?

There is a police car outside my house and random neighbours stand outside whispering. A chill runs down my spine. As I enter, Jiya comes running to hug me “Ma, Rehan bhaiya (brother) has beaten up Bhabhi (sister-in law) badly, she called the police. Police has arrested him…Papa has gone there with Gupta uncle…..”

The rest was a blur. What a big mistake! As if my Rehan would ever beat up a woman! He is my son. A respectable, progressive, civilized family like ours! My perfect son. Why is Mira filing a false complaint against my poor baby…?

I reach the police station. I see Mira — her eye is swollen and black. Her lips are bloody red, a visible cut. Her hand is resting on her stomach, an injury possibly from being “kicked”, is what I hear.

Her staged bruises look so real! Where is Rehan? My poor boy is being framed. Have the police hit him the way they show in Bollywood movies? Oh God! I silently pray, wiping my tears “Amma, look what has happened, please protect my son. How our lives have been wrecked! I will get my son out of this mess…My baby..”

Rehan appears with a constable holding him. Anil is there with Mr. Gupta, his lawyer friend, has managed to arrange for a bail it seems. Rehan looks stressed, but thankfully he is not hurt. I go and hug him. We come back home. Jiya and Kunal are also home. I’ll make him a good cup of tea. I want him to relax before I ask him how this happened. He already looks so traumatized…that Mira…How could I be so wrong in judging that girl? No no.. She was always Rehan’s choice but still I had liked her, approved of her. I never imagined she could go to the extent of harassing us like this. What a lying, manipulative woman! What a poor upbringing. Her mother should be blamed for raising such an irresponsible child.

I put some ginger in the tea as I carry the tray to Rehan’s room. The door is slightly open. I can hear his voice. He is talking on the phone, to a friend perhaps. Finally opening up to somebody, my poor distraught boy..

…..“She is just impossible…Doesn’t even give me dinner once I reach home…I have to do my laundry myself.. Tortures me with her feminist equality shit all the time…Doesn’t know how to cook. You should see her chapatis…Bloody arrogant idiot.. And just see the way she drinks at parties, the clothes that she wears. F***** whore. That woman is completely out of line. I have slapped her so many times to control her but the bitch doesn’t understand she has to behave like a woman. Just because she earns a few bucks, she thinks she wears the pants in the relationship. I whacked the crap out of her this time. And look what the snooty slut did, straight to the police….”

Present day…or centuries ago?

I freeze. Struggle to hold the tray with my trembling hands. I run to my bedroom and shut it tight. As if I could shut what I had heard.

I lay in shock in my bedroom amidst the precious moments of my life captured in numerous photo frames hanging on the wall. My whole life came flashing in my mind. Pictures of a 5 year old Jiya and a 7 year old Rehan holding trophies at a storytelling inter-school competition. Me standing with them, a beaming, proud mother… I was so engaged in ensuring that I raised my daughter to be equal to a man, I forgot to raise my son to be a human.

My Jiya was taught to study, to play, to not be in the kitchen — her role reversed. But Rehan was never taught to even fetch a glass of water himself. Yes, I thought I progressed as a mother by paving the way for my daughter, out of the kitchen to the study room. But when it came to raising the sons, I was no different from Amma. Amma’s sons had never seen the kitchen, never did the laundry. Neither had my son.

Amma’s daughter was never allowed to hang out with friends. My daughter went wherever she liked, chose her clothes, her hang out places, her drinks, and tried things that the youth at her age yearn to explore. But while my daughter was taught to respect and value her freedom, my son was never taught to respect women and their choices.

The anxious nights that I spent worrying about Jiya returning home safe from clubbing, Rehan hung out with friends leeching at womens’ legs and cleavage, judging them for their clothes and calling them “sluts”.

While I taught a 9-year-old Jiya to fight for her rights and to voice her opinion and speak up, I forgot to teach an 11-year-old Rehan that he should not scream at a woman, that she is another human, an equal with choices, and not his slave.

While I praised my son-in-law among relatives and friends as “ideal” for helping out my daughter in the kitchen, I failed to notice that my working daughter-in-law struggled to find support as she returned home every night, exhausted mentally and physically, only to hear Rehan scream at her for not heating his food and offering it to him on his couch.

I remembered to instil a feminist streak in my daughter, but I forgot to delete the inherent chauvinistic mentality embedded in the psyche of my son, possibly the curse of the Indian man. I endeavoured to change the society, a better and a more balanced place, enriched by my self-sufficient daughter. But the imbalance that has been created is far more disastrous. I have inflicted another antiquated, chauvinistic, loser with a skewed sense of masculinity in the already wretched society in the form of my son.

Amma’s smile behind that frame garlanded with dry flowers seems to be mocking me.

Also published on Women’sweb

A letter to my future son – What is consent

I was watching you all the time at Jiya’s birthday party today. The little girl was looking very cute and doll like in her glittering pink lehanga and pink Dora hair clips, and the tiny laced golden dupatta that she was trying to carry with adorable grace. You kept pulling her dupatta, and she was getting annoyed. You were also removing her hair clip, messing her hair and hurting her. She asked you to stop. She started crying. But you kept laughing playfully and continued with your histrionics. Finally, she pushed you with all her mighty force that a small four year old could possibly exert and you fell on the ground and immediately looked in my direction for sympathy as you faked a cry. Mamma came running to pick you up, as always.

I know you are only five. I know you are innocent and naïve. But I need to teach you right from wrong, early on. Before it is too late. Before you turn into the kind of man Mamma despises, and has hated all her life.

Today I want to teach you the concept of “consent”. Consent means “permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.” Let me give you an example. The whole day is a challenge for Mamma — to get you out of bed, to make you brush your teeth, to make you eat healthy food like spinach and to make you do your homework. But you don’t agree to any of it, and throw some tantrum or another. As you fret, cry and complain, Mamma struggles to attain your consent!

Consent plays a very special role when it comes to girls, young or old. You are too young to understand, but sometimes people force themselves on girls, and the girls end up getting very hurt. Mamma, has also been hurt like that. When Mamma has said “No”, and yet somebody did not stop.

As you grow older, you would like girls. Much more than you like them now, with a different kind of passion. People will tell you all kinds of stupid things:

When a woman says no, she means yes.

A real man should know how to control a woman.

Being a man means exerting force and strength. Else you are a sissy!

Some girls may not necessarily like you back. You may wonder why. How arrogant of them! What do they want? Money? Good looks?

I don’t know what they want, either. Because every individual has their own choice. They may not like or appreciate you or something about you, or something that you want to do. You may feel hurt, humiliated and rejected. But no matter how you feel, you still have to respect their choice. Don’t let your ego make you retaliate in aggression. Remember, judgment comes from lack of understanding. You may not understand what women want. That’s okay. All you need to understand it is that if you don’t have their consent, whether you like it or not, you cannot force anything. A woman is a fellow human being with a brain and decision-making capacity of her own, as much human as you are. Not an object. Not inferior to you. She is equal to you. I want you to respect her.

My dream for you is for you to be a secure person. A secure man doesn’t need to force himself on anybody or control anybody. Men who are slaves of their own insecurities do that. I don’t want you to be that.

Some days, I wonder what you would turn out to be. Would you be a writer like me, or an engineer like your father? But as much as I have high hopes for you, I also have a recurring fear. Fear that you would become chauvinistic. Fear that one day, a little girl like Jiya would be a grown up woman and you as a grown up man would still not have learnt to respect her choice. And if God forbid, you make the same mistake then, don’t come running and crying to me for protection or support. Mamma will not rescue you.

This is a promise that I want from you. You would never hurt a woman. If you do, Mamma’s wounds would get inflicted, all over again and she would never heal.

Much love and hopes,


Originally published at www.womensweb.in on December 2, 2015.

The reflections…

Everybody has a story to tell. Some stories remain untold in a thousand pages. Some can even be conveyed in 3 sentences, with the words not failing the meaning. Here are 10 such stories with myriad reflections:

1. A wise tyrant commonly known as mother-in-law once welcomed her new daughter-in law in her household, and passed on the hereditary wisdom, “A woman’s family after her marriage is that of her husband’s, I do not want you spending hours on the phone with your sister, or visit your mother every alternate day.”

I am sorry, what?” replied the disinterested daughter-in-law, playing with the wedding dress selected and imposed on her by her husband’s sister, “I thought you were talking to your daughter.”

2. “I am a self-respecting man, I will not attend your cousin’s wedding unless I get a personal invitation from his father,” he yelled at his wife, and slammed the door, returning to his bedroom to watch the India-Australia cricket match on the 200.66 cm 3D Smart 4K Ultra HD television set gifted by her father.

3. “Our family is very progressive”, said the proud father. “We allow our women to study further, and build their careers. They should be independent. We are all for women empowerment!”

Everybody at the table nodded in agreement, until he added “After all, today men want qualified and working wives, how will she find a good husband?”

4. She was feeling guilty at work, leaving her sobbing child at school who she forgot to dress up as an elephant. When did she miss to check his diary amidst the cooking, cleaning and client calls?

Back at school, her husband received adulation for being a great father — He showed up to pick him up, first time in 6 years!

5. “Why the hell are you wearing sleeveless, want to seduce boys in college? Go and change immediately.” He yelled at his younger sister, who was now in tears.

Back in office, he was not able to concentrate on work. Every time he tried to look at the laptop, the shapely legs of the new intern exposed by the short black skirt, distracted him.

6. “You put on too much makeup, want to impress boys?” Jiya made fun of the friend she considered shallow as they pouted for a Facebook worthy selfie.

3 hours and 15 minutes later: only 10 likes.

Jiya thought to herself, disappointed, “No matter how much cleavage I show, the opposite sex does not seem to care.”

7. A double-chinned, voluptuous woman stared at her reflection in the mirror of the trial room and complained to her petite friend, with her hand placed on her navel, “I still look pregnant, Aghh! After 11 months of gymming, since Arya was born….You still look like a model, the way you did in college.”

Thanks”, she replied with a bleak smile, imagining herself with a protruding belly. Her fourth round of IVF had just been unsuccessful.

8. He was glancing through the pages of the matrimonial site for his brother, as he came across an interest sent by a widow. “Why would my unmarried brother marry a widow? We want a virgin bride!”

His wife smirked. Even after 4 years of marriage, her 2 abortions prior to her marriage remained a secret to her foolish husband.

9. We do not want dowry, just a Five-star wedding, concise 3 day functions, decent gifts for our 500 guests, and a 10-day honeymoon in Europe. After all, it’s all out of love for your daughter!”

Somewhere in Haryana, a farmer woke up from the nightmare and strangled his newly born daughter, who he was incompetent to love.

10. The bald woman wearing a halter top and torn shorts was sitting on the opposite table, her legs full of tattoos. “These women have a skewed sense of fashion,” he said to himself.

She smiled sipping her latte. It was the first time since the chemo ended that she felt confident to leave the house.

Why I Will Not Teach My Daughter To Be The ‘Good Daughter In Law’ [Short Story]

Kriya was brought up an independent, modern woman. But the minute her marriage was fixed, things changed. After all, wasn’t she supposed to be the ‘good daughter in law’? A short story.

It all started the moment Kriya’s future husband’s parents come to see her for the first time. Kriya was always considered pretty but suddenly she had to hear her future in-laws and their random neighbors comment:

She is dark! She is too short, look at her heels! Her lips are too big!

Any comment at all. Anything to suggest that she was not good enough for their son and that he could have done better, and it was her biggest fortune in life to have attained him. Whether they themselves looked ugly or if their son would put the Frankenstein’s monster to shame with his looks was immaterial.

Kriya had the most loving and fiercely protective parents. Normally if anybody pointed a finger at her, her parents would have showed them their worth (or the lack of it). But that was in some other life perhaps. She was no longer their beloved princess. She was about to become a wife and daughter-in-law, her biggest validation in life, and was being taught the contrary of what she had been taught in the other life:

Don’t react to their demands, however unreasonable and unfair. Be sensible.. Maturity lies in learning to tolerate/ ignore.

Why risk the fragile future relationships for trivial matters? What if the very privileged groom’s family called off the engagement at the drop of a hat?

Kriya’s mother was a very progressive woman.  She had raised her daughter equal to her son. She had given her good education, reasonable amount of freedom, love, affection and independence. But the moment she was to be married, she wanted to cut her wings. She only hoped and prayed to God that Kriya was lucky enough to get a good husband and good in-laws. Her happiness was now a matter of her destiny.

The engagement survived as Kriya followed her mother’s advice and it was time for the wedding. Nothing was of Kriya’s choice but her mother-in-law’s, including her dress, the venue and the catering. But her mother told her it was okay. The wedding was just one event and there was no need to come across as a dominating woman by expressing her choices.

Kriya’ family spent half their life-time’ savings on the wedding, all in the name of culture. Kriya’ soon to be husband had once told her that he could never marry a woman who earned more than him. But surprisingly, his ego and masculinity were not shattered when his father-in-law paid every single penny on his wedding. Not only did he and his parents reach the wedding as complete VIPs (read beggars), but invited unnecessary guests to show off, all at the expense of Kriya’s parents. They even complained about the arrangements and added much drama to the already cinematic wedding. But Kriya was not allowed to object to anything.

These things happen in weddings. Her parents said.

Once the marriage had solemnized with so much injustice already inflicted upon Kriya and her family, the irrational become more powerful. It was a vicious cycle that she had got herself into. She was expected to earn, pay for living expenses, cook, clean, all with a beautiful smile and not complain. Overnight, Kriya who was once an intelligent, free-willed, thinking individual with likes and choices in life was expected to transform into an epitome of selflessness and sacrifice.

The partnership was unequal from the outset. She could not visit her family without prior permission from her in-laws – a monitored, short, approved visit. Our culture may preach family values and respect for elders but such elders are only the privileged ones who have given birth to sons. When Kriya expressed her desire to stay separately with her husband, she was shamed and labeled as selfish and uncultured. Even though her parents longed to see her once a year, the very thought was outrageous for her husband’s parents.

Her father wondered where did he go wrong? He gave in to the demands of future-in-laws in the hope that his daughter should not be taunted for anything. What a surprise then, that this greedy and materialistic family made his daughter’s life miserable anyway, irrespective of how much he spent on the wedding?

Kriya’s mother was devastated too. She regretted that she taught her daughter to tolerate little misbehaviors and misdeeds,small taunts and humiliations, minor restrictions, and let her suffocate, breath by breath. Kriya’s family could have acted upon the signs they saw early on, but they did not. They all thought that such things were common in our society. Their sense of normal had been skewed for generations. Nobody realized that she was making a choice all along by choosing to tolerate, to endure and to suffer and encouraging her perpetrators.

Kriya resents her husband and his family. But more than that, she has grievances from her own parents. Why was she taught that it is a good thing to let herself be treated this way? As a daughter, she was raised to be independent, but nobody taught her that it was okay to be an independent daughter-in-law as well. She was conditioned to believe that it was her sole responsibility to save her marriage even if it meant compromising on her self-respect. She was asked to keep quiet for the sake of maintaining relationships. She had to keep everybody happy at the cost of her own happiness. She was told that her biggest strength lies in being submissive. But now she knows that it is not her strength. It became her weakness. Her resilience did not pay off.

She could have stood up for herself the day her fiancé’s aunt commented that she her nose was too big. But she did not. She was already engaged.

It was too late..

She could have refused when her father agreed to gift a car to her husband. But the wedding was a week away.

It was too late..

She could have retaliated when her husband refused to let her visit her ailing grandmother. But she did not, for she was already married.

It was too late..

She even complied when her mother-in-law directed that she could not have her baby in her mother’s comfortable home. They were going to be a family.

It was too late..

Now she has a daughter and she feels stuck in the marriage, much more than she has ever felt before.

It is too late..

Or is it?

Kriya has decided that she will not take it anymore. She will not raise her daughter in this home and set a wrong example of what a wife or daughter-in-law should be. She is going to teach her daughter to be a good, respectful human being – not a good wife or a good daughter in law. Not until people learn to be good husbands or good mothers/ sisters/ fathers-in-law. Respect is a two way street and nobody attains it by virtue of their age or relationship or the convenient culture. They better learn to earn it.

Kriya feels that the day we teach this to our daughters, the progress in the social fabric will complete a full circle.

Also published at www.womensweb.in