I am writing today about a time way back in the early seventies when I was a teenager – bright and inquisitive, one who had just begun to form opinions (kids now-a-days start doing it much earlier, I guess!). The world around was full of opportunities and surprises and each day had so much to teach.
Mine was a nuclear family and summer vacations were the time when the cousins met at my grandparents’ home every year. It was a time all of us looked forward to. There was fun, fun and more fun in that month and I have vivid memories of those ‘sunny days of youth’.
Along with the pleasant anecdotes there is another memory which I am going to share with all of you here today. This one is not a pleasant one and I have not been able to forget it even till today. There was an obvious discrimination between us cousins based on the fact whether we were girls or boys. Simple things like my grandparents giving a little more pocket money to the boys, or an extra mango for them, or a glass of milk at night. At times we ignored all of it as the boys shared with us whatever extra they were given just by virtue of they being boys. But as we grew older, this discrimination started irritating and pinching us girls. Since my parents had never shown any such preferences, I was the most affected and vocal about everything. I loved my grandparents a lot but something inside me did not let me take the ‘injustice’. I could not understand the fact that when they loved all of us equally why was this difference in distributing the little pleasures of life. I would be secretly offered the second mango at times when I protested (which I, as a mark of solidarity, never accepted!) too loudly. However, the rebel in me decided not to accept being considered any less than the males – even though during that time it was limited only to getting the extra goodies. I tried talking it out with my grandparents who, I still feel did not totally agree with my views, but nonetheless over the years became conscious that they were doing something ‘unjust’. The practice did not stop totally but reduced remarkably. Had they lived a little longer, I may have succeeded in changing their mindset. By fighting for the girls, I also managed to send a signal to my male cousins that they were equal to us and were being given a preferential treatment only because of ignorance of a generation and there was no other reason behind it.
Even today whenever I see a little discrimination, I am reminded of my youth and still do not shy away from voicing it out – there is no harm. I may not be able to change someone, but at least I will not be guilty of ‘accepting’ an injustice. This is my way of celebrating girls, celebrating women!