'Boy'gone heirs

'Boy'gone heirs

Add to that, I had provided the family the first grandson of the generation, the only one in a decently long line of probables.

Some time back, a dear one brought back old memories. The stimulus for this talk was a young couple, in the close circle, expecting their baby. Speculation was rife on whether my son’s exclusivity would be challenged!

Well, that record remains for the time being, but as for my personal glory, let’s just say, “I know the feeling.”

To set the context here on, I must explain that I have the fortune to be amidst the fun-loving, academic and professionally very well accomplished, who continue to further their illustrious ilk. So while I had comforted myself with the thought that this obsession with the boy-child held sway with only the senior generation, and even that, more out of habit rather than a conscious decision, I was rather surprised to discover that even the younger lot shared similar sentiments.

Obviously, the gap between high flying careers and genetic coding is rather hard to bridge, because in an instant, all education, all exposure and all enterprise had been relegated to the first page of a rather desirable curriculum vitae.

Need we even consider the ‘less progressive minded’ among us at this point? I have no doubts in the power of the past over our present, and I hold no objection to it either. But
I remain awestruck at the fact that a present that bears only a little resemblance to the past can be such a seamless extension of it.

Mothers’ Day came and went, so did International Women’s Month and I find myself wondering about the day that we dedicate to the source of all life. One whole day in the year — rather generous, huh?

Mother Nature, we say... Goddess of Spring... Dame Fortune... Lady Luck. She is essential for all beginnings, preservation and nurture. And yet, when the time comes, when another is born in her image, the family ‘line’ suddenly looks short.

Nature’s pride

If there was a doubt to the contrary in my mind, it was firmly put to rest by a response to a recent article of mine in the same pages. And while this paragon of modern virtue, who has disallowed her post-graduate daughter-in-law from pursuing a high-paying career in a reputable company, praised my efforts to the hilt, she did not miss using 15 minutes of my rather precious walk, to ‘agree’ with my ‘excellent observation’ of ‘gender roles’. That the entire page was dedicated to changing times and a call for changing actions as a result of that, was, fascinatingly, ignored. I am quite certain that her above-mentioned ignorance was banished immediately after my counter-response, but hey!

Logic must be a man — there is no grey there! For, in femme fatale world, it will be a Pandora’s box that will open and the damsel-in-distress will weep longer than her labour. And it will be another step-mother-witch casting a curse upon the fairest-of-them-all — poison apple and all.

This never ceases to amaze me. We blame men for everything. Not that I’m about to stop now, but just to make a fair point, there’s a reason their lives outside the office are simple.

They are not emotionally strung (so they say). They see, they want and if they are ‘man’ enough, they get. They, generally, don’t waste precious time niggling others’ nerves and intentions.

We women, on the other hand, are laden with the hand-me-down doctrines of love and compassion. Deception, we deal with routinely. Rejection, is a resident we love to hate. Expectation, we fulfil by default.

We are taught to keep. We keep home, we keep husband. We also keep jobs. We keep the outside as well. And when a child comes along to expand this universe of joy and toil, we pray to our various Gods, to keep us! Usually, it all works out.

So, why change something that is working, right? Mr Simple Man has no problem plodding on. And he does so as long as he continues to look good. That there is always a woman taking care of the essentials, to make sure that he never stops, tends to get quickly forgotten in the thin air of successful heights and points of no-turning-back.

Same with Ms Conscientious Woman, funnily. At least, until she is stretched beyond reasonable resilience. And today, blame it on beaten down thresholds and progressive laws, if you will, but she is beginning to see the end of reason, sooner and sooner. Not funny anymore.

Notice how one issue spirals into another and the tirade winds out like a tornado gripping our simple pacts of community.

 Someone had put to me, long ago, that if you don’t respect yourself, why should anyone else. The gurus said, “love yourself”. I was still in my preteens and vulnerable. I was also sensitive to such deep motivation. It is something I have tried to keep in mind, but find hard to unequivocally adopt.

Our social norms, our beliefs and the expectations that we are trained to fulfil, have inadvertently squelched our pride in self and the instinct to question the irrational and selfish. Custom and doctrine remain steel-fisted and are hard to break. Years of coding have rendered our personalities compliant to assimilation.

I strongly believe in this code of society for it is, really, a nurturing one. But I stand against the practice employed. Because, if the wheels are to stay in motion, all cogs need to turn in sync. Why do we tend to, habitually, forget this?

Be it your work, a person or a dream, you’ll realise, it all boils down to love. To always know love, it is imperative to respect the one that gives it to you or the thing that makes it happen. And to make sure that love remains respected, it needs to stay unaffected. Tough, I agree, but crucial.

And though it is woman that first teaches it, it is another that keeps it alive. Those in between are merely recipients and vessels of carriage and transport. That’s really it. It’s nature.

And just as nature will retaliate when excessively and unfairly distressed, so will those born to her. Like in nature, there will be a new course and all will have to move along it.
And, oh yes! Gender Supreme, Fairer Sex or Mata Mahan, none can change what’s natural. Just accept it, it’s simpler.                

Tejaswi Uthappa

Fictional women

Home-spun tales are recording, chapter and verse, the newly minted but constantly morphing Indian woman in her true spirit. Prose is doing its best to put realism and heroism on the same page.

Mythology downwards, our heroines were always game for new interpretations. Then there were the rabble-rousers. It was easy to shock, as early feminist fables prove, by mere dissent.

Analysing and accounting for the apparently inexplicable novel avatar of the Bharatiya nari are tricky parts of any writer’s job. But the gap between what is and appearances narrows with the arrival of each new female protagonist who grapples with headlines and emerging, ever-changing facts while keeping faith with homemade notions of morality.

Shashi Deshpande’s Devayani, in her novel In the Country of Deceit, is perhaps the most convincing modern-day heroine to reflect the women of our times; an educated and employed bachelorette attracted to a married man, and conscientious to the core. In Usha K R’s The Monkey-Man, a woman quickly senses a male colleague’s duplicity and leaves the hotel room in the nick of time to save face. Anita Nair’s Meera reconstructs her life and heart in Lessons in Forgetting while Jahnavi Barua’s Kaberi begins this painstaking process during pregnancy itself in Rebirth.

In every novel that makes examples of the women around us, of women like us, of the women we are, there is a remaking and all-round shifting of attitudes and moods involved. If females in fiction take their cue from reality, women read their future in just such creative inspection of their inner selves. This rough osmosis augurs well either way, for facts as well as fiction, with a kind of trial room between the covers where flesh and blood women meet imaginary ones and swap more than sartorial notes.

Shinie Antony