Monday, March 9, 2009

Woman, thy karma

Bhutanese talk of lack of gender inequality in our society. This is something that we show off to the outsiders with much pride. We often say that the matriarch is the person around whom the whole family life revolves. It was true to a great extent in the past and still is.
This reminds me of Sangay T. Wangchuk’s book: Life with Grand Mother, The third eye. This is a story of an old illiterate woman, who held the fort, as she observed her own children and their offspring grow up and go out in the world living their own life. Farm life could be plain, routine and to an undiscerning eye full of drudgery. But then home is where the hearth fire burns, and as you watch your grand mother or your own mother bending over the smokeless stove to prepare the evening meal, you feel at home.
Yet there are subtleties in the relationship between man and woman in our societies, which when observed are not obvious, but runs like a still deep water. As we watch the still water flowing down the stream, we feel every thing is fine in the village.
Woman in the family may give advice, but the decision rests with the male. The man may go gallivanting into the night but the woman has to tuck in the children for the night. And if the woman raises her voice for indulging in what may be called the “man thing to do” she may receive reprimands from the husband, if not blows for crossing her boundary.
We may be Buddhists and violence may not be our way of life. But there is a streak of the animal in us, particularly among the males – a sense of violence and recklessness, while the woman wants to nurture. It is not an isolated case only in our country. It is there in every society, no matter how developed it may claim to be. All one has to do is peel away the layers called emancipation and freedom. At the end of the last layer, the picture is clear.
The fairer sex does not always get a fair deal. Check the cases of domestic violence in the past years. It had been on the rise. Muku, who killed her drunken husband without meaning to when she hit him with a piece of wood, to avoid the violence meted out to her is a case in point of extreme domestic violence that exists in our society.
We talk of breaking the culture of silence. But how do we break the silence. At the end of the day, the woman has to go back home to cook for the family and feed the children, if not the husband. It is fine for people managing organizations that are supposed to support women to come out with slogans for the welfare of the women. The slogans should be accompanied by action.
It is time that the man be educated on the needs and problems of the women. It shouldn’t be too difficult, considering that we have a man heading the National Commission for Women and Children. There is no need to go far away.
In most households in Thimphu, both the wife and the husband go to work. Work for the wife starts before the family wakes up. She has to prepare the breakfast, pack the lunch for the children. In the evening, the same routine follows. While the rest of the family members are watching the TV or in their beds, she has to clear the dishes and plan tomorrow’s menu.
The routine repeats itself in a harsher way in the rural scenario. She has to get up at cockcrow and start cooking. She feeds the men of the house and the children. The men go to the field and the children are packed off to school. Then she cleans the house.
And she joins the men in the field. And yet….?