Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Cavemen in disguise

The world has gone topsy turvy, upside down. There has been snow in Vegas, floods in California, rains and floods in Australia and we in UK, have had the coldest November in history.

Having come out of the worst weather, I dont want any surprises in the spring and summer. I like those seasons the best in UK and won't want them to break any records of any kind. Just a nice temperate climate is what would be nice. Do you think anybody up there is listening?

Well, down here people can become mighty unpleasant when the weather worsens. Just after that horrible November night when everything was covered in snow, I had to drive to the station to get to London for a course. I had a lot of trouble driving, saw a few cars up on pavements or bashed into the trees. But, I continued to drive with a cool head at 20 miles an hour, even though I was managing to stop only a good 15-30 seconds after I put all my strength on to my foot on the brake. After all this, I reached the white field which was the parking lot of the station, parked, paid for the ticket on the machine, put the ticket on display in the car and had just managed to lock the car and reach into the train when the doors closed and the departure was announced.

Yet when I came back, there was a nasty note on the windscreen saying I needed to go to a driving school! Honestly, if only I could get hold of the guy who wrote it (I am positive it must be a man, only men have the time to write notes on strangers cars!), I would give him a piece of my mind.

Obviously when I saw the note and possibly when my esteemed "windscreen note friend" saw the car, the snow had all melted, revealing clear and dark white lines demarcating parking slots! My car was parked obliquely, with one of the rear tyres slightly off the white line. Obviously it did not occur to him that I might have been parking when I was guessing where the lines were, trying to struggle in low visibility ahead and zero visibility on the road, in a hurry due to unusually slow drive in....well I have to resort to deep breathing and counting to ten whenever I recount this incident.

I wonder why it boils my blood so much. It must be to do with the constant comments one hears from brothers, husband(s), male friends and colleagues about women drivers. It also takes the form of forwarded emails on the internet or videos on Youtube, yet I will have to accept that I personally would not call myself an expert and even though driving on a nice road with good music can be enjoyable once in a while, I dont pride myself in being able to trouble shoot myself out of difficult situations.

I do get into them though, like the time I was sitting in the car in the middle of a residential area of an unknown town at 2 AM, tired out after the Diwali party in a sari with fading make up and two sleepy kids at the back, listening to the Satellite Navigation system say "You have reached your destination" with no Premier Inns in sight and with no idea about where I was. Thank God for the mobile phone!

Speaking of the stereotypes which we women have had to fight against, all our lives, one remembers the movie- Chak de India. I identified with the fighting spirit of the girls, who all had a point to prove. The spectacular success of the women athletes in Commonwealth games, the individual inspirational stories of all these women speaks a lot about how life has indeed changed for the better half in our country.

There are very few professions now where women have not entered. We have rickshaw drivers, policewomen, pilots, film directors, CEOs, Chief ministers, judges, District Magistrates, speakers and Presidents.

I was recently reading an article by a Western woman interviewing Islamic women in veils or head scarves, while trying to understand their perspective on religion and cultural practices like these. I detected a tendency by the author to romanticize the concept of "preserving yourself for your man" and glorifying "the pride in being treated like a prized possession".

I wonder what the Western civilization has achieved by liberating the women. While in India more mothers die from preventable causes like bleeding and high blood pressure, in the confidential enquiry into maternal deaths in the UK, there is a big chapter on domestic violence, homicides, suicides....

I wonder if many of us, including the western journalist doing the Islamic veil story, after having spent our lives fighting against stereotypes to be able to do this and that, are now wanting to turn the clock back. Afterall being able to drive and cook usually means double the work and responsibilty, with little time left to look beautiful and smile.

Roles are constantly changing for the man and the woman in the household, but I wonder if true natures actually change. I believe most men under their pinstriped suits and metrosexual behaviours are actually hunters by nature and instead of tiger skins in their drawing rooms, they have fancy gadgets and cars to show off their conquests. Do you remember the picture of the bearded man with an animal skin around his waist, dragging the woman by her hair? That is how a lot of men and many women would like the dynamics to be. Dont you think?