It finally dawned on me why we are the way we are. Or rather why the Men of our country are so deeply rooted in the concept of patriarchy.
I have visited many villages in many states and have seen the same situation everywhere; however the penny had never dropped. Till the time I visited a few remote villages in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. These villages were located near beautiful and thickly forested areas, in close proximity to wildlife like tigers, leopards, bears and jackals. In certain parts, where the border with the Naxal area is a bit porous, the village people are extremely aware and curious of outsiders. Here they still use ‘laal salam’ to greet people associated with the movement. The roads that go through the forests are a rider’s delight – smooth, winding and empty - and in the evening one has to switch on the light inside the vehicle to indicate that you are from the region and not an outsider.
Ok, I have digressed.
So, we got to spend entire days in some of these villages watching the activities of the village folks as they went about doing their daily chores. I watched the women sweeping their houses, fetching water from the hand-pump, getting the children ready, cooking breakfast and then lunch, going off to de-weed the paddy fields, tend to cattle and other animals, help in ploughing their fields, attend meetings and training by our partner NGOs, do most work under various government schemes like attend to nurseries, plant trees, manual labour under NREGA, cook dinner, clean kitchen and utensils, make bed, get the children and husband to sleep!
PHEW! I almost fainted due to exertion just watching them go about their ‘daily’ work! And now ask me what the men did?
They sat around in the village square in groups chatting throughout the day. Oh yes, they did do some work – mostly work that required least effort and get money quickly – like making gutkha, running tea stalls, drive autos etc. And drink mahua from morning till night. And beat up the women. And disrupt any meeting or efforts to better their situation.
If you ever talk to NGOs who work at the grassroot level, they will all tell you that the only way to bring change is through the women. Though shy at first, they are the ones who are open to new things and are interested in change. With men it’s difficult to get through because they are just not ready to listen to anybody.
Here are a few examples of the difference between how women function versus men....
In a village in Kumaon, I had once met a woman who was the president of the village’s forest committee. She told me that the women of the village take up duty in rotation to protect the forest, plant saplings and gather firewood and leaves. Men are not allowed because given a chance they would fell the trees just to earn few quick bucks.
In the desert districts of Rajasthan, women especially those who are from the lower caste, sometimes have to walk more than 7kms one way to get water. The men as usual sit at home or take their sheep or camel grazing.
In a village in Gadchiroli block, the Up-Sarpanch is a woman, all of 32 years of age. Despite a group of men who keeps disrupting the Gram Sabha, she ensures that everything in the village happens as per the plan. Ask her anything including laws and she will rattle off everything including dates.
In another village in Korchi block, male doctors assigned to the PHC (Primary Health Centre) hardly ever came citing excuses like its naxal prone area, there are no quarters to stay, its far away etc. Then a woman doctor was assigned. Not only did she stay in the village, she ensured that all medicines are there, she had the annual health strategy in place for the village and also as per rule visited the surrounding villages regularly.
The situation is same wherever you go – from up north to down south. Us ‘urban’ folks also have ancestors who came from such a rural background; so it’s not difficult to see why the attitude towards women haven’t changed much anywhere.
Actually truth be told, if I was born a man in this country where women did all the work and I only got to sit, talk, drink and make the women feel inferior, why would I ever want to let my position in society go? I will fight tooth and nail not to let go of such an easy life.
Patriarchy, my friends, is here to stay.