Draped in Dignity

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Sector 18 metro station was four stations away from Noida City Centre, the last metro station on the blue line and my destination. Having sat through four hours of MBA coaching, I was upbeat since my share of classes for the week had ended. My coaching centre, a countrywide education conglomerate, was located in Atta Market which was a few steps away from the Sector 18 metro station. The train left the station and like every other passenger there, I scrounged around for a seat in my compartment, which to my dismay were all taken. I dropped my bag to the floor, increased the volume of my IPod and held on to the support closest to me, knowing that this ride like any other ride, was going to be a short and uneventful one. Not a lot happens when your travel is of ten minutes and most of the people get down on subsequent stations. I was awaken from a trance like state caused by the intermingling of seasonal warmth, smooth music and a tired MBA coaching ridden mind, by a shove. A bit taken aback, I regained my balance to find that the man who shoved me did it unintentionally, trying to back off from a verbal confrontation taking place. A general enthusiasm for drama compelled me to move forward and listen to the argument.

A woman in her twenties was miffed with a man, who refused to vacate a seat, demarcated for the ladies. A mild appeal of the lady was responded to in a harsh and rude manner by the man, who looked to be somewhere in his 30s, and this angered the lady who demanded that it was her right to sit on that seat. The man replied with his argument that he sat on that seat first and he was free to choose when to vacate that seat. The argument continued for a while with the lady now resorting to satire and questioning the masculinity of the man. She told him to wear a Sari and wear bangles because the “Man” inside him was dead but every hurtful remark, every colourful comparison fell of deaf ears as the man continued to warm that seat of his and shamelessly continued his imprudent argument. Fresh memory dictates that India has been known for its inconsideration and abhorring crimes against women. However, that image was pertinently removed by three gentlemen who came to that lady’s aid. What turned out to be a small request for a mere reprieve of ten minutes turned out to be a prolonged argument, which eventually led to that prude of a man brazenly holding on to his seat, thus blurring the thin line of courtesy and respect for women.

That incident moved me, for a reason different from that of the evident. I had obviously supported that lady’s argument that she should have been given the seat by that insolent man, but I was stirred by the way she mocked him about turning into a Sari draped bangles clad woman. It took me to a different place and a different era of my life, dominated by two Sari clad ladies. I am proud to say that my nurturing was influenced by two very strong matriarchs. One of them was a woman in her seventies with a limp and a dignity far beyond human comprehension. A strong willed, independent and self-made woman, my grandmother was one of the only few women who were allowed by their families to study abroad. A celebrated Gynaecologist, she worked for the downtrodden and even though age brought upon her a shroud of anxiety and haste, her demeanour can only be properly described by her prevalent annotation, Didi or the big sister. Clad in a white Sari and no ornaments, akin to an Indian widow, her social outlook and liberal thinking shaped the core of my conscience, one that believes in the great inner depth of a human being, man and woman alike. The other matriarch was starkly different. She was considerably younger, firmer and she believed in changing the society through a resource close to her heart, her own son. A woman of substance, my mother, a mere housewife in the eyes of the common close minded outsider, but for me a seraph that chose not to spread its wings in order to cover her child, in order to raise me.

The women who shaped me were unambiguously diverse, but blissfully similar. Their parallels lied in their strength and their aura, as well as their clothing of choice, the Sari. The comment made by that lady in the metro showed the way she and most people see women in Saris, weak and powerless. The mere suggestion of hers that the man should dress up in a Sari and wear bangles shows that even women may sometimes distrust another in the traditional attire. That comment might have been in the spur of the moment, without much consideration on her part to mentally wound the man, is an illusion which has confounded this generation for a long time but I refute it. I believe in the meandering shades of white and colour in the flowing fabrics because I owe my actuality to them and I believe that I am not alone. The blood of this nation upsurges from this ever unbroken flow of matriarchy. I think that man would have been fortunate if he had been transformed into a woman wearing a traditional Indian attire, because that woman would have been incredibly powerful.

In a day and age, where women are seldom treated as an equal, a feminist like me would have a lot of opinions. I got up from my seat, on that metro, and I offered my seat to that same lady. She smiled at me and gently refused. Maybe it was her ego which repudiated my proposal, may be it was her will to show that stupid man that she can endure the effort, or it can be simply an effort to darken that blurring line of respect that a man has for his better half.

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