Feminist Grandpa

Note to Dad: Read at your own risk and do not panic, okay? Actually, no. Don’t read. Really. Mat padho

 

My grandfather is mercurial, nit-picky, temperamental and a bit of a hoarder. In other words, he’s 80.

 

He is also a rockstar.

 

He’s lived with a heart condition for over 50 years, when on initial diagnosis he was told that he didn’t have more than 4 years to live. He’s lived in Chennai, Delhi, Pune, the UK and Norway. He can cook up a stellar pepper rasam. He can quote the Gita as well as Shakespeare with admirable ease. He is well versed with English and Hindi and Sanskrit and Tamil and German and a little bit of Spanish. He knows Operational Management from A to Z. He’s also a fine(st) civil engineer. He’s 80 and he still travels for work every single month.

 

Yes. I told you, he is a rockstar.

 

But today he won himself a Grammy. Topped the Billboard Chart. Let me explain.

 

Earlier this month, I turned 27. And it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman aged above 24, must be in want of self worth, i.e., a husband.

 

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the point is, I have inevitably entered that age where I must either find a boy for myself or enter the scheme of an arranged marriage conundrum. I don’t like most people I meet. The men I’ve met and seriously considered dating have sooner or later proved themselves to be Sir Patriarchy’s favourite babies. And Tinder, as you all know (from this and this), has been a disaster. So it’s come to the latter option by default.

 

I remember telling my mother once, “If I must share my bathroom with someone for the rest of my life, he’d better be worth it.

 

I have nothing against the institution of marriage. And I’m sure it’s wonderful when you find the right person. What I cannot stand, however, is marriage for the sake of marriage. Chumma (in Tamil, please. Not Hindi)

 

Marriage undoubtedly comes with more baggage, responsibilities and expectations in India than elsewhere, because you marry into a family and not just a person.

 

Some months ago, I came home after a long day at work. It was a painfully hot day. As soon as I came in I requested my mother to turn on the air conditioner. To this, she said, “Don’t get used to this. What happens if you get married and your husband and/or mother in law don’t like air conditioning?

 

To her credit, this was said in jest. I know that. But it made me furious.

 

This is my seventh year educating myself after completing high school. I’m slogging my ass off to land myself a good job. Become a lawyer. Finally find that space where I enjoy my area of work.

 

How is it okay that I do all this, purchase an AC because I have earned it, only to be unable to switch it on in my own house because someone else doesn’t like it?

 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand fully well that families work on mutual understanding and compromise. And family is more important than anything else. But the expectation that the daughter-in-law of the house must always be the one to make that compromise sets my teeth on edge.

 

This is exactly the mindset I’ve seen in a majority of the men I’ve met. They start off well and somewhere down the line, the deep set patriarchy and ingrained sexism rear their ugly heads. And maybe I set the bar high. Maybe my tolerance for everyday sexism is terribly low. But I don’t see why that is wrong. Or why I need to change that just to find a partner.

 

It is NOT okay to simply assume that my work is somehow less demanding and/or important than his. It is NOT okay to use the word “obedience” when it comes to the dynamics of a relationship. It is NOT okay to try and pass abuse for passion.

 

I have always enjoyed my own company. I grew up a single child with little to no friends. I was alone very often, yes. But I was rarely lonely. I like spending time with people, of course. But I don’t feel desperate for company.

 

Another argument made in favour of marriage is children. I am not a fan of children. Even if I was, am I the only one who thinks that it’s problematic to have procreation as the sole reason for marriage?

 

As I mentioned earlier, I have entered the convoluted mechanics of Project arranged marriage. However, my mother has one challenge she must complete before she officially starts with the groom hunt.

 

She must make one convincing argument in favour of marriage.

 

Arguments of companionship and children have been rejected. The former, because I do not believe companionship is worth it if it means sabotaging individuality (not individualism). And the latter, because I don’t enjoy migraines just yet.

 

And DO NOT tell me motherhood is essential to womanhood. It is NOT. They are both sanctimonious and wonderful and amazing. But they are not synonymous.

 

Here’s where Grandpa comes in.

 

My mother thought it would be smart to delegate this challenge to the man with an intimidating disposition and a panache for debates – her father. Old and glorious with all the classical heritage.

 

I suppose she forgot that this was also the man who did not approve of her marriage before she completed her Doctoral thesis and got herself a lucrative job. The man who sent her off to a hostel to study engineering while his colleagues prepared their daughters to be ideal wives. Who pushed her to prize independence over all else.

 

What we discovered today, or rather what was reaffirmed today, was that my grandpa, for all his diatribes on the beauty of Hindu traditions and Vedic learnings, is a feminist.

 

Because his response to my mother’s request — give your granddaughter a convincing reason to marry – was, “There is no convincing reason. There is no reason. Unless, of course, it makes her happy.

 

YAAASSSSSS.

 

Broad City GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Mother facepalmed and gave up. For I know, she agrees with me. Dad does too.

 

They won’t say it, lest it encourage their stubborn daughter to become even more hard headed about this shaadi business. But they’re with me on this.

 

For now, I have a degree to complete. A lot of books to read. A job to find. A life to enjoy. And if a bathroom-share-worthy companion comes by, one might give it a go.

 

But for now, my Tatha deserves an applause

applause

 

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10 thoughts on “Feminist Grandpa

  1. Woohoo..a shout out to Thatha! May there be more of his tribe!!

    Welcome back Twiggy…I don’t know if I have been away (read lazy & inactive) for long, but it feels like you haven’t written in a while. My apologies if it is the first! 🙂

    These arguments for marriage are familiar territory, as is your struggle with (or against) it. There will be more..make no mistake about it.
    While I do know that these suggestions do not come from malice, it makes me happy to see people like your Thatha who are liberated & are not coming under pressure to convince someone of the benefits of marriage. Yes, it can be a beautiful bond..but only if you feel so. Let that happen if/when that has to happen. In the meantime, you go grab your happiness…

    Before I forget, belated happy birthday Twiggy! Big hugs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your Thatha deserves a standing ovation for sure. You know I’ve often felt that people of that generation are much more broad minded and open hearted than the ones that came later, even those who maynot be educated in the conventional sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 🤣🤣🤣🤣that’s what my reaction was at the end. I like it and sure the person whom we should share a bathroom needs to be worth it. I have been sharing one for the past 12 years and his worth it’s. so my advice is do finish your studies and whom ever is worth will come when the right time is.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You go girl… I was one of those individuals who was pushed into arranged marriage at the tick tock age of 24..and since i was given little or no choise i did the deed…and I love my husband and children. …but there are days I wish to be single..wish i had been able to do many things i dreamed of.. .so I would say live your life fly soar…I’m sure in this path you will meet your bathroom share worthy mate. ..good luck….and kudos to your thatha…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We need more people like your Thatha in this world, along with more women like you who just don’t settle for the sake of it. Questioning the why, and in our culture compatibility not with just the man but his family… wouldn’t it be nice to interview the potential’s groom’s family?

    I applaud the both of you! At the end of the day, all that matters is happiness. It’s that simple. Thank you for sharing this refreshing piece, one that truly brought a smile to my face! All the best to you, may you find a life partner that you can share your bathroom with, and a family who understands you, and accepts you for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is amazing and I love you ❤ It made me soo happy to read this. My mom once told me that I need to learn to do house chores because I will end up having to do them all (she was half joking), and to my delight, my dad told her that anyone who wasn't helping me with keeping the house clean was not worth me marrying him.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your thatha sure deserves a round of applause. Agree with him on the fact that there is no convincing reason other than if it will make one happy.

    – Marriage and procreation – Why should one automatically lead to the other – the answer still evades me. I know of a couple who have chosen to not have children and the family is still aghast by their decision.
    – Everyday patriarchy and sexism – it is so deep rooted, and is sure going to take time. After all, the boy and girl don’t exist in a vacuum as you have rightly pointed out. There is so much conditioning that has happened over years that I sometimes feel it is fair to give the guy a bit of wiggle room when there are other better things in the person. But then again, it is totally a subjective view 🙂

    Very well thought out and written piece Twiggy! Loved reading it 🙂

    PS: I recently learnt from the wife of a cousin that one doesn’t have to share a bathroom for life with a partner. She said they both have their own bathrooms and that life has been so much better since 🙂 I should admit that I have tried it a few months and agree with her. There are better things in life worth fighting about than wet towels, bad aims and penchant for clutter 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Twiggy hats off to your thatta and fully agree that everything we do should make us happy and Marriage is no exception. Marriage is a beautiful bond but only with the right person I loved reading this and wish you the very best in your studies and later on in your life.

    Like

  9. Hi Twiggy,

    Your grandpa is absolutely a rockstar. I loved reading this. You have beautifully portrayed aspects of our society which many of us fail to respond simply because we cannot be bothered to question it or to be the one to stand out in the crowd.

    My hearty wishes for everything in your life. Good luck with your degree!

    Also, I apologise if this sounds crazy or rude by any chance, are you the same writer of “Homecoming”? Whatever may be the answer, I am looking forward to read more from you ( I stumbled upon this blog from Meera’s river).

    Love
    Chocmoc 🙂

    Like

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