‘Now sit here quietly, thinking of nothing, till you become normal’, said my mother, making me sit in a corner of the kitchen. The kitchen had a ‘courtyard’. It had a big guava tree. One which my brother and father climbed. Yes, we sisters never tried climbing it. Before you jump to conclusions about our patriarchal society and how girls are not on par with boys, let me inform you that no one stopped us from climbing that guava tree. We were just interested in the juicy fruits, the climbing part was left to the boys.
I sat in the corner fuming and fuming, till all the steam sizzled out. No one came to pacify me. No one bothered to ask anything. Like a pressure cooker automatically cools down, I did too.
‘I am hungry’, I said. ‘lunch is ready’, she said. And that was it. No mention of the incidence to anyone, no violence, no drama.
In case you wonder, what had happened……I had just learned about ‘rights’ the previous day at school. About how we all have rights, how to exercise them and how to demand your rights. My teacher Mrs. Choudary was a wonderful person. Each point she made would be etched on our minds. I still remember her teachings some 30 years later.
And so my experiments with ‘rights’ had started. I demanded that food was prepared according to my liking because having nutritious food was my right. I demanded that I get a good book to read because getting a good education was my right. And so on. All was fine until I demanded a hair cut. Mother said no. In her opinion it had to grow a little more so that it could be cut evenly. That was it, ‘ I started my monologue on how my hair was my property and it was my right to get it cut. My mother had had enough of the nonsense and thats when she dragged me to the corner of the kitchen and made me sit.
I tell you sitting alone without thinking or doing anything can be therapeutic. It calms you down and lets you think.
Moms know best they know how to handle their child. My mother knew how to take care of me. She had various ways to handle me. If I cried too much for petty things, she would wait till it was dusk and then lock me out in the courtyard. No shouting, no beating. 5 minutes and I would be normal. She stopped teaching me when I was in second standard. She just said, ‘It is your life. If you want you study or you can always become like me’. I looked at her routine. She got up at 6 not sleeping till 11 in the night. She was our cook, washerwoman, data bank, cleaner everything and decided that studying and getting a job that paid was better. She sure knew how to deal with us.
So the rights issue was withdrawn. I had a good meal and a good nap and peace reigned.
Next day, Mrs. Choudhary began the class with a ‘so we learnt in the last class, what are rights, today we will learn about our duties. For there are no rights without any duties.’ And she again gave a wonderful class about duties, what are they, why we should do out duties and how without doing our duties, we cannot demand our rights. And I was filled with remorse.
Over the long weekend, I had demanded my rights but had I done my duties. Had I helped around the house? No, Had I studied? No. I asked many questions to myself and the answers were mostly No. Then did I have the right to demand my right?
Today when I see various people demanding their rights, I feel pity for them. for they don’t have a mother like mine or a teacher like Mrs. Choudhary. No demanding rights is alright but how many of us have done our duties?
We all demand but what do we give back. Apart from taxes that is. Do we throw that wrapper in the dustbin. Did we answer a question by our fellow traveller politely? Did we say sorry with a smile when we occidentally stamped someone? Society is not just by others but we are also a part of it. Be the change to demand the change.