It’s now been 5 years since I left Delhi for multiple cities and paths that were far from easy. I’ve not been in denial before, but this time the systemic and casual sexism is making me feel deeply disturbed. I do find it harder to normalize these things now. My #DelhiDairies feel less nostalgic now.
I’ve always maintained that India never leaves anyone with a meh feeling. You will not travel to this country and have an average feeling. India will either get you or leave you distraught. I am a lot less exposed to aggression in a 9000 people mid-western town compared to what a city of 20 million offers. Coming back to Delhi made me feel out of practice.
#DelhiDairies: Defining my identity as Ardhangini
Gender, marital status, religion or any such are not identifiers of who I am. These are pointers used by social scientists, politicians etc. to find niches they care about. India now makes it mandatory to define some of these parameters for citizens by way of a bio-metric card. It’s similar to the SSN – only more complex (and identifiable). I had no choice but to get this Aadhar (literally meaning foundation or base) card sorted for me.
Since everyone and their dog already has Aadhar cards, we were apprehensive about where to find the centers. Eventually, in a dingy street, we found a center and frantically showed up there at 7pm. The center guide started filling in my details on the computerized system. A dropdown option asked me to fill in details about my family. Where did I come from?
I could enter details like daughter of (d/o where I was asked my dad’s name) and if I was married, I was required to fill in wife of (w/o with my husband’s name). The computerized system automatically translated wife of into Ardhangini (the half female part). It didn’t bother me as much, till I saw the options my husband had. His options included just two things: Son of (s/o with the expectation of his father’s name) and care of (c/o which included a random name).
How can this blatant sexism not stand out?
- The expectation is that you will only add your dad’s name. Mothers don’t seem to count.
- There’s no need for a husband to be an Ardhangan – or H/O husband of
- There’s no space for people who may be in same sex relationships
Naturally, I was enraged. “Why doesn’t he have husband of?”, I asked. The center guide was calm and responded with natural ease.
“You will always be someone’s daughter or someone’s wife. He will always remain someone’s son.”
I complained to the guide but could not change the form. At home I complained to my mom. She said we’re still not so advanced as a society and it’ll take time. But where are the protests at? Can women/men enraged by this patriarchal and acutely stupid form put their hands up? I need to feel hopeful that this makes more people angry. You are not a wife or a daughter. You are your own person and define your identity by what you do and what you stand for. Relationships can not define anyone.
#DelhiDairies: Now let’s get some wine for the ladies
I was reeling under my Aadhar experience but was also going to have fun. I am home, after all. We were meeting my favorite teacher and her husband for dinner. At Radisson Noida, with its decadent decor and high prices, we were greeted by a hotel server. He chose to speak with the men directly about drinks.
“Would you like to have some Whiskey and Beer Sir? And perhaps some wine for the ladies?”
What a buzzkill it is to have a server patronize women by choosing what they should drink and assuming that the men would make the decision. I mean which world are we living in? And WHY is this normal for anyone? My husband rightly said that I should have reacted at that time and not complained later. I was just taken aback and it bothered me. Also, please don’t tell me this is JUST Delhi. I’ve met enough Indians in and outside India, who have the same view on wine for ladies. Maybe the next time I will bring them some shit for the men.
Why do we put up with this nonsense?
I will be putting up my Delhi experiences as small sketches on Instagram, if you’re more curious.