Need to mind the minders



Growing up in a small town with two sisters and moving to Bombay to live with family friends who only had three sons, I never knew what -or who- was not a gentleman.

My Uncle B had brought up his sons as he would have daughters -they had a curfew hour to get home each evening, even when they became working men in their own right; they had to help their mother around the house even in things like cooking and mundane chores like dusting and they also had to being their men friends home – and my uncle surreptitiously assured himself of their backgrounds – before they were allowed to spend a boys’ night out in a particular friend’s home, etc.

I and my sisters, on the other hand, were brought up to be tough cookies. My father told me early in life not to trust any man between 20 and 50 until I knew them very well -and to hold my distance until I did get to know them well. Also never to get beaten down or tolerate even the slightest misdemeanour on the part of any man or be afraid of anyone or anything – and never to give up or stop believing in my own values.

So it was not surprising that during a particular argument with one of Uncle B’s sons, I drove him crazy and refused to either give in or give up, he just lost it by shouting as loud as he could, “Shut up!”

Of course, I was so startled at being shouted at in that fashion that it did stop me in my tracks for a moment. But my uncle was in the room before I could catch my breath. His cold anger was now enough to in turn shut his son up. “Have I ever taught you to talk like that to any woman?” he asked his son “Have you ever heard me talk to your mother like that even when she is driving me crazy? So where is that nonsense coming from?”

A simple sorry was enough for me but nit for his father who gave him such a lecture on how to behave that even I got bored to death and could not help sending him sympathetic looks that embarrassed him even further.

So, even today,I am surprised, shocked and disgusted when any man talks insultingly to and of women. Like Muqtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP did in reaction to candle light vigils by women after 26/11 in Bombay calling it a crazy show by women in lipstick and powder. More recently Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress was completely out of place in a derogatory reference to Smriti Irani as a TV dancer who could not be taken seriously as a party spokesperson. Then the President’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee, dismissed the anti-rape protests in New Delhi as just a pink revolution and one by painted and dented women, whatever he meant by that. And to top it all even the usually politically correct Communist Party was spared no blushes by one of its own MPs who offered not just West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee but all women in this county the deepest offence and insult by asking what her rate card would be for compensation in case of a rape!

These are all well known members of Indian polity, whatever party they may belong to and I cannot but help thinking that something certainly went wrong with their psyche -as it almost did with my Uncle B’s son – when they did not find better and brainier arguments against people (who were incidentally women) who have/had opposing or differing points of view.

I recall when I started out as a journalist there was a chief minister of Maharashtra to whom some women journalists had carried complaints about how they could not walk to the Victoria Terminus suburban station, Bombay’s most famous landmark after work (as reporters most of us used to finish only around 9pm). He had then made a most derogatory comment about working women. “No decent woman from a good family should be on the streets after 7pm,” he had said in response to the complaint that Victoria Terminus used to become a hangout for sex workers and their pimps after that hour thus endangering women returning home from work each day.

Far from asking police officers to take action and clean up the city, the CM chose to exhibit a deeply inset prejudice against women, in turn followed by one top cop who took a similar line when women journalists complained to him about the preponderance of pornographic material on the road side book stalls.”Why are decent women looking for such material in those book stores?” he questioned adding insult to injury by asking us to stay satisfied with Mills and Boons and go no further.

Very recently a judge in Karnataka had said it was okay for a woman to be beaten up by her husband so long as he took care of her existential needs, Then there was also a similar antediluvian view expressed by a judge in the Bombay high court but thankfully it did not translate into a judgement.

Such are the men we choose as our representatives and in authority. They are expected to mind the anti-socials against all inhuman activities and not just against women. They should all have been spanked hard in their growing years as my uncle did his sons to make them gender-sensitive, there is no machismo in stamping on and trampling over women.

But now who will mind these medieval minders?

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