Breaking the bias. As they say, small steps matter. It starts from your own family and home. I have witnessed it, lived it, experienced it and definitely recommend it.
I am not going to share a single story but a bunch of small significant stories. Listening about these or being a part of some of them have made me a stronger woman and a better human being.
My great-grandmother was the youngest and by the beauty standards of those days, the ugliest daughter-in-law of a rich household. Her husband was a carefree younger son, who was unemployed. And hence, they were both constantly humiliated in small, yet significant ways. It didn’t bother him, but it bothered her ! She slowly convinced him to take up a job, decided to move out of their luxurious home and started a new life, with her few kids in tow.
Few years later, her eldest daughter was widowed, at the age of 12. The year must have been 1935. By the rules of those days, the young girl would have had to shave her head and basically become invisible to the world. But her mother said no and broke the rules ! She got her daughter back home, encouraged her to study further and take up a job. This daughter, who is my mom’s elder aunt, went on to complete her bachelors and masters degree and retired as a school principal ! She supported the household financially and was immensely respected by her siblings and the entire family. Thanks to her mother, who gave her wings.
By the time I got to know my great-grandmother, she used to finish one book in about 2 days. I never knew she had learnt reading at the age of 60, along with her grandchildren ! She took care of my mother and uncle while their parents went off to work and was awed by what they learnt at school. Some relatives used to comment once in a while that my mother did not know cooking, what will she do after marriage?? Her grandmother would say, “ She mixes two liquids in a test tube and changes their colours, I’m sure she can figure out how to make a simple curry and chapati! ” There, another bias broken!
Other women in the family, including my granny, were the same. Quiet yet strong, unapologetic yet following and inculcating important traditions.
When I planned to move to the US to pursue my masters degree, many relatives said, “This is the age to get married. Why don’t you just marry a guy in the US and then study there?”. So I thought my Granny was going to ask the same when she sat me down to have a chat. Surprisingly she asked questions like, “What are you going to study? How will it help with your job and career? Learn to spend money wisely there.” etc.
So, as you can see, my mother was brought up by a very forward family. To add to that she herself is quite curious, independent and rebellious, which has rubbed off on me and my sister ! The three of us, along with our father were, and still are, a strong unbreakable unit, who love to be independent and yes, break some rules as well.
For example, during my wedding, there was a pause during one of the ceremonies which is supposed to be performed by the bride’s brother. But I don’t have a brother. The priest asked my parents to call my cousin brother. We refused. We had all already decided, this time, my sister’s going to do it. And she did ! The priest did not allow us to photograph that ceremony, because apparently it looks bad on him to have allowed it. But who cares about a photograph. We broke the bias and we loved it !
Now, I have two sons. They may encounter different kinds of biases. I really hope that I can raise them in a way that they not only break biases for themselves but also for people around them.