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Think! What can we change around us this National Girl Child Day?

So today is National Girl Child Day. The ubiquitous mugshots of Sonia Gandhi and our PM stared at me from every newspaper I read this morning, along with a poorly designed full page advertorial with the colour pink all over it! Yech!

What does this mean to us ordinary folks? I thought I’d come up with the strains of thoughts and conversation I consider relevant to the theme.

In 2012, Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate put the spotlight on the issue of female foeticide and infanticide, getting the issue more attention than years of government sponsored advertising or content issued by health institutions. The average middle class TV viewer spent more minutes (or seconds) thinking this issue through than they did when they signed on that ominous declaration while getting pregnancy-related ultrasounds done at the radiologist’s clinic.

I found interesting that this month, there have been several articles, like this one, pointing to China’s skewed sex ratio as well. Of course, much has been written in context of the rising concern over women’s safety since the Delhi gang rape last month. This particular piece conjures a picture of frustrated unemployed men roaming city streets, a potentially hazardous situation, and too few women! In both India and China.

All of this makes us wonder about what we can do, as ‘ordinary’ people? None of us are ordinary and I believe we are enormously powerful in our own spheres of influence. As mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, role models to colleagues and students, etc. I have had many discussions with friends about how to communicate the harsh realities of the world to their children. Much of this concern stems from an urgent need to ‘protect’ our daughters, with very muted attention to how we raise our sons I must say! I’ve admired Natasha Badhwar for writing about the need to tell kids the truth. My own mother wrote an eloquent piece, a year ago, on how fathers need to set the tone for gender neutral thinking inside a home. And now, a dear friend Monolita in Kochi has started a movement to get women in her city and across the nation on an online platform to share experiences, plan strategies to bring about a radical change in attitudes. The initial discussions on the email group she started show how scared even educated middle class women from privileged homes are to speak their minds, how they would rather accept status quo. It has also shown how some of us are willing to work hard for change, to leverage each freedom that we have won or been lucky to get so that women across the world get the same. After all, as Mono puts it, “all I have ever demanded is to be equal!”. Do read our initial posts on our blog and you could follow the blog for activities that we are planning in the future.

Today, as we celebrate the girl child in India, let us not only feel ashamed for the wrongs we have done, but also remember the sheer joy that children have brought to our lives. And resolve that all the little girls we know, along with the little boys, are the seeds of our future. We owe it to them to instill in them values of equality and tolerance, to lead by example lives that are ethical and sensitive, and to see together with them the sheer beauty in our lives….even as we dream of a better world.

Pics below: Aadyaa and a little girl in the Sundernagari slum, where mHS has designed a redevelopment project. Both represent hope and the future. What are we going to do now to ensure they can both reach their potential and enjoy a safe world?

Imagegirl child

My special relationship, the men at the neighborhood salon and other weekend stories- Feb 4, 2012

Today was a happy day as I was finally reunited with my hairdresser after a hiatus of three months, during which he had vanished from the regular salon I frequented and appeared in a new, more upmarket one. Now this has been a special relationship in my life. Not only does Sahil cut my hair, he also entertains me. Over the years, he has confided in me about his affair, secret marriage, formal marriage and today, he informed me that his wife is expecting their first baby. Its been a mutually happy relationship and we usually spend the hour or so joking, laughing and having a good time!

Today, I was visiting Sahil at a new salon and I had to wait a bit till he got free to cut my hair. Looking around the space, I thought about how salons were mushrooming rapidly all over Gurgaon. In a city that is experiencing a glut of retail space, real estate broker and beauty salons are the first ones to set up shop in any new shopping complex.

Now in our house, going to the ‘parlor’ is very much a ladies’ activity. Its something women do to pamper themselves (ostensibly to keep their men happy, so the parlor girls think especially around Karva Chauth..tee hee, what do they know!).

But the thing is, most of the new salons opening in Gurgaon are unisex salons that devote as much real estate to the mens’ section as the the womens’ (almost, at any rate!). And the mens’ section is just as full. In fact, on weekends, you would see more men getting haircuts, oil massages, pedicures, manicures, hair color, facials, threading of facial hair, etc done than the women. It amuses me (with my slightly rold-fashioned view of the world) no end since none of the guys I am close to are so metrosexual (maybe they are closet metrosexuals and drive to the salon across the city to get their pedicures!).

Clearly, the corporate world expects a certain level of grooming from their employees, men and women, especially those in senior management. Its not the very young men I see at the salons. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It irks me no end, however, that these very same men continue to remark about how much more time their wives take to get ready, how much more money she spends on herself, etc etc. The gap’s bridging real fast guys, and the women around are watching you!

On the other hand, I’m happy that its not just the women who are being judged for how they look and there is some warped form of equality in play here! Meanwhile, the cash registers are ringing merrily at the neighborhood salon 🙂



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