A few weeks ago the 60 plus driver of my rented car, a man named Narendrabhai, tore past Astodiya gate – a hapless cyclist crossed the car’s path, forcing him to screech to a halt. As he braked sharply, he let out choice expletives: a string of words that refer to someone’s mother’s anatomy – you get the gist. I found myself thinking, once again, about why men like him, Rajputs and other such valiant species, resort to cuss words that describe other men's mothers, sisters and wives in such pejorative fashion. “Baap ki kyun nai dete… ” I inquired? Needless to add, there was a sulky silence for the rest of the day.
Last week’s infamous remarks about the clever and charming Sunanda Tharoor, and the ensuing tasteless tweets and ridiculous remarks from other ministerial quarters are another shining example of below- the-belt blunders and insidious gender related incorrectness that prevails in our country. Looking at the countrywide state of affairs – the number of cases are too many to quote – it would not be entirely incorrect to state that men in office, particularly Indian men of ministerial cadre, are about to set a record of sorts with their insensitive and deliberate faux pas about the female sex. We know politics is a dirty game which is only going to get dirtier by the day. But why, really, why, would men of “stature,” choose to stoop so low? … What is it that leads people who wish to lead this country to greater heights, sink to such depths with their slurs and reductionist vocabulary?
Leaders, it has been famously said, must lead by example. It has also been said that a man's vocabulary gives him away. By that count, our leaders should hide their faces in shame. Crimes like rape, acid attacks, child molestation and knife slashing, to name just a few of the more sordid ones, are crimes that stem from nothing but rage, perversion and deep seated misogyny. These rampant and unchecked crimes are glaring pointers to the fact that something is terribly wrong somewhere. And the malaise permeates way, way deeper than we think. For while we have always lived with gender stereotyping and gender politics, we are now facing gender violence with an acute and frightening difference.
Gandhi, who politicians parrot so eloquently, said: “Be the change you want to see.” Well, let’s just accept it: we are virtually doomed. For there can be no progress if the general polity, and society at large, does not change its attitude towards women. Women have been and continue to remain at the forefront of every effort. Some, as we know, keep the machinery well oiled, ruling, as they do, from behind the scenes. In a country where a large number of men (including honorable ministers) worship the divine feminine, the unbelievable verbal and physical abuse of women, young and old, is tragic. As for unnecessary remarks about ladies like Ms Tharoor, didn’t someone say that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw pot shots? For what goes around will come around. One day.