Saturday, August 23, 2008

Like the plague but worse

Once upon a time there was the Great Indian Middle Class (GIMC or the Gimmicks). The Gimmicks formed the majority of the population of India. They watched MTV India, spoke Hinglish, drank Pepsi, and wore blue jeans and qurtas. They also worked hard, took entrance exams, and took care of their parents and grandparents. The Gimmicks were like Turkey (the country, not the bird) - a perfect blend of the East and the West.

The people of Gimmick had sons and daughters. These children grew up studying & watching movies together, confiding their dreams in one another. The boys worked hard. The girls did too. One day, the young Gimmick women suddenly realised that their generation had worked so hard that for the first time, they were at par with and even beyond the boys. These were the young women who now worked in all sectors of the economy as professors, researchers, journalists, doctors, engineers, government employees, media professionals, lawyers, social workers, counselors, you name it. These young women worked just as hard as the boys. They became independent but still came home on time to their families. They earned their money and made chai for their parents. These were the ideal women, professional and domesticated. It was perfect. It was only a matter of time before they were swept off their feet by the man of their dreams and have children like their Gimmick families before them.

So what happened?

The Gimmick boys began to feel insecure because of the girls' achievements. These women expected more out of a relationship than simply being provided a house and clothes and food. They were educated enough to question authority and male chauvinism. They had worked too hard, their parents had encouraged them too much for them to compromise in the way that was the tradition for Indian women.

So the traditional society punished them. The days went by and the well-meaning young Gimmick women watched bewildered as their lesser accomplished sisters swiftly got snagged for marriages and were set on their readymade lives. Men wanted the Gimmick girls as pals, buddies, and even girlfriends because they were modern, cool, and had seen the world. But no one wanted them as wives or mothers of their children. The constant rejections forced the young women to combat their loneliness by trying to make friends with those of the other classes. But the cocktail ways of the upper class were too different. It was another planet altogether. The expectations of those from lower-income backgrounds were equally distressing. The Gimmick parents hadn't gone against the currents of society and invested in their daughters' educations so that the girls would be made to check their opinions at the threshold of their married lives.

Exemplary young women, just as good as men, supporting their families emotionally and sometimes even financially. Broken-hearted young women who unbeknownst to themselves hold the power to change the future of their country, by nurturing strong families and courageous children, their intelligence trickling through generations and changing the course of a future yet to be written. Would a nation lose its most precious asset to foreign communities where these women would not be made to apologise for who their parents had nurtured them into becoming? Will a diaspora miss out on recapturing its rule on the world by not allowing these women to rock its cradles?

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