I recall a date during my university years. We decided to have coffee in the cafe downstairs. As we approached the escalators, the guy gallantly swept aside and said “after you…” I must have given him the right measure of a glare because he scuttled right ahead. That should have been enough but nope I also gave him one of my ‘talks’ while we had coffee. Needless to say but we didn’t have more dates. I practically grew up on construction sites and for the last 12 years have worked in an industry where it’s every man and their dog for themselves. It’s a tough old industry where ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ are rarely heard and tears are something you get in your eyes when a speck of timber you were sawing (without your safety googles) gets in them. That and the chip-on-my-shoulder about being a female in a man’s world haven’t exactly helped my dating life! Splitting the bill, fixing the flat tyre and acing my reverse parking – I did it all.
While I have always maintained I am not a feminist, I have advocated for women to be treated equal and demanded that of my male counterparts. Living in Sydney also saw that I did my share of standing in the trains while I happily let strong capable young men sit and independently made my own way home instead of being dropped after dinners. And for the last 30 years of my life, I have happily existed in this arrangement till now. India has just ‘boom’-ed in face and told me how short-changed I’ve been all this while.
I spent the last 2 weeks in the Southern state of Kerala, where 75% of the petrol pump attendants are females and yet there is a separate line for ‘Ladies’ at any public transport ticket booth and if there isn’t one somewhere, I have seen women confidently walk up to the front of the line and cut in for her ticket. The front carriage of all Delhi Metro subways are reserved for ‘women only’ and in Tamil Nadu, the front seats of buses are ‘women only seats’. While living in Istanbul, I have seen men give up seats for women on the Metrobüs and have witnessed some very generous gestures of goodwill at train stations from men.
If I was writing this 6 months ago, I would have ranted on about how hypocritical this was and the unfairness of it in the plight for women’s equality. However this is what India has taught me in the last 2 months – equality doesn’t mean that men and women are looked at as the same. We can’t measure both men and women with same yard stick because we really are NOT the same. Every little thing – physically, emotionally, spiritually is different about us then how can we be the same? Therefore women need to stop trying so hard to be the same. We need to accept that there are just some things we will always be more capable of handling better than men and vice-versa. We always need to acknowledge the fact that while we can change the tyres and do have the financial capacity these days to buy our own dinners, it is much more nicer that someone else do it for us and most men I know actually don’t mind doing it so. So why in the world are we not letting them?
India has taught me that it would make me no less equal to a man if I demanded chivalry. From now on – I want the separate considerations; I want the clear line of distinction between men and women. Don’t get me wrong. I still want them both to be equally accountable for a same responsibility; be it at an home, work or in the bloody parliament house and I want them both equally punishable for the same crime. However we need to make way for the etiquette to be back and to be ready on the receiving end. Alas in the words of a jeweler I met in Fort Kochi, “…whenever my girlfriend visits me in my shop, she takes a few pieces of jewelry with her without paying! but what to do…I can’t ask her for money. She’s my woman, after all.” Damn straight – I may have helped kill chivalry and given the many men in my life – the easy way out but it stops right here. From now on, I want the full chivalrous service back!
Chivalry is an equal universal right to women so don’t lets completely kill it. Next time you’re given a seat – shut up, take it, sit the fuck down and give him your gracious smile (you can definitely do slight flirty smile if he’s good-looking!) because it is his equal universal right to receive it (andd a click on his score!).