Some Bajjis for thought
Iwanted to write about the ways in which women’s anger is deemed irrational, their outbursts looked at as stepping out of line, and how they are always made to pay for it versus the average male who is likely to go scot-free for expressing anger that I began to write about today.
But this isn’t about Serena, not about sport, not even about anger. This is about my mother asking me, “What else needs to be done?”, four days before I’m due to leave to study a master’s programme. “I want to eat your bajjis.” I replied in a blink, “I’m out for the rest of the week, can you make them today?” She did what I’d never do for her — changed around plans for me, and got ready to make them bajjis. By 4 pm we had a cutter, mixer, frier and eater — all women doing their jobs earnestly, mine the easiest.
When I walked into the kitchen to help myself to a couple of bajjis, I pointed out how hot it was to which the frier and the mixer said in unison that’s always how it is. They only remembered the existence of an exhaust when I switched it on, and I left with a full plate and feeling like a saviour.
The second time I went back, it was for more bajjis just as much as it was wanting validation for the good deed I had done — remembering the exhaust fan. This time I noticed all of them, plus my aunt, who had received a bajji party invitation all snacking while standing around the stove. Like a school principal I admonished them with “Why don’t you all just sit down for five minutes and eat, instead of not even being able to enjoy what you’re making?” And sit they did with a cup of tea and we stole a few minutes worth of banter with a plate of hot bajjis each.
Suddenly it seemed like a better world, softened by these women who make me what I want at the drop of a bat-ter, a small revolution in it that women have taken time off for themselves. But as I excused myself from the kitty party to go back to the column and the rest of them got up just as hurriedly to tend to another task in the house, I caught myself in the act — I was behaving a bit like Actor Jyothika’s character from the recent Magalir Mattum. If you want to know how, it was in holding onto the notion that I am doing something ‘more important’ in the outside world than these women inside the house.
In the instances described above I became the person asking for favours without realising the power I possessed in the equation, arranging their lives for them, and ordering them about with no regard to their agencies, and without asking them if they even need my suggestions in the first place.
As a younger, outspoken feminist, it is an easy trap to fall into — honestly believing that you are changing the lives of older, ‘traditional’ women for the better, that they must be able to see equality with the same lens you adorn, that they need your help to fight the patriarchy.
What a feminist can be rather is a person who learns from these experiences, helps in fighting the battles that other women choose to fight instead of opining which ones to pick, and seeing the value in the skills they possess instead of dismissing them as useless in the ‘new’ world.
And with those thoughts came to end a kitty party like no other, where no money was made, just memories and notes, and a tiny revolution it was, as always is a group of women taking a break, but the lessons from one such I think should be at the roots of several more.
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton