Durga Puja and sexism?!

Proud to be a Bengali, I always thought the sexual divide in this part of the country is rather thin. Here, the man does help in the kitchen and need not be fed before his wife or daughters!

I have grown up watching my dad make tea for the family. And when mum wasn’t home, visiting her parents, we would have a gala time. Me, my elder sister and my father. He would cook for us and not allow us inside the kitchen! Those half cooked potatoes and bland meat however would win hands down even today.

Well, I shouldn’t be digressing from what I started with. I was talking about my preconceived notion about the equality of gender in good old Calcutta, now called Kolkata. Durga Puja, where the devi shakti is worshiped, is probably one of those cultural events (I shall refrain from calling it a religious festival, because anyone who has been in Kolkata during Puja knows what a huge social affair it is, something more than just a religious ritual) which is all about equality. Here, I am not just talking about gender equality, but also of religion, class and caste.

So, naturally, I was taken aback, when while interviewing a bunch of renowned foreign photographers, I was told that the gender bias during Puja had not escaped them! Now, this team was in the city for a couple of weeks to capture the life and spirit of the festive season.

“It was interesting to see that men and women came in different trucks during the immersion process,” said P. (Let me name the particular photographer P.) What? Thought I. But how is that possible? I tried thinking of my many experiences to prove P wrong. But I had absolutely no memory of any immersion process. Gosh…so I never did accompany my para puja procession till the very end. And why so? “Coz good girls don’t stay out amongst drunk men this late,” I recalled someone telling me ages ago.

So, good girls don’t accompany the procession. But then what about those who do? They simply board a different truck. Even if they must accompany Maa Durga till the end of her journey, they must not share the same breathing space with that of loud, boisterous and drunk men.

Not very liberal, as I would have loved to believe.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 30, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    No offense, but since when did the idea of women’s liberty/liberisation become such a botched up concept?

    I am one of those Bengalis who grew up in a liberal family with practically no sexual divide. I’ve gone to immersion procession since I can remember. I have danced on the road to the beat of the dhaak all the way from Chetla to Mudiali. And me and my friends, girls and boys alike have always boarded the “same truck”. Today at twenty-six, I can hold my own, earn my own bread and due to the nature of my profession I can also converse with loud, boisterous men sprinkling expletives at the beginning and end of each sentence.

    But somehow, I do not want one of those men to reach out and give my left breast a hard squeeze when I’m contemplating and dreaming about how beautiful Maa Durga looks while floating away.
    I do not want a hot, sweaty, burly stranger swaying from side to side come and fall on top of my backside while I’m sharing Maa’s journey. And I’m pretty sure Maa would agree with me.

    I rent my own apartment but I don’t go out for a walk at 3 am in the morning.

    When did liberty start coming at the cost of safety?

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