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.