Go Women Ninjas!

Spring is in the air, and I stepped out for a walk in the beautiful setting sun with the elementary school going son. He was telling me about a program that seems to be the craze among his friends: Lego, Ninjago. The program features the Ninja warriors, against evil Lord Garmadon. (I know!)

Ninjaaaa—goooo!”, said the little fellow and spun around on the spot kicking his legs up in the air. The place he had chosen to do this was not the best, for he stopped mid-way through an intersection to demonstrate Spinjitzu. “That is how they do Spinjitzu Amma. I wonder why they need to say Ninjaaaa-gooo before doing spinjitzu, but they always do that.”

“Well”, I said holding his hands tightly and rushing across the intersection before he spin-jit-zu-ed again, “Maybe it is like a spell, they need to say the word, or they cannot spin like that. Why do they spin so much anyway? Is it like ballet?”I asked.

The horror of my ignorance made him open his eyes wide in disbelief. “Amma! It is not like ballet. It is spin-jit-zu.”

I often prance into these gaffes. It was clear that the Ninjago masters did not appreciate being called ballet dancers, even though their spinjitzu-s looked like ballerinas who stubbed their toes mid-spin.

spin-jit-su

Knowledge is the antidote to ignorance:

He set about enlightening me after taking a deep breath.“They do spinjitzu to use their powers. Every one has a power. Jai has ?” he looked at me expectantly. I knew the answer was somewhere. I had nodded along on several occasions when he explained the several powers these Ninja masters had.

 

I so often feel dumb stricken when I am talking to these children. I took a sip of humility and came clean. “Oh! I can never remember these powers. Why don’t you tell me all over again, and I will do my best to remember them, okay?”

Professors can very rarely resist such a humble seeker of knowledge, and so my Elementary-school-Professor launched on his ‘Amazing Superpowers of the Ninjago Masters’ class. I tried my best to listen. I plucked my eyes away from those early blooming cherry blossoms, and the cowslips that usually come up in March, but because of the lack of rain have started showing up now. I pulled my mind back from the scampering squirrels and listened to how Kai could not reach his full potential because he had relationship issues with his father. I looked quizzically at the fellow. “What relationship issues?” I asked amazed.

“Oh they don’t say. Just relationship issues.”

Lego Ninjago Action Figures (Image from Google search)
Lego Ninjago Action Figures (Image from Google search)

A few more minutes of Walk-Walk-Talk-Talk later, “Then, Lord Garmadon was bitten by the Evil sorcerer, and Evil coursed through his veins.”

“Oh no….his parents must’ve been so sad!”, I said. “What did his mother do?”

The fellow stopped with a quizzical expression on his face. “Umm…he has no mother. I don’t know why, but he doesn’t.”

Where are the Women?

It was as we continued toeing the Ninjago-Spinjitzu line that I asked him why there were no Women in the Ninjago world. His face crinkled with thought. “Hmm – There is Nya! Remember Cole became a Ninja master so he could save his sister Nya?”

I looked at his sincere face, and took a deep breath. I saw it was time for me to become a female Ninja.

I asked him what he thought of his sister. A look of awe crept into his eyes. His older, taller, and wiser teenaged sister?  Why? She looks after him, plays with him, imagines the unicorns and horses to play with, and tells him the most amazing Greek myths. “Do you love her?” , I hounded.

“Of course I do!” he said stung that I should ask him that.

“How about Amma? Do you like me?”

Affirmative.

I kicked it up a notch.

Tell me your friends. There were a few girls in the list. I made a mental note.

I asked him about his teachers. Amazing women.

Grandmothers and Aunts? Duh! Wonderful women of course!

He laughed and said that he liked them all.

“Now”, I said, “I want you to imagine how you will feel without any of these girls in your life! “

“What? Why?”, he said

“Because that is what those poor Ninjago master-fellows seem to be going through. Don’t you see? “

His face dawned, and then he gave a sheepish smile.

Gender Stereotypes

Research shows that our attitudes regarding Genders is formed between the ages of 5 & 6. In some experiments, before the age of 5, children equally selected females and males for various professions, but by the time they were 7, for most careers, they chose men. I am not sure that is not aided and abetted by the programs they watch.

Maybe this is the time to look at all our entertainment choices with a critical eye. If we expect Superman to do everything by himself, why do we think our sons will come to discuss their problems with us? If we consume show after show where Men save the world by going to War, how can we hope for future peace and diplomacy to come easily? Every evening, homes are flooded with soap opera entertainment that glorify women who suffer at the hands of those who should be their intellectual partners and friends.

We all suffer from this bias.

In a few weeks time, we will celebrate International Women’s Day.  We shall go agog for a day or two celebrating all the great achievements of Women in Science, Women in Literature, Women in Leadership and so on. Instead of just stopping and acknowledging the Women in our lives. The ones who make life what it is with their friendship, camaraderie and companionship.

 

 

For Women’s Day, I suppose we could learn to embrace the androgyny in all of us. We all have estrogen and testosterone in our bodies after all, just in different proportions.

I looked at the fellow again, and he said, “Wait! Nya also became a Ninja later in the series. She is a girl-Ninja now.”

“Good!” I said, and peace was restored in our world.

How To Become Dandelions?

I have wracked my mind to find what it is I would like to share about Women’s Day. Surely, I have something to say. Everyone had something to say: We celebrate women, we demand equality and abhor the crimes committed against womenkind. Yet, there I was on the sidelines still twiddling my thumbs and looking lost. Some said ‘Happy Something’. The day passed, and I must say critics would call the tripe I had written ‘pedantic and whiny’, and what is more, I would have to agree with them wholeheartedly and shake their hands for the right choice of words.

I mostly like being female.

Except when I am told not to laugh too much because I am a girl #Direnkahkaha anyone?

Or when I am told not to apologize. I am sorry, did I step on your toes? Tough Luck Buddy! Hee Her Haw Haw….

NY Times: When an apology is anything but

Or being told to be a man to be a woman. Huh?!

Medium: Leveling both sides of….

I mostly like being female. I say mostly because there are times when I feel being a dandelion would be better. You know a gust of wind would take care of reproduction, and one does not have to worry so much about being a female dandelion or a male dandelion, and policy makers do not have to concern themselves about dandelion population. We don’t yet know how to interpret dandelion communication, but when I see a circle of dandelions, I see a beautifully androgynous group reveling in each other’s company – till a deer comes along and chomps them down of course. (We recently read this sunny little children’s book.)

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 9.35.01 AM.png

So, what is with reproduction? Human beings are obsessed with reproduction though it is established beyond doubt that the human race is in no jeopardy. We are always in danger of nuking ourselves of course, but that is idiocy not procreation – quite different.

I remember clearly one hot summer afternoon several years ago.  I had just had the son, and his doting older sister was casting adoring glances at her infant brother. She told me that her first grade classroom had sang congratulations for her that day when she told them she had a baby brother. ‘Though, it is a lot of work Amma.’ she said looking solicitous. I was touched by her observation and told her about imagining a lifetime of hot summers with a new baby every other year. She whooped and said golly and giggled like elementary school children do, and I went on to tell her about my stellar grandmother who had nine children, all bawling, healthy and hungry.

Why didn’t she stop with two or even three? Nine seems like so much. she said in a matter-of-fact tone, and I told her in terms as best as I could about how the concept of planning one’s family size itself was a luxury only afforded to the past two or three generations. How many children to have and when to have them was not things women controlled then, I said.

grandma

I am saddened indeed that on International Women’s Day (about a century after this day was officially set up), this news item pops up.

Planned Parenthood rejects Trump proposal to stop abortion services – CNNPolitics.com

What will it take for reproductive choices for Women to become a civil liberty?

Back to the Dandelion theory, wouldn’t it be nice to just have have a storm knock the wind out of us, scatter and reproduce thus – all of us men and women. I’d like to see whether men will control the wind intensity and direction of the wind then.

I can barely state things better than Melinda Gates though:

https://www.gatesnotes.com/2017-Annual-Letter

Towards becoming Dandelions then!

More (मोर) on Sherbat Gula

This post was also published on May 30th 2017 in India Currents Magazine.

Let’s take it easy and go eat at some place nice for a change, I said one lazy Saturday morning. You know, just spend a relaxed, agenda-less morning. Some place I can wear this to. I was fondly looking at my new dupatta, carefully embroidered with dancing peacocks.

The kerfuffle just to spending a relaxed morning doing nothing I tell you! There was hectic activity everywhere: feverishly looking for things, toddler shoes worn on wrong feet, missing cell phones, cell phones without charge all needing urgent handling in a 10 minute interval.

I ignored the daughter as she took charge while throwing me a disdainful look . The little fellow was bossed around, the big fellow was bossed around, the bosser and bossees felt the charges of love and tension squirt back and forth.

Appa! What are you doing? That’s it!

Time for me to take charge around here, she said. Amma, stop dancing! Why are you wearing this fancy dupatta-thing-y now anyway?

Because I can! Dance! Dance! More! I said in a smart repartee and chuckled. Completely lost on them of course. (For the Hindi challenged ones: ‘More’ (मोर )means Peacock in Hindi)

peacock_dupatta

The husband meekly looked up from his game of chess and sighed yet again.  I heard him murmur something about Men’s Freedom as we headed out.

Pretty soon, we found ourselves in an Afghani restaurant sitting quietly. I turned the menu card over and the back of the menu had a picture of the girl taken by National Geographic magazine and became famously one of the pictures that defined the turmoil of war world over. It was the cover picture of National Geographic magazine in 1985

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2002/04/afghan-girl-revealed/

the-afghan-girl-730x410

Sharbat Gula (meaning sweetwater flower girl in Pashtun)

That was enough. The husband and I got a professorial gleam in our eyes and we tripped over ourselves trying to open the daughter’s eyes to the plight of women the world over.

Not everywhere can women boss men around like it happens in our home, said the husband. The daughter and I chuckled.

We had not even started on the political turmoil with the Russian occupation of Afghanistan when the pesky waiter came and took the menu cards away. I tchaa-ed with feeling at this tendency of waiters to hoard the menus. The restaurant is empty – what do they want to do with the menus? I am sure they don’t have to read it!

’You finished ordering and what are you doing reading the mutton and chicken section anyway? You are a vegetarian!’, the daughter said in what she thought was a scorching debate point. She thought I would fumble and drop my eyes in repentance, like a puppy told to snuff it while trying to oil the moth eaten rag doll through the door. But she under-estimated my power of repartee: She was talking to the author of the (why-are-you-dancing-now? Because I can! ) response (scroll up).

I caught her eye and took her on a wild ride through the streets of Kabul selling spices and the perils of grocery shopping in times of turmoil, past the beautiful poppy fields and the orchards of apricot, gasping through the crevices of  the Tora Bora mountains and finished with a comparison of Indian, Pakistani and Afghani cuisines.

I got to admit, I like to traipse through the menu even after I’ve ordered. Especially after I’ve ordered. I enjoy reading all the entrees and getting a feel of the cuisine, the culture, the spices and a dip into life in the normal households in the area. I like to imagine their grocery lists, their dinner tables, their lunch boxes and so much more.

The daughter rolled her eyes. I rolled mine.

By the time the food had arrived, we had sent a prayer for World Peace and a goodwill message to Sherbat Gula and hoped her daughters would have a chance at peace and happiness in a strife ridden world.

I read yesterday that Sherbat Gula is now married with three living daughters and is facing deportation from Pakistan back to Afghanistan:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/26/national-geographics-afghan-girl-faces-deportation-pakistan

That evening, I casually left a copy of the book : Because I Am a Girl: I can change the world, in her room. A book that tells the story of girls from different parts of the world, and how we as women can and should play a part in changing lives for the better.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-10-32-30-am

Subtle as a peacock.

Happy Women’s Day

Happy Women’s Day to all you wonderful women out there.

I have been getting lots of mails telling me people are proud of me because I cry when I am sad and laugh when something is funny. Also, my hugs are supposed to be fused with the magical healing touch. Bruises heal themselves. I wonder how I broke the cup the other day with all these abilities I possess. Maybe, I did not hug the shards of the broken cup hard enough.

Apparently, all this makes me a wonderful woman. I also eat when I am hungry – I suppose that makes me more human.

The mails I am receiving also tell me as a woman I don’t quite know my power or capacity – I agree. Once when I was around a decade old, my friend and I had a dosa eating competition to which my sister unwittingly offered to be the dosa maker. I did surprise myself, and lost by a small margin, but my dosa competitor was a year older than I was.  I don’t think the sister has learned to view the dosa tava with the same benevolence since. If I remember right, I groaned all evening clutching my stomach in a wonderful show of feminine bravery.

Which all brings me to the question, do Men have a day dedicated for them?

There is an International Men’s Day. It is celebrated on November 19th, and was started as recently as 1999 – almost a century after their Women counterparts started celebrating themselves.

Frivolous as the content of this post is, I do hope my female brethen are uplifted from the horrors of misogyny inflicted upon them by men and members of their own creed. I’d like to end this post on this note (Seneca)

Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem

As long as we are human, let us be humane