“There is no harm in doing it.” “How does it matter?” “Karne mai kya farak padta hai?

These lines are usually passed around as logic to persuade someone to do something they might not be very convinced about. But these are the lines that are actually plaguing the society as we see it today. And as mothers we have more reason to be worried.

Meaningless rituals, practices, narrow-mindedness and stereotypes make their way down from generation to generation because of these lines.

Wear full sleeves clothes when you got out….how does it matter? Sleeves wont make you look ugly.

Don’t wear shorts while playing football in the field…. Will it matter if you play in your track pants?

Don’t go to the temple when you have your periods…how will it matter if you dont go for a day?

Fast on Mondays to get a good husband……. no harm in trying! Karne mai kya farak padta hai?

Enough! Please stop!

Agreed you don’t need to always wear short clothes to look sexy…..agreed that football can be played wearing a burkha too….agreed that going to the temple for a few days wont destroy my faith…..

But that’s not the logic to do these things.

Turn the reasoning on its head and you will realise how this approach is making our society stagnant and retrogressive.

You are sexualising naked arms and legs by telling your daughter  to cover up. You are objectifying her. You are not only making her feel miserable about her body but also you are also telling your 5 year old son (who happens to be listening to this conversation) that girls who wear sleeveless clothes are to be objectified and they are “asking for it.”

You are making a basic human function like menstruation look dirty and unhealthy. The reason you are here in the first place, the reason every human on this earth was conceived and created and the reason you have mothers fathers daughters sons is thanks to the woman’s reproductive system. You just made the reason behind this whole magic look disgusting, dirty and shameful. Not to add that your daughter will be “ashamed” of having her period. Over the years every 5 days in a month she will not be herself. She will also most likely miss school, college and work. You just snatched about 60 days in a year i.e. about 3000 productive days of a persons’ life (considering menopause at 50 years). Can you live 3000 days feeling miserable and ashamed of something that is natural??

And don’t get me even started on rituals and superstitions. Don’t you realise that these are business gimmicks of the millions of spiritual goons who feed on our fears and insecurities? I had written an article about when I was told to follow a particular protocol on a lunar eclipse day during my pregnancy. Senseless things like not cutting food, bathing at a particular time, not scratching myself etc were told to me as precautions. And if I dint abide by them my unborn child would have to pay via horrendous outcomes like cleft palate (twisted lip syndrome), ugly birth marks on face and what not! When I expressed my absolute horror on being told such things and advocating progressive thinking and logic; I was also given the age old blackmail of “It wont kill you! Do it for your kid’s sake. What harm is there in doing it”

There is harm.

Immense harm. If I had done those things and my daughter would be born without a cleft palate (which she anyway did!), I would have associated the two things. Years later when my daughter would be pregnant and a lunar eclipse happened to occur; I would fish out the same advice to her because I had succumbed into the pressure of my own irrational fears. And if she would have objected I would have doled out the same lines to her “Karne mai kya farak padta hai?”

By succumbing to these lines, mothers, we are passing on age old superstitions, rituals, backward thinking and many evils of the society like gender discrimination etc from one generation to the next.

So next time you feel that when will our country and society progess, please do your bit and stand up against the emotional blackmail of “no harm in trying” logic, especially as a mother.

Whatever you do should be thought out and should make sense to you. Set an example for your kids that you don’t let anybody feed on your fears. You know what you are doing. You are strong to not do things that don’t make appeal to you. You don’t care about being “odd” or “different” just because you don’t conform to popular belief.

You shall be doing the greatest service to your kids by teaching them this. You shall be cleaning society of retrogressive thinking. You shall be bringing up a generation that has risen above narrow-mindedness. You shall see many vices in the society die a natural death. Probably then we shall finally have the country of Tagore’s dream:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

(This post first appeared on TOI blogs on May 2nd 2017)

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