Rupa’s mother was from the old school. ‘Men are bad people. Be careful about them during your work. Don’t make any friends among them. They are untrustworthy. Unkee nazar theek nahin rahati,’ she would often say.
The old woman was not a feminist; she was an alarmist. She had been handed down these views by her mother, and her mother by her mother…! And she tried to give Rupa the same thought-process. Rupa hated that. She knew, her father is not a bad man. Her brother, too, is not a bad man. And they did not have the bad nazar. By that token, all men are not bad people. And then, by the same token, all women are not good people.
“You are an idiot,” Rupa’s mother declared one evening as the daughter argued with her rather ferociously. “Don’t argue with me stupidly. You don’t know anything. And by the way, you father was saying that you are getting a job in a good office but there are no women. I am telling you, you are not going there, come what may,” the old woman said with an ultimate sense of finality.
Of course, Rupa was not a rebel, but this time she chose to be one. She refused to listen to her mother. Father supported her, and she said ‘Yes’ to the job where pay and perks were good. True, there were no women in the office. But then, what was so bad about it? After all, men too are somebody’s fathers or brothers or sons! Why should they be shunned as ‘bad people’ as Mother said!
With this argument strong in her mind, Rupa started working, and was delighted that she took the job.The office was really good in every sense — clean, good reputation, good rewards, good line of products, good people coming in for business. Yes, there were mostly the men with whose contact Rupa stayed all the day. But she was happy. None of them was a ‘bad man’.
Yet, Mother was not convinced. She blasted Rupa every evening, made her mealtime a hell. “Don’t blame me if you get a bad experience”, she declared one evening as the daughter, son and husband sat for their dinner. Rupa just got up, pushed her plate away, and left the kitchen. That night, she ate only after Mother was asleep and Brother and Father told her that they, too, had not eaten their dinner.
Perhaps, her mother’s words of warning had a prophetic tinge. For, in a few months, one man from the office started behaving funny with Rupa. he was extra solicitous, all the time willing to grant her favours she did not ask for. And one day, a young colleague cautioned her, “Come on
Madam, be careful about him. He is not a bad man, but he is also not a good man. Just stay away.”
Rupa, honestly, was never afraid of any body, but also did not know how to shirk off this intruder on her time and attention. When the man found that Rupa was not giving him much importance,he started talking all sorts of things about her. One day, inevitably, her mother, too, heard some of the canards about Rupa. That night, she blew her top. She ordered the daughter to quit the job.
For Rupa, things had come to a head. She had to decide, this way or that way, and then stand responsible for her own decision and action. No matter what that man had done, her belief in men had remained intact. She knew, all men are not bad, just as all women are not good. With strong support from Father and Brother, Rupa told her mother: “Mummy, I am staying put. I don’t care what others say. That man may be bad, but others are good. And, don’t you have faith in me? If you trust me, I am all right. I am sure, you dont think that I am a bad woman.”
Mother just looked askance. Then she smiled, hugged Rupa, and said, “Don’t worry. Get going, you fool.”
The old woman had changed!
Published in The Hitavada on 25 Aug 2010