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When fairness squares

india Updated: Jun 26, 2011 21:41 IST
Uddalok Bhattacharya

I am all for women's empowerment - the level does not matter. They can do a lot to civilise men. I prefer sitting next to a woman in a bus. Please do not get me wrong. I prefer this for no reason other than that a woman knows how to sit properly, with decorum.

Occasionally, I have seen women trying to get ahead forcibly when there is a queue, but they have an argument there. There should be a separate queue for women anyway, they say.

Nehru was obviously hinting that women were more proper than men when he said: "The world would be a better place had men been less manly." The man was equally irritated by the aggressive Indian male as he was by the bullying United States secretary of state John Foster Dulles.

There is more to advocate for women. Delhi may be the crime capital of the country but how often have women been offenders? Okay, I concede the MCP point that being a criminal requires courage, which a woman may not have. But what about road accidents? How many women culprits has one heard of though women driving cars is now a pleasant and common sight in Delhi? Does rash driving too require courage, which only men have?

On a personal note, I really enjoy the way a woman can turn indifferent to a salacious topic of discussion, with a wry smile and eyes contemptuous and inexpressive.

But sometimes women do climb down from their position of inherent superiority. What happens then? A certain measure of artlessness creeps in, as a former male colleague discovered in his organisation the other day.

News broke that a celebrity was expecting her first child. Evidently, people had waited in eager anticipation for this 'major development', else there would not have been a comely lady tearing in and announcing this before her friendly colleagues, all female, who shared her excitement.

Screeching sounds followed, possibly of laughter suggestive of a carnal element in it, along with sheepish smiles. There was a bit of discussion that it was possible to guess that this was coming from the way our celebrity was putting on weight, and so on.

My colleague, a stickler for propriety, was in a dilemma.

He is fairly up to date on sexual harassment at workplaces. He knows it is against the law to crack lewd jokes or broach a matter of sexual interest in the presence of a woman. And since it is not proper to touch a woman's shoulder while talking to her, he prefers not to shake hands with a woman. (A JNU professor got into trouble just on this count.)

Then what is this happening? Is it not prurience thinly disguised in girlie form? Does it deserve condoning because of its glamour kit? How is a male supposed to feel in this situation?

Even if there was a National Commission for Men, my former colleague would not have taken the issue there. But he is thinking of approaching the National Human Rights Commission, because as a fair person he believes there should be at least two sides to such an issue.