From being asked to serve food to Ayushmann Khurrana to getting groped at 12, Tahira Kashyap opens up on need to smash patriarchy
Filmmaker Tahira Kashyap has written an open letter on patriarchy after the events of recent weeks in Bollywood. Tahira, in the letter published by Mid-Day, said she is ‘jolted by this new wave of anger against patriarchy’ after the arrest of Rhea Chakraborty and the online protest against it.
Tahira talked about how all women have to suffer patriarchal set-ups in the society every day. She recounted a recent episode when a relative asked her to serve food to her husband, actor Ayushmann Khurrana. Tahira said that the relative looked impressed with Ayushmann performing household duties such as serving food. “He made a snide remark while slipping two tikkis into his plate, ‘beta you should look after your husband, feed him more greens’. Before I could react, my wise mother quickly put two more tikki’s in his plate and ushered me, the ticking time bomb, aside,” she said.
“Needless to say I was appalled at first. But once that feeling subsided I wondered why I was expected to feed greens to the man?,” she added. Tahira did not relent and went back to the relative. “Red hot with anger, I turned around and went up to the relative and said, actually he is making me a salad tonight, I’ll ask him to make an extra serving for himself’. I was tempted to crush his toes as I made the speech, but held myself back and simply stomped out of the living room,” she added. Tahira said she feared being called names for her outspokenness, like Rhea was. “After all, who wants to deal with name-calling? I mean with ‘vishkanya’, ‘gold digger’ and ‘Bengali women’ doing the rounds I don’t want ‘khoon ki piyaasi’, ‘toes crushing’ ‘Punjabi women’ to start another wave,” she said.
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The filmmaker also recounted a recent instance when she and Ayushmann had joined his brother Aparshakti and his wife Akriti on their meeting with a realtor. They have all bought a house in Panchkula for the whole family together. “The agent threw open the charts on the table. We huddled over it trying to figure which room should go where. As the four of us were mulling over where to have an exclusive master bedroom space for mom-in-law and father-in-law, the agent’s assistant jumped in with an ingenious suggestion. ‘We should have a service kitchen along the main kitchen, both the Khurrana bahus would want an exclusive space to cook nai?’” she said, adding that this time she did not try to conceal her reaction to his words.
“The boys were generous and only gave the poor chap an astonished look. But us girls weren’t that generous. This time I looked truly bloodthirsty. I think he saw embers of fire burning in my eyes. Figuring out he had said something wrong, the assistant quickly changed the subject. Till date every time I meet him and offer to get something exclusive from the kitchen for him, he vehemently refuses. I guess he doesn’t want me entering the rasoda anymore,” she said.
Tahira also talked about the unreal expectations from women to ignore harassment and disrespect. She recounted the time she was groped at a temple when she was just 12 years old. “’How is ignoring a lame comment by a roadside Romeo unreal?’ You may ask. It is unreal. Keeping quiet, enduring is unreal. Even before puberty hit me, I have been bottom pinched so many times that I, like every Indian girl, have lost count - be it standing in queues outside a single screen theatre or lining up outside a mandir waiting for a chance to pour milk over shiv-ling and see the linga ‘drink’ it. Somehow I never got to experience the latter as I opted out of the line after getting groped. And I was all of 12 at that time. And that too at a pious place. If someone had called out these filthy minds for what they are, perhaps I wouldn’t have to experience what I did,” she said.
She ended her note with a shout out to ‘smash the patriarchy’ movement run by those demanding the release of Rhea Chakraborty. “I can’t begin to fathom (but don’t want to ignore) what must be happening to the rest of us across different strata of the same patriarchal society. So until the equation becomes equal, “roses are red, violets are blue, let’s smash the patriarchy, me and you,” she wrote.
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