"Ma, why can't Didi go and get it?" asked an irritated Swami.

"Why should she go when you are here?" demanded swami’s mother. She was irritated that her son was grownup now and was questioning her. She liked the son who obeyed all her orders without ever questioning them.

"I didn’t come here in my holidays to get Sabji from the market. What do you do when I am in college? Who gets the Sabji?" Shouted Swami to his mother who was in the verandah supervising the maid on washing the clothes.

She had been doing this everyday from the day they hired a maid to wash the clothes, she never seems to get the right amount of faith in Rangamma - the maid - to leave her alone with the clothes. She feared the maid might not care about her clothes as much as she did. She figured that for the maid it was just a job to make some money, and she had to do her job just right so that she won’t be fired.

Rangamma was not very careful sometimes, as she knew how hard it was these days to find a decent maid. For her this was another house she worked in to provide for her children and most of the time for her husband. Her husband worked as a construction worker and was addicted to alcohol. He pretty much siphoned all his earnings in drinking alcohol and abused his family.

"Your dad does!" Came back a so obvious sounding answer.

"Why can’t Didi get it? She is grown up enough ", said swami.

Swami’s reluctance today was not for going to the market, he just did not want to be disturbed from his couch potato status and from the colors and shapes being played on Star Movies. With pretty much all his high school friends going to different colleges around the country and who did not have vacations during the same time, he did not have much company. He preferred staying home and watching TV to going out in the hot sun. He was also catching up with all the TV he missed during his stay at the college, where he was too occupied with studies or friends to watch TV. He also had a much bigger choice in watching TV at home than what he had when he was in college. With both their children now out of school and going to good colleges his parents decided it was safe to allow the invasion of cable TV in to their house. He was amazed at how fast it got hold of his mother who did not miss even a single episode of the soap operas being aired. Spending all the time that she used to chat with the neighbors and socializing on TV. He remembered the time when they were good friends with all the people living in their building. Now even his mother did not know who lived in the apartment above them, it felt strange for him to not know who lives above your head.

Swami’s mother took her own time in yet another lesson to the maid on how to squeeze out water from wet clothes. But under her calm outer appearance her son’s questions and answers were irritating her. "But why should she go when you are here?", She questioned her beloved son.

She was angry and worried that swami was turning into a rebel. She knew that swami’s education at a far distant place was spoiling him. He was forgetting his roots and his culture. Whenever swami was attacked with that kind of an explanation from his mother he had a very simple answer for her.

"It is not like I’m studying in America I am still in India, What will happen to me if I go to the US after my graduation? Ma!"

Going to America. That was the most worrisome problem for swami’s mother after the marriage of her daughter. She believed in the all-healing marriage to solve all problems in life. She believed when swami will be married to a bride from a well-respected family in her caste and class he will return back to his culture and his roots.

While all this was being played back, again, in her head Swami replied

"Why! Can't you see Ma, Aaz Ki Aurat is Azad, standing on her own legs. What more, there are reservations to help them get where they can't go on merit"

His mom was practical most of the times. She knew about the atrocities committed on women and the injustice they had to suffer. But for her she was happy to have a good life and a goof family. She did have sorrow and sympathy towards people who suffered but believed it was their karma and they were responsible for the hardships they went through and there was nothing she could do about it. She did listen to the long and dramatized blabber the maid had to say about the hardships her husband put her through and uttered sympathizing words.

"See Swami I don’t know about those women but be thankful for the reservations though, due to which your Didi did engineering and is going to get a good job now ", snapped back Mom.

"Yeah! No other way she could have done that ", grunted swami.

Swami just did not believe giving reservations to a particular community, cast or creed would help in the development of their position in society. He did not feel any more respect for the other half of the sex in India just because they were given reservations. It just made him realize that they could not do it if it were not for the reservations. Now when he meets a women who is a high achiever in her life he would have to think twice before giving her the due respect she deserves, as he has to resolve the issue of, if she was really that competent or did she just rise because of the reservations. He felt the genuine need to honor women and wished to see more dignity towards women in the society. The horrible treatment of women some times made him feel sick about being a man. But he was not convinced that reservations would do any thing for men to respect women more in their life. Rather just hate them more and take it out on them the very chance they get. It was the same way he felt about any other community that had reservations. It hurt him the most when people converted to lower casts on paper to get those reservations and still claimed to be from the higher cast in the society. He felt reservations based on caste, color, religion, gender..only increased discrimination and sectarianism. He was not against reservations, but the basis of reservations. He accepted there were atrocities and injustices committed against a certain group of people belonging to either a certain cast or gender or whatever and believed in accepting the problem which exists today and solving it in a logical and reasonable manner. He did not believe people should have the attitude of settling scores (which was how many politicians felt about reservations) for injustices committed tens or hundreds of years ago by people who no longer live. He believed a solution to a problem was more important than ascertaining the blame on a particular person or community.

Also only the elite in the underprivileged sections of the society almost always used the reservations provided by the government. Whenever Swami mentioned to Rangamma to send her daughters to school rather than bring them along with her to help her and teach them to work, she only had one answer "those reservations are not for us Babu, for us getting a meal by the end of the day is more important than education". Even his long explanations to her that not only do her daughters have reservations because they are females they also had reservations based on their cast, which gives them double reservations did not convince her. At first she did not even believe what he was saying, she thought he was just kidding. But even today her daughters work as she does in different homes and are either unaware of the government polices or unable to take advantage of them because of their circumstances. The elite always mobilized the population based on their particular caste or class to pursue their short-term agendas and succeeded. But the really really underprivileged always remained underprivileged so that they can be used again and again for the votes politicians need to win power and abuse it.

Mean while surfing through the channels, Swami stopped for EL TV. There was a debate on reservations for women in Parliament. There was a male anchor having a panel discussion with some popular women from different walks of life and a mixed audience cheering to anything and everything. They were there just to see the celebrities; they did not have any feelings or thoughts about the topic being discussed.

"When they have to send a male to get their Sabji, how are they going to rule the country ", mumbled Swami.

Nearby his sister Veena, who was leisurely combing her hair (taking great pains) listening to the exchange, walked up to Swami.

"We don't need any favors. We are capable of looking after ourselves. Ma, give me the bag, I will go get the Sabji ".

Swami’s mom was very upset about her son not listening to her any more. But she did give the bag and money to Veena for the Sabji.

"Thanks a lot ", said Swami. Veena left with the bag to get Sabji from the market.

Swami’s mom was finished with her daily training about washing clothes to the maid. She walked and sat on the couch beside swami. Swami was glued to the T.V; Zee-A serial on feminism, Star plus-Hindi debate on fashion shows & beauty pageants, ATN-Sambhalke-Sambhalke, the story of a female born in the next century..

"Why do they want this, aren't they happy with their homes ", said mom.

"Go tell this to people like Mrs. Srivatsava, who is already seeing herself as an Member of the Parliament (M.P) and promising things like, no girl will meet any boy till 21, her sense of freedom! Will her becoming an M.P make Rangamma’s husband suddenly stop drinking and abusing her and take care of her and his children? Will it make people suddenly stop asking dowries for Veena’s Marriage? Does she have an agenda of her own or is she just trying to propagate the agenda on which her husband Mr. Srivastava tried to run the elections last time and lost?" Swami stopped realizing he was going into one of his disturbed modes, and he did not want to upset his mom.

He was both angry and irritated. Not because he felt Mrs. Srivastava would succeeded in her dreams or that he won’t be allowed to meet any girls. He just believed in freedom - in this walled world where personal freedom was becoming rare to find. If people like Mrs. Srivastava were to succeed the very little freedom people have will be lost.

Not willing to get upset anymore, Swami went to the railway station to book his ticket back to college. There was a very long Q which was being served by a female clerk sitting behind a glass panel and written on the counter in big bold letters


"Thank God! Things may still be fine " thought Swami.


Didi: Elder Sister
Sabji: Vegetables
Verandah: Backyard
Babu: Used here, as Sir
Aaz Ki Aurat is Azad: Today’s Women are free
Sambhalke-Sambhalke: Be Careful - Be Careful

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