Mobby has a way of getting up in the morning and making pronouncements about the things that had been bothering him the night before.
And on one particular morning he wakes up and immediately gets into a sitting position. Something apparently weighs heavy on his 3-year-old-mind.
Without even rubbing his eyes, he declares: “I don’t want any baby sister, give me a few more brothers.”
Amma is worried. She thinks ‘Is Mobby making a prediction of sorts?” After all, there are no imminent signs of any baby.
Baba knows that his younger son always has a well-thought-out logic behind every pronouncement. So he probes with “Why not a baby girl?”
Mobby, it seems, has reached the important conclusion after much deliberation. Throughout the night, he probably has been weighing the pros and cons of having a baby sister.
His well-considered response is based on empirical findings: “Because amma is a girl and she is in the kitchen all the time. She doesn’t even play cricket. I want brothers because they will play with me and not work in the kitchen like amma.”
Mobby is quickly imbibing some of the culturally accepted traditional gender roles; six year old Omar, however, has made a few more observations.
One day Omar asks me, “Have you seen those two cats…the black and the white one?” I know Omar is talking about the two stray cats that prowl our house from time to time and love to bask on my car roof.
“Yes, they are cute.”
“Cute! That’s not the point. You know what…they are husband and wife,” Omar informs me.
Omar is at the stage where he has figured out one thing: according to the standard norms and conventions, at a certain stage in life human beings start falling under the category of husbands or wives. And he is now applying this principle to all other species.
“How do you know? And who is the wife?” I ask.
“The white one is the wife, and the black one is her husband.”
“I see. How did you figure this out?”
The white one doesn’t do anything; she is always just sitting on your car. But she is pretty.”
“So wives don’t do anything because they don’t go to any office, but they go to beauty parlors and look pretty. Just like amma, you know. While husbands go to office and wear black coats. The other cat is active and he is black as if he is wearing his office coat.”
While Mobby thinks his mother is too busy and working all the time, Omar has graduated to the stage where he considers unpaid house-work as no work at all.
My feeble attempts at gender sensitization remain just that--feeble.