She Only Can!
The ‘end time’ or the ‘dooms day’ scenario is a future described in most of the religions that world events will reach a climax one day. A great number of defence officers, both serving and retired however have already reached that conclusion with the Supreme Court ruling in favour of girls joining the National Defence Academy, a male preserve for many decades.
The chauvinists have come out with all hands bared to oppose such a move, knowing fully well that their opinion on this count does not mean anything beyond a weak lament or a limp ranting.
Practitioners of warfare also know in their hearts that a great deal has changed regarding what it takes to fight a war in the modern era. Warfare today goes much beyond running a 100m sprint in less than 13 seconds or completing an endurance run with a rifle and full FSMO pack. In the Information age, the traditional physical attributes form a miniscule percentage of the numerous demands made out to a modern day soldier.
Labelled as the weaker sex for centuries, the girls are definitely out to prove a point or two. Not that any new glass ceiling is being broken as the media would like us to believe. Fully aware of the existing prejudices and their wartime vulnerability, they are resisting patronizing paternalism which has subconsciously come to the fore.
The problem probably lies in trying to compete for/ resist equal opportunity and not acknowledging that man and woman were born to be different. Leave the physical capabilities apart, the general impression is that both genders handle and process information and complexity very differently.
Empathy levels, emotional quotients, logic, reasoning and responsiveness- everything is different. A lot has to probably do with genes transported down from the pre-historic ages. We therefore tend to fall in the trap of stereotyping half the humanity.
Like many of us, I also have an opinion on the subject. I feel stereotyping is not a very good thing and must be avoided. True synergy can be found in identifying roles and tasks not at what each gender is good at but at what each person is likely to excel in. Selection processes therefore need a massive overhaul to be able to do that. Administrative changes in accommodation and training institutes are actually the least of the problem.
“But there is a massive problem Sir”, one of my junior colleagues had piped up many years back when this subject came up for discussion. “They get pregnant and go on long maternity leave. They are not available for work most of the time in such eventualities”.
“Hmmm”, I had acknowledged in agreement and gone along at that time without debate. Perfectly understandable as four of the fifteen lady officers under my command were indeed on maternity leave and the cause of extra duties for the machismos.
Subconsciously harbouring such misogynistic views for a very long time, I came across an interesting Japanese officer at a social gathering. Introducing his heavily pregnant wife, he added, “She is on national duty”. Taken aback a bit, I waited for her to move away and queried if he could elaborate further.
He said, “I guess undergoing pregnancy and choosing motherhood is probably one of the most challenging and difficult tasks in life. The changes and the turmoil she goes through is impossible for a man to ever comprehend. So much so that in a way she is even putting her life at risk. And for what? Besides personal needs, she is the one who is producing healthy children and able citizens for the country. Is that not national duty of the highest sense?”
I must admit that having that brief conversation caused an immediate paradigm shift in my mind. For the remainder of my career, I would never encourage any complaints about lady officers and staff taking maternity leave and not being available for regular duties.
To be honest, I had long forgotten this episode till such time I moved into this house where I found that pigeons were playing merry hell in the precincts of the rear courtyard. Patiently clinging to every possible protrusion in the surrounding walls, they would remain there throughout the day and night. The intermittent ‘Shoos!’ didn’t make an iota of a difference to the two dozen avian creatures who would come back without fear.
In an effort to explore the cause of their presence, I climbed to the rooftop and discovered that the entire lot was actually keeping watch over a she-pigeon warming up her two eggs on a ledge below. A cat had been frequenting the area and they were in all probability holding their guard positions to protect her from man and beast.
Such was their commitment for weeks together that their vigil continued till the time the eggs hatched and the two infants grew up to be ready to fly away. We were fortunate to witness the first solo of one of the baby pigeons. But then that is a different story for some other time.
Marvelling at the societal feeling of the avian to fiercely protect the matriarch and the offspring, my contra-reflections turn towards the inadequacies of the human race. A race where we massively fall short of the so-called ‘dumb pigeons’. Where we unempathetically complain and crib about a mother-to-be as she tries her best to balance her toppled world.
Diwali celebrations are recently over and sure enough the festival will come next year as well. I guess we all need to eternally celebrate and cherish something more unique and exclusive, the spirit of human existence i.e motherhood.
I would therefore stridently say: Support her, simply because, she only can!
First published at seekmediation.com on 05/11/21
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