OPINION | ESSAY

Miss Pink and Mr Blue: Finding gender equality in India

Once upon a time, every shade of pink was a burden and every shade of blue a joy. But what if there was another way?

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]
[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

Once upon a time, in a land not that far away, in a country called India, and a village called – let’s just say it was like any other village – in a family that was just like yours and mine, a little boy and then a little girl were born.

They called the boy Mr Blue and the girl Miss Pink.

They were treated quite differently, as two colours ought to be. After all, theirs was a world defined in the shades of blue and pink. One was served and the other’s job was to serve. Blue demanded and pink fulfilled the demands. No other colours were welcome in this village.

Blue was to be deemed all-knowing, a king in his little kingdom called home even if the subject was just a shade of pink he owned; and pink was to be a maid even if her shade of blue was a real king and she, a queen.

Every home had little boys being raised to become shades of blue, and little girls to become shades of pink. Until they came of age the little Miss Pink had to serve her own family, and then she was to be given away to a shade of blue she had never met. She was to give up her name, her family, her home and start a new life in a new place with strangers that were to be her new family.

In this world, every shade of pink was a burden, and every shade of blue a joy; she the family’s honour, he the family’s pride; she to be given away, he to continue the legacy; she to be donated to a man, he to bring home a bride.

She was to sacrifice for the family; to adapt; to adjust and to bear the pain of childbirth to gift him sons. He was to provide for the family; to be her protector; her master and keep her safe from the world by creating rules for her, a Lakshman Rekha – the line she dare not cross.

Life took its course, and as fate would have it, they fulfilled the roles that the colours blue and pink demanded.

She forgot who she really was and her new identity became her lack of identity. She dissolved into the new shade of blue that owned her.

It was not long before she too thought bearing pink was a bad omen, her fault, and bearing blue a path to salvation. If she gave birth to a girl, her head bowed down with shame as all fingers pointed at her for being a betrayer to her master. She prayed to goddesses to bless her with blue; walked barefoot to temples; ate and drank potions from the village doctor; copulated when she was asked to and convinced her master to stay away from her when she was asked not to, with a promise to bear him sons so theirs could be a legacy coloured in blue.

Soon she forgot that she was a celestial being and thought of herself as a burden just as her mother had taught her. That she was weak, had no identity, no self, her description only with a prefix of Mrs or as the mother of her sons. Her death of no consequence, her replacements to be found with ease.

No matter how grey the blue got, he always found a young shade of pink to replace the pink he lost. A new pink, at his service, lucky to have his name as her identity, ready for the pain to bear him more blue.

But if pink lost the hand she was to hold tightly, the shadow of her blue, then her head was shaved, she was forced to wear white and sent away to live a life of the dead. No matter how un-blossomed the pink was, once she lost her blue, her sky was coloured in black. She could not belong to any other shade of blue, after all, she was bad luck, her association was the reason for blue’s downfall.

This story started once upon a time, in a time before time and has yet to die. This story is not a story at all. It is the air I breathe, the water you drink, the colours that surround us. This, unfortunately, is the reality.

But I do have a story, one that takes place in a land unfamiliar, unknown and luckily for its inhabitants, unreachable.

Once upon a time in the land, many lightyears from us, on a planet called – well, humans were yet unaware of this magical world so it had escaped the naming ceremony we humans hold so dear. On this planet, there was life, a beingness far superior to humans. They might not have discovered the marvels of technology and the medical breakthroughs to look through their bodies. But they had kept intact the magic of harmony, peace and love.

Theirs was the world of compassion and love for fellow beings. In their homes was warmth for souls, and passion for their dreams. They recognised the power of simply being. These were creatures of joy, full beings; living a full life. In one such home on this lovely planet were born two beings. They were different from each other, one’s energy resembled Yin and the other’s that of Yang. One was a unique shade of purple and the other a unique shade of yellow.

And then there were other homes with other little beings with shades of different colours making up a rainbow. They grew up together, they played together, cooked together and made their choices together. They chose their companions freely without the worry of race and religion for they had none. They each made their unique rainbows lighting up the sky with the energy of a thousand suns, and yet burning no one. Each shade of being, unique in its magic, each colour free to fly in its own sky.

This is the world I would swap mine for any time. But I cannot. Because I too have shades of pink in me. I caught the contagion of being pink as an inheritance. I defied it, stomped my feet, threw tantrums and yet these shades of pink got embedded in my core. If I were to go to this magical world I would infect them too. And so I am forever caged to the pink that I didn’t ask for.

My patriarchs won, they weaved me into the invisible fabric of patriarchy and genders. There is hope though, not for me but for the being that came through me. I call her “she” because I am a shade of pink and don’t know any better, but she is a shade of orange, she is my transformation. Perhaps she can belong to the magical planet that is not bound by blue and pink. Perhaps she will have a sky of her own. Perhaps she will build this world with her imagination and merit. Perhaps I will live through her. Perhaps I too will become a shade of orange in her.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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