Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Shared Planet


 International Women’s Day was celebrated on the 8th of March. Organizations around the world hosted programs showcasing efforts towards achieving gender equality. Cities like New York and London observed the day with marches along main avenues led by actors and activists. To an observer from outer space, it would be concluded that although women do not have equal rights on this planet, everyone seems to agree that they should and is working diligently towards that goal. That, however, would be far from the truth.

For the two weeks following the International Women’s Day, the United Nations is hosting more than 6000 delegates from around the world for its 59th session of the Commission of the Status of Women. These are men and women from around the world, in different capacities, trying desperately to work towards a planet shared equally. But when you ask their opinion on a personal level, their frustration at the futility of their task is evident.

The roadblocks to their efforts are varied--politics, customs, traditions, mind-set, etc.. There were certain common threads that ran through all the conversations. One important aspect is finances! Most, if not all, blamed those in power for not letting the available funds filter through. Another huge hurdle is the safety of those involved in the projects-- both the workers and the targeted demographic are usually at great risk and could not be protected in most cases. In short, there is very little that can be done within the available resources.

One of the panels, which comprised of the Vice President of Zambia and the Foreign Minister of Sweden, among other esteemed guests, were voicing their frustrations at the slow pace of any progress. It was when the panelist from Egypt implored the organizations present to do more that it struck me--this was not a job for governments and organizations. This was also not a situation where, if you threw enough money at it, it would go away. This unfair distribution of assets and tragic inequality can only be fixed by us, the common people and work needs to start at home.

We, as a culture, raise our girls to be wives. That is it! Even if they are allowed a professional education, their future is at the discretion of the husband. We raise our boys to expect subservient wives, to be molded as they choose. We feel that if we raise strong, independent women, they will make bad wives and if we raise boys who are secure enough in their own skin to view their wives as equals, they will make weak husbands. There are no organizations or NGO’s that can reach deep within the psyche of a nation and rewire. This vicious cycle can only be broken at home.

There are a few enlightened voices that are being raised and we are seeing more and more young men and women who are embracing this new reality. They also realize that “together” is so much more productive than “alone”. This “new world order” does not necessarily mean that men and women both work outside the home. It goes much deeper than that.  It is about respect and validation that goes both ways. It is about giving women the right to choose whether they want to work outside the home or within. Whether they want children now or would like to space them out. In essence it allows a woman to be in control of decisions that affect her and ultimately those around her.

This is the most tragic example of losing sight of the forest for the trees. A gender equal world benefits everybody. The world cannot move forward if we hobble and bind one half of the workforce. Women need to be seen as an asset, rather than a liability in all facets of their lives. We need more authors like Ayesha Tariq (The Suppressed Anger of the Pakistani Obedient Daughter) to voice their feeling in a way that hit home with mothers and fathers, with brothers and husbands and sons. We, as people, should take this problem as our own and resolve it in our own home and then watch as it grows and enhances our lives. We cannot delegate that to outside organizations which we can alleviate ourselves. All we need is the desire to better ourselves and those we love and ensure a bright future for both our daughters and our sons.

Love, in Actuality


Recently, a devastated friend told me how her husband, of twenty-seven years, decided to end their relationship on Valentine’s Day. He cited that he was not in love with her. When she demanded him to elaborate on that pearl of insight, he said that the passion between them was gone and that he needed to be “in love” to be part of any relationship!

While she was whirling from the “What the heck just happened?” Syndrome, and I was  thinking about what an absolute moron the gentleman was, I started to wonder why someone would give up a seasoned and tried relationship for something as elusive, intangible and fleeting as being in love.

Being in love! Ahh!! We have all been there (don't lie to yourself). It is a roller-coaster ride. It is exhilarating and breathtaking. Here, there are mysteries and myths. The experience is full of expectations, mostly from the other person. But it also forces you to be better than yourself, almost like a super-self - a version 2.0, if you will. This, mind you, is hard work but who cares? You are in love!! You are exhilarated by the highs and devastated by the lows. But, hey! Reality check! Once the journey of discovery is over...that feeling is gone too.

Falling in love, in my opinion, can be compared to visiting an exotic and foreign land. It is fascinating and the journey stimulates the senses to a point of overload. You are enthralled by the novelty, by the unfamiliar uniqueness. You want to somehow absorb every detail and to envelop yourself in the scent. But as the patina wears off you realize that the enchantment wears off too and what was once fascinating becomes mundane and, at times, tiresome and monotonous.

Loving, on the other hand is what home is. It is warm and comfortable. Here you can be yourself without fear of judgment. With loving comes a promise and a deep dedication. When you feel as if you have arrived and are no longer a wanderer. It is the culmination of all trials and tribulations, when all the monsters are slain and all dragons chased away. Here you can hang up your armor and let your guard down - you are accepted as-is, all dents and dings included. Here is a place where you do not have to be at your best behavior to impress but rather a place where you, with all your faults and imperfections, are accepted and appreciated. And unconditional acceptance is what every heart craves.

Relationships are tricky. Teenagers wish for certain attributes in their (hopefully future) partners. There is a desire for people who are spontaneous, who are ready for any adventure at any time, A certain disdain for authority, a disregard for the sanctity of the status quo seems so attractive. With age comes the realization that the qualities that were so attractive and made us swoon in our youth are not the ones that will sustain a long-term, sane, loving relationship. An adult person, man or woman, who is self-obsessed, defies authority and is ready to leave everything (job, family) for an adventure would make a crappy spouse not to mention be annoying as heck.

So the lesson, boys and girls, is that falling in love is like an explosion of fireworks! All noise and heat and whirling colors, and it just happens--no effort required. There for a flash and then gone. To sustain that love you need to keep the fires burning, and that doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.. with actual hard work. Staying for the long haul, that’s where the promise of happiness ever after lies.  You may fall in and out of love but you will never desert or betray true love!