I used to teach from the H.Sc. English text, a delightful piece called ‘Tiger Mom’ by Sidharth Bhatia, noted columnist, in which he describes this modern Super Mom who drives herself and her children into a frenzy, pushing them into classes, competitions, sports, music, art and what not.
She waits outside school or classes at closing time. With other mothers, she will be sharing views on the school, the teacher, the education system, everything. When bell rings and the child comes, she barely registers this. She is already checking the other children’s books for updates, comparisons and what not. And back home, she pushes her child to outdo the other.
Tiger Mom knows all that the child is doing. She knows the syllabus for exams, the best tuitions and coaching classes, the sports, arts and hobbies that the child is or should be into. She is on edge during every exam and result day, whether it is a routine class test or a decisive public exam.
What about the father, you ask? He has little say, so what is there to say about him? Sometimes, he gets minor roles like ATM, chauffeur, escort to parents’ meeting; no dialogues. After some participation in the child’s early years, mostly in play and outings, he gradually resigns into his newspaper or laptop, making suitable ‘hmms’ and ‘haanhs’ when called upon to speak.
The sequel to this – the children grow into their youth. The sons will at some stage escape into games or other inconsequential pursuits. But the daughters? They become aggressive, competitive, ambitious. Is it any surprise then that girls outshine boys in academics, sports and every other field? A complete change from earlier generations when boys had all the opportunities.
I once taught a class of 10-year olds, in an activity-based education plan. The girls were bright, talented and bursting with ideas for impromptu skits and plays. The boys, I am sure, had some talent, but were easily outshouted and out-talked by the girls who took up all the meaty parts. The boys were relegated to shifting benches and desks, arranging sets and cheering at the right moments.
By their teens, most boys become shy and poor communicators. This continues into adulthood. Girls, on the other hand, are easy and lucid communicators. They can read, write, talk, get into make-up, singing, dancing, games, adventure sports anything. But what happens when these girls grow up? With the role models they have had since infancy, they are indeed fierce tiger cubs.
Mothers and daughters easily fit into one another’s shoes. Not just shoes. Clothes, books, CDs, mobiles, TV serials everything. The mother with all the running around remains trim and fit. Mentally also, she updates herself with daughter’s friends, virtual and real, latest crazes, fashions. People think we are sisters, they will proudly say. At times the daughter becomes the mother, switching roles seamlessly. You can never figure out who imitates whom.
I am sure fathers and sons too exchange shoes, T-shirts. And even have such role reversals. But I have never heard a man or his son say – People think we are brothers.
In my own parents’ home, we were equal number of sons and daughters. Girls had all opportunities and were into education, job everything. But yes, our parents had rules for late nights for girls and fewer such rules for boys. We, girls, enjoyed higher status at home. The boys ran most of the errands – to shops, to get cinema or train tickets. There was never an issue. Our role models being traditional, we somehow took up traditional roles in adulthood.
But the times, they are a-changing. Families are smaller, nuclear; traditions are modified to convenience. When sons grow up, some woman takes over from Tiger mom and trains or untrains him. But what about daughter? Tiger mom, tiger daughter. Tiger daughter outdoes tiger mom. She is in full form at home, work, play, relations – more equal than her male counterpart. Who can stop Shakti on her stride to becoming Kali?