When I was a kid, I never found it problematic that my mother was hooked to the daily soaps while the news remained my father’s concern. I had somewhere internalized that political debates are my father’s interest since he is a man. While my mother who spent the day moving in and out of the bedroom and kitchen was never conditioned to be political. It was easier to internalize this binary because I grew up seeing my father deal with the outside world, while my mother was in charge of the household chores. Only now I have realised that this is just another way in which patriarchy prevails over our upbringing. It never made me think why doesn’t my mother have a political opinion of her own?
Just two days back, my brother laughed at my mother’s ignorance about the latest update on Galwan Valley tension. When she asked him to explain, he said jokingly, “Whether China steps back or not, you will anyway clean the house tomorrow morning. What is the need for you to know and argue?”
Although I might not reject my parents’ marriage altogether, I do acknowledge the divide of the internal and external world between them and most Indian couples. This means that most Indian women look at the outside world from their husband’s perspective.
Not that my father gives my mother the wrong information, but should she be dependent on him when all the debates and information are at her disposal as much as they are for him? Shouldn’t my mother have a political opinion and voice of her own rather than imbibing it from her husband?
Thankfully, my mother is well educated which gave her the ability to read, analyse, and have her own opinions. So wouldn’t it be better if she uses her abilities? Being a politically aware citizen does not only mean to support this party or that but also to know what are your rights, how they are restrained and how you can demand them back. My mother also has the right to vote. And if she doesn’t know about the local and central politicians and their agenda, then the right to vote will be nothing more than a token.
It is us daughters who are cognizant of their rights and how patriarchy tries to curb them, who must come to rescue of our mothers here. And so I have also taken up the responsibility to make my mother understand the importance of being political. My first step towards it was making a habit for the whole family to watch the news from a credible news channel every day. Thanks to the pandemic, everyone is now more concerned with daily news than ever. In fact, now my mother willingly turns on the news channel, even when my father is not interested in watching it.
The second step was keeping her away from the fake news and videos being shared on WhatsApp groups. Last month, a forwarded video about a “corona positive Muslim vegetable vendor selling the vegetables ‘tainted’ with his saliva,” found its way to her, tainting her views. When she chatted with me about it, at once, I cross-checked the video and told her that it was fake, and then downloaded a credible news channel app on her phone. I told her about how misleading fake messages can be and explained to her why it was important to always verify what came to one as WhatsApp forwards.
This effort achieved a small success when I heard my mother advising someone else on being alert of fake news. In fact, she is no more gets carried away by the fake notices shared on WhatsApp groups without being sure that they are original. She either asks me or my father if this is true and only then begins to speak about it with her close ones. Sometimes, I don’t agree with the opinions that she has on certain issues. I often oppose her and counter her arguments, ensuring that I do not dismiss them altogether. And when I feel defeated in the debate, I gain a larger sense of success seeing that light of knowledge and power sparkling in her eyes.
The views expressed are the author’s own.