A micro oven is all Pihu needed to create her own heaven. And ten seconds is all it took. The dried whole milk filling inside the pastry would soften just so, leaving the case crisp for delicious crumbling in the mouth. Two gujiyas made to order and total satisfaction! She demolished them now, hungry out of nervousness. There was an awareness pitch she had to make to a group of educators on gender sensitization that afternoon and she debated on how best to challenge their deep seated gender beliefs.
Laptop, pen drive, marker pens, folder, notes…she went down her check list, reminding herself to carry the presentation on a compact disc after mailing it to herself. “Good luck Mum! Relax. You will do fine” her daughter and collaborator smiled sympathetically at the sight of her bustling mother. A feminist in thoughts and action, she had contributed to the design and content of the slides. She chewed on her morning ritual diet of five soaked and skinned almonds while assisting her mother with the departure. Soon enough, Pihu was turning the ignition key to back out of the garage.
Within the hour, the presenter was plugged in and ready to deliver in the conference hall. She surveyed the growing audience, reaching for the water. It was a diverse group. Liberal, progressive, conservative and she saw their homes reflected in their reactions to her as the talk progressed. “We face a changing social reality in which true equality is struggling to happen,” she had begun, moving on to the routine devaluation of girls and an urgent need to quash stereotypes. The delivery progressed well and there appeared to be unanimity over her perspective that it was time to bring the change to bear on every day decisions. “We must emphasize humanity rather than femininity and masculinity. We cannot permit gender to become a person’s destiny,” she concluded to cheers and applause.
Several teachers approached the lectern to compliment her at the end of the talk. Some took her visiting card, a few asked to speak privately about personal views and experiences. Pihu was gathering up, smiling in the afterglow that comes with meaningful interaction when the Principal’s peon walked into the hall, “There is a message for you from the Human Resources office madam, please meet them on your way out.”
It took her a while to find her way to them. The Executive Committee was riffling papers, talking in murmurs when she entered. The Human Resources Director beckoned her in, “Madam, we would like to use your expertise in gender studies to help us with an appointment decision. We are taking a vote between two equally qualified male and female dance teachers for our flagship girls’ school at Kullu. Which of the two do you think would be most effective? Should gender be the deciding factor here? ”
Her own response niggled at Pihu throughout the drive home. She was appalled at who she had recommended. “Just goes to show! I am like the urologist who preaches eight glasses of water a day to all and sundry while he himself barely manages to down two” she kicked herself mentally.
She eased the car into the driveway, feeling small. Her daughter let her in, right hand raised for a high five with Mum at which Pihu shook her head. “A cup of green tea?” she frowned at her mother uncertainly, moving towards the kitchen.
“Yes please, I have a bad taste in the mouth,” Pihu replied in a small voice, nodding assent.