Men or Women

“Men or women, one of them has to be on top”

He was a relative. Few years younger than me.

No, there is no gory assault coming up in this story.

He was extremely well educated. In a senior position, globally. Family. Married to a niece, so a ‘jamai’.

And you know the rules. The jamai raja is a minor god. You never argue with a jamai raja. You feed him, smile at him, laugh at his jokes, pander to him. After all, your daughter lives in ‘his’ house.

(The daughter, his wife – she is such a lovely person – signalled to me to stop)

This jamai raja is a good friend too. And I am me – could not let this pass.

Well, I did let it pass for the moment as I gathered up my breath, having gasped at this statement. (Knowing him, I knew it was not what you dirty minds read it to mean!)

I asked him, as any calm negotiator would why he thought so.

“It is in the scriptures. It has always been so”

That one was easy. Just because things were written in the scriptures did not make it true in today’s context. First, evolution! The context changes. There is nothing that remains constant. My witness: The fact that he was wearing shirt and trousers. The fact that he was driving a car. The fact that he did not wake up at the prescribed 4 a.m and follow the rituals. The fact that we had just stopped for tea. (Yes, tea. My grandmother’s world had designated tea as an alien evil). And so on.

I was not going to engage in a scriptural debate. Not that I did not have enough ammunition. Just that we did not have that much time. The scriptures have enough in them despite the Manusmriti he quoted to counter themselves. Argument and debate, and thus the ability to adapt with reason have kept our civilisation alive. That discussion could wait for another date.

I bided my time. Gently brought the discussion towards politics and policy. The Indian economy had not reached the doldrums it is in today, but the signs were ominous. We raged about policy. And government diktats. And about people setting up rules when they did not understand reality!

“What do those old fogies know about business”, he ranted. They sit up there and write their policies, what do they know about today’s ground realities!?!”

I smiled.

And asked, “Just like Manu when he wrote the Manusmriti?”

We are still friends. And we don’t speak of grand policy makers from the past anymore.

(And he may be a feminist yet)