I have always been perturbed by the English word hypocrisy. But it never needed any explanationwhen I learnt this particular English word, as I grew up in Kerala to become a woman who does not like cooking. It did not need one bit of explanation. Oh! Let me add another word to that knowing list. It is Morality with a capital M.
With all its liberal discourse and emphasis on the “developed” society I live in, there was no need of explanation for anything that I experienced as a romantic and idealistic woman. Not that I am negating the cultural and political histories of Kerala which constitutes it present. I might not even be alive to talk about this today, considering the fact that I am a hybrid offspring, if I was in some other part of the world. Yes. I have smelt my mother. She did smell of starched office going saris, resistance and love. But a society which seems to be emancipated on so many different terrains was one of the most chauvinistic and patriarchal societies I have ever lived in. Yes. We have an expanded middle class. Yes. Our women have been educated. They go to work. Probably everything those good Human Development Indices promise.But why does this fail to translate into shifts in attitudes in our dear liberal society? It is indeed dear to me. I would not engage in this dialogue with it otherwise.
The heightened “economic independence” that women have and is assumed to be equal to their emancipation thoroughly fails just by a nice side way glance one can cast upon the Kerala society. No, it would not be difficult. Because you just you have to use that disapproving glance that is cast upon you if you wear a jeans and walk around any city/town/village in Kerala. No. It is not merely a class thing. You walk into some mall in Calicut. You get this expression. And a month of living in Kerala will tell you that it is our great middle class who are the protectors of this great Malayalee morality. I am not saying that walking in any other city has made me feel safer. Or I am not this kid who suddenly lives in the cities and thinks that cities are the high temples of liberation. Rather all I am trying to say is that with all the liberal talk of a completely “developed” Kerala, where women supposedly enjoy a higher status is farcical in my experience. Also the woman with political opinions is labeled and insulted or at least shunned to a corner, in this “liberal” society. Somehow the woman cooking and nurturing, after she returns from work, does not change in this liberal setup.
Growing up as a girl, the memories not far away, the discomfort I felt with my body as I attained puberty lingered on for so long that I did think the “right” thing to do was to hide under a bundle of clothes even if it meant suffocating in the summers. I know the discomfort a poor widower, my father, feels living alone in the remembrance of his wife- two people who ran away, revolted for love, 25 years ago. But hello! The questions have to come from our macho society who can secretly look at hips with their hypocritical glance but will ask their women to not shake their hips, even if they loved dancing. Why are you not re-marrying? Mol, you are the daughter. The new responsible woman. You should get your father married off to someone. That neighbor who has always smiled, who my mother considered a sister has now been transfigured into CCTV. She is, along with several others, guardians of morality, constantly at the window to survey who enters the house of a widower. Why? Because this sexually frustrated and repressed society cannot think of a man who wants to live with the memories of his wife. Come on! He is a threat to morality! He needs to be saddled up within our comfortable boundaries of marriage and family to be accepted as the high guard of Malayalee morality!
And yes, the daughter who wears jeans, and will “talk” to boys now and does not like to cook is an utter failure. She cannot even harness her father. Somebody needs to harness her too.
HIP-ocrisy needs no explanation for me who grew up in that place.