Wednesday, December 15, 2010
What women want and how men help them get it
It was while watching a recent rerun of Chak De India on TV that the idea to write this piece struck me. We have all watched and loved this great movie and SRK’s performance (his one genuine performance as an actor according to me). We all have loved the spirit of the sport and the passion to win it can evoke and the fact that all the protagonists happen to be women made the point even more poignant. I myself have used various snippets from the movie to explain team work and leadership in a number of workshops and training programs. However, what struck me when I watched the movie this time was the various ways in which men in these women’s lives drive them to take the risk and do what they truly believe in. Whether it is the boy friend who mocks the sport his girl wants to excel in, the husband who thinks the wife should return to her kitchen duty once she has accomplished the task of securing a house for the family through her sport , the father who does not want his fire cracker of a daughter to defy tradition and play a sport he deems is a man’s forte or the bureaucrat who ridicules and mocks the motley team’s efforts to reach the world cup, all these men play a part in driving the team of women to excellence.
I thought of so many subtle ways in which the world around undermines a woman’s confidence that she is equal to men in every walk if life whether it is her mother who expects only her and not her brother to help her in the housework, her husband who refuses to share the load at home though she works as hard as him and comes back as tired after a grueling day at work or her boss who does not believe in paying her as much as a man for doing the same job. All these influences in life play a role in every woman questioning her worth.
However, the undercurrent of the role men specifically played in doing this got me thinking. Do men always need to play a negative role in driving women to excellence? Is it this attitude of men that provides women with the power and resilience to chase their dreams and prove them wrong? The notion troubled me for a long time. While I am not a ‘dyed in the wool’ feminist, I do believe that the modern woman has never had it better than this day and age to defy all clichés and truly reach her ultimate potential. But I have always felt that the men in her life play a role in helping her find and chase her dreams. Armed with this belief and wanting to prove the notion (or what I believed was the notion) of Chak De wrong, I went about trying to find references in Bollywood Cinema of the supportive man. The one who does not mind standing in the background and look on with pride and happiness while his woman takes the bow, the one who stays up nights with a wife, a daughter, a sister helping her and quietly encouraging her to be all that she can be, the one about whom the female protagonist could have proudly said – “He is the man behind my success” but unfortunately Bollywood seems to not have grown enough to show these facets of what a mature, modern man could be.
It was a chance sighting of a performance of a group of sari clad, traditionally dressed women playing rock music on a TV reality show that gave ballast to my belief that men do form strong positive role models in the lives of women. This was a group of housewives from Bhiwandi who played the drums, the guitar, the banjo and the mike like seasoned rock stars that pleasantly surprised me on how far the modern Indian woman had reached. But what was most touching was the leader of the rock group proclaiming that it was the support of her husband and his unstinting belief in her ability that led her to follow her passion and dream big for herself and her band. The proud husband came on stage with kids in tow with pride in his eyes over his wife’s talent and achievements. That moment strengthened my belief that behind every truly successful and content woman, there needs to be a man, egging her and goading her to be all that she can be. Men need not always be the mocking presence that drives the anger in women to do well but can also be the calming and inspiring presence that drives the confidence in them. The modern woman seems to have matured and grown into understanding her place in society and is not afraid to go out into the world and be all that she can be. May be it is time now for the modern man to change his stance and grow. For women to really have the power and contentment they deserve, it is the man’s turn to mature and discover himself in new ways that helps him be the inspiring presence in his loved one’s lives. I am sure this will lead to women being driven by passion and not anger. Hopefully, Bollywood will play catch up soon and have a host of movies with the liberated man as the front runner. Give us more SRK like coaches from Chak De any day !