23 December 2012 | by The Petticoat Journal | JAIPUR
As soon as you declare that you stand for women emancipation, you are automatically taken to be an anti-men crusader. No wonder that when The Petticoat Journal was launched, we were randomly tagged as anti-men and pro-women. It was so disheartening to know that the issues we stood for were overshadowed by such shallow perceptions. However, at The Petticoat Journal, we had a completely different, forward-looking, unorthodox strategy. We stood for an idea…and against it…without gender bias. We stood for the idea of liberated women and against the idea of oppression of women…without gender bias.
And in keeping with this open-minded policy, we decided to bring you stories of men who have been staunch supporters of women’s liberation, not just verbally but practically. I happened to come across one such gentleman in Jaipur who had looked after his son and daughter when they were three and eight years old respectively, even as his wife pursued her B. Ed. course in another city.
Here’s Col (retd) Ratan Jhangid, Chief Engineer, India Oil Corporation, along with his wife, Chitra Jhangid, Cultural In-charge, St Anselm School (Mansarovar), Jaipur, talking about his views on liberation of women and how he saw his wife as his insurance and let her live her life her way without being dependent on him.
His story is striking as he comes from Dabri, a small village in the Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, a state, especially its villages, notorious for girl child abuse, highest female foeticide, worst gender ratio, child marriage, and sati. Well, that makes up for almost all categories and forms of violence against women. In this gloomy setting, Ratan Jhangid nurtured an unconventional ideology and very smoothly implemented it in his life.
His wife Chitra Jhangid, has a whole array of relevant degrees in her pocket along with an eight-year professional course in Kathak and also Salsa. She teaches in a school in Jaipur and is currently busy directing a dance drama with, what else, women empowerment as its theme.
Shruti Kohli: When you got married thirty years ago, our society was more conservative than it is now. Moreover, you belonged to a small village in Rajasthan. What made you go against all the set norms and not only allow your wife to live her life her own way, but also stand by her as she stepped out of the sacred four walls of the house?
Ratan Jhangid: It’s not only after I met Chitra, my wife, that I started thinking differently. I always vouched for empowerment of women. I am a born supporter of women’s financial freedom and their independence in thought and participation. My sister was widowed at a very young age. I got her married again even as widow remarriage was not acceptable in my society. When I got married, I said my wife will be my insurance. If I’m not there, she should not feel stranded. It was never a big issue for me to let my wife live her life. It was life as usual for me. I stood by her in whatever she wanted to do and did.
Chitra Jhangid: We never had a conversation about this either during our courtship years or after marriage. But yes, we did have a monologue after marriage where Ratan declared on me that he will never stop me from living my life as I liked. I was quite adventurous as a teenager and could have never imagined stable life. I am lucky to have found Ratan!
Ratan Jhangid: Yes, I had told Chitra that I will let her do whatever she wanted to do. I will not stop her from studying or working. I will cooperate even if she has to travel extensively for work. And I must add here that it’s not all about me. Chitra too has been very cooperative and supportive.
Shruti Kohli: Your wife did most of her studies (MA, double MA, B Ed) and courses (Kathak, Salsa) after marriage. How did you manage the household and children?
Ratan Jhangid: It was not very difficult. In fact, I quite enjoyed. However, the eight months that we had to spend in different cities when she was doing her B Ed in Ajmer and I was in Noida, were a bit challenging. My son was three years old that time and I had to double up as a mother for him although my daughter was eight years old and big enough to manage quite a few things on her own.
Shruti Kohli: Didn’t your parents object to such an alien set up?
Ratan Jhangid: There was opposition from my family. Well, but obviously! It was thirty years back! They would tell me “why are you looking after children at home while your wife is studying and working?” But I knew what I was up to! I was sure that this is what I want to do. I wanted Chitra to live her life the way she wanted.
Shruti Kohli: Have you been an inspiration for your friends and relatives?
Ratan Jhangid: A lot of my friends observed me and learnt a lot. They treat their women with due respect. My nephews consider me as their role model when it comes to respecting women.
Shurti Kohli: What’s your message to readers?
Ratan Jhangid: I would like to say that it’s time women came out of patriarchy. They must know that their body and mind is their own. Why should a man have the birth right over it?
Throughout their lives, women keep looking for certificates from men in their lives. First, brother and father, then father-in-law, brother-in-law, husband and then son…it’s never-ending actually. This erodes their self-esteem and dignity to an irrecoverable level. This must stop.
I never ask Chitra where she is coming from even she comes back at 11pm. That is how it should be in all families. Why should a woman be questioned even if she is returning at 3am? Men have no right to interrogate. Also, women must also make sure that they don’t keep answering silly questions in a bid “to avoid chaos in the house.”
Chitra Jhangid: Last night when I was home late… yet again… Ratan looked at me with a frown and then smiled and said, “When can I have a bit of your time ma’am?” It was always like this. He never objected to me working till late and staying away from home for it. It was always with a smile that he told me that he missed me! I also strongly feel that women should express their feelings more strongly. They must openly object to things they find objectionable. Also, men should give a sensitive ear to what women around them have to say.
If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more