Lil One is on his way to become a cube master. Much to the consternation of the family. Why, you may be thinking. That’s quite a positive trait in a child, isn’t it? Try sitting next to the cube master in a movie theater, where he is watching the film while his hands are loudly clicking on the cube. “I solved it in 3 minutes here, Ma. That’s akin to solving it blindfolded!” he pretty much yelled to the theater, causing the woman next to me giving me such an evil look that I could have sensed it blindfolded.
Early morning, as soon as he opens his eyes, his hands start on the cube. I have just about prevented him from taking it into the bath for a shower. Watch TV and click, click, click, goes the cube. At the dinner table, while me n Hubby lick the plates, Lil One clicks the cube. To my yelling that he cannot possibly do it during studies, pat came the answer. “I am doing it with one hand, without even seeing the combinations, Ma.”Uh, oh.
A quick visit to the Phadke household is quite a trauma for the poor, unsuspecting guests. They come into the living room to find different cubes spread out all across, the 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, mirror cube, pyramid cube…oh, it just goes on. After that first delighted “OMG, is it the little guy who does this?” most are treated to a non-stop show of prowess by Lil One on all cubes, and then just when they think this is the last cube and it’s finally over, he jauntily blindfolds himself and then does ALL of the damn things again.
By this time, the poor dear guest has this transfixed kind of a glassy smile on her face and last week our auntie (when I say “our”, it means its Hubby’s) and my (note the change in the pronoun please) severest culinary critic almost jogged despite her rheumatic arthritis to the dining room after the Great Rubik Demo. Normally, I would have had to deal with “Oh, but this is not how Pulav is prepared. Don’t feel bad haan, beti, I am just telling you so that you can improve!” Grrrr. But seeing her in jogging form was good fun! I innocently and sweetly called out to Lil One and said “And did you show the latest octagonal cube to Grandmom”, on which Grandmom, in a fit of panic actually started asking me for my recipe to cook the Pulav. I paid a silent homage to Rubik.
Apart from controlling irritating relatives, the cube has its own intellectual advantages. What is really special about the cube is that you cannot solve it by solving each side individually. In fact, most of the times, when Lil One tries out his “algorithms”, I tend to sit there biting my lip, sure he’s doing something wrong. Up Side Down Side Up Side Side Down. Because, it looks all wrong. Till quite the last step, the observer does not really understand where the pattern is heading.
“Ummm, are you sure that turn is right?” I asked with trepidation.
“Your problem is that you want to sort out one thing and then go for the other. But that is exactly where Rubik creates the challenge. You have to see the solution as a whole, Ma, not just sum over smaller solutions. You’ll never get the cube that way.”
“The whole is more than sum of parts“, that is what he’s trying to tell me. Look for the overall solution, don’t just solve one issue. We’ll never get the cube that way. Econ Mom rose and moved into her research field.
My current research is on functioning of the Panchayati Raj Institution in general and on Mahila Sarpanches, in particular. It is in this context that I’ve been meeting up with quite a lot of stakeholders involved in the system. From Government officials to corporators, from Mahila Sarpanches to NGOs; everyone has a different take on why the system does not work efficiently.
The Government has got in reserved seats for women so that their participation in active politics is increased. However, whether this reservation alone will serve the objective is a HUGE question mark. Let me share some of the very interesting insights I got on field whilst working on this.
Government officials say that this will work in the long run. And they are damn right. Talk to any woman Sarpanch and she tells you that it takes around 2 years to find her feet. And then the work really commences. Thus, only if the reservation can be put into place for 2 terms i.e. they get a continuous term of 10 years, only then can they really make a difference. There was a lady who told me that if she is anyway not going to get continuity or salary (Sarpanches do not receive any salary), why go against the wishes of the family and attend all those Gram Sabha meetings that eat into important housework?
So I got thinking that maybe lack of continuity is a big practical problem that serves as a deterrent in terms of women entering politics. So should we then enforce women seats for two continuous terms? Will that solve the issue? Will that better the system? Unfortunately, and stunningly, the answer is NO.
You reserve a seat for women for 10 years and the male leaders who’ve created local development networks will pretty much stop working in those constituencies. They either shift constituencies which is a monetarily and politically painful process, or they simply won’t do any constructive work. Worse, some of them may get disruptive and not allow the woman to work.
So, the person with power won’t work and the person in power does not know what to do. It is indeed fair to give 2 terms to a woman to find her feet in a man’s world, but is it fair to displace the men-centric systems, that with all of their messy and machoistic problems, work? Can the system be held in limbo till the time that we’ve ensured gender equality, is a classic issue of the Indian polity and economy for many decades now. And, there are no answers.
The problem as I see it today is that we are unfortunately, a culturally gender-unequal society. There are gender biases built into the very way we think and act. Gender equality comes through a culture of acceptance and this acceptance involves the fact that men and women work differently when facing different issues. And this is going to take time. In the meanwhile, our policy makers are left with no other option than to reserve seats for women.
What women reservations do is that they try to impose political equality on a system that is socially, economically, culturally, physically and emotionally unequal. And that’s why they create so many issues.
It’s exactly what my Lil One had warned me against. It’s like trying to solve only one side of the Rubik’s cube and pray that all other pieces will automatically fall into place.
Watch out for the next article: Issues of the Mahila Sarpanches in Maharashtra.