Small-Minded, Small Bottle

In India, there are excruciating double standards with respect to gender: girls aren’t meant to do such and such thing, and boys are supposed to be strong, etc. The double standards are painful to both, but it would be fallacious to think that girls don’t have it much worse.

Anyway, I was raised to be an equal, and I am also fortunate to live in Mumbai. A lot of my confidence stems from the fact that I have my parents’ unstinting love and support. Sure, they will screw my happiness if I am at fault and I hurt someone, but I can count on them to have my back for anything else.

Which is why, I derive so much pleasure from my tiny acts of rebellion, where I feel like I am giving the patriarchy the middle finger.

Yesterday, while in the market, I happened to be on my own, as my family was already in another shop. I was meeting them there, after running a few errands. The day before, mum had asked me to add rum and port wine to our grocery list. I had no concrete plans to but alcohol, but I passed by a shop, so I figured I would cross that off my list.

I saw a bunch of men, some drunk and on the verge of disorderly, and others, judgemental uncle-types, in the immediate vicinity. Not a chick in sight. Of course not, good girls from good families are unaware of the existence of alcohol.

I went up to the counter with the most angelic look plastered on my face. One of the uncle-types was scandalised to see me there, but he clearly knew better than try and bully a 32-year old woman. I asked for the port wine, because we buy a particular brand, and then asked about the different kinds of rum available. The counter guy was flustered and stuttering, but he managed to calm down in the face of my sheer unflappability.

He brought out different varieties and I made a choice of brand. He then proceeded to wrap up a tiny bottle for me. I stopped him with a shake of my head, and for the benefit of the uncle-type, I said loudly, “Bhaiyya. Isse kya hoga? Sabse bada bottle dena.” [Bro. What will this achieve? Give me the biggest bottle you have.]

The uncle-type was so horrified, he tried to elbow me out of the way. I swung my purse hard into his side, and stalked off triumphantly.

Worth. It.


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