Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chivalry is dead these days.... or not!!

Chivalry is a much debated topic in these modern times. Whether its about how much is too much (Sir Walter Raliegh laying down his coat over a puddle to let Queen Elizabeth cross it) or too little (opening doors, offering seats), to the feminists vehemently calling it a violation of their rights to equality (I know of friends who refuse to take the ladies' seats in buses etc), chivalry is popularly discussed amongst us. But whether chivalry is dead these days, I am never able to make up my mind!

A few months ago I was travelling from Delhi to Mumbai. When we landed in Mumbai, and got into the bus which transfers to the airport, 2 people were discussing how Delhiites are such MCPs while Mumbaiites are more chivalrous, taking an example within the bus of a man, who was contentedly sitting on a seat while a lady next to him was standing, looking uncomfortable. I heard the comment but felt bad for the guy, cuz I did see his gesture towards to woman to offer her a seat, but she herself refused.

Though I don't know if there was any merit in this statement, and having lived in and loved both Mumbai and Delhi I was unable to decide.... when 2 incidents occurred on my recent trips to Delhi which both asserted as well as refuted that statement of Delhiites not being chivalrous.

In my first incident I was visiting a doctor with my mother. I went up to the clinic to have a quick meeting and get back, while my mother stayed back in the car. As soon as I got back and started to leave, I realised the key had got stuck and something inside the ignition had broken because of which I could not start the car. Now the car was parked on the roadside, not a parking, as I had intended to be there only for a few minutes. But we were now stuck on the busy roadside, where soon our car was a hindrance to the already very heavy traffic.

Soon the traffic policeman came and asked us sternly to remove the car from there ASAP. We tried to explain the situation to him, but to no avail. We called a helpline, who promised to be there in half hour, but eventually turned up more than an hour later. All that while we were continuously harassed by the policemen, and were forced to move the car on neutral, manually. Mom and I got out and started to push the car towards a nearby lane. The road was unsuitable and our strength not enough to make much headway... I looked around and saw we were near a bus stand and just next to us many people, all men, were standing. But in spite of seeing two women haplessly trying to move a car by themselves, not one guy budged. They kept standing there watching the tamasha! I got really pissed and asked someone to help... and not a single guy came forward.. they just stared at me shamelessly! I told them off, telling them what a shame it was that they would not help two women in distress... not one guy felt ashamed enough to come up to help even then. I was so pissed off that day, I can express. Downright shameful behaviour, like I have never seen before. No feeling of humanity in anyone! That day I made up my mind, that indeed Delhi men were a bunch of asses.

Till I changed my mind a few weeks back, on another trip to Delhi. That day mom, dad and I were travelling to my in-laws' place, which is a good 35 km away. We had barely left our house that it started to drizzle and 2 km into the journey, we had a flat tyre! Now we had a spare, but it was raining, and we were dressed for an outing, and I was with my 55 and 65 yr old parents... Nevertheless Dad and I got out and started to work on replacing the tyre, while mom tried to hold up an umbrella for us.. again we asked a few rickshaw-walas to help... we even offered money. But no one bothered. Dad refused to let me do the hard work, and started working on removing the tyre while i assisted him. Seeing him do this brought tears in my eyes, less out of sadness and desperation and more out of frustration on the lack of some good samaritans in this city! When suddenly a Wagon R stopped and a middle aged and an old man came out, both of them with folded hands saying "Bhaisaab, can we be of any help in any way?" And then they took over, refusing to let any of us help, and both of them (the old man with an injured hand too) changed the tyres in the pouring rain, and ensured all was well, before bidding us good bye. I did not know how to thank them, not that they asked for anything. I wanted to express my thanks in some way, but giving money for example, felt like an insult to their genuine help and concern. So we all just thanked them profusely with words and bid them good bye and good luck.

And that is how I came back to square one.

Since then I have thought about this and various other experiences and incidents and though, with the attitude towards women being much better in Mumbai than in Delhi, Ive come to a conclusion that chivalry is very much alive, even if in a few men, and no matter what the statistics reveal, I think it has nothing to do with the country or city or religion or education... A true gentleman can be of any caste, age, background, and touch your life out of the blue in unexpected ways, and make you feel truly, like a lady!


the lazy knight said...

i agree...chivalry is not defined region or identity..mainly by attitudes..though i think yours is more a case of people helping out each other than just pure chivalry..Delhi is quite a 'live and let live' city and people's attitudes are quite frozen..a sense of community is lacking..though i have heard tales of people helping others out...those i beleive are exceptions...most people wudnt care a fig even if u were lying dead on the road,sadly

Yashika Totlani said...

Chivalry is today's time is rare! A few good men (like the ones who assisted u in the tyre-change) do exist yes, but they're still far inbetween n few. N id say delhi, mumbai, or any other city for that matter, are equally bad when it comes to chivalrous behaviour.

Laying down coats n pulling back chairs is a thing that we associate either to old mythological figures, or older times per se, or just fancy movies and books (like the good ol' mills n boons).

Why the lack of chivalry in today's times? Well we share part blame. One, women are so busy acting n working like men, that men dont see us as objects requiring extra care anymore. Second, the growing sentiment of feminism makes men averse to the idea of treating women any differently.

Is this fair? Tough to say. I mean being a fairly independent woman myself, I would still like it if somebody pulled back the chair for me, or once in a while, opened the car door for me. Cause its not like we've stopped caring for our men altoogether. Then why should they? Also, its a proven fact that a lady leads a tougher life and plays several roles. With that, some thoughtful chivalrous gestures wouldnt hurt.

Gagan said...

I think definition of chivalry, as well as the moments where its shown has changed with time. With the claim that women are equal to men (and I support this whole heartedly), women lose the right to be considered as someone needing that extra care. I have female friends who compete fiercely, and are independent to a fault. They don't want people around them to show chivalry, except by the special person in their life.

Chivalry is not dead, though instances when men chose to act chivalrous depends on the kind of relation - professional or personal, they have with the girl.

Anonymous said...

Interesting observation! I guess it takes all kinds of people to make this world... some chivalrous and some not so much!

AshenGlow said...

Too many things rushing to my head at the moment...

a)I dont think the topic of discussion is just about special care for women. The question is about whether we care or not. Two women are trying hard to push their car which has broken down to the corner of the road. Its up to the people around (and let me add.. NOT JUST MEN) to extend a helping hand. Now if it were two men trying as hard to do the same thing, still i would expect the people around to help them. Because thats a nice thing to do. Even animals help each other if one’s under distress. Arent we humans - the evolved, enlightened, intellectual, civilized ones expected to do the same? And yes very correctly pointed out that this is dependant on the character and the virtue of the people and not on which states/areas they belong to.

b) Talking just about women, irony stands laughing at us here. Even though God has given us the strongest muscles and a stronger sense of perseverance to bear a child and suffer the pains of delivering it, our limbs are still biologically more tender than a man unless all us women decide to get on steroids and build muscles (this may be debatable though, i understand). But on the contrary, even as a woman who may be the say greatest weight lifter or body builder in this world pushes/repairs a car alone, should she be offered help? Yes she should.

Taking that point forward, women today have proved that they are capable of doing everything and even without proving that, i'd believe in the equality of sexes. I refuse to believe that women 'lose' their 'rights' for care when they become 'equal' to men. I mean, come on... At no point of time, between or after becoming fiercely competitive and independent, does any woman become unworthy of the love and care others (again, NOT JUST MEN) may give her. NOR does a man. A woman may refuse it but never hate it. Same with a man. He may refuse it but never hate it. Unless their ego fails to appreciate the love/care the other is giving them.

c) And specific to a man-woman relationship, it’s not just that men have always taken care of women, its always been the other way round as well. It may have had less to do with carrying our husbands/boyfriends in our arms or pushing cars around for people (though there may have been many such cases), but it may have had to do with coming back every day from work and cooking food for both of us, taking care of them or maybe by being a strong emotional support to them just as they are to us.

I hope I conveyed my comments in the way I wanted to.. cause I still feel I could have said more and in a better way. Though, at any point of time, I know everyone has a right to own his/her opinion and I will not thrust mine on anyone else.

Thanks Adi, for bringing up such a nice topic. At times, such thinking sessions gives one scope to decipher whether we are still evolving as humans or are we going down the cycle.. back to what we originally were.. a matter in the space. :)


Sugar&Spice said...

@aftab.. thanks for ur comment... just comparing teh 2 cities, i think ppl dont come forward and help ppl in fights etc in delhi cuz there have been enough instances when those who came to help got beaten up or worse, killed! that way the junta is very helpful in mumbai.. one woman gets teased, the whole bus stands up to defend her.
However, i think general apathy is higher in mumbai,. where everyone leads an extremely private life.. ive spent years living here, without interacting at ALL with my neighbours, cuz ppl like to keep distances here. many may find the nosey-ness in delhi irritating, but it can come in handy when u need a favour or help in emergency.

@yashika... i totally agree,... in spite of being an independent, i like to be treated like a lady... double standards? i dunno... but i definitely like ur argument of women playing more difficult roles, and deserving some TLC! :)
thanks for visiting, as always!

@gagan... ive seen such women myself, who dont want any chivalry except from their SOs. To each, her own, is all i can say!

@neha... yes maam!!


a. do u think like crimes against women are higher and status of women is not very good in teh northern, patrilinear part of india, chivalry will be less here, as compared to more educated and matrilinear states like kerala or bengal??

b. totally agree with you on thsi point.

c. you know i never really thought of it like that... i dont think most people even acknowledge or even think about how much teh women take care of men!! talk abt reverse chivalry! :))

thanks a lot for ur comment sweety.. dont thank me, im just jotting down random thots... ur the more awesome blogger!!