When the #ReadytoWait hashtag first started trending online, it was hard to make sense of it. Waiting is a noble quality without doubt. Especially if you are fishing, baking, teaching, studying, driving, queuing up, photographing, mountaineering etcetera. Were these women with banners ready to wait for inspiration to strike, for the decisive moment to shoot a photo, for pedestrians to cross, for ticket prices to drop before booking that world trip, for their children to learn quadric equations or for that well-deserved promotion to come their way? But no, it was none of the above.
These women (mostly from Kerala) were ready to wait till they reached 55 and were ‘permitted’ to enter the Sabarimala shrine in Kerala. Sabarimala, a temple to lord Ayyapa (the famous bachelor god) disallows women of menstruation age to enter its precincts. With the Bombay High Court allowing women’s entry to the inner sanctum of a Shani Temple in Maharashtra and the Haji Ali shrine in Mumbai, it is little surprise that attention shifted to Sabrimala. #ReadytoWait came up as a movement in response to #RighttoPray campaign started by a TV channel. But in a broader sense, ReadytoWait seems to be in opposition to #RighttobeaWoman.
Being a woman means menstruating for a good 40 odd years of one’s life. In India this simple monthly biological process is still considered ‘impure’ and ‘polluting’. It is a taboo that we hide behind black plastic bags and blue ink, all the while pretending that it happens to no one ever. When a temple denies entry to women of menstruation age it is reinforcing the same myth to generations – women are impure when they bleed. How can we (men and women of the 21st century) allow this perception to continue? Mustn’t we rage against the egregiousness of this belief? How can a woman be reduced to the status of her uterus, to whether she is ovulating or not?
The ReadytoWait campaigners rail against ‘insensitive atheists’, ‘feminists’ and ‘commies’ in the same breath. And they bandy the cause of the ‘feminine’. One can understand why a believer might have issues with an atheist or that a libertarian might oppose communists. But how can any woman (or man, for that matter) consider ‘feminism’ a slur? Do they not believe that men and women are equal? Do they not feel that both have the right to religion? Sure traditions have their place in any society, but a tradition that does not consider women to be at par with men has no place in modern India. If to be feminine means turning a blind eye to injustice, then we would all be better off spurning the feminine altogether.
When it comes to injustices, there is no difference between waiting and perpetuating. As for women entering Sabarimala, #NotReadytoWait should be the call of the day, and grand and furious impatience should be driving emotion.