22 Feb Different, yet Equal
Amita a class IV student was waiting for the other girls to go out of the classroom while she continued to sit, so she could talk to her favourite teacher Mary. “Ma’am, could you please wait, I have a question for you?” “Sure Amita, go ahead” said Mary. “Ma’am who are better, boys or girls?” was Amita’s simple yet loaded question.
Mary was slightly taken aback with this strange question at this tender age of 8 years yet a pertinent one that had bothered her too when she was in school. However, she counter questioned Amita “Why are you asking this Amita?”. “Ma’am why did God make girls like this?” asked Amita who now started showing her frustration.
“Like what, Amita?” Mary was getting slightly impatient now. Amita started shooting her answers one by one “Ma’am girls are weaker than boys, boys are so strong! Girls are so emotional, we cry and often shed tears, boys never cry. Girls are shorter than boys, girls are slower in sports compared to boys”, Mary interrupted Amita, “Amita these are good questions but may I know what has prompted you to ask these questions?
“Ma’am today during recess time, some boys from our class were making fun of us girls and they were proudly saying they are better. I am so sad that even Akash my brother was in that gang of boys teasing us”. Akash was Amita’s twin brother.
“Amita they are little boys and what do they know about life? See, I am your teacher and I am an adult. Let me affirm, I believe you are equal to any boy in the class and I am sure you parents also think the same then why feel bad?” Mary was affirming Amita with some strong reasoning. Well that is what she thought.
Amita’s expression suddenly changed and she became quiet and turned her face on the other side and kept staring down. Mary knew there is something serious, so she started probing. “Amita what happened, why are you not looking at me? Did I say something which hurt you?”
Amita broke her silence “No ma’am you are so good and I know you treat all of us in class equally. But my parents don’t think that way. By their words and behavior they show Akash is better” Amita’s eyes started becoming moist with tears.
She continued. “I got A1 in all subjects last unit test and my parents were happy but I did not see that excitement which they showed when Akash scored A1 in 3 subjects only, he got A2 in others and B1 in one subject” to this Mary interrupted , “Maybe they want to encourage Akash”.
Amita was ready with answers, “No Ma’am that is not true, last week I overheard my Father telling my mother that, he wants to send Akash to the best coaching class for engineering and my mother asked what about me and he replied that we will see when the time comes because anyway I will get married and leave the home, so why to spend so much money” she continued, “I felt very hurt and also cried silently. I am not sure Ma’am what will be my future. Why did God make me a girl?” and Amita started sobbing.
Mary knew this was a serious yet a common problem in a typical Indian home and there is not much she could do to change her parents at the moment but she was determined to build up this little girl who was heart-broken. She thought hard for a moment and in a few moments started smiling to herself. Quickly she removed a pen and a pencil from her bag. She held the pencil in one hand and a pen in the other and looking at sobbing Amita asked her, “Can you tell me which is better, a pen or a pencil?”
Amita was surprised for a moment, her expressions changed. The question seemed easy but she knew there was a catch. She thought for a moment and then said, “I think it’s the pen Ma’am”. “Why do you think so?” asked Mary.
“Ma’am pen is used by all big people, my parents use it, you use a pen; pen ink is permanent and cannot be erased, you can write with a pen for long time without having to sharpen, besides pen is stronger than pencil and you cannot break it that easily” Amita answered confidently.
Mary was ready with her new questions, “Okay when you started writing, was it with a pen or pencil? “Pencil” replied Amita and Mary continued engaging the conversation “Why pencil not pen?”. “I don’t know Ma’am, I never thought about it” was Amita’s reply. “Pencil is easy to hold and write when you are learning to write, besides you make many mistakes when you are learning, so it is easy to erase” Mary continued, “What does an artist use for drawing or sketching?” Amita answered with a smile, “Pencil Ma’am”
Amita was now getting convinced pencil is better when Mary asked her, “Now you tell me what is better pen or pencil?”, “I think Pencil Ma’am” was Amita’s quick reply.
“See, just because I told you some good things about pencil you changed your perception about pencil but the fact is neither the pencil nor the pen is better. Why should we think something is better than the other just because it has some features better than others? They have their own characteristics although both can be used for writing or drawing but they have their unique advantages. Both, the pen and pencil are mine and I love them equally because in my eyes they both have equal value” Mary continued as Amita looked at her with eyes wide open.
Mary continued, “Similarly we all belong to God and he made us different with a purpose but to Him we hold equal value and I can prove that”, Amita with a big smile asked, “Really?” ,”Yes I can in just few minutes” Mary affirmed her as she opened her Bible and turned to Genesis 1:27 and asked Amita to read, “Read for yourself” and Amita read , “So God created mankind in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. . . Oh yes ma’am you are right.”
“Did you see we are created in God’s image but different, that is, male and female” Mary reasoned with her. “Ma’am what is this book Ma’am?” Amita questioned after learning about this new discovery. “This is my favourite book, this is God’s Word, this is the Bible” Mary answered.
“Ma’am can small children read this book? Can I borrow this book from you” Amita loved reading and she was eager to read more of this. Mary replied with a smile, “Yes why not? But you don’t need to borrow because tomorrow you will have your own copy. “Really Ma’am, thank you so much Ma’am” Amita’s joy knew no bounds as she realized that she will own the copy of this lovely book and she got up confidently to go. “I am so glad to see you smiling, so where are you going now?” Mary was eager to know.
“Ma’am I am going to my friends to ask them a riddle” Mary was confused at Amita’s response and asked her, “Which riddle, Amita?” “Which is better Pen or Pencil?” to this both laughed and hugged each other.
The author lives in Hyderabad with his wife and two daughters, working for a US based Mutual Fund, involved with EU/EGF for the last 20 years.