A lady who used to live in our building, passed away today. We didn’t know her personally, probably never had even seen her, but when we heard there was a small memorial service in the community hall of our housing society, we decided to go and pay our respects.
So, we walked up to the community hall and entered to see that men sat neatly to one side of the hall, and women sat on the other side. This is something I’ve seen so often – in memorial services such as this one, in wedding ceremonies, havans and poojas – and it surprises me each time.
Of course, I don’t follow the segregation and sit anywhere. My whole family doesn’t subscribe to it either. Like, G sat with me today, and not in the men’s side of the hall. In fact, both of us sat almost in the middle of the two sides, towards the back. My father or my brother would’ve done the same too.
What surprises me though is how diligently this is followed. I saw one elderly man come in with a woman – maybe his wife, or maybe a daughter-in-law. She was looking towards the front of the hall as she walked in, so maybe hadn’t noticed the segregation, and where she was “supposed to” sit. The man she was with sat down in the men’s side, and as she was following him, he very properly and dismissively pointed out where she was supposed to go sit. And so she went and sat in the women’s side, of course.
Why the segregation, is my question. And, does it happen all over the country? Does it happen in other countries as well? It obviously started from the segregation of “one” sex, from “the other”. Simone de Beauvoir points out in her book The Second Sex that the male has traditionally been “the one”, and so by default, the woman is “the other” or the second sex. It’s amazing how such segregation becomes such a part of our everyday culture/life, and how it seeps so deep in, that it isn’t even questioned.