The benefits of equality
I was born on 14th March 1970 to a very lower class family where my father as a 4th grade (lowest) worker in Ashoka hotel in Delhi and my mother worked in some farms in the village. I have two elder sisters and 3 other brothers.
My father named me Ashoka, also because he worked in Ashoka hotel. I was born after the birth of my three sisters, one of whom died. He wanted to remember the hotel all his life as he was the first person in our family to have a government job.
When I was three years old, my father brought me to Delhi and later admitted me to a Government school in Delhi Although I had two elder sisters, they were not brought to the city nor were they educated. My brothers and I were educated while the sisters worked on the fields with my mother.
After one sister got married, my mother and second sister came to the city to live with us. Since we could not all sustain on the single salary, they started working as domestic maids, since they were not educated to do anything else.
I got married in 1991 although at that time I wanted to study more. While my father had got me a job in Ashoka hotel also, I lost my job in 1990. At the time of my marriage, I was unemployed. I had to leave my wife at her parents’ home. In 1992, my son was born and at that time my wife was still living with her parents. Soon, I started working again because of my work experience in a hotel and this time too I was employed in a hotel.
Working hard, I soon set up my own home in 1993. I used to work in shifts in the hotel so I often would work beyond hours and would sometimes return as late as 4 in the morning. Taking leave was not appreaciated by my supervisor. On the other hand, my wife’s family had educated her only till 8th grade and did not allow her to go out of the house. Now I used to return at 4 am and then at 5am I had to go the community tap to fill water. I also had to buy all the groceries in the day. I had to do all the runninga round and my life was miserable. She could cook, clean, wash but would not step out of the house. I used to remember my bachelor days fondly and miss the freedom terribly as I was now on my feet 20 hours of the day.
One day my son got pneumonia. I took him to the lady doctor in the village who gave the medicines. While on my way to work, I told my wife that if there was any need, she should go to the doctor herself. When I reached the hotel, my manager called me and said that there was a phone call for me. He added that what is the need to come to work when even before you reach, there is a phone call for you already. When I picked up the phone, my wife was crying and then the lady doctor told me that my son needed to be admitted to a big hospital. I immediately left for Safdarjung hospital. My son got better after 4 hours, but I kept worndering what would have happened if something had happened to my son in all the time that was wasted.
I then left my son at my sisters’ house. I took my wife to her parents’ house, parked my scooter outside and while standing at the gate I shouted lots of abuses at them. When all the neighbours collected and asked me what was wrong, I just said- why have I been burdened with this huge problem?
That day after coming home I told my wife that I don’t care if they stay hungry or die, but all water, grocery, etc., work has to be done by her. I will give her my salary and support her in chores. My wife now had to get up at 5am to fill the water. Although I also woke up, I pretended to be asleep. I followed her to the tap and seeing me around, her confidence grew. I even followed her to the grocers where she bougth bread, eggs, etc. I was there if she would have faced any problem. Slowly, my wife started doing all this independently. Yet I would keep an eye on the situation.
Then one day my wife woke me and said, here is your tea, get dressed and go to work. I saw that my wife looked confident and she had a glow on her face. I looked at the watch and saw that it was already 9am. I was truly thankful for this day. Now I suddenly had time for my own personal goals. I was chosen the secretary of the labour union of the hotel. Now I am the Secretary of the Hotel Workers Union as well as national secretary of Hotel Employees Federation of India (HEFOI). I have also traveled in more than 60% of India and even been to places like Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. When people aborad know me, I know this has been possible when I put a stop to my wife’s fears and made her participate outside the house. My wife has also traveled with me to many of these palces. She is now an active member of a national party and even runs an organization called Nari Shakti (Women’s Empowerment).
In 2003 we stared a small free school through our NGO - Forward Vision Welfare Society by which we educated small children and ensured that they joined a government or private school by the age of 5. My wife plays a big role in this.
Whatever I earn, I give to my wife, and whatever we say at the end of the month, I deposit in my wife’s account. My elder son in studying Maths Honors for his graduation in Delhi University while my younger son is still in school.
Benefits of providing my wife equal benefits:
1. Mental, physical, financial identity and freedom.
2. Do not need to worry unnecessarily about the home.
3. Freedom from my previous miserable life.
4. Freedom to explore one’s full potential
On the basis of my personal life, I appeal to all men that as husbands, we must give equal rights and respect to our wives. As fathers and brothers, we must give opportunities to our sisters and daughters to study and to find a job. We must not stand in the way of their growth on the pretext of protecting them. I promise all the men that they will have a very good life if they do so.
By Ashok Kumar