At the age of five, your favourite colour is an important piece of information about yourself. Without a favourite colour, you face an identity crisis. One of the first things my friends and I asked each other was what their favourite colour was. If it was a girl saying blue, we would all make fun of her. If it were a boy saying pink, he would not only be made fun of, but would be looked upon as a weakling.
Such was our world back then. As childish as it was, it made me hold back from the things that I loved or do them secretively.
I personally had a fascination for cars. Every day, my mother and I would walk down our apartment and wait at the same place for my father to come back from work. And when he did, he would give me a toy car and I would squeal with joy and add it to my huge collection. As proud as I was of my collection, I never let anyone know. Cars were meant for boys. I might lose my friends if I ever told them.
I also loved the show ‘Power Rangers’. I never missed an episode. Just like my car collection, I kept this from my Barbie-loving friends.
One day, I was sitting with my best friend in the courtyard. Out of the blue, she told me “I’ve changed my favourite colour. I like blue now.” I laughed out loud at her. “Are you crazy?” “What’s in a colour?” , she asked. “I like blue and I am not ashamed that I do.” That wiped the grin off my face. I felt small. Why was she acting so grown up all of a sudden?
That night in bed, I couldn’t listen to my Grandma’s story properly. All I could think about was what my friend had asked me. “What’s in a colour?” I realised how stupid I’d been.
The next day, I confessed to her about my car collection and my love for Power Rangers. Her reaction caught me by surprise, because I knew she loved watching Barbie. “Me too! Me too !” she screamed happily. She had kept it from me just like I had done. From that day onward , we watched Power Rangers together.
I wasn’t ashamed anymore. I thought if I told my other friends proudly that pink was not my favourite colour and that I didn’t understand the point of Barbie dolls, it would change them, like it changed me. And it did. Most of them confessed about the things they’d been hiding. I felt happy I’d made a change. Even though it was a small change, to a five year old, being able to express your interests freely after suppressing them for so long is a huge change.
Very soon, Chhotta Bheem came up on Pogo. I was obsessed with it. The programme showed Chutki throwing laddoos to Bheem, and Bheem fighting the bad guys with the strength he got from eating the laddoos. It gave me an impression that that was all a woman was supposed to do. Provide for the men when they did all the important things. All the Indian movies said the same thing. If you’re a woman, and you are cornered by a group of bad people, you wait for the hero to come and rescue you.
Sometimes, I even enjoyed feeling timid and weaker than my guy friends. It made me feel feminine. It took years to change my mind and know for a fact that a woman is no more incapable than a man. He may be biologically stronger but her strength knows no bounds.
It is important for us, as people who have gone through this meaningless stereotyping, to show to our children that gender roles are non-existent. If your boy likes to pretend cooking, let him. If your girl likes to play with cars, let her. The first step to make our children understand this is to tell them to be themselves. Tell them that there is no need to pretend to be like everybody else.
I don’t remember much from when I was five years old, but the Tale of Two Colours has surprisingly stayed in my memory- maybe because it had a huge impact on me and made me embrace myself for who I was.