Ever since my father's hospital stay in July-August this year, he has been slowing down. It is visible. And palpable. Our conversations are short and simple. And, of course, repetitive.
The last month has also been the time when our new venture, Diversity Dialogs has taken shape.
I have been chatting with Anna on many aspects of the business. From the mundane to the intellectual. These conversations have been spread over many days and many hours. I find his perspectives revealing – not just on the issue of gender diversity, but also on what he sees as simple actions to include more women.
Here are some snippets of our dialogues.
Snippet 1 - All Humans Are One
Anna: Sangeeta, what is diversity?
That is a tough one to answer simply.
Me: It is the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas. It can happen when we classify and segregate a natural group into more than one category.
He looks at me strangely.
Me: Anna, for example, when we use different ways to classify people, we create diverse sub-groups. Diversity is recognising that there are differences. But they are part of a whole. And it is the "the whole" that works.
I continue to get a strange look. So I decide to use examples.
Me: Anna, people are really one group. When we classify people by religion or gender or caste, we have diverse groups of people. Essentially one group split into more than one.
Anna: But they are still one group. They are of the same parent.
"Yes", I think. If we could all just think of people as just people and not as categories of people.
Snippet 2 - All It Takes Is One Good Man
Me: Anna, we are starting with helping companies improve gender diversity. (Pause.) How to ensure more women join and stay in the workforce. Help them to grow and lead organisations.
Anna: That's not the first thing to start with.
Me: Why Anna? Should we start with something else?
Anna: It starts with educating all girls.
Me (understanding what "start" means for him): Yes Anna. But not all young girls are sent to school.
Anna: But they should be. All it takes is one good man in each village.
Me (jumping at the word "man"): Why one good man? Why not one good woman?
Anna: OK. All it takes is one good woman in each village. Then every girl will go to school. (Pause.) But men are the dominant group. (Pause.) They have to take the lead. Just one good man per village will do it.
Snippet 3 - Marriages Are Based On Sharing
Anna: I did my part at home.
Me: Really, Anna? Amma did most of the work.
Anna: I always washed my clothes.
Me: Yes, Anna. Why did you wash your clothes when we had a washing machine or a washer woman?
Anna: I wash clothes the best!
Me (smiling broadly): And you have a Phd. in how to use blue to make your white clothes really white!
He smiles and sits for some time thinking.
Anna: When we got married, your mother and I had to learn to do a lot of things. I continued to wash my clothes to give her more time.
Me: So why were you always the one to make coffee in the morning? And boil the milk?
Anna: I love my coffee in the morning. Why should Amma wake up early in the morning to make me coffee. I could make it by myself. And your Amma could sleep a little more.
Me: Is that why you always did the grocery, vegetable and fruit shopping?
Anna (smiling broadly): Yes. And cooked when Amma went to your grandmother's on holiday.
Oh yes! I remember those days. Anna would cook, using us as his "fetch" and "clean-up" slaves! Till we learnt to cook. It was far less work!!
Anna: Amma had so much work to do with you four children. I shared in the housework as much as I could. I wish I had done more to make her happy.
.... More snippets as our dialoging continues
(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)
Related Links in the Series:
From a Real Life Piku: Looking After an Elderly ‘Child’
My Anna Holds on to his Bata Sandals, Even as He Loses his Memory
Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?
For a Dad with Parkinson’s, I’d Get Him All the Junk Food He Wants
Pray, Why Does My 87-Year-Old Anna Need an Aadhaar Card?
When Anna Forgot the Words for Pain & Medicine & Suffered Quietly
Anna’s Body is Battered, But a Beer Joke or Two Still Escapes Him
I Have a Dad With Parkinson’s (& Here’s What I Don’t Need to Hear)