We’ve been thinking a lot about gender roles on this trip. As parents of a strong willed girl, we want to make sure she has the same opportunities as her male counterparts no matter where in the world we are. However, many cultures, particularly Asian ones, continue to have strong traditional gender roles. All of these roles have a historical reason and context and we do our best to explain them to Ava. We also have strong female personalities in our family that serve as wonderful role models to remind Ava that she can be anything she wants in life. One of them is Dida, my paternal grandmother. She excelled at whatever she put her mind to, including in her career as a teacher.
Even at 86 Dida is eager to learn new things. She realized that she needed to master the internet to be more connected with her grandkids. So she bought a computer and learnt to email, Skype and send egreetings. She even taught us how to conference people on Skype. I showed her an iPad, which she mastered within minutes.
She loves to cook. Cooking for family is usually enough to satisfy many women, but Dida wanted to take her skills to a new level. She published a cookbook, which is now the authority on the Goan cuisine. It also includes a comprehensive review of the role food plays in Goan culture. She’s a talented writer and her stories have been published in magazines and newspapers around the country.
My grandfather was a naval officer and the family was often posted to remote places. To keep entertained and create a sense of community, Dida produced and directed plays. She even taught herself to sew and created the costumes. This talent paid off for us grandkids when she handmade our outfits and stuffed animals. Here is my dad, at just about Kayan’s age, in a neat little two piece.
Dida likely achieved these things because she had curiosity, determination and a slightly competitive streak. All of these attributes are important in a person, and I would argue the last is particularly important in a woman. The only downside is playing Scrabble with Dida. She turns from sweet grandmother to ruthless competitor. We never let her keep score.