Why you can’t raise boys and girls the same way in India

Before all the women decide to stand up and pummel me, hear me out. In an ideal world, there should be no difference between raising boys and girls — the values you teach them should be same, they should both have the same responsibilities and freedom, but let’s pause for a moment and really think: Is it really possible to do this in India?

In a country where we talk about equality, do we raise our boys and girls the same way? The simple answer is No. But raising them differently doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. If I ever had a son and a daughter, here’s how I would raise them with different values.

To my son

Be kind: Be kind, it doesn’t mean you’re a sissy, it means you have a good heart. Be kind to the elderly man who needs a seat in the train more than you do, to a dog that’s being pelted by stones, and to those younger than you who are bullied by unkind people.

Be respectful: To everyone, but especially to women. Every woman deserves your respect: your mother, his female friends, his sister, his teachers. Respect a girl’s ‘No’ — whether it’s to you asking her out to a movie date or dinner. If your classmate is a girl and stands up in class to say ‘I want to become an F1 driver’, don’t mock her even if your guy friends do.

Be protective: Of every girl you know, whether it’s an elderly lady or your little sister’s friend. If you see a young girl being inappropriately teased by your friends, be spunky and tell them to back off.

Use words, not hands: Violence will always come easy to you, especially under the influence of your “tough” friends. But it also causes irrevocable harm. It doesn’t make you strong, it makes you inhuman.

To my daughter

Be fearless: Always speak what’s on your mind. Never let anyone tell you “you can’t wear this” or “don’t go there” or “don’t do that” just “because you’re a girl”.

Be unapologetic: Never be sorry for being a woman. One day when you grow up, you might want to have a baby. But don’t feel guilty for leaving your job for it. You have every right to do what makes you happy and no one should make you feel badly about it.

Question bias: Unfortunately, you will have to do this every step of the way. As a little girl when you say “I want to be a fighter pilot” or “I want to be a sports journalist”, as a mother when you fight for that promotion because you took maternity leave for nine months, or at home when you’re expected to prepare your kid’s lunchbox because “you’re the mom”. Question bias at every step. It’s the only way to make people see things differently.

Always be financially independent: You might get married to the person you love and trust. But that doesn’t mean you have to depend on them. Always live a life for which you don’t need anyone else’s money.