Chapter 10: A New Perspective
Every morning she was pulled from sleep by a gentle tug at the base of her braid. The sleep bandit was her husband, alerting her that she had already slept in too late. She didn’t believe him, so she consulted the stars. Turns out he was right… it was already 4 in the morning. As the blanket of black slowly rolled back and revealed an amber sky, she crawled out of bed and started her day.
As illustrated by the short story above, women had no shortage of household responsibilities. They were the child-rearers, cleaners, animal caretakers, and chefs. And, when they weren’t taking care of the house, you could find them in the fields. One 84-year-old man, whose spine had started to surrender to the force of gravity, said that men and women would both conduct the same agricultural work. When he was younger, he remembers his four elder sisters working alongside men at their family farm. Another elderly woman reported going out with a group of 20-25 other women and helping to pick grain. Besides working in the fields, women held a host of additional responsibilities in the agricultural process. For example, every 10-15 days, women lathered the fields with a thick layer of cow dung. They also unloaded the trollies of grain after harvests and facilitated the seed-saving process.
Though their household responsibilities remain largely unchanged, women report that they now take a lesser role in the agricultural process. In the 1960s and 70s, chemical fertilizer replaced cow dung, and genetically modified seed varieties replaced native seed varieties. With this evolution, many of the traditionally female roles in the agricultural process were stolen in the name of progress. One respondent suggests that this change may have promoted a larger gender gap. She said that at one point girls and boys would run around in the street together. This dynamic no longer exists because, at some point, young boys and girls grew more cognizant of their socially defined gender roles. Another older woman reports that the eldest female in the household no longer receives the same degree of respect allotted to the figure before the 1960s. To understand the current Punjabi social dynamic, it is crucial to first comprehend how the role of women has changed in society.
Anonymous. Farming family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 27 April 2019.
Anonymous. Retired military personnel. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 28 April 2019.
Anonymous. Farmer family. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan, Punjab. 19 April 2019.
Anonymous. Housewives. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan. 2 May 2019.
Anonymous. Housewife. Personal Interview. Sher Pur Kalan. 3 May 2019.