Why This Boy Started Helping His Sister With Chores: #15Girls | KUOW News and Information

Why This Boy Started Helping His Sister With Chores: #15Girls

Dec 14, 2015
Originally published on December 17, 2015 3:21 pm

It's evening rush hour at a street market in the city of Pune, India. Fifteen-year-old flower seller Aniket Sathe is in his element — bargaining with customers, catching up with friends who drop by. They gossip about school, check out the motorbikes whizzing past and dream up crazy schemes. Like, what if they could get ahold of the balloons that the woman next to Aniket is selling?

Aniket points to a nearby building and grins. "If we took as many balloons as would fit in there and tied them to your hand you could fly in the sky," he says.

But lately all the fun Aniket is having in the market is making him feel a little sorry for his older sister.

"She can't come here," he says. "Every day she has work to do at home."

That's a new insight for Aniket. The division of labor in his family — he sells flowers in the market, his sister is stuck at home washing clothes and cooking dinner — is something he never thought to question. That is, until recently, when he joined an unusual class.

Getting The Boys On Board

The class is run by a nonprofit group and meets every Wednesday. The night we stop by, 10 boys stand in an empty shop donated for community activities. They're playing Simon Says.

The games are just a hook to get the boys in the door. Soon the teacher, Suhas Kamble, is sitting the boys down in a circle for tonight's lesson. He starts with some questions about the traditional roles for husbands and wives.

"Who rules in the house?" Kamble asks.

"The man," answers Aniket.

"Who makes all the decisions?" continues Kamble.

"The man," says Aniket.

"So the woman is at the bottom and whatever the man says, she has to listen to," concludes Kamble. "She can never argue with the man or disagree."

Kamble then explains that this is just one of many ways the culture works against women in India. It's a point Kamble makes often. The nonprofit that sponsors this class — the Equal Community Foundation — has an ambitious mission: Persuade India's boys to help end discrimination against India's girls. India consistently ranks among the world's worst countries for women, with high rates of sexual violence and domestic abuse. Plenty of Indians are trying to fix this through programs to empower girls. But the staff at the Equal Community Foundation say that's not enough. You need to get the boys on board, too.

Aniket and the other boys in this class seem receptive. They nod earnestly virtually every time Kamble speaks. But Kamble has his work cut out for him. So many other places these boys go — home, school, the street — they're picking up a different message: that girls should be subservient; that they're fundamentally inferior.

After class we ask the boys a question. What makes a good sister?

A 15-year-old named Prashant Hatangale tells us, "She should prepare food for me when we get home from school."

Next up is 13-year-old Krushna Sathe. "She shouldn't be flashy," he says. "She should wear modest clothes, traditional clothes."

And what does our flower seller, Aniket, think?

"She should not stay outside long," he says. "And she shouldn't be chatting with boys."

Basically, he's describing his older sister.

Not My Job

It's morning in Aniket's neighborhood, a maze of metal shacks. He's sitting on the family's one bed. He's in his school uniform. His older sister Aishwarya, 16, wears a traditional tunic and pants. She dropped out of school this year after failing one of the subjects on a national exam.

She's helping their mother prepare a breakfast of spiced rice and groundnuts. Rekha Sathe gives her daughter a smile.

"She's a very good cook," Rekha says. "She's better than me."

We ask Rekha how old Aishwarya was when Rekha first taught her how to cook.

"Ten years old," says Rekha.

She didn't teach Aniket. She explains that her daughter needs to know how to cook for one important reason: "My expectation for her is that she find a good husband with a good job and a nice home."

So Rekha has been carefully training Aishwarya for married life.

"When she goes to her new home, if somebody comes home from work, she should offer them water and make them tea. She should serve food," Rekha says. "I should not get any complaints [from her in-laws] that she is not behaving properly."

Aishwarya listens to all this without objection. She doesn't oppose her mother's plans for her. Still, she says she does want her brother to pitch in on the chores. But when she'd ask him for help, Aniket would say, "Not my job."

"He was so arrogant," says Aishwarya. "I used to get mad at him and I used to fight with him. I would ask him why do you talk like that?"

He'd make fun of her skin tone — say she was too dark, and tell their younger sister she was fat.

Then one day, Aishwarya says, she found Aniket cleaning the house.

"Suddenly, when I'd ask him to do something, he would do it. I asked the teacher, 'What are you teaching him?'"

It turned out one of the assignments was to try a chore your sister normally does. But Aniket says what really spurred him to reconsider his attitude was a class discussion during which Kamble showed the boys some poems and pictures.

"The girls were doing all the work at home while the boys were allowed to go fly kites," he recalls. "I thought, 'That's like me and my sister. What would it feel like if I stopped doing everything for one day and only sat at home? That's how my sister must feel,' and that's why I started doing work at home."

Aishwarya says Aniket is now a changed boy. He listens to her. He pitches in when she asks. And he's stopped the teasing. He's ... nice.

The Cool Girl

The sun has set over the flower stand, and the talk between Aniket and his pals has turned to romance. A short kid in a yellow shirt plucks a slip of paper from his pocket and shows it to Aniket.

It's a love note from a girl at school. The kid wants to know, how do I get a message back to her? Aniket's got lots of advice.

"Listen," he says, "leave it under her desk. But stick it there with chewing gum. Otherwise it could fly off and another girl could find it and tell the teacher."

Aniket is not speaking from experience. He says he's not exactly smooth with the ladies. Take this girl whose family runs a nearby fruit stand. Her parents let her hang out there until late. She wears a polo shirt and pants. She walks where she likes, banters with the boys. She's not traditional. Aniket watches as she wanders from stall to stall, helping the vendors make change, blow up balloons.

"I don't talk to her," he says.

He's too shy.

But does he like her?

"Yeah," he says. "Of course!"

She's cool.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

CORY TURNER, HOST:

Steve, how do you get brothers to be nicer to their sisters?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I don't know.

TURNER: How do you stop the name-calling and get them to help with chores?

INSKEEP: Don't give me these difficult questions. I'm only a parent. I have no idea.

TURNER: (Laughter) Well, and as every parent knows, it's hard. But it's especially hard in a country like India where boys are taught at an early days that girls are supposed to be subservient. Our next story is about a class that's trying to change that message. It's in the city of Pune, India. NPR's Nurith Aizenman introduces us to one student, 15-year-old Aniket Sathe.

NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Evening rush hour at a street market, Aniket sits right on the edge of the road surrounded by piles of orange flowers. He sells them every day after school. Friends keep popping by. Aniket checks out motorbikes.

ANIKET SATHE: (Through interpreter) See those headlights? That one's a Focus.

AIZENMAN: He and his friends compare favorite models.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) The Dio is really stylish and the Bullet is impressive.

AIZENMAN: They dream up crazy schemes, like the vendor next to them is selling balloons. Aniket points to a building.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Can you see that big building? If we took as many balloons as we could fit in there and tied them to our hands, we could fly in the sky.

AIZENMAN: You'd have to tie a lot says his friend. Yeah, says Aniket. But lately, all the fun he's having in the market is making Aniket feel a little sorry for his older sister.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Every day she has work to do at home, so she can't come here.

AIZENMAN: This observation is a new one for Aniket. The division of labor in his family - he sells flowers in the market, his sister is stuck at home washing clothes, cooking dinner - it's something he never thought to question, until recently when he joined an unusual class. The class meets every Wednesday. Ten boys stand in an empty shop donated for community activities. They're playing "Simon Says."

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Laughter).

AIZENMAN: The games are just a hook to get the boys in the door. This class is run by a nonprofit called the Equal Community Foundation. Their goal - persuade India's boys to help end discrimination against India's girls.

SUHAS KAMBLE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: The teacher, a social worker named Suhas Kamble, sits the boys down in a circle for tonight's lesson. He starts with some questions about the traditional roles for husbands and wives.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) Who rules in the house?

ANIKET: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: The man, answers Aniket.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) Who makes all the decisions?

AIZENMAN: The man, says Aniket.

KAMBLE: (Through interpreter) So the woman is at the bottom and whatever the man says she has to listen. She can never argue with the man or disagree.

AIZENMAN: Kamble explains to the boys that this is just one way the culture works against women in India. The boys are all nodding. But Kamble has got his work cut out for him. So many other places these boys go - home, school, the street - they're picking up a different message, that girls should be subservient, that they're fundamentally inferior. After class, I ask them all a question. What makes a good sister? Here's 15-year-old Prashant Hatangale.

PRASHANT HATANGALE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "She should prepare food for me when we get home from school," he says. Next is 13-year-old Krushna Sathe.

KRUSHNA SATHE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "She shouldn't be flashy," he says. "She should wear modest clothes, traditional clothes." And our flower seller, Aniket...

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) She should not stay outside long, and she should not be chatting with boys.

AIZENMAN: Basically he's describing his older sister.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: It's morning in Aniket's neighborhood. It's a maze of metal shacks. Aniket's sitting on the family's one bed. He's in his school uniform. His older sister Aishwarya, who's 16, wears a traditional tunic and pants. She dropped out of school this year. She's helping their mother prepare a breakfast of spiced rice and ground nuts. Rekha Sathe gives her daughter a smile.

REKHA SATHE: (Through interpreter) She's a very good cook. She is better than me.

AIZENMAN: How old was your daughter when you first taught her how to cook?

R. SATHE: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: "Ten years old," says Rekha. She didn't teach Aniket. She says her daughter Aishwarya needs to know how to cook for one important reason.

R. SATHE: (Through interpreter) My expectation for her is that she find a good husband with a good job and a nice home.

AIZENMAN: So Rekha has been carefully training Aishwarya for married life.

R. SATHE: (Through interpreter) When she goes to her new home, if somebody comes home from work, she should offer them water and make them tea. She should serve food. I should not get any complaints that she's not behaving properly.

AIZENMAN: Aniket's sister Aishwarya is listening to all this. She doesn't object to her mother's plan for her. Still, she says she does want her brother to pitch in on the chores. But when she'd ask for help he'd say not my job.

AISHWARYA SATHE: (Through interpreter) He was so arrogant. I used to get mad at him and I used to fight with him. I would ask him why do you talk like that?

AIZENMAN: He'd make fun of her skin tone, say she was too dark, tell their younger sister she was fat. Then one day she found Aniket cleaning the house.

A. SATHE: (Through interpreter) Suddenly, when I'd ask him to do something he would do it. I asked the teacher what are you teaching him?

AIZENMAN: It turns out one of the assignments was to try a chore your sister normally does. Aniket says one class discussion in particular really stuck with him.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Our teacher showed us poems and pictures. The girls were doing all the work at home while the boys were allowed to go fly kites. I thought that's like me and my sister. What would it feel like if I stopped doing everything for one day and only stayed at home? That's how my sister must feel. And that's why I started doing work at home.

AIZENMAN: Aishwarya says Aniket is now a changed boy. He listens to her. He pitches in which she asks. And he stopped the teasing. He's nice.

The sun has set over the flower stand and the talk between Aniket and his buddies has turned to romance. A short kid in a yellow shirt plucks a slip of paper from his pocket and shows it to Aniket.

ANIKET: (Foreign language spoken).

AIZENMAN: It's a love note from a girl at school. The kid wants to know how do I get a message back to her? Aniket's got lots of advice.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Listen, leave it under her desk, but stick it there with chewing gum, otherwise it could fly off and another girl could find it and tell the teacher.

AIZENMAN: Aniket is not speaking from experience. He says he's not exactly smooth with the ladies. Like, there's this girl whose family runs a fruit stand. Her parents let her hang out there until late. She wears a polo shirt to and pants. She walks where she likes, banters with the boys. She's not traditional. Aniket watches as she wanders from stall to stall, helping the vendors make change, blow up balloons.

ANIKET: (Through interpreter) Yeah, I don't know how to talk to her.

AIZENMAN: He's too shy. But does he like her? Yeah, of course, he says. She's cool. Nurith Aizenman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TURNER: This story was produced by Vikki Valentine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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