/For lack of a better ratio

For lack of a better ratio

This is an entry received for the freshers’ writing competition for the topic : My Expectations from a Gender Unbalanced Society in IITs

I am always reminded of this single incident when someone talks of gender imbalance in IITs. A friend of mine, at the start of our orientation, told me that he was lucky to have a girl’s roll number next to his because he gets to sit beside a girl during the sessions. The probability of this happening, he reasoned, was 1 in 10; considering the incoming batch had 50 girls against some 800 boys. ‘Fortunate indeed’, I mocked him at the time. Within days, I realized how the ‘1 in 10’ thing made a difference. There was something strangely unsettling about this. If there is one place where the minority, and not the majority, has the upper hand, gender is it. And as a member of the majority gender, I have my reasons to worry. In any social unit, however small, the less populous gender is always the one that enjoys all the perks. The majority cannot afford to be choosy or selective.

It is known to all of us how limited female interaction hampers emotional development or how it affects wrongly our attitude toward the opposite sex. And it won’t be just the boys who would have limited female interaction; girls would have to face the issue just as much. A lone girl in a batch of some 150 odd boys is no rare sight in our college. The girl will crave female interaction, as would the boys.

In any unbalanced society, interaction between opposing factions – the minority and the majority – is dismally low, even lower than what the statistical figures might suggest. The reason, essentially, is the fact that the minority has a subconscious sense of insecurity and therefore tends to form circles of its own instead of integrating with the majority. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mean to say that the girls in our college feel insecure with boys. Consider this – if friend circles are formed without a gender bias, a group of 17 will comprise a single girl, which is ‘awkward’ at best. The girls therefore tend to stay in groups within themselves, no matter how many ‘cognizance’ sessions are included in our orientation.

No matter how bad the things are, they can always get worse. My expectation concerns just that – I don’t want this gender imbalance manifest itself in ways that puts to question the very idea of ‘human development’ in IIT Kanpur. A senior of mine told me, during our orientation days, that I should be friends with a girl here. I assumed he wanted me to strike a balance between male and female companionship. But as it turned out later, the reason was something totally different. He said that we would be having a scavenger hunt as part of the inter hall competitions and girls would come handy during that as we might have to scavenge for girlish things, like a teddy bear or a hairdryer.  This is where, he told me, the significance of a girl ends for me. “You won’t need to know a girl afterwards”, he said matter-of-factly. For a moment, I wondered if it was this unbalanced gender society that had shaped the attitude of my senior to the extent that for him the only significance a girl had in our lives was helping us win a treasure-hunt. This, precisely, was the kind of manifestation I was talking about. Aren’t girls as much a part of our society as the boys, and aren’t they just as much important?

It happens very often that people who grow up in limited female companionship turn out to be indifferent to female emotions, which in time develops into even more serious issues like misogyny etc. As a boy I know there are things male companionship cannot offer- some of them not as obvious as the others. No matter how much of a bond I share with a male friend, I don’t go crying to him when I miss home, or when I miss someone – such things are seen as ‘too girlish’ in male circles. It is this case of emotional attachment that female companionship gets all the more important. In a similar sense, I expect the girls to keep their feminine charm intact, which is not very easy when you are surrounded by the opposite gender all the time. I hope that everyone – a boy or a girl – has a fair share of female interaction.

I expect no one to be ‘craving a female companionship of his liking’, if I may put it so. I remember how during our senior high school – even though things were much better (around 25% of those taking JEE are girls) – boys would often complain how difficult it was to find a like-minded girl because the number of girls was dismally low (or was it?). One thing that gratifies me now is that despite the fact that the number of girls is awfully low, we share a common ground with them – we study the same technical courses. That is to say, all of us are like-minded in a broader sense. So even though we can’t be choosy at all, chances of us striking a bond with someone are high.

There’s no way we can change the demographics of our college in the immediate future, but we can learn to live here without feeling ‘unblessed’. To be honest, it is my male brethren that I am worried about when it comes to gender imbalance. They are the ones who feel ‘unblessed’ because of the dismal sex ratio. I want them to stop whining about it. I want them to stop mocking the ‘IIT Girls’ as they usually do, thereby further alienating them.  I want a single girl to feel at ease in a group of 16 odd boys. I don’t want to reach the stage where I suddenly start ‘feeling lucky’ just because I happen to sit next to a girl. In this gender unbalanced society, I hope that we strike a balance somewhere.

Written by Saim Dawood Wani