Sunday, March 25, 2007

F***ing Patriarchy

As I have mentioned in the past, India has a thing for bureaucracy. And I'm not a fan. I'm even less of a fan of bureaucracy when it intersects with patriarchy.

Yesterday I went to the BSNL (Bharat Sancham Nigam Limited) state run telephone company office to sign up for a home land line. The main purpose of this land line is so that I can get broadband/DSL at home. However I can't even fill out an application for broadband until I have a phone line connected. So I went in the afternoon and picked up the forms. When I got home to fill them out I was dismayed to find that the second line, below my own name is the name of my father/husband. I contemplated leaving it blank, but I realized that when I turned the form in they would make me fill it in. So I wrote my father's name. It's pointless, right? What reason or purpose could this have? It seems like such a symptom of the patriarchal logic that doesn't consider me a whole person without reference to a male figure like a father or husband.

The third sheet form of the three stapled together was a form to indicated a beneficiary in case of death, who would receive my telephone line or the rights to my 500 rupee deposit. I left this entire form blank, since I assumed it was not, as the Indians say, compulsory. But apparently it is, and when I went to submit my application they made me fill this form out too. I protested saying I don't have anyone who I want to get my telephone line, or 500 rupees, and I don't plan on dying. But they insisted by saying, "Just put your father's name and address."

Of course for pragmatic purposes I did it. But it has been bothering me ever since. I know it forms yet another instance of cultural difference that I should learn to accept. But I have been having a hard time accepting these instances of cultural dissonance. I wish relativism could do it for me, but that doesn't seem to work either.

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