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Lady gives lads their day
- Some men line up a November 19 reply to March 8

New Delhi, May 17: Real men respect women. So it should be no surprise if male lobbies clamouring for a Men’s Day choose to celebrate it on Indira Gandhi’s birthday.

But the men’s reasoning is a bit different. The former Prime Minister had been hailed as the “only man” in her Cabinet by supporters and critics, so who better as a role model'

Therefore, come November 19, and male bosses will be giving staff time off to go and celebrate. At least, so it says on the worldwide web.

Blogs are being created and ringing messages sent out across the cyberspace urging all good men to join the cause of setting up a counterbalance for March 8, International Women’s Day.

Unlike the women textile workers who had protested in New York on March 8, 1857, demanding better working conditions and wages, the men’s grievances are not economic. They are angry with women for “ignoring” their rights.

One of the groups behind the move is called Save the Family.

It’s unclear if the other organisations include those formed to protect men from harassment by their wives, such as the Pirito Purush Pati Parishad (Forum for Harassed Husbands) in Calcutta and the Akhil Bharatiya Patni Virodhi Morcha (All-India Anti-Wife Front) in Delhi.

These bodies bristle at the laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace. Their favourite target is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, which they claim is regularly “misused” by women to get their husbands booked for cruelty.

The website www.genderindian.sulekha.com provides another reason for the choice of date.

“November 19, which is celebrated as men’s day in many countries -- Brazil, Canada -- will also be celebrated in India,” a message says.

Wrong, of course: It’s Trinidad and Tobago, and neither Brazil nor Canada, that celebrates November 19 as Men’s Day.

There are suggestions about how to celebrate the day. One way is to take the day off. Watch a film or at least share a bar of chocolate with your colleagues, suggests a sympathiser.

But some techies in Delhi and Mumbai are planning it big.

“IT managers are convinced that it is the day men will keep for themselves. They will be providing free tickets to their subordinates (men and women) for films. There will be a reflection and a celebration card for every one who watches the film,” says a message.

A manager in Delhi plans a “McDonald moment”. Another in Mumbai will hand out chocolates among co-passengers on his local train.

Not everyone is excited. “It’s a weird idea and is not selling well to me,” Wipro’s Puneet Kumar said. “An international day for women I can understand. They live in a society where every day is a men’s day. Men rule every day.”

Not if they have an Indira Gandhi to reckon with, though. But the former Prime Minister has always attracted unexpected fans, especially from among conservative men.

Former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan is said to have rated her even above the parivar’s own Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister because she had “divided Pakistan”. Vajpayee herself saluted her as “Durga” after the 1971 war.

The same year, when she visited Washington, President Richard Nixon’s assistant asked his Indian counterpart how she liked to be addressed. He was told her cabinet colleagues addressed her as “Sir”.

The date was an easy choice, the men’s lobbies say.

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