But this adulation for him suffered a sizeable dent when I read his letter to his grand daughters - which he says is a must read for all girls. I've started writing this post in auto pilot once I saw the video version of since I have to get this out here.
First of all, thank you sir, for the platitudes you have offered as advice to your children with the belief that it is going to be helpful to them. And then going ahead with so many contradictions that I am sure confused about what to follow in the letter. Although Mr. Bachchan says that his girls should make their own decisions and be people in their own right, he starts by drooping their shoulders with the load family honour! He tells them not to be bound by boundaries others set for them but begins by setting quite a decisive one himself! How is it liberating for any woman to be burdened by family honour? Why isn't the same letter written to the sons of the family recommending responsible behaviour to them? Isn't every woman in this country already burdened enough with family, societal, marital (among others) pressures to behave in a certain way? He does the same with his grand daughters by telling them outright that their behaviour reflects on the rich legacy they inherit.
The rest of his advice seems like a list from a bad gender rule book that women threw out decades ago. Women have already fought the barriers of hierarchy and shattered them in a lot of ways. We know and no longer accept that the length of our skirts is a measure of our characters. (This could be the most cliche anyone can get!) Although he says it's a "difficult" world for a woman, rest assured that the family name his girls carry will indeed protect them from a lot of atrocities that common women struggle through.
Everyone knows that the Bachchan family is a repository of traditional values even in today's times. It's the Bachchan legacy at play here too. How about starting women's liberation movement right from his house! How about letting his own daughter in law choose and decide if she'd like to have a home of her own that isn't run by others' rule? She is someone's daughter and she also must have been taught to speak her mind and not give in to others' boundaries. How about that? And he completely left out the mothers of these daughters and the legacy and brought up that they bring to the table. This just reflects on how hard the women in his own household will have to struggle to be considered people worthy of mention.
I highly doubt that his advice will be relevant when Aradhya is old enough to understand all this. She will be a woman in a much better world. A world where women have paid to achieve unprecedented levels of equality. Not that Navya or Aradhya will ever ever have to fight for their place in society or the world at large. The very legacy that binds them is also liberating is a strange way.
And in the end I want to say that women have had enough of people telling us what to to, how to behave, what to wear and what is at stake if we don't follow those rules. It is saddening and disappointing when such advice comes from a popular figure like Mr. Bachchan who has a fan following across the world and is held in high regard.
Here is the text of the letter as published in The Times of India: