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All that Glitters is Not
by Kanchan Gandhi (Prose - Short Story) | Published On: 15-Oct-2018

It is 2300 AD in Proxima Centauri. Two Centaurians are chatting with each other.

Baby Centaurian: How come God decided to send me to you?

Adult Centaurian: I don’t know—maybe s(he) randomly allocates which baby goes where and suddenly one morning you dropped in my lap.

On planet earth, there used to be a system of reproduction where mothers would carry their children in their wombs for nine months. But here babies fall from the sky since we have a single gender system. There are no men and women who can procreate now.

Baby C: So you mean God abolished the double gender system – men and women went extinct?

Adult C: Yes, men and women are extinct. Earth is a dead planet because the injustice and unfairness were too much for God to bear.

Baby C: What do you mean by injustice? We don’t have it here on our planet.

Adult C: Yes, we don’t have injustice on our planet since God created us all the same. S(he) didn’t want to repeat the mistakes s(he) made while creating earthlings. So Proxima Centauri has uniformity in all aspects of society, economy and politics.

Baby C: What are mistakes? What do you mean?

Adult C: So when s(he) created the Earth, s(he) thought that diversity is beautiful. So s(he) created people of different colours and genders. Earthlings were very diverse unlike us. There were black, white, yellow and brown people inhabiting that planet. Further they all looked different in shapes and sizes. There were tall and short people, fat and slim people and there were many genders too – there were men, women, gays, lesbians, transgenders and so on.

Baby C: Oh wow! Such an interesting planet. I would have loved to visit it if it was still alive.

Adult C: This is what you think my child, but it is far from the truth. Unlike our planet where everybody gets exactly the same amount of resources allocated by God, the earth had a human system of resource allocation. So as their civilization progressed fewer and fewer people grabbed more and more resources leaving lesser for the masses.

Baby C: Oh, how’s that even possible?

Adult C: Oh that was possible – through a system called capitalism which benefited elite males in the society the most. Women and people of minority groups were pushed to the margins of the economy and society. A complex system of power relations emerged on that planet.

Baby C: I cannot imagine how such system would work. Our planet is so different.

Adult C: Yes my child – it is different because God was very pained with the big mess that earthlings created as they “progressed” in time. They became more and more selfish and there came a point some hundred years ago when all that was left on the planet was hate, jealousy, competition and bigotry. The large majority of people lived in constant pain and deprivation and cursed God for their existence on Earth.

Baby C: Oh parent – how do I get to understand these terms that you name? Is there any way to comprehend them?

Adult C: Yes there is, which is why God gave our civilization the gift of space and time travel. We can travel back in time when earthlings were still alive and see and hear their stories without getting noticed by them.

God wants us to learn from the millions and millions of stories of injustice on that planet and never replicate them on ours.

Baby C: So can we please go back in time and see some of the injustices you talk about.

Adult C: Yes we can. And today we are going to focus on gender inequality and injustice on Earth. Put on your seat belt. I am taking you back to the year 2018 on Earth.

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December 2018

Baby and Adult C land on Beth and Peter’s doorstep. It is evening and Peter’s not home. Beth is having tea with her newly wedded daughter-in-law- Ashley who has just joined her household. She wants to share her life experiences and pains with her daughter-in-law so that Ashley can understand her better.

“Never marry a good-looking man! He will spend the rest of his life gloating over his looks and flirting with other women” Beth said to Ashley.

Ashley: But Mamma – you married a very good looking man. Peter is still quite handsome.

Beth: Yes I did. And I was good looking in those days too. But things are different now since I am much heavier and physically unfit than him. Men and women age differently you see. We bear different burdens of domestic life. When we were young he went down on his knees to get me. He begged my parents to give my hand to him.

Ashley: Oh! That must be so gratifying mom! Such a good-looking man pursuing you so madly!

Beth: Yes, when you are younger these things appear quite flattering. Life however, teaches you otherwise. You pay the price for every choice you make.

Ashley: Why do you say so Mom? Do you have any regrets for marrying him? Your marriage seems like a perfect union. You have two sons together. And your younger son, my husband – Nick, is a gem of a person. He’s not the best-looking guy like his dad but I love how he has made me feel so special and wanted in the last ten years that we have dated each other.

Beth: Yes, my dear there are all kinds of people in the world. And my son is more my son. He is heavily built. He is earnest and honest like me. He is not as handsome when compared to his paternal family. He is quite unlike his dad who has a parallel face for the world outside.

Ashley: Oh Mom – you have been married for over forty years now and Peter cares for you. I wonder what makes you have such reflections.

Beth: Yes, to the world we are a perfect family. But honestly, I have paid an unequal price to raise this family. I quit my job after your husband was born. It was a coveted government job you know. I wouldn’t get it again.

Ashley: Yeah but then you got a family. Doesn’t every woman have to make a choice at some point in life and do the balancing act. I’ll have to do it at some point too I guess.

Beth: Yes, we do. But Peter had to give up much fewer things in life after we got married. And sometimes that hurts.

Ashley: Oh mom! Like what?

Beth: You know that he has a passion for hiking and cycling. In the initial days of our marriage, I accompanied him for these tours. But after the children were born my mobility was severely curtailed. And now my health doesn’t permit me to travel anywhere. I got joint pain. So, for many years I have become his home-keeper instead of his soul partner who can participate actively in what he likes to do the most.

 Ashley: That’s sad mom! I wish you could also go on the tours with him.

Beth: Well! but now he wouldn’t want me to go either. He meets much younger and smarter women on some of these trips and that gives him a chance to flaunt his good looks and physical fitness in his club. He has often mentioned to me how he has a huge “female fan following” at his hiking club.

Ashley: Oh Mom – that must hurt!

Beth: Yes, that hurts. But we’ve made our pact. He can flirt all he wants outside, but let that not affect our family life. He keeps telling me stories about how xyz women in the hiking club are completely crazy about him.

Ashley: That must be so difficult to hear. It is like mental torture. You must feel insecure all the time.

Beth: Well! I used to react a lot when we were younger. But now I take this trivial talk with a pinch of salt. I know it is a form of mental sickness when you are so obsessed with your looks and masculinity. I have a feeling he is dating a younger woman. He never tells me the details about it.  

Ashley: Oh! Why would a younger woman date him? She can date somebody her own age.

Beth: Oh! he knows his way to reach a woman’s heart. He is a charmer. He will give her all the attention till she starts noticing him. And then he will pretend like she is the one who fell for him. Every conversation of his ends with “And then she wouldn’t leave me. She just wanted to be around me”. You tell me is this not a form of mental sickness?

He believes in “playing around” with women. I wonder how many he has hurt in so many years. Sometimes I find it hard to despise these women. As much as I hold them in contempt, I know Peter’s culpability in these flings. Flirting is a two-way street!

Ashley (completely shocked): Yes mom – that does sound quite sick. I am so glad that your son Nick has never shown such symptoms in the last ten years. In fact, I have always found him to be quite humble and grounded.

Beth: Yes Ash, I made sure it was going to be this way. I raised my son to be mine. I was lucky that he took more on me rather than his dad. I wanted him to be a “one woman man” and that’s what I hope he has turned out to be. There’s merit in constancy. I have been a constant and dedicated person towards this family. I have no regrets for my earnestness, no matter what Peter has been doing outside the house.

Ashley (hugging Beth): Oh mom! Thank you so much for being you. And thank you for giving me the best guy in the county- Nick.

Beth (hugging her back): Cherish him my dear! I didn’t want another woman to go through the pain of having a handsome but selfish husband like mine. My only advice to younger women is to not fall for the looks and charms of a guy but probe him deeper and seek the humility and genuineness of his soul cos all that glitters...

 

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Adult C and Baby C hear this conversation and head back to Proxima Centauri. Baby C is confused by what it heard.

Adult C: Now, do you understand gender injustice a little bit?

Baby C: I think so – maybe a little bit. Why didn’t Beth leave Peter and continue with her job.

Adult C: No – that’s not how it worked. The two genders got interdependent and it was hard to give up on each other. Because there was a lot of heartbreak and pain involved.

The injustice is not only that Beth had to quit her job. The greater injustice was that Peter refused to be faithful to her despite all the sacrifices she made for the family. He hurt her by having relationships with women outside the home.

It was the system of male privilege that was unjust. Beth could not have similar relationships outside of her marriage since the society would label her as a “bitch” and a “whore”. The whole system of production and reproduction disadvantaged women. That’s why God didn’t replicate it on Proxima Centauri.

You know in the same year, the planet Earth had a powerful leader who insulted women by saying “Grab them by their p…y”

Baby C: What is p….y?

Adult C: Oh Child that’s very hard to explain in a day. Why don’t we do another time-travel to the Earth tomorrow to understand what “grab them by their p….y means”.

Baby C: Ok parent! I will try not to think about it too much in the meantime. You are right this Earth thing does not seem to be such a nice planet after all. I think I am happy to be born in Proxima Centauri. As Beth said – “All that glitters…." 

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