I recently wrote on my Facebook wall that my one regret in life is not having a son, and raising him well. The post elicited responses like: ‘Why do you want a boy when you have great girls?’

They had reacted without trying to understand what had prompted me to write that post. It is not that I want to raise a boy because I need one to protect and take care of me in my old age, carryout funeral rituals, continue my husband’s lineage, or any such reason.

My regret is that I could not bring into society a good boy — a role model kind of a human being. I want my son to be strong yet kind, independent yet rooted, calm yet sensitive, an outdoor type who enjoys doing household chores, who has deeply ingrained values of what is right and wrong yet is open-minded, who is outgoing yet takes responsibility, who stands up for the weak and voiceless, who cries with them, feels their pain, fails but is resilient, and is not ashamed to demonstrate these emotions: like my girls do.

Modern day women have started taking pride in ‘knowing, being and raising’ strong, independent, sensitive and sensible women. Where are the men to match such women? I believe even a boy must get an enabling environment to grow up with this kind of emotional intelligence. This opportunity is every boy’s right.

News of sadistic rapists, cruel criminals and terrorists, who are mostly men, often makes me wonder how these little balls of flesh and blood that came out of women’s wombs, were nursed and taught by women to take their first step, turned out to be such vicious misogynistic monsters.

Surely a mother would have some role in shaping the sensibilities of her son, an elder sister of her little brother, an aunt of her nephew. If this planet is to be fit for habitation by civilised, compassionate, gentle, sensible, courageous humans, men need to grow up as mentally healthy as the women.

It is understandable that while women can be or do anything they want in today’s world, most men do not have a choice. They have to live up to the unnatural demands and pressures of ‘masculinity’ on them that is toxic. They can’t aspire to be what is not manly. It tries to turn them into emotionless hypocrites who cannot even cry in public. Not being able to cry or show emotions or talk about their feelings is a stifling handicap for men.

We must raise the kind of sons we would like our sons-in-laws to be. We need to redefine the notions of masculine and feminine for men and women, learn from our past and mould a new generation of good human beings who are a balanced blend of both these notions.

Ila Sharma is an Election Commissioner.

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