Inclusion is a hot word for me professionally. If you are working in the development sector, words like acceptance and inclusion are part of your daily lingo. We talk of being accepting, being non-judgmental, being inclusive. We want to respect people for what they are, irrespective of caste, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. We have read endless accounts of how gender identity develops in a social world. We want to be totally accepting of people, their choices, their representation of themselves to the outer world. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean any of this sarcastically. Most of you out there, who are going to read this, are all part of that group of people who share these beliefs.
But for me the most inclusive action I have ever witnessed is something narrated to me by a person not on this list. This is my mother-in-law, a person who will come across as a simple, conservative, South Indian woman, comfortable in her home and her home-making responsibilities. She was once telling me that she had a hijra friend back in Delhi, who used to come home during important festivals like Dusshera, Varalakshmi pooja etc for manjal kumkumam (a traditional practice of giving turmeric and vermilion to women on important festival days). My mother in law accepted her friend, not as a hijra, but as a woman. She respected the individual’s choice to become and live as a woman, no matter what she was born as. Not only did she accept it, she honored her as a woman in the way she knew, an honor she extends to any other woman.
This act of acceptance, from a person, who has not schooled in the thoughts of individual rights, freedom and choices, but who spontaneously accepts it as a foregone conclusion, has given me the conviction, that at the bottom of our hearts, all human beings do respect these values.