By Danuska Da Gama I NT KURIOCITY
‘Behenji’ is the one word that is used like a slap on campuses. It could mean many things. But, the word that literally translates to sister (behen) is, generally speaking, reserved as a commentary for conservative girls. It is full of mocking connotations that are cruel and is a label one wishes to get rid of.
“My earliest memory of being labeled a ‘behenji’ dates back to my first year in college when some of us close friends were waiting for the bus. This was around ten years ago, and we were all decently dressed in salwaar suits. Some of us had our hair tied in plaits or pony tails, and there were also some who wore glasses and standard sandals. A group of senior boys entered the bus after us, gave us weird looks, which made us feel like we were outcastes – the ‘behenjis’. They were upset over the ‘quality’ of females in the bus; the types you would not want to speak or associate with”, recalls Poonam Sawant now married.
“Auntyo kashi distaat mare” (they look like aunties, ya) or “Total ‘behenji’ types na” are some comments you get to hear, though no so frequently in today’s times because now the youth make this discrimination in their minds about a person right from the beginning. These judgments give rise to invisible social boundaries and are nothing new. For decades now, youngsters, both boys and girls, who are very appearance conscious, have passed comments on the ‘others’ lack of grooming and fashion sense. But nerds and bookworms were not the only ones on the receiving end, so were the one who were not ‘modern’ enough to have a boyfriend/girlfriend.
But, now, with modernisation and education has come a new perception one that doesn’t make boys look down upon girls as behenji’s.
A working professional Nicole D’Souza admits that the 80s and early 90s saw many simple girls being called behenjis and other derogatory names for not mingling with boys, wearing simple traditional attires or for that matter for being engrossed in their studies. However, while she is aware of the behenji term being used till date, she does believe that it doesn’t really cause a problem to girls like it used to in the past. Girls today are strong and confident.
A student Clive Alvares says, “I have come across a number of girls who are ambitious and just don’t give a hoot about wearing clothes that are in vogue or having a boyfriend. They probably know that once they get settled with a good career they will find someone better.”
Aliana Rodrigues doesn’t agree with Clive for she feels that girls even today are pressurised to have a boyfriend in order to be part of the ‘cool’ crowd. “Having a boyfriend has become such a status symbol in today’s society that young girls often feel the need to fit in a boyfriend in their life, especially with the current trends. I feel a girl shouldn’t feel pressurised to have a boyfriend if it is against her morals and values and for this she should not be labelled with derogatory terms. It can have a negative impact on a girl”, she says.
Just because a girl doesn’t have a boyfriend cannot be a reason for her to be called a ‘behenji’. It’s an individual choice and not a fad to be followed just because others are following it. Student Mitali Rathod thinks that girls who do not have boyfriends should not be termed as ‘behenjis’ because getting into a relationship was never meant to be a trend nor was it meant to be taken lightly, especially as it is an aspect of life that should emerge and evolve naturally.
Anjali Pillamar says she wouldn’t like anyone calling her a behenji for not having a boyfriend. She believes in dedicating time to her studies which is a priority above boyfriends and spending her parents’ money on expensive and in vogue clothes. “Girls who don’t have boyfriends are more focused and enjoy their freedom. I love my life as it is and don’t bother about what others feel”, she says. Crezel Coelho agreeing with Anjali goes on to say that not having a boyfriend helps one to be focused, independent and strong.
Making a strong point, Shweta Vengurlekar says, “One doesn’t have to have a boyfriend in order to change people’s opinions about you. And I genuinely feel that in college boys address those girls who help them as ‘behen’, and the ‘ji’ is added out of respect.”
Well we now know what girls feel about the term behenji. They don’t care what the boys think about them. They have their priorities and goals set and having a boyfriend is not on the top of their list, at least while studying.
But, what about the boys?
Student, Anant Dhond feels that a girl who doesn’t have a boyfriend or even one who wears traditional clothes on a regular basis is a ‘behenji’. He says is particular, “It is especially the ones who come from remote villages and towns to city-based institutes and colleges to study, because such girls are very introverted and are not used to interacting with boys like city girls. However, I do feel it is wrong on our part to tag them and tease them as it can lower their self confidence.”
But on the other hand Sirach Ferros says, “Just because a girl doesn’t want to be my girlfriend she doesn’t become my sister. Some person has also said that when a girl is about to be raped she should call out to the culprit as ‘bhaiya’ who would then refrain from the act, which is a really a stupid mentality.”
Basically, behenji or not is all in the head. Whether you choose to wear a salwar kameez, tie a long plait and prefer to look at books in the library instead of boys in the canteen who look down upon you as a behenji there nothing for you to worry about if you have the confidence and mindset. This will gain you the respect of the people who care and matter to you.
By Danuska Da Gama I NT KURIOCITY