Jul 27, 2009

The Great Indian Cultural Tamasha

This, this, and this - if nothing else, must be Indian culture. Oh, and this definitely is.

I'm speechless.

I'll only say, "Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have."

I'm not trying to be funny or insensitive, but I'm too disgusted to comment on those. And sickened with seeing this happen every damn day.

How, how, can we accept people hating each other as part of culture and look the other way, yet not accept people loving each other (and I'm not even talking about same-sex)?

How is it that we think nothing of humiliating, hurting, harassing, raping, killing other people yet would never ever wish the same upon ourselves or our dear ones?

How is it that we are so blind to others and so full of ourselves that we just cannot accept anyone who is even slightly different than us or does not think/act/live/drink/eat in the same way?

How can we justify any amount and any magnitude of wrongdoing under the labels of 'culture' and 'religion'? How can one person/group have a definition of 'culture' or 'religion' that can be applied to the family, state, nation or even humanity as a whole?

When will we see a woman as just another individual and not a 'woman'? When will we see her as a human being just like any of us? When will we see her as a person and not our or someone else's or just anyone's property? When will we see her as an equal?

Why are we tolerant of the wrong things - harassment, rape, murder, crime against women, crime against children, deceit, betrayal? Why are we not tolerant about religious freedom? Why are we not tolerant about artistic expression? Why are we not tolerant about relationships - between the same or opposite sexes? We could be but we are not. What we are tolerant of, instead, is bullying, crime, gross neglect of safety, and the subversion of justice.

Why do some of us, despite being taught to worship women, go about raping/molesting/killing them? Why do some of us think that if a girl wears a sleeveless top or shorts, she is 'available'? Why do some of our men have serious issues with reporting to a female boss? Why are some Indians so sexually repressed that even looking at a woman arouses them enough to molest/rape her?

The real issue that we must grapple with when such incidents occur is India's collective inability to accept that women have rights, that they are human beings, that they should be left alone, and that they have a right to occupy space in the public arena. If we do not tell a woman to eat brinjals instead of potatoes or drink juice instead of water, what possibly can give us the right to ask her to wear a saree instead of jeans?

It runs deep into our collective psyche. Most of our men wish to marry so that they won't have to eat outside food while living alone in their city of work. In a family run by a working couple, it is the woman who is expected to carry out all the household chores after performing her duties at the office. The men just take it for granted. The women do, too. What's worse, if an understanding husband tells his buddies that he manages the home/kitchen or babysits while she is at work, as a genuine gesture for the woman he loves and not as a favour, he is likely to be ridiculed and laughed at.

It is an insult of the highest order to call a man a woman, or to say he tends to display certain 'feminine' qualities (such as love, caring, understanding). Why can a man not be accepted as being loving and caring and understanding? Why is a man who loves his wife and stands up for her called her slave, or even an eunuch? Why does a man constantly need to prove his manliness to the society by lording over the women in his life? Can he not love her or care for her as she does?

The answer is staring us in the face - everyday. In our towns and villages, millions of little boys grow up listening to someone telling a woman that she should not hold her head high when she walks, or that a woman's true calling lies in serving her husband and his family (mostly extended). In some small town a rape victim is asked to marry the rapist. In another village, a girl without a dupatta is called a whore and beaten and/or killed, and I haven't even mentioned jeans yet! In a well-built house in an affluent colony, a mother calls upon her daughter to help her with the dinner, never her son. In the same house, the father asks his son to get stuff from the market, never the daughter. So deep rooted are these gender roles that it is almost impossible for the average Indian to think of an gender-independent environment. Most of us discriminate without even realising it!

We as a nation are so sexually repressed and so condescending/patronising towards our women that we make it seem acceptable for a guy to feel a girl up in the bus, or slap her bottom on the road, or grab her chest in a shop, or touch/look at her inappropriately. Every single woman in this country will have a similar story from her life - regardless of whether she was wearing a burqa or a ghunghat or a saree or a skirt or a two-piece bikini. So much for the attire being responsible! Those who say women must not show skin since that turns men on must remember that their are men who can get turned on even by a glimpse of a woman's eyes or hair or hands or feet. Or simply her height - that turns on people too! So what must women do, be seen with a blindfold? Or not be seen at all? Or not be at all?

Indian society, with its holier-than-thou hypocrisy thinks nothing of perpetrating crime against women. Not even babies are spared! How do we stop it? Do we make fornication legal? Or do we make being a woman illegal? I believe a better way would be if we stop blaming the woman for the crime against her. If we really can accept that if drinking or smoking or dancing or losing your virginity is wrong for girls, it is wrong for boys too. If it is okay for boys, why not for girls? Our Constitution says we are all equal. So why do we add an asterisk to that and say 'conditions apply - check if you have a penis or breasts'?

We can never completely eradicate crime in a society, and even not crime targeted at women. But we definitely don't need educated (not simply literate) men demeaning their wives. We definitely can't accept mobs sexually assaulting women. We definitely can't tolerate a woman being shamed for being molested or raped. Lastly, we definitely must never let a woman feel she ought to have been born a man. How, as a nation, can we be outraged if a terrorist goes about killing innocent people, yet not feel even as much outrage if 50 men strip an innocent woman?

When will we learn to treat our women well? When will we give them the respect that they so deserve - if not for being women, at least for being humans? When will we stop judging our women on the basis of how and what they eat/drink/wear/say/act/live? When will we see our daughters and sons as no different from each other, both being our children? When will we see our husbands and wives as our partners and friends, with equal rights and equal responsibilities?

The links at the start of this post say (rather scream in my face), "Not any sooner."

Edited to add:

It was a saree-clad Sita that was abducted by Ravan. It was also a saree-clad Draupadi who was publicly stripped by Dushasan. Yet, it is Sita's fault coz she overstepped her boundary and Draupadi's fault coz she laughed at Duryodhan. Never mind what Ravan and Dushasan did! And if they could do it and get stories written and TV serials made for themselves, so can we. Behold the modern Ravans and Dushasan - a dozen a penny! Oh, and 'God' Krishna could get away with stealing the clothes of women who were bathing, and we proudly narrate the story to our sons!

Jul 3, 2009

So Did You Miss Me?

Hi there, everyone! I disappeared for a while, and without letting anyone know. My sincere apologies.

Its been an unintended break, longer than expected. But like it tends to, life intervened. I’ve been busy with work, practically trying to keep my job in the dark economic times. Work aside, I have been suffering from the worst writer's block ever. Maybe the turmoil at work had something to do with this.

I promise to be up and shining soon, but it may take a little more time so don't forget to watch this space (and my other one too). I failed to write the last few weeks, which have been some of the most turbulent in my professional life. This, I confess, was totally deliberate. It just felt like I wasn’t doing justice to my writing if I wasn't writing with my mind and heart in it, and both these critical components of my being were kind of preoccupied with seemingly mundane issues. Nonetheless, enough excuses.

If there's one thing my being absent from the blogging scene has shown me, it is how much my writing is valued and appreciated, even eagerly awaited, by my friends on the blogosphere. Many thanks and a zillion hugs to my bestest friends here, especially Solilo, Indyeah, IHM, Monika (in no particular order). And everyone else who patiently awaited my return and regularly visited this space to check on me. I am ashamed to admit I'd actually thought my friends would have lost interest in my blogs since I'd not written for so long. I'm so very touched to see they are as loyal to my blogs as I am to theirs, even when I never announced I wouldn't be writing for a while. Thank you.