Tag Archives: feminism

Of tongues and barbs

PHOTO PROMPT © Madison Woods

“ha ha . In your house ‘Shakti’ is dominant eh!?  The lady wears the pant eh! In my house ‘Shiva’ is  dominant! “, our male guest puffed up his chest.

My husband turned beet-red. The ‘pin-drop’ silence that followed –  a loud presence in my life.

That day I discovered a sub-species of the human male ,with dominant ‘obnoxious moron’ genes, who get emasculated whenever a woman displays intelligence. And another sub-species of intelligent-human-males who care about what such moron-sub-species-males thinks about them.

“If you love me… don’t say anything intelligent in front of guests”, my husband begged.

So I write.

— end—

Note:  I try  not to talk more intelligently than such moron-sub-species-male whenever I encounter them but it’s such a challenge that I give up after a while. I’m not being vain …it doesn’t take much to be more intelligent than such folks 🙂

Shakti – Feminine energy; Shiva – Masculine energy

This 99 word piece based on true life events was written for the 100 word photo challenge. More details about this challenge can be found at:  https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/22-april-2016/

PHOTO PROMPT © Madison Woods

Click on the Froggy below for other amazing takes on the same prompt by fellow “Friday Fictioneers.”

Advertisements

Honorable disrespect

A wife is calling a husband to dinner . Below are three general types of interactions that can happen : 1- positive, 2- neutral, 3- negative

Type1 : Positive

wife: Dinner is ready , dear

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes sweetheart.

type 2: Neutral

wife: Dinner is ready

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes.

type 3: Negative / shows inequality of gender

wife: Dinner is ready oh-human-deserving-of-respect

husband: I will be there in 5 minutes female-who-is-inferior-to-me

That last one is quite a mouthful…Isn’t it? But it won’t be if you talk Tamil.

Tamil – or rather KondunTamil as the version in use is appropriately called – is a language that makes showing gender and other social inequality in everyday conversations a breeze. Tamil uses Honorific suffixes of all kinds- some showing respect and some showing disrespect. (More about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamil_honorifics)

This language reflects the culture of a society that promotes overt display of social hierarchy, in social and interpersonal relationships, where in every interaction the power balance between the two parties conversing is expected to be shown. This language is the vehicle societies ride on to propagate inequality in age,gender,socio-economic status, power and caste.

Are honorific suffixes bad? Not necessarily. Suffixes that allow the show of mutual respect , love and intimacy is  a good thing. But using suffixes to show disrespect  is in my opinion undesirable.

Moreover, this honorific suffix usage promotes gender inequality in a marriage , validates male privilege and propagates the “culture of abuse“. Which is obviously my main area of focus in this article.

It is to be noted that not all humans who speak this Tamil language avail themselves to the ‘privilege’ of showing disrespect even though they ‘can’ under societal norms. I have witnessed many – male and female alike – address younger or  people in lesser status then them  with respect – using respectful honorific suffixes- and I applaud them for them for their dignity. These people bring out the beauty in the language and are role models for others to follow suit. But they are still in the minority.

Now, How do these honorific suffixes work and then how do they promote a culture of abuse?

For illustration ,let’s take  Tamil’s honorific suffixes: “di”  and “da”

“Di”  suffix is informal, denotes that a  female of lesser or equal status  is being addressed.

“Da”  suffix is the male counterpart.

So for example, if you want to call your younger brother towards you, you can say :

” Enga va da

The rough translation for the Tamil trans-literation sentence is:

Come here “you male who is inferior than me in either age or social status or power or all”

Or it can also be:

Come here “you male who is  equal to me because you are also allowed to respond back with a “di” or “da” “.

This latter ‘equal’ usage is the case in informal friendly /intimate relationships, where both the parties considers themselves equal, irrespective of age/socio-economic status.

The “da” or “di” gets translated into disrespect showing  the subtle inequality of the relationship when the person addressed with this suffix is not allowed to respond back with the “di/da” suffix in their response to the speaker.

E.g. A person can address his servant , disrespectfully, with “da” but the servant cannot use “da” towards his employer (if he expects to be gainfully employed). Instead he is expected to use another honorific suffix that shows respect like “ar” or “enga”- which denotes respect and reinforces his lesser economic status relative to his employer.

Some husbands use the suffix “Di”  when talking to their wives: publicly and privately. Wives are not allowed/expected to respond back or use the “Da” – they may do that in private (who knows?) but publicly it’s a huge ‘no-no’. The conversation between husband and wife  is expected to follow the pattern of the man/servant relationship, setting the stage for gender inequality – male superiority.

This “Di”, that husbands use when talking to their wives,  is  like an annoying sibling eating grapes and spitting the seeds at you – through out your lifetime.  It’s an offence where if you go to court and say “he spit a grape seed at me five times a day , 7 days a week” , and ask for justice everyone will laugh at you and ask you come back only when your limbs are broken.

The “Di” is like a vaccine – with a slightly ineffective virus – that builds immunity so when the real virus hits the nervous system – the body is prepared to deal with it.  As an immunized person may not even know that a deadly virus entered their body and was dealt with deftly – the female soul immunized with “Di”  doesn’t even feel much difference when an explicit disrespect is thrown at her. Say for example she is called a ‘bitch’ or to say in Tamil “nÃy” .

“Di” is just   a simple syllable- an innocuous reminder in every interaction that you are lesser than your husband and he deserves more respect than you get. A mere trifle of disrespect that is expected to roll off women’s back like water on a fish’s.

Some may argue that the usage of “Di” shows the intimate nature of the relationship between husband and wife and therefore “Di” expresses a romantic undertone. But if those same people, frown upon the wife’s usage of the “Da” and do not consider that usage romantic – their argument is not valid.

This  in-equal “Di” is just one example of a honorific in language usage that establishes the power structure within a marriage – and accepting this societal norm as normal  is to accept that women are lesser than men and therefore entitled to verbal abuse.

Honorific or not , gender inequality is conveyed in speech of all languages depending on how it is used and more importantly in the tone that it is delivered. Tamil and such languages that use honorific are not at fault . Fault if any lies in the society that uses it and normalizes disrespect towards one gender.

The issue in particular with honorific languages is that it makes showing overt disrespect easy, while cloaking the intent of disrespect under the ambiguity of grammar/societal norms of usage.  Whereas in non-honorific languages showing disrespect has to be explicit ,showing intent. e.g. ” I will be there in 5 minutes female-who-is-inferior-to-me” or  a short-cut  “I will be there in 5 minutes bitch”

Husband and wife (or Partners) should both bring love and respect to the marriage table and to their language. Bringing  love and expecting more than love (servile respect) in return is not fair. Bringing nothing but expecting both love and respect is even worse.  Our language is only an outward expression of these subtleties of inequality.

So how can we banish  “Di” and other such disrespectful words/inequality from our speech? Maybe we should switch mother tongues – move from Tamil to say English (or any other language that does not have honorific)  at least temporarily – and try to convey the whole message – subject/verb and honorific (and mainly the intent of respect or disrespect).

Since there are no such simple honorific suffixes substitutes in English as in Tamil – except maybe  “Sir/ Madam” or “Your highness” perhaps? –  in order to bring over all the inequality  to English we have to use more words than necessary ,making intent very clear and sentence structure very complicated. We would no longer be able to hide under the ambiguous shadow of honorific suffixes then.

Switching to English , carrying the baggage of honorific over , will be hard work.  Or we can make a true effort to have every interaction a positive one in our own mother tongues – turning Koduntamil (corrupt Tamil) into SenTamil (pure Tamil) . That will be harder work if one is not willing to let go of privilege, easy if one realizes that all humans- male are female-  are  equal.

Now , you may ask why all the fuss about one word ? How will discontinuing the usage of  honorific ,say  in-equal “Di” by a husband ,change the inequality of their relationship? What prevents the husband from taking the more explicit route to express disrespect for his wife if “Di” is banished?  Won’t “Di” be a more honourable disrespect (there’s a new oxymoron for you) than ,say, ‘bitch’?

I agree that eliminating the usage of a gender in-equality honorific suffix will not change the world , in itself. But it can do three things:

1- Those who take the subterfuge under the honorific today will be forced to be chose from the 3 word choices: explicitly disrespectful  ,neutral or respectful. Many will choose neutral without the  grey area of “honourable disrespect” to chose from.

2- It brings the enemy out of the shadows in to the open – the intent of disrespect will be explicit. It is easy to confront the enemy when he’s in front of you – easy to assess the threat- easy to formulate a defence strategy.  The fight comes out in the open. Today a father can tolerate his daughter being called “Di” by her husband in front of him – but will not tolerate the unwarranted and explicit disrespect of ‘bitch’ or ‘fool’ or any such thing.

3- It sets the societal expectation that both genders in a marriage are equal. Female babies are not born with the sense of inferiority , ready to accept verbal abuse, they learn that from the interactions they see playing in everyday life, day after day after day, at their homes, in the TV and around them. Neither are male babies born with the sense of superiority , ready to abuse. The girls see, father using “Di” and mother not using “Da” and intuitively learn that they should not use “Da”. The boys learn that they should use “Di” and not expect a “Da” back.  If they grow up seeing mutual respect in their parents language  and in the society around them then a new positive culture is formed- gender inequality and the evils associated with it will slowly fade away.

While this may seem applicable to only one segment of the world population that uses honorific suffixes, the basic premise  is respectful communication and being aware of  gender in-equality in language and the impact it has not only on relationships but on culture as a whole.

So, respected-reader-who-is-equal-to-me, what do you think?

Note: There are many other languages in the world that use honorific devices to show social hierarchy with more degrees of complexity…Tamil is the only one I speak, so I have used this as an example.

Disclaimers: (to keep trolls in bay) The intent of this post is to show the gender in-equality inherent in the usage of some languages today  not to put down any particular language. I do put down certain cultural norms that treats women as inferior though.

The invisible store

PHOTO PROMPT - © Kent Bonham

Radha  rose before sunrise to cook for her family and get ready to take the first bus out, praying that prime spot at the entrance of the Bazaar remains unoccupied.  She calculated Rs3 as the break-even price for her goods that were purchased on borrowed money from a heartless loan shark. Profit meant ……. Not clothes or exotic things  sold in the bazaar under shiny lights…. but food for a day or two.  Her back throbbed in pain where her husband had battered her in his drunken stupor asking her for money …but she hurried on.

The prime spot was unoccupied. She thanked God for her good luck and put out a lemon in front of her make-shift stall to ward off the evil eye.

——————————————-end ————————————————

The women who have inspired me are not the Indira Gandhi’s or Hillary Clinton’s of the world but these unassuming , uneducated , hard-working women who lift their families out of starvation and ruin amidst numerous challenges and who serve as the invisible backbone of many a country’s economy. The pictures below would say what I feel more eloquently than any words I can write:

Photos of beautiful hard-working women entrepreneurs from around the world:

India:

photo credit: www.telegraphindia.com

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/janyjacob/beautiful-women-of-south-asia/

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/indias-invisible-workers/article4488407.ece#im-image-12

Peru:

Photo Credit – http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/250-reasons-to-fall-in-love-with-peru/old-woman-640×426/

Vietnam:

Photo credit: http://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/10/street-food-vendors-from-around-world.html

Jerusalem:

Photo credit: http://menzelphoto.photoshelter.com/image/I00009SgPXnL.ssA

Mynamar:

Photo credit: https://freedommuzic.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/myanmar-friends-cptc2.jpg

Ethiopia:

Photo credit: http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/x/30056644street-vendor-harar-old-town-ethiop-30056644.jpg

—————————————————————————————-

This  100+ word story is written in response to the 100 word photo challenge  posted by Rochelle Wisoff-Field each week.

Click on the ‘blue frog’  below to read other amazing takes, that fellow Friday Fictioneers have, on the same photo prompt:

And the Nobel Prize for Common-sense goes to…

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

At first, it looked like an ordinary marble, but it was far from it.  But how could Tim have known that, when he had much so many other valuable marbles that earned him the Nobel prize in science? So he threw that dull ordinary marble in the dirt ..

When he opened his mouth in a science delegation in Korea, stupid words poured out:  “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry,

The room was still ,like the calm before the storm. Not aware of the big hole he was digging himself, he continued,  “I’m in favour of single-sex labs but I don’t want to stand in the way of women”

The prevalent theory in the scientific community: Tim has lost all his marbles.  In reality all he lost was one ordinary dull marble called : common-sense.

——————————————–

“lost his marbles” is an euphemism for “losing one’s mind” or “acting stupidly”

The above quotes in blue are from Tim Hunt, who is more famous for his sexists remarks than his Nobel Prize in 2001. More news about him is in the below link:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jun/13/tim-hunt-forced-to-resign

His remarks have started an avalance of tweets from women scientists who have posted humorous pictures under the hash tag #distractinglysexy.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/06/12/413986529/-distractinglysexy-tweets-are-female-scientists-retort-to-disappointing-comments

———————————————————————————————————————–

The above story was in response to ‘Monday’s finish the story’ flash fiction challenge. This unique flash fiction challenge  provides  a new photo each week, and the first sentence of a story. The challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words, not including the sentence provided. Details are available here:

https://mondaysfinishthestory.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/mondays-finish-the-story-june-15th-2015/

First moon party

Note: Seriously mature topics on Feminism. Please refrain from reading further if you are grossed out by red or blood. There are graphic images in the link provided that are not suitable for male children. (of all ages)

This is a bit of an old news by now about  Rupi Kaur’s photo being taken down by Instagram and then added back after the protest of feminists:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11503621/Instagram-deletes-womans-period-photos-her-reply-is-great.html

When I saw this I had a mixed reaction. First reaction: It’s gross. Did this woman really have to do this? I ignored the news it generated but then it started to burn a hole in my brain. I realized that whatever medium a feminist chooses to bring across the gender message the most important thing is the message. Rupi’s message was powerful:

I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. When your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified, pornified. and treated less than human

Maybe photos like Rupi Kaur’s will superimpose on those barely-adult-barely -clothed woman’s photos in the psyche of men  and allow for less objectification and more humanization.

Growing up in traditional India, there were a lot of taboos that we girls grew up with with regard to menstruation. When I came home with the ‘news’  the living room was rearranged to make an empty corner for me to sit on the floor. Relatives and neighbours were summoned. The women streamed in and out, ready to pour their share of turmeric water to purify me. Everybody in the world knew. (So, whatever I’m blogging about my life in this post is no secret.) No one was grossed out on hearing the news but I was treated as if I was gross.

This celebration of my grossness culminated in a wedding like event with a lot of presents for me. It wasn’t all that bad. Unless you count being suddenly alienated from your father…Looking at my father barely 5 feet away when he came in from work that day, sitting in a corner ,ordered not to get up and greet him like I usually do ,was the most traumatic moment of that whole episode.

Basically the message I got when young was that a woman is impure during this time and therefore has a lesser status than her usual lesser status in the society. From being the lowest in the totem pole to untouchable.

Things have changed a lot now with educated women breaking taboos on menstruation. There’s even a facebook page: Menstrupedia

https://www.facebook.com/Menstrupedia

In countries with developed economies and different cultures  there are no such taboos but there are jokes about PMS, dismissing women as hormonal.  Those are the things I think  Rupi’s message is trying to address.

I still find Rupi’s picture gross…as I would find a man’s leak gross.

Now , if I had a daughter , this is how I would be celebrating:

Without the ‘coffee filter’ gift ofcourse 🙂

So parents, please please invite me to your daughter’s ‘First moon’ party and let’s make it all fun for her! Let’s welcome her into womanhood by building a better gender equal society! Period!

My secret Heroine

Note: I’m exorcising a very deep anger here in an effort to find healing and to move on. An anger many women can relate to. The story, situations and character descriptions may change but the underlying theme has been male aggression and their privilege to exercise that aggression.  If you don’t want to read about the need for Feminism, please stop reading here and save yourself some time.

We had a pet dog called Jimmy. She was such a intelligent, kind and friendly dog. Everyone in our neighbourhood treated her as they would a family member. She was loved and respected in society.

One day a little kitten , barely a week or so old strayed into our compound. Now this kitten had just learned to walk and was probably not yet weaned off her mother’s milk. An innocent baby in every sense. Let’s call her Kitty.

What happened when the Intelligent and kind-hearted older dog , a mother of two litters, well fed dog, beacon dog of society, met Kitty? Ofcourse, the deep bias inherent in dogs against cats came out. She started to bark and attack Kitty. I watched Kitty go towards Jimmy still friendly, curious and playful thinking Jimmy’s aggression was a game. Kitty was too young to even understand aggression. She must have only seen in her brief life  the loving care of the mother and she must have projected that image of loving , playful benevolence on Jimmy. The image of that  innocent moment is still etched in my mind.

When Kitty playfully approached Jimmy , she got even more aggressive and went to attack Kitty. Kitty realizing half instinctively that something was wrong , ran to a corner of the compound into an outdoor toilet. She was cornered by Jimmy  who was blocking the entrance. I tried to go near Jimmy to pull her back. But she was so aggressive and snarling, ready to even bite me that I couldn’t do anything. Now cornered Kitty was still confused on what was happening and reached out gently with her paw, mewing softly. I don’t know cat language but I swear it was a peace gesture. Jimmy was still snarling, growling and aggressive.  Jimmy jaws descended towards Kitty. At that very moment Kitty’s instinct fully kicked in and she grew up in that one second. She realized that she was in grave danger and then lashed out to save herself, scratching Jimmy in the face. In the final moments of Kitty’s life, cornered, her playful and loving gestures rewarded with a fatal bite, her eyes showed a flash of ferociousness that also remains etched in my mind.

In many ways this Kitty , her short life cut short by the much adored and loved and lauded Jimmy ,is my secret heroine. No, she didn’t win that battle but that last moment of ferociousness inspires me to this day to fight for myself irrespective of whatever corner the “Jimmys “of my life push me into and however the bleak the prospects of survival may seem.

Yes, I have had a fair share of such “Jimmy’s” in my life. My girl friends too. These “Jimmys” have attacked us with preconceived notions, gender bias, stereotyping  and misunderstanding pure innocence. They have snarled like dogs. Put us in corners. Most of these ‘gentlemen’ walk around in society with their heads held high , lauded and congratulated. Loved. Successful. They go unpunished ,without a scratch. When I see that my blood boils on the injustice because no one knows what they did or even if they knew no one cares that much. Being aggressive or mean to a girl/woman and triggering fight or flight responses is not a crime unless a punch was thrown or there was actual physical contact . Even then we see women struggle to get the justice in court for those offences.

This male aggression towards women, that falls just short of the legal definition of abuse…  is so insidious.  So difficult to fight. So difficult to forget. So difficult to forgive. It has been years since some of  those incidents happened but the wounds open up every time I encounter that abuser’s apparently successful life.

Like, when I see my college ex-principal being lauded for something, I want to fling rotten eggs at him to demonstrate his rotten mind. This man had retired from the Indian Air-force as a high ranking official.  He joined our college as a Head of the computer science department in our second year. Became the vice principal in our third year and Principal in our fourth year. In each year, a bunch of girl friends and me ended up in at least one situation where he was yelling at us for literally nothing. For a couple of girls smiling at each other in class. You may think I exaggerate. Everything  I have written here is exactly as it happened. I have enough male witnesses, who saw yet didn’t  care.
 

The following year, when he called a bunch of us girls into his office to scream at us when a male lecturer complained to him that we were  talking loudly in a hallway, he showed his true colours. He said, ” I know about the characters of you girls (as in bad character). Your seniors have told stories about you”.  Now these same seniors vandalized the girls bathroom with lewd drawings and etched our names in desks with slurs. Why was this refined, older gentleman , a father of a daughter, ex-guardian of the nations skies,  listening to adolescent boys carrying erotic made-up tales about teenage girls? Didn’t he have any common sense to know what is true and what is false? Does he know that talking normally  in an almost empty hallway/building , when there was no electricity, would be loud without the hum of the 100s of electronic equipment? Does it need a telling-off?  Was it even appropriate to scream at girls about their character based on a rumour and how is it related to talking in a hallway? Now, we needed to get out of the college with a ‘Good Conduct certificate’ signed by that man to graduate . So yes, we were kind of cornered, so we endured it. He would have continued his angry rant if I had not started crying after about 10 minutes of that rant. Oh! how I hate myself for crying.  I was crying out of uncontrollable anger on the injustice and and helplessness that I couldn’t scratch his face off.

And then there was this other man a few years later who said that he will destroy me, crush me , ruin my life if he so chooses. It was just a matter of his choice he said when no one was around.  I did nothing to deserve that aggressive threat. “Really, you did nothing?” I can hear someone asking. I can also hear some women say that they believe me. I did nothing more than what Kitty did when she accidentally crossed paths with a species way different from her own. I walked away from him , without even uttering a word, with the grace of a grown up cat on a high compound wall, above reach from the snarling dog below. However coolly I walked away, it was like walking on a high-razor-wire . One misstep is all it can take to plunge to ruin. By this time, I had learned not to cry…to control that anger, channel it, trap it like molten lava in the Earth’s belly.

We continued to love and care for Jimmy after she murdered Kitty. “It’s her nature”, my dad said: “She’s just a dog. What can you expect”. But it was our fault, we never put Jimmy on a leash. No negative feedback loop to discourage unwarranted aggression. So if you can’t help but  love one of these human ‘Jimmys” in spite of fully knowing their ‘nature’, I empathize with you. I understand that a man is more than his gender bias or moments of stupidity. But the lowest moments are how people are judged. Like Bill Clinton. Did I hear someone snicker ? So for all of your sakes you need to  put a leash on him and do something to prevent such aggression. Else you are equally guilty.

I’m  attempting to convert this smouldering anger into a constructive force hoping that by writing about this, at least one person who reads this recognizes and stops their negative behaviour /gender bias or if you witness such incidents to “pick up a leash”. Or if you are cornered like Kitty, know that you need to act ferociously. The incidents I have mentioned are just two of a longer list. The reason I picked these two is because both were senior citizens with a solid standing in society with enough life experience, and had  raised a daughter of their own.  Pillars of society. Yet, they showed bias and aggression towards another man’s daughter with little to no provocation.

I want to say this to all those men, who thought they had me cornered: Just because you are roaming around in society freely, respected, loved, just like my dog Jimmy, doesn’t mean I was afraid or will ever be afraid of you. I would continue to be cautious around you for sure…as I would be with any rabid dog on the street.

Chennai High Court – Do you know how to spell DEMOCRACY ?

A bunch of people , men and women of various ages, who subscribe to a political ideology in a democratic nation (Chennai, India) decide to perform a symbolic act , the removal of the mangalsutra/Thali, to support the emancipation of women in a patriarchal society . No one was hurt or could possibly be hurt in that event.

What’s the big deal? Let this tiny fraction of the society do what they want to do and go home. You watch their event on TV or don’t watch it. You agree with them or don’t agree with them. You do what you want to do. Maybe organize an event to counter that symbolic gesture to promote your culture. Simple..Right? That’s how democracy works. Right?

Apparently not. Well, another group of people’s sentiments were hurt…that is a big deal. You see this “sensitive group of people” , the guardians of ‘Indian Hindu Culture’ as they call themselves , can’t tolerate freedom of someone else’s expression.

I understand such zealous-fanatical-about-culture entities  exist in our society….but the High Court? What were the Justices thinking? Or rather were they thinking?

Here’s some news coverage on this issue:
The Times of India articles says:

At a special sitting that began at 8.15am, the Madras HC reversed an earlier order and stayed DK’s programme. A bench comprising Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M Venugopal said fundamental rights, freedom of speech and expression along with freedom to assemble peacefully could not be exercised if it destroyed the fabric and ethos of Indian culture, and caused law and order problems. The sitting was held in Justice Agnihotri’s residence. The bench gave its order at around 9am.”

Is the High Court bipolar? Give approval for the event one day. Revoke it the next day!

So if a criminal, with enough proof to be sentenced to death, has a bunch of goons who can cause law and order problems if they don’t like the verdict , will he or she be sentenced to prison one day and set free the next day?

Do they really understand what true Indian culture is ? Know that Hinduism is a tolerant religion ?

Someone please submit a petition to the High Court, that Indian men in Tamil Nadu are hurting  Hindu/Indian sentiments and destroying the fabric and ethos of Indian culture by walking around in western wear…by not wearing the traditional Indian dress of Dhoti. By not wearing the Metti. By not wearing the thilak/namam on their forehead. Will the high court then order all men to dress as per Indian tradition?Overriding their personal freedom to wear what they want?

No more of this western ‘Hindu/culture eroding’ dress:
Only this Outfit embracing true “Hindu/Indian culture”

Justices and people of India, please remember India is a ‘DEMOCRACY’ not  ‘ D  E M O C R A Z Y’.

#BringBackOurGirls

It’s been a year!  A year since 200 or so girls were kidnapped from their school in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Of all the tragic anniversaries that gets marked in history, this too will be remembered.  In most tragedies though, the victims are dead and the only resolution is retribution or the pursuit of justice. In this  tragedy though , there are kidnapped girls out there still hoping that they will be rescued.  And that somehow makes it more tragic …to think something can be done yet to see nothing happen.

While women are fighting for equal pay and other social equality rights in developed nations there are women in the rest of the worlds still fighting the ancient enemy: religion.  Is the Nigerian government and the International community thinking, “Well, the girls are alive. Just suppressed. Forced to marry under the threat of being killed. Forced to live under the benevolence of a violent man. But alive and obviously fed. So why is that a big deal?”. I wonder if the inaction is due to international politics, logistics of fighting the enemy or just that they are ‘only girls’?

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/14/africa/nigeria-kidnapping-anniversary/

I wrote a piece few months ago in “Prayer” ….forcing a happy ending in fiction …It’s time to start pushing for that Happy ending in real life. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls .

My thoughts on ‘My choice’ – Women’s empowerment

Recently I watched the controversial video by Indian actress Deepika Padukone and Vogue Magazine to ‘Empower Women’. The bold assertions in the video has been stirring controversies and men/women alike have criticized the video. On first view, I too felt that the message did not really help Women’s empowerment because of some lines that jarred my sensibilities.
To understand what exactly was causing my strong pro-feminist side to falter , I had to do some soul-searching and analyse the message line by line. My thoughts are in brackets [ ]
transcript of the film

My body, my mind, my choice

To wear the clothes I like; even if my spirit roams naked

My choice; to be a size 0 or a size 15

[Yes, break those stereotypes of size 0 model…So many young women have body image issues… great message!]

They don’t have a size for my spirit, and never will

To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe that you can halt the expansion of the universe

Or capture sunlight in the palm of your hand

Your mind is caged, let it free

My body is not

Let it be

My choice

To marry, or not to marry

[I’m 1000% with the message so far]

To have sex before marriage,

to have sex out of marriage,

or to not have sex

[My thoughts   for ‘before marriage’ – please understand the consequences of this choice

for ‘out of marriage’ – Marriage has an implicit promise of fidelity. Unless there is a clear open agreement between the spouses on expectations of fidelity ..this message is wrong. Some men are exercising this choice today without much societal disapproval. We need to change the society to treat both male and female infidelity(when it breaks a promise to someone) the same…not encourage it or sanction it for women

for ‘not to have’ – Again, setting expectations before starting a relationship with someone is wise.  ]

My choice

To love temporarily, or to lust forever

My choice

To love a man, or a woman, or both

Remember; you are my choice, I’m not your privilege

[this above line seems to have upset some males…maybe “You are ALSO my choice as I’m your Choice ” may explain the message better. But it does not go with the poetic theme..as someone who struggles to make things rhyme/sound poetic…I understand the need to keep it brief. And Men like to have Privilege..how dare you take it away Deepika? That’s so feminist of you! ]

The bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to mine, they’re all ornaments and can be replaced

My love for you cannot, so treasure that

[Totally 2000% with the message]

My choice; to come home when I want

Don’t be upset if I come home at 4am

Don’t be fooled if I come home at 6pm,

[As someone who has waited for my spouse..without having an expectation of when he would be home…and experiencing the angst and worry it caused …. I can’t accept this message. Just because many males are already exercising this choice does not mean women should mimic this disrespectful choice that men make. We need to encourage  healthy relationships where one understands that their choice “to come home when I want’  is at the cost of their spouse’s choice and changes their behaviour to at least give an Estimated Time of Arrival.

With that said, there are some males who expect ‘their’ women to be home by a certain time without understanding the legitimate delays that they may encounter at work etc.. and in those cases…yes..It’s your choice!]

My choice; to have your baby or not

To pick you from 7 billion choices or not

[this has some males angry…”what she gets to pick…there are 6 billion 999 million others? “…I hear them say. “I also have a choice to not pick you”,they say in a spoof.

Do you know how many girls in India have been attacked with acid for rebuffing romantic advances from a male who made her ‘his choice’? Google it and see…

Acid throwing and murder are extreme cases. But most men ,when their romantic advances do not work out, get verbally abusive. It’s interesting to see their “love” turn to “she thinks too much of herself” hatred in a matter of minutes when they hear the word “no”

]

So don’t get cocky

My pleasure might be your pain

My songs, your noise

My order, your anarchy

Your sins, my virtues

My choices are like my fingerprints

They make me unique

I am the tree of the forest

I am the snowflake not the snowfall

You are the snowflake

Wake up

Get out of the shit storm

I choose to empathise

Or to be indifferent

I choose to be different

I am the universe

Infinite in every direction

This is my choice

[None of the above lines attack any men – it just says I have my perspective and it’s as valid as yours how ever different they may be]

Overall I think the message was great. The few lines about sex and ‘coming home when i want’ was too radical for the Indian population…and it deflected the beauty of the rest of the message.
“Why write about this?…everyone is writing about it..be different”….someone asked me…I said, “It’s my choice”.
Note: Somehow the fonts sizes of the various paragraphs were messed up when I pasted the draft from another word processor. It was not intentional and I’m still getting used the WordPress editor.

On the Road often travelled ….to the library

I was drawn to this book by the catchy title and book cover at the library. Yes, I judge books by it’s cover, too.
 
When I don’t judge the book by it’s cover, which is most times, I read the blurb/synopsis to decide if I want to explore it further. If the blurb does not convince me fully, I randomly read pages to see the author’s writing style to decide if I want to take the book home and spend precious and finite time on it.
 
“Why such selectivity, hesitation?”, you may ask and say , “Its just a book. Especially when borrowing from a library there is no material investment. Just put it down if you don’t like it”. That’s because of my almost obsessive compulsive need to finish a book that I bring home and start to read. When I start a book, I treat it like a promise I made to the author, that I will listen/read to the end and hear him/her out fully. A promise that no one can or does enforce, except me.
 
This quirky trait of mine has led to moments , where I curse my commitment to an author I have never seen(and may never see)  and soul-searching wondering what stops me from putting the book down….and moments where I am glad that I stuck to the end without which I would have missed that gem of a book.
 
In that way, this book “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage” by Japanese author “Haruki Murakami” tested my commitment at times but didn’t disappoint me at the end. The story is about the loss of friendship , especially one from the formative years before adulthood, and the impact on one’s psyche. It’s about the passage of time that shows how it changes us in many ways and doesn’t change us in other ways.
 
A personal anecdote … my husband has the habit of asking me while I’m immersed in a book, interrupting me mid-flow in reading , “How is the book? Is it really good. You are so engrossed”. I don’t know if it’s Murphy’s law or something…he always seems to pick those moments while my commitment is being tested.
 
It maybe Murphy’s law or maybe that’s because I have branched off from the road often travelled and been pushing myself to read a variety of genres and authors of different ethnicity and other boundaries. A conscious decision to stay out of my comfort/pleasure zone of reading that I find myself testing my resolve nowadays, all the time. And that leads me to the next book by Noble Prize for Literature winner (in 2014) Patrick Modiano: “Missing Person” translated from French to English by Daniel Weissbort.
 
 
This book by Modiano makes me crave a book club group to sit down and discuss. To ensure that I understood the author…and to see what I missed…hear what others explain. The story is about an amnesiac who is trying to discover his true identity in post war France. The perfect plot for a good thriller/mystery/novel where you expect a climatic end …but wonder as you get to the end of the book if some pages where ripped off at the end , denying you the chance to get closure.
I wondered why the author got a Nobel prize in Literature and if the Nobel judges where in a Amsterdam ‘coffee shop’ when they made the decision…. And then it sinks in a day or two later when your sub-conscious, your better half of your brain, processes it…the author wants to evoke the same sense of drifting and non-closure that the main character is dealing with….We become the protagonist losing ourselves in the fog. Very clever indeed!
 
The author doesn’t explicitly tell us about the scars that the Nazi occupation has left on France with the gory details and the heart break of its victims and spectators…but it’s there in the backdrop ..in the words unspoken. Just enough references to the time line of the events that we fill in the details from our memory of history. The book seems like an allegory for the amnesia of an entire population that survived the Nazi occupation who either chose to forget or are afraid to remember. Again very subtly clever.The Nobel prize for literature grantor/judges did know what they were doing!
 
All that darkness from the above books..maybe I should delve into something lighter. Grey maybe….according to this author there are about 50 shades of them. I’m talking about the best selling book by E.L. James of the ’50 Shades of Grey Trilogy. I read the first of the Trilogy. I had to if I wanted to understand what buzz was all about. 
 
This series is about a handsome ultra rich young man meeting a not very attractive woman and they have apple pie a lot. On almost every page they have apple pie ,sometimes while sitting , while standing ,while trapezing under a circus tent, sometimes with a spoon , at times with a fork, several times right after eating one whole pie and washing the dirty dishes they start having apple pie all over again. Only twist the man asks the woman to sign a contract that she will have apple pie with him whenever and where ever and however he wants. (‘Having apple pie’ is an euphemism here ….and if you think I exaggerate read the book!)
 
And then I started the second one: Fifty shades darker. To see what else can be written on the story. Now this is one book, I returned to the library half-read. Well I skipped to the end and read the last chapter. I may have missed reading about 20 to 30 orga…sorry pages but I’m sure I got the gist of the story. If you are wondering why I broke my promise to the author I assure you it’s not because I don’t like apple pie.
 
Its because I couldn’t stand the subliminal message that the book sent …that all women want in life is a handsome , rich and young guy who:
– showers them with gifts somehow divining what exactly she likes and wants..
– protects them from nefarious characters ,
– is vulnerable , needs her emotionally and pursues her with religious fervour
…yes the list goes on…
-has a dead mother who is not a saint
-has an adopted mother and father who adore his choice of bride  and are so grateful to her for choosing their adopted billionaire son.
– wants to marry her and live happily ever after faithfully.
Wait I forgot ..
-an ex girl friend who is so evil that the devil will look like an angel in comparison.
One more..
– who bosses over her.
How could I not mention this last detail …
a man having an unending supply of apple pie.
 
If all men were like the hero of this story until they die then Pfizer (the pharma company) would go bankrupt (the little blue pill they make gets them billions in revenue).
 
Somehow continuing to read the book was like breaking my unarticulated promise to those millions of women before me ,who worked hard for what women really need: respect , equality, to be able to have an education, have a career , to innovate and compete in this world , to stand on their own two feet head held high….and be recognized for their accomplishments… The promise that their efforts and sacrifice would not be in vain. The book helped me realize how the ridiculous ‘wants’ of some women and the stereotypes that they propagate jeopardises the ‘needs’ of women.
 
Maybe I also put the book down because it held up a mirror to show that I’m guilty of at least wanting some of those listed ‘wants’….I will leave it to you to guess what those are…

Note:

I was inspired to write about the books I read by a fellow blogger who holds an “around the world reading challenge” where we need to write about at least 6 books by authors across the globe. Her blog and those who post their book reviews on her site provides a lot of suggestions for good books. Here’s the link to those interested:

——-

Photo credits: All the pictures of the book covers were taken from Amazon.com. Not sure who exactly it’s copyrighted to here..let’s say safely that it’s copyrighted by the respective authors.