The diary of an Indian feminist


I have wanted to pen this post for a very long time…as long as a year, really. There have been pent up feelings, frustrations and thoughts that have steadily built up over the months but I have kept them away from this blog. Those of you familiar with my blog would remember my tongue-in-cheek post, ‘20 Reasons Why I Love Being a Girl’ and the furor it created after being dissected and misinterpreted by a fellow blogger. Now, I do understand her anger and motivation in selecting that post for analysis but the result went against intention. That is why; I have stalled till I was absolutely sure and had an objective view about the topic as well as enough examples (you will know what I am talking about soon). So there it is, folks; this is going to be an emotionally charged post. If you want to run, do so now, after all feminism in India is a tear-jerking affair.

I am a feminist and a pretty vocal one at that. I believe that India will develop only through empowerment and emancipation of its women. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I came out of the feminism closet (if I may use the term). There were many events and people who prompted this enlightenment but most important of all reasons must be my realization that if we women don’t speak up and help ourselves, nobody will. It was also a gradual realization that everybody wasn’t as open-minded as my family and that women outside my close circle were fighting abuse and inequality on a daily basis. Maturity and age did help me see that everything was not hunky dory and that I had to fight for my kind in every way possible. A change in scenery and society aka London also was an eye opener to the plight of Indian women. A year and a half in a society where women did not have to face eve teasing or curbed freedom and I knew I would not keep quite anymore.

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Now, I am not saying that western society has no vices but we do have a lesson to learn from them about treating women with respect. After all, a society is as good as the respect given to its women. Heck, even some developing countries in South East Asia have better gender equality than India!

I had not realized there was a feminist in me till some events that I am going to elaborate happened. I have been called a ‘man-hater’, crazy woman and one guy (a friend) went on record saying that if his girlfriend or wife talked like me he would definitely dump her! Other than rethinking the quality of my friends, it saddens me that educated, modern and well to do young men talk with such utter disregard to gender sensitivity. There is a need to educate young men and women of our country to change the patriarchal mindset that is dragging our country down and restricting inclusive development. The youth are our best bet. If we don’t mould them now, it will be too little too late for India’s women.

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Now when I say gender insensitivity I do not just mean the violent rape, acid attacks and eve teasing that happen every passing day in the country. Much has been written and debated about them; a not-so-effective law has been brought into existence (leaving out marital rape & army rape which defeats the purpose of the Bill). The more urgent and common citizen’s duty at this juncture is to sensitize men and women on ‘soft’ issues that law makers or Government agencies cannot do on their own. There is no dearth of laws and rules to check violence or discrimination against women in India. Our problem unlike other societies is that the patriarchal, misogynistic culture in the sub-continent renders most of these laws ineffective. Dowry related harassment, workplace harassment, eve-teasing, objectification, unfair treatment; name it and we have it. You just have to skim through this page to see the magnitude of violence women are subjected to in India. http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=791408.

That is why, the mindset of our society that worships goddesses but victimizes real women has to change. So I’m listing some of these ‘soft’ issues that we, the youth, need to address and quick.

  1. Somebody told me “Women neglect their career after marriage and are responsible for their restricted freedom and financial dependency”.
    I thought the guy was making a joke when I first heard this. Remember, I was a young thing living in a world where loved ones had protected me against harsh comments and views, including those against my gender. So naively, but out of genuine curiosity, I asked him to elaborate. The explanation from him and other yuppie chauvinists was an eye opener that pushed me a step closer to becoming convinced that everything was not right with my world. Some of the arguments they used were: women misuse marriage to settle into a comfortable nonchalance about their career and to slack at work after having kids. I tried explaining very politely that certain types of Indian families ask girls to not work after marriage and many women voluntarily quit their jobs to run the household or mind the children for which the husband gives little or no support. All I got in response for bringing out the patriarchal problem was that life was much simpler when women were not working!
    Solution: Instead of blaming the woman (on top of everything else) of neglecting her career after marriage, why can’t men take equal share of the household work? Why should the woman bear the brunt of the system that raises men to put their legs up and watch TV at home in the evening while their wives slog in the kitchen after putting in eight or more hours of office work? This becomes very important if we consider how HR departments of companies look at the issue in the same way. Believe me, I work in a corporate setup and I have seen married women colleagues suffer stress if they juggle and guilt if they concentrate on their career. This is also one of the main reasons for the dismal number of senior women executives in Indian boardrooms.

    Remind me again why we need feminism

    Remind me again why we need feminism

  2. The ‘women are the weaker sex & should be protected’ syndrome.
    We come across this kind of chauvinistic behavior day in and day out, in real life and reel life.  You see, as one of the tweeple I follow effectively argued, these chauvinists can never see a woman as an individual and have to assign the role of a sister, mother or daughter to justify their righteousness in ‘protecting’ their ‘honour’. It is an irony that these are the same elements that treat women like livestock or kitchen maids.
    Solution: Leave us alone! Teach the women around you that they don’t need to be protected and that they are capable of doing it alone. Meanwhile teach the men that crucial something called respect and that honour doesn’t lie between a woman’s legs.254936_620275797987031_326727205_n
  3. A friend’s girlfriend told him that she will not change her surname after marriage and he flew into a self-righteous rage. Now again, this is a twenty-something, highly-educated, well-to-do couple that we are talking about. This is one instance that proved to me without doubt that being educated does not necessarily mean that the individual is civilized! My advice that his girlfriend was first an individual and had every right to decide on her surname was met with cold stares by guys and girls alike who suggested that she should join his surname to her already existing one. When I said that this wasn’t really necessary, I was told that people like me were responsible for Indian culture dying a slow death.
    Solution: Seriously, what’s in a name?!549995_621885947826016_1779928663_n
  4. The fact that in the fight to equality, women increasingly imitate men and do not think about becoming better than them.Sometimes I feel that the entire debate for women’s rights is skewed with women not recognizing their unique abilities and blindly imitating men and being satisfied with the outcome. Often, we forget our uniqueness and pander to what the patriarchy dictates, aka grab the few bones that the very system in question tosses at us.  It is the same rationale that makes men say “We are all for emancipation of women but you can’t/shouldn’t do that”. It is the idea at play when a man or a woman calls a feminist (male or female) a man-hater or expects a woman to bow to societal roles.
    Solution: Have ambition, ladies(like one of the tweeple who made this argument said)! Do not let the society bring you down.  No, I am not asking you to hiss and rant. All I am asking you to do is to hold your own and not allow anybody to dictate what and what not your gender allows you to do. And all you gents out there; understand and support this and the world will definitely be a better place to live in. Remember, it is all about mutual respect.598645_622363474444930_319751020_n

In summation: Right from sexist comic strips to item numbers and bollywood Dabangness to advertisements, there is a growing need for young men and women in India to wake up to the realities of the Indian gender disparity and do our bit towards improving the situation.  We don’t need to jump thorn fences or cross hell fire; just respect the women around you and do not cut off their access to basic rights or opportunities. Out of respect and equality will stem a new ‘developed’ India free of the shackles of gender violence. This, my friends, will be the India that can be called a superpower.

P.S: Not all feminists are ‘man-haters’. There are many of us who haven’t given up hope yet. 🙂

All images in this post are from Gotstaredat. Follow them on FB/Twitter to support the cause.

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That Day of the Year


 

A day in a year I have for my own

and that is a good thing I was told

A day to celebrate my identity

and to be wished prosperity

by people who don’t otherwise care

and are blind to all my flair

It is that day of the year again,

when loosened are the binds of the chain

A day when posters go up on the wall

and my kind are added to fame’s hall

Stories are written with showers of praise

bestowed on us and the challenges we face

But I tell you, there is not enough reason to celebrate,

unless one day equality does reverberate

For it is not the same as being a man I am told

and the same holds true for the young and the old

History has enough examples you say

as if history has ever been fair play

Quit making rules, I can do it on my own

I have the power to think and don’t need to be told

I will fight, fight to hold my own

Because I am what I am, the power, a woman

I wish you would see that there is more to me

and a day in a year would not suffice you see

-Pallavi

Ten ideas for a better India


I came across a contest on HarperCollins India for Ten ideas for the next twenty years of India and was tickled enough to bring out my own list, but after completion I realised that mine were not ‘ideas’ but what I thought were catalysts for change. So instead of submitting the list to the contest, I have posted it here. Feel free to comment, debate and share your ideas.

1. Pass the Lokpal Bill

Self-explanatory. The biggest problem our country filled with potential is facing is graft and political anarchy. I take the liberty of calling it anarchy because a nation run by money-laundering rascals, misogynists and religious criminals with no vision or desire to serve the people is fit to be called anarchy (and I do not single out any political party here. One is worse than the other).

2. Treat eve-teasing as a criminal offence awarded with heavy fine or imprisonment

This includes self-appointed moralists who take it upon themselves to beat up women because they do not fit their bill of ‘Indian culture’. It’s high time someone taught these bastards some culture. A heavy fine and imprisonment might go a long way in curbing the animalistic, sex-deprived street behaviour of Indian men and give women the courage to lodge complaints.

3. Make rape and marital rape non-bailable offences awarded with life imprisonment and revealing a rape victim’s identity a criminal offence

Rape laws in India are chauvinistic at best and so moderate a hardened rapist could easily slip through their grasp. A tough sentence could act as a deterring force.

4. Make sex-education compulsory in all schools

I cannot stress this enough. The moral police could go fly a kite in the filth of their own ignorance and patriarchal tribal values.

5. Make it impossible for a candidate with criminal records to contest elections and set a minimum educational bar of a graduate degree to contest state and national assemblies

Education does not mean knowledge but it does go a long way in opening up the mind to the world and better representation of an emerging India.

6. Introduce a benefit scheme for small-time farmers and BPL families providing them a (realistic) monthly package of money/ration and free education for the children

This might have been thought of and implemented ‘on paper’ but it’s time India tagged along the poorest of the poor and the farmers who feed us on the path of progress and of course their children have a birth-right to education. Considering the amount of tax payer’s money being hoarded in Swiss banks, we can afford this.

7. Implement a ‘One child only’ rule

Controversial, yes; against individual rights, yes but it’s the need of the hour if India has any hope of limiting the population explosion.

8. Build world-class training facilities for rural, athletic and national sports (basically all other sports side-lined by cricket) in every district

Refer to my post India at the London Olympics

9. Build enough public toilets or provide portable loos and make public-urination and littering an offence that will be heavily fined

Self-explanatory. It’s time we stopped ignoring the mess around us and got working.

10. Metro links in all Tier 1 cities, High speed rails connecting the country with on-board loos that do not open on to the tracks

Yes, Indian Railways is a profit-making entity and operates a huge fleet but if you think about the population Vs transport infrastructure ratio we are way behind optimal facilities. And the loos well, haven’t we all pinched our noses shut within a kilometre radius of railway tracks?

Now I am well aware that this list does not cover everything that can be done for a better India. I have not mentioned the dire need for us to stop being IT service slaves of the West and the need for entrepreneurship (but you can read my thought on the topic here) or Caste and Religious issues or environmental concerns. I would also like to write in length on gender inequality and women’s issues in our country in another post, another day, till then I think this will do.  Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

What Independence Day means to me


As the nation celebrates its 65th ‘tryst with destiny’ I cannot feel the pride and happiness coursing through my veins as it had for all these years. I just feel fear, hopelessness and frustration. 65 years and we have only achieved half of what we could have if we had wholeheartedly committed ourselves to development and efficient use of the country’s considerable resources.

My countrymen are more worried about protecting their religion and culture, even if it means beating up women on the streets and pointing fingers at other communities at the slightest provocation. (Just read all the comments below the story. Girl gang-raped by 8 men, dumped near Agra highway) The politicians are only worried about filling their deep pockets and getting re-elected even if it means looting the tax payers money. Massacres have been committed for the sake of religion; education & healthcare are a joke in rural India and politics has become a dirty word. If Mahatma Gandhi had seen a glimpse of this India, he would have suffered a heart attack!

It worries me that we are oblivious to our potential as a country and choose to accept all these significant hazards to the nation’s growth as a part of life. Did the clerk at the Tashildar’s office ask for a bribe? Well that’s how the system works. Is the public transport a mess? Adjust karo. Did the police refuse to take down your complaint against marital rape? It’s your fault that you are not doing your duty as a wife! I am tired of all the explaining away we do to stay in the comfort zone. Its time we stopped adjusting!

So this Independence day I will mourn for an India that could have been. The history that could have been written, the progress that could have been made. I am not a cynic… just a hurt citizen who is afraid my country will go to the dogs. Period.

Also read Being Indian: Independence by a fellow blogger.

India at the London Olympics


London 2012 has been the best Olympics ever for India. With a total of six medals – two silver and four bronze – India has put its best foot forward this Olympics. Why am I, a non-sports enthusiast blogging about this? Well, this last week has been a very proud one for me.  As an Indian student in London I have had some very special moments this Games when my country bettered its records and gave me a reason to walk with my head held high.

Biggest ever Indian contingent at the Olympics 2012

I have seen the stupendous support and sponsorship that the British home team has received in the lead up to ‘the Games’ as it is called here. In addition to the world class training facilities, this kind of support and fanfare has gone a long way in ensuring success for the team. When I juxtapose this with the kind of luke-warm response India gives for any sport other than cricket, it doubles the respect I have for the Indian athletes who pursued and gave their best shot at various non-cricket sports. These athletes who are pretty much overshadowed by the cricket craze gripping India making it neglect its own national game, have given me a reason to stop and think what cricket and its commercialisation has done to Indian sports! A couple of articles I found that voice my thoughts on the subject.  Cricket, Cricket, Cricket! Why? , How cricket has killed other forms of sport , Why Just Cricket?

This post is a dedication to all those athletes who represented India at the Olympic Games and the six who won even in the face of inconsistent judging and bias.

Gagan Narang_Men’s 10m Air rifle bronze medallist

Mary Kom_Women’s 51 Kg boxing Bronze medallist

Vijaykumar_Men’s 25m rapid fire silver medallist

Saina Nehwal_Badminton Women’s singles Bronze medallist

Yogeshwar Dutt_Men’s 60kg Freestyle wrestling Bronze medallist

Sushil Kumar_Men’s 66 Kg Freestyle wrestling silver medallist

And a pic of the cute little mascots, Wenlock & Mandeville in Diary milk chocolate to celebrate the victory 😀 (and they tasted yum).

Wenlock & Mandeville

It has been an amazing experience to be here in London during the Games and watch the lead up to it and the whole event up close and personal. When I made the decision to take a year and a half of sabbatical from work and move to the UK for a Writing degree this was something I had not considered but now that I have seen the Games in its entirety, I can only say Woah… What an experience! 🙂 I was lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. 🙂

When CROOKS rule us!


During the past few days I have frequently wondered on the doomsday Karnataka is fast heading to. No this is not in any way connected to the movie 2012 which seems to have the people believing that the end of the world is near! Sigh! (And I used to think the majority of the general public was sensible! Double Sigh!)

Anyways resuming my soliloquerie; the abyss the state is descending to seems to be more dangerous than the journey itself. Karnataka sold….! That too to crooks-money mongers who do not give a damn about the state, its people or its welfare! Did I just say welfare? Ha ha ha ha do these people even care about a word such as welfare! These so called mining lords who are concerned about nothing but making their already thick pockets thicker!

Why I have a problem with the entire scenario: (No am not a supporter of the BJP but a firm believer in democracy and societal law & order)

1.The brothers in question and a close associate have shaken the basic premise of democracy. By challenging a governmental head constitutionally voted by the people of the state, the trio with their band of equally shameless and money hungry MLAs have tried to stand taller than the people’s will-the foundation of a democracy. Being a part of the government in question and leading a coup against it is the greatest breach of trust to be committed especially when such a coup is fuelled by a thirst for power and arrogance in one’s wealth.

2.The coup is strongly related to the restrictions being contemplated on the illegal mining activities in the ore rich district of Bellary. In the process the crooks in question whisked away the elected MLAs from their constituency for days, that too in a time when many of the constituencies needed their MLAs the most for flood relief work to be implemented. While people suffered, these MLAs enjoyed and relaxed in a resort in Hyderabad! Hyderabad! That’s my 3rd point.

3.The ultimate insult-the coup decamped after setting the Karnataka government on fire to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh! The Reddys who even after living in Karnataka, eating the ‘salt of the land’ as old timers may call it and after raping the ore rich lands and forest cover in Bellary (a lot of it illegally) and making money out of it, still hold strong ties with their mother state. It is even believed they wield considerable political power in A.P. Rule Karnataka and benefit A.P seems to be their maxim.

Now for the PJ, the front page of a newspaper carried a ripping revelation from one of the MLAs involved in the coup. The MLA allegedly said “We (the MLAs involved in the coup) are here in Hyderabad to plan for the development of Andhra Pradesh”!!!!!! Ha ha ha har har har this coming from an elected representative from KARNATAKA! The F@#%ing B@$#!%d probably does not even know where his line of duty lies! Sad! Maybe that explains why Karnataka lies where it is!!! The capital of which has Kannadigas at a crying minority and the state government writhing at the hands of the ‘Reddys’! Of course my blood boils!

4.Social stigma ousted a woman out of power. This is how I would describe the ire directed at Shobha Karandlaje in the midst of all this drama. Fine, the CM who is another crook trying to retain his footing among a hoard of bigger and greedier crooks had a soft corner for her! Agreed, she usurped the power of other male (chauvinist) ministers to become the CMs right hand. But the way the only woman in the cabinet was thrown out to satisfy the male ego left me feeling disgusted! That too when the peace maker in this case from the BJP high command was a woman!

5.Last but not the least, the irresolution of the BJP leaders in the centre to overthrow dissidence and give the CM the much needed support, not because he deserves it but to stop Karnataka being sold to ‘corrupt to the core’ worms who call themselves politicians! The irresolution of the central leaders of the BJP has left the government crippled for the rest of its life-god knows how long it is! Not only has it rendered the govt a mere puppet at the hand of the @#%$#! but given encouragement to corruption, sin and havoc!

The hype created by the media in this case has done more harm than good. The media seems to be giving un-necessary visibility to the dissidents and their unashamed quest for power. (Not to mention the support in some of the Telugu media.

Atleast if the government had ordered a mass probe against the illegal mining in the ore rich districts instead of taking monetary support from the perpetrators themselves, we would not have had to face this situation today!!!! What can we do…only hope and pray for a better tomorrow and meanwhile bray out in our blogs and drawing rooms! And of course I forgot- think twice before selecting one crook over the other in the next elections.

Where is our Individuality?!


Ever wondered why every grown up you meet, keeps muttering under his/her breath how incompetent and lazy the youth of today are…!

Agreed that now YOU are muttering under your breath…… but just read on.

A few weeks ago I became an unwitting bystander for a hot discussion between two severe looking women in the bus stand at Tiger circle in Manipal. The conversation which had started with complaints of insensitive mannerisms of the present day youth, slowly shifted gears to become a debate on the lack of individuality in the youth of today.

Fingers were pointed, eyebrows puckered and venom was breathed. But after the whole breathless debacle that I witnessed until the bus arrived to ferry the ladies away, I felt a tiny germ of doubt starting to multiply slowly but steadily within my mind. Instead of feeling relieved for the peace that finally descended at the spot, for the first time I started doubting the capacity of my generation to think for ourselves.

For the first time in my life I felt myself agreeing with a showdown of the yester years’ generation criticising the present day youth. I started asking myself, why are we youngsters influenced so easily? Why can any random advertisers hold us in their sway? Worse still how easy is it for rebellious ideologies to take root in our minds?!!!

However much I want to disbelieve it, I keep finding examples to illustrate the sad fact of the youth failing to have individual opinions, either in my own behaviour or in my fellow comrades’.

One such example that keeps flashing before me of late every time I log onto orkut is a systematic but dangerous movement for a separate TULUNADU STATE, which is largely run by the net-literate youth in the Udupi and Mangalore region. Why do we want a tulu state in the 1st place?!

Will a separate state benefit the Tulu language and culture in any way? No. It will only aggravate regionalism and communalism in the state and the country if at all a tulu state is formed out of an area where so many languages, cultures and religions coexist.

Have the youth who propagate this movement forgotten that first and foremost we are all Indians, that it is our responsibility to protect our hard earned freedom and see to it that the country does not go to pieces. And any way the whole idea about a separate state for tulunadu is a political drama with political intentions.

What surprises me most is how easily the movement has re-surfaced stronger than ever, but with one major change- the political figures have now roped in youngsters to man the show. Youth have been exploited to strengthen the whole concept that was stamped out of the region a decade ago. The youth involved largely being in the age group of 15-30- many pursuing higher education in prestigious institutions- are supporting the whole ideology without thinking twice about it.

If you ever ask them whether this is the way to proclaim loyalty to tulunadu these youngsters usually shoot back saying that they are doing this in the better interest of their culture. I am often worried of how vulnerable our generation has become to blindly believe whatever is said by pompous politicians interested only in achieving electoral mileage.

If we cannot differentiate between what is truth and what is vested interest, where has our individuality gone?!!! Can’t we think and decide for ourselves… When will we start questioning the anti-social figures who try to mislead us into following them without second thoughts?!!! Do we want to become tools for these elements to succeed in their unpatriotic, vested interests? Start thinking guys…put on your thinking caps. Question your exploiters. Your questions might help build a strong nation.