The Saga of the Under Attack Feminist

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would keep teaching me about everything a girl should be – a girl should be softspoken, she should be modest, she should not have strong opinions and views, she should be extremely tolerant whatever the circumstances and protesting against injustice, what’s that(she still is the most beautiful memory of my childhood days because of the lovely summer memories she created for us). And today when she is no more and I am the exact antithesis of whatever she taught me, she must be squirming or finally she is proud of me?

On one side, I had my grandmother moulding me into her idea of a perfect woman(or wife) and on the other side I had my dad bringing me up to be a strong, self respecting woman who is the epitome of kindness but God help you if you mess with her. I guess dad’s upbringing had a heavier influence than my grandmother’s.

So I grew up to be a strong minded woman who knew what she wants in most things life and could not compromise on the things that most girls are asked to compromise on. In today’s 21st Century, if you are a woman with clear views and thoughts and if you set very clear standards for yourself, you are labelled a Feminist with a screwed up mouth making it sound like a dirty word. If you stand up for your rights and don’t let people mess with you or cross the lines, what are you? Yes, you guessed it right! The dirty word again.

I have been quite used to people calling me a feminist with their nose turned up like they have some dirty smell right under their nose. And I can smell those kind of people from far away. But then some people surprise(shock) you too. They preach about being modern, free thinking, broad minded and believing in equality. They gain your respect and you are truly impressed that here is the WOMAN/MAN of today. And one day they show you your true colours!

A few days back, I shared an article condemning the men who gang raped a woman who was out of her house in the night with her baby. She was in the auto when they threw the baby out of the auto and took the woman to a secluded area and gang raped her. Needless to say, the baby passed away.

Deeply saddened by the crime, I shared a sketch of the culprits that was released with a statement hoping that they are arrested. Most of the people had sad or angry reactions to what I shared.

Then a friend of mine totally opened my eyes to her. Till then, she had always come across to as someone who believed in the emancipation of women. But the truth was revealed to me that day. Her comment – While I deeply sympathize with her, I think she is at fault because she shouldn’t have gone out in the night alone with her baby especially since one truck driver had already tried to molest her. I asked her – how can you even say that? Does she even have to explain why she stepped out of her house or feel guilty about it? She says I agree with you and women’s freedom shouldn’t be restricted. I said – good, then let’s stick to that and not make statements like she shouldn’t have stepped out.

Then she messaged me and started writing a long saga about her ex-husband used to beat her up, yet she never left the house etc etc. I ignored her messages because there was no way I could justify her sentence to myself. Then two days later, she was probably miffed that I ignored her. So she messages me and says that I am far removed from reality and she labelled me as a ‘bra burning feminist’. I mustered up all my dignity and responded – I don’t wish to discuss this with you. Thanks.

So here is a modern 21st Century woman who escaped an abusive marriage with a daughter of her own and is now married to a wonderful loving man for which I am truly happy for her. Instead of fighting stereotypes and working towards a safe world where her daughter can move about freely, she is feeding the dangerous stereotypes where a man can strut about at any time of the day or night thinking that all women are things to be used and abused while women should lock themselves inside four walls to keep themselves from tempting the uncontrollable man. The bra-burning feminist rests her case here!!

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Anti-Romeo Squad – A Protective Act or a Restriction of Freedom

From the time the Modi government came into power, I have been a sceptic, completely sure that this government will not make a difference in people’s lives. It will be the same circle of false promises, hopes shattered and disappointment. I still am a sceptic, waiting and watching to see if the government lives up to the people’s trust.

One of the latest moves by the government that has people(especially the young people) scared and worried is the Anti-Romeo Squad started in U.P. We are automatically worried and concerned that it is a garb for harassing couples. I completely empathize with people’s concerns and worries. After all, we have had experiences of policemen harassing couples under the pretext of protecting women.

However, in this case, I feel things may be slightly different. From whatever I have read – the Anti Romeo Squad isn’t created to prevent interactions between girls and boys. I know that when we look at Yogi Adityanath, we perceive the kind of person who wants to take India back to the dark ages. But somehow, I beg to differ in this case. I may turn out to be wrong, but from what I have seen of his actions, his decisions after becoming CM have been based on the right thought process.

The Anti-Romeo Squad has been created with the thought process of making the cities safer for women. The thought behind it is a good and positive one. Yes, when I read up about the Anti-Romeo Squad, I did come across incidents where innocent young boys were harassed or young couples were troubled. However, there was one big difference that I noticed. Immediate action was taken against the police officers who harassed consenting couples or group of friends of mixed gender who were together. The officers were suspended. So, eventually this might turn out to be the step that will make U.P a safer place for women. We should give it a chance. Also, the squad has one male and one female officer, another difference from the past.

Now the important question asked in this topic. Should we stop the intermingling between boys and girls? Definitely not. We should encourage boys and girls to have healthy relationships based on respect and understanding. We should teach them to treat each other as people and not look at each other as members of the opposite gender.

A lot of the times, no make that all the time, children learn by following our actions, not by what we preach to them. How many men make sexist remarks about girls or women in the presence of their sons – making comments on their physical aspects, the clothes they wear or even their driving skills. If you preach to your son that he should respect women as individuals but behave in the opposite way, what do you expect him to learn? Similarly, if you teach your daughter to dress modestly, to behave in a certain way when going out with guys, you are drilling it into her that she is responsible for ensuring no guy treats her in the wrong way. We need to teach our boys that women have the right to dress the way they want to and if a woman is drinking at a party or if she has many guy friends, she is not a woman that they can play with.

Once again, children follow by example, not by preaching. So, if we want to have a healthy intermingling of young people from opposite genders, we need to practice what we preach and treat men and women(boys and girls) to see each other as people and individuals, not as someone from the opposite gender.

This post is written for the Indiblogger Indispire topic # 166

 

Religious Rituals – Are They Relevant

The latest Indispire topic on IndiBlogger had me thinking of somehow of the rituals that we as Indians blindly follow. Here are my pet peeves in Indian Rituals.

Fasting for a particular God:

We will fast and starve ourselves irrespective of our health conditions at that time for a specific God. We could be completely physically weak but we will not give up our fast. Since we are all God’s creations, which God will tell you to starve yourself in his or her name? And how are you of service to God with this silly fasting? If you want to do anything for God, go out and feed so many of his hungry children.

Arranged Marriage

All our life, we(especially girls) are advised to not talk to strangers but when it comes to reaching the so called marriageable age, we are expected to meet a stranger once and decide whether we want to spend our life with that person or not. And God forbid if a girl especially refuses a perfectly ‘eligible’ boy only because she can’t see her life partner in him. She’ll hear everything from ‘Who do you think you are?’ to ‘At this rate, you’ll never get married.’ What highlights a parent’s insecurity better than this?

Silly superstitions related to Marriage and Horoscope

According to Indian traditions, all the 36 characteristics of a couple should match as per the horoscope, otherwise they will be incompatible and lead an unhappy married life. So, here’s my question? Will all the characteristics matching guarantee a happy married life to me, no divorce, no problems after marriage? This question itself highlights the stupidity of this custom. In today’s times, where it is very difficult to find the right life partner, totally in love couples are separated because of horoscopes not matching, doesn’t matter if they have been happy together for years and years which leads to next pet peeve of mine.

Honour Killing

Yes, I know – honour killing normally happens when a guy and girl of the same Gotra marry each other. But it also happens sometimes in cases like the above mentioned case where their horoscopes don’t match. Now to come to the point of the same Gotra marriage. So a girl or a guy married someone who is of the same Gotra. So, their families decide to kill them and if it’s a village, it’s with the approval of the village panchayat(rule makers and local governing body of the village) Some of us will ask, what is Gotra? In Hindu society, the term gotra means clan. It broadly refers to people who are descendants in an unbroken male line from a common male ancestor, with the marriage within the same gotra being prohibited by custom, being regarded as incest. So a girl and a boy who belong to the same Gotra are considered as siblings. This doesn’t make sense again to me. The common male ancestor may be generations and generations removed from today, to me honour killing for Gotra or for any other reason is an inhuman act.

Donations at Temples

How many times have we been to temples and seen devotees standing with different kind of offerings in their hand and patiently waiting in line? To give those offerings to whom? To the stone statue inside. I go to temples too and I have no objection to paying respects to the God’s statue inside. But it is God’s statue, not God himself. It is a symbol of God. Who do you think enjoys those offerings? Yes, those fat-stomached so called Panditjis or Gurujis sitting inside the temples along with the other temple employees. Outside the temple, you’ll see a line of destitute people with no or bare minimum clothes. Why not feed them?

How many of us have seen the movie Ohh My God? There is this scene in the court where Paresh Rawal talks about seeing a host of devotees standing outside a temple, each with a jar of milk in their hands. He thinks, if there are so many people standing, then there must be a God inside who drinks the milk. Then he goes inside and sees, but there is no one drinking the milk. He sees the milk going out of the temple through a pipe and thinks there must be some God at the end of the pipe who drinks the milk, Again, he is surprised to see there is no one. He sees the milk going out of the temple into a dirty drain and at the end of the drain, he sees a poor man putting his mouth to the drain and drinking the milk. Paresh Rawal gives his jar of milk to the poor man. After drinking the milk, the poor man says, “May God Bless You”. I don’t need to add anything else.

Considering son as the name-carriers and the torch bearers of the family

We will commonly hear people saying even today that we need to have a son to carry the family name forward, even if they have 5 daughters. So they’ll continue having babies till they achieve the wondrous feat of having a son. So many evils because of one stupid belief – population overgrowth, poverty, lack of proper education for children because of too many kids and normally only one earning member. Then this belief leads to the two biggest evils – female infanticide and child marriage. A couple, in their desire of a child, will kill the baby when it’s born or kill the baby in the womb, if it’s a girl.

In India, it has been made illegal to know the gender of the baby before it is born for this reason. Even then in the small towns and villages, this continues. Then, even if the baby is allowed to be born and the parents keep having babies in their dream for a son, it leads us to the second evil – Child Marriage. In order to rid themselves of the burden of daughters, girls are married off at a tender age when they should be playing and studying.

As a country, we need to eradicate these evils to truly calls ourselves a developing country or a developed country.

 

 

 

Bloggers and Social Responsibility!

Pen is mightier than the sword! A very well known saying and so true and holds especially true for us bloggers. We can influence change, raise awareness of various issues being faced by the country and the world. Whether it is social issues like dowry, child marriage, injustices and politics, we can make a difference.

However, it is not where our responsibility stops! A lot of us endorse brands as paid projects or as a favour. Do you think we should endorse any brands or be very careful of the brands we endorse? I personally don’t endorse brands that are not socially, environmentally safe or brands that endorse social evils. For example, I stay away from endorsing brands that are known for testing their products on brands and also fairness products. Brands that cause environmental harm are a complete no-no for me. I would love to have the views of my fellow bloggers on this.

The Life of a left-handed girl in India

Today is World Left Handers Day and this is the perfect opportunity for me to share my experiences as a left handed person in India.

In India, it is not considered the norm to use your left hand instead of your right hand. I was a born leftie, a fact that my parents discovered when I was approximately 5-6 years old when my dad was trying to teach me to write. He kept trying to make me hold the pencil with my right hand and write and I just wouldn’t. After some time, he lost his patience, kept the pencil down and told me to write when I feel like and started to walk away. I calmly picked up the pencil with my left hand and started writing. That’s when it struck him that I am a leftie.

In those times in India, it was considered inauspicious for people to use their left hand to eat, write or any other activities which were normally done with the right hand. Today, things are a little different, but not at that time. My parents never tried to convert me from a leftie to a right handed person, especially my father who would say that he wouldn’t try to change me from what my natural habit is.

But I faced really tough times with other people. When I would go to the temple, when I would put my left hand forward for the prasad(a sweet dish which is the holy offering that is given to all the people visiting the temple), the priest would look at me like I had just desecrated the temple with my presence. For an innocent kid who didn’t understand what she did wrong, it was really upsetting. But I would still insist on taking the Prasad in my left hand.

We experienced this many times while visiting temples. One day, my dad couldn’t control himself. When the priest at another temple insisted on giving me the Prasad in my right hand, my dad said to the priest, ” The things that you do with your left hand, she does with her right hand. Do you still want to give her the Prasad in her right hand?” The priest was left speechless. I still laugh my heart out at the expression on the priest’s face.

In school too, I would be asked all kinds of weird questions on being a leftie as it was not the norm. Parents who would have children who were lefties would forcibly convert them to using the right hand, sometimes even resorting to beating them to make them convert – all because it was considered inauspicious.

I hope things are different now. If there are any parents who are still forcing their kids to convert to the right hand, please stop. It is not their natural instinct. You are also messing up the functioning of their brain. There is nothing inauspicious about it.

Pornography Ban in India

In the last 24 hours, a lot of conversations have been happening on the Internet and Social Media on the topic of 800 odd pornographic websites being banned in India. People were protesting all over the Internet against the ban. And there was only one question in my mind – what is wrong if these websites are banned? I agree that we are the country of Khajuraho and Kamasutra. But, for how long are people going to justify this as an excuse to support Pornography in the country?

I don’t buy this argument at all. What happened was centuries back. Why should anyone use that as an argument to support and promote something that’s degrading, humiliating and disgusting for a man or a woman? A lot of people may get a lot of pleasure out of it, but do we spare a thought for the people who shoot for these videos? Isn’t it humiliating for them but the only means of earning money(as they may feel)?

If this mode of earning money is not there, they may think of other options which are far more wholesome. Does anyone agree with me? There is one more aspect that we have completely ignored in our “RIGHTEOUS” fight for people’s rights. What about the videos that are shot without the consent or knowledge of so many couples through hidden cameras? So many such cases have come out into the open. Do we realise how humiliating it is for the unsuspecting couple, married or not?

If the government bans these porn websites, people will automatically develop a fear of visiting these websites and the demand will gradually stop. When there is no demand, will anyone bother to supply the same?

Oh and not to forget the hypocritical angle. I have heard countless number of derogatory comments against Sunny Leone for being a porn star. I have complete respect for her in being honest about it. We don’t mind watching and supporting porn, but we won’t have any qualms in insulting someone who has worked in them. I may be completely wrong in my views, but this is what it is.

As of now, the latest news is that the ban has been lifted from these websites after protests from people, except for the websites that had child pornography. While I am happy that we have a government that listens to its people when they protest against something, it is also raising a question in my mind – If what people watch is their choice, why isn’t it their choice to eat what they want? Why has a ban on beef been forced on people in Maharashtra? Is eating beef worse than watching pornography?

To conclude, I feel that porn videos, content and websites should be banned. These are strictly my personal views.

Murder of Free Speech

From childhood, I have been a very outspoken kid. Sometimes, my parents appreciated me for it, sometimes they didn’t like it but they never stopped me from speaking my mind. This trait is still the strongest part of my personality. I criticize the Government for the wrong actions they take, I stand up in support of causes I believe in irrespective of how many people disagree with me. But what it came to threat of my life? Would it quieten me? Probably not.

I am deeply saddened by the ruthless murder of three #BangaladeshBloggers in the last two years, the latest being atheist blogger Washiqur Rahman who was murdered for his views on religion. Religion is a personal choice and if you have a right to follow it, I have a right to criticize it without being answerable to anyone and definitely not being murdered for it. The other two bloggers were Avijit Roy and Rajib Haider.

All these cases have been murders in broad daylight, yet the auhorities are turning a blind eye to it. What kind of world are we building towards? If they did something that was against the law, then let law take its due course. And is your religion so weak that it can be threatened by someone speaking against it.

Why would anyone want to stay in a country where their safety is threatened because of having different views from other people? I see my country going the same way and it scares me. I don’t want to stay in an atmosphere of religious intolerance, lack of freedom of speech, no freedom of choice in what I eat and I don’t want my future generations growing up in this atmosphere. I want them to learn about their culture and rich history, but I also want them to be world citizens who accept all cultures, are open-minded, speak their minds and accept other people’s views too. Will they also face life-threatening situations because of that?

Let us come together and make our voices stronger and our solidarity greater in support of Rajib Haider, Avijit Roy and Washiqur Rahman and all those who are being slaughtered for speaking their minds!