Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why elitists like Deepika Padukone can never be a feminist icon?

To begin with, let me applaud Homi Adajania for this brave effort to portray the petrifying patriarchy existing in the Indian society. The message it carries is loud and clear. But why would I not buy it?

For an actress who was once the face of Garnier fairness cream, this is a message that confuses her fans and followers. She retorted to the same kind of publicity gimmick before her movie "Finding Fanny" when she had raised hell against the TOI newspaper for having published a picture of her cleavage. Elitist feminism as I call it. Who is even bothered to know what she feels about a woman's body and her choices? Her choices are solely based on the power of the moolah. Else why was it important for her to sue TOI for a provocative picture of hers during the time "Finding Fanny" was hitting the theatres, when a hundred times before that, she may have shown her skin, in the launch party of a movie or as a publicity stunt.
In her next "Happy New Year" she went about roving in the air, in skimpy clothes objectifying a woman's body. I was also terribly violated to hear the lyrics, which was out-rightly sexist.
Who can forget the garnier fairness cream advertisements? I've lost count of the number of times that her huge cut-outs of Garnier at the market have made me wanted to hide.
The movie would have packed a punch had a celebrity like Konkona Sen Sharma or Nandita Das endorsed it. I do not remember these women ever promoting fairness products or "size zero" to make money. I remember Konkona for being the petite Meenakshi Iyer in Mr. And Mrs. Iyer or for her realistic portrayal of an ambitious girl looking for freedom in "Life in a metro. I do not recall any advertisement of hers that might have endorsed fair skin, much like the Garnier advertisement.
Nandita Das is another kind of a woman. I will always thankfully remember her for launching the "Dark is beautiful" campaign, which got the racist Indians obsessed with Fair and Lovely, to think about inhuman and impossible standards of beauty that we shamelessly impose on women everyday, especially when in the "arranged marriage" market.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Digitally empowering the "Second sex" of the country #DigitalIndia

Digital India vision was launched by the Prime Minister of India with a mission to make essential services like medical care and education a reality, for people who don't have access to these basic facilities.
The mission has promised to transform India into a knowledge economy that will offer world-class services at the click of a mouse, through common service centres that will act as the delivery points for goods and services.
While I was beginning to write this post, a scene from the Bollywood movie "Three Idiots" was playing in my mind. Remember a heavily pregnant Mona Singh, Kareena Kapoor's elder sister seething in labour pain, and her father Prof.Sahastrabuddhi yelling at the ambulance service people for not reaching them on time. 
Enter our hero, who is a technology expert. Although the college director has thrown him and his friends out of the premises, he makes sure that he applies his technology expertise to help the Director's ailing daughter. What follows is a sequence that may have never been aired on the Indian movie screen ever. A group of three men helping a pregnant woman deliver a child.
On the other end and right on the edge is the heroine who can't reach her sister because of incessant rains and flooding. She is a doctor,and has an internet connection and a laptop and directs the hero and his friends to safely bring into this world her nephew. If not for the invention of the laptop or internet, our eyes would have never been treated to a scene that was until a few years ago, impossible to be presented to the Indian audience. I remember a lot of traditionally thwarted aunties who might have otherwise hushed and puffed, lauding the sequences by clapping and blowing kisses in the air. 
This is the story of a woman and her family, who could afford medical care, but couldn't get a reach to it, on time. If we were to replace a tee-shirt clad pregnant Mona Singh with a woman from one of the Indian villages battling the pains of labour, much like Mona she is not able to reach a hospital on time,  because the only hospital in her village is miles away from where she stays, then don't you think that this is a leaf from the real life diaries of real Indian women.
Digitizing our villages would cater to the needs of such women, who do not have provisions of basic health care in their village. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

What's in my bucket list?

I wonder why do they call it the "Bucket list"? They should have rather called it a wishlist or travelogue list, if I were to go about revealing it.
Mine is a weird one, which may make you burst into peals of laughter or you may end up calling me a "madwoman". Scientists are mad, after all!

1) Visit atleast 50 countries, especially Egypt, Seychelles, Pakistan, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and yes Iceland too. Infact go to all the countries where being a woman is not a sin. You shouldn't be amazed if someday, all of a sudden an interesting section on travel stems from this blog.
2) Head to the most exotic beaches in India, especially those in Diu and Pondicherry. Work has bound me in chains until now, and the only two beaches I've ever seen are in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
3) Go to Lahaul and Spiti and try and spot a UFO.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rising out of Bullying

Bullying is an evil we may have all grown up with. Infact, it is a terrifying truth that plagues the society, where in a stronger person pulls a joke on a weaker person for not being like them, resulting in a repeated rut that drives the victim to depression.
As a child I was carefree, but a strong believer of equality. For me a fair person was in no way special than a friend with darker skin. I had brown skin myself, which gave a fair skinned friend of mine all the wrong reasons in the world to bully me. His mother was a fair skinned punjabi and father a dark skinned south Indian. This wasn't a deterrent for him and he went on bullying dark skinned people for being wrapped in browner membrane. I was fed on the perception that it was penurious to have brown skin. I decided to treat my skin to creams and charms like "Fair and Lovely" only to get into the good books of this fearless bully, but it didn't yield results. I remember hiding in the darker corridors of the school only to not come in the sight of  this bully who never got tired of addressing me as "Kalicharan".

Monday, March 16, 2015

Marital Surnames aren't a legal necessity. Then why hang on to them?

A school friend of mine recently separated from her husband. Her divorce proceedings are on, and it's not long before she will legally cut off all martial ties with him. We used to be fast friends once upon a time, until a silly confusion cropped up between us. We have stayed away from each other since then, although my heart yearns to mend the broken ties with her. But to no avail. 
Recently while dillydallying on facebook, I saw her profile on another of my friend's 'friend list'. And to my astonishment, she was carrying her father's family name as opposed to her husband's, which was a choice she had made after tying the knot. What startled me the most was her attitude towards the surnames of the men in her life. 
She was madly in love with her 'then boyfriend and now husband' and maybe that's why she decided to wear a new surname after getting wedded to him. Which is rightly her decision. 
But then again, her idea to switch back to her father's surname in the midst of personal crisis was proffering allegiance to patriarchy, which rabid feminists like me will never come to terms with.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Delhi Calling

I moved back to Delhi recently. Initially, when my good friends heard about it, I was treated to a barrage of brickbats. I had always wanted to lead a single and independent life. Then why did I decide to throw that axe on my leg?
I agree that living in a new city with friends in a rented apartment or as a paying guest is the first step towards freedom. It's a kick, to have your own room where in mom won't barge in without knocking the door, but is that really liberation?
After finishing my laboratory work in Mumbai, I had got the golden opportunity to dwell by the sea. It would have been a dream come true had I mellowed to the idea.But I decided to give it a second thought.
By this time I had accustomed myself to the eternal eccentricity that life was putting me through. From doing my laundry without a washing machine to eating the soggy bland food to having no one to crib and chatter with in malayalam.

30th March, Bombay Central

I wait for the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani
I hate train journeys
I feel like a matchstick
stacked in a blue rectangular metal box.
I crouch on the dusty bench
The garbage bin is retching
much like my heart was
when I was forced to forget
the touch of your hand.
That evening, I was looking into
the black sky
murmuring for a miracle
the pole star had vanished
I yearned to blow a wish.
''I'll hire a cab.''

Sunday, March 8, 2015

India's Daughter documentary. Watch it but don't buy it fully

This is the season of bans it seems. The ban on Cow meat in Maharashtra. The ban on a documentary.The  ban on "freedom of speech". 
The Modi government with its strong hindutva school of thought seems to dive into a cathartic escapist ideology to deal with issues that they do not have a say in.
BBC and Leslie Udwin meanwhile decided to exploit the petrified patriarchal sentiments of a nation where patriarchy is tradition. I did find a few more opinions that out rightly blasted Ms. Udwin for not making a documentary film on countries like Somalia or Saudi Arabia where the voices against patriarchal misogyny are lulled every day by beating, raping and killing women who dared to raise a finger against the inhuman apathy they are meted with. Thankfully, this movie was made, even though not for the right reasons. 

I watched the documentary with hope, because for the starters I expected it to not be a clever scripted rendition of  the gory evils that Jyoti Singh and her friend had to bear witness to. While Jyoti's friend had testified to the fact that she was brutalized by all the men riding in the bus with them that evening, Mukesh Singh was made to take a call in his favour by lying about it. It's too difficult for me to believe that he was driving the bus throughout the fateful incident and wasn't a culprit. Will lying help him in any way and his shameless patriarchal patronized lawyers to push for his release? And if that happens I will surely loose all my faith in the Indian judiciary system and thousands like me who decided to brave the December chill in 2012  to demand for justice.
Thirdly why did his admission of the "she deserved it" attitude come as a shock? He further added fuel to the fire by condemning death penalty and inspiring the rapists of the country to kill their victim, to leave no witnesses or proofs behind. Sigh! I wish they could have edited this portion of the video, because for a troubled rape ridden culture like ours this spells doom.
Again, this predetermined policing of the script failed to achieve what it was aiming to portray in the first place. Talk of gender violence and the feminist movement in the country. It was more like a Bollywood movie that had characters, incidents and the stories of the people starring in it.
Fourthly, people like the defence lawyer A.P Singh and the impunity with which he still admits to owning his daughter send shock waves down your spine. The other defence lawyer was the Shakespeare of the movie.  It's high time that women stop being the flowers, they must learn to be the thorns.
Why was the documentary named "India's daughter"? It could have been given any other title, but this, fearfully strips naked the male privilege that we women are forced to lean on, for our safety, respect and dignity.
Last but not the least, this documentary is a must watch. For the minor biases that it carries, should not give you a reason to ignore it. It makes you aware of the nerves of India's sons, who have been raised on an unhealthy dosage of poor education, patriarchy and poverty. Who are thriving in the backyard of male dominated homes to replace the filthy rotten fishes that will be thrown out of the sea. Rotten fishes like Singh, who deserves capital punishment or rigorous life imprisonment.
And yes, Jyoti Singh is not India's daughter. I so wish she wouldn't have taken birth in this wretched country.

Picture Credit: http://trak.in/tags/business/2015/03/05/indiasdaughter-youtube-bbc-documentary-blocked/

Saturday, March 7, 2015

1397 kms and beyond

Distances makes hearts grow fonder
Is it?
1397 kms across rivers, roads and melting sands
I've sometimes heard you sob
silently in the death of the night
wishing that these 1397 kms 
didn't eat your voice.

Rain is ripping apart the womb
of her mother,
here loneliness lies prostrate in my belly
like a dead child.

Insomnia. Paranoia.

Words I am trying to memorize
when sleep refuses to stalk me
like a sick smitten lover.

You may have traded headaches with me
when you complain of them 
I laugh it off
saying aspirin is paying me
for being migraine's favourite child.

Some song coos into my ear
taking me back to the sea
that strolled with us
on a strange September evening.

1397 kms. The yardstick of longing.
Only if distances made hearts grow fonder.

                                                Picture Credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net

Friday, March 6, 2015

Story of the Honest Roadside Tea Vendor in Andheri

Living in Mumbai was a learning lesson in my life. I had to grapple with every irritating issue on my own, since the protective hearth of my home wasn't a reality anymore. I had to make a move to Mumbai for six months, but those testing times showed no signs of coming to an end. From doing my laundry without a washing machine, to having bland food to shopping for groceries on my own. The list of the endless atrocities that life had in store for me, had lost count.
I was living in the university hostel at that time. The food was tasteless and flavorless, but I had no other options but to resign to fate. The only saving grace was the tea I had in the morning and evening, which was available in those glossy coffee shops outside the campus. This seemed to be a great idea initially, until it started creating bigger holes in my pocket. Soon, I started to look for local roadside tea vendors, who would serve me two cups of tea or coffee and make my day.
I had to make peace with the reality, for the struggle to find a good roadside tea vendor was all in vain. I did find a few tea vendors, but their tea made me throw up, since it wasn't served with hygiene.  I used to guzzle numberless cups of green tea which was to cater to my health needs. Sadly, it didn't give me the kind of kick that 'tea with milk' gave me. As my mom puts it rightly, I can imagine living without food but surviving without tea is like being slapped with a curse for a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Building a Gender Equal World

This is utopia for a woman. To imagine a world that will treat her as an equal. That gave me all the right reasons to write about it. The world we now live in, treats her as a build of mass and bones or a helper to the man, as religious books like Bible put it. Perhaps, all the religions of the world would have conspired against Eve and her daughters to hold her guilty of a sin she may have not even committed. 

Sometimes I can't come to terms with the life I have as a woman. I can't imagine walking down the streets without being ogled at, or travel without being prodded at. As if there was nothing more to me than a body that has breasts, legs, arms, without the brains of course. I can't think of living a day of my life, without being asked the pertinent perennial question about my marriage or being a prey to the hate the world throws at me for being ambitious. 

If a tired dejected woman like me were to tear down the world and rebuild it again, then I would want the world to look something like this.