Saturday, December 29, 2012

Calling her “maal” or just "appreciating" her beauty? You are an eve-teaser too, my friend!

Following the tragic incident of gang-rape in Delhi, popularly known as the “Damini gang-rape case”, there have been mass-protests across the nation. The social networking sites, more specifically Facebook, has not only played a phenomenal role in mobilizing the youth but has also served as an indispensible container for expressing anger. The crowds and status updates, shared photos and links indicate a significant contribution by the men folk. This is not to say that all men are rapists or potential rapists. This is also not to say that all men are eve-teasers or must have eve-teased someone. But there are and have been many men (Here, I give a personal reference and say I know them. This is to emphasise that this is not an assumption) who do “eve-tease” and status updates by them condemning these acts has come as a shock. Another shocking fact is that there have been cases of molestation in some public demonstrations as well (I am not talking about policemen). For some, It can be argued that going to these protests or supporting them is another way to woo women or gain their trust but for others, I think it is because they are unaware of their own acts. This may be also because rape is a “crime” while eve-teasing is not such a “big-deal”? Maybe! In this article, I plan to identify and define “eve-teasing” for these men and some of my acquaintances and also burst some of their myths about eve-teasing.

What is eve-teasing? Eve-teasing is something that happens in public spaces, in bus, metro, auto rickshaw or on streets? It involves whistling or passing lewd comments, generally to women who are strangers?

This is an incomplete answer. Eve-teasing is alone done in colleges, by people we know, our classmates, friends, colleagues or anyone. It involves staring at a woman in an improper way and at improper places. Most men are accused of staring at a woman’s breast, most do when women are not looking at them and some even do in front of them!

It involves “complimenting” someone’s beauty when they just don’t like it.  Calling a woman “pretty”, “cute”, “sweet” or whatever against her will is uncomforting for her and is definitely not taken as a compliment!

Most women also don’t like to be called “hot” or “sexy” or being told how good or “perfect” their figure is. You know why? Because they are not supposed to be seen as objects of lust and desire!

So eve-teasing is not restricted to a small section of people on streets or public transport. Also, eve teasing is not just passing a comment. For a man, it must be just passing a horrible comment which shows his own standard but for a woman, that one-line is enough to humiliate her, create a sense of fear, make her feel disgusted about her own self and cause depression. A girl can never forget any instance of eve-teasing. Somehow, she can never forget it. And no act is small or big!

Re-think before you say you “respect” woman. If you have to respect something, respect her identity. Don’t respect her as an object of your lust and desire. Respect her as an equal human being, capable with the same intellectual level.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No, she did not "ask" for it

“I could not control. She had PROVOKED me”; “Look at her clothes! She should have “expected” this, He is a MAN afterall!”; “I had to show her, her RIGHT place”; “It is not rape’! She is my WIFE”; “How does it matter, she anyway had a LOOSE character”...

We live in the 21st century where women have proved it that in no way, is she less capable than a man. And we continue to “surprise” the society. But, however much educated, liberal-minded we have been “fortunate” to become, the fear of rape has not gone away. Our freedom lasts with sunset. We continue to be a source of tension for our parents. We are still tensed about the misused strength of our male counterparts.

For Rape is not just a forced sexual intercourse, It is a tool to re-enforce patriarchy where women are supposed to be submissive, tied to the household and serve as objects of lust and desire. So whenever a woman has tried to speak up, tried to “venture out”, dared to dream, demand the right to decide for her own life, she has been made to pay for it. It is a “punishment” to keep a woman in her “limits”. It is a reminder to her that she can be overpowered and so has to be in her “Right” submissive place.

So even in the recent gang-rape case in Delhi that took place on the night of 16th December 2012. A girl was gang-raped in a moving bus. She had boarded the bus at around 9 with her friend. The molesters had begun with commenting on her decision to be out at night and with a male friend. She was then gang-raped.
Even when it is not a “punishment”, rape is not considered a crime in our society. It is a “mistake” and a “fault” of the rape victim. She had “provoked” the rapist through her “indecent” dress, behavior or because she was of a “Loose” character. The farce about “indecent” dress is barbaric and illogical. A study conducted on the psychology of rapists world-wide states that rapists select women who is appears weak or less-confident and can be overpowered easily. A woman dressed in “indecent” clothes will be far from being less-confident. And even if clothing is to be blamed, then are we saying that women in burqa do not get raped? A woman may look attractive in certain clothes but she does not issue a license to be raped. What is “inappropriate” behavior? Well, it may be anything that is “morally” wrong but is “legitimately” done by men. Though I do not say that women should seek equality in “wrong” but my only question is why is “goodness”, “purity” only reserved for women?. The rape victims are also often accused of having a “loose character”. They are proved to be sex workers. But even if they are sex workers, Isint a rape of a sex worker, a rape too? Aren’t they women too? Don’t they have a right over their body? A NO means a “NO”.

Even in this case, there may be people who dare to say that it was a wrong decision to be out at night. It was a wrong decision to board a private bus with hardly any passengers? There were 6 people in the bus. How on earth would she know that four of them were not passengers? But yes, she had “invited” rape. This time by “trusting” people, by forgetting that she has to be “Extra-careful” and by considering herself as a human being who is entitled to the rights of entertainment.

I also seek to question this farce of victim blaming in only cases of rape. Why don’t we ever blame a man for being robbed? Why don’t we blame a man for being attacked? Why don’t we say that it was his fault that he was carrying too much cash or he was careless with his wallet? Why does he not “provoke”?

All these are just excuses. Only a bull gets provoked, not human beings. We are dealing with demons, not human beings. However, sadly, our society does not accept this. And this has also been accepted by women. I often see women justifying rape because “men are like that. They cannot control”. A biological fact is that women are much more sexually active but the society has always tried to control her sexuality. But it is really the men who need to be “tamed” now.
Instead of women, why can’t we ask men to be in their “limits”? Why can’t we ask them not to rape? Why is that in a rape only the rape victim gets dishonored and not the rapist? I remember how when we were planning to shift to a new locality, we were informed that a girl was raped in that locality. I wondered why this piece of this news was mentioned to us when the girl was not even in the locality anymore.

I believe that Women’s destiny lies in their own hands. The change lies not only in changing mentalities but in the nurture of sons. I know a mother who had beaten up his sever-year-old son when during a fight, he had lifted his younger sister’s skirt to make her embarrass and lose the fight. It is only when the mother makes equal rules (like the extent of freedom, time to come back) for her son and daughter, when she stops pampering her son to the extent that he disrespects her, when she teaches him not to dominate over his sister just because he is a boy and only when she stops justifying his son’s habit of eve-teasing can the society change. The nurture of a man is really in the hands of his mother. It is the mother who makes his son a saint or a beast.

A woman needs to, as an Afghan ex-politician and Human Rights activist, Dr Sima Samar rightly puts it, “Stand for each other because we are our own class.”

also published@

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reimagining the "Weird"

“When I go out, I see people point at me and make fun of me. I come back and would cry out. I would curse myself for what I am. I also refrain from moving around much”, she said. She is a eunuch.

As she said that, I felt guilty as many times I also used to try for a second look. Unlike many others, I may refrain from sniggering at them but I would make them conscious and unknowingly, remind them of their status in this heterosexual society. Like many others, I would found them “different”, more specifically, “weird”, “peculiar” or “abnormal”. I would try to imagine how they can like someone of their own gender or about those people who consider themselves of the other gender. I would find it hard to imagine and would even find it “funny”.

But now I ponder why it is “funny” and “unimaginable”? As we must recall, women coming out of the domestic sphere and performing tasks which were dominated by men was also “funny” at some point of time. Jokes about women and their capabilities still have a circulation but they get challenged now. So they are no longer “funny” for some. So maybe “funny” is just a perception and related with time and space. “Funny” is a tool for suppression.

Yes, they are “different”. But the difference only lies, I realized, in their way of perceiving themselves and choosing who to get attracted to. But there also emerges a problem in this. Is it about how they perceive themselves or how we perceive them? Are the genders and sexes really two? Is that the biological reality? Have we assumed heterosexuality?

A fact of nature tells us that homosexuality, hermaphroditism and other forms of alternate sexualities exist in animal species as well. Male bats have a huge tendency for homosexuality. A more known fact is about hydra which is clearly hermaphrodite.

So how is it unnatural as many have claimed? Works of Social scientists have shown alternate sexualities to have been deeply woven into the political, social and economic fabric of societies across the world. But even if we do not get into the social and science part of the debate, let’s think from a human perspective.
They have different or alternate preferences but aren’t they still human beings? Do we have any right to humiliate them? Do they harm us in any way so why does their existence cripple our minds so much? They are not “cursed” or “sick” or anything. They are as much as a creation of the God as we are. Why does their private life matter so much to us?

20th November is celebrated as the “International Transgender Day of Remembrance”. The Day is celebrated in memory of all those transgendered people who were murdered by those suffering from the “mental disorder” of homophobia. Owing to my limited knowledge, the two names that I know are of Harvey Milk and Dr. Srinivas Ramachandran Siras. Harvey Milk was the first Gay American politician. He had contested elections, in response to the increasing cases of murder and torture of transgendered people in his region. He was assassinated by another politician. Dr. Siras was a renowned professor in Aligarh Muslim University. After his identity of being a homosexual was revealed, he was suspended. He had also received death threats and after few months, was allegedly murdered.

But there exists thousands and probably millions of unknown victims. It may be hard for us to “understand” them. But we, as the so-called “civilized” beings, have no right to humiliate them. Next time, we feel tempted to stare at them, let’s imagine the situation when for some reason, we were being stared at or was mocked at. I am sure it will not be hard to imagine. 

alsp published @ countercurrents

Sunday, September 30, 2012

International Blasphemy Rights day: why we need to celebrate

30th September is celebrated as the International Blasphemy Rights day. It celebrates freedom of expression and the right to condemn certain religious views and beliefs.

“Blasphemy” is quite a new word for me. I had picked it up only a few months back with reference to some headlines. I was quite amazed to read how a few idiots can have facebook and twitter banned for everyone in the country. It was claimed that a 1024 jpeg file had hurt the sentiments of millions. It had hurt or it will hurt? I thought.

Though the word was new but the concept wasn’t completely alien to me. Though we may not have used it in our country, the concept is very much living amongst us. Religious fundamentalism is not only dirty but is drenched with blood in our country as well. The examples are not only plenty but are too scandalizing for one to even recount.

Personally speaking, I remember how a mob had reached near our school when a temple was touched somewhere in Rajasthan. Oversensitiveness towards one’s “family religion” and a shocking reaction by a self-proclaimed atheist does not come as a shock any longer. I remember how many times I have been criticized for saying something about “their” religion. And when you criticize your own religion, you are seen as a rebel, an atheist or an appeaser of minority.

But now, let’s recall certain historical facts: Archaeology took a considerable period of time to be accepted as it had challenged the church. Copernicus's work could be published only after his death. The vedic ritual of sati was banned in nineteenth century. Muslim reform movements in India also began in nineteenth-twentieth century.

The point here is that these were also cases of blasphemy. But do we regret them?
Blasphemy allows one to criticize the impractical and unjust laws. Mahabharata opens with the note that “with time, what is dharma may become adharma and what is adharma may become dharma”. The laws in Islam were written based on the political, socio-economic conditions of that time and so it was very practical. 

It is not to say that blasphemy cannot be used by people to provoke communal disharmony and insult a certain community. But can a picture really hurt the sentiments of people? I have seen so many pictures of Mahatama Gandhi and Lord Ganesh in new and contemporary avatars. But I just laugh at them and take them in a good humour. While I laugh, I don’t think that my belief in Lord Ganesh decreases. I also remember reading news that in some western country, they had used a goddess’s image in an advertisement to promote “beef”. The idea was that it was so tasty that even the goddess could not resist. Certainly, this was not very humorous. But I still didn’t find it offensive. Maybe I am less religious or maybe I am not bothered by what people think about my gods and beliefs.

And if people know that such images are meant to hurt the sentiments, then just ignore it. Accept the fact that people are jobless and have no time but to prove how superior their religion is and how all others are fools and barbaric. Feel pity for them and move on. Banning an entire website or putting the person in jail or organizing public demonstrations…let’s realize that this is what the perpetrators had wished for. They had desired for attention and for disruption of peace. Don’t pay them any attention. If we are true believers, then let’s leave the fate of such people to God. 

Blasphemy has also been used by people to provoke sentiments of revenge and violence. The picture may have one objectionable element but during the communication, every element becomes objectionable. We need to realize that if people are there who design such images; there are also people, who claim to be from “our” side, who add more effects to them.

To conclude it, I want to redefine Blasphemy. Blasphemy is a device of a few which does not hurt but is made to hurt the sentiments of, as claimed, millions.  Remember, an eye for an eye will make everyone blind!

also published @ Rising Kashmir Newspaper

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Should women have a share in their husband’s “hard-earned” income?

“Housewives may get a monthly salary from their husband!”

I was surprised to hear this and asked the person to repeat before I could absorb it. This, I feel, has been a usual reaction for this issue. However, unlike many others, it had brought a smile to my face. No, the fantasy of the “empowerment of women” had not cropped up in my mind.  For me, it meant two things. First, it recognized the labour and value of a housewife. And second and much more important, I was reminded of some women I know who had to work in order to sustain themselves and their children, for the husband was least bothered.

But I was very shocked to see the general reaction on this issue. People have been accusing this proposed law of “breaking” the family. It has been argued that this law will turn the husband-wife relationships into a contract or in a boss-servant relationship. I really don’t understand the myth of a “united”, “peaceful” family which will eventually break-down. There is much more to the relationship of ahusband and wife. Financial dependency is not the only cord. Infact, if such a law comes, the hardwork and dedication of a housewife will not be taken for granted and undervalued.

According to a feminist scholar, the fact that women stay at home and manage household allows men to go out and work. So if they are given a small remuneration for the same, then what is the harm? The general tendency is also that if she gets something extra, she will be spending it on her children and to improve the household. They are also staying at home and preserving the “tradition” and saving the alleged “breaking-up” of the institution of family. So then maybe a small amount to save the “tradition”? Though it is not clear if working women will be excluded but as they are always struggling to balance the domestic sphere and the outside, a small remuneration will really not hurt. I also know of some women who don’t get any financial help from their husbands as they are working. They are asked to manage the household entirely on their own income.

Stories about how housewives have to justify every penny that she managed to get from her husbands are not uncommon. Such a law will rescue such women.
The problem, I feel, lies not much with the word “salary” or with the proposed “contract system” or the issue of the “househusbands” but with the fact that we only consider the middle and the higher class or the privileged women. What about the women of the working class? It is not to say that there is no problem with the middle and the high class but they still have options and opportunities. But what about these women? What about the rural India? This law may grant them freedom from domestic violence, a small share of financial independence and most importantly, respect for their work and dedication. They may also get an opportunity to fulfill their dreams and passions without justifying their worth.

It is also superficial to think that the law will not have any clauses. So let’s think before we dump a proposed law. It may not be required by us but it can make a big difference for someone.

Also published @

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Life is on its toes
And so are you in the rat race…
You are busy
There is work everywhere
A mountain of pending work…
You are busy…terribly busy
But one moment u give up
You give up everything…
And u begin to ponder
You reflect on this course of things
On how your life has become so busy
How there is work everywhere you see…
How everything is just so demanding…
You look around and you see faces
Whether happy or sad, they all look blank and fake.
Everywhere you look, its all blank
You feel a void inside…
Everything seems meaningless
It all seems blank
Everything around you seems to be moving
Everything except you but you feel that you are being forced to move along…
You feel like resisting…
You don’t want to move.
You don’t know what you want to do…
You don’t know..
and you find solace in this…
you find peace in this…
in knowing nothing…
the void keeps on growing,,,
you close your eyes and find peace.
And then suddenly you realize that you have work...
And you get back to work. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How the wireless helps me live my passions

I belong to the generation which had spent its childhood getting scolded for being a couch potato and talking for hours on phones with long wires. Having a bulky thing called computer was a luxury and was confined only for making documents and playing Aladdin, Dave and NFS. The storm of the global network called internet which would make our lives not only easy and less cumbersome but also more ‘rich’ was unimaginable. But that happened and so did the replacement of telephones with cell phones. Today, they are inevitable. Infact, now I try to remember how I would manage to meet my friends without calling them constantly and asking them about their whereabouts. Internet and mobile have been considered the greatest inventions of our times.

And now we have the combination of two of these greatest inventions – mobile with internet. And it couldn’t have been better than this. This excellent pair has a lot to offer to everyone. It ends the hassle of carrying the heavy laptops and buying the expensive netconnects. It allows downloading smart applications, fun applications like Talking tom, Games, access to social networking sites i.e. to social bonding, access to our mails and ofcourse, access to information from every corner of the world.

On a personal account, I am very passionate about writing. There are often situations when your mind is buzzing with thoughts but there is no paper around to relieve yourself. Mobile blogging is the way out. I blog about my thought before it vanishes off. Also, though i write in all settings and temperaments but i think the writings when i am in a bad temperament(which i am very prone to) turn out to be the best. If i am angry, i want to express myself, not necessarily on what i am angry about but on some other issue. And what pisses me off even more is the fact that i don't get anything to write upon. In such situations, mobile blogging is the messiah. Writers are also a little fanatic about learning new words and synonyms. Dictionary App is another blessing. 

I am also very passionate about music. Late in the evening, when you are all relaxed and listening to radio, suddenly there comes a song and you fell in love with it immediately but the cruel RJ doesn't give you any details about the song. So it's all on you now and the lovely mobile with net. I love listening to old hindi songs but there are so many songs which i have not downloaded because i tend to forget(another big issue with me). But now i immediately download the classic from iTunes. 

Passionate about history and archaeology, i love travelling to new places and getting lost in the historical sites. Landmark Finder allows me to fulfill my passion. I use it not only in my historically rich city, Delhi but also beyond it. 

I have downloaded must-haves like dictionary, timesofindia, Landmark finder and must-haves for me like talking tom(which really helps this angry bird), youtube and games of my 'golden' childhood - Aladdin, Mario, Tom and Jerry and NFS. 

I am also trying my hand at cooking these days. Having your laptop share the slab with vegetables and bottle of oil is not a very fine idea, especially for someone who is a lot clumsy. A small mobile which easily goes into the pocket is like a magical ladder. I try to cook while i read the recipes on the cooking websites on my mobile.  

It is my companion when i am alone and bored. It is my friend when i am all tensed about an assignment which i have to submit online(i am cursed with a net connection which should find its way to a museum). It helps me learn new things, channelize my anger in a more constructive way and helps me do what i enjoy. 

Mobile with internet allows me to discover myself, discover my likes and dislikes and helps me fulfill my passion. I wouldn't say i cant imagine a life without it. I can but it has made things simpler, easier for me and has helped me add more colours to my life.

*All photos clicked by Sunam Thapa
written for:

Beyond the Borders

Every day, at sharp 4, in a village called Wagah, there is a mad rush as people try to form a straight line which will extend to a kilometer or two. It involves pushing around, shouting and hurling abuses. It also involves being shouted at by people in uniform. They don’t mind it. They are eager to be in the front of the line, even though there is enough space for everyone. They are eagerly waiting for an event which has to start after 5:30. They are so eager that don’t even mind leaving behind their cell phones, an indispensible mode of communication. And these people are not just tourists. There is a sizeable section of locals, for whom it is like a daily ritual.

Then after rounds of checking and being under constant surveillance by people with big, scary guns, they are allowed to enter and settle down. Here again, there is a rush as people find for that ‘ideal’ place to sit. That ‘ideal’ place is not one which would protect them from sun or would give them a perfect view of what will happen in front of them. They will choose a place which gives them a better look of what is on their side. The moment they will find the ‘right’ place, they will forget everything. They will try to lose themselves in history and will try to re-imagine the past. They will continue staring while an imaginary reel would be rolling in front of their eyes. And then, they will see people settling. They will now be on the edge of their seats to see them clearly. And what! They are amazed to find that they look exactly the same. Some of them would even wave to the people sitting on the “other” side. Others would just stare at them and would be lost again. Then when they would see the birds, they would envy them. They would wish that they could sit on them and fly down to the “other” side, to see these people more closely, to see the other side more properly, without any restriction.  They would look up and envy the boundless sky who is also smirking at them. These people pretend to be angry with the sky who looks more beautiful and has a certain pride. They are also jealous of the wind. They try to smell it and think if it will smell the same on the “other” side. 
During the whole ceremony, which will be taking place in front of them, they will stare at the “other” side. And when the ceremony is over and they are ordered to leave, they would keep on looking back, trying to capture as much as they can. They would try to capture and take it back with them.

This is the bond between India and Pakistan. It is often unsaid and is poorly expressed in treaties and diplomatic visits, but it is there. An average Indian and a Pakistani have the same secret desire to cross the border, atleast once. They want to see what people eat, how they talk, how they look and how they think on the “other” side. And if it is to be believed what those lucky people who have visited says, they will be highly ‘disappointed’ because it is just the same there. We share a common history, a common language, a common culture and even a common desire. This desire is found in the talks of average Indians and Pakistanis.
So it is a common thing among Indians to reveal how their grandparents had migrated from Pakistan. It is also common for the listeners to then pester them with more details and then be disappointed as the fact of migration is the only thing that they can recall.
A friendly conversation between an Indian and a Pakistani is very predictable. It will always start with a fascination about each other’s politics, culture and mainstream cinema and will then migrate to the fact about common history and will end with a moan about the idea of separation.
It all seems very predictable but it shows the common desire which is to forge strong ties of friendship and brotherhood. India and Pakistan has even the same challenges to fight with. So why to keep the falsely constructed distance?

Let these barriers only be political ones because socially and culturally there are no barriers. These barriers have been constructed and have to be demolished. The barriers of suspicion and hatred are also constructed and have to be demolished too. And these barriers cannot be removed by people with bodyguards or with guns. They can be removed by the faceless in crowds and voiceless in a chorus. They can be removed only by the so-called “common people” or the aam insaan. The hope lies in the civil society. We need to realize that we are not different. Our thinking is same. Our language is same. Our ideals are same. We need to realize that the common person on the other side of the border also has the same suffering as we do. He is also oppressed by the politicians, is dying with hunger, struggling for employment and being tossed around by religious fanatics.
We need to realize this and in this realization, lays not just peace but the fulfillment of our own desire. It is not possible to turn back the wheel of time. We cannot go and delete a chapter in history but we can definitely add a new one. We can add a chapter which says, “and they lived happily ever after…” 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer to rediscover myself

I live in Delhi, the city of extremes. It is not just about the so-called temperament of the people which I consider passionate(in anger and love), rather than extreme; or in the functioning of the city, either very clean roads or roads in dustbins but even the weather of my city is very extreme, either scorching hot or chilling cold. The impact of global warming has made things even worse. It is so terribly hot that laziness is also acceptable.

Going out in such weather conditions and in the city which is supposed to be “on its heels” regularly kindles desires to escape to a fantasy world. We all often desire of hibernating to a relaxed place where we can just be ourselves or try and search for “ourselves”.

photo by Sunam Thapa
As a common delhite, I am no different. But this desire to escape grips me more. After every 2 weeks, I develop this urge to pack my bags and head to dharamshala or any other place in Himachal Pradesh for the weekend. But thanks to the web of assignments and papers, it remains to be a fantasy. But now, with the post-exams vacations, the urge is back and it is much stronger. 

I want to escape to my ‘fantasy’ world where I can do everything that I always what I really am. And now I have with me Elena who shares the same passion that I do – music and travelling. I love listening to music, especially Hindi classics. Music not only relaxes me, it liberates me in many ways. It helps me forget my problems and ascends me to a new and better world.
I also love travelling. Travelling to any new place really fascinates me. I love to interact with people, hearing popular stories and understanding their point of view and also their culture. As a graduate in History, I have a special inclination for historical places. I love to lose myself in the remnants of the past…trying to re-trace history…trying to turn back time. In this summer, I would love to go to a historical place.

I also love places with scenic beauty but I reserve a special inclination for places with lakes, rivers and oceans. I find water to be very tempting. I find it serene to the extent that it gives me the assurance that nothing will happen to me if I decide to explore the depth. I am very fascinated with water and so the trip to port blair is one of the best memories that I have.

This summer, I want to travel with Elena to relax and forget the busy, tiring and disillusioning daily-life. I want to escape to a place where I don’t have to compete or try to be the perfect or have a fear of trying different things.  I plan to fulfill my promise to myself that I will spend some time with myself, exploring my interests, passions and even my fears, inhibitions and trying to struggle with them. I want to travel and explore new things, try out new activities like adventure sports. I would travel and would also be skin safe. Thanks to Elena’s suggestion to use Lakme Sun Expert which is best for Indian Skin. I would travel without any worry, will enjoy the Forts in the scorching Rajasthan and also laze around on the beaches. All thanks to Lakme Sun Expert.

In the summers, I also plan to try new things, searching for new “hobbies” like cooking. I also want to fight with my fear and complete my driving lessons. This summer… I want to be a different and more ‘realistic’ me.

I would want to be like my Elena. Elena surprises me. I imagine her as this stylish diva who is relaxing or say, rejuvenating herself on the beach, after her share of struggle for the day. She seems to cherish every moment before she goes back to the life full of work. She seems to enjoy herself, her freedom, without a care in the world.

It is also the sun set time. The view is beautiful. This summer, I would try to learn from my friend who will accompany me in my journey to explore/re-explore the ‘real’ me. 

written for:

Monday, April 30, 2012

Beneath the burqa - a protest?

“Mariam had never before worn a burqa. Rasheed had to help her put it on. The padded headpiece felt tight and heavy on her skull, and it was strange seeing the world through a mesh screen. She practiced walking around her room in it and kept stepping on the hem and stumbling. The loss of peripheral vision was unnerving, and she did not like the suffocating way the pleated cloth kept pressing against her mouth.                                                                            "You'll get used to it," Rasheed said. "With time, I bet you'll even like it."” (extract from “a thousand splendid suns” by Khaleed Hosseini)
As a kid, I would always give a second look to a woman clad in burqa. I would always be very curious to see the face beneath.  But more than that, I would always think about her. Not that my own religion does not have such ‘fascinating’ examples but generally purdah is seen to be synonymous with conservatism. I would try to imagine the woman in her household. How she would be ‘forced’ to be confined to her room and would have very little say in her own life.

I would keep on looking at her, staring into her eyes as they say that the eyes can give one all the answers.  But there was something that again, I always managed to see. I would see beautiful kohl-lined eyes and nose piercing. I would also manage to see a small portion of the jazzy lowers beneath the burqa.

I have always seen them.  I have also always seen a very beautiful face in the hijab. Needless to say, beauty is not very natural. A clear, glowing face, devoid of any unwanted facial hair and complete with kohl-lined eyes is not very natural. I always used to laugh at this, finding it ‘contradictory’. A muslim woman is fully covered but the most beautiful part which is the face and more particularly, the eyes remain uncovered.

Now from a sociological point of view, i think that maybe these are forms of protest.  Burqa and hijab are as important as the sindoor for a married hindu woman. In both cases, it is very difficult to do away with these markers. But even sindoor has been undergoing a lot of changes. So instead of the thick layer of sindoor which was to be traditionally applied in the centre parting of the hair, we almost have it now as a formality. It has become another accessory in the make-up.  I feel that this is a form of protest. The significance is diluting (atleast in urban spaces) but not disappearing completely. 

In a similar way, I feel that maybe the jazzy lowers and the beautiful face are silent forms of protest. One point can be that the jazzy lowers is for the household when the burqa will be removed. However, this is not very convincing. If they can remove the burqa, they can also change clothes. The purpose of a burqa is to look unattractive. So display of an inch of the attractive clothing beneath the unattractive burqa is not acceptable. I should also mention that my references are generally confined to young women, even though I have also seen kajal in case of older women.  Similarly, the purpose of the hijab is to look unattractive. The ‘uninviting’ burqa is supposed to be a long black garment. However, I often see burqas with embroidery. They are pretty and yes, attractive. The rich bohra community ‘allows’ burqas of different colours.

I am not arguing that this maybe a conscious form of protest. It may be unconscious. People may attribute this to a dozen of external factors but the point is that maybe the protest is happening. Women beneath the burqa are may be struggling to get out. They may be making use of bright colours(the shiny lowers) to shun away the darkness in which they are supposed to confine themselves. They might be speaking. The kohl in their eyes might be speaking. The kohl might be struggling to ask questions to the clerics, to the male counterparts and to the society, as a whole. The kohl might be asking, “Women should cover themselves because men can’t control their sexuality? Women should cease to be human beings because men behave like animals?”                                    
The nose ring might be piercing to ask, “If women are attractive to men, aren’t men attractive to women? Why don’t they wear burqa too?” 
the jazzy trousers might be questioning, “don’t women in burqa gets raped or molested? People stare at women in burqa too, infact even more closely.

I am also aware of a bunch of feminists who view the burqa and hijab as symbols of liberation as then women are not objectified. But to my dear feminists, I would like to ask if attraction is just a one-way process. Are only women attractive to men? What about men being attractive to women? The fact that it’s the woman who has to cover herself because men can’t control their animalism shows how these feminists are surrendering to the patriarchal order. 

I don’t buy this. And maybe as I state above, a lot of women are also not accepting it. They all might be speaking but have you been listening? Have you been hearing their possibly shouts from the burqa? Have you been staring at those possibly rebellious eyes? They all might have been protesting behind the veil, beneath the burqa. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

विडम्बना : आम इंसान होने की

कितने राजा आये,
कितने शेहेनशाह गुज़रे,
पर वोह वही रहा

किले फ़तेह कर लिए जाए,
या बनवा लिये जाए ताज कई,
मरता वो ही है
वोह जिससे पूछा भी नहीं जाता की वोह किसकी तरफ है,
मरता वोह ही है

किले फ़तेह करने में , ताज बनाना में,
और मेहेंगाई में भी,
मरता वोह ही है

गलती कोई भी करे
पर हरज़ाना उसकी पूरी कौम को भरना पड़ता है
पर उसमे भी भरता वोह ही है…
वोह जिसका इन बातों से कोई लेना देना ही नहीं,
वोह जिसे सिर्फ अपनी रोज़ी-रोटी की चिंता होती है,
मरता वोही है, सिर्फ वोही.

मरता वो ही है,
और उसके निशान रेत पे बनते है,
फिर लहरों के साथ चले जाते है…

समाप्त: इस उम्मीद के साथ की कभी शायद उसे भी ज़िन्दगी मिले

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why women's day

After Valentine’s Day, Women’s day is most debated upon. The need for a special day to celebrate womanhood has been contemplated by a diverse group ranging from kurta-clad intellectuals to male chauvinists. This article would give an insight into the debate, an insight about the celebration in the contemporary world and would explore if there is really a need for a special day.
The intellectuals are not a homogenous group. Some argue that a special day is actually a contradiction to the feminist goal of equality. They would argue for a “man’s day”. This demand for a “man’s day” is popular among many, including male chauvinists. To this, some feminists would retaliate by saying that all other days are actually man’s day. They would argue that Women’s day is important for the ‘empowerment ‘ of women. It is the celebration of a memory of women uprising and success. It is a hope and it should be remembered and cherished.
Today, Women’s Day is celebrated through seminars, panel discussions and street marches organized by colleges and civil society organizations, mostly in cities. It is celebrated by beauty salons and shops through discounts. It is celebrated through sms messages and facebook statuses. So ofcourse, it is largely an urbane and elite concept. It is ironical as the history of this day goes back to the section of working class women. The nearest it goes rural is when All India Radio announces it in the two-minute news before every programme. I wouldn’t say that women in urban areas or of elite classes are liberated but they are definitely at a better position. But the rural/non-elite side is not the only reason why I, like most others, becomes critical of this day.
I am also very cynical of what I call “overfeminisation” which is the other extreme. Overfeminisation is the process by which the whole world becomes divided into feminism and male chauvinism or feminism and femininity and all other identities including the human self is dissolved. As I look around, I find 8th march to be another process of overfeminisation by ‘intellectuals’ who decide to call themselves ‘feminists’. 8th March would become the most important day in the calendar. All promises against male chauvinism and the gendered society will be made on this day. I would see people writing about how oppressed we(mostly urban elite women) have been, the sacrificed that we have always made and how we should put a stop to it. There would be cases of situational “sisterhood”. Celebrating Women’s day seems to be an obligation.
It all seems like Globalization to me – rich becoming richer and poor remaining unchanged or becoming poorer. Women who are already “liberated” go gaga over this day, proving to any tom, dick and harry about how important this day is, while the underprivileged and the more discriminated section remains unvisited, remembering this day because it might feature as a GK question(this is if they reach the stage for a GK quiz).
But the question remains… Is there a need for a Women’s day? I think there is. Women’s day is, according to me, a celebration of a memory of women’s uprising. It celebrates a spirit and it is important to keep that spirit alive. It is true that this concept is largely an elite and urbane concept but instead of wiping out this day, it is important that we take this spirit to the rural. It is also true that like other festivals, this day is also being commercialized but even in commercialization, the safeguard of the “spirit” is in our hands. Women’s day doesn’t have to be a big affair but it has to be an important affair. It marks a memory and gives a hope.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The time when children were innocent

As kids, we had a desire to speed up the growing part and become adults. Adulthood meant an escape from the boring homework, having a lot more freedom and the power to decide. Ofcourse, now as adults, we like to laugh on that silly desire. It was silly but it was a very innocent one. We were too innocent to understand what adulthood would really mean. How that “freedom” would mean very little in front of that ever-increasing tension. We realize it now but it seems that parents these days don’t.

Recently, I came across an article in a TOI supplement, Education Plus, dated 12th January 2012, about preschoolers and little kids learning to cook, wash cars and doing computers. I anyway never understood the concept of pre-schooling as 14 years of schooling is torturous enough for kids but this came as a major shock to me. I wondered what has gone wrong with parenting these days.

I remember how our parents would talk about their ‘golden’ childhood and would totally discard our idea of ‘fun’ in childhood. My mother had a serious disapproval for Cartoon Network and my computer buddies, Dave and Aladdin. They would talk about their vacations back in the villages and the “real” fun, as they used to put it. Every vacation, I was forced to engage in some ‘fun’ activity like dance, music or playing casio. We all grew up being compared with a neighborhood kid or a cousin. This was our childhood. We were more ‘privileged’ than our previous generation but the next and the current generation have a lot more, like cellphones before college, facebook accounts much before their teen years, the obsession with branded and fashionable clothes, in short, an over-exposure!

Now, I think that we were so much better-off. And I don’t feel any kind of happiness as I write this. I feel really sad that what they are losing out on what happens to be what kids are famous for i.e. innocence. Now, when I think of my childhood, I review all the mistakes that I ever made. Some of them were stupid and others, quite serious, yet I don’t feel any remorse because I was innocent. I was not trained enough to see all aspects of things. I realized and learned from my mistakes only with time. I learned all that, at the right age. I was ignorant, immature and imperfect. It was only with time that I started shedding some of them. I now feel that growing up is so beautiful. And as I realize this, I feel sad for these kids.

It’s not their age to learn how to cook or how to wash a car. Why do they need to do that? Are they being expected to be independent? I see kids in reality shows trying to express emotions which they are not even supposed to understand and I have nothing but pity for them. Why are they being expected to behave like adults? Most of the times, the judges don’t seem to know how to talk to kids. They end up discouraging the kids. But Why? Why are kids supposed to be perfect today! They are expected to sing their throats out, dance till their legs give away and express emotions which are way-ahead than their ages. So we have a preteen TV actress playing the role of a wife(not child bride) on a popular TV show. Is there a dearth of better actresses, I wondered. What was the need for playing with the psychological mind-set of the young actress?

I see preschoolers having their ears pierced and I wonder the need. I remember having the ear-piercing done when I was in third standard. I fail to understand why things are growing so fast.

I don’t think one can blame the kids! The questions should be directed to their parents, their guardians and these schools. What are they playing at? The World is moving on very fast… there is an upsurge in technology and one needs to be updated but not at the cost of destroying the beautiful child-like innocence. Why are we exposing them to a world for which they are not yet ready? Why are they taking away from their own kids what they cherish the most… the “golden” childhood? Why are the parents in such a hurry?

The schools consider this as a step to better ‘prepare’ the students. They are ‘preparing’ the students for what? This competitive world? The world is definitely become ‘meaner’ day by day and the competition is a reality. But this does not mean that we end up producing miniature adults, rather than kids. And all this is only worsening the competition. The schools may claim “innovative” methods to make learning “fun” but actually, it is indulging into a lot of “learning” for the kids, with these “extra-curricular” activities. The “Extra-curricular” activities which sometimes also include personality development, a concept which again I fail to accept for kids. If immaturity is bad, so is over-maturity.

Why cant we just let them be themselves… and enjoy their innocent childhood which they will cherish later in their lives, when they will ultimately struggle in this notorious, demonic world? Why cant we let kids be kids again?