Monday, October 23, 2017

#MeToo Campaign and I

The last week found all of social media flooding with the #MeToo campaign. The campaign that was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein allegations to convey the magnitude of sexual abuse in our society led a lot of people, men and women alike, to open up. Some just posted the hashtag while others wrote about their experiences in detail.

I, for one, was confused about it. Mostly because there have been so many, that it will be exhausting to open that Pandora’s box. More so because it will fill me with rage, rage that won’t do any good in it’s true form.

I was catching up with a friend when he mentioned the futility of this campaign and how it is useless and propagates self-victimization. Needless to say, that made me angry, sad, upset, and everything in between. How could anyone accuse any such initiative, of people coming out and talking about abuse, of self-victimization?

Isn’t it obvious that none of the victims are looking for pity? Isn’t that the reason why none of us have chosen to speak about the abuses perpetrated on us over the years. That and the fact that we still try to blame and shame the victim. The same friend also went on to put the contemporary fashion under spotlight. According to him, as many others, surge of testosterone is the primal instinct which is triggered by any show of extra skin. Extra in this case is subjective, for some experience the trigger of those instincts when they see a little bit of arm of another person, or the tiny feet of a baby.

So, on behalf of all those who participated in the #MeToo campaign, and also on behalf of those who have been abused in some form or another but could not openly participate in the campaign, I am writing this today.

#MeToo campaign is
- not about self-victimization
- not a collective pity-party that we have launched to massage each other’s hurt self-esteem
not about making everyone feel insecure or become cynical of their surroundings
- not just about women who have been abused but also men

It is, in fact, about
- Conveying the magnitude of sexual abuse and how prevalent it is
The fact that is not just concentrated in one industry, place, or situation

And most of all, it is about offering a hand to show that we are there for each other. So that somewhere, someone can see this support and can come forward and talk about their experience; for you believe it or not, half the population on this planet is silently suffering and not talking about it. They are still thinking about how they could have done things differently to avoid those horrific experiences. I know that I am still thinking about it.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Behind the veil of tradition

The series of incidents I will narrate henceforth, are all isolated. Some of them may even appear to be lighthearted in nature. But the reason I am going to narrate these incidents here is provoke some thought in the readers’ mind. The incidents so to speak, are a recollection of a person I know, but it could be any of us, or all of us.

First, some facts...
  • The person in this narrative is a woman
  • Lives in the tech-capital of India
  • Owns multiple pets
  • Prefers an asocial lifestyle
  • The city in question is supposedly a great place for women to thrive as most people are well educated and from decent families

About a year ago, during an official dinner, her colleague made a remark in passing which had a sexist undertone. When she tried to discuss the matter further, bang came the formidable F word. Are you one of the feminist types? - was the question. Turns out, Feminist is the most dreaded F word of our generation, even more than the other four letter F word.

A year on, another official gathering, mostly comprising of men. Well, to put things into perspective, she was the only woman in the gathering. In an attempt to humour the guests of honour, one of the colleagues quipped that the city they live in has weather just like a girlfriend aka unpredictable. To this, the married guest of honour quipped that the weather of his hometown is like a wife aka hot and humid. While she did have a comeback on the tip of her tongue, the distastefulness of the entire conversation left her muted. She could have retorted saying that the city they were in has the climate like an engineer’s career. As distasteful as the others’ remarks, and below the belt. That could get her tag of “a bitch,” wouldn’t you agree?

A colleague at work boasting about her cab driver’s driving prowess. How wonderful that he manages to get her home faster than other drivers as he’s swift, even on the wrong side! But the other day, they got stuck bumper-to-bumper with another car coming from the opposite direction. She (the colleague) was aghast because the car on the opposite side (read the right side) was being driven by a woman. Now, how can a woman drive at all, leave alone driving on the right side of the road?

And then the mass-molestation incident happened in some city on the New Year’s Eve. How could those women be wearing whatever they were wearing (nobody knows what they were in fact wearing), and how could they be so drunk (again, nobody knows if they were drunk at all) was the collective question asked. Men will be men after all!
This woman in question has more than a couple of pets to make her house a home. She is regularly asked a nagging question, “where will you leave your pets when you get married?” Is that even a valid question is what she wonders. Why is a woman expected to leave her life behind if she gets married? Her mother has a bigger worry of how will she find a partner with all these pets at all? Men apparently don’t appreciate women who have pets, or life of their own.

On a given Monday, one of her colleagues was asked by another, “how was your weekend, bro?” To which, his riposte was, “Oh! Married men don’t have any weekend.” Needless to say, the comeback was collectively lauded. The women who overheard this conversation were left wondering who will take a note of the man-babies. The ones who can’t find a missing pair of sock without crying for help from their ever-caring mothers and/or wives. But no, women who talk about these matters are tagged as “cribbing wives”. How can a devoted wife complain about her husband not being responsible for his health? Tch!!

And then one day, this woman did something unimaginable. She chopped off her long manes and showed up at work with a cropped look. Want to guess the best question that was thrown at her? “Have you joined some sort of women’s liberation association?” While she was expecting, and did get questions like, “did you have a breakup?” this question took the cake. She did retort saying that she doesn’t need to join any association as she is the association.

The best incident of all is yet to follow. During a general discussion around the festivities of Diwali, a colleague mentioned how he was stuck as the only “boy” in the girlish task of painting Rangoli in a group of girls.

For the uninitiated (read international) audience, Rangoli is a form of traditional art painted at the threshold of Indian households during major festivals like Deepawali. Some households in India follow the tradition of painting Rangoli every day, although the tradition is slowly dying as the women of the household are getting busier in their life, professional as well as personal. Why women you ask? Well, read on…

On being asked to define stuck, he retorted saying that it is a women’s thing to do. Upon being further questioned as to did he lose his moustache, the visible sign of masculinity, in the process of painting Rangoli, he walked back to his workstation and sent a Wikipedia link. On being asked about the context of that link, he responded saying that “traditionally” it is supposed to be done by women. What ensued was a long discussion on tradition vs progress. On being schooled about patriarchy, the same young man denied having any knowledge of patriarchy in Indian society. He went on to say that what she was talking about might be from some other civilization but he is absolutely not part of that civilization. On being asked if he agrees with the caste system as well, since it stems from the same tradition, he absolutely refused.

A while ago, a friend and I were talking about feminism and patriarchy, and he made a beautiful point that all the isms aside, we should strive to be progressive. The friend in question is someone that I refer to as a closeted feminist, for a progressive society gives equal right to all participants, and the freedom of choice too.

For the flag bearers of patriarchy in the guise of traditionalism fail to realise that this patriarchy is killing their fellow brothers too. It is same set of men who visit other countries and come back whining about the tradition of racism. It is the same patriarchy that is keeping so many men from following their dreams of becoming a ballet dancer, a painter, a cook, a homemaker. It is thanks to this patriarchy, that there are so many gays in our society, married to the opposite sex and leading dual lives.

And so we continue watching the charade of #SelectiveTolerance.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Sin of Having Breasts

So, while my readers are wondering where I have been for the last few months, well, I was reeling over the present state of ourselves. Of how we have started regressing instead of progressing? Where we went wrong and such.

We often blame the men for where we are and what we have become. But are they really to be blamed? Can we, the women, take the holy water in our hands and swear to have done everything possible to accept fellow women as they are?

Picture this… A woman co-worker walks into work wearing a V-neck t-shirt. She’s wearing clean clothes, conforming to the official dress code. Her mistake? Well, she has breasts. The next thing we know, fellow “well meaning” women gesture her to pull up her top.

Another scenario, another woman. She is wearing a salwar-kameez, absolutely sanskari you would say. Her mistake? Well, she has breasts and unfortunately, she also wears a bra. Oh gosh! How could she wear that stigma of womanhood and afford to let the strap show by accident? Another set of well-meaning colleagues/friends gesture towards her to get rid of the evidence with immediate effect.

We’re aren’t unaware of or unknown to our well-meaning mothers, sisters, neighbourhood aunties and such, who on more than one occasion have reminded us to “cover-up,” “wear a jacket,” “wear a chemise” to hide the fact that there is a woman walking out there.

Oh! And then come girlfriends and wives into the picture. How quickly we dismiss the women around us by calling them too slutty to be chosen as life partners. Because, a life partner worthy “material” doesn’t walk around showing too much skin or speaking her mind, or doing both now, does she?

Have we ever seen a father tell his son to shave off his stubble to hide the fact that he is man? Have we ever seen men gesturing towards fellow male colleagues to pull up their pants as their underwear elastic bearing the brand name shows over the waist of their trousers? Did we ever see a man whispering into another man’s ears that he needs to go to the toilet, like it was against the ten commandments? I’m sure, none of us have seen any of that.

The list is long, and frustration pent up for decades… and the deeper I dig, the more I find women guilty of acting against women. Why do we have to snigger with perverted men when a joke is made about what a woman is wearing? Why don’t we just tell them to mind their own freaking business and let the other person be? Why do we have to impose a certain image of sanskari women on other women? Most of all, why do we even try to manipulate men in our life by slut-shaming other women? Are we so out of logical arguments? Or have we regressed so far that we’d exceed any length to achieve what we want, without giving a thought to how our actions are affecting those people?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TRUMPing Rage

I’m aware that I’m kind of late, almost at snail pace in coming up with this piece. But All these days, I was trying to process the events taking place and my initial impulsive reactions.

Friends in the US of A, sounded concerned when the night of Nov 8th, and needless to say we all shared their concern as citizens of one global village. Someone started an online petition, to convince the electoral college to reverse the decision of US citizens.

I first reaction was “Wow! Is that even possible? Why don’t we have that in India?” And yet, after much after thought I realized how much I disagree. Well, to begin with, electoral college in this case holds the position as that of a responsible parent. The parent who’s supposed to step in and sort all the problems caused by their child, who happens to be the collective majority of the United States. Much like our own Salman Khan’s father, ever so willing to apologise for his son’s stupid statements and actions.

Whether we like him or not, as much as we detest him personally, we really need to realise and accept the fact that Trump is now the president elect of USA. And as long as he hasn’t resorted to criminal and/or illegal methods to win the polls, the electoral college should ideally not reverse this decision. Good, bad or ugly, a mistake or the right decision, the majority of US decided to elect him, and they must have a taste of what it really is.

For all we know he might just prove to be a good president. If not, there will be polls in four years’ time to fix this mistake. But stepping in of electoral college, to salvage the situation would never help the adults learn a valuable lesson.

As for the hypocrisy of this situation, the same people, who were in support of Hillary Clinton for being a woman running for elections, are now shaming Melania Trump for her career as a model. What has anyone got to do with the fact that she was a bikini model? And if we do have to share facts about her, then why not share the fact that she fluently speaks six languages? Or are really living in times of #SelectiveTolerance?

The term democracy by its very meaning is that the people elect their representative from time-to-time. Any attempt to twist that would cause a state of anarchism, in addition to the assurance that people can make any error or judgement whatsoever and Mommy would come to their rescue.

Think about it! Maybe it’s time to swallow that hypocrisy and pride, and learn the lesson.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

India, The Land of #SelectiveTolerance

And proud at that!

Welcome to India, my holy motherland. The land of intolerance. There have been a lot of controversies in recent times about India being a land of intolerant people. Well, that definitely needs correction.

We the people of India appreciate free speech as long as Arnab Goswami disciplines people from all walks of life on prime time news, but we get baffled when common citizens express their views, albeit different from the majority.

We the people are tolerant, even forgiving, of film stars who drunk drive and kill people, and make inappropriate comments on rape. But we, the same forgiving people, uninstall a shopping app because another film star generally states his concern about the general state of communal disharmony in the country.

We the people, are proud of women who make a name for themselves as long as they don’t drink, smoke or live a life as they want. The moment a woman who has made her mighty khandaan proud is spotted with a cigarette between her fingers, she suddenly becomes a subject of ridicule. Tch! Tch! How could she blow off the respect earned by her ancestors with one puff?

We the Indians, are tolerant nay empathetic of men and women having flings as long as they keep the sanctity of unHoly matrimony. Who walks out of a marriage of convenience, after all? Aren’t we a land of tolerant people; people who tolerate toxic relations, friendships, work place, and marriage? How could one take the intolerant path of divorce? We are supposed to be tolerant! We are not America now, are we? We can boycott actors for divorcing their wives but watch first day, first show of actors who beat-up their girlfriends. It is after all their personal matter, isn’t it?

We the tolerant people, empathize with Hindus who eat beef during their sojourn abroad. After all, it’s a need for survival! But we, the same god damn, people kill if we even suspect that a Muslim has eaten or has plans of eating beef.

We are the mighty Indians, who strike a war against neighboring country on social media, while hogging Lahori Kebab. Who cares about Lahore if we can get those Kebabs in the neighborhood! Right?

We are so tolerant that our daughters leave their parents behind when they get married. Some of them even surrender their income to their family-in-law. But we the tolerant people have a landmark judgement from Supreme Court to divorce those wives who do not wish to live with the husband’s parents.

In fact, we are so amazing, that we worship Goddesses in various form on different festivals, but we stop our own women from entering the places of worship while menstruating. We are so tolerant that we worship a naked goddess but molest a woman wearing skirt. She is but a mere human after all.

We the people of India, take immense pride in our reverence for the said scriptures, but we, the same people never even bother to read even one. We are so great that Kamasutra originated in our land, but we could die of shame speaking of sex, sexuality or even condoms.

We are even better at acknowledging the fact that Gandharva Vihaah has been an ancient tradition. But we wouldn't shy away from ostracizing a couple living together without being married on paper, or even marrying against their family's wishes. We the people are really honorable for we take pride in killing for honour. The family's honour is attached to their daughter's marriage, wouldn't you agree?

We are the land of Ardhnarishwara, we even worship him her it, and yet we ridicule the LGBTQ community as best as we can.

We are a land of sanskaar (values), of parampara (tradition). We are absolutely not the land of intolerance. We are a land of #SelectiveTolerance!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A scribbler's distress

Hello readers from across the globe....

I see that you read my posts from different geographies, sometimes from my homeland India, sometime from the far west, and from all other beautiful places in between.

I just want you to know that it means a lot for an amateur scribe like me, to have such a diverse audience. But honestly, it'd be a lot more helpful if you could just spare a few moments to comment on my posts with your feedback and opinion.

It'd also embolden my confidence if you followed me on Twitter and liked my Facebook page.

Feedback is considered to be a writer's best reward, and it is only that that I seek.

I hope you will be able to spare some time to share your views on my posts. I really look forward to making my posts better and better.

Yours Truly,
Bombshell Ideas

Saturday, July 30, 2016

21st Century Journalism = Mud-slinging in public?

Arnab: “In the guise of backing Kashmiris these sections (pseudo-liberals) including the sections of media are doing everything possible to support Pakistan sitting here in India…” On The News Hour, Jul 26. 2016.

Barkha: I hope I will always be someone whose journalism you loathe, because trust me, the feeling is so utterly mutual that it would kill me to be on the same side of any issue as you. In her Facebook post, Jul 27, 2016.

And thus began a saga of mud-slinging, calling each other names, and question each other’s patriotism. The allegations have gone down to extent of feeling ashamed of belonging to the same industry as the other. One might be surprised to know that once upon a time, there was one channel, one visionary, one journalist extraordinaire to provide a nurturing ground to Arnab, Barkha, Rajdeep alike.

They were all trained under one roof, and must have had coffee in the same cafeteria, just like your colleagues and mine. They must have had some disagreements then, but time helped their love grow and flourish. And today, those disagreements have led to the level of abusing each other in public, knowing that entire nation’s aspiring journalists look up to them.

Back in journalism school, we were taught to be objective. A reporter is supposed to reports incidents as they are. If we arranging byte of those in favour of a matter, and byte from someone against it becomes a mandate, since a journalist is supposed to show both sides of the coin.

Today we see, the nation’s role models coming out like grade school kids and insulting each other in public. Honestly, I have never seen a worse case of abusing one’s resources at their best. Barkha, whose courage and ferocity gave me an ambition. Arnab, whose passionate debates constitute most of dinner time TV in the same pseuso-liberal families. They just seem to be short of pulling each other by the hair and dragging to the principal’s office.

When I look back, I feel ashamed of having once belonged to an industry where such an immature lot belongs. It is the same lot that keeps forgetting how they are deviating from the subject only in the effort of opinionating the nation, to satisfy their ego of course. It has become a matter of personal pride to either parties, to break down any matter of national attention from “For” and “Against” to “For Barkha” and “For Arnab”. It is no more a matter of debating issues at hand objectively, leaving the final verdict in the hands of the citizens.

But, oh no! No. How could that be? After all, the intelligentsia of the nation, the pseudo-liberals, and liberals alike has taken up the humongous responsibility to educating the lesser mortals. The lesser mortals whose impressionable minds are being impressed with the idea that those screaming passionately on the other side of the screen are the actual liberals.

Forgetting that a real liberal does not have to scream, ‘cause a real liberal knows how to respect another person’s opinion. A true liberal in the field of journalism would simply care about reporting the facts as they stand. A true liberal does not suffer with complexes contributing to formation of an opinion in their favour rather than the subject. For liberals would never let their personal opinion interfere with their profession.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Dear former Mother-in-law

I wish I had said these things…

10 years back when she met the parents for her boyfriend, they tested her patience in real sense. So strong, and so blind was her love that she still managed to sail through without killing anyone. 10 years back, when she was all of 22, she was asked if she would come back from work and cook every day. She was asked if she would conform to the traditional ways of married women. She was also asked if she would take permission before going to meet her family. She was asked if she would quit her career if her holy husband asked her to.

10 years back, when she was too young to understand the ways of this world, when she was just out of her teen age, she said yes in answer to almost all the questions except one about her family and career, by then she had started to wonder where she had gotten herself. So scared, upset and confused was she that a mere recall throws her into an anxiety attack - 10 years later…

Two years after that absurd meeting, the girl foolishly in love with that guy married him and went on to live with the entire clan under one roof. While she was strong headed enough to not give in to insane expectations, she was still vulnerable enough to get impacted by the daily criticism of not cooking for in-laws, of not wearing the marital attire, of taking her work too seriously.

Reading through Vagabomb’s recent post  about the things every woman should demand before getting married, she can only look back, cringe and then smile.

She hadn’t articulated her demands as she always took these things for granted. For her life couldn’t exist without the basics. But then it came onto her survival and she fought. She fought for all these things and more, and when she realized that the fight was consuming too much energy, she walked out. The world called her foolish for seeking divorce but she was not one for drama. She walked away and happy.

The said post is really ironical, for things like Time alone with family, Equality and respect, no ideal bahu pressure, no sanskaari wardrobe revamp, financial independence, freedom of choice to keep maiden name, an equal say in the family matters, time alone with partner, freedom to make decisions about body - are all truly basics. In a utopian world there shouldn’t be any need to demand these things. Additionally, she demanded a complete series of medical tests for HIV and STD, she offered the same for herself as well- luckily, this was accepted without much ado. But ironically, she had to demand these things, she had to fight each day, and even today when she thinks of that time, the anger and anxiety overwhelm her completely. And still she decided to recollect every instance and write this piece...

Dear former mother-in-law, former husband and rest of the family,
I wish I had said these things when I first met you and got to know your insane expectations. I wish I had told you that if I intended to feed someone without him helping out, I would rather adopt a baby. I wish I had told you to get out of my bedroom, the first time you tried to interfere between the fight of husband and wife.

Dear mother-in-law, I wish I had told you to shut-up when you had asked me to wear certain kind of clothes. I wish I had informed you that there is no such thing as ideal daughter-in-law, as there are no ideal mothers-in-law either. We are all different individuals and living under one roof, we should try make life simpler for everyone - together.

Dear former husband, I wish I had smacked you in the face and told you to get lost when you first told me get things in my body changed. I wish I had told you to never see my face again, the first time you asked me to change my name. I wish I had told you that you do not deserve another man’s daughter if you cannot put in an equal effort to accept and appreciate her.

I wish I had told you that I would not bear a child unless you showed some traces of civilized human behavior. I wish I had told you that a daughter-in-law is a human being who makes a personal choice of motherhood instead of becoming a child-bearing machine.

Dear former so-many-people, instead of hoping that you'd evolve, I wish I had never married in your family, for everyday in that house was an exhausting fight.

Today she thinks that she did the right thing in walking away. Our society preaches loyalty and faithfulness to the extent that we forget that things might go wrong. We forget to prepare our sons and daughters to bail out if things get beyond their capacity to manage. We forget that having a partner, or kids before a certain age, or posting together pictures on social media is not a life goal. It’s good to have these things but not at the cost of one’s own peace of mind and happiness. Today that girl is on her own, and is loving every bit of it. She might not have a partner to post together pictures with, but she definitely has a lot to do in her space and time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dil, Dosti, etc - When money enters the equation

The last couple of days have been tormenting, overwhelming and really disturbing to say the least. These days of disturbance led me to introspect and reflect on the relations that I have made and maintained through my life thus far.

To give a brief background, I asked one of my friends (best friend at one point in life) to return the money she had loaned from me on different occasions as it had been over ten years since it began. While I had written off that loan about three years back, I still felt the need to remind that person that the debt was still unpaid and I was still upset. What began then was a match of mudslinging which ended with me blocking that person from all channels of communication.

The last time I’d asked for my money back, she’d told me to manage my finances properly instead of spreading my hands. I was patient because she was carrying her first child then and I didn’t want the wrath to spill over to the unborn child.

In her last message which led to her being blocked, she had accused me of not being such a nice person who would keep mum if someone behaved the way she did. In short, she denied all that she had said and called me liar. She went on to say that she had to go through a tough decision during her second pregnancy because I had cursed her.

In the past, I had loaned two more friends, one of whom returned my money after giving me the same gyaan to manage my finances well. And well, the other person returned a hefty sum in such small parts that it was as good as trash to me. The second friend even lied to me of his wife not having a job while she actually did, and started returning my money only after I found out the truth and confronted/threatened him.

What I learnt from my mistakes are these 9 rules:

Rule No. 1: Never lend anyone money without having a clear discussion of when that would be returned.

Rule No. 2: Never keep mum if somebody crosses the line thinking that you’d end up ruining the relation. Quite honestly, the relation was ruined the moment that person crossed the line.

Rule No. 3: Never keep other’s need above yours or your family. Help only if you can afford to.

Rule No. 4: Watch out for signs. People with the intent to return the favour are quite grounded. They won’t spend on luxuries without paying back the previous debts.

Rule No. 5: It’s okay to grow out of friends/boy-friends/relations, don’t cling only to find yourself stranded. My biggest mistake in the first case was to cling while I grew out of her. Quite honestly, I had never even grown into her. It was more about clinging onto a phase of my life. And I paid for it with an affordable sum and scarring heartburn.

Rule No. 6: Listen to your family/close ones. While you might be blinded in the moment, your well-wishers may notice the signs. In all of the above cases including my former partner, my father had warned me absolutely blatantly. I had to burn my finger to learn my lessons.

Rule No. 7: Don’t lend. Don't borrow. Write the details if the need arises to do either.

Rule No. 8: Never ever disclose your salary even to your closest of friends. This was my biggest mistake. Every time I asked for my money back, from either of these individuals, they quoted my salary and remarked about how poor my finance skills were. - Make this the thumb rule.

Rule No. 9: Walk away when the damage is less. They who didn’t realise once, would never realise later. Conscience either exists or does not exist. There’s nothing in between. I kept adding to the previous debt hoping that the bigger sum would motivate her to pay back. Even got her an expensive dress with an agreement that either she’d pay back or return the dress. I got the dress back after following up for a year and a half. (Yes, I care about the dress. I am a woman.)

Last but not the least, never trust people who watch and like Ekta Kapoor kind of soap operas. They watch that crap and it gets into their head big time. <Experienced for real>

I have had my share of bitter experiences and still have been lucky to have friends who stood by me during hard times. Friends whose debt I’d never be able to pay back in cash or kind. I can only count my blessings and thank god for sparing me with only as much as I could afford.

There is no reason why one should survive suffocating or toxic relations. Watch out for the signs and bail out! In life we make plenty friends, some last a long time and some are lost in time. Cherish the happy moments but remember that the contribution in any relation has to be equal - Physically, emotionally, spiritually. You know it’s time to walk out when the proportions are distorted.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The “Shaming” Bubble

All this fuss about body shaming, fat shaming, slim shaming… I’ve started to wonder if I am still living in the same planet as I was born in. When I was growing up, I was told the story of Chipmunks over and over until the moral of that story started running in my blood stream. The moral being, pay attention to the chipmunks and they’ll enjoy bothering you, ignore them and they’ll get bored. So, when did we start paying attention to these chipmunks aka shamers!

Shobhaa De has been the latest victim of Indian hypocrisy. On one hand, we condemn the government and law enforcement for the (in)famous JNU matter, screaming freedom of expression. And on the other, we condemn Shobhaa De for the same freedom of expression.

For those unaware, Shobhaa De has been thoroughly criticized across all media platforms for her take on curves and sarees upon the recent visit of Prince William and Kate Middleton. In her blog on Shobhaa wrote, “Kate has skipped wearing a saree. Her waist is perfect for crinoline ball gowns from "Gone with the Wind". But a saree needs curves. A saree demands a derriere. Kate has none. Thank God, some misguided fashion guru has spared her and us so far.”

For eons, poets and authors described a woman’s curves draped in a saree, and how they appeal to a tender youthful heart. For several generations we have been admiring those literary pieces in educational institutions, and today suddenly, an army of ADHD* sufferers decides to shun all of that and so much more. (*Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder)

Let me ask a few questions to understand the situation better:
1.       Do we not follow instructions mentioned on various cosmetics about what shade would suit what skin tone?
2.       Do we not consult our friends and family before indulging in an extravagant shopping of clothes and shoes?
3.       Do we not tell our daughters and sisters to not wear certain kind of clothes while venturing out alone, late in the night, especially in notorious areas?

If your answer to one or more of the above questions is yes, then dear friends, all this fuss about fat-shaming, slim-shaming, slut-shaming is a sham to a great extent. It’s not a complete sham though, can’t be. That professor insulting the student for wearing whatever she chose to wear was incorrect. Bullying an overweight woman for her body type or bullying a slim girl for her type of body is again, incorrect. But expressing an opinion, is not incorrect.

Why, we all tell our boys and girls to eat well so that they are in good health. We, at the same time, advise them about healthy and unhealthy eating habits. We are also the ones who step-up and give suggestions about hairstyles, hair color, lip color, apparel and footwear based on body type, skin tone and what not. What is wrong in that? Well, nothing, right?

How many of us have been told by our grannies to put on some weight so that a saree would look good on us? Would you classify that as shaming?

And telling our girls to not dress a certain way is again not slut shaming. It is called caution. While I am all for rapists' and molesters' public castration with live broadcast on national channels, I also believe in exercising caution. We all do. I have a had friends and family members advising me about certain notorious areas and how I must be careful at my best. Does it mean that they are insensitive and victim blamers - No.

There's a thin line between shaming and caution. Shaming is when we decide to insult a person for whatever they are or choose to be. Caution is a different story altogether. None of would want to be on the other side and fight this battle. We just need to remember that we are living in a developing country, where a huge percentage of population is still uneducated. And while it's correct to support individual rights and not blame the victims of heinous crimes, we need to aware of the fact that this kind of evolution would take several generations of thorough education and civilized upbringing for things to change. Till then, caution is our best bet.

Shaming is when somebody is affected by the opinions expressed in the form of nagging. Bullying is when a person starts getting affected psychologically. But if we start classifying every opinion of our disliking as shaming and bullying then the day is not too far when our entire planet would start living in a state of silence.

My dear friends, there is a huge difference in bullying, shaming and, expressing an opinion - Let’s start thinking reasonably before crying foul.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The legend of Shravan Kumar

The legend of Shravan Kumar is not foreign to you if you were born and brought up by Hindu parents. For those unaware, Shravan Kumar was the only son of a blind couple who decided to take them for a holy pilgrimage across the country some 5000 years ago. As the legend goes, he was accidentally killed by King Dashrath who was out on a hunt. And in turn, the old couple cursed Dashrath to die in the absence of his most beloved son. We all know what transpired in the story of Prince Ram.

For ages, parents and grandparents have preached the story of Shravan Kumar, trying to inculcate the sense of duty into their children, especially sons. A son is considered good and dutiful (read Shravan Kumar of the family) if he marries when his parents wish and to whoever his parents wish. A son is considered worthy of all the love if he keeps his parents’ wishes and desires, over and above his own. A son is considered foolish and evil if he tries to pursue his own dreams. He is a bad son if he takes a stand against his own parents’ wishes.

Ironically, Shravan Kumar, as dutiful and devoted as he was, has become a pain point for the kids who find their parents harping on the Shravan Kumar story while they sit and wait for them to come back from work or school, and go about their “duties” like Shravan Kumar. Giving birth to a child is considered the ultimate stage for a woman in our society. The one who cannot, is pitied and the one who chooses not to is looked down upon.

Does giving birth to a child give parents a supreme right on their being? Just because they wanted to experience parenthood, does that bind a child to their own wishes to the extent of sacrificing his own? Weren’t the parents keen on experiencing the joy of raising their progeny, and not the child who wrote them an application requesting them to bring them to life? Aren’t the parents supposed to do their bit by teaching their children to follow their dreams, to pursue their own happiness and to be good human beings?

A son lives far away from home, but his wife and daughter are dutifully living with his parents back in his hometown. Why? Because it is a son’s and daughter-in-law’s duty to take care of the family in their old age. Is it also not the parent’s duty to let their son live a happily married life with his wife? Can they not move to the place where the son is working, just so that all of them can be together?
Hindu mythology and scriptures have been taken way too much advantage of. The stories narrated in Vedas, Upnishads and Puranas have become a manipulative tool, used by anyone at their own convenience to suit their argument.

They may choose to become whatever they please to their own kin, but their own progeny must turn out like Shravan Kumar, or they will be banished to hell. But isn’t a life of killed dreams and aspirations as bad as living hell? Who knows if there’s a heaven or hell after death? It’s just a picture painted by the religious leaders! Is it worthwhile to run blindly towards that conceptual heaven, leaving all the possibilities of creating your own living heaven, right here on this earth?

Guess, it’s time we asked these questions. Shravan Kumar did what seemed right to him in his age and time. While the basic moral remains intact, that we ought to take care of our parents when they’re old, I think we really need to reconsider the frills attached to the legend. A child could also be dutiful while pursuing his or her own dreams. They could be dutiful despite marrying or divorcing or remarrying of their own accord. The sense of duty is not bound by control. I think it’s high time, parents realized that their offspring are not horses whose reins need to be pulled every now and then.

#MeToo Campaign and I

The last week found all of social media flooding with the #MeToo campaign. The campaign that was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein allegatio...