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.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Childhood Memories, Nostalgia - The curse of #adulting!

Adulting has its banes. Often times you feel that everybody else around you grew to become an adult while you were left out in the process of evolution. And then oftener times, you feel as if you were the only one who evolved while the rest were living under a rock.

Needless to say, I have had my own such moments every now and then. But recently, I found myself caught between both emotions simultaneously.

Having lived in different cities during my growing years, I never studied in one school. While, the upside to this is that I got exposed to different languages, cultures, dialects and climates. The downside is that I hardly have any friends from the long lost school days. A couple of school friends that I have were made during the last leg of my schooling. Clearly, I don’t have that gang to recount those days.

The above fact in not new to me but the realization hits hard around once in a year. That’s when I spend substantial time recalling all the names of my classmates, teachers, neighbours, and look for them across social media. Of these names, there’s one name that has remained registered over the years. And every time this nostalgia hits, I look for this person as well.

I recently found this guy, and thought of sending him a connection request, hoping that he would recall my name, and not consider it weird. Luckily for me, he accepted my request and so began our chit-chat in general. During the conversation I got to know that he is living in the same city. Happy and full of nostalgia, we exchanged numbers and a time was fixed for call.

So far, there was just a happy memory of school days, knotting the school ties, stealing chalk… The call was looked forward to.

Struck midnight, and I got the call. The person was clearly in his own “zone”. Instead of exchanging pieces of memories from school, he decided to hit the most favourite subject of women’s safety and how it is associated with their conduct. In middle of the night, talking on the phone, I could not figure out why I got in touch with this person in the first place. The gyaan was pouring in from all directions about how women have a problem if men look at them, and how they still have a problem if they do not look at them. How women choose to dress a certain way and then create a fuss when they are misbehaved with. And how, women should think before indulging in PDA. He was only short of saying that rapes happen because of Chinese cuisine!

That one conversation, hopped from how certain languages and certain cuisines in our country are distasteful, to how he has never seen a woman being dragged and raped in front of his eyes. That one conversation really found me swinging between the two thoughts. Either I was living under a rock or these individuals have arrived from another planet.

Well, well, all said and done - I think, I’m done tracing my roots for this life. Sometimes we just grow up, or grow out…

#MeToo Campaign and I

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