Monday, December 31, 2012

Ladoos and Barfis

'Will you distribute ladoos or barfis?', a nurse at a Delhi hospital had asked my mother, just hours before I was born. My mother did not understand the gist of this question, but my aunt who had lived in the capital long enough to understand quickly responded, indignant that it was even asked. 'It doesn't matter to us', she replied.

Barfis are usually distributed to mark the birth of a girl (assuming that a family obsessed with having a male heir does not resort to female foeticide). Ladoos, the richer, more expensive sweet of the two, are distributed to celebrate the birth of a boy. See how the birth of a girl is merely noted, but that of a boy is celebrated? And therein begins a journey of inequality, right from the proverbial cradle to the grave, sowing the seeds of a chauvinistic, misogynistic society.

A girl is taught to dress appropriately, talk and conduct herself in a manner that doesn't bring herself or her family any shame. A girl who is provocatively dressed 'deserves to be raped' because 'she asked for it'. How about men? Oh! They are men, and after all, 'men have their needs'. I have often heard people state, 'Even if you say a thousand things, she is only a woman'. Just take a look at all our movies, which is perhaps a reflection of  our society. The femme fatale is the bad woman, using her charm to seduce unsuspecting, innocent men. She is always the English speaking, pub frequenting, provocatively dressed woman who smokes, drinks, and sleeps around. On the other hand, the good heroine is always dressed conservatively, knows her 'place', sacrifices her own identity, gives up her dreams and ambitions, so that she can become an ideal wife. Incidentally, these things do not apply to men, of course. We are not only a misogynistic society but also a hypocritical one. We ask our daughters to cover up, as if that will stop rapists, and yet, we have no qualms watching the thousands of item numbers that desperate movie makers include in their mindless movies, just so that they can sell. And in a country that is crazy about Bollywood, they sell like hot cakes! Indeed, who has not heard of Munni or Shiela? A society where women are objectified, routinely harassed just because they are women, where respect seems to have vanished- this is our society today.

The past fortnight brought with it one of the most shocking incidents our country has ever witnessed. Like thousands of people across India, I was struck numb. The brutality of the rape stung me, and I was horrified that it could ever happen in a society which is supposed to be civil. Even worse, I soon realized that this could happen to anyone! Collective outrage against our impotent laws, against our corrupt system, against our indifferent chalta hai attitude poured into the streets. Candlelight vigils were held all over India, expressing our sorrow for India's 'braveheart', calling for stricter laws (Castrate the criminals! Hang them!) I fully agree that there needs to be a fear of law, and there have been far too many rape cases where the survivor is reduced to the label of a 'rape victim', destined to live the rest of her life, burdened with social stigma. Indeed, look at the phrase used to describe such circumstances- she lost her honor. How unfair can it get! Remember the Park Street incident? A politician allegedly stated that this was not a rape case, but rather a 'misunderstanding' arising out of a deal with a client. I cannot even fathom how a woman can say such things about another woman. Remember Soumya's story? The beast, who brutally raped her and left her to die, is still alive, living comfortably on taxpayers' money in prison. These stories are frightening, but what remains even more distressing is that the rapes continue to happen, the misogynistic attitudes remain defiant. And there seems to be deafening silence all around when it comes to concrete long term solutions.

One of the perpetrators behind this extremely heinous incident is a juvenile. I cannot even believe that someone who is of my younger cousin's age could even think of such an act. Isn't this a sign of how the government, schools, families, our society as a whole, have failed? Ironically, this incident has brought to light our mindset, even within the elite so-called educated society. When former actor Smriti Irani, a member of the Parliament, spoke about the issue, she was ridiculed by Sanjay Nirupam, another Parliament member, the gist of the entire remark being- till today you were dancing on TV and today you have become a politician? Abhijit Mukherjee, another MP, and the son of our President, recently passed a remark on how the women protesting against the streets of Delhi are 'painted and dented'. Even as young women gathered at Raisina Hill and other locations across the country, there were cases of them being groped and eve-teased. I read about how certain Haryana politicians think that reducing the marriageable age for women would be a solution. Let's reduce it to ten or twelve maybe, shall we? That way we can kill all hopes of an education and a future for young girls! As they say, nip it in the bud! Another honorable politician went on to recommend that skirts should be banned as school uniforms since 'it attracts sharp and dirty glances and lewd comments'. He went on to suggest that they should be made to wear salwar kameezes or trousers instead. Note that there was no mention about implementing strict punishment for eve-teasing or taking the men to task. What next? Ban girls from going to school all together? Because you know, it's all this education that is making girls bolder and taking them far from where they are supposed to be; stopping them from attending schools would teach them a lesson, and put them back in their places. If this is the attitude of our elected leaders and urban citizens, I shudder to think of the plight of those in rural areas, buried in some forgotten corner of the nation.

This is probably one among hundreds of blog posts written about the issue. I write about this because it angers me, it makes me feel helpless. Our society is crippled, our justice system flawed, and our attitudes frightening. As a woman, as an Indian, as a human being, I hang my head in shame for being a part of a society which has permitted this to occur. I do pray that Nirbhaya's death does not go in vain. An eye for an eye does make the world blind, but in a society such as ours, only fear of the law will work. My opinion may not matter much but I do believe that India can learn a lesson or two from Singapore and Saudi Arabia in this regard. The six accused in this brutal gang-rape must be brought to justice. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg for these incidents continue to occur, and very often they go unnoticed. Think about rapes by family members, forced prostitution in rural areas, honor killings, dowry deaths...The only long term solution is to change the way we think. Our children must see good examples in their parents. From childhood, they must be taught that men and women are equal, and that should be practised in reality. Inequality starts from the choice over a ladoo or a barfi. Sometimes it starts even before a child is born. This isn't about politics or feminism. It all boils down to respect and dignity, something which is central to the existence of any human being. Women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity; we too are human.

4 comments:

  1. True Sruthi. Children should be taught to respect each other irrespective of the gender. The onus lies with the family, school and society. The mind set of the people should change. A long way to go!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am just wondering what kind of beasts roam around. These people should be left to the public to be ripped apart or may be stoned to death. Stoning the devil holds apt here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You know what, It's not just the aunties who speak this way, even Men, educated men, some of them, share similar views. That is what is shocking, this thought is what has to change.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Presently, a lot of articles and guides that would suggest
    steps in removing keylogger software.

    my weblog - keylogger free

    ReplyDelete

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ladoos and Barfis

'Will you distribute ladoos or barfis?', a nurse at a Delhi hospital had asked my mother, just hours before I was born. My mother did not understand the gist of this question, but my aunt who had lived in the capital long enough to understand quickly responded, indignant that it was even asked. 'It doesn't matter to us', she replied.

Barfis are usually distributed to mark the birth of a girl (assuming that a family obsessed with having a male heir does not resort to female foeticide). Ladoos, the richer, more expensive sweet of the two, are distributed to celebrate the birth of a boy. See how the birth of a girl is merely noted, but that of a boy is celebrated? And therein begins a journey of inequality, right from the proverbial cradle to the grave, sowing the seeds of a chauvinistic, misogynistic society.

A girl is taught to dress appropriately, talk and conduct herself in a manner that doesn't bring herself or her family any shame. A girl who is provocatively dressed 'deserves to be raped' because 'she asked for it'. How about men? Oh! They are men, and after all, 'men have their needs'. I have often heard people state, 'Even if you say a thousand things, she is only a woman'. Just take a look at all our movies, which is perhaps a reflection of  our society. The femme fatale is the bad woman, using her charm to seduce unsuspecting, innocent men. She is always the English speaking, pub frequenting, provocatively dressed woman who smokes, drinks, and sleeps around. On the other hand, the good heroine is always dressed conservatively, knows her 'place', sacrifices her own identity, gives up her dreams and ambitions, so that she can become an ideal wife. Incidentally, these things do not apply to men, of course. We are not only a misogynistic society but also a hypocritical one. We ask our daughters to cover up, as if that will stop rapists, and yet, we have no qualms watching the thousands of item numbers that desperate movie makers include in their mindless movies, just so that they can sell. And in a country that is crazy about Bollywood, they sell like hot cakes! Indeed, who has not heard of Munni or Shiela? A society where women are objectified, routinely harassed just because they are women, where respect seems to have vanished- this is our society today.

The past fortnight brought with it one of the most shocking incidents our country has ever witnessed. Like thousands of people across India, I was struck numb. The brutality of the rape stung me, and I was horrified that it could ever happen in a society which is supposed to be civil. Even worse, I soon realized that this could happen to anyone! Collective outrage against our impotent laws, against our corrupt system, against our indifferent chalta hai attitude poured into the streets. Candlelight vigils were held all over India, expressing our sorrow for India's 'braveheart', calling for stricter laws (Castrate the criminals! Hang them!) I fully agree that there needs to be a fear of law, and there have been far too many rape cases where the survivor is reduced to the label of a 'rape victim', destined to live the rest of her life, burdened with social stigma. Indeed, look at the phrase used to describe such circumstances- she lost her honor. How unfair can it get! Remember the Park Street incident? A politician allegedly stated that this was not a rape case, but rather a 'misunderstanding' arising out of a deal with a client. I cannot even fathom how a woman can say such things about another woman. Remember Soumya's story? The beast, who brutally raped her and left her to die, is still alive, living comfortably on taxpayers' money in prison. These stories are frightening, but what remains even more distressing is that the rapes continue to happen, the misogynistic attitudes remain defiant. And there seems to be deafening silence all around when it comes to concrete long term solutions.

One of the perpetrators behind this extremely heinous incident is a juvenile. I cannot even believe that someone who is of my younger cousin's age could even think of such an act. Isn't this a sign of how the government, schools, families, our society as a whole, have failed? Ironically, this incident has brought to light our mindset, even within the elite so-called educated society. When former actor Smriti Irani, a member of the Parliament, spoke about the issue, she was ridiculed by Sanjay Nirupam, another Parliament member, the gist of the entire remark being- till today you were dancing on TV and today you have become a politician? Abhijit Mukherjee, another MP, and the son of our President, recently passed a remark on how the women protesting against the streets of Delhi are 'painted and dented'. Even as young women gathered at Raisina Hill and other locations across the country, there were cases of them being groped and eve-teased. I read about how certain Haryana politicians think that reducing the marriageable age for women would be a solution. Let's reduce it to ten or twelve maybe, shall we? That way we can kill all hopes of an education and a future for young girls! As they say, nip it in the bud! Another honorable politician went on to recommend that skirts should be banned as school uniforms since 'it attracts sharp and dirty glances and lewd comments'. He went on to suggest that they should be made to wear salwar kameezes or trousers instead. Note that there was no mention about implementing strict punishment for eve-teasing or taking the men to task. What next? Ban girls from going to school all together? Because you know, it's all this education that is making girls bolder and taking them far from where they are supposed to be; stopping them from attending schools would teach them a lesson, and put them back in their places. If this is the attitude of our elected leaders and urban citizens, I shudder to think of the plight of those in rural areas, buried in some forgotten corner of the nation.

This is probably one among hundreds of blog posts written about the issue. I write about this because it angers me, it makes me feel helpless. Our society is crippled, our justice system flawed, and our attitudes frightening. As a woman, as an Indian, as a human being, I hang my head in shame for being a part of a society which has permitted this to occur. I do pray that Nirbhaya's death does not go in vain. An eye for an eye does make the world blind, but in a society such as ours, only fear of the law will work. My opinion may not matter much but I do believe that India can learn a lesson or two from Singapore and Saudi Arabia in this regard. The six accused in this brutal gang-rape must be brought to justice. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg for these incidents continue to occur, and very often they go unnoticed. Think about rapes by family members, forced prostitution in rural areas, honor killings, dowry deaths...The only long term solution is to change the way we think. Our children must see good examples in their parents. From childhood, they must be taught that men and women are equal, and that should be practised in reality. Inequality starts from the choice over a ladoo or a barfi. Sometimes it starts even before a child is born. This isn't about politics or feminism. It all boils down to respect and dignity, something which is central to the existence of any human being. Women deserve to be treated with respect and dignity; we too are human.

4 comments:

  1. True Sruthi. Children should be taught to respect each other irrespective of the gender. The onus lies with the family, school and society. The mind set of the people should change. A long way to go!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am just wondering what kind of beasts roam around. These people should be left to the public to be ripped apart or may be stoned to death. Stoning the devil holds apt here.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You know what, It's not just the aunties who speak this way, even Men, educated men, some of them, share similar views. That is what is shocking, this thought is what has to change.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Presently, a lot of articles and guides that would suggest
    steps in removing keylogger software.

    my weblog - keylogger free

    ReplyDelete