Category Archives: Gender

The Day After

It is the next day.
Pink pamphlets torn,
Full price mani-pedi &
Fewer floral messages
On my phone.

Their job has been done,
Their purpose served.
What more do you want –
A pat on the back or
For me to lower my gun?

Stop whining and playing your card,
Waving your flags fighting for a cause.
You have it easy at every turn on the way-
Climbing the ladder,
Sleeping your way.

Go back into the box I drew for you
Say the words I spoke for you
Feel the feelings I told you to feel
Give me your body,
To choose for you.

You are afterall defined by me
A wife, sister or daughter
Or a slut if you are free.
Come on my dear, don’t ask for more
You have a whole fucking day that I don’t.

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The hurt of being a woman and seeing the results of the U.S elections

I spent an entire day yesterday in sadness and quite frankly bewilderment. I was torn between thinking about writing this and wondering if it is my place to do so – considering I am an Indian citizen, an able-bodied, cisgender, Hindu, upper-caste, heterosexual woman in a same-race relationship where both of us are college educated, employed and come from privilege in a country that is going through its own tumultuous growing pains.

I am writing this from the core of my identity as a woman because that is the part of me that feels most beaten and bruised right now. I am at a stage where I am yet to get to thinking about how we will explain this to children in schools or at home because quite frankly I do not think I understand it enough for me to be able to explain this to anyone else with that level of conviction or hope.

I am feeling a deep rooted sense of disgust by how this win has legitimized sexual assault. It makes my skin crawl to read Nigel Farage’s statement which mocks at the idea of Trump being a sexual predator when he says, “don’t touch her for goodness sake” when talking about meeting with Theresa May. It is NOT amusing to hear this when you are a part of a group that experiences microaggressions each day around touch, consent and space. I am not saying that all of this didn’t happen before this election but it has now become the new “normal” and that makes me sick. I am appalled by how “guy talk” is now an openly acceptable defense for conversations that actually could be construed as criminal offense. I am extremely worried for friends who may now need to think of getting an IUD before January 20th

As someone ensconced in their own bubble of beliefs and values, I take full responsibility for not connecting with the other side and being blindsided by the ideological divide that runs so deep. But I definitely do not shoulder responsibility for signing up for this – I was ready to have arguments about pantsuits, being “emotional”, how being a woman doesn’t excuse you for corruption, on why anyone should not be expected to smile more to be “likeable” and more such. I was not ready to go back redraw the basics tenets of decency.

To all those in India who are reading this and wondering why I am taking all of this so seriously considering I don’t live in the U.S or to those who take pride in us electing Indira Gandhi and therefore do not see this as our issue – I am equally disgusted and sickened when Mulayam Singh Yadav makes comments on how boys make mistakes (while referring to rape) or when I hear senior members of the police force talk about how if during rape fighting back is not an option, it is best to lie back and enjoy the experience. It is just as bad when you express a political opinion not aligned with the popular view and the trolls immediately threaten sexual violence or begin the diatribe with body shaming, slut shaming or any form of abuse that belittles who you are as a woman.

I am not one of those who looks blindly to the West in aspiration on issues of gender but it truly sucks to be a woman and see all of this play out across the world in far harsher degrees than what it ought to be in 2016.

Fuck breaking the glass ceiling – it is back to feeling grateful if your body, your voice, your intellect, your being is respected as human and not some second rate “creature” and if you can escape each day feeling unscathed or a little less dirty.

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Notes for the movie Pink

I watched Pink last evening and more than the movie itself, I could not help dwell on the snatches of conversations I overheard during and immediately after the movie as people were leaving the theater. I made some notes for those who saw the movie and for those who are thinking of seeing it soon.

  • The movie is a bit too close to reality for many urban, working women at some point in their lives (especially if we are/were from the NCR region). So when you sit in the theatre and say things like “bahut social hai yaar”, “thoda aur entertaining hona chahiye tha”, “slow hai” etc. it is hard not to take it personally and wonder if you want our struggles to be more fast-paced or glamorized
  • If you feel like the movie makes a bigger fuss than necessary, talk to the women in your life. Just have the courage to ask them what goes on typically when we go out for a run, when we go to get dinner with friends, when we are at work, when we are just trying to be. Don’t be surprised, if you hear some really raw, jarring stories. But also don’t be surprised, if you hear the echoing of your sentiment of how it is too much of a fuss really. Many of us women don’t even realize or choose to be numb on how we construct all of our actions around not getting raped.
  • If you feel like you keep circling back to the question “did they take the money or not”, just pause and remind yourself that you are probably missing the whole point of the conversation
  • If you think “No means No” is too complicated a message because many times of course women just say things and don’t mean it. Take a pause – it is hard to dismantle decades of indoctrination through movies and every other system of information dissemination. You don’t need to be transformed at the end of 2 hours 15 minutes, you need to be able to have the capacity to accept the hypothesis that women do mean what they say and try to see what it could mean for the interactions with those around you. Treat it like an experiment if you will.

Lastly, I know it is just a movie, there is a lot to be done, of course the “system” needs fixing and of course “some women also sometimes really exploit the situation to make the most of it”, which makes for great post movie auto/car ride conversation. But also remember the following:

Right from the time in the morning we have the momentary hesitation of going downstairs to collect the newspaper without a bra under our t-shirt, to the way we hold our bags in public spaces when we go to work/college, to telling a joke and then replaying it at least a few times over wondering if it was unnecessarily “forward”, to looking at a picture of ourselves and think if it can be misused or morphed easily, to making sure different guys drop us back to our PG because we don’t want to be linked with just one but at the same time making sure it is not too many different boys lest someone thinks you are not the ‘right’ type, to quickly scanning men around you in elevator spaces and check off if you are feeling safe or should you get off on the next floor and just take the stairs – all of these are few of the many many thoughts that are fleeting, unconscious and so natural to us as women that it doesn’t even seem crazy  to have them.

Pink could be many things and I don’t mean to rule over your movie choices but the one thing to remember – it is not exaggerated.

Multiple versions of me

Being self-aware and having voices in your head is a bitch. Truly. I am having one of those days when the grass pretty much looks greener on everyone else’s lawn. I woke up disbelieving that it is already Friday and a complete sense of dissatisfaction over what I have accomplished this week. I was supposed to have figured out some gym where I could work out balancing my new life, I was supposed to have had a break through at work, I was supposed to have helped someone I know with job hunt, I am supposed to have stopped eating wheat to get healthier and I was supposed to have done 4 days’ worth of laundry, which I have parked in the other room so that it doesn’t prick my conscience when I wake up. Yet, it is Friday already and quite frankly other than alarm icons on my phone, which remind of these things not much has changed.

As I was sleepily sipping on my coffee this morning and going through other people’s lives on Facebook, the wave of disappointment was palpable. I saw someone standing on yacht with arms outstretched and I immediately wished two things – being on a yacht and having gorgeous arms. I waved to no one in particular in my living room and my arm jiggle only made the voice in my head sharper. I saw another someone post about their graduation from one of the universities I had gotten into and the voice in my head again nudged saying, “that could have been you”. Of course, there were two articles on MAGGI followed by the indignation around processed foods which reminded me how I should not be using any “fast-cooking” solutions but only healthy alternatives, which take a couple of hours of effort. The final post I saw was on  ISIS cutting out water supply in some parts of their territory and I felt like absolute scum on the face of this earth for being so shallow and wallowing in self-pity while the world is in shambles.

I have Facebook “friends” who are on the boards of non-profits, who are getting funding for their start-ups, who are moving to countries I someday hope to visit, who are experimenting with new styles of working out which I would kill to try, who have amazingly bronzed legs and who are vacationing with their parents and kids in tow. It is a struggle to remind myself that all these are not one person and surely not everyone is cracking it. When I swipe through my phone, all these amorphous facts just come together as one big ball of things I am currently not doing. The rational me knows that lives on Facebook is just a sliver of most of these people’s existence. One voice in my head mocks me for being so full myself while there are kids who need a better education but the other voice also constantly claws me for not doing enough on any front.

I am not a hotshot racing the corporate ladder, I am not a passionate entrepreneur who is doing her bit to fix the world, I am not an effortlessly chic woman who eats vegan bagels after a TRX class,  – I am just me who knows that there are many, many more just like me but is also vain enough to wish that I was more.

P.S: This wasn’t a post to make me feel better about myself by fishing for compliments. I just wanted to let the other ‘Me’s know that you are not alone.

When good news is never good enough

Hi Aunty

You met me yesterday at that family function in the temple. I am sure you remember me. I am that woman who is almost thirty and have been married for five years now. Yes, yes the same one who does not have children or any good news to give yet.

You pulled at my cheeks and reminded me that you last met me during my wedding reception (which was a close and intimate affair of over 1000 people across two cities). When my eyes showed hardly sign of recognition you poked my tummy and asked “any good news?”. I shied away pretending I had a call to take, when you told the other aunty “she has been married for five years”. The other aunty played her part and appropriately tutted in the right places. I heard you both. One of your friends pointed out how I look ‘healthy’ and then followed it by “how many months”. I didn’t realise you had it in you to make me feel fat as well as inadequate in the same breath. Thanks aunty, you are truly special.
I noticed how you asked my cousin brothers what they did but only asked me about why I hadn’t done anything yet. I saw the wheels in your head turn when I told I was travelling next week for work and would not be returning to Bangalore tomorrow. I saw your eyes glaze over when I explained what I do for a living and shared my good news  about my project getting the second round of funding.
I also saw how you passive aggressively asked my mom if she is a grandma yet. I felt terrible about putting her in a spot. Just as I was beating myself over this, I overhead you asking another woman with a toddler “so when is your next?”. When she laughed, you pushed harder saying “you cannot possibly be be thinking of raising her as an only child. She will be spoilt”.
That’s when I began to look harder. I saw so many instances during the day when none of us measured up in your eyes. You aren’t happy when we don’t have a child, you aren’t happy when we aren’t planning the second one, you are shocked when we say we are stay-at-home moms, you are appalled that we would leave our children with our parents to work long hours, you are unhappy that we don’t have jobs in the US, you feel cheated when we don’t come back from the US to meet you.
I am trying to remind myself that you mean well but you are making it really hard.
So let me just clarify for you once and for all – whether I am happily married or single, whether I am planning on having a baby or am struggling to manage my newborn, whether I am gainfully employed or not – when I have something to share with you, I will. It may not be as good a news as you may want to hear but well, c’est la vie.
In the meanwhile, a couple of quick pointers to save you from featuring in another blog post:
a) If you think someone is pregnant but you are not quite sure – save everyone the trouble and hold your tongue.
b) Quit poking tummies or randomly coping a feel will you? It is really annoying.

To Kausra

Dear Kausra

We met the other day at your school and spending those ten minutes with you changed a lot for me. I felt I owe you an apology and hence I write to you.

Before landing in Srinagar – J&K, I like most other people from India came with my baggage about what I thought of “Kashmir”. I was also excited about the Dal lake, shikaras, phirnis and unabashedly voyeuristic about wanting to know more about the conflict. When I exited the airport, I saw a sign reading “Welcome to Paradise on Earth” and right under that was a soldier with a gun. I was uncomfortable to see the army presence, I was even more uncomfortable to acknowledge that the fundamental right of freedom of movement is curtailed and most importantly I was acutely aware of how different my India is and how I had no business discussing how this part of the world should be “India” as well.

I am embarrassed to tell you that reading a couple of books and editorials I thought I understood what your daily life looks like.  Nothing prepared me Kausra, to live sharing the surroundings you grow up with each day. Waking up listening to gunshots of the army doing target practice or being stopped for checking in the middle of the road or even that flurry of panic, thinking of sudden firing that is happening 1 km away from where we stood – Kausra, I do not know how you do it.

Your school teachers tell me how girls in your village are not confident, very quiet and not participative in class. Your school principal congenially told me about how girls are generally reticent. The boys in your class overcompensated for your silence. You looked down with your head bowed when I asked you a question. I accepted your silence for your shyness. But when you stood up and shared what you thought in a shaky yet confident voice, I saw some bit of myself in you.

I do not think you are shy or “under-confident” or reticent. I do not want to make any more assumptions on your behalf. But if my three days can leave me without words to describe what I am feeling, I empathise how speechless you must feel seeing what you see day in and day out. If I were you, I would bow my head down too. It is just easier to find answers within than look outside to spell it out for everyone else.

I am sorry Kausra for being one of those many strangers who trapeze into your life thinking you should open up and start “sharing” your life story.  It is again the same mistake of thinking that you are waiting for this amazing miracle from outside to save you.  It is absolute bullshit and you caught me on that one. You owe me nothing.

I hope you and I can become friends some day. I think we would hit it off quite well – I saw you snigger about my haircut to the girl beside you. I would have done the exact same thing! 🙂

Till then,

Much love

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The issues raised by Miriam Carey’s death

I do not live in the United States so I just got to read a small snippet with a headline saying “Suspect shot at Capitol Hill” and nothing more about Miriam Carey. But reading the NYTimes online did raise a number of flags. I am not going to re-tell what happened but what I am going to do, is just tell you what is it that makes me so uncomfortable about this.

1. There was really no need to shoot and kill this woman. Yes, she had to be stopped. But was shooting the only way to do so? I do not think so. This was just a trigger happy reaction in the name of ‘security’. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said. “The people who protect the White House and the people who protect the Capitol are not thinking about your everyday criminal. They are thinking about a terrorist.” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, defended the officers in a speech on the Senate floor on Friday. He said the decision to shoot Ms. Carey was “understandable” because the Capitol and the White House were often targets of attacks. How is it “understandable” that 5 to 7 law enforcement officers shoot at a speeding car without knowing if the person was armed or the car rigged with a bomb?  Was there intel of an imminent terror attack by a black woman and her baby in a car? She was driving fast and crashed into a median, there was absolutely no way she would have made it to the White House, then why was there such a level of reaction from the officers? What kind of delusional paranoia affects people working in Capitol Hill and around the White House, to assume that the world is out to get them? Was there no way to engage her and talk to her as it was done in the previous 5 “attacks” which have occurred over 40 years?

2. The vilification of Miriam Carey after her death because of her mental illness just shows how awful the media is when it comes to talking about issues of mental health and post-partum depression. Quotes about how she believe Obama was stalking her or her and headlines screaming  how she was delusional and emotionally disturbed implicitly linking violent behaviour to her does nothing more than perpetuate lies about mental illness and justify the senseless killing. There was even a televised interview where a doctor spoke about how post-depression can lead to women killing their children. 1 in 7 women suffer from post-partum depression. Miriam Carey was one such woman. To air an interview in which post-partum depression is spoken of with a stroke of a brush while discussing a few exceptions does nothing to show what Miriam was going through like millions of other women across the world. Why should we discuss about baby killing when she did not kill her baby? Are we implying that post-partum depression can make anyone a killer? They found pills for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in her shelf. How does that justify the thinking that she could have done something and as a preemptive action she is better off dead?

3. The media’s portrayal of a “crazy, deranged, black woman who could have bombed the White House” without actually saying it in so many words. The DailyMail of UK captured attention in bold letters about her hallucinations and how she had been taking medicines for schizophrenia. The Washington Post has quotes from her boyfriend saying Miriam thought Obama was bugging her apartment. The NYTimes article ends with a hanging statement from Miriam’s boss saying, “When we confronted her about certain situations within the office, she had a temper” followed by a disclaimer saying Ms. Carey did not appear to have any previous criminal history. The final thought they want to leave us with is that Miriam was mentally ill, she had a temper and while she did not appear to have any criminal history, who knows what she was capable of.

This is another case of painting a character of a woman in a way to imply that she asked for what happened to her. This time, it wasn’t rape – it was a reckless murder committed by law enforcement officers and we are told to believe that it was done to protect the seat of power in the most powerful country in the world.

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