Tag Archives: women

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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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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Why Mumbai should not bounce back

Today I read this article in the Hindu discussing how Mumbai is still a safe city (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/mumbai-is-still-a-safe-city/article5068736.ece).

As I read it, I could only feel the urgency and restlessness felt in Mumbai after every horrific incident be it bomb blasts, rapes or floods to simply move on in life. It has been dubbed as resilience, economic need and some even honestly say – helplessness.

I am from Mumbai. I identify with this sense of restlessness most of the times. After the July 11, 2006 local train blasts I did travel on trains the very next day parroting the comforting idea that the “terrorists are not crazy enough to attack on two consequent days”. Yes, I have been guilty of saying “now what can we really do…other than get on with our own lives”.

But as I read the above article today morning, it annoyed me because I felt like we are clutching at straws here trying to make sure we are not so overly affected by what happened that it interferes with our lives. The writer in this article, explicitly explains the rules of protecting one’s body from harassment. She says, Every woman has had to learn to cope. Shielding your body with your elbows and your handbag as best as you can; turning around swiftly to confront the groper behind you; avoiding deserted roads late at night as well as roads full of drunken men (on New Year’s Eve or Holi); never travelling in the general compartment of a local train except when — and this is crucial — the ladies’ compartment is either full or empty; and learning to ignore stares and comments, are some of the ground rules one breaks at one’s own risk. There’s no getting away from these rules if you want to feel confident enough to be on the move any time in Mumbai.” 

One can say similar rules apply when you travel in the Delhi Metro or in the buses in Chennai or walk the streets in Bangalore. So how is it that you get to feel safer than what the reality around you is?

The article does go on to make references to education, having policemen in the ladies compartment and touches the issue of immigration in passing.  I appreciate nothing more than solutions in place of rants but even I for once felt that it no longer matters trying to reclaim Mumbai’s image.  This is not Mumbai’s problem alone – it is a problem across India.  The fact that  women are back on trains/buses traveling in the night is not a sign of things getting better it is only a sign of the willingness of the city to anesthetize itself to not having to think about the scale and magnitude of the issue in front of it.

For once I wish Mumbai did not want to get on with it. I wish it had the tenacity to hang in there and fight. Fight not by reclaiming its public space and going about its business BUT fight by not forgetting and for the lack of a better phrase “by creating a scene”. You can ask me derisively about all those protests which followed the case in December 2012 in Delhi – what happened after that or about the incidents of harassment in the protests itself (which we may all self righteously say would have never happened in Mumbai). My answer will only be silence.

I write today only to remind you that it is not normal to wear your backpack in the front to ensure no one feels up your breasts. It is not normal to search for a place to lean your back on and have a male friend stand protectively with his arms on your either side like a mini enclosure of your own just because you got into the general compartment. It is not normal to clutch the seat handle in the front instead of the holding overhead in a crowded bus to make sure no is pinching your sides. It is not normal when the auto driver adjusts his mirror to focus on your breasts. It is not normal when you go to Siddhivinayak to pray with half your mind wondering if the guy behind you is just in a hurry to merge with the Lord or is he pressing himself against your back for some perverse pleasure.

It is does not matter that it takes only three days after what happened in Shakthi mills to make you feel safe. It does not matter because honestly, you are only feeling safe thinking about how Mumbai is “safer” than the mental pictures you have of say Delhi, UP or Bihar  completely forgetting that all of these  states belong to the same country as you do.  Stop using pathetic yardsticks to measure how safe you feel and you will realise you are as vulnerable as any other woman is.

It is not about cowering in fear every time we step out. But if we start feeling safe just because of our ability to look away and live within constructed, convoluted rules then where does change begin?

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