Saturday, April 30, 2016

The grandiose of freedom

                  Freedom in comparison to something,
                   because of something
          from something
     to do something
                 not to do something
                            as a thought
                       as a feeling
                 as a notion
          as an action
            as a bestowment
                   as a dream
                       Here lie all the struggles

                          In these leashes and loops


No woman no cry


British India:
That night the household was a flutter with arrangements to furnish the room where the young daughter will lose her virginity. Some one gave the idea of a mirrored room with many lamps, many ran to fetch mirrors and lanterns from various houses, in turn making the entire community participate invisibly in the sexual act to be committed. Many middle aged men sighed in anticipation of the night putting themselves in the bridegroom's shoes.

Revathi was afraid and wistful and relatives joked around trying to lighten her mood as they mistook it for the fear and shyness of a virgin girl of seventeen years. When the hustle bustle of marriage preparations started months ago, she tried to feel the excitement as people told her that she was fortunate to get such a match, it is not everyday that a girl marries a Tehsildar who travels around in a horse with a big entourage at his beck and call. No one mentioned twice the fact that he was a 40 year old widower. 

She was gently shoved into the room full of mirrors and lamps at the appropriate hour. The man who is her husband now because of the ceremony was waiting impatiently. He drank the milk she brought and pushed her onto the bed to examine her more closely.

While the lamps did a devilish dance of light and shade making him look handsome at one point and menacing the other. Before any further action, a scream tore from the base of her stomach which pierced the night. She was stunned by the intensity of her scream. Her thoughts jarred the next moment as a huge hand slapped her hard.

As if in a trance she jumped, sprinted across the room and bolted out of the house in a flash. She ran till she came out of the village and walked till day break to reach the village next. She hid in a wagon which was un tethered from the bulls which were resting. She fell asleep though she willed herself not to.

(she was fetched from the village by her elders, her bridegroom was coaxed into consummating the marriage after the emissaries from her parent's side worked relentlessly for two more years. she gave birth to 4 children and became a widow early on. By then all the joyfulness in her was drained leaving her bitter and coarse)

Independent India:
Leela wondered whether female orgasm was a myth. She wanted to experience it once at least but her boyfriend believed in quick gun Murugan approach without much of foreplay. He fell asleep afterwards promptly as well. She finished on her own much later after his soft snores became steady. They had been lovers since a year. Clandestine meetings were exciting initially, now she was not so sure. She did not understand the hype created around sex as well. What next was the question she asked herself from time to time. Though Madhu was 'eligible' in every sense of the world, she was afraid to tell herself that he was not right for her. Unaware of her inner world, he thought that she enjoys sex as she  never  says no and her whimpering which is  due  to pain while making love sounded to him like appreciation of his manliness. 
Over cups of coffee or  over  pegs of whiskey with his friends, he discussed 'how the court should recognise marital rape is real and perpetrators should be punished'. (since parents got  a whiff of their affair, they were married combining  both their cultures, everyone involved feeling 'progressive' for doing so. Whimpering continued..)




My writing sliver - flickering as it starts again

Trying to  grab the  world and its meaning again. Not in a philosophical way but 'my world' which had quirky me,  sober me, creative me and so many more  mes'. Now this  sounds shallow after putting it like that. I remember Kung Fu Panda 3 - where Po mocks in frustration 'chi  chi chi chi, chi this and chi  that' or something to that effect. Now I  am sounding like  that 'me, me, me, me this and me that'.... 

I am floating in self absorption and it is ok to acknowledge it. I feel people are self absorbed but do not talk about it or acknowledge it, Like say for example, no  one  says, "I am not able to tolerate you right now because  I am self absorbed and your self absorbed line of thoughts are not what I  am happy to listen to" or "I love your self absorption so much, it makes me wanna share mine, can we  talk about it?" 

After arriving at this thought for the day, I  am  feeling exactly  like Po,

Stopping  my other chitty, chitty, chat, chat ...
How  cool is that ;)
 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rants

 Rant 1: Recently met lot of old friends from college over a happy  occasion. First thing which came to my mind  each time I bumped into a familiar face was joy which was reciprocated too. The seed of this rant was planted when a long lost dear friend said that  he does not feel  old at all and he feels like some event we did together 15 years ago happened yesterday. And generally spoke about how it is important to feel young to be young (this happened over drinks when we met again in the night).  I know one angle of this  is also that when old friends meet then they pick up where they left off and such. But, obviously  there was another  thought which came to me 'ya right! you are a man!'. As a woman how I am reminded that I  am getting older each year, going past my prime, my face is showing signs  of age, my hair is greying and thinning - tips about what I  should  be doing, how to tighten my skin from now onwards, how to do this and how to do that... No wonder I  do not feel 22 any more. Though patriarchal male privilege is done to  death in various circles, I feel the  feminist female disenfranchisement.

Rant 2: What is with all these soaps on the T.V revolving around romances which pan out agonisingly over years (keep glancing while I am at mom's and other places where I do  not  have control over the remote). This new trend of romance is evident in all the channels. Another trend is also majority of them are romances between 'married by elders in the same community' couples and either husband does not love his wife because he had a girl friend before or wife does not love  her husband because she has misunderstood him some how or  some thing equally inane. This new age sanskaari bahu can facebook, handle smart phones and all other things. But, she will be busy getting into  one after the other tangles in her in laws place. In between there will be slow motion scenes of these couples grazing their finger tips to romantic music!!

Rant 3: Not being able to get a home which  is decent to rent due to ever shrinking living space, ever expanding city, pushing of fixed income people to periphery which  is an implicitly agreed phenomenon of a capitalistic society.

Rant 4 till infinity: Along with these add all other triggers of being judged, being muted, passive aggressified, labelled and so on. Now that  compiles today's rants.
  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What stilled or surged seeing Thelma and Louise take the leap ...


Two women who want one weekend away from their 'regular' lives decide to go on a road trip. For one, the regular life is being at home catering to her husband who sells products to other people by sweet talk and his sweetness turns vitriolic when he is with his wife. Ok she living in that life is her 'choice' one can argue but let us come to that choice later. The other woman is a waitress staying single though she wants an elusive boyfriend to be more than that. She waits for him and calls him a thousand times and clings on to the hope that he would come around. She is outspoken and appears tough. That life is her 'choice' too lets say. Ya ya we will come back to that choice in some time.

The roadtrip turns a nightmare and they end up being forced to choose whether they would like to be shot or imprisoned for life or fly into the grand canyon. They laugh and chose the thrid option.

After watching the glowing and glorious faces of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as they make that decision, it struck me that women are 'given' those choices which seem like Dante's various levels of inferno today as well.
- Choose to marry or any man can think you are available
- If married (good girl) then choose to have children or the society will look at you like you are a person with difficiencies or you do not want a child to interfere with your merry making ways
- Choose to not have alcohol or you can get raped, beaten or killed – because boys will be boys
- Choose to think of your career as second priority in comparison with your partner's career or you might end up alone and so on and so forth

None of these are new and many of them are 'cliches'. But try to stir out of one of them, then see how that works out. Choose whether you want to be a 'good woman' or we will hound you with labels and will get away with silencing you one way or the other...

No my friends that will not work with us all now. We do not want your choices and we do not want your veiled threats. We shall laugh our ways to glory come heaven or high water.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Menstruation Ramayana



I remember boys were asked to skip one particular biology class in class 8th. Our lady teacher addressed us girls and hurriedly finished off the chapter. So what is this scandalous thing that we learnt that day or did not learn because it was drowned in unfamiliar scientific terminology?

 It was a chapter on male and female reproductive organs. Some things which stuck then are,

- After starting my period I can/might become pregnant (the process of how was not registered properly; in post class giggle session, some girls said by kissing, some said it will definitely happen if we eat leftover food of boys/men and so on, )

- Before starting my period my egg is sitting and waiting for the sperm. When that does not happen it starts to disintegrate in a bloody way (tantrum thrown by the angry egg!)

- Men's reproductive organ – the pictures made us giggle and the teacher nervous

- pregnancy is a fantastic thing which ends with a baby's birth – placenta is there for feeding and so on. As an aside, we wondered about baby's crap and where it goes. Some of us imagined baby crap floating in the stomach and wondered whether that is the reason for preganant bellies.

Any way since I had liberal and progressive upbringing at home, I knew that night itself very clearly what happens, how it happens and why. I shared that with other girls next day and what happened next is another story. 

I heard even today the situation is not exactly different when young women from M.P or girls from Karnataka cities, towns or villages share their experiences.

Why the hell do people go on saying that a female egg does everything else hurriedly so that it can come and sit in a place waiting for the warrior sperm to come see it? Doesnt it parallel the story of Ramayan? 
Pardon the caricatured narration of it though: Sita after being born just to marry Rama is found in a box (Ovum) and she is reared by Janaka to be an up righteous young princess and she waits for Rama to win her hand ..... once that happens, in the second round she waits for Rama to rescue her from Ravana ...... in the third round she waits for Rama to clear her name......  in the round next she waits for Rama to own her offspring and so on.
As long as Sita (in a one dimensioned list of notable  moral values way) is the role model for an ideal woman, this take on menstruation will go on.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Time and again...


I met my man who was a boy 16 years ago. We have been together since 12 years. Both of us fought over many things and moved on as either wisdom donned or we hit upon the solution. Now I see many young couples around me who are going through the teething years of getting together as partners. Though my journey seemed very unique because we are very different people and our situations and contexts were differnt blah blah it is interesting to see a pattern.
I know these are all bits and pieces of power struggle and so many other things like one needs to accept the other, is there love and respect, are people flexible enough, issues of gender sensitivity and patriarchy and so on. It is still interesting to see..

Scenario 1: Who likes to do what?
He told me that he is comfortable washing dirty dishes, clothes and anything under the sun, but he can not sweep the house because he does not like it. I said I dont mind doing anything as I know how to do them there is no particular task that I like for the sake of it, but I love cooking as it is very therepeutic. So what happened next? Though I wanted him to do the work of washing clothes, dishes and so on.. I started noticing that he does not do it so well and wastes lot of water. I felt the need to correct him and show him how it is done properly!! patriarchy seeped in to the extent where I felt the need to be the expert. It is not like he was trying to discover a new element and I am his guide, he would have figured out eventually the methods which are comfortable and so on as he is also above average intelligent guy. I set myself up to wash clothes, sweep the house and cook!! One fine day I realised that I am doing more or less everything and flew off the handle the moment he uttered 'can I help you?'... I ranted about how it is not helping me, it is what is needed for maintaining the household, I am not responsible alone, this wont do and what do you mean help me? Why cant this be shared equally and so on. Things became better after I ranted and we discusssed. So we started making weekend home maintenance task list. This list consisted of two columns tasks in one and who will do it in the other. So as soon as it was made (by me), he would take it first because I asked him to pick tasks first, he invariably ticked majority of them and in the evening we used to check and see that I ended up doing the majority!! Either it indicates that I am a control freak or as women we are conditioned to look at chores in a different way. So if I am cooking lunch, cleaning up the kitchen counters, dusting the shelves and dusting the elctronic items in the kitchen go hand in hand. While he would go and clean the commode though the task consists of scrubbing the bathroom floor, washing down the door, defogging the mirror and so on. That is how he understood it. Initially I got innocent compliments from him that while I clean the bathroom, some how it looks more cleaner and better!! The list and sharing of what is implicit in an explicit manner helped. Now we are equal partners wrt household needs. I see this fight happening in different degrees and different contexts around me.

Scenario 2: My friends, your friends and our friends:
I did not like many of his friends and he did not like many of mine. I felt his friends were stuck in boyhood and are deeply patriarchal, he thought my friends were pseudo intellectuals and pompous. So I went to his friends gatherings' with my nose up and he came to mine with his forehead knotted. We no longer have those deeply patriarchal or pompous ones in our lives. But this did cause some heartache in the first Act of our marriage. Now our friends are the ones who are great with both of us and we have our own individual circle of friends who are accepted lovingly by the other.


Scenario 3: If we love each other so much, how can we fight? How dare you not fight back? Am I investing more here than you? Why do you shut me off? Why do you yell at me?
Figuring out the fighting style that suits us so that things move forward and get closure than towards festering is an art which has to be learnt by each couple. There are no shortcuts to this process. We are active aggressor + passive aggressor combination on many days, it changes to one weepy hormonal entity + one bewildered soul on some days and one subtle manipulator + one subtle resistor or on some days and so on. All these styles keep on happening. Some styles have been retired by us over the years as they were mushrooming the issue at hand into something else. The first time my active aggressor yelled at him, he stood up, looked at me with deeply hurt expression and marched out of the house. He came back after an hour of walking and by then my anger had turned into panic. As soon as he came home, I hugged him and said sorry and he hugged back and said sorry. He whispered in my ears 'please dont yell at me' and that is the last time I yelled at him. When we feel like my aggressor supreme and his great resistor are getting ready to march in, we have taken a step back and have taken notebooks and writing to communicate what we are feeling. That has worked, along with many other things which we have found to be useful. We have also understood that it is better to share 'what I feel' than to say 'what you did'. I see couples struggling to understand their fighting and I witness the frustration and sadness when repetitively unyielding styles are used. Since there is no short cut here, it has to go on to give way to new harmony. I am also not saying that we no longer fight and have attained sainthood but we definitely know the difference between the issue and the person and how to go about it (majority of the times ahem). 

I am not an expert in relationships and I will not advise what one needs to do in theirs. All the relationship needs is love and trust in the process.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What women want on bloody days

Letter to sanitary napkin advertisement makers:
Dear Ad makers,
I am a woman and I want to to share my views on what you try to sell me is a happy period. I also write this on behalf of many women I know who menstruate and use sanitary napkins.
Some of us are heavy bleeders, some of us are not, some have stomach cramps, some have bloated breasts, some have bloated stomachs, some have food sensitivity, some of us have back aches, some of us have legs hurting, some of our migraine gets triggered by the period and the list goes on.

It is bad enough we can not talk about some of us being emotionally sensitive before our period and PMS is a 'bitch' word. Now I have to sit and take it year after year, you guys showing what women can achieve during periods? Wear a white pant and run around? Or wear sexy clothes and go for dinner? Mother and daughter skip together on the beach? Or climb up a ladder and take photos? Or save the world and come back to cook for the family?

One wonders who comes up with these concepts? As a woman who bleeds every month, I can say this about these ads, one thing that is very cleverly ignored is, what women want on these days. I need rest, I need my partner to be helpful, if I am mother then I want my partner to pitch in, I might need a day off if I am cramping up, I might want to rest and read, in the office I might need a day where I can put my legs up on a foot stool or anything except what is shown. ...

So these patriarchal and capitalistic messages tell me to ignore what my body tells me because I am now able to overcome my 'menstrual disability' by being super efficient, super chirpy, super enthusiastic and super whatever?

So next superwoman movie should have the line 'strap on your sanitary napkin sister' you can do whatever you want? (not that superwoman movie is being made).

I do not want to discount the comfort of wearing a sanitary pad which absorbs more or does not let the panties stain or whatever. But we the women are clientele remember? Why sell it to make us ignore our bodily signals and push us to perform high gear all the time?

At work place as it is the patriarchal culture makes it a taboo word to use. Already women with reproductive organs are a liability for 'efficient performance', we have PMS, periods, pregnancies and the likes right. Now you are telling everyone that with a correct napkin, we can do whatever we want? What about other days? We do not exist in your ads except for applying creams to become fairer and win a guy, testing out detergents for whiter clothes winning the husband's heart, falling all over men with hypnotic deodorants, selling tooth brushes to insurance policies ... with body parts which are deliberately removed from the reproductive function...

So if women lived in the world created by ads how would we look like? How would our day be? Where would our happiness reside in? No prizes for guessing..
The Stepford wives we are not because they are not real ..

Friday, January 31, 2014

A letter to my 20 year old self...


My dearest 20 year old in the whole world,
You are 20 and you are considered hot by many boys. Fellow students in your college think you are a recluse because you are hardly there in the college and it pains you to see why these females do not like you. Your lecturers hardly know your face as you are either absent or sit quietly when you are present. Do not worry they will know you when the final results come and wonder who this girl is with highest marks.

You have a notion my darling that you are more comfortable with male friends than female friends. This notion comes from the base of patriarchy which encourages us to shun the company of women and embrace the company of men. Please think about this. The girl you like now as a classmate will be there in your life as a friend to count on forever. The boys who made you feel like they are your best friends are hardly there now. The happiness you feel sitting in the University canteen with your theatre group members (young men) is not just because they are your friends alone, you are enjoying being out  in  the  open - drinking  many cups of Tea, discussing poems, sharing your opinions as an adult and for being respected for that. You feel empowered and you do  not  have the feminist vocabulary of it  yet.

You feel drawn towards a man who is older than you and somehow feel like you need your parents and siblings to know this as well as endorse it. This also comes from the base of patriarchy my dearest. I ask you to explore who he is as a person more than worry about endorsements which might eventually lead to marriage. It is fine if he touches you with your consent but if (or should I say when) he touches when you do not want it, please slap him. You should not feel ashamed because it is what patriarchy tells you to. I can assure you that you will spread your wings wide and fly high.

You are experimenting with writing poems and secretly maintaining a notebook. Go ahead and fill it. Show it to friends and family. Do not feel shy when some are showcases of physical awakening of desire. It is natural and you need not feel shy as it comes from patriarchy too.

You are a young woman now and your experiences shape me. Take care of me for you my darling.