That game would be victim-blaming, female shaming, target naming, scapegoat framing. All of them sides of the same multi-dimensional terrestrial entity known as misogyny.
There have been several high-profile cases in the public eye and national media, each of them an instance of one or more of the above. Most recently, a certain extremely famous national starlet, recently in the news for her latest film release, was featured on the front page of the country’s most widely circulated and read national daily in what can only be described as the most crass, appalling way possible, in a tweet that has since been removed. [It described 'OMG, Deepika's cleavage!']
Some attempted to pass it off as a ‘marketing ploy’, ‘strategically placed’ to market Ms. Padukone’s new film. While I appreciate that film marketing can often stoop rather low, the use of the female body in the basest of attention-seeking ways by a leading publication was beyond repulsive.
Fortunately, in an extremely positive move for not only herself but for women across the nation, the star in question did not stay silent, instead choosing to respond to the article in kind.
Historically, in India, women have been taught and conditioned, generation by generation, to be ‘ashamed’ of their bodies, that their bodies are something to be ‘hidden’. It is a regression to the ideals of a woman’s body being a ‘gift’ to be given to one man and one man only: the woman’s husband.
Regressive, misogynist and attempting to not only impinge on but entirely destroy a woman’s self-will or own right, this sort of ideal continues to persist in 2014, and unfortunately not only in rural pockets of the nation.
Worse still is that it is because of these years of being repressed and pushed down that women have begun to believe these ideals too. That their bodies are to be ‘kept pristine’ and ‘gifted’ to one man, that their virginity is a prize that goes to the ‘highest bidder’, in a way like the mizuage of the geisha of old Japan.
Most Indian women, unless from specific socio-economic strata and levels of education, are neither free nor comfortable with their own sexuality, because they are brought up and taught not to be; that it is something they should not possess, or ‘preserve’ for the man. Openness, self-belief, one’s own mind, opinions, thoughts; all repressed in the repression of the expression of their sex, of their womanhood, and of their personalities.
Breasts existed, but they were meant to be covered. Hidden in their entirety. In existence for mankind to look. This ideal persists in the behaviour of men in public to this day, even in the most cosmopolitan of areas. Even in the least low-cut of tops, cleavage and breasts will be stared at, ogled in the most vulgar way just because, in a way that many men here seem to consider their birthright.
In personal experience: I was walking down a street to find an auto-rickshaw to take me home from a friend’s at 9 a.m., not by any means an ‘ungodly hour’ in our great ‘Indian culture’. A man on a bicycle drove past, shouting ‘arre khulla hai, aam dikhte hain!’ – roughly translating to something too disgusting for me to want to explain, but I will try “It’s open, I can see them mangoes”.
I was wearing a regular t-shirt.
While it is entirely irrelevant what I was wearing, a lot of the Indian public (men, women, ‘upstanding, educated’ members of society) use the way a woman is dressed as a reason to lech, ogle, or take it further to molestation and rape – everything from end to end on the spectrum of sexual harassment.
The star in question, however, questioned the publication, letting them know she was a woman with breasts that she was not ashamed of, a first for women in public in the country.
And in an extremely heartening move, the country stood behind the star, who has since gone on to publicly admit how violated she felt after the tweet. The publication responded with a rejoinder that only worsened the situation, but the actor stood her ground.
However, women, whether in the public or private eye, are rarely spared the ignominy of being taken apart like this, judged for their situations, their sexuality, blamed for being the victims in this Circus de Chauvinism, with the trapeze acts of the tabloid media.
A former actor, an incredibly talented young woman who has been in a few films before, was recently found to have been involved in what was described as a ‘high profile’ prostitution racket involving ‘rich, high-profile industrialists and businessmen.’
I appreciate that there are countries where prostitution is legal, but I also believe a very small number of women currently choose willingly to engage in the profession, at least in South-east Asia. Trafficking is a very, very real, very pressing issue that needs to be dealt with, and unfortunately most women, sadly of all ages, are forced into prostitution. Until that issue is even slightly alleviated, which does not seem like a reality in the current situation, and in consideration with several other factors, this will not happen in my opinion.
In the press, however, really all over it, was the name of this starlet, which, although it is open information, I choose not to repeat out of respect. Not the ‘high-profile rich businessmen’, the ‘industrialists’, the men who paid the prostitutes, because their ‘identities needed protection’, because they were ‘not to be exposed’, because ‘their family lives would be ruined’.
The young girl whose acting skills and life fell by the wayside, the young girl who was forced into the flesh trade. Her name was emblazoned across publications, headline news, lurid details all over the media. The men’s identities were hidden, protected, secret as they continue to be.
The excuse? The men deserved privacy, according to members of the public and press. The men paid a ‘premium’, and deserved to be protected. The men had families, they said, that would be broken by this revelation. Their lives would be completely altered, they said.
Do none of these apply to the young woman who was the obvious victim? Does she not have a ‘life that would be completely altered’? Privacy that she deserved, a family that would be affected? The judgement that invariably seems to follow? Yet it was HER name, not theirs, emblazoned across headlines, it was she who was blamed for being forced into the sex trade.
Finally, there is the recent case of Suzette Jordan, who was the victim in the horrendous Park Street rape case. She was on her way home from an event, and brutally raped in a car by her attackers. Instead of protecting her, taking down her complaints and pursuing her attackers, police and ministers dismissed her, lambasted her character.
Due to the fact that she had been drinking (shock, horror, only a man is supposed to do that in India!), she was dismissed as ‘characterless’, a drinking single mother? “Devoid of morals”, they called her. The chief minister of West Bengal, the capital of which is Kolkata, where the rape occurred, dismissed the case as a ‘sajano ghatana’, or a made up story.
Suzette was accused of being a prostitute, and that the ‘deal had gone wrong’. She was merely a single mother going out to a discotheque.
What ministers, police, lawmakers, locals, the chief minister even, failed to understand was that it was a violation of her personal rights. Even if she had been a prostitute, no person had any right to do anything with her against her own wishes. The so-called ministerial diaspora thought that was the ‘excuse’. Suzette’s family were judged, her daughters stared at.
Recently, Suzette and her fiance visited a Kolkata restaurant for what seemed like a routine meal. They were however refused entry by the head waiter, who labelled her the ‘Park Street Victim’, and refused her entry on that basis. She was sent away from the restaurant after being derided and shamed by the management.
Yet again, the second time for Suzette, the victim, it was she who was blamed. The first time, for being raped. For being ‘loose’ and ‘going to a disco’ and ‘drinking’, things the “aadarsh bhartiya naari” is not supposed to do, haye haye!
This culture of shaming the woman, this idea that it is the woman’s fault, needs to stop. The ideal of the man needing to exert and assert his ‘power’ over the woman, which is what rape really is (it’s not sex!) needs to end. This sexism, this easy selling of women’s sexuality needs to stop. Women need their own right over their own sexuality, not permission from anybody else or the right for them to do with it as they please, for games to be played with those who are helpless.
Women are not men’s to be sold or bought in any way, shape or form. They own themselves and everything that comes with it. And that is something they should be proud of, not need to hide behind closed doors out of fear.
Fingers need to pointed, publicly and legally, at the true perpetrators of the crime, not the scapegoats who can be easily framed, not those whom it is most convenient to blame.
Sadly, when the wheel of fortune is spun, the arrow of the blame always lands squarely on the woman. We need to stand up, as many have recently done in each case, protesting against this blame-the-woman culture, and change the way the wheel spins entirely.
On Ectogenesis and What it Could Mean For Society
Ectogenesis refers to the “growth of an organism in an artificial environment”, outside the body of its parent.
Recent developments and scientific research have meant that ectogenesis in humans could become a reality in a realistically close time frame, one that could have ramifications for current generations; as soon as the next 20 to 30 years.
Research has extended beyond theoretical hypothesising and macro-testing. Mammalian testing has shown positive results, which holds significant meaning for future endeavors involving humans.*
Experiments on smaller mammals have, in light of their limitations, been successful†.
The potential effects of this research are gargantuan, and could change the course of human life entirely. Several significant effects come to mind, and are significant from both feminist and scientific perspectives.
First, the mass availability of this scientific method would spell the end of ‘non-viable uteri’ ; with the creation of an artificial gestation container, the conditions provided to the foetus by the uterus and other components of the female reproductive system can be externally created and regulated. Constant mechanical monitoring will minimise intra-pregnancy risks or accidents that are simply down to sudden chance. Pregnancy losses due to accidents would be entirely negated, as would possibly any other uterine issues, foetal nutrition, placental detachment and a host of other issues those in Obstetrics and Gynaecology could explore in more significant detail.
Mechanical monitoring and constant, programmed adjustment of conditions could also be more reliable than its manual counterpart, as the aspect of human error would then have been largely removed. This would also remove the ‘biological clock’ aspect of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, although detractors may have issues with the ‘age’ at which it is ‘suitable’ to be a parent, and the limitation of the physical strain on child-rearing is a possibly significant issue.
Homosexual couples, for example, gay men who wish to conceive naturally, would no longer be dependent on surrogacy to have a child. Ova, donated either anonymously or with the consent of a loved one, could be gestated with no physical strain or dependence on a third party. This also solves several other issues related very closely to surrogacy.
Ethics and legislation surrounding surrogacy are rather nebulous, and the potential issues are enormous. A very real example relates to the surrogate, who may not be the egg donor, desiring to keep the child she has gestated. In this event, while legislation may or may not be available, dealing with the potential issue of a surrogate going rogue, or developing an attachment to the foetus, a desire to keep the child might prove difficult to deal with, an issue that has occurred in the past.
Surrogacy and the selection of a surrogate mother is an arduous, tenuous process inundated with extensive paperwork, which leads several people to seek surrogate mothers in countries where legislation is more lax and human life more abundant, and, consequently, less valuable in terms of legislation. Women from these countries, including India and Thailand among others, are paid money to be surrogates. Human life is commodified, these specific lives reduced to wombs-for-hire, and several of the women in these countries are trafficked, leased out as ‘wombs-for-hire’, receiving a negligible chunk of the sum paid to their ‘lessors’ for those with access to funds, reduced, as it were, to characters from a dystopian world straight out of the mind of Margaret Atwood.
The existence of external wombs would pare down significantly the quest for ‘wombs for hire’, although this could be over a longer time frame because the technology will be expensive in its nascence and not entirely widely accessible to begin with. However, it could help combat a significant social evil.
The possibility of extra-body gestation also opens up several avenues for women who wish to have children in view of their careers. Pregnancy would no longer be a physically taxing stretch of life that forms an encumbrance on work, physical activity or any other task a woman wishes to undertake, and no longer cause a pregnant pause in careers, which could then progress as normal as they do for men. This could result in a move towards more equanimous parenting, beginning to break patriarchy-imposed barriers which are ‘reinforced’ using ‘nature’ and ‘biology’ as excuses for inequality. Women would no longer be necessitated, forced to stay exclusively within or around their homes, as further and further excuses for the justification of gender inequality are eradicated.
This scientific development could have the potential to help break glass ceilings.
The effects of body issues, dysmorphia and changes are significant, even on non-pregnant women, and entire industries function off these aggressively marketed, purely appearance-based products. This could put an end to the significant medical and physical effects of pregnancy on a woman’s body, therefore affecting neither her physical health nor her mental health, by way of impacting her body image.
However, is the philosophical issue largely surrounding the ideal that childbirth is attributed saintlike, magical qualities even though it is merely a biological process common to every mammal in existence? It is not ‘sacred’ in any form of the word; this is merely a human endeavour to make fantastical that which is not.
The oft-repeated ‘wisdom’ of the patriarchy, in order to cause the virtual imprisonment of the female within the home, has been, across geographies and socio-economic strata, the avowal of the basic reproductive differences between the sexes, the need for the mother to be the ‘primary provider’ simply because ‘science’ or ‘biology’ dictated it. That the woman was meant to be the bearer of children for the family she married into, which continues to be the widely, nay, primarily held belief in several developing and developed countries. The familial and societal pressures in these countries cause a Handmaiden’s Tale-esque scenario, with an actual alienation in the minds of the women who go through these experiences between their bodily choices and the decisions they are forced to take, the societal pressures to have a child that one may not necessarily desire.
While these scientific developments may blur some ethical lines, they elucidate and outline far more clearly some others that could help science, legislation, the structure of society and the human race at large, in a multitude of ways, although they may bring with them some potential issues that will need to be discussed and examined in far greater detail.
The termination of pregnancy and related issues would need to be analysed. Although ectogenesis, as a deliberate scientific process, is entirely intentional, the potential for the desire to terminate the pregnancy is entirely possible.
Considering Roe v. Wade is based on the ‘viability of the foetus outside the mother’s womb’ to adjudge the potential for termination of pregnancy, this issue would need to be explored in greater detail in the future, as a foetus potentially growing in a ‘pod’ is entirely viable ‘outside the mother’s womb’.
If ectogenesis becomes a reality, science will dictate a new reality, one that, to me, heralds positivity in terms of biology and sexual equality. Pregnancies would be easier, safer for both foetus and mother, and natural childbirth more accessible across society.
Women need not be primary caretakers anymore, and the reality of ‘househusbands’ that John Lennon imagined, of men being the principal caretakers of their children, taking over more traditionally ‘female’ home duties’, or becoming ‘mothers’ in the historical sense of the term as they take over the majority of caring for their children, a task previously relegated automatically to women, irrespective of career, choice or personal desire.
Our world is changing every day, from the bottom up, and should ectogenesis become a reality, the dichotomy of a gender-based societal division of roles would cease to exist, or at the very least pare itself down on a long enough time frame. These roles would affect significantly patriarchal societies that consider women mere tools for reproduction, should human ectogenesis become a reality, the kind that is widely available to those who wish to use it.
As of now, external wombs are still experimental, so until further study and work, the term ‘Human Ectogenesis’ is up for grabs. Perhaps a collaboration among Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Phil Collins?
*Japanese professor Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara of Juntendo University has successfully gestated goat embryos in a machine that holds amniotic fluid in tanks.
† Over a decade ago, Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu, Director of the Reproductive Endocrine Laboratory at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility at Cornell University, engineered mouse endometrial tissue (the tissue that forms mammalian uterine lining) to an extra-uterine framework or ‘scaffold’, as described in her research, successfully growing a mouse embryo to term.
Although human trials are not permitted for ethical and philosophical reasons, Dr. Liu grew a human embryo for 10 days in an artificial womb, with the goal of developing, someday, an external womb. Legislation, however, permits a fourteen day cap on this sort of research.
My beef is not with Airtel, but with the recent advertisement they have out, promoting their mobile internet facilities.
For an introduction, watch here:
The new advert has people divided, apparently, over whether it is anti-feminist or not. While I think it is, several Twitter users have messaged me with names like ‘sad feminist bitch’ and some sexually suggestive comments. Itself an interesting insight into the perception of feminism in this country.
Advertisements need not necessarily be realistic, and so the obvious markers in this specific ad: the fact that spouses don’t generally report to each other in any sort of management structure, and *most* employees in India do not address bosses by their first names.
Cut to diligent employee at his desk, still complaining.
That cuts to a yummy set of dishes filled with steaming, delicious looking food, being prepared by a disembodied phantom hand. (You won’t believe what happens next!)
The husband receives a video call, happening (presumably) in HD thanks to the superfast internet connection on dearest husband’s mobile phone, disembodied hand and yummy food in frame.
And it’s at this point you realise nobody but M. Night Shyamalan could have directed this ad…
“Wifey boss people.” (to be said in a Haley Joel Osment-like fashion)
Frazzled husband is still at work, working on the work bosslady has left him. Plaintively, like every dutiful desi biwi should, she begs him to come home to eat. He capitulates, they grin, and the ad ends.
Realism issue: What management structure allows spouses to be in direct managerial hierarchy? If there are some that do, this is the first I’m hearing of it.
I’ve read several arguments saying the wife ‘wanted’ to cook for her husband, so sweet, and that I was just a ‘rabid, unhappy, sexually dissatisfied feminist.’
Tackling the first of those statements first: I enjoy cooking, funnily enough. Mostly for myself, occasionally for family and friends. I do it of my own volition and own free will, entirely unencumbered by the expectation of having to have a hot meal ready for somebody. I was brought up independently by parents who cooked for themselves, me and each other (incidentally, my father is quite a magician with chicken) and if any of us was hungry, we cooked.
It would be utter folly to deny the expectations of an extremely patriarchal Indian society with regard to these bahus, however. Hindi films and Bollywood portray wives and daughters-in-law as such as well. Tea and food aren’t things you make. They’re things you are supposed to not only make, but have ready, and keep hot as you wait for your hubby dearest to finish whatever he’s doing/wants to do/following which he can sit and fart around.
And it is to these expectations that I take the utmost exception. I’m sure the agency that handled the ad thought they were being extremely ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ by showing a female boss.
When it’s ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ to show a female boss, and not just a normal thing, your society is VERY patriarchal.
As the daughter of an incredibly accomplished woman who has been on the boards of several multinationals, and a very accomplished businessman who also changed my diapers and does a mean grilled veg casserole, I was never brought up to believe that women belonged to certain roles, and men to certain others. I have unfortunately, while interacting with certain people, seen just how ingrained these retrograde expectations are. Other women have come up to my mother and asked her why she worked, ‘does your husband not earn enough money?’ ‘Do you have financial issues?’ as opposed to that wondrous, all too impossible possibility that my mum is very intelligent and good at what she does and wants to work. Fuck that, right?
To those who deny flat out that these expectations do not exist, have some empirical proof. Crunchy and nutritious.
Examine the press coverage of any intellectual, accomplished woman in the public eye in this day and age. 2014.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.
Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo.
Hilary Rodham Clinton, Senator, former U.S. Secretary of State. Potential candidate for 2016 Presidential elections.
All of them repeatedly asked how they ‘balanced home and work.’ How they managed motherhood and their high-profile jobs.
Has anybody asked Bill Clinton how he managed home and work whilst he brought up Chelsea? Has anybody asked Sheryl Sandberg’s husband if and how he managed to be a good father while still going to work?
Has any man ever felt guilty, as Indra Nooyi recently said she did, because of societal expectations to be a good parent and successful at work?
Why, in India, is ‘housewife’ an extremely normal term and part of the daily parlance of the majority of the population, but nobody has ever heard of a househusband? And men who even live with their wives’ families are called derogatory slurs like ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ (the slave of the wife)? Are the women who are forced to be glorified cooks and cleaners then not slaves of their husbands?
Trick question – yes they are. They’re cooking, cleaning, sexual-pleasure-providing, childbearing slaves.
The day women are free of the expectation that they have to have ‘chai’ ready, or lunch, or dinner, or any damn meal whatsoever, is when people can point fingers and say the ad ‘portrays sweet relationships where people cook of their own free will.’
Now to address some Twitter trolls:
Exhibit 1 – “Its a way of women balancing home and work”
I’d like to see a man balance home and work and THAT be portrayed on an ad. I’ll even write the ad if any agency wants to take me up.
Exhibit 2 – “Take it in a good way the woman does the cooking work which requires more finesse”
Sanjeev Kapoor. Marco Pierre White. Heston Blumenthal. If they’re not men, that’s news to me.
Exhibit 3 “You dirty feminist you must be sexually unsatisfied no man wants u and so u hate men”
And that is why we need feminism. When idiots measure a woman’s idea of self-worth by how desirable she is (or perceives herself to be) to the opposite sex. That is, of course, all that should matter in her life, right?
[P.S - Dear person who DM-ed me that on twitter, please explain why my sexual satisfaction is any of your business.]
Until the expectations go away, until feminism stops being a dirty word, until women stop feeling guilty for pursuing their dreams, we need feminism. Until we can break out of gender roles and stop following or believing in established gender tropes, we need feminism. Until the day the media and the public either stop asking women about the work-home balance, or ask it of men too, we need feminism. And for every day after that.
To the anti-feminists I had the absolute pleasure of interacting with, with their ‘men’s rights’ persecution complexes, I leave you with Trent Reznor’s lines:
“I wear this crown of thorns,
Upon my liar’s chair”
An homage, a tribute to the Indian Elections of 2014. A set that I was physically apart from, and from this geographically distant vantage point I was able to finally be an observer, or as Derek Zoolander would put it, a eugooglizer.
This set of elections was rather different from any I’ve seen so far as long as I’ve understood what elections were. In a move that I’m certain was meant to capitalise on the youth vote bank, campaigns this year were massively focussed on social media. This increased online participation meant that everyone and their mother was now on Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social network is there, looking to participate. This, as a standalone fact, is an excellent thing in the world’s biggest democracy. The wave of politicians (and therefore, more and more users) on social media meant a massive online democracy had been mobilised to opine, to rehash, to ruminate and philosophise.
Or so it would seem.
While there have been voices from and about every part of the Indian political spectrum, this past election has seemed overshadowed by a very specific section, whether in the press or on the internet. A little digging and some investigative articles suggested that a lot of this publicity was paid for. The entire idea of the press not being neutral is absolutely infuriating, but in a largely capitalist world where money talks, and talks louder and more forcefully than anything ever has, it’s going to happen. Should there ideally be rules against this, irrespective of the type of economy? I believe so. Are there? I’m not so sure. But it is absolutely a worldwide phenomenon, spurred on not by the beliefs of news disseminators, but investors.
Various media outlets nationwide, barring fewer than a handful, have taken rather specific political stances – interviews, analyses and ‘debates’ have all been biased, slanted rather obviously in favour of one candidate or the other. That has happened since public media has existed, and will continue to do so for a while, or at least until some extremely advanced technology, some form of Artificial Intelligence kicks it into obsolescence.
Unfortunately, while the ‘world’s largest democracy’ has now begun to be online, it is unclear whether this media is deliberating on issues to the extent that a democracy does, a la the idea of agonistic pluralism theorised by Chantal Mouffe. It hasn’t just been the victory that has been a landslide, the campaign has seemed that way too. There has been pluralism, there have been campaigners, there have been voices of dissent against what can only be described as predicated on the subject’s apparent success in his home state, the facts and numbers of which seem to indicate thus.
However, it is neither sensible nor fair to pick a candidate entirely on the basis of success in his home state, the data behind which may or may not be true, but was, and is bandied about repeatedly on social media by said supporters.
It is to be noted, however, that the same people refuse to mention, or even entertain any discussion regarding the 2002 Godhra riots, largely seen to have been a form of communalist violence, which happened in the exact same state. If one were to go by the oft-repeated statement that the Supreme Court of India granted the candidate a ‘clean chit’ in the matter, the fact still remains that not nearly enough was done to stem the violence, which seemed to become, to the perpetrators, some form of pogrom, an ethnic cleanse in their minds. The attacks were seemingly allowed to continue well beyond what they should have, the violence unimaginably gruesome and gory. Even if they were, according to the Supreme Court, not premeditated, and no political influence was involved, the fact remains that the same political power permitted the violence to continue. It must also be noted that said party (honestly, much like any other political party/politician in India) is communalist and plays on religious sentiment (sadly all too strong and polarising in India) in order to garner votes.
This is not exclusive to India, however, these communal, divisive politics, this ‘othering’, with a small section of political parties in the UK using this sort of tactic to pull in votes.
Temporarily, however, there was a glimmer of hope in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party. The name literally translates to the ‘Common Man’s Party’, and although they started small, they seemed to want to move in the right direction, their goals for once truly in line with what the country needed. They did not play at looking for votes from a specific sect, religion, section of the economy, but society as a whole. Unfortunately, their campaign petered out early, with their candidate withdrawing 49 days in. In the end, a real pity, as they were the only party that seemed to treat the people of India as people, as an actual society, instead of bits and bobs of an economy, or a market to be sold a product entirely. They cared about the aspects of social change that other parties either claimed to care about or in the case of the currently ruling party, are vehemently against. Regretfully, while their ideals were wonderful, it seems their ultimate execution was not.
Back to the politics of the specific state in question. Numbers were marketed, nay, hard-sold to the public, epic tales were told of wondrous development, of progress and the sort of magic one might seemingly only find at Hogwarts. But ask questions and you may as well be entering the Forbidden Forest.
Statistics show that despite the grand claims of development, education, nutrition and clean drinking water are all but accessible to significant sections of the population, and in some cases a majority of the state.
Child nutrition is at an all-time low – 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa.
When a state claims as significant development, or at least a party does, surely nutrition is part of this ‘development’? Or is their idea of ‘development’ only the sort that is measured in money the rich can bring in? The metrics for the analysis that caused state, masses and media alike to arrive at the wonderful rosy scenario known as ‘development never seem to be revealed. When your nutrition rates are abysmally lower than those in sub-Saharan Africa, can you really claim development?
That leaves a staggering 57% of households that do not have access to water, having instead to travel several kilometres, very likely on foot, through arid, harsh conditions, often to bring back enough water for entire families. This water, too, is often not fit for any form of consumption, as “67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources.“
It seems from this that the purported economic gain did not reflect within the state itself.
While the religious fundamentalism that has historically characterised the party has seemed to be absent from this round of elections, with a significant non-Hindu vote going towards the party, a fair number of significant members of the party hold rabidly religious and social views that seem to be stuck somewhere, perhaps a century ago. With several social movements in India in the last few decades geared towards eradicating exactly this sort of thought process, one worries that this might be a step backwards for India as a functioning society.
The Indian LGBT movement has gathered steam in the past few years, and a general awareness of what many, sadly, across generations, believed to be a ‘curable disease’, rather than an innate biological characteristic, spread. More and more of the Indian public began appearing in public, at movements and rallies protesting the criminalisation (and re-criminalisation!) of homosexuality. It was no longer the taboo it had been in the past, and pride movements became a thing. It was absolutely wonderful.
And now, a party that has stayed apart from the religious fundamentalism it has marked itself by in the past has come to power. But while the party may have stayed away from communalist marketing tactics, its leaders, and the men at its helm still believe in archaic ideals, such as these -
BJP President, Rajnath Singh: “We will state (at an all-party meeting if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported.”
Senior member of the party, Subramanian Swamy, an erstwhile intellectual and former Harvard lecturer, described homosexuality as a ‘mental disorder’ in a series of tweets.
Sadly, the Congress party was not much better, with the Health Minister in 2011, Ghulam Nabi Azad, describing homosexual sex, or ‘MSM’ as a ‘disease’. While these archaic ideals may not be party-specific or community specific (in fact, some of the major religions practised in India sadly all view homosexuality as some sort of ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’), it is a massive blow to the movement that the newly forming cabinet is against progress and change in the social fabric of the country.
As I publish this, a woman has just been appointed the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, which is a wonderful thing. Anandiben Patel is, by all means, an accomplished person and politician, and her history seems to bode well for reform.
However, it now remains to be seen whether this is merely lip service or the sign of better things.
It is unfair to treat the country entirely as a market and focus merely on economic development, which, while important, needs to occur concurrently with social change. However, the focus on this seems to have been lost, buried somewhere beneath the cries of ‘development’. Statistics can be bandied about that prove said development – but this is something everybody needs to keep in mind.
Change is never instant, and it is wrong to expect it to be. However, I sincerely hope checks and balances, from within both public and establishment, can keep India as democratic as it has been. Perhaps this election was about development. Perhaps it was also predicated on a strong anti-incumbent sentiment that is fairly justified, all things considered.
Ab ki baar, the change that occurs remains to be seen. The latest developments, however, do not seem to be very promising, with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal arrested today for expressing an unsavoury opinion of a prominent BJP leader. Genuine worries for the freedom of expression have now grown – will all public opinion be hereafter, er, modified?
One can only hope that in this race, this mad quest for ‘development’, this live-action form of Temple Run, India is still, in the eyes of the powers that be, not a corporate entity that needs to maximise profit, but a country. Made of living, breathing people who retain wholly the right to express themselves, personally and publicly, people who need more than just progress for progress’ sake, and not just the economic kind, .
On George Harrison’s birthday, to a genius gone too soon.
Originally posted on abohemiansrhapsody:
Let me tell you how it will be.
George ‘the Quiet One’ Harrison is one of those people in the world that means more to me than any real person I’ve ever known, even myself. He’s like family to me, even though I never knew the man personally.
But when I listen to him play and sing and speak, it really feels like I do. I’ve ‘known’ George since I was a little baby, so 21 years and counting now. Back then, of course, I had no idea which Beatle was which on the record, so I just enjoyed listening to them rather indifferently.
George songs always sounded ‘different’, though. They had a very otherworldly feel to them, while still being about the human condition (and sometimes very, very scary indeed).
One of the first Beatles songs I ever heard, one that was on the 1967-1970 album (the first Beatles…
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Last year (2013 is ‘last year’ now), this genius released his latest album.
Musician. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, saxophonist, a brilliant, brilliant actor, sex object, teen-and-adult idol and Goblin King extraordinaire, David Bowie, is 67 today. Fifty years since the man has been making music and it only gets better.
Although most non-Bowie listeners will know him by ‘Ground Control to Major Tom‘ (which is actually Space Oddity, thank you very much!) his debut album was the eponymous David Bowie, released in 1967. For those who have heard a lot of Bowie’s later stuff – Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust, Life on Mars (the usual suspects), David Bowie will sound rather unfamiliar. Less surrealist and folksy than the more mature Bowie-image that has come to be legend, a number of songs on the album are very 60s and represent London [London Boy, Maid of Bond Street (one of my personal favourites on the album)]. Love You Till Tuesday is wonderfully candyflossy, youthful, and in all honesty, downright adorable. A simple melody from a lover to the one he loves, about how smitten he is. The simplicity of the melody and the lyrics make you fall in love with them.
While David Bowie might seem unlike Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, or even the David Bowie of today, it was not as detached as it seems. A special Bowie skill, one that one sees in very few musicians today, is the ability to paint extremely vivid, almost tangible pictures with palpable emotions, telling entire stories in song (or in Bowie’s case, extend characters through them, even).
This is evident in Come and Buy my Toys, which has simple lyrics, some beautiful folksy fingerpicking in the background. Seemingly innocuous, innocent lyrics paint deeper, darker, sadder pictures than those that are apparent. Maid of Bond Street paints a picture of glitzy London, of an actress on the train from Paddington to Oxford Circus (while on that journey myself, I hummed the tune and grinned to myself. The man looking at me must have assumed I was a lunatic. Oh well), but in a few lines shows the emptiness of her life, of life itself.
Macabre images that one would see in later Bowie work (certain songs on Hunky Dory, a fair number on Aladdin Sane) began cropping up early on – a prime example is Please Mr. Gravedigger, just pure vocals and sound effects – the rain in the background. While nothing like it melodically, the lyrics are reminiscent of a beautiful song by a certain Paul McCartney, released only a year prior.
We Are Hungry Men steps into extremely dark realms, all the while beneath a melodic exterior that seems quick, rhythmic, and perhaps incongruous with its lyrics that allude to cannibalism and explicitly refer to infanticide and slaughter. He talks of a messiah, a persona that will crop up in his later music as well, along with the idea and nature of being detached from humanity, an observer from up above – whether an alien or an astronaut, an otherwoldly being, or just a starman.
8th December, 1980, we lost this beautiful man. A commemorative I wrote a while ago – have a read.
Originally posted on abohemiansrhapsody:
9th October,1940. A genius was born, in Liverpool.
I wasn’t even sure how I should begin this post- how in the world do you write something to a person who died before you were born, but one who’s been part of your life ever since you were a little child?
And by a ‘part’ of my life, I mean most of it. I still remember coming home to empty rooms after school as a little girl, both my parents at work, and I’d do the one thing I’d been asked to avoid – tinker around with the music system. I’d seen my mother press a button, and three CDs would come spinning out, which I found infinitely fascinating.
My first memory was of this boxed set of discs with four cute men in pajamas staring down a balcony, and I decided to investigate.
I wondered why the CDs had apples…
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The crème de la crème of Indian authors, the cat’s meow, the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, that literary genius, that proselytising Twitter guru, that magician with his words, Chetan Bhagat, has recently made a wonderful video for Shaadi.com (possibly the world’s most well known matrimonial website [ugh]), where he lists tips for the site’s founder, who recently got married himself.
For a little bit of a background, watch this
The guru of gurus, the unrecognised (but clearly deserving) head of MENSA, is now dishing out tips for a successful marriage.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber 1
“Just Say What She Wants to Hear”
In this tip, he talks about how choices, with women, are not really choices. you just have to guess which ones they like. WOW, Chetan Bhagat. I speak for all women when I say you are really, truly the most amazingly perceptive man in the entire universe. How did you know all women were not really human, just completely irrational, two-faced vagina-toting humanoids incapable of normal thought processes like men are? Poor ol’ us. ‘North Indian, South Indian’, we’re all the same. He talks about choices between A and B as being like computer programs, which solve problems ‘based on applying criteria’. What are those, Mr. Bhagat? Programming? Criteria??? You’ve lost us poor stupid women already!
It’s not about finding A or B, Chetan. It’s about finding, to quote a certain Red Forman, my foot in your ass.
P.S – You know what *I* really want to hear? That Chetan Bhagat has given up writing and/or a public existence for good. I will wait for that day and I will celebrate it.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber2
“Remember Anniversaries, She Will Forget Your Sins”
Here he talks about remembering anniversaries, something I am not a fan of. You celebrate if you feel the need to celebrate, and don’t if you don’t. If the day means something to you then let it. I fail completely to understand why ‘forgetting’ a day makes you a bad spouse/partner, and if that is one of your criteria in deciding whether you should be nice to your partner or not, you are a horrible partner yourself.
He instructs all men to ‘remember their in-laws’ birthdays. But he doesn’t stop there, taking it a step further instead. He asks that most wondrous of all beings, men, to ‘be the first one to call your mother-in-law’ on her birthday, and then ask your spouse/partner why they haven’t wished their parent yet. Of course, these birthday wishes are not birthday wishes, but leverage that you can use when you’re ‘in the doghouse’, so to speak.
If you happen to be friendly with your spouse’s parent/s, then you wish them because you know them and you want to fucking wish them happy birthday. Not as ‘OMG I WISHED HIM HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOW I’M OFF THE HOOK’. Dear Chetan Bhagat, as much as your writing and behaviour make it seem like it, you are not five years old.
P.S – As far as being ‘woken up at midnight by Chetan Bhagat’ goes, I’d probably just tell myself I’m having an incredibly horrible nightmare and go back to sleep.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber3
“Do not give an opinion, merely endorse”
According to Mr. Bhagat, if one of us ‘lil ol’ ladies asks a man for an opinion on an item of clothing, we’re not asking for an opinion at all. We are obviously too weak to handle honesty and truthful viewpoints, so all we want and need is positive reinforcement from men (of course we do, how in heaven’s name would we live without it?).
It is absolutely telling that the whole ‘Do I look Fat’ scenario is limited to women. That, dear Chetan (or do you prefer Chetanji?) is a product of our stupid, patriarchal society where men can look whatever they look like and be successful in a field that focuses exclusively on appearance (the movies, for example) but women, in day-to-day-life, need to be suspended in a bubble of self-doubt, in a constant state of worry as to whether they look fat or not. Health matters whether you are male or female – how you look should not matter at all, but unfortunately for the world, and consequently to women themselves, a bulge here, a fold there, is absolutely unsightly and should be banished immediately, by whatever means possible. Women are meant to be pretty little fairies with no opinion, no cranial ability, and no life beyond men and serving them, aren’t they, Mr. Bhagat? And their lives invalidated without said ‘endorsement’ from men? Poor us. Also, we look at other women who are prettier than us and begin to hate them immediately. How did YOU know, Chetan Bhagat, that women cannot look at other human beings the way men do, rationally, and consider their abilities and strengths as independent aspects of their personalities? I’m so glad you’re around to teach me the ways of my kind.
P.S – Chetan Bhagat likes to make jokes about women’s insecurities with their appearances. I’d make a joke about Chetan Bhagat’s appearance but that video speaks for itself.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber4
“Warning – she follows you on Twitter”
This takes off from Shitty Tip Number 3, which is all about female insecurities. While body image issues are, unfortunately, a reality, Chetan Bhagat brings us his own version of female insecurities, which have to do with men calling other women attractive. According to him, the moment a man compliments a woman, it is grounds for the wife to ‘put her husband in the doghouse’. In Chetan-land (or Bhagat-world, if you prefer), not only are women completely devoid of self-confidence or self-belief, but men are not supposed to have opinions either, unless they want to regret them all their lives.
For SHAME. How dare any being have an opinion on another human being right? And of course, said opinion necessarily means you like that human better, no? Like a little child’s mother complimenting another child, which necessarily means she loves that child more than her own.
P.S – Gentle reminder, Mr. Bhagat. YOU ARE NOT FIVE YEARS OLD.
P.P.S – Sexism works both ways, and you’ve just illustrated that extremely succinctly. Thank you.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber5
“Show your support. Like all her Facebook updates”
He says this is a ‘tip for a modern marriage’. ‘You must like all the pictures, silly rants, stupid things’ your spouse posts on Facebook.
I’m all for social media. I’m doing a degree in media. I do NOT, like most other people, believe it has a damn thing to with somebody’s feelings towards me. If your love, or the security of that love, is predicated on a ‘like’ or a retweet, you’re in an incredibly shitty, insecure relationship. I do think every one of the last few points is predicated on Chetan Bhagat’s assumption that women are insecure, and that is the most important aspect of their existence. Women are insecure beings that cannot survive without male validation – it is THIS male validation, of course, that validates not only their looks and figures but their very existence. Yes. That’s all the vagina-ovary bearers of the world need, Mr. Bhagat, to ‘keep us happy’, because we need to be ‘kept’ happy. Facebook likes. This man has all the answers, people!!
P.S – When you say the rants are ‘never stupid, always profound’, you’re obviously not talking about yourself, you fucking moron.
P.P.S – your ideas are anything but ‘modern’.
Chetan Bhagat’s #ShittyTipNumber6
“You might be the boss in the office.. She is the boss at home!!”
So according to Satan…oops, Chetan, the days of performance reviews are over. You are now not the reviewer, but the reviewed. This review will not be an annual one like the rugged menfolk are used to, but a daily one, nay, an hourly one, nay, a minute-to-minute review, based on the clothes you wear, how you sit and stand, your appearance, things that the rest of us would find trivial but Saint Bhagat tells us are the criteria for judgement.
Who ever thought a marriage/relationship was a partnership between two equals, right? It’s supposed to be about one dominating the other, browbeating them into submission and having them follow their every word. It’s not like it’s supposed to be a symbiotic thing, with both people contributing to conversations, discussions, finances, the relationship itself. It isn’t supposed to be an environment where two people feel comfortable enough to air their opinions and are able to discuss their problems and lay them bare as they are. It is about submission, complete submission. Men and women are not MADE to be equal, right, Mr. Bhagat? Relationships and marriages only ever work when one partner dominates.
I think we should all just listen to Chetan Bhagat when he says ‘Seriously, you’re not supposed to be listening to this. Bye bye, take care.’ If you truly DO care about yourself and your sanity, do not watch that video.
My condolences to Chetan Bhagat’s readers and fans (male, female or otherwise) for being utterly brainless, and commiserations to his wife for being married to a sexist, male chauvinist pig, paperback-writing hack with no visible redeeming qualities whatsoever.
My latest short story. A labour of love and darkness.
Originally posted on anuthebeatlegirl:
I still remember the day I met her. My hair was in tangles all about my face, just like hers was. We were both soaked to the bone from the pouring rain, and looking for refuge from the downpour, anything to guard us from the ominous clouds overhead.
She drew me in – I had been following her from two streets away, captivated by her bright, beautiful smile, a smile full of love, that drew me in when I looked at her and she crinkled her nose at me.
“Hi!” she beamed.
“Hi,” I smiled back, following her. “Where are you headed to?”
“I have nowhere to go, either”, she told me. “Come, come with me. We can be best friends.”
Happily, I walked behind her, following her to wherever she was headed, which, as it turns out, was the next road.
We heard a loud clap of thunder and…
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