Saturday, February 21, 2015

Being a girl in India or how dare they be naked under their underwear!

A satirical comic strip depicting what 'bad girls' get up to in India

Apparently this is a trending topic online these days. Cute! But we haven't got there yet! It does make you think, and it is amusing, but it is also ambiguous. Because most of these  could be said in relation to Indian boys too, except for the round roti or dosa in the South, and the eating bit. And it can be pointed out too that too much of alcohol and porn can be detrimental to one's mental and physical well being. If the intention is just to provoke, it is fine. But we must be aware that we are giving ammunition to the perpetrators again, to say the least. As it is, this satire is a luxury that we cannot afford yet. When the common man thinks that girls and women are asking for it, if they are attacked, that it is  for our own good that we are not allowed out, we have our work cut out for us. No one seems to be interested in changing the underlying cause for this need for special "protection or persecution" of women. How come these same men know how to behave once they go to other countries? In India they want that "difference" perpetuated - simple economic matter. The distribution of money/power, the holding on to it. Controlling women, and by that, their sexuality is the only way they can be overpowered, the premise being all girls are bad, from before they are born. Naked under the underwear bad.  How dare they be naked under their underwear!! Not that the common man or woman is aware of that deep truth, or has the time or inclination to know it. They just take the easy way out, follow the herd. Keep the woman inside. Everything will be fine. What if these evil men broke in? Will they have to kill off all the girls to "save" them? Oh, I forgot, we do kill off baby girls.
It is not the outfit, it is not the hair, it is not age, or class or caste - latest news - elderly Indian nun raped .

Still it is sad that it is hard for us to appreciate the humor and the message in this colorful strip. Why? Because the reality is that it is hard to be a girl in India -- good or bad. Jyoti and a thousand other Jyotis proved that. That is the main reason, I am ashamed to say, that I grabbed the first chance to escape. And no, it is not the actions of a few mad men. It is the reflection of how many Indians, educated or not, consider the girl, the woman. For them, girls are not equal to boys. We are not talking about what boys can do, girls can do better kind of equality. Just plain human being equality, as opposed to lower than animal level thinking. Listening to them talk, we would think we are not human. Some raise us to that impossibly high mother/goddess- standard, and others lower us to dirt level. We cannot win either way, let alone afford to laugh at the above fun piece, as things are now.

But then if people want to pretend they do not know what is meant here, in this picture, then we can do nothing about that. Remember my last essay on this? (Going to see an English movie (let alone porn!) was frowned upon when I was at University. Not that we did it all the time - the antisocial elements around made sure of that. But once in a blue moon we tried, I remember when "Gorillas in the Mist" came to our town. My friends and I took the bus to town a few miles away from our campus. And lo and behold, there were a small group of male students following us! Not from our department - anyway they followed us around town to the theater, sat right behind us making nasty comments, laughing and altogether titillated. Of course we were laughing at them - quietly - always pretend not to see them - do not provoke the beast! Once the movie started, and they saw that it was not porn, they got up and left. haha. And these were University students!) 

Anyway - the main point, which is still beyond the grasp of our girls,  is or should be the one about our (man or woman) right to choose for ourselves, once we are old enough to know. It could be my profession, it could be my partner in life, it could be that I want to live my life on my own terms, as much as possible. As it is now, the conditioning from our families, and our schools and colleges which are naturally religious institutions, is so successful, that some of us who act "free" or "fearless' by Indian standards, still are worried what "they" would say, or think! That image of the "good" girl has to be maintained at all costs. While growing up, we are trained to please everyone around us, and even those with whom we have no real connection to! And if we rebel, we are branded "bad". Girls' determination is translated as stubbornness, arrogance, and selfishness. Men have to deal with this too, I admit, but to a lesser degree - after all, boys will be boys - everyone accepts that in the end. Even the sense of humor of a girl has to be controlled - they have to be above all that! Or else they will again be branded as bad or immoral or even crazy! Or worse, they are looking for sex! with anyone! well - they said that if you cut your hair! or drank black tea, when you had a tummy ache. You walk around in the town, they think you are public property. In the above picture, they talk of partying! Some of us did not want to party - just wanted to study, get ahead. That was seen to be bad!Imagine what it would be  if I were partying then! But I get the idea - if they had let me study, say abroad, or in another state, what if I did party? Oh no! that is taboo. Most of the time religion is brought in as a controlling weapon. As if God has no other business but to control women!

In India, the reality is that  even now, even in the best of homes, what makes a girl good is her obedience to whatever the elders wanted her to say, to do, and even to think. No matter how outdated or downright stupid it is, or totally detrimental to her growth as a fully mature, responsible human. Obviously we are not human . As said before,  "how dare you are naked under your underwear?" But when the main goal or ideal in the Indian girl's life is supposed to be pleasing the men, then it is  going to be a hard fight. Women themselves buy into that way of thinking, and fail to support other women. It is a rivalry, a fight for survival. well - it is a man's world. And the sooner we learn that if we are to survive, we have to manipulate the men and other women, we succeed! Or not. As the case may be. And those who don't want to play that game, or are too "good", too well-conditioned, they lose.

Not letting girls be who they want to be, putting obstacles in their way of growth, at every turn, pulling them down whenever they try to fly,  let alone train them to stand on their own feet are the norms there.  The invisible now illegal dowry system doesn't help at all, showing us the economic basis of all these oppression and inequalities. Not educating everyone on the necessity for change in attitudes, and then blaming them as burdens on the family, is not smart or fair. But sadly, that is what is happening in India. It is easier to assume that all men are evil, and therefore girls should be shut up in their homes - easier for those men. But once you acknowledge that not all men are evil, that even bad men can be changed through education, only then can there be lasting change. The importance of empathy, the development of the so-called feminine qualities of kindness and forgiveness and nurture - these cannot be over emphasized. That should be the ideal that we move towards. To laugh it off, or to think that those men will never change, is doing a disservice to men's brains, to the entire human race itself. Again, I have to wonder at how fast these same "unchanging" male, once he comes to a western country manages to learn the lay of the land soon enough! So really good implementation of the law could bring about change! But there lies the problem in India - the law enforcers themselves are cut from the same cloth as these supposed dregs of society.

Related to this is the adage, "Know your station in life, and you will be happy, if you stick to it." No one likes an upstart. Why? America was built by upstarts. When the African Americans began to or tried to stand on their feet , they were called upstarts. Poets are upstarts, artists are upstarts. It is the fear of the Establishment.  People getting ideas. Of equal rights, of equal right to choose. Of losing their own station. But this is a big world - it can accommodate upstarts, old and new.

This putting people in their place, asking them if they haven't achieved enough, asking them to be content with what they have - after all they are better off than their predecessors -- that theme is not limited to race. It runs across nations, first world-third world, across classes, across the sexes. Wives , and women on the whole, are supposed to be put in their places. The dominant group does not want to share their privileges. They seriously believe in their divine right to have it all. They are the entitled ones, they are the chosen ones. You don't have to look too far to find the bases  of the elaborate rules and structures of caste system, of slavery, and of feudalism  It is just a question of perspective, really. Again!

Just remember that when you may make much ado about the petty presumed differences, an outsider won't see any such difference. Just as if a creature from another planet should see us humans -- I think to them we all belong to one race - the human race, whether you are a man or a woman, black, white, or brown.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Flowers that Bloomed in the Snow

This morning, I woke up to this wonderful sight. Reminded me of our old black & white movie sets for the song/dream sequences - white paper flowers, silver branches, a big, bold moon playing hide and seek among the white clouds . . . etc. (except here, the moon and the clouds are on the ground!) This morning, the scene was arranged so perfectly that it looked almost artificial! There was nothing there when I went to bed last night. The last remnant of the previous week's snowfall had melted away. But now - a world of difference,! Needless to say, the snow never ceases to amaze me, even after all these years.
Always manages to give me a jolt ! as if I am seeing it for the first time.
Sometimes in its stark and cruel, and well, cold way, ( the eerie stillness of all that ghost-like whiteness gets to me ) but mostly, it makes me exclaim at the beauty of it all. And when the sun hits it! It is as if sparkling sugar crystals are  sprinkled all over. Powdered sugar, whipped cream, cool frosting, glass-like glazing, clear candy cane icicles, cotton candy - you want to eat it all up! :) variety, thy name is snow! You are drawn to jump into it, to bury yourself in its softness, to let it blanket you in its frozen warmth. How easy it would be to drift away into oblivion, in that  embrace?(all this, from your cozy vantage point inside the house, I know!).  I am still in awe of even the huge mountains of snow that the snow- plows heap up. And the dirty half crystallized snow piles on the side of the road? Those look like sheared piles of sheep's wool to me. This snow is one thing that will never lose its magic for me.

My wonder is not surprising really. I come from a place where it never snows. Which has its own special qualities. Magical ones. But this experience of snow is something else. It can render one speechless. For a minute or two!  - I mean, I have heard that people who live in cold climes have more than one word for snow, and its different faces. That is, by the way, an understatement - they have a lot more than one - hundreds. And where I come from, we, that is, Malayalis/Keralites,  have just one word, as far as I know, unless we count Sanskrit. We have "manju" - which is deceptive totally. It could mean "the cold weather", and fog, and everything beyond that, connected to extreme cold.We have no corresponding word for "snow" as such.  And when you read that word in English, "manju" sounds like that usual name in India - Manju. The pronunciation is different. :) Anyway, now you get an idea as to my fascination for "manju".
( On the other hand, we have a few different words for rain.) just remembered - there is a Malayalam word for snow that we never get a chance to use in a normal conversation - it has its origins in Sanskrit - "himam" as in Himalaya - the abode of snow.
icicles like melting candle wax

snow cotton puffs

Also, my photos haven't done justice to the beauty, to what I saw.