The New Face of Indian Feminism

The new face of Indian feminism, and whole lot of crabs:

Ah, the prude me! If only I had the guts to substitute the word face with something with more, umm, oomph factor, I guess I’d have made the cut (into the real liberal league, or the RLL for short). I should start kicking myself, and learn to be more liberal (or more real liberal). Bear with me. Bear with me, as you’ve been bearing with me all these days/months/years, the way you bear with any other megalomaniac dimwit (if you’re a first timer, go to paragraph no 31 directly). This time, I’ve an excuse. I’m writing after a long time (unless you count book review as writing). Yes, at times, the anti-constipation medicines might be a little too effective for comfort. So, for the third time, bear with me. I’ll come to the point, later, rather than sooner. Oh hell with it. I’ll come to it anyway. What’s sooner or later between friends?

Yes, I’ve come down from the pedestal already, as some of my regular readers (actually one, unless I count myself), would say (IW, you’re still reading, aren’t you?). I mean, why oh why, am I chewing on a subject that deserves its own share of ignoring? The reason, as I already told you, is this: something is better than nothing. I mean, I’m thirty one plus (not twenty-something, unless 11 counts as something), not getting any younger, definitely not getting any smarter, more definitely not getting any creative (I contemplated if I should add more before creative, but then backed off). My writing career is in the middle of nowhere, since the day I started. Mind you, it hasn’t moved left or right, up or down. It’s right in the middle of nowhere, all along. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that that is where it’s gonna stay. So what was I doing on the pedestal anyways? Smart question. But then, I’ve come down, haven’t I? OK, OK! I promised I’ll get to the point.

Let’s begin at the beginning, shall we, for a change? Let me share all that I learned in the last two hours (I hope my manager, who has the feed of this blog in his reader, and even reads it sometimes, isn’t reading this. He thinks I’m writing a design paper. There! I’ve confessed! Ummm. Sorry, I shouldn’t be jumping the gun). So first thing I learned is: there is a blogger called eM. Damn this new Firefox feature of online spell check. It says eM is a misspelling. I mean, do these guy have any sense of humor? Just because you spell something in reverse doesn’t make it a misspelling! Doesn’t make you ulta either. There! Another red line under ulta. Okay, honest now, I’ll keep it straight. Not that straight, dear. I mean, of course I’m straight. But as an aspiring member of the RLL, I don’t want anyone to think that I meant straight as a value-judgment. The last thing I need is being called homophobic!

So anyways, I was telling you about eM. She has a blog. What did you say? Everyone has a blog these days. Thanks for educating me. But eM has an ubercool blog: The Compulsive Confessor. It deals with: “partying, smoking and binge drinking, along with candid musings about sexual techniques and escapades” according to Telegraph (UK) feature. Oye, where are you going? I haven’t even finished! Good thing I didn’t give you the url right away. So anyways, Telegraph (UK) did a story on her. And what’s more, the story divulged that Penguin India has commissioned her to write a semi-autobiographical book. So far so good. What has it got to do with feminism, you ask? Well you tell me. I wish I knew! Who’s saying anything about feminism?

Oh you mean the title. Sorry. Fooled ya! Ha. Just kidding. I’ll get to that. (No wonder no one takes me seriously).

On Sepia Mutiny — the greatest thing to have happened to Indian Blogdom since Margaret Thatcher (what? what has she got to do with Indian blogdom? I’ve no clue. It’s the first name that came to my mind. It seemed as good as any) — Amardeep did his take on the article, and then Indian feminism was born. Err. Okay, not really. Again, blame it on those anti-blogstipation medication thanks to Amway. I’d have sued Amway, but then my brother will be implicated too. (What I’ve no brother? How did you know? Is there no privacy on net, dammit?)

So we had two of the most famous Indian Women Bloggers (or so I’ve heard) taking up the fight against the patriarchy that was pulling crabs down, and pants up.

What’s wrong with compulsive confessing, Sakshi asked. Well, absolutely nothing, I agree. I mean, just because it’s compulsive doesn’t mean there is something wrong!

Wonder why our society’s philosophy on empowerment starts at providing women with decent education and then abruptly ends when she starts expressing her individuality.

Indeed! With you all the way.

Similarly, many think eM writes solely to attract attention and gain that temporary hype (and therefore she ended up getting a book deal) because it’s difficult for them to comprehend the fact that an Indian woman can also think, write, discuss and not be apprehensive about her intimate thoughts on a public platform

Absolutely. Indian Women rock! Err. I didn’t mean… you know what I didn’t mean.

On the other hand if her writings were preaching the sati-savitri qualities in desi-women, the joys of motherhood, the precious value of an intact hymen – she would be applauded for her thoughts, no matter how farce they maybe in actuality.

There you lost me, Sakshi. Intact hymen? Are there bloggers writing about intact hymen? Where are they? Why are they hiding? I mean, if they’re being applauded, as you contend, surely I should have heard about them. But then, I’m a little hard on hearing, so sorry for asking again. Where are they? I so love blogs about intact hymen.

The only question I have is, where in the blog did Sepia Mutiny/Amardeep actually said she should not express her individuality, or take off her blog/not write a book/do whatever? But asking that question might bar me from RLL. So for the record, I never asked it.

Melody highlighted the Indian Crab mentality with a nice old story. Of course she was being a little judgmental of the crabs but then I’m not a PETA activist, so I guess crabs will have to deal with the damage to their self-esteem on their own. (Comment to the crabs:) Sorry guys. I like you, but on my dish. Lightly spiced, and cooked well. Your self-esteem is, frankly, not my problem. (End of comment to the crabs). Besides, she didn’t really give the crabs a benefit of doubt. Maybe they are pulling the other crab down, because they:

1. Think he might be killed if he goes out, in the unknown world.
2. Like him so much that they don’t want him to go away.
3. They are actually trying to push him up, but are just plain incompetent.
4. It’s not a he crab, but a she crab. And the he crabs surely don’t want to let a her go.

(Note: I’ve implied that the pulling crabs are all male. After all, women crabs cannot be that insensitive!)

But I get the point. Postmodernism is not on offer for the crabs (although crabs are on offer for the postmodernists! What a win-win). Especially not for the Indian crabs. There I almost sound like a PETA activist now (except for that insensitive comment about the dish. But then I really like crabs, when dished out that way). I’ve heard PETA members have a preferential queue in RLL. But then we aren’t reading for any ulterior motives, and just taking the things on face (errr! there again, I lost my second chance. the prude me) value.

According to Melody, its a “very very sad” thing to “diss”(miss?) another blogger, a fellow Indian blogger at that, a fellow Indian Female blogger at at that that (this last I presumed), especially by a group of “desi bloggers”. Doesn’t she get it? There are Indian bloggers, and there are Desi bloggers. Surely, you can’t expect one group to root for the other! But then, I’m with you Melody. We must not ever dismiss anything Indian. Even Shobha De. There, I’m against Sakshi, even. She says Shobha De is a hypocrite! How could she. I mean, Shobha De is an Indian Writer for god’s sake. And an Indian women writer at that. And an Indian women writer who wrote about women taking down their pants (or so I’ve heard), and men too, for it takes two to tango, and in those days when you said two, you said one M and one F, how homophobic!) long before there were bloggers writing about women taking down their pants.

I get it. I get it. Why Shobha De is not kitsch, is that she only wrote about other people taking off their pants. Never about she taking off her pants. But it’s a big mistakes. She never wore pants! So come on now. Let’s forgive Shobha De for her alleged hypocrisy. We must root for Indian feminism, in all shapes and forms. Err… I didn’t mean it that way. You know what I didn’t mean, don’t you?

Get Well Soon

This blog needs some TLC. It’s troubled by attention deficit syndrome. Its creator has abandoned it for more earthly things like work. But we just heard rumors that now He has realized His blunder. Soon, we hear, life will return to normal for this troubled, ignored, depressed blog. Let’s pray for it.

Amen!

Ya (Gh)ali!

I like one song in Bollywood and it had to be a rip-off.

Ya Ali – Original Ya Ghali in Arabic by Guitara

Plagiarism, inspiration? Sigh!

Please don’t tell me now that even Allah-ke-bande was a rip off!

Meanwhile, Bheja Fry is also supposedly a scene-to-scene copy of Le Diner de Cons (The Dinner Game), a French movie. The much touted resurgent Bollywood is just this?

Boys don’t cry, men do.

Punds got me thinking about this much chewed subject. As a rule I avoid writing on such subjects. But then I guess it’s OK to add your voice to the cacophony every once in a while (and use cliched phrases like: every once in a while, every once in a while). It gives you a sense of belonging, I’ve herd … oops, heard. So here goes…

Actually all I wanted to say was said in the title, so there isn’t much left to say. But then I aspire to be a real writer (whatever that means) sometime in my life, so I’ve to shrug off this habit of saying it all in the title. Or better: learn to say it again and again till required word count is reached. Target practice: that’s the secret to writing (or just about everything), I tell you (and I’m being very generous here, that’s on the house). So what’s the target, you ask? Oh well, I’m not foolish enough to believe in my own theories!

The origin of this “boys/men don’t cry” stereotype is researched back to the middle of stone ages. In those times, throwing stones at each other was at vogue in the males of the human species. It was considered a pretty interesting pastime, as golf was not invented back then, which is surprising because all it takes is dug a few holes, find a few sticks, and a largish space and voila! All of this must have been easily available back then (you dirty men with single tracked minds! Stop right there!). That should tell you how intelligent men were back then, but then not much has changed even today). Females, being more sensible of the two sexes (or genders, if that’s a more acceptable socio-political term — a serious paper like this that deals with the role of gender in the choice politics of modern male, ought to use socio-politically acceptable terms) back then, didn’t take part in these games and just hoped that men won’t end up killing each other, for there has to be someone to rule (and other females being as smart, it had to be men). So it happened that as the boys went out and started throwing stones at each other, eventually someone would get hit and will run back to their mothers. Mothers, who were busy gossiping about the recipes of raw bird meat would get very irritated at these interruptions and would just tell their progeny (what a word!) that it was improper to cry in public. They also hoped that this would dissuade them from the stone throwing game and do something more constructive, like cleaning the caves, or just get that monthly wash or something. But alas, that was the start of the decline of the intellectual prowess of females. They seriously underestimated the male obsession with stone throwing, as is evident by opening daily newspapers today.

Anyways, I digress. The point is, stone throwing has become the pinnacle of male achievement (or machismo) and crying has become so synonymous with female weakness that it has seriously hampered the expression choice of the modern Homosapien male (but who the hell cares about their value-choices?). But think about it: do real men accept what others think, and relent their value-choices at the first sign of peer pressure? Or do real men (plural of man: a short hand for the member of the male of the Homosapien species) go and do a google (google: verb – to type the word in a text box and click, I’m feeling lucky) on “boys don’t cry”? Of course it’s the latter! And what do they see? They see an imdb link for an eponymous movie, and soon forget about the question altogether. This is how we are supposed to distinguish the boys from the men!

To summarize: the boys throw stones (and don’t cry when they’re hit), the real men google. So yes, I’ve diverted from the hypothesis in the title, but then surely you didn’t expect I’d reveal everything in the title! How do I become a real writer then?

Shaadi Ke Side Effects

Scene 1:

“How do I look?”

“Great!”

“At least look at me before saying that!”

“I don’t need to look at you. You’re always on my mind”

“Shut up!”

Scene 2:

“How do I look?”

Actually looking at her, “Um….”

“You don’t like me anymore!”

“What crap. You don’t even give me time to say anything”

“Oh, your eyes say it all”

are. I was just looking”

“You don’t need to look that long”

Scene 3:

“Tell me should I wear this (exhibit A), or this (exhibit B)?” (parenthesis mine, of course)

“Anything is fine!”

“You never help me!”

“But both look good on you”

“You mean: get over with it?”

Sheepish smile. “No seriously”

“Still…

“This one” (pointing at A)

Thinks for a while. “Nah! That’s a bit too gaudy for the occasion. I think I’ll wear this one”, picks up B.

Scene 4:

“How does this look?”

“Um…. I don’t think that top goes well with the jeans”

“You don’t understand fashion!”

Scene 5:

“How is this?”

“Um?”, I look, and not that long, “Great!”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah, I mean this one really suites you complexion”

Throws anything that she can find at me. “Get out!”

“Why! What happened”

“Like you don’t know?”

“No seriously?”, in my most naive tone.

“You think I’m dark”

“Now, let’s keep aside for a moment whether I think you’re dark, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with dark! We’re Indians. We’re dark skinned. If anything fair is a problem in this part of the world”

Waits with glaring eyes.

“Okay, that was kind of tangential, but I don’t think you’re dark”

“Ah! Why do I even ask”

“Precisely”, I say to myself.

Scene 6:

“Wow! You look great!”

“What do you want from me?”

Scene 7:

“Wow! You look great!”

Starts laughing.

“What?”

“You are saying it just because I accused you yesterday”

Misreading the laughter, gives a sheepish smile.

“You’re impossible!”

Scene 8:

“Wow! That’s a nice dress. New?”

More beating. “That’s about the only dress you ever got me, three years back, while you still loved me”

“See I’ve a good taste”

Ignores me completely.

Scene 9:

A is her office colleague.

“Wow! That’s a nice dress, A”

More beating (in public, with witnesses). “You never say that to me”

“Oh I said it just a day before”

“Right. When I was wearing that one dress you’d gifted me, you kanjoos

“Well maybe you should go with A for shopping. She seems to have a decent taste”, that will take care of those shopping trips!

“So that you don’t have to come with me for shopping. I’m not falling for that!”

Scene 10:

“How do I look?”

“Did you get a haircut?”

“Ah! You notice now, after I ask you!”

Ignores the taunt. “That’s a funny haircut”

“That’s it. I’m never going to ask you again!”

Next Day:

“Everyone appreciated my new hairstyle at the office”

“Good for you”

“You just don’t appreciate me”

“I thought you and your hairstyle were two different things”

“Grrrrrrr”

Scene 1:

“How do I look?”

“Great!”

….

Blog Hopping 2

Take two of blog hopping…

I’ll start with Dan Husain, because he doesn’t fit in otherwise. I have been following Dan’s poetry blog every once in a while, and I think he’s a pro. Without using complex, obfuscating imagery, he manages to create amazing poetry, like this one: Coffee in Time of War.

It starts playfully, and even ends playfully, but not before knocking you down, leaving you speechless.

War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.

Dan reminds me of Charles Bukowski.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.

There are more poems of his that I’d like to include, but then this one is as good as any.

Moving on, Mukta‘s Save Indian (Male) Child is one of those blogs that captures a slice of (urban) Indian reality, and asks questions that are very very relevant, IMO. Any writing that asks questions of a group, men, women, Indian men, Indian women, and so on, is bound to overgeneralize, but that apart, I find this one of the best articulated blogs on this subject that I’ve come across. I’d ask all my bachelor and newly married male friends to read this and think over it, not necessarily respond to it, but just think, and keep it in mind. Why I say that is, for intelligent, liberal Indian men, the learning curve is steep, and there is this dilemma of wanting an intelligent, independent partner but not having instincts to handle them. Stepping into the shoes of the other sex is not really an easy thing to do, and that is why I say think and think over it. Yes, debate helps but not always.

I, Zak ” on whose blog I first stumbled upon in the middle of the cartoon controversy (and I see now he has removed that post — rather a repost of a cartoon on the controversy), and have been following erratically since, posted this poem by Farid ud-din Attar : One about pride. Curiously, Zak’s blog name has an I in it ;-). Thanks Zak for introducing me to this interesting poet!

I was going to cover Aria‘s poem Ablution in my last blog hopping blog, but somehow I forgot. For a self-confessed novice poet, Aria writes with a fluency and style:

You are not mine
But I’m still yours
And with me
my love,
Sin is cleansing

Well I end this with another one by Mukta, for it got me chuckling all along. A blog about Crossword! I was reminded of the time when back in my IIT days Planet M opened its first Mumbai outlet at Churchgate (was it?), with all fanfare that’s to be expected of them, the then naive me walked into the trap. An attractive and dumb looking female (yeah, back in those days I used to find even dumb looking females attractive at times) walked up to me (yes, me with my totally out of place clothes and hairstyle) and asked me in sweet voice, what was it that I was looking for. I knew then and their it was useless asking her, but I still asked, mainly because she was attractive ;-). “Shakti with John Mclaughlin”. “Shakti is the album?” she asked helpfully. “No”, I said exasperated. I wanted to say John McLaughlin is the album. But then sarcasm is totally wasted on attractive and dumb females, so I told her that Shakti is a group and I was looking for Natural Elements. She noted it down on some piece of paper and took down my email id and promised to get back to me when they got the album.

Sigh, I never got her email (she was, I tell you, quite attractive), although I did pick up Natural Elements the very same day from Rhythm House. I have rarely stepped into Planet M after that. Anyways, this blog was supposed to be about other bloggers blogs, so I’ll stop here.

Blog Hopping

Every once in a while I go on random blog hopping, and then I realize how hard it is to find interesting blogs, due to the sheer number of blogs that are floating around. There are clusters of bloggers who follow each others blogs and typically you see the same commentors on the blogs. Add to that the problem of people blogrolling others for reciprocal reasons, or just because you gotta have a blogroll. So we gotta go back to recommendations before the so called web 2.0 (or 3.0 or whatever it is) really starts helping us there (in finding content that we might enjoy). So here is my bit, for those who share some of my tastes in the written matter: a few links to blogs that I have come across lately, which caught my attention. I hope to do this activity more often.

I’ll start with (probably) the youngest blogger in this potpourri

Sometime back I read this poem by Merryweather: For Whom the Bell tolls, which grabbed my attention right away…

When the leaves were autumn-gold
But you were too involved to notice
Their sullen dance on a cemented pathway
All you could see were the unwinding, winding forest roads

I wish I could write like that even at my age! Check out her blog. Yes, the themes are kind of commonplace, but the poetic spark is there.

Prat‘s Bookstore totally floored me by its sheer poise (for the lack of better word).

A lot of other what ifs
I asked you
You explained
Destiny and the human mind
You showed me
It is true

And then she ends it beautifully… no I won’t put those lines here. No spoilers here ;-)

And before I move away from poetry, this one from ubermensch , an old friend from the virtual world. Ubermensch is Nietzsche in the making; don’t take him lightly, even though this one is light:

Once someone told me
It was beyond his imagination how
such a thing as free verse
came to be called Poetry…

That’s almost a quarter of his small poem:
Libre

Okay, away from poetry as promised. Anumita‘s blog, 10 Days Canned Stored and Treasured is one of the most heartfelt pieces of writing I’ve come across in the so called Indian blogosphere. What I like is the sheer honesty that the piece radiates, and the fact that she hasn’t tried to anonymize it through fiction or other devices. No excerpts here, since it’s a prose piece, nevertheless strongly recommended!

And away from words altogether, onto one photoblog: Atul Sabnis has this excellent photoblog: If I Could See Better. He has quite an eye, to want to see better. Definitely worth a dekkho, as the say.

That’s it for now, hopefully I’ll come up with second round soon.