The Animal Farm of the UPA

Animal Farm is an all time favourite book of mine. I first read it when I was 13 or 14 years old, and didn’t think much of it. The next time I read it, it was three years later and I could distinctly discern the parodying of the socialist/communist movements that it does extremely well.

You can read a synopsis of the book here, but some quotes from the book are *so* apt for the Congress party in India, that I am literally rubbing my hands with glee (and cackling evilly) at these ABSOLUTE gems.

Taking the liberty to modify (pun intended) a bit , I present the best quotes:

 

“The birds did not understand Snowball’s long words, but they accepted his explanation, and all the humbler animals set to work to learn the new maxim by heart. FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD  BHARAT NIRMAN! was inscribed on the end wall of the barn, above the Seven Commandments and in bigger letters.”

 

 

“All animals Indians are equal, but some animals Indians are more equal than others.”

 

 

 

Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon Soniaji that all animals are equal. She would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

 

“Ah, that is different!” said Boxer  Manmohan Singh.“If Comrade Napoleon  Soniaji says it, it must be right.”

 

“Somehow it seemed as though the farm had grown richer without making the animals themselves any richer — except, of course, for the pigs and the dogs  the Gandhis and the Vadras”

 

“Whenever anything went wrong it became usual to attribute it to Snowball Modi. If a window was broken or a drain was blocked up, someone was certain to say that Modi had come in the night and done it, and when the key of the store-shed was lost, the whole farm was convinced that Modi had thrown it down the well. Curiously enough, they went on believing this even after the mislaid key was found under a sack of meal.”

 

“If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak, as she had protected the lost brood of ducklings with her foreleg on the night of Major’s speech.

She knew that, even as things were, they were far better off than they had been in the days of Jones AAP , and that before all else it was needful to prevent the return of the human beings NDA .

Whatever happened she would remain faithful, work hard, carry out the orders that were given to her, and accept the leadership of Napoleon  Sonia Gandhi.

But still, it was not for this that she and all the other animals had hoped and toiled.”

 

“For the time being, certainly, it had been found necessary to make a readjustment of rations (Squealer Chidambaram always spoke of it as a “readjustment,” never as a “reduction”), but in comparison with the old days the improvement was enormous.

Reading out the figures in a shrill, rapid voice, he proved to them in detail that they had more oats, more hay, more turnips than they had had in NDA’s days, that they worked shorter hours, that their drinking water was of better quality, that they lived longer, that a larger proportion of their young ones survived infancy, and that they had more straw in their stalls and suffered less from fleas.

The animals believed every word of it.

They knew that life nowadays was harsh and bare, that they were often hungry and often cold, and that they were usually working when they were not asleep. But doubtless it had been worse in the old days. They were glad to believe so.”

Needless to say, this can go on. Will stop now. Read the book, draw the rest of the parallels yourself. It will be worth your while.

 

 

 

 

 

A History

The earliest I remember being molested is when I was about 9 years old.

I was in a shop looking at some stationery, when an old man wandered past and pinched my (barely existent) nipples very hard. The memory is vivid because it was unpleasant, and not because I realised what was happening. It happened a few times, before I gathered the sense to walk away from him,and go find my mother. At that point, I did not even register what had happened. That came a few years later, a eureka moment of sorts.

The most upsetting time I was molested was when I was about 14.

I was in one of the new malls in the city, and in some awe of the surroundings. A man who walked past me reached out and squeezed my breasts. It took me completely by surprise. The breathtaking nonchalance of the act really really angered me. I remember wondering if the skirt I was wearing had anything to do with it. I also remember being upset that the glitz of the mall had offered no protection against men ‘like that’.

The first time I ever confronted my molester was when I was 19.

This happened in Delhi. It was the first time I visited the city. I was attending a college festival, and was walking with a friend in a crowd when a hand casually groped my butt. It was casual enough that I’d convinced myself that it was probably an accident. The next second my friend turned to me teary eyed, and pointed to a man who she said had touched her ‘down there’.

Something came over me in that moment. It was anger and also a sense of chivalry, of wanting to ‘protect’ the friend I was with.  I turned around ,ran up to him and shook him by the shoulders, demanding an apology. He was completely drunk. Another man tried to separate us. He only smirked in response. I then slapped him. I had to jump a little to do this, he was much taller. A little crowd had gathered by then, and people clapped. We went our separate ways.

The scariest time I was molested was when I was about 22.

I and a friend were at a market, in a city in Karnataka, when we noticed a group of 5-6 boys/men following us from shop to shop. We didn’t think much of it, till we went to her scooter that parked by the side of the road. They surrounded us at that point, making leery comments. The scooter wouldn’t start for some reason, and we panicked, wondering if they had done something to damage it.

There was a traffic constable on the other side of the road, and I shouted to him in Kannada to come help us. He first pretended not to notice, but when I began to cross the road to get to him, he yelled back a comment of his own. Blamed us girls for being out in the market at 9.30 pm in the night.My friend had managed to start her scooter by then, and she maneuvered it towards me. I hopped on.

When I turned around, the men were still following us on their bikes. Luckily, one traffic signal put enough distance between us and them that when we finally reached our hostel, there was nobody behind us.

(Un)Seeing Like A Feminist

So, I’ve been trying to read Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like A Feminist.

However, one paragraph of the book I wish I could just un-see.

On the Uniform Civil Code, she writes:

Shah Bano’s own trajectory, the Supreme Court judgement and the subsequent legislation overturning the judgement all mark the beginning of re-thinking by the women’s movement on the UCC, which was now revealed in it’s implicit anti-minority cast and its legitimising of the national integrity argument.”

 

“This disavowal of uniformity by the women’s movement in the 1990s is significant in that it marks the need to rethink the nation and religious communities as homogenous entities. Each religious community is a heterogenous one, and ‘Hindu’ ,’Muslim’ and ‘Christian’ practices differ widely from region to region of India, from sect to sect.

Some of these practices are better than others for women, and making them all uniform is not a solution to gender-based injustice. It is not a viable option-what is the uniform standard that will be adopted?”

“Was Shah Bano a ‘woman’ or a ‘Muslim’ ? Thus even an apparently obvious feminist issue such as gender-discriminatory personal laws, must be placed within other contexts to be understood in all complexity”

 

 

I’m sorry but as an Indian woman I vehemently reject this argument. I am a ‘woman’ and a ‘Hindu/Muslim/Christian’ yes, but I am also a free citizen of India first.

That we have laws against domestic violence and dowry are testament to the fact that India does have the legal will required to protect women despite the general endorsement of the former and latter by religious scriptures, culture and tradition. They are universally applied to all women, irrespective of the tenets of her religion.

That’s why I cannot understand why a ‘feminist’ would want to distance herself from a universally applicable personal law. Cutting through the BS , the distancing is actually code for I-would-rather-sacrifice-Indian-women-at-the-altar-of political-correctness-than-be-called-a-member-of-the-Hindu-right.

Honestly, Indian women deserve better than this brand of ‘feminism’.

As an Indian woman of *irrelevant religion* I demand that personal law  SHOULD NOT ‘be placed within other contexts to be understood in all complexity’. I demand that you keep my religion out of it irrespective of what prominent ‘feminists’ who pretend to speak for me say.

I only demand that these new personal laws are fair to women, and yes, fucking universal.

 

 

The Politics of Insecurity

It bothers me that Hindutva, as a political creed, exists in India.

Hindus are a large majority in India, and it stands to reason that sheer numbers alone should be reassuring that our way of life and our religion are ‘secure’. That sense of security would then enable us to weave our personal politics based on more important concerns like education, health and economics.

To be fair,the fact that the Congress party has been so electorally successful in modern India is proof that most Hindus, historically, have resisted the notion that religion need affect their personal politics.

Also, in the present day, support for the BJP does not always imply a Hindutva stance.

Still, it is reasonable to assume that the groundswell of support that is predicted in 2014 for the BJP is in some part ascribable to it’s positioning as the defender of the Hindu faith.

This historical branding of the BJP (which, in this election it has avoided) not only implies that Hinduism needs ‘defending’ from certain elements , but also that this defence needs to be political.

Why would anybody buy this way of thinking? How did this insecurity find so many takers?

I’m no political analyst, but I have two theories, based on common sense.

One is history. And also the way it is taught. Most Indians know that the Mughal dynasty ruled large parts of India. That fact itself causes a degree of discomfort, a reminder that we were once ‘conquered’, despite being a large and diverse nation.

Textbooks rightly highlight the ‘best of the century’ type achievements of the emperors, but do not delve into the details of the common people (most of whom were Hindu) for reasons of delicacy, even though there are excellent historical records of Mughal rule.

This approach is wrong on two counts. First, by sweeping the truth under the carpet, a sort of mass denial of ill-treatment and religious persecution is attempted, which is morally wrong by itself. Second, and more dangerously, ‘editing’ the truth breeds exaggeration and distortion of it. The Ram Janmabhoomi Movement, a landmark event in political Hindutva and the Tejo Mahal, are examples of the latter, where fiction took the space that history was erased from.

Also, sometimes this  omission of history leads to stupid present-day policy making, like this plan to set up a university in Karnataka named, for some strange reason, after a Sultan who is documented as persecuting his Hindu and Christian subjects.

The other historical event, and perhaps more relevant to the existence of Hindutva, was the call for Muslim separatism at the time of Independence, also known as Partition.

Muslim separatism was similarly rooted in political insecurity, however, given that Muslims were a relative minority on the subcontinent, and the fact that the British Raj encouraged this insecurity, the demand for Pakistan was perhaps not unreasonable. It is my belief, however, that the rise of the Muslim League directly impacted the path that modern-day Hinduism took- providing both template and justification to potently cross nationalism with religion.

While Pakistan became an Islamic state,it is commendable that the Indian leadership, as represented by the Congress of that time embraced secularism.

My second theory relates directly to secularism, or more correctly, the distortion of it.

The word secularism in it’s purest form, implies a complete separation of religion and state. It is the sixteenth word of the Indian constitution, proof that it was once an idea dear to the identity of the nation.

The failure to enact a Uniform Civil Code in India, the Shah Bano case, the Hajj subsidy, and statements like these now form the broken signposts on the long and weary road that secularism has traversed on it’s current path, a path that has mutated it into an idea incompatible with a modern democracy that upholds the equality of one individual to another and divorced from intentions set out in the Constitution.

To be sure, upliftment and genuine affirmative action is needed and welcomed, but direct religious appeasement for political gain is another matter. Far from causing any advancement or uplift, all that happens is added legitimacy to the belief that not all religions are created equal in India, at least in the political sphere. This causes insecurity, a sense of misplaced victimhood, which only strengthens political Hindutva and leads to a birfurcation of the political sphere along religious lines.

 

 

I believe that Hinduism and politics should not be mixed.

Separating the two will involve the removal of the glue of insecurity that binds them. This insecurity is dangerous, more often than not misplaced and also pointless.

A genuinely secular India is the best antidote to Hindutva.

While history cannot be undone, it can be discussed more openly and honestly. The bastardisation of secularisation, on the other hand, can still be reversed, but will take time, political will (and more importantly), credibility. These are not qualities associated with either the Congress or the BJP. Wait patiently, we must.

The first Indian women physicians

Came across a wonderful article that chronicles the earliest Indian women who travelled abroad to the USA (perhaps alone?) to study medicine.

Considering that all this happened in the late 1800s, and this study of medicine took place after marriage, it seems like culture and tradition are/were/always feeble excuses to keep women in their ‘place’.

 

 

 

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

I watched Queen over the weekend.

 

Image

Once upon a time I’d blogged/whined about the dearth of coming-of-age-films with female protagonists in the bromance genre.

From my blogpost circa 2012-

What gives Bollywood?

How long do I have to wait for THIS movie to be made- the *definitive* female-protagonist driven movie about friendship and coming of age?

You know, where you take three young girls and document their stories- the class bunking,the road-trips, the philosophic conversations in scenic settings , the drunken declarations, the ‘finding’ of themselves (or whatever self-actualisation stunt you want to pull). May be you will have to include the bits about their paths to love, but hopefully you can do that without making them ditch their friends enroute to the altar.

 

Queen (Kangna Ranaut, Lisa Haydon) is probably the closest thing to what I’d asked for. Reaffirms my belief that the Secret (aka Central Philosophy of Om Shaanti Om) kinda sorta does work :)

I loved it for the most part . It’s always nice to watch a film and find a character who sometimes thinks and reacts as you would do.*

 

What REALLY got my attention, though, was Rani’s fiance- Vijay, because once upon a time , I too dated a Vijay.

My Vijay was a real piece of work, who’d joined college after a lifetime of fancy boarding-schooling in the hills. Now I was a bindi wearing, salwar donning lass circa 2005. The bindi was by choice, an experiment of sorts; the salwar, the campus norm. I gave up the bindi after he made a huge fuss one day about how I looked ‘like a villager’. Also, he once tried to ‘forbid’ me from attending a party that he wasn’t invited to. (He succeeded.) He wasn’t all uniformly villain-ish levels of bad, though I wish i could say I’d dumped him first.

As it so happens, he broke up with me. I was terribly heartbroken, for about five minutes.

(Okay, five days, mummyji-daddyji ki kasam.)

And then he returned, wanting to make amends.

That last scene in the movie is a gem. It’s possible to feel sadness happiness affection pity indifference for one single person, in one single minute. And to hug them. Then walk away. Which is naturally what I did, without the kick-ass soundtrack in the background and the slo-mo effect. But still.

 

*I am totally the kind of girl who would make sure my cardigan was stowed away safely in my bag before getting smashed.

A Series of Inconsequential Epiphanies While Sober

I kinda/sort of believe that there is a God/Higher Power/Something-out-there.

I cannot logically explain why I have this belief, I suspect that it may have something to do with the fact it’s the more comforting belief, as opposed to believing that there is no one/ nothing watching over you.

I’m not really a fan of religion though. I think religion evolved to try find the truth about whether or not there was/is a God, but got hijacked somewhere along the way, and not only insisted that there is most definitely a God, but also began to decide what God may look like,  what God’s likes and dislikes were, and how much and exactly how God needed to be worshipped.

Still, some cultural aspects of religion I truly enjoy. Festivals for one, and some types of devotional music.

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In your heart you know that happiness does not depend on where you live and what you do .
You pretend that there is a checklist to tick off in order to attain happiness.
That’s just to keep you striving for that *something*.
Because the day you realise you have don’t have to strive to be happy, that you can just *be* happy, is the day that life begins to become a little boring.
That happiness is a factor of contentment is unsettling, and frankly, unsexy.
Zen philosophy is spelt with many a Z.

The scarier the dream, the bigger the rush, the greater the self-love.  Whether you fall or fly.

And so it goes.

 

Wage Outrage

Italian campaigners  are calling for housewives to be paid a state salary.

The basis for asking for a salary from the state is the idea that the unpaid work at home benefits society in intangible ways, so deserves monetary compensation. I agree that there is a benefit to the society, but I disagree that it is economically intangible.

It is exerted through the working members of the family- in other words, a person doing unpaid work at home makes life better for their partner , who then potentially becomes a more productive employee/worker, earns higher wages, and pays higher taxes.

(I’m not sure if there are any studies supporting this theory, but I’m willing to assume that this does happen.)*

The benefits of a person’s unpaid work at home goes directly to their partner.

Any benefit to the larger society is thus indirect. It is a factor of the economic and social advantages that her partner gets.

This is why I disagree with taxing society- the ‘secondary’ beneficiary -  in order to pay this wage.

I however agree that a wage must be paid- and this must come from the primary beneficiary – the working partner.

I disagree on making this wage legally payable.

A family unit should  be left to negotiate this wage any which way they want- and governmental legislation of personal financial decision making doesn’t exactly make for good economic sense.

Instead, the government could create incentives (in the form of tax breaks?) for workers who share a part of their wages with family members who work solely at home. To claim it, the working partner would demonstrate that assets have been created for their unpaid partner.

 

* ETA- There is plenty of research work on this topic as it turns out. The theory is known as the Spousal Support Theory, and papers on it affect HR and alimony policy.

A meta- analysis which confirms the spousal support theory that I’ve referred to :Career choice in management and entrepreneurship: a research companion. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar, 2007, pp. 101-126.

Full text available at at research website of the London School of Economics (http://eprints.lse.ac.uk)