Into the heaven of (sexual) freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

IHM asked a very pertinent question today-

Does an average Indian man or woman have any idea that they own their own bodies, minds, souls and sexualities?

I’d venture to say that many don’t , and even among those who do, claiming that ownership is goddamn hard.

Now, claiming ownership of your mind is the harder of the two to do,given the years and years of conditioning  that have gone into making our minds anyone’s but ours. Learning to think for yourself is so liberating, yet in an Indian context- accompanied by oodles of guilt.

In my case, I was brought up outwardly ‘liberal’ parents but with the kind of conservative values that existed in 1950’s America ( i.e, present day India) . I saw through most of their BS before I was 15. At that age, I remember wondering that if sex was really so wrong and dirty, how was marriage going to make it ‘right?’ ( My reasoning was this- if sex is dirty, and marriage is essentially social/God’s sanction to have sex, it still doesn’t follow that marriage  rituals automatically makes sex clean/right- so one may as well go ahead and give in :)) 

I knew better than to share such heresy with family. I considered myself, by age 17, to be quite ‘independent’ in my thinking- then college happened.

College in India is where most people are first confronted by booze , smoking and physical relationships. After extensive research( code for watching a lot of American movies), I concluded that college in India is where most people gain the emotional maturity that our counterparts in Western countries have reached in high school. I struggled with the notion of  promiscuity and ‘sleeping around’ and in my mind, condemned people for it- but eventually learnt not to judge.

It was in college that I gained some ownership of my body-initially weighed down by immense guilt but later with nary a thought to my ‘reputation’/arranged-marriage prospects. Of course, I wasn’t exactly looking to marry my college BF, but I considered myself ‘evolved’ enough to deal with that.

I recently had a ‘conversation’ with my parents- where in the same goddamn breath they not only told me that I should get married but also gave me a mini-lecture on how physical relationships are against their value system- i.e  we’re okay if you f**k (any) guy, just make sure you have black beads around your neck while doing so.

Such conversations ruin my mood and fill me with self doubt- have I really been successful in establishing autonomy over my body? Does your sense of ownership even count- if other people still think they own it?

I’m glad I learnt the ownership lesson early in life, from my school principal no less, who in 11th grade told us that our bodies are our own- not our parents, or husbands or boyfriends.She said that it was important to remember this, because the moment we fell in love, we would gladly forget it. That true ownership meant not only the ability to give consent to physical relationships, but also WITHHOLD it.

I also feel a twinge of sadness when I see some female classmates , one by one, get married the arranged way- these are the girls who studied well and stayed the hell away from boys- and their ‘reward’ is this- the giving away away of their bodies in marriage to men deemed nice enough. It bothers me that these women never even tried to claim ownership of their bodies in the slightest, and quite literally transferred the rights to their bodies from one family to another.

I guess then my answer to IHM’s question is no- most young women I know don’t even know that their bodies and minds can be fully their own.And this is the so-called educated class I’m talking about. I have no idea about young men though. 

Apology to any lurking Tagore-lovers.

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Life lessons I learnt from Cocktail

Like any other self respecting citizen of Youngistan, I eagerly looked forward to the release of the movie Cocktail. I rarely use the word ‘eagerly’ in connection with a Bollywood film, but considering that the director was the guy who gave us Being Cyrus, I made an exception.

Suffice to say, I learnt a lot about various aspects of life from this enlightening movie. Some of these were-

1. Culture,culture, culture- So, apparently, the idea that has been drummed into our heads  all our lives is actually worthwhile- Indian culture is best(est!). Haldi-flavoured milk is what it takes to bring all the boys  ( and their Mummyjis) to the yard! Do note that following Indian Culture includes the following- violently bobbling your head to indicate ‘no’ when offered alcohol, giving your a**hole husband a second chance, wearing a salwar, cooking biryani for your a**hole boyfriend, and generally acting like a damsel-in-distress.

2. Always save money. An example would be to stay with someone you know , and avoid paying rent. If it happens to be the girl you’re currently sleeping with, then you’ve killed two birds with one stone. Even if you do fall for her best friend, after she’s fallen for you- DON’T move out until you absolutely have to.

3.Be a virgin. This is actually a part of lesson number one, but it’s important. It really doesn’t matter what the rest of your ‘character’ is like. You may be the independent, loyal, helpful, aunty-is-alone-so-i’ll-go-give-her-company type . You may even let two people stay for free at your place because you care for them. But all that gets cancelled out if you’re not a proper bharatiya virgin.

Conversely, you may even kiss your best friend’s BF behind her back, but because you’re a virgin, you’re more deserving of him anyway, so all will be forgiven and the universe will conspire to make him fall for you too.

(Important note- this lesson applies only to women. If you’re a guy, you can be the sleaziest man-whore in town, but still get the love and affection of virgin women and the non-virgin (ugh!) ones alike)

4.Awareness is important.It’s important to be aware of the characteristics of a certain type of Indian girl- if she drinks, it means she’s always going to get drunk. Also, if she drinks, she’s  promiscuous . For sure.In addition to sleeping around and drinking, you can also assume that she’s not religious and doesn’t cook. I know its starting to sound like a stereotype, but be assured its all true. If you do know someone like this, it’s important to change her into the Indian Culture -following type of girl.

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I guess you’ve already figured out my reaction to the movie. I just want to say that messages of a certain kind of morality disguised in this dripping-with-coolness avatar are more dangerous than in-you-face, blatantly regressive ones.

The Misogyny of Honey

Something I’ve noticed in the past year, since I graduated really, is that I’ve really begun to gravitate towards the social sciences. While my education and work is healthcare related, on the internet I tend to almost exclusively spend time on websites that seem to focus on social , particularly women’s issues.

As a direct result of my online experiences, I’ve begun to re-evaluate myself and the world around me through the filter of what can be termed as a sort of feminism.

This post is a consequence of that.

So- for the uninitiated- who is Honey Singh? (Or as he prefers to call himself- Yo Yo Honey Singh)- He’s a really popular Punjabi rap artist/pop singer. No doubt you’ve heard(or will shortly hear thanks to the omnipresence of Bollywood ) his scintillating track-Angreji Beat- from the movie Cocktail.

So what, you say?

Well the reason I decided to ‘tackle’ this guy as a subject , is that when I say ‘he’s really popular’, I mean he’s HUGE. If you were to be a teen or twenty something  in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi / NCR and Chandigarh, chances are that you’d consider this guy your god. If you’re planning to get married in the Northern states, it is his music your DJ will invariably play.

Only one little teensy weensy problem though- Honey Singh’s lyrics are full of women-hating.

And imma prove it to you.

First up, what else, but Angreji Beat

Most of the song is the usual blah blah about a hot chick and her moves. However these lines got my goat:

“O Kahton Ehni Desperate
Sanu Sade Ke A Rate”

(Why are you so desperate/ Tell me your rate)

Riiight. So every decent looking chick has a ‘rate’, eh?  And the youth of the nation are going to hear this on the radio, on tv, and at the next party/sangeet. Doesn’t help that its so catchy and features DP to boot.

Next up- Yaar Bathere– this one was my ‘favourite’ back in the day- till  I asked my bf to translate (he’s Punjabi, not me, and I’m happy to report that he hates Honey paaji heartily)

Anyway, I died I little when I realised what the lyrics meant. Also it was the official end of my ever so slight crush on Honey (to be fair, he’s lookswise he’s not too bad).

In this song- the refrain/chorus , if you can believe it, goes-

My mother won’t get her son back/ But you can always have more lovers/bfs. ( “Saadi maa nu putt ni labne/Tenu yaar bathere”). Yaar bathere literally means lovers galore.

Sound positively oedipal. He seems to be implying that he’s breaking up with her; and its better that way because why should his mother ‘lose’ her son, when the girl can find another guy?

The video of this song also features a burning car that’s also kicked and jumped on- its alluded to that it belongs to the girl-as well as a throwaway line-“Tenu laggu ji karaari”(You’re gonna get a whack)- the violence in the mood and words of this song is simply inescapable.

In another song, Brown Rang, he refers to the girl as his ‘purja’ (slang for a kept woman) – this, in a slow and almost romantic number!

The one that takes the cake , however , is Dope Shope. In which he advises men to bang whosoever is available , because they aren’t any virgins left.

If you thought my translation sounds crude – he uses ‘chakko’ for bang . And ‘fresh’ and ‘first-hand’ for virginity as in “Chakko chakko chakko kujh fresh nayo milna /Chakko chakko chakko first hand nayo milna”

I’m not even going to get into the sheer douchebaggery of the lyrics mostly because that would need a separate post!

Now, I know that he’s not the only singing sexist lyrics, and due to lack of exposure/ staying away from the Punjabi pop milieu, it’s possible that there’s someone else out there who is writing even more degrading shit. But the fact remains that he currently is the most popular artist in Punjabi music,(proof- even I’ve heard of him despite staying the hell away from that genre, being a south indian hudugi ) and with his recent foray into B-town, I have a sinking feeling we’ll be hearing more of him.

Hence this post.

Also, found validation for this post in the form of an old article. Score one for see-I’m-not-a-frothing-femnazi.

Take home message: try very hard not to like Angreji Beat. (Must warn you, it will be tough. Or maybe tough just for me. I have ‘dhinchak’ taste, apparently)

UPDATE: Apparently there a was a protest against his lyrics by a Students Association as well.

So. Another day, another rape.

Same old. Same old.

Yet another rape in yet another Indian city. Yet another round of fresh, steaming ‘outrage’ being served up. Mostly on the internet. And in TV studios. Yet another flurry of articles on different news websites dissecting the psyche of the ‘public’ and the rapists and the system. Yet another Women’s Commission ( or something) crawling out of the woodwork, (or will, just you wait) . Yet another politician will issue either an apology of an apology (hah!) or else a statement that sounds  horrifyingly  like victim blaming.

Once upon a time, NRI’s were treated with a mixture of envy and disdain for ‘leaving’ India . Maybe even a little by me.

Now, that I am one, and am older and wiser, I can see why anyone who could leave, would. Especially  a young, single woman like me.And while I used to nuture (and still do) dreams of returning one day , I see how that’s starting to become the more foolish option.

I live in a country in Western Europe now, and while this country is in no way rape-free, the swift descent of EVERY rape into a sorry farce is UNTHINKABLE here. It’s safe to say that in this society, I’m more conscious of my RACE , not my GENDER. And guess what, I’d rather have it this way. Really.

I’ve gotten out. And I’m sure as hell staying out. So long, dear Bharat Ma, I know it’s not your fault.