(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.

 

 

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Ask And Ye Shall Receive

I watched Queen over the weekend.

 

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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.

 

Womanly Woes

I’m annoyed at the sheer number of articles churned out that portray modern women as these super-responsible beings who have to make CHOICES left right and centre that decide the fate of the kids, their men and the universe in general.

These articles are usually written very prescriptively and tend to pit one kind of woman against the other, on issues which are elevated to a degree of importance that veers on the ridiculous. These (predictably) include working/stay-at-home-moms, breast/bottle feeding, ‘natural’/C-section births-and a host of other (what I believe) are polarising (but ultimately pointless) topics. Or they are written lauding the success of a prominent woman as a group victory. All the women identify as ‘feminists’, obviously -but of wildly differing stripes.

Ever seen an article written for men that urges them to reflect on the relatively innocuous  choices they make in their lives, and goads them to analyse and modify it to suit an something-ist agenda? Reading some articles written by women , for women can quickly leave your head aching.

What these ‘feminist’ articles do is scrutinise, analyse and pass judgement on various individual choices. Years and reams of such writing very subtly create real self-doubt in many women who second-guess their own decisions and obsess over whether they are doing the right thing for themselves/their men/their family…with no end in sight.

I’d rather women learn a thing or two from men, stop agonising over choices that are essentially personal and just get on with it. P.S The world will not end even if you make the ‘wrong’ choice.

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I personally abhor thinking in collectivist terms, and prefer to embrace the cult of the individual. My problem with feminism and with any other “-isms” in general is that they begin to believe that their ’cause’ is greater than the individual. I prefer to remain a free agent, unlabelled and unboxed, and identify with a group as and when I choose to.

This is not to say that I’m “against” women’s rights or anything.This blog is my testimony. I do believe that an gender-equal society in many parts of the planet is worth fighting for  but I also believe that the process to ensure equal rights exists as a continuum, which began with racial equality, but has progressed to include equality for women, the LGBT community and socio-economic equality.

Call me jaded, but I’m sick of the men v/s women trope as well. Yes, there’s evolutionary biology and various other branches of science that focus on the differences between men and women, but I’d like to think that they are quite similar in many ways – with any inherent differences magnified and exacerbated by society, to a point where people claim that man and woman are from different planets.

I’ve heard the term ‘equal but different’ bandied about, but in my own life I go by ‘equal and not-all-that-different’. Life may teach me differently, but I’d like to start out with this hypothesis and be proven wrong than vice versa!

 

The List

Here is IHM’s post on what prospective Indian brides consider ‘non negotiable’ while marrying.

Here is my reply.

I guess, as one commenter mentioned to me, I should have some in mind before officially meeting the BF’s parents – which is happening in 6 days.

First, I’d like to say that i’m still dazed at all this happening so fast. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my guy, but I’m not sure I want to get married so soon. On the other hand, I do have days when all I want is to be married to him ASAP.

I guess UK Immigration have done what my desi parents couldn’t- put a stop to all the ‘living in’ and ‘boyfriend’ business. The Border Agency’s agenda (that would gladden the heart of any aunty)  is THIS-get married beta, else we’ll make your life miserable!

Still, grow-up and grow some balls I must- so here goes-

THE LIST OF NON NEGOTIABLES PLUS STRATEGY IF NEGOTIATIONS FAIL

1. Staying in our own place (this is a given anyway, we both want it, him more than me)

2. Staying abroad- with the possibility of returning to India much much much later

3. Having kids-I promise to think about it, but honestly, I am around babies 80 hours a week and there’s been zero maternal twinges so far despite (or maybe because of ) this! There’s even an official term for wanting babies after working in my field- called “getting broody”- and it (hopefully) ain’t ever gonna happen to me.

4.Career- I love my career for the time being. I’ve been working for 10 months in the UK so nascent career is a better term. I can give it a break for a year or so if I had kids (WHEN I’m 32 plus, ahem) – but I would go crazy unless I combined having babies with another activity- research/another degree/something/anything! My idle mind is more than the devil’s workshop- try headquarters!

5.Said Future hypothetical kids learning Kannada, Bharathnatyam, Carnatic Music, Vedic Math, and at least one instrument from following list- veena,tabla,violin,flute, not to mention standing first in class every single time and generally being first class south indian kids to counter the effect of the dangerous North Indian genes that got in because mummy had a thing for  sexy men who talked dirty in Punjabi.Don’t know HOW that slipped in. But seriously, I would want future kids to have some amount of my heritage, instead of capitulating to the great all-round Punjabi-fication that looms up ahead.

Yeah so that’s my list. I’m not including mundane things like “changing my name” or “wearing/drinking/eating what I want to ” because they are in a realm beyond non-negotiable- they are my INDIVIDUAL choices , not choices I will make as one half of a COUPLE, so they are not up for discussion, with anyone, BF included.

The problem is, I don’t really want to bring all this up with the BF’s parents- surely all that matters is whether he knows all this shit,( he already does, and so far is in  100 % agreement) so do I set forth all these points, or not? (I’d rather just keep mum- it’s nobody’s business but ours, na?)

I can see all 4 parents fuming away if I were to declare that they may never have grandkids.

Yes, keep quiet, escape to phoren and live happily ever after. Sounds like a plan.

Why this blog is called Desi Daaru and Other Random Revelations.

The term’s been around forever I know. Still, when I was a college going dreamer, I thought it would be a cool name for an overseas bar that sold Indian brands of liquor . I’d forgotten about it till they went and made a song outta the phrase in the movie Cocktail.Now, it’s highly unlikely I will ever own a bar -so blog will have to do!

 Even though the title sounds positively alcoholic, I regret to inform you that my drinking habit is quite boringly conservative .Having said that,I love the flavour of Old Monk. I don’t actually drink it much but I like to add a teeny bit of it to a glass of Coke-it adds a yummy, intensely vanilla flavour. Also, I’m a fan of the bottle itself- the shape is kinda iconic (amongst kids too broke for posher drinks, but still, in a decade, it will be retro-cool , just like the Maruti 800. So I predict). Snigger if you will.

As for what I DO like to drink-I’m an all-out cocktail girl.I’ve spent good time trying to concoct combinations that have included amongst other things, tabasco and bournvita.(Fortunately not in the same drink. (FYI I love bournvita.Can drink it by the gallon))

Give me 2 drinks and I’m wittier,flirty,and no longer too shy to dance . (I know that’s sad, but I’m not exactly ms.extrovert and need liquid help to be socially functional around the ‘lets dance yaar!’ kinda crowd).I’m not one of those people who drink to unburden their soul and express their deep , dark thoughts.

That’s what this blog is for, innit.

Reputation, Reputation

IHM’s post on ‘izzat’ hit close to home for me  . On second thoughts, I’m sure any Indian girl would find resonance with the all-too-pervasive idea of her ‘repuation’. Actually, on third thoughts (I’ve decided that’s be a valid enough term), I guess there are very few women on this earth who have not had this concept of their ‘honour’ drummed into them.

The first story in IHM’s post was especially familiar.

I too had a classmate, R, who went out in a car with another friend G, whom she was dating.They were ‘caught’ in a compromising position by a busybody cop, who made a big fuss about wanting to take them to the police station. The matter resolved with G calling up some other friends from our college, who  drove over and managed to fob the cop off with 5k in cash.

Unfortunately for R, the matter spread like wildfire through the campus- through the guys who had gone over to ‘help’ them – and the rumours got worse and worse. In the girl’s hostel, she was practically shunned. In the boy’s hostel , she was the subject of intense discussion. People took delight in pulling her down- especially since she was better looking and more intelligent than most people who maligned her.

Not long afterwards, I was in a car with this guy G ( an okayish friend)  who had , by now, earned quite the opposite kind of reputation. The car ran low on fuel in a deserted area and we had to stop. Soon enough, a man walked by , saw us and threatened to call the cops- I suppose it’s a quick way to make money off college kids these days.

I remember being frantic about what they would think and make of the situation- instead of of thinking about my own safety or being practical about how to arrange for fuel.I was on-the-fence about calling my own girlfriends- they had been especially judgemental about the other girl. Eventually, he called his friends to get us, and the man stopped banging on the car and went away.

Instead of being angry about being threatened by a random stranger , I was anxious about known people would think. I was so worried about my ‘reputation’ after that , that I stopped talking to G.Even before the few (but inevitable) rumours

Stupid, I know. In my defence, I was too young to know better.

Luckily for me I soon learned to NOT give a damn . Still, I sometimes cringe at the thought of the silly things I’ve done, in a misguided attempt to preserve my ‘izzat’.

 

RIP

Woke up today to depressing news that someone I knew (albeit as an aquaintance) was been killed in a communal clash in my  college town in Karnataka.

I’m shocked-I didn’t think something like this could ever happen to someone I know.Somehow the ‘riots’ and ‘incidents’ reported in the media remain just that- reports in the media. The feeling of invincibility never wavers- after all , ‘WE'(the educated/the middle-class/the politically inactive/the only mildly religious) never get mixed up in sordidness , do we?

Cruel irony also, that the hospital mentioned in the news, where the dead and injured were taken, was also the one where this guy once had saved many lives.

There are many ways to die, but surely dying from an act of random, senseless hatred, being STABBED to death by a communal mob no less, is the worst, most unthinkable way to go.

RIP CP.

ETA- happy to see that nobody is in the mood to take this incident lying down-read about it here.