Facebook friend, a guy, once tagged me in a video. It showed men
apologising for what women have to go through every day because they
are, well, women. Several men stood by their women friends in the
wake of the #metoo movement as well.
number of men are coming out in support of feminism. They appear to
understand the need for gender equality. Still at times they slip,
and you draw their attention to it. You expect that they would
discuss the situation with an open mind. You don’t require them to
know every aspect of the problem but you have seen them being
sensible and compassionate. So you assume they would agree that those
regularly privileged by hierarchies of religion, caste and gender
should now take a step back and listen to others in the room. But
this supposition is often broken with a “now this is too much”
draw the boundaries, and decide what is enough or too much for those
who have been marginalised for centuries. In that moment, they cease
to be your fellow travellers moving towards a common goal. They start
worrying you’re going to jump over their backs and gallop ahead
leaving them behind. In that moment, they become a peeved donor and
you, a greedy, ungrateful beggar.
have faced being patronised by men who tell me how I am quibbling
over small things while I should be focusing on bigger issues
widening the gender gap. I would like to share a “small” example
here of why we as women stand up for these apparently bite-sized
literature festival invited many authors; I was one of them. The
invites and posters carried the names of the men. For the women, they
had used the prefix Mrs. Anyone reading would have got this
information about the men in the following order: an author named
so-an-so is going to be there at the festival. About the women, they
would have learned: a married woman, called so-and-so, who also
happens to be an author (apart from being married), is going to
participate in the fest.
had a problem with this partisan approach, and the organiser
understood and tried to fix it. But many men who heard termed it as
nitpicking, and started stressing on how their knowledge of what was
important should gain precedence over my lived experience.
similar happened around the time of my wedding. My partner and I had
chosen to have a Brahmo
which is supposed to be egalitarian towards the couple irrespective
of their gender or religion. The acharya/priest who was to conduct
our wedding was a highly placed official in a private body. His
gentle smile and soft-spoken demenaour immediately put our wedding
jitters to rest. He proudly shared with us the tradition of equality
practised in Brahmo weddings, and showed sample scripts which had
detailed the rituals. In the days to come, my partner was in constant
touch with him. We modified some of the rites to make them even more
uniform for the couple and the acharya readily accepted the tracked
few days before the wedding, I noticed the word “brotherhood” in
the script. No matter how much thought I give to women, when it comes
to such words I am unable to visualise women in the picture. I
politely, and with much hesitation, talked to the acharya about it.
(I was hesitating because my feminism had not erased from my mind the
taught fear of upsetting men in the venerable role of elders or
priests.) He was irked at my suggestion: “This is how language is.
You cannot change language. If you have a better word, tell me.”
did not say that language wasn’t discovered while it was roaming
about like innocent, blitzkrieged sheep. It was shaped with a design
in mind; it has its history and politics. I only tried to find a
substitute, and when I suggested ‘kinship’ in place of
‘brotherhood’, he gave it his go-ahead.
he been upset at first because he was tired of our various
modifications? Would he have reacted differently if, as usual, my
partner had spoken to him?
people announce themselves as allies to a certain movement or an
ideology, they should not expect that the ones they are supporting
should take it as a favour and not raise questions. It was precisely
by dominating clans denying the truths and everyday realities of
certain sections of society that these groups had originally got
pushed to the periphery.
to the feminist, or any other, movement would have to stop being
imperious in order to contribute and gain equally, just as those who
have faced persecution needn’t always be right about everything.
The words of Australian activist Lila Watson makes sense in this
you have come here to help me,
you are wasting your time. But if
you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Even as thousands of farmers from Maharashtra head towards Mumbai, their compatriots in Chhattisgarh have also been protesting since March 5, demanding jobs in lieu of their land acquired by the Railways.
In Bhanupratappur, situated in Kanker district in the North Bastar region, farmers whose land had been acquired for the Dallirajhara-Rowghat-Jagdalpur rail project have been sitting on the railway tracks since the past week demand jobs promised to them. Resolved to stay put till they get job appointments, hundreds of protesters have spread tarpaulin and durries over stones on the tracks.
The rail line project would be carrying iron ore from Rowghat mines to the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP). Rowghat had also been in news earlier because of the local resistance to the mines.
Chandrashekhar Yadu, one of the protesters, said those whose land ownership is covered by the Forest Rights Act have not got any compensation or even the application forms for jobs. “The few farmers with revenue land who have jobs have got meagre amounts in the name of compensation. More than 400 farmers are waiting to get jobs. When we met officials from the Railways, the local administration and BSP on March 8, 2018, in the office of the sub-divisional magistrate, we were told that in 2012 there was a change in the 2011 policy, which now covers only those whose 75-100% land was impacted by the project. But the public wasn’t informed of any such change. We would believe the papers we have in our hands right now, which talk of jobs and compensation for all whose land was affected to any extent. Amendments can keep taking place.”
The farmers are against the provision, as listed in the notification issued by South East Central Railway on April 8, 2011, of jobs being granted only to the landowner, the spouse or their sons/daughters. People of the 28 affected villages feel it excludes those who don’t have children but may want jobs for other family members.
The 2011 notification also doesn’t take into account the fact that many elders own the land so it would be their grandchildren, and not their sons and daughters, who would be in the right age group for jobs. The prescribed age bracket is 18-33 years, relaxed by five years’ for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and for three years’ for other backward classes.
The farmers are demanding that the affected people should get appointment letters first and then should be sent for the technical training required. They do not want the candidates to be first sent to pass the training in an industrial training institute (ITI) and then kept under training again in BSP as they say the actual appointment in this case takes years.
Nandlal Jaiswal, a participant in the protest, said, “The government talks of sabka sath, sabka vikas. But how is this development for all? It is only for the government. It is also unfair that the Dalli-Rajhara farmers in Balod district were given jobs and we have been discriminated against.”
friend registered on a matrimonial website got a call from a man
looking to get married. Their conversation went like this:
What will you do if I get a promotional transfer to another city?
I think if one partner, be it the man or the woman, gets a better job
opportunity in another place and the other partner can move without
adversely affecting her/his career, the shift can work out.
Suppose the domestic worker hired for the house doesn’t turn up one
day. What will you do?
That’s ok. Both partners can get together and finish the housework.
next day the man’s mother called my friend’s parents to
not-so-regretfully convey that my friend was too modern and won’t
“fit” into their family. The man’s family had sought a “modern
yet traditional” woman. In matrimonial parlance, modernity is like
red blood cells whose presence in the body is essential but their
count should fall within a certain range for a person to be healthy.
My friend, according to the wife/daughter-in-law seekers, had scored
too high and, therefore, negatively, on the modernity barometer.
are these traditional values which our modern women have been
failing? To be kind and empathetic, caring and considerate, are not
traditional values. They are (timeless) values a decent human being
has or aspires to develop regardless of their gender.
to expect the woman to do all the housework or to jeopardise her
work-life to make way for the man’s is unjust, regressive,
hypocritical and discriminatory. And therefore a lot of the over 70
million single women in India are choosing to reject such
propositions. A neighbour had once suggested a match to me. While I
wasn’t interested, I decided to humour her and continue the
conversation. I said I hoped the man’s family knew there would be
no dowry. “But your parents will give something, right?” She
meant that the amount of money to be given as dowry would be
negotiable. For her, it was tradition; for me, a crime, not only a
legal but a moral one.
friend’s father, who had been disappointed that the match didn’t
work out, had raised his daughter to be an educated woman with a
career. He had often given her examples of trailblazing women to take
inspiration from, no matter what their marital status. Yet society’s
spectre of marriage being an essential rite of passage loomed over
him when he couldn’t “get” his adult, perfectly capable and
independent daughter married. He had encouraged my friend to grow
throughout her life and then, frustrated with the matrimonial scene,
had advised her to shrink, which she could not do, and rightly so.
needed to be cut to size were the unreal expectations of the man and
his family, who had raised their son to believe that somewhere a
woman was being brought up with the sole purpose of fitting into his
life. If it weren’t so outrageous, it would be amusing to observe
that these men manage to live in a bubble for the greater part of
their lives. I have known of prospective grooms who assume that the
woman would be more than happy to leave her job and join him for
greener pastures (read cards). One guy was taken aback when his
online match wanted to discuss with him the subject of children, for
he had grown up thinking that all women have their maternal instinct
handy, and would love to turn the tap on and spout forth cherubs at
the first chance they can grab. Another character insisted that he
can get the woman a job through his illustrious connections and
networks, while she repeatedly asserted she was perfectly happy in
her current employment. When it comes to appraising each other for
matrimonial symmetry, such men’s being out of tune with the women
of the world leave the former confused and gaping in wonder, and the
latter pulling out their hair in exasperation.
that’s why a report found that a
percentage of men
with higher-education degrees are looking at profiles of women less
educated than them”.
Such people would do well to know that my “modern” friend and
women like her, who refuse to be gaslighted into believing that to
want equality is to be selfish, are setting up a new tradition. Our
hitherto cloistered dotcom men would urgently need to bring
themselves up to speed.
In east Rajasthan,there is a folk tradition of Hela Khyal—which has reportedly been going on since before Independence—where political questions are raised in poetry and have to be answered in the same format. Sadly today there is neither the brilliance of witty poetry nor the glint of sharp logic in the nature of so-called debates in this country.
Looking at the response to critiques of India’s former president APJ Abdul Kalam, there is a sense of things—read a healthy tradition of debate—falling apart. Those who adored Kalam say he was people’s president, yet they are not allowing many others to see him as their leader tooand question him.
German poet Bertolt Brecht had asked leaders to allow the led the right to doubt, reminding them that they became leaders in the first place because they, too, had once doubted authority. Kalam’s followers are upset by critical appraisals of him, but in expressing this hurt are they following the values which they staunchly state Kalam had—and for which they idolised him?
After his death, one of the many quotes of his being remembered is: “One of the most important characteristics of a student is to question.” Why aren’t his own students, those who fondly say they saw him as their teacher, encouraging others to question?
Scientific enquiry requires that an issue be examined from multiple perspectives. The aim is to achieve an effective result that benefits the populace, not to create paeans around one’s own work. Would a scientific man, a great teacher, want his students to blindly accept the mainstream discourse and to let their impulsive, unfiltered emotions rule their heads and attack the challengers?
Examining flaws is critical
Now to examine why such evaluation and recalling of flaws is important. These dissenters are not celebrating his death but cautioning against all the values and achievements being talked of after his death, because they see the belief in those values and the subsequent actions as having adverse effects upon many in the country.
As far as I am concerned, we have to question Kalam’s staunch support for nuclear weapons. There are some great scientists, including Albert Einstein, who have regretted their role in producing weapons of mass destruction. Why is it that if Einstein could question himself for his role in producing the atomic bomb so many years ago, we are not allowed to criticise the man who played an enthusiastic role in developing the Indian nuclear and missile programmes?
Kalam was also superstitious, despite being a man of science.
In the book Building a New India, Kalam writes of “an extraordinary spiritual experience… The deity of the Brahma Kumaris, Shiva Baba, descended on one of the disciples, Dhadhi Gurzar. Before our eyes, her personality changed. Her face became radiant; her voice became deeper… We… were lucky to be called by her to the dais and blessed. As she blessed us she said, ‘Bharat will become the most beautiful land on earth.’” Should we not question such superstitious practices in a country where anti-superstition activists are killed?
In making someone a hero we distance them from ourselves, not allowing them to be their own selves but seeing them as we want to. After all our praise for them for attaining such heights, we then say we cannot follow the ideals they did because they’re up, up, up there and we are ordinary people, down here. And therefore those on top end up looking down upon people—often with contempt—and maybe in the case of Kalam, who opened his office to the public and said he wanted dialogue, with sadness?