Until next March 8th

Can Women have some dignity…?

We have so many popular slogans and campaigns running, every Rotary club and any other club worth its salt is talking Women’s Day let’s not forget the feminist seminars and public debates, RJ’s screaming at the highest pitch that their voice about the greatness of women, lets look at ground reality through the eyes of  the PM’s banega swach bharat,

There are settlements where people can be forced to build toilets.

The group I am talking about is the labour force the woman working out in the fields, building your roads and houses, they work about 8hrs a day, having to leave their homes earlier than that, during the day they need to ease themselves, can we allow them the dignity of doing so?  people have offered to give them mobile toilets but labour contractors don’t want to take it on, people living on the flats and houses where these construction work is going on, look at these mobile toilets as contamination of their turf.

Then the women who work with garbage sorting, the non-biodegradable used sanitary towels are handled by them, rendering them open to infection, can we provide them safety?

Go to any women’s toilet most of them are dirty, with sanitary towels strewn and menstrual discharge around… it looks like the toilet came alive and regurgitated all over the floor and walls, the putrid water still trickling from the bowl.

We can talk about women’s rights, and dignity but where is it? unless we recognize that each individual is unique and valuable by the virtue of simply being conceived human, we cannot really talk human rights, this includes the right to be born, as  many of us have, and many have not just because they were female, the accidental attributes we acquire, maybe our colour, intelligence, our physical and mental abilities, these should not be a barrier to our dignity.

So thanks for the women’s day’s saccharine messages but no thank you.


Taming the Shrew…

De-fanging the Goddess,

Its woman’s day and the day begins with a whole hoard of simpering celebrate womanhood message, which is not only annoying it is demeaning and a colossal lie.

Starting from Sita, Valmiki’s Sita is not very aggressive, but she is assertive, but by the time it came to Tulasidas, who has displaced the non-judgemental story we have a Sita who suffers with her husband, conveniently the Urmila who  is abandoned for 14yrs of her life is totally forgotten, some stray mention of her here and there in some feminist conference. We are so busy inflating Draupadi, who to me actually represents the psyche of a woman, through her aging we do not talk about it.

Sita was a Kshatriya woman, if the women of Brahman cal households grew up scholars, daughters, and wives of teachers, women of Kshatriya houses grew up as warriors, warfare was part of their learning, caring of horses, political and statecraft was something that they grew up with. So defending herself from Ravenna should have come spontaneously in her… and why draw a Lakshman Rekha (this incidentally appears from Tulasidas onwards)  why not empower her to protect herself? Of course the doyens of patriarchy and Neo-Hinduism will talk about destiny, and her role in the larger event of things, but honestly there is something that we are not acknowledging here.

The visible proof of kshatriya women being trained in warfare comes with Kaikayi being Dasharatha’s charioteer, and then nursing him back from a war wound. Kausalya’s knowledge of statecraft is amazing.

Savitri’s powerful feminine energy is put down to the “sati-savitri” syndrome without understanding that she was a woman, who choose to marry a man who was doomed to die in a year, she brings him back from death, not because he is her husband and it was her wifely duty but because she choose to exercise her choice and manifest her power. We fail to acknowledge that and glorify that fact that she was a wife.

Somewhere I think these stories were re-rendered to fit into the pattern of patriarchy and neo-Hinduism.

Majorly because the textual stories which are considered authentic are written by men, many of them bachelors or definitely estranged marital status, so women and their role goes unacknowledged. The folk renderings are more natural where the woman takes her place.

Shakespeare could much lauded, and everyone might say that it was in the lighter vein but “taming of the shrew” is one of the most insulting plays to women.

When it comes to post colonial India, there is a strong change of concepts that are constantly being bombarded through the media that is the woman is weak, she has to be protected, she should not earn more than her husband, she should not be more educated than her husband oh! We assume that more educated means more knowledgeable… even if she is she should not voice that is patriarchy is being drummed in systematically.

Let’s not go very far, look at the 2014 election clippings of Priyanaka Gandhi we have a fiery woman, who takes on Narendra Modi, lashing out… look at this article by Thampu he has reinvented her into for the current election, the fiery woman has been clothed in a more demure garment of being low profile, choosing a modest college, dedicating herself to noble causes and coming into the political arena reluctantly to bail her brother out, thus defanging another powerful goddess, between you and me, I no great Priyanka or any Gandhi-Nehru fan, I definitely will not vote her to represent me, but none the less, I think her fiery nature should be acknowledged, if she wants to be a political power why not?

Just look at the rubbish that gets telecasted as television shows, demure girls with their heads covered, I wish the world would realize that being a biologic girl does not automatically put a girl into the cook, and clean slot. If she can go out and earn the man can jolly well cook and clean. He is not doing his wife a favour.

When I read Anandamath I realize the all potent mother goddess, who wild and energizing is restrained and constrained to become the domesticated Gauri, even when she reclaims her power she can only become a jagjanani and not a jagadhatri.


world Thinking Day

Everywhere you go today…you will find a busy guide..work or play we lead the way…jai jai for the girl guides.

There would weeks of preparation, and we would all be hyper excited about going to the Jamboree, never mind it meant 3-4 days of no bathing, sleeping in terrible school rooms, in makeshift beds, but it meant we made new friends.

That was February 22nd which we just called the Scouts and Guides day to commemorate the birthday days of Lord Robert Baden Powell the 2nd Boer war hero and his wife Lady Olave Baden-Powell, the couple who started Scouts and Guides.  I was a President guide and the word “Be Prepared ” seemed so relevant.

This has now morphed into the world thinking day since the world meet in 1999, and the scouts and guides reach out to their brethren around the world to know each other a little better. Well whether they succeed or not is another story. But that is the basic purpose.

One of the great things for us was to be a president guide, and that entailed, earning badges, and a badge was given when met some criteria, when I look back it is just become a check list, like okay one nursing  badge we are supposed to nurse the sick for at least 36 hrs. We worked at the hospital though. The singers badge was one prayer, one bhavageete,  etc. etc. we just learnt up those songs presented it to a examiner who was more pre-occupied with gossiping with the guide teacher and we were given the badge.

So the world thinking day, has come up with a thinking day badge that can be sewed on to the sleeve.

The theme this year is very simple it , “Grow.” So how does one get the badge—

  • Make new friends by identifying a group in your community that does not have access to girl guiding or girl scouting, and invite them to participate at your world thinking day celebration.
  • Share the fun of being a girl guide/scout with your friends by solving the mystery of the missing seeds of change. Go on a treasure hunt or a guide tracking signs exercise.
  • Plant a tree once the missing seeds are located, and mark the beginning of a new friendship.

When I decided to share this on my blog I began researching various quotes from the Baden-Powell’s I found out, that the movement though began as scouts for the Boer war, it also was to inculcate a sense of observation, and inclusion, which we have lost in this great sisterhood of badge collection.

World Social Justice day

February 20th is the designated as the world day of social justice by UN, the theme this year being Preventing Conflict And Sustaining Peace Through Good Work.

Of course this duo word coined in 1850 does mean equal distribution of resources and opportunities in which outside factors that categorize people becomes irrelevant. Since 2007 the UN-General assembly has been recognizing February 20th as the day of social justice. This day is promoting efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment.

The social development aimed at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries lot of there is also pledging of equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all.

If you were to go through the UN-site there is a whole hoard of hot air, and high sounding ideas, ideals and talk, but at the grassroots I wonder how this pans out… the migrant labour who comes constructs the road, their families living in temporary shanties with no toilets, when they do use the open spaces the educated elite coming down on them hard… is that social justice?

People having to leave their homes in search of menial jobs are that social justice? Young adults trained with skill sets that cannot be applicable, so either they do engineering and work as bank clerks, or they migrate elsewhere disturbing the ecology of the society they migrate into is that social justice?

We confuse “growth” and “development” displace indigenous communities from their legitimate space like the fisher folk of Bambolim beach… the once common resource like the bay and beach has now become exclusive to the five star hotels and this encroachment is this social justice?

If we could train people for the jobs available, people take care of the sick and poor in their own communities probably we would come somewhere near social justice.

Actually all this social justice is a little wonked, I mean the issue we are really talking about here is the great economic divide. Which has been created by greed… we call progress and growth well growth could be good or bad let’s not go there now but progress should mean for the better here is where we get confused,  trees and settlements destroyed is called progress because we have better roads to drive…at faster speeds? Is it social justice that we destroy environment, we displace people we create population, we guzzle gas  to me a world or equality would mean no just a liveable open world for homosapiens but also for the animals, and birds, with our trees and river beds being clean and intact.

At the end of the day equality is not treating everyone the same way it is attending to the different needs equally.

Hey It’s SAD

Feb. 15th, is a  SAD day in the shadow of its more commercially successful sibling.

Are you Wondering  what SAD is all about…No it is not about depression, nor is it about loneliness. well it is Singles Awareness Day.

With the world and all the business world focusing on romantic love, its many hues, people who are single are not just left out, they are also singled  to be guillotined or whatever it is that the French created.

Being single is not a  state of does not mean that one is like the uncle from Christmas Carols or Rapenzel in her tower. The SAD is about acknowledging and honouring the choice to be single, it about celebrating life, and sharing moments and gifts with other single friends, there are no strings attached here.

Originally this was also slated to be on the 14th of February but it turned out to be quite depressive, so the next day became the choice. People, of course volunteer to participate in social and community causes, exchange greetings and gifts.

So if you are single it is your day.

Hera can you hear?

World marriage day

And Hera is goddess of marriage and family.

The second Sunday of the month of February is significant in the catholic calendar as it is the day world marriage day, before you conclude like I did, that is it is the day that the world gets married, well it is meant to create the family, the commemoration is about honouring the father and mother as the base unit of the family.

The fat Indian wedding is so focused on the wedding, and once the wedding is over, suddenly we realize holy matrimony is not about union, but about transforming a two thinking individuals, with identity, into this nebulous image of Husband and wife, everyone remotely connected become stake holders and begin to advice and manipulate the couple. The couple have no chance but to go their individual way.

In a way I really appreciate the Agha Khani’s and the Catholic Church that runs pre-marital counselling. The feminist in me might rebel at the patriarchal leaning of it all, but it is a difficult dialogue that has to be held.

It starts with simple understanding of what we are committing ourselves to that I think in the Indian scenario is the first thing parents ask.  Life goals like what would you like to achieve in the future…involvement with the community… do you do it as a couple or separately?

I remember this friend of mine, who was a brilliant surgeon, she married another brilliant surgeon and every time a challenge came up, it she who was expected to compromise on her career, I have resented it that I am expected to put my work on the burner because something needs  be done.

Most marriages are in a mess as the couples do not explicitly voice their expectations. Despite of what the extended family I have heard people get scandalous when couples are to talk money, well if you are going for a traditional Indian wedding then salaries, are we comfortable with the difference, how do we expect to be supported emotionally, financially, what are your concepts of fun and how much of space would we like to have for friends and other activities, these are things that need to be looked into.

When niece Soundarya got married, since her husband and she both have good jobs and it keeps them busy, they decided to hire a cook, it no doubt upset both the sets of parents but they were clear that they didn’t want additional stress, Soundarya hates cooking, so on Sunday’s her husband cooks.

Then there was the issue of where would they live. Like the eminent Bangalore lawyer Puthige Ramesh says in his experiences many marriage break because of the altered dynamics a marriage causes, when his son got married he suggested that the new couple stayed on their own but since his son and daughter-in-law decided that they wanted to stay together in the joint family being part of all the traditions that are followed, since the decision was made by the young couple they are quite happy making whatever adjustments have to be made.

The question of celebrating festivals, and taking holidays were very informally but definitely settled within the structure that way everybody is comfortable. Not that there are no arguments, or discussions, but the basic channel for dialogue is open and flowing.

Two years after Prerana and Manish got married Manish’s younger brother Dhanesh got married, the first thing Dhanesh’s mother told her new daughter-in-law was I hope you won’t have children before Prerana does, five years down the line,  Dhanesh and his wife have a kid, while Prerana and Manish had decided not have children right before they were married. Again in the Indian scenario it is the elders who suggest when the couple should have kids, who should be the gynaecologist. Etc. but it is an essential conversation that should happen, do the couple want to have kids if so how many, what age difference etc. etc.

The Money talk… somehow we assume this is a dirty talk, Manish again gives his pay check to his wife, while Dhanish’s wife is clueless about his earning, well both are extremes, savings, investments, joint accounts all these are conversations that are essential to sustain a marriage.

Parents, parents-in-law how much time will the couple spend with them, most women of my generation do have the grouse that the husband does not spend time with her family, while she is expected to  put his family first, having said that, I have noticed a shifting trend like my friend from Harmony builders in Bangalore she designed the senior citizen’s habitat for Bangalore city  http://www.harmonyarchitects.com,  well she had both her parents and her parents-in-law living with her. While my friend Sonia has relocated to Goa to be with her parents, and her husband is Calcutta with his parents. These are the challenges of today’s life.

Gender expectations, when B.V.Karnath got involved with the other actress and there was that fire episode, everyone blamed Prema for focusing on her career, but is it fair that Prema should give up? This is a conversation that has to be had, I still resent having to give up the project director’s post for IFA  because Mr.D did not believe in relocating to Bangalore, or a long distance marriage. Yet most weekends I am alone, this brings me to next unspoken but the most important aspect of marriage that is the erotica. Hopefully today’s youngsters are more sensible, but our generation, we did not give time for ourselves even in the context of being parents, or being with in-laws it is essential that the couple do put a side gizmo free, people free time just for themselves. Else when the empty nest happens, there are just two flatmates cohabitating with legal sanction.

The man in the wedding sherwani and the man you try to make conversation with after a decade or two of marriage are totally different, and sometimes just not acceptable, that is when we land up  connecting  http://www.vandanashah.com/services.html or look at the nearest Guruji.

Then there are even more difficult dialogues, like spirituality, extramarital affairs, and conflict resolution… where we could probably take a logical decision, but when the moment arises we are totally illogical.

At the end of the day, it about the journey that begins with the wedding,  we need to ensure that there are spaces in the togetherness, and letting the winds of heavens dance in between, love is essential but not a bondage, a sea between the shores of the soul is needed, we need to fill one another’s cup but not drink from the other’s, we could share the loaf, but not pounce on the same loaf, we need to walk together

It is not about surrender and blend, it is about covalence. Whether one changes ones name or not is irrelevant, but whether one finds a partner who is with us through thick and thin is relevant.

Phew I did what I hate the most I actually delivered a sermon…

Individually Togather

The first week of February is about world interfaith dialogue. This was a charter prepared in 2010 based on The Common Word initiative of 2007.  it happens to be a dialogue between the Abrahamic monotheistic religion like Judaism,  Christianity and Islam.

The term interfaith dialogue refers to cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between people of various faiths and humanistic beliefs. These  operate both at individual and at the level of institution. This is not about creating alternate religions, or to synthesize new beliefs, it is about promoting understanding between people of different faiths.

When begin the conversation of understanding and harmony suddenly those who you are taught to recognize as your enemies become people are more like us, that unlike us, that is rather overwhelming. Immaterial of individual cultures and ideologies, there are universal experiences that connect, like love, weeping, laughter. But to accept it in the other becomes difficult.

The biggest challenge here is to break down the stereotype of the other, particularly that exist within their own religious traditions and groups. Maybe it is time, religious groups, acknowledge and confess their role in fostering and contributing to social injustice and various conflicts.

The interfaith Harmony week was proposed by Prince Abdullah the second. It is essentially based on two commandments Love Of Good And Love Of The Neighbor.

There are a few preconditions to this

  • Humility to respect the faith of the other.
  • Commitment to ones on faith that lets you respect the other.
  • Interconnected-ness of common issues.
  • Empathy to view religion from the other.
  • Hospitality to all.
  • The UN supports this through resolutions on Tolerance, Dialogue between civilizations, cultural peace and combating defamation of religion. (i tried to access the document but failed.)

Here are the highlights from President Obama’s speech that outlined preconditions to meaningful interfaith dialogue. These were delivered at Islamic society if Baltimore on February 3rd, and National Prayer Breakfast on February 4th 2016

  1. Relationship building requires visiting each other
  2. Relationship building requires learning about the others history.
  3. Relationship requires an appreciation of the other
  4. Relationship requires telling the truth.
  5. Relationships depend on living up to our core theological principles and values.
  6. Relationships offer us a clear headed understanding of our enemies.
  7. Relationship help us overcome fear.
  8. Relationships provide solidarity.