Sunday, 9 March 2008

The Other Half of the World

Images: Two faces of womanhood

It’s 8th of March and I turned 18 last December; and having grown up and lived in the Indian society, I couldn’t help but wield up my pen to vent out my repulsion, part-remorse, yet part-happiness and pride in being a girl/woman on this Women’s Day. Firstly, let me make it clear to the readers that this is not coming from any ‘rational feminist’. No, I detest some people of my gender in a lot of aspects at that, and I’d rather say that women are bringing down the fate of other women, than blame the backwardness solely on men.

Female infanticide. That is, some are not allowed to born - not allowed to born because they are ‘girls’. The moment a female foetus is diagnosed, it is aborted. Or even if they are born, they are killed. Some grow up a little, grow up much to realise the vibrating life in them, but then are killed – rather their souls are killed the moment they are sold to the greedy ‘dalals’ because they are feminine physically and will consequently mature to please the hunger of some masculine beasts – the so-called ‘man’ of the society. (Now, again, this is another mystery of the universe! This is the same man – the same gender - who gives the feeling of security to a girl and comes in the form of an affectionate father or an inspiring teacher or a good friend. The latter kind is even worthy of worship!) Anyway, where birth itself is such a ridiculous tragedy, what to talk of life!

Some are clearly given the signal that they are to be married not after long, that they are to go to school, that they aren’t to think or feel, that they must stop dreaming about the nature and smelling the blissful breeze blowing, instead they should learn to fuel the charcoal ‘sigri’ and wiping the floor (from my own experiences in Bihar)… Coming to the much better-off section of the society, the general middle class mentality seems to go more orthodox as time passes by. Even if girls are sent to schools, they are preferably sent to traditional girls’ schools so that they may be kept well-apart from the opposite gender to avoid the obvious bubbling-over of ‘feelings’ in their adolescence. When they work hard to understand Physics or Chemistry or Maths, mothers insist that it’s no use and rather it’d be better to learn a bit of cooking and house-keeping (I must add that I find nothing inherently wrong in learning to do a bit of household chores: just that women must not be reduced to mere brainless housekeepers!)

To go one step higher, I see typical aunties busy with gossip-scandals of Mrs. This and Mrs. That day in and day out, or glued with their T.V.s watching the K-serials. To go a level still higher, there are models sporting in least possible piece of garments and making the world a more dangerous place for other women to live in-- therefore catalysing the dreadful process of commercialisation of the female body. That the beauty and chastity of a female human form is being used to sell cars and soap is a slap in the face of God-- something created aesthetically and beautifully is thus reduced to just a tool to boost sales figures.

What I ask is: are girls all about this??? Even asking this question poses a source of embarassment to women like Mahashweta Devi, Mother Teresa, Ashapurna Devi, Kiran Bedi, Sunita Williams, Kalpana Chowla and a lot more. To add to these well-known achievers, there are numerous unknown (rather ‘nameless’ in the world of fame) women I know who live their life with a greater mission – I’ve come across my mother, many Catholic Sisters and married and unmarried Ma’ams and Misses who have discovered joy and fulfillment in broader things of the world. But, day by day, it seems their count is falling low…

Now, again, a point on the contrary about the type I mentioned somewhere near the end of the fourth paragraph: I didn’t mean that section of my gender who so proudly claim to be focused on their 'careers' and have in their heads some aims to get an MBA or an engineering /medical degree, that subtle emotions lose importance for them. Most of them think looking at the sky and smiling (because it looks so beautiful today with white fluttering clouds) as damn silly and stupid. Ask these girls to read a novel, you’ll get a scowl in return. Ask them to see a classic black-and-white movie, again get a scowl. Ask them to listen to some Rabindrasangeet, welcome that lovely scowl the third time! Now, of course, they aren’t wrong – my liking or disliking really doesn’t grade people (absolutely NOT!). Just that I hope they were a bit less absorbed in such materialistic things, and certainly a bit more appreciative of philosophic brilliance.

I wonder why I hear so few girls yelling aloud, “Hey, I want to sing today! I want to go out in the rain and feel the storm today! I want to go out in the fields and stand on the grass in bare feet! I want to spend the day doing nothing – nothing at all. (Maybe, I do sound a bit hopelessly romantic here, but that's what I am; and I am happy that I am so!) I want to fall in love with the nature-- with the world!”

Of course, it’s not about escapism or laziness – it’s about opening the gates of mind and loving life most simply and being a human most naturally. It’s about rejuvenating our lost sensitivities and feelings. Women are treasured with enormous power to love selflessly and sustain pain endlessly – why not be a woman more truly? Why not make our inner selves purer, more selfless and ‘beautiful’ in the real sense? After all, we make the other half of the world and the world dearly needs more of goodness.


Sudipto Basu said...

Dear Sayantani,
Let me begin by narrating a real-life incident I heard just some days back. A co-employee in Ma's office had had a little girl child some eight months back-- but instead of being happy, he said to my mother that an 'alakshmi' had been born in his house.

The little girl had a heart complication right from her birth-- due to a blockage in her blood vessels, she had severe respiratory/circulatory problems. But instead of taking the girl to a hospital, the father kept on delaying the matter till it assumed gigantic proportions. And on the night when the little child was on the brink of death: instead of rushing to a qualified doctor, the father paid heed to some "friend's" foolish advice of summoning an exorcist ('ojha' in Bengali). And unfortunately, the child had to die! Now, if that doesn't speak of the treatment of girls in 'educated' society, what does? I never saw that little child for once; and yet when Ma narrated the incident to me, I felt anger and sadness swelling inside me. Sadness that such an unfortunate, innocent soul had to leave the world without even properly seeing it; anger because this premature death was caused solely by the father (whose wife was from the village, and therefore could not summon enough courage to override her husband's decisions: after her only child's death, the poor woman indefinitely succumbed to depression!).

But the stranger and sadder thing is that (a majority of) girls who have received supposedly the best education available aren't any better: most of 'em harbour no dreams/plans about life, and would invariably get married to some headstrong moron than make a living for themselves. Isn't it very sad that as soon as a daughter is born in our country, 99 out of 100 fathers start planning about her marriage straightway: and if you think that I am speaking with only the rural population in mind, this is not so.

To top all this up, a vast majority of girls themselves believe somewhere inside them that they are inferior to males: an attitude that more often than not allows the MCPs (male chauvinistic pigs!) to take advantage of them. A huge number of girls I know therefore feel no shame or hesitation when a boy insults another guy by calling him a 'girl' for failing to do something considered typically macho. Inspite of being a boy, I feel quite sad to witness this-- a sight not uncommon, if you keep your eyes and ears open.

Again, isn't it very sad that most girls never fail to beautify themselves just to look attractive and 'sexy' before the opposite gender: and yes, I have the typical convent-educated girl in mind now. I am not at all saying that there are no boys who don't spend time and (their parents') money on physical beautification; but my own observations leads me to believe that the number of such girls outnumber the number of boys, to an appreciable extent at least.

I can go on speaking about the unfortunate fate that women have chosen for themselves, but I shall stop for now. But before I end, let me say that everything I speak is not some chauvinistic rant against women (in fact, I have come to respect and love a few of them quite a lot!), my comments are largely based upon my sadness in seeing the sad state of women.

And holla, my friend, you have your first comment on the blog. :D

Subhra Das said...

A well-written post which gives me hope that Im not the only one who feels this way. Its saddening to see what this world is coming to. It has become a world where I can't seem to call anyone a human anymore. All are just out to use you to get their work done and then you are dropped like a hot potato. In this mad rush of being the best many have forgotten that they are human beings and are surrounded by human beings.
You very rightly pointed out that for a some women who have no regard for themselves or their bodies have caused a greater section of the female population to face unwanted troubles. I have had some bitter experiences myself which made me wonder about those glam actresses who at the name of acting sell their bodies and for them the society bears the brunt of unwanted male attention and not to forget the alarmingly increasing rate of eve-teasing.
I had written a post on eve-teasing on my blog. In a country like India where we worship Shakti(the female) we women are not respected and are sadly used as objects for mere pleasure and satisfaction. All those male beasts who have outraged the modesty of any girl or women have never stopped in their tracks to realise the repercussions of their actions. They never stopped to think how their actions are going to affect the victim mentally and physically. But ultimately as the weaker sex we are blamed for everything. If someone cat calls on the road without thinking a third person's reaction will be that the girl had dressed provocatively. The word eve-teasing also has its origins where it blames the fairer sex. Eve was said to be a temptress and hence if a girl tempts a man then eve-teasing takes place. A piece of absolute rubbish but what alarms rather disgusts me even more are those fathers who rape their own daughters.
But as it is said that you can't clap with one hand, both the genders are to be blamed. But in the case of we women it is for a part of the female population that the rest suffer.

Sayan said...

To Sayantani,
I entered this blog through Suvro Sir's blog and posted a comment on Sudipto's review of the movie TZP before turning my attention to this essay of yours. It is a good essay to say the least and you have listed most(if not all)of the problems very well and coherently (as far as my limited intellect and knowledge can tell).
You are very right in proclaiming most women as shallow creatures who lack subtlety, depth and beauty(of the mind) as do their male counterparts. It is indeed a misfortune that most women keep whining about dress, hairstyles ornaments and other inconsequential objects of all sorts (mind you, most of them inspite of graduate degrees can't or do not want to buy these objects for themselves and have to keep pestering and inveigling and cajoling their parents and husbands as a result)while bothering little about enriching the mind and spirit. These are also precisely the kind of women who prefer to blame the other sex and do not even pause to take a cold,hard look at their own reflections in the mirror. If they scowl as you suggest they do when asked to participate in something more meaningful and esoteric than their present occupation, it reflects their ignorance and fear of their own inadequacy. Thinking people such as yourself do not need to pay attention to them; though they can be irritating and a pain in the neck sometimes; my personal experience in dealing with such people tells me that the best way to avoid the mob is to eschew it.
I haven't seriously studied the problem of female infanticide in our country in any depth whatsoever, but there is no doubt that it is a grave problem indeed. Without digressing much, it is not a problem endemic to India alone, but one that engulfes most of Asia. For instance there are many more men than women in China creating a huge imbalance. You might be surprised to know that young girls in China are lured into jobs and then sold off to men not for prostitution but for marriage.
Lastly, you are right that there are numerous women even in the present atmostphere of sloth and apathy and utter disregard for anything appealing to the intellect as good, who through thier own efforts, faith and pluck, inspite of serious obstacles placed in their paths by a chauvinistic society, have made their lives sublime.
Do keep writing.
Sayan Datta.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Subhra-di and Sayan-da, for your comments.

@Subhra-di’s comment:

It really feels nice to have a member from my gender who thinks like me (especially over the topic discussed here). And, yeah, I’ve read your article at your blog: actually I visited your blog and read your posts much before now. It’s true that Hindus, having hundreds of thousands of ‘Devas’ and ‘Devis’ and ‘tithis’ and customs and rituals and all possible ‘ultra-supernatural’ believes and tales, have a weaker conscience than the people of any other religion. While, they are mostly meek and non-violent (compared to others) in many matters, they won’t falter once to indulge in corruption, sleaze and other low-rated crimes. With Saraswati as the Goddess of learning and Durga as the Goddess of power, Hindus might outrun all other religions in derogating women as lowly as possible (obviously including random infliction of sexual crimes).

Er, I just hope that you wouldn’t mind my not writing any comments at your blog until now. Frankly speaking, the thing is: I fall awkward at the most important situations in life. This is an aspect that negates me greatly. I’m trying to jerk off this ridiculous virtue from my character though. Please, do write again!

@Sayan-da’s comment:

It’s really good that you have such well-framed and rational views about your opposite gender (it signifies the entirety of your thoughts and believes); and also this that you don’t rate the female world with some easily jealous showcases, busy with their “manicures and pedicures” and the usual giggling-girls’-gossips.

Actually, what I’ve written in the post is just a quarter of what I think about this “half of the world”. Hope, I’ll frame all of them more aptly, to make my opinions complete, in some later post of mine. Meanwhile, keep thinking and keep writing!

With regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Sudipto,

Yeah, friend, yours is the first comment for my first post on this blog (as I really wished it to be :-)).

Now, that was really a gruesome yet a very coarsely true incident you recounted. I haven’t got words to express my vehemence at that: ha! She was just so young! I’m not sure whether at all any Statute of Justice exists in this universe – there’s so much unjust going on all around me and I can’t do anything about it – I’m a mere spectator of all of it. Problem is: WHO is going to correct these people?? WHICH force can exactly show them the light?? I cry out these questions, but only an abominable silence answers me…

Hope the throbbing life (and many other such lives at that) which passed away almost moments after it was born forgive this ruthless earth and it’s people. They’ll indeed be “Mighty Dead” in doing so…

Rotten Page said...

The article justifies itself completely.Its very true. Being a Pakistani i have even experienced the treatment of girls here in Pakistan. I belong from a remote villages of Pakistan..and there .very initially..the day daughters were born...they were buried(as there was no abortion system)

Moving away from in Karachi for so many years..i have experienced that High society's educated girls have nothing to do except hunting for the pleasure. They don't hold any aspiration..any dream..any single grand thought even.

In end, i won't blame girls completely for that. Its SOCIETY who plays a major role.

Keep Writing Sayantani.

Anonymous said...

Dear Vishal (knew your name from Sudipto:-)),

Thanks a lot for your comment!
It’s really praiseworthy that living in a very patriarchal society (and that too belonging to the male community) as you do, you can spot the wrong (and state it) as effortlessly as you do. And my gripe against the world is increasing with each such tale of torment on girls and more so is my wonder mounting that I’m hearing all of these from members of my opposite gender!

Of course, one can’t forget the obvious truth that everything has a bit of dark and a bit of shade. Just like few boys, like you, are ached by this nasty reality, a few girls (I’m not saying exactly me) are also there who read, reflect and think. So, the whole world is not as bad as all that yet: there’s still hope since that’s the only way we can aspire to live on. Also that’s how the world still exists: a lot of love, beauty and happiness are still there amidst all the muck around us. It’s partly our (the new generation’s) responsibility to increase the magnitude of goodness.
Do write again!

With regards,

sriranjani, in search of a true meaning said...

true it is the women who are at fault. Even though we live in a male dominated society, there are houses where a son and a daughter are treated equaly but the daughter is left behind just because of her ignorance. no one stops them but she is not willing. The highest a girl can think is to aspire as a fashion model and in the middle class family to ba a doctor's wife. this is the sad story of the women in india. They complain about the male domination yet they don't do anything to change themselves.

We should have no sympathy for such women but only contempt. but on the other side we see physical abuse on women. We see the helpless eyes crying for help. The silent cries of the girl who wants to study and to live her childhood. The silent cry of the female foetus just before abbortion... a cry to see the world. we should try our best to stand against these torture to womenkind.

I was glad to see that there are others who think like me. i was glad that I am not the only one.

Warm regards,

sriranjani, in search of a true meaning said... sayantani do visit my blog in leisure. i think you will find it interesting. And leave a comment if possible.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Here are links to two articles that might be of relevant interest:
a) Minister Renuka Choudhury's interview in the March issue of Reader's Digest,


b) a recent article in The Statesman concerning the implications of female foeticide on a massive scale,

Just one observation of my own in connection with a comment above: those girls who are brought up in well-off, relatively liberal and reasonably educated families (meaning those who have no genuine fetters limiting their aspirations) and still blame 'society' rather than their own timidity, lack of imagination, herd-instinct and bad tastes are the biggest blocks to the true emancipation of women. They give the greatest unwitting support to all male-chauvinist funmdamentalists, who say 'Look, given a little freedom all women want to do is to preen and party and shop and giggle and gossip: they will become neither good housewives and mothers nor great leaders, artists, scientists and such like, so why should they be given freedom?' Mind you, I am not justifying the taliban, I am simply trying to point out why that sort of thing happens. Denying unpleasant truths doesn't make them go away!