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Daily doses of sexism

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There have been way too many times that well meaning male friends, co-workers etc. have given me the “not all men” logic when talking about sexism. One in particular, I remember giggling at the mention of the term believing that too much education has damaged my brain. Typical, right?

This morning and evening, I experienced the typical on road sexism of women can’t drive in very unique ways. This came about when I read the following quote by an early Japanese feminist this morning:

“In the primordial age, woman was once the sun.” – R. Hiratsuka

As this further goes on, she says that woman has been the moon for too long, the moon that takes its light from the other and has an ashen pallor. Reading this made me question and hunt parts or instances of my life where I might be the moon? It was a strange exercise ’cause after a lot of work, I did believe that I have overcome all conditioning of patriarchy meant for my sex and I could start afresh.

One example of being this moon is in making way for others before the self – be it entering a room, be it exiting or even driving on the road. Now, I have known a few men also like that but, they are not totally perceived as masculine in the society and that becomes a bane for them too, bringing in a strange sense of denial of everything masculine. As far as I can remember instances in my life, even while getting out of a rickshaw, I would apologise to the rickshaw driver for taking a little longer to whip out the money but, be angry at the car behind to honk. A couple of times, I got a warm, “don’t worry” from them. My reason? I dont want to be an inconvenience for anyone and wouldn’t entertain another person be one either. I felt it was balanced that way until I was told by a friend that I tend to wait way too long to cross the road and that the other cars can manage their own business. Sigh. Didn’t know this is where my moon shone.

Anyway, so today, I brought the Sun out in almost full blazes. It started first with a man at the petrol pump. As I got ready to turn the key and scoot off from there and the gentleman waited in the queue behind two others, I hear him loudly ask me to move ahead, when in my moving ahead and him immediately gurgling the fuel down his throat tank were totally not related. I know one could say it was a sign of impatience and it very well is but, my question is what made him believe so naturally that he has every right to ask me to do anything and not any of the five others (all male).

On a lighter note, let me self doubt like a ‘woman’, why did he think he could ask me to move as if I was planning to set up camp there? Did I seem to have set up camp there? Oh no.

Anyway, after this, I encountered the silent ‘women can’t drive’ attitude. As I was driving, I could hear a strange whirring sound. Since I could not see anything up until the end of the road in the rear view mirror, I presumed that my engine was a little wonky and must be checked. As I turn some 200 m away after having given the signal, I am suddenly faced with this wiry chap and a lady on a bike. THAT was the whirring source! Taking a recap, I was turning right, had the indicator on and was in the middle of the two way road leaving the entire road on my left free for anyone to go straight (where Mr Wires was going) and the dude decides to overtake me from the right just when I turn. While I know idiots abound on the road, what was the highlight of this incident was the man’s attempt at scaring me by giving me a murderous glare while the woman in fear and panic continued to apologise eventually whacking him on the shoulder as he tried to go ahead while bike brushed against my foot. While I was in full control, I could not stop being angry at his stupidity nor could I say much for the sake of the panicking woman behind him. At the end of it my head buzzes only with questions – what is it with men like these? Classic examples of “women can’t drive” road sexism? Classic examples of cowardice and egosim to simply not admit to one’s stupidity and move on? Where does this conditioning for idiocy and childishness begin?

Sigh, men. You make me wonder how old the child within you is.

PS – Dont want responses of “not all men”. I know, I know!

Now trending: Feminism

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It is indeed a mystic thing that around the time that the movie Pink came out, I got to experience what is called the inability to comprehend the meaning of consent, body space and respect when it comes to sex even in the minds of those who seem well educated and believers in equal rights for all sexes.

I’ve known someone (male) who has been very vocal about respect and body rights of women and also those who from the sexual minorities – sometimes voicing a hatred for men. This particular dynamic of social development is of interest to me as well. However, I haven’t been as vocal or as expressive about knowing stuff as him. I assumed that’s just difference in personality.

Now, being a woman, one easy thing that comes due to our social conditioning which eventually gets passed on genetically as well, is the sixth sense; the gut feeling of knowing when someone can be a potential sexual threat.

I do not say I thought he was coming on to women or being lecherous. For most women who know him – and a lot of the people that surround him are women – he’s a gentle and nice guy who has his head on his shoulders when talking about gender politics. However, there was always this gnawing feeling I had – which I articulate today – that something wasn’t right about him. Somewhere his alleged beliefs weren’t what they were projected as. I let go of this feeling since we have two very good common friends.

Time went by, we all grew up and went our separate ways. He met someone and got into a relationship and constantly asked about my story or why do I not find someone. Then, I took it as a friendly concern and didn’t feel that it was totally against his ‘women are awesome and equal and don’t need anyone to be happy’ claims.

We have spoken twice in 6 months with him asking about who I am with as the central part of the conversation each time; more focused on my virginity. Now, virginity for me isn’t a coconut to be cracked before something new has to be begun nor is it a gold coin (biscuit, if you may please) that should never be lost. Virginity is just a secondary part of me. It is not something I think about day in day out, nor do I plan any milestones around it. It is simply something which isn’t a consideration in my mind in the daily life. So when he first asked me this, I assumed that this was again a friendly question, that he was just trying to be ‘Gossip Girl’.

Six months later, the poor soul is still battling with this existential question.  I again did not mind ’cause it’s not a hush hush conversation for me. However, what came next told me that putting a foot in my mouth and a slap on his face were the two best things to do.

He asked me if I needed his help to loose my virginity, in case I am still one. Now, I don’t want to call him a predator since he did voice his apprehension that he didn’t know whether this was a bad question or a friendly question but, just thought that loosing my virginity was of utmost importance and he would sacrifice himself to help me do that, even if it involved lying on top of me.

Anyway, me being me, I gave him the benefit of doubt still and explained to him how his girlfriend’s female friends who sought their male friends’ help to loose that “ugly” and questionable piece of skin in between their legs is not something that has to apply to every woman. Each woman is different like each leaf of the same plant or each cookie from the same tin. Just because we have a vagina, we aren’t identical. However, this effort was in vain since he felt that his benevolence was met with unnecessary aggression. I couldn’t help but, laugh at this. Women who voice discomfort and an opinion on any sort of sexual advance are always brash and aggressive. Even if, one talks only about one’s own choice when it comes to one’s own body. Typical.

When this happened, I was saddened and angered both by the fact that this guy was plain stupid pretending to be sly and more so, that feminism is becoming a fad now. I remember a filmmaker called Stalin coming to university and stating that he was a feminist but, was told by someone who has been fighting for women’s rights in Gujarat that he cannot be feminist. Why? Because he was a man.

This makes me question what makes a feminist? Whether the lady was right that a man can never be a feminist? Isn’t feminism equal to humanism since all it demands is to look at women as equal humans since they have always been treated as second class citizens? Dalit movements are called so because of a reason as well. Men shouldn’t cry here though – yes, patriarchy has been a bitch to them too but, they have had better advantage plus, feminism is against the system and not their sex so, calm down there.

Coming back to my point, my worry has been the lack of serious brain usage today when feminism is becoming a fad, a Facebook or Twitter hashtag. People don’t know what they’re talking about but, will use #saveourgirls frequently. It’s the same as Taylor’s factory view – herd mentality.

This experience has however, given me hope in retrospect. I think there’s still hope ’cause I called him out on this. I believe that’s what’s needed – one needs to call out an abuser when it happens without fearing the consequences. It might not even be sexual bias – it can be sexism of any kind, in any setting. It might boil down badly at first but, the next time they do it, your words will come back to them. Slowly but steadily they might learn. This much is enough for you to do your bit and speak out. I have learnt. You can too.

This is exactly where the crass and pop way the film portrays the different issues of consent, patriarchy, regional biases etc. movie comes in. I hated the way the stereotype has been put together and also the PR way that so many different topics have been dealt with but, in a society like ours such blatant street play type conversations are needed for people to wake up and understand, for people to not forget Nirbhaya and countless others who have been victims and / or survivors of this societal mental ailment of pride, honour and fear of sex. More on the film in another post then.

The last one

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The most fun as well as amusing part of having an anon tumblog was the interactions with various poets, writers and readers over questions. Some would share their own tumblogs while the others would be anon, just like me. Why I like it more is because that enables observation and experience of a kind of objectivity in one’s expression, which otherwise is tainted by one bias or the other.

During one such interaction, I received a question from a reader which went as follows:

“Who would you write your last poem to? What would it be?”

When I first read it, I figured that this was a question to be mulled over, brewing thoughts and experiences and then answering. However, it did not take me more than two minutes to come up with this response, as if I was waiting to tell someone, lest I never get the chance.

“Hmm. This is the first time anyone’s asked me this. I wonder will there ever be a last? I may die the day I stop writing or I may stop writing the day I die. I would prefer the latter. 

I am not sure if I have the answer yet however, if I were writing the last right now I would write to this character in my head. Here it goes,

Have we met before?
Did we talk?
I remember your face,
Only vaguely so.

Did you say something?
Why can’t I hear you though?

The flush of your cheeks
and that twinkle in the eye
does give away your secrets.
Stories of joy and sorrow,
Tales of love untold.

Smile a little more for me,
smile a little for
this will be my last memory.”

Aligarh

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I have been meaning to write this down since the time I have watched this film. Is this a film review? Haha, no. Is it a rant on homosexuality and the dire situation human rights around one’s choice of sexual partners in the country is? Not so much.

Yes, I liked the film but, thats pretty much what I want to say about it. More than that has already been said and done. The film is about the incidents close to the eventual death of Prof Siras of AMU. He died of alleged poisoning in his flat one lonely afternoon soon after the revocation of his suspension. He was suspended on ‘moral’ grounds for sleeping with a person of the same sex on the premises (his own apartment on the campus given to him by the university to reside). It was through the sincere work ethic of a journalist that it was highlighted that the suspension and everything else that followed, including his death, were the results of jealousy and envy of his colleagues since Siras was also Head of the Dept.

While I do not want to write much about the part of the debate around homosexuality focusing on the difference between the public and the private and how the ‘personal is political’ becomes his experience eventually. However, what I truly was left thinking about after watching this film was the subtle smartness with which the film handles perceptions of different people involved. Namely, those framing him to bring about his suspension perceiving a homosexual man as weak maybe, as someone who would necessarily be weak and would not speak up. That could also be related to what is the perception of people in their native place against those who are a minority, perhaps, in another land known to be largely oppressive? There is also the understanding of the perception of the media – the part of it that goes berserk sensationalising things / events / lives for business while there is also that part of the industry that just does its job and when done well is lauded by the cynical part of the society as an army of great crusaders.

This however, was somewhere on the fringes. The main perception that the script questions and that grabbed my attention was the idea of one homosexual person in the minds of those actively involved in getting human rights in place with respect to sexual orientation. That is shown by way of the protagonist not bothering or fathoming his identity as a homosexual man at conflict with the law as disinterested in the court proceedings, using the time there to translate his poems or simply done off. Another beautiful dialogue resonates the thought when he talks against the need for society to label a feeling in his heart as a three letter word (read: gay) questioning how merely three letters could express the intense attraction or feeling he might feel towards another human, albeit of the same sex.

When engaging with the community myself or simply browsing through pictures of pride parades etc., I have always had this question which I never dared to voice – all participants or at least, the representatives of the community, seemed exactly the same to me. Now, I am not totally critical of this because looking at where we as a society come from, a community / support group is needed when one is targeted simply for being who one is in one’s private life. However, there used to be this constant question if such cliched representation would not be bad for the community and wasn’t stereotyping the persona actually a contradiction to the idea of the freedom to just be?

After watching this, seeing where Siras seems to be a victim of not just envy but, also loneliness after the stalwarts who were the face of homosexual rights go back to where they came from leaving him alone in the same town where his dignity was undermined for a multitude of reasons using his personal life as the excuse. I can say that I like the film for maybe answering these questions of mine. Maybe the homogeneity of the group in fitting with the perceived stereotypical image is their way to talk to the ones who don’t understand in their own language? Just, maybe.

Bombay

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Bombay, 2014.

I have abstained from choosing any emotion for this city in order to avoid any kind of thoughts all together for the worry of not being happy. I knew thats stupid but, thats how I coped.

I believe I have a tremendously intense love and hate for this city altogether. The love comes from the liberation of thought and being and the hate comes from the city snatching away that same reason for love from right under your nose – almost reminds me of the Joker.

The city has truly made me question the meaning of freedom day in, day out and I can safely say that I have understood and learnt quite a lot. One imagines that one has all the freedom of thought, freedom of being here in the city of dreams which is the only and true hybrid assimilation of population from all over the country (and outside). I swear there is a whole parade of people who become extremely happy at the idea of being able to wear anything, to walk out anytime of the day, to do anything you want! I am sure I have been there too and continue to be in love for the space that the city gives to you to just be. That might be one good reason to keep me here ‘cause being answerable comes with a lot of difficulty.

But, the hate for the city; a sudden fit of blinding rage, comes only from the games that fate plays with people here. Very blindly thinking, the level to which the dignity of life is brought down to in a city like this brings a wave of anger and sadness that topples over everything else at times. One believes one is free and looking at the place one has come from, one is definitely free-er than that but, freedom is again subjective to power here.

These thoughts were churned back when I visited Madhya Pradesh after long recently. It wasn’t surprising to me how easily I fit in with people there; talking as if I’ve always done that and mind you, I do not do that very easily here ‘cause everyone’s too busy talking about Snapchat, or a trip to Lavasa / Lonavala / *insert other places nearby*, or a check in, or a weekend plan, or a new bakery / club / bar / pub / resort / gallery show / conference blah blah. Its not that I judge without knowing them or anything. I have tried to tolerate and understand if there was actually something fun or new or value creating there. But, as they say one must trust one’s gut, I realise I was right the first time around. I don’t connect with people of the times simply because I don’t see the point in snapping / tweeting everything that you do or think. Maybe thats why this tumblog suffered my disillusioned state or as a friend would have said “disenchantment” with the world and its ways.

In the end, I would again be politically correct and say that I have zero emotion for Bombay because thoughts change like everything in this city – I would say that if only, I am appreciative of what possibilities this city brings out in people’s minds hoping that one would understand that it is only the self and not anything else that brings all the joy as well as the grief.

Custom Made

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Can I be in love with your voice?

Can I only desire
And yearn for the sound of you
Slowly blending in my ears and
slowing me down, bringing my heart
To momentary stops
As you hum, as you talk and drawl into my ears?

Would it be a crime if I told you that I want you not for who you are;
If I told you, that I am in love with your mind?

Would you be here if I told you that listening to you makes me long
For an emotion so deep and passionate that it burns me from within?
Would you stay if I say that the blood flows in me with your every breath?

———————————————————————————————-

Pretty intense lines I found in my ‘Notes’ on the phone. A random scribble somewhere out of home on 10th September this year. Don’t really know what triggered this but, re-reading them brought a pretty good perspective / thought to the fore. Everywhere around me – in physical space as well as virtual – people are getting hitched or engaged while I go from one flea market to another in search for the perfect herbed chicken seekh courtesy these guys. However, on a more serious note, it is funny – this intense emotion that these lines express. Funny and intense would ideally not go hand in hand but, here they do. The concept of ‘being with someone’ – romantically, I mean – is so varied in some senses when the idea is pretty simple and basic and commonplace, if you may.

Meeting a friend after three years and catching up on our lives in the time, the discussion inadvertently went on to dating and relationships – a great energy usurper for many around me. Cutting long story short, my brain just keeps coming back to the woes of who they call millennials who don’t want to go through the risk of making a choice in any sphere of life because we (yes, we!) just have the (mis)fortune of too many choices. Career options, dining out options, options between various telecom operators and finally, options to open our lives to multiple possibilities by swiping right one more time on Tinder. In effect, playing out the old school “many fish in the sea” analogy but, using it as the norm rather than the once in a while offering of help to a distressed friend.

Why these semi – intense lines seem more semi – funny to me? Because stumbling upon these lines, so many conversations with so many people came back to the mind wherein the first sight of trouble in a new connection is the reason for running away since “there are always more people to connect with”. Good area to choose between the two greys of balancing self esteem in case of a failed connection and looking out for a custom made human.

War

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Been thinking of organising my writing properly now. A conscious move to cut down social media helped but, a lot of things were written here and there. Now, in the process of streamlining my thoughts and writings, merging poetry blog and posting final works here while that shall still remain as a draft board.

This one is called ‘War’. I have profound love for detailed conversations around totalitarianism, democracy, gender, sexuality and am fascinated by imagery. Imagery and visuals are what stimulate writing for me otherwise, it would just be a drab academic piece which’ll get tossed in the bin.

‘War’ is, like other poems, open to subjective interpretation, of course. Those who do read it are encouraged to comment and share their views maybe(?). However, for me images and emotions of nostalgia, love, loss, fight and surrender in today’s times made me pen this down. This is a little expression of the constant battle between fighting in an unjust environment versus maintaining a silence and minding one’s business. Will not say more than this lest it taint different interpretations.

In the batting of her lashes,

In the quiet smile that played

on the corner of her lips,

In the memories of her warmth,

I found myself again.

I walked up ‘head in the shadows,

One eye always turning behind,

Awaiting unknown dangers.

I knew victory in the battle was certain but,

Left a refugee in my own home, 

She is the only trace now

of a feeling that was snatched away. 

All’s fair in love and war they said,

Unfairness of their privilege they didn’t let on,

As her womb swells with our love,

I am left with the choice of silence now.