Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Being a woman.

My parents have 2 daughters. I was 6 when my younger sister was born, and I remember people telling my mom, 'It's OK', etc. Growing up, no one at home made us feel that we were inferior to boys. I studied in a co-educational central government school where we were taught that girls and boys are the same really. Ten years of schooling were a breeze. Boys and girls played in the same playground, sat in the same class, and YES a girl and a boy(possibly of different religions) shared a desk in school. We did not care if someone was called Praveena or Parveen. We did not care about religion or caste or the colour of the skin. Nor were we taught by our teachers to care. In civics, we were taught the fundamental values on which India is based.
We memorized the preamble and parroted it out in class-

'WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.'

Contrary to what a lot of culture protectors feel, no girl converted to another religion, no one was snooped away to another country. Our parents did not bother that we were not playing just with 'Hindu girls', that we had boys in our group. No one told us that as girls we need to be careful about who we associate with, because if someone does not like us having male friends, we would get beaten.

After 10th grade I joined a state board junior college. I had to travel in the city bus and there I had my first taste of eve-teasing and worse. The first time a guy brushed past me in an empty bus, I thought it was a mistake. Maybe he didn't see me there. The second time it happened on an empty road and I shouted at the man. 'Dikhta nahin hain kya bey?' He smiled and kept walking. I was a shouter. I never kept silent in spite of the frequency of the incidents. One time a guy on a cycle slapped by back from behind. I ran and kicked his bicycle and he fell. Instead of feeling embarrassed, he called me names(bad ones in hindi) and cycled away. I got angrier. One time I shouted at a man in a bus and the lady sitting on the seat beside me asked me to ignore such people, and that by shouting, I look like the bad person. That was my first lesson at being an Indian girl.

After college there have been numerous instances of men misbehaving, touching, trying to touch, staring etc. And each time I have shouted or made myself heard. And each time there have been people around me who stared at me like I was the one who touched a man improperly. Those piercing eyes that seem to say 'why doesn't she keep silent like the others?'

I have been here in the US for the last 3 years now, and even now, when I visit home, I have at least a few such incidents. None of trips are complete without that shout to that man who tries to take advantage of the situation. And now, I can tell when they are about to do it. I can tell when they do it on purpose. And when you shout, they turn around and smile, like they have won something. Or they look irritated, like you disturbed their pleasure. When you wear a trouser, they look at you from top to bottom, sort of like optical scanning. They do it when you wear a salwar kameez with dupatta pinned to your shoulders, covering your chest, they do it when you wear a saree. They do it to a 15 year old, a 21 year old, heck even to a 60 year old. They really spare no one. I have lived in three Indian cities for a considerable time. Hyderabad, Mumbai and Trivandrum and experienced this everywhere(although to a lesser extent in Mumbai.) You go out and you cannot come back home without having been felt by a stranger. You cannot come back without having been scanned from top to toe, stared at because you wore something that makes you look good. You cannot come back without people making judgements about you because of the way you talk in public, or the way you dress. You cannot talk to men by looking straight into their eyes(they way you are supposed to talk, anyway) and not be termed an aggressive woman. You cannot wear skirts or a well-fitted top without being labeled as wearing 'nude clothes'. And NOW, you cannot go anywhere you please, anytime you want, without being afraid of being beaten, clothes being torn, by the moral police. And it is not so shocking that they are invoking the name of Lord Ram while doing this. The Lord they know made his wife walk into fire to prove that she was pure. To prove that she was not 'soiled' by Ravan, even though she was the victim! Such is their Lord, such are their values and such is their culture. It is NOT my culture to limit the social movement of women. They, in unison with the politicians, and NCW should probably re-write the preamble.

'WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN HINDU REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens EXCEPT WOMEN: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, as long as they are hindu men; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity to all hindu men; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual(hindu man) and the unity and integrity of the Nation.'


  1. Well written and I can feel the anger, and it's comforting to know there are others sharing this angst. We are all holding hands and trying to make sense of this madness that this party I have hated from day one is creating.
    You know I am hating this much worse than the Mumbai Terror Attacks, because nobody said those victims deserved to die. Nobody blamed them for being in the wrong place and in the wrong clothes ...

  2. IHM You know it is not even about politics anymore. Even the congress is not coming out with any statement that says leave women alone. Let them live their life like they want. It is a very hopeless situation.

  3. I can totally understand- that is exactly how I feel. Was arguing with someone about how I feel second class in India and got a "you are not patriotic". Now I do not want to be either.

  4. Yeah being patriotic is sucking it up when u are being mistreated because, hey!, its your country after all and it is perfect the way it is. Trying to change a few wrongs is not patriotic.

  5. It is simple politics. Politics of religion. Hindu men, Muslim men and most fanatics have only one aim to get power. How to achieve that? To suppress the weaker section and that is women.

    They feel high when they beat up women.

  6. Yeah Solilo, suppress the weakest section and then move on the the next. The worst part is, even our men cannot understand that we should not accept everyday harassment of women as a 'part of life'.


I like to receive comments, positive, negative or otherwise.