you forget that i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am what extinguishes your fire.
some powerful women my friends and i look up to:)
i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am in the girl you gave justice to 8 years late. i am in the girl you cremated to hide the evil that runs through your veins. the evil you mask behind delayed hearings and careless police work. the evil that makes your blood boil like fire. i am in the wife you slap after she drops the glass you should have filled yourself. i am in the girl you call pataaka when she cycles by. the girl you say shouldn’t have been outside her house so late when you’re the one who should be locked inside a cell forever. i am in the girl you sexualize on the screen. the girl who you dress in clothes as short as possible because the tickets wouldn’t sell without zoom-ins on her naked waist. i am in the daughter you cover up. to who you teach that by being female, she is at fault. to who you teach that her body is nothing but a distraction for men, when you shouldn’t have been looking in the first place. i am in the mother who sacrificed her entire life for you. the mother who repressed her dreams to raise you well. the mother you disappoint every time you look at the girls on streets with the same fire that boils in your blood.
but you think i am the water in the lotus flower. the water that helps it grow, but disappears into the air right after. you think i am the buttons on your office shirts. always trying to hold it all together. being replaced every time one falls off. you think i am the leaves of autumn. losing colour as soon as the weather changes. falling to the ground, fragile. you think i am the alcohol that lets you loose. the alcohol you blame for the things you do after the city falls asleep. you think i am a pushover. a woman who does whatever floats your boat. a woman who carries all your baggage for you like a river carries salts. but you forget. you forget that i am a woman. you think i am as soft as water and yet, i am what extinguishes your fire.
they drank till their slight touches turned into slaps, and repeated their favourite line, ‘tu haan kar, ya naa kar, tu hai meri kiran.’
translation: ‘even if you say yes, or no, you are my kiran.’
my uncles liked having loud conversations,
they liked keeping count,
of how many people survived,
and of how many died,
they liked arguing over policies,
capitalist or communist,
conservative or socialist,
as if the leaders involved were just by passers,
diplomats in their monarchical world,
they liked to talk while chewing,
often spitting in each other's plates,
secretly staring verma aunty up and down,
her liberal mind was too much to bear,
some days were worse than others,
for they drank till their slight touches turned into slaps,
and repeated their favourite line,
'tu haan kar,
ya naa kar,
tu hai meri kiran,'
over and over again, every single time.
my uncles liked to take names,
calling the pakistani traitors,
and the bangladeshi bastards,
sharma uncle would always say that our politicians were corrupt,
that the strikes were staged,
and the roads were never built,
for the taxes we paid were rather used,
for their luxurious spa treatments,
and sarees of silk,
but he never dared to speak,
of the tea stained rupee notes that he slid,
to the man with stars on his vardi,
nor of the abundant notes he gave to his son's principal,
and how he just forgot to mention they were farsi.
but the women in our family,
well they never spoke,
they'd clear the tables,
throw away the seeds on the orange peels,
tidy up the washbasin,
while uncles smoked their pipes and went to sleep,
although they weren't literate enough to read,
and their lips remained steadily shut,
their ears always perked up,
for they longed to hear of a day,
when the headlines would talk about their win,
and the misogynists' defeat,
the day they could be the ones commenting on medha pathkar's feminist ideals,
and the outspoken female who only won one seat,
they would continue to scrub the spots of the dhotis which smelled like mrs.sharma,
and put cotton on their swollen bruises,
they would continue to nod and say 'no matter,'
and then leave to take care of chores,
for whether or not china chose to avenge itself,
whether or not the workers staged their strikes,
whether or not policemen took bribes,
they'd have to grow barley and pluck their weeds,
uncle would continue to come home at 11,
although the security guard said he left at 7,
friday evening dinners would still turn into political campaigns for the parties which paid more,
for even if the economy slows down,
and all those endangered are gone,
manages to go on.
But who on earth gives us the right to judge? Who gives us the right to make them feel as though by being themselves, they are already guilty of something?
Today, I want to shed light on a subject which we barely question ourselves about. I figured that I cannot merely touch upon it through a poem like I usually do. For this is something we as a society really need to dig deeper into. And the magical term is;
This refers to personal assets which provide us with social mobility. This enables us to climb the social ladder without necessarily having wealth or financial resources. It includes our skills, knowledge, interests, hobbies, etc. In layman terms, cultural capital is when we’re perceived on the basis of our non economic strengths. Unfortunately, this leads to class differences and social inequality 99% of the time. But one of its biggest consequences is gender inequality.
You’re probably confused but let me explain.
Women and particularly teenage girls hold almost zero cultural capital in our society. Their interests are quite frequently looked down upon in contrast to those of men. Things that are stereotypically marketed towards men such as sports, action films, action figures are generally considered good taste. Whereas when it comes to the stereotypical interests of women which include rom coms, make-up, and even fashion to an extent, then the self-created critics are always quick to comment. I mean ask yourself, what holds higher value in your mind?
A movie like ‘Mean Girls,’ which consists of rich spoilt school girls as the protagonists who plot plans to avenge each other or a movie like ‘Thor,’ which has a strong masculine superhero who fights other supernatural creatures as the lead character? If I had to take a wild guess, then based on the centuries long gender biased mindset we’ve all been victims of, I’d say the latter.
We are naturally inclined towards downplaying the likes and dislikes of women in our daily life.
Let’s take another example; fashion.
Stereotypically, most females are drawn to clothing and accessories. They tend to care about the way they look more than men do. However, the fashion industry as a whole is considered highly superficial. Women who enjoy styling themselves are quickly boxed into the spoilt and stupid rich brat stereotype. Although, if a man takes care of the way he dresses and experiments with his clothing then he’s considered ‘cool,’ and ‘classy.’ He’s even termed as smart looking to an extent.
I think it’s important we ask ourselves why.
For this is not just present in the cinema or a few other industries. It’s present within us as well.
When I was younger, I’d never have admitted to liking Taylor Swift or One Direction. Those were two artists whose fan bases mostly consisted of female fans. Unsurprisingly, it was considered ‘basic’ to like them. If you were fond of Taylor Swift, then you were immediately labelled as the dumb girly teenager. When it came to One Direction, people were quick to assume that girls only liked them because of their attractive looks. I mean what else, right? People didn’t waste time listening to their music before calling them the band which only shallow teenage girls listened to. Young women were practically shamed for having a choice which was different from that of the men.
Sometimes, it was even worse. For quite frequently, a man and woman might have the same interest but a woman is shamed for it whereas a man isn’t.
Let’s go back to Taylor Swift. She was and still is famous for writing most of her songs about boys who broke her heart. Now although heartbreaks are a normal part of life, she was continuously shamed for it. She was perceived as this immature unintelligent blonde who was utterly boy obsessed and was termed as someone who was forever ‘victimising’ herself. Nevertheless, when Post Malone wrote about a girl who broke his heart, everybody was ready to drop everything and scream ‘fuck that bitch,’ with him. They began to think of him as someone who understood real pain.
What’s so different about a young woman writing about heartbreak compared to a young man doing the same?
A more current life example would be the different trends which keep coming into light. Like the whole vsco girl thing. Young girls were trolled, bullied and practically forced to feel shameful of talking and behaving in a certain way which seemed to be stupid in the eyes of other people. Take a look at tiktok. There are so many videos on youtube of people reacting to tiktoks of teenage girls and just making fun of them for having ‘no talent,’ or being dense, all because they chose to put themselves out there by recording short videos.
But who on earth gives us the right to judge? Who gives us the right to make them feel as though by being themselves, they are already guilty of something?
This right here, is the sole reason why girls grow up to silence themselves. They grow up to become women who prefer to remain quiet because when your interests and opinions aren’t valued then what’s the point of using your voice? When your likes and views are naturally considered inferior to those of others then what’s the point of arguing? What’s the point of saying anything at all, right?
I’d like you to just imagine if teenage boys were picked on for liking superheroes or unrealistic action movies the same way young girls are made fun of for enjoying sappy romance movies and barbie dolls. But that could never happen. Because we have been programmed to think of anything that is associated with the female gender as something which is inferior to the things that are linked to the male gender.
It is way ‘cooler’ to watch Mission Impossible instead of Clueless.
It is way ‘cooler’ to have Iron Man figurines instead of Barbie dolls.
It is way ‘cooler’ to prefer shirts over dresses.
It is way ‘cooler’ to be a professional swimmer than a professional makeup artist.
Our minds have been installed with a toxic mindset since birth and we don’t know why.
When we’re two years old, we don’t know the definitions of words like pencil, chair, or even mother. We just know how to identify them with images. We just know that the woman who feeds us everyday is our mother, the object we write with is a pencil, and the piece of furniture we sit on is a chair. But when we’re two, we don’t know how to state the meanings of each word. We only know what we’ve seen and heard.
Similarly, we as a society, including our ancestors, don’t know why the colour pink or the floral dresses forever 21 sells are associated with females. We don’t know why scary movies and sports like boxing are associated with males. We cannot do anything to change that identification established in our minds either.
But what we can do is start believing and reminding ourselves every day that liking pink is just as okay as liking blue.
Enjoying the Avengers; End Game is just as okay as enjoying the Titanic.
Being a stereotypical teenage girl is just as okay as being a stereotypical teenage boy. Not being either of those is alright too.
For our likes and dislikes make us who we are and that is something which should never ever be compared.
In the Hindu epic Ramayana, Goddess Sita was known to be Lord Rama’s wife. She accompanied him in his 14 year long exile along side his brother Lakshmana. They spent a few years at Panchvati, also known as the site where Goddess Sita’s abduction by Ravana, the ten faced king of Lanka took place. She is often regarded as the embodiment of wifely devotion and self-sacrifice.
Fabric the colour of saffron,
On the eccentric green grass,
Her sari spread like rangoli’s rays,
Her thick silky hair,
Bound by elastic,
Few short strands flow,
With the breeze that blows,
Congested in a bijou hut,
Near the free fragnance,
Of dear Godavari,
Lies the confined heart of Panchvati,
The cold damp gufa,
Where sits the almighty shivaling,
Echoes her silent prayers,
Enclosed by 14 years of unfair penance and care,
Yet her genuine heart,
Sees no disguise,
A starving beggar appears,
Mouth full of hungry lies,
She steps out,
Crossing the holy line,
He doesn’t take a second to grab her,
And divine Panchvati loses its shine,
The elastic loosens,
Black locks gather apart,
Her shrill screams haunt the hut,
Remorse fills her heart,
They fly away in his grand chariot,
Ten faces laugh aloud,
Yet the sky cries with her,
Her anger as heavy as the storm cloud,
Panchvati bids goodbye to its queen,
Lord Rama shouts in agony,
For he failed his promise,
But long gone now is,
Sita, our Goddess.
“There may have been several ramas but only one sita.”
i was going to write a sappy poem about how great 2019 was but i figured i should be somewhat real and talk about how our country is doing right now as the world’s largest *coughs* ‘democracy.’
Here, Just one shop sells dhokla, rasgulla, and halwa, Just one whatsapp group sends eid mubarak, merry christmas, and happy holi, Just one street has had ram mandir, and babri masjid, And when that one foreigner asks me about India, The first thing that comes to mind is, Unity in diversity, Ekta mai hi shakti. Lekin abh nahi.
For now, When I visit that one shop, I see that it’s once so welcoming doors, Are now shut, I ask kishore bhaiya why, He tells me, ‘Ahmed ke paas kaagaz nahi the.’ When I check that one whatsapp group, I see that the ‘same to you,’ Has been replaced by, blue ticks, For sometimes, Silence speaks louder than words.
And now, When I walk past that street again, Instead of groups of pilgrims, with devotion in their eyes, And faith in their hearts, I still see groups, But of people trying to scream loud enough. For their voices to be heard, Of people who haven’t gone home in 134 days, Of people who seem to have lost the spark, Who seem to have lost hope.
Hope that one day, They’ll see Ahmed again, That one day their father in law, will see past the clothes on their body, And the name they chant, And when that foreigner asks them about India again, One day, Unity in Diversity, Will be the first thing they’ll say.
In honour of women’s day, here’s a little something.
Women’s day. An occasion to celebrate women, and how far they’ve come. After several struggles, protest and strikes and loads of hard work – women have reached where they are today, and it still is nowhere equal to where men are. They might be getting the same jobs as men, but not the same salary. They might be getting the same rights as men, but not the same respect. They might be getting the same security as men, but are they really safe? Some say that it is due to the under development of the country, and the socio – economic problems which have caused women to be uneducated or poor. Yet, America being one of the most developed and wealthy countries – still chose to elect a misogynistic, and sexist orange faced president instead of electing their first female president. Coming back to India. Although, there are numerous cases of violence against women which are filed in our country, everyday – we as a society are slowly and gradually beginning to accept the fact that gender discrimination is a real thing, and that women rights are human rights. Feminism as a concept has really begun to gain popularity in the past few years. Yet some people have misunderstood that feminists are people who are against men, and want special rights for women but that is the exact opposite of who they are. Feminism is the belief that every female should be provided with the same privileges and rights as any other person, and not just legally. Society needs to accept them and believe in their capabilities. Above all, females need to believe in each other if no one else does. Earlier, women weren’t as aware of their rights and were to afraid to speak up. Afraid of how society would judge them, afraid of how they would be treated afterwards, afraid of what people would think of them. But, it isn’t what people think which matters – it’s what we think of ourselves. Since birth, women have been taught shame. They have been taught to cover themselves up and they have been taught that by being female, they are at fault. They have been suppressed by their own people for so long, that they have lost faith in themselves. Our owns society starts mistreating them as soon as they enter this world. They pray to goddesses in temples, but abuse women in the domestic sphere. They elect women to powerful political offices, yet mistreat young girls in public, and what’s worse is that people are still pretending like it isn’t happening. However, in this modern era of feminism, movements and protests like the #MeToo movement have helped them find their voice. They say it’s a scary time for men but if you aren’t someone who harasses women, then why is it scary? It is this mentality that we need to change. That women are trying to overpower men, because that is the exact opposite of what they are trying to do. I don’t know if you all are aware of this, but recently a 620 km long women’s wall was formed in kerala. It was formed in hopes to protest against the Sabrimala controversy, and gender equality in general. This is a clear example of what women are trying to do – which is empower another, so many women still fear speaking out, and talking about how they’ve suffered for so long. Until we get to a state where each and every woman is bold and confident enough to share their story, and to share what they stand for – we haven’t achieved gender equality.
This isn’t the best because I feel like there’s a lot more I want to address, but for now it’s just a broad view on the issues I am going to write about in the near future.
Females are not objects. Alcohol, short skirts, flirty behaviour, or walking alone aren’t the causes of rape. Rapists are. We live in a society which teaches women how to not get raped instead of teaching men not to rape.
Nothing has changed between Mahabharat and today’s Bharat. I ask you, a citizen of our country, do you notice any difference since the time of Mahabharat and now. The story might be thousands of years old, but it depicts what happens in the current society. Let’s go back to the epic and recall one of the main characters – Draupadi, the heroine of Mahabharat was always bold and forthright. Her husband Yudhisthir had a weakness for gambling and staked and lost everything including his wife. The brave Draupadi challenged the assembly and demanded to know how it was possible for someone who had lost his own self to retain the right to put her at stake as well. Duryodhana, the villain insisted that Draupadi had become his and hence ordered that she be disrobed. As she was disrobed, the more her sari was pulled away the longer it became. It was this event which turned Draupadi from a contented, but strong willed wife into a vengeful goddess. Do you remember what happened while she was being humiliated and disrobed in front of everybody? Try and remember.
Well, let me remind you – nobody dared to say a word. Not one person objected against the crime that was being committed in front of their eyes, inside the palace of the kingdom itself. Does this historic incident remind you of anything? Perhaps, our society? India is a country which has one of the highest amount of rape and sexual violence cases. Yes, women are beginning to feel empowered. Yes, they are finally gaining the rights they deserve, and slowly equal amount of respect too, but are they safe? Have equal rights stopped people from objectifying women? Have they stopped people from thinking that women are inferior? Instead, the number of assault cases has increased in the past years.
Indians pray to goddesses in temples, but abuse women in the domestic sphere. They elect women to powerful political offices, yet mistreat young girls in public, and what’s worse is that people are still pretending like it isn’t happening. People still refuse to speak about young girls being sexually harassed and assaulted. It is still considered a taboo amongst several Indians. Just like nobody dared to speak up against how Draupadi was mistreated, nobody dares to talk about how women are being harassed on a daily basis. The worst part is that most of the time, the female is blamed for it. She is accused of the fact that if she doesn’t cover herself enough then such things will happen to her. That if she goes out of the house past 8 then such things will happen. That it is her fault for getting raped.
What people don’t understand is that even if a female goes around naked on the street, one still does not have the right to, forget rape, but to even touch her without her permission. A female has a right to wear whatever she wants, say whatever she wants, and go out at whatever time she wishes to, but no person has the right to harass her and touch her without permission. Just because a female wears short clothes and goes to the nightclub, doesn’t mean that she is ‘available’. Forget females you don’t know, you don’t even have the right to touch your wife in an inappropriate way unless she allows you to. Certain men think that since the woman is their wife, they have every right to do whatever they want to with her. Just like Yudishtir put Draupadi at stake even though he didn’t ‘own’ her in the first place. If she doesn’t want you to touch her then do not try to persuade her. It is not right. What is happening in our country is not right. People are still pretending that it isn’t happening, but it is.
How many rape cases will it take for people to understand that no means no? Females are not objects. Alcohol, short skirts, flirty behaviour, or walking alone aren’t the causes of rape. Rapists are. We live in a society which teaches women how to not get raped instead of teaching men not to rape. Till when will women carry pepper sprays in their purses? Till when will women cover themselves from head to toe even in the burning heat, just so that any man doesn’t have the urge to rape her? Till when will women stay trapped in their homes after 8 pm? Till when will women not go anywhere alone? Why do things like alcohol excuse a rapist’s actions but condemn the woman’s? No matter who a person is, nobody in this world deserves to be raped or has a right to rape somebody.
Women are not your property. Since birth we have taught women to cover themselves, we have taught them shame. We have made them feel as if by being female, they are bound to be at fault. We teach them that they are inferior to man and are only for their attention. We teach them that they cannot be sexual beings in the way boys are, and if they are harassed then we put the blame on them because men are never at fault in society’s eyes. Every article I read about sexual violence always has a title which refers to a woman being raped or harassed, why is that? Why do we talk about women being raped, instead of men raping women? It is as if the victim is being accused for the crime which has been committed.
I repeat myself, nothing has changed between Mahabharat and today’s Bharat and it won’t unless we change ourselves. By this article, I do not mean to refer to all men as rapists or all women as victims. Although rape is more common amongst women, it happens to all the sexes. No matter what, it needs to end. I urge you all to speak up, being sexually assaulted is not shameful, the one who does it is. I urge you all to unite and let everybody hear your voice. Each and every person’s voice is important. We’re blaming society even though we are society, so to make it a better place, we must change ourselves first. Come forward and reveal your stories, your scars are what make you strong.