Why A Woman’s Reproductive Right Will Never Be Her Own (And It’s Annoying TBH)

US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood has brought out an important topic to the forum, AGAIN – Is a woman’s reproductive right her own? Who owns a woman’s womb? Rather, who should run it?

Motherhood is for sure a beautiful feeling, but for centuries, this debate has been propping up again and again – as to whether a woman has a right to kill the foetus developing inside her. Some countries, with their religious clout, have managed to kill women, who couldn’t be saved because of a pregnancy gone bad.

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Which brings me to a very important question.

Dear men, who owns your dick?

No one, right? We worship it, we are excited when our family is blessed with one. If a man has absolute right over his body, why should a woman be denied a very basic right?

[I am not getting into the debate about women supporting “pro-life” arguments – because the social conditioning is such that some women believe religion can have absolute primacy over their body and their rights.]

Motherhood slows down women, it made them “homemakers” since the time of the stone age because babies began to be born with smaller brains and needed more care. Women were seen as the caretakers, instead of the men, since they took immense pain to give birth to the babies in the first place. All pain, no gain?

Women are told numerous things – giving birth to a baby is a great feeling, you aren’t complete unless you become a mother. Women who can’t give birth are shunned by society, pitied; women who refuse to give birth are considered worse.

Why aren’t young women taught that they are complete even if they don’t give birth? A woman is born complete, her womb is just another organ, what’s the need to always make a hue and cry of it?

Let me bring the stark reality to you, about abortions and about childbirth.

  1. If a woman can decide to take birth, she can decide to not give birth. Even if the foetus has a “potential for life”, its her bloody problem, her womb, not YOUR matter.
  2. Stop making women feel that abortions are a ‘cardinal sin’ – many women don’t give birth because they don’t want to deprive a child a life where the mother won’t be able to give much time to the child as much as she wants to. And sometimes, the man doesn’t want to take responsibility for the kid either.
  3. A maternity leave is costly for an ambitious woman – as much as a mother loves her child, many times she can’t even her suckle her child as she has to head to work, or loses out on projects and promotions because she decided to give birth

As a child, I always considered women incredible. A woman juggles the responsibility of work and home, loves her job and child equally. But the society expects her to always smile through all her problems, take care of the child all by herself and at a convenient time, leave her job – because if she has a husband to pay the bills, why should she work?

I am scared for those thousands of young women across the world who are regular victims of moral policing on basic things such as their reproductive right.

It’s time this goddam discussion stops propping up. And those idiots with a stick up their arses need to understand that someone’s bedroom business isn’t theirs to pick.

 

The Curious Case Of “Sexual Harassment At The Workplace” – Featuring Arunabh Kumar

Don’t be baffled by the title. I agree it’s going to be another feminist rant about how men make women feel like they don’t belong in the workplace. But you know what?

IT’S TRUE.

Turns out it’s the 21st century and women still don’t feel safe at the workplace. A little birdie spread a rumour about sexual harassment at Uber’s office recently and that seems to have sparked off a series of news about this damning thing. I mean, how can literate men, fathers of little children, or even those in the corporate world for a sane number of years think of women as commodities who have to be cherry-picked for their preference at the workplace?

Turns out, it’s very much a thing of the present.

Before you get into a rant about how women are misusing their “privilege” to make innocent men fall into their trap, framing wrong allegations against them, let me get one point straight. Sexual harassment at the workplace – even if it’s a false allegation – has to be taken seriously. You can’t let a wrong-doer – male or female – pass by without giving justice to the one who has been affected.

Which brings me back to the topic again.

I wasn’t very horrified to read a particular Uber employee’s experience with her boss. He told her during a meeting when she disagreed with him – you’re here not because of your brains, but your looks. So shut up.

I don’t fail to understand anymore how a woman who looks pretty can even be considered worthwhile enough to work in an office space.

I mean, if she walks into the office in sneakers, you tell her to wear heels to accentuate her ass, right? She’s your property, isn’t she?

For the longest time, I have gone on feminist rants, talking about how women don’t deserve things, for it is their right as they are equal to men. But turns out I am just another feminist who’s banging her head against the wall. Writing blogs about topics instead of doing anything about it on ground.

Ahh, well. If chastising me gets your chauvinistic ass some peace, then so let be.

Lets talk about the day for a change. Today, I woke up like it was no other day. Accepting the fact that I was living in a patriarchal society. I opened the newspaper, hoping to read something decent about international politics to brighten up my day. Turns out, I, like many other privileged, literate, empowered women had to turn the pages of the newspaper only to read about TVF founder Arunabh Kumar’s attempt to sexually harass a female colleague.

Ahh, well. Another one bites the dust.

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Source: Indian Express

I am not saying he’s guilty, hell no. I don’t know what transpired between Arunabh and that particular lady in question (Indian Fowler, was she?). I was intrigued to see The Viral Fever’s response to the allegation. Take a look:

This is an official response from TVF on the anonymous article published on Medium by the Indian Fowler. The article is completely ludicrous and defamatory against TVF and its team.
 
All the allegations made against TVF and its team in the article are categorically false, baseless and unverified. We take a lot of pride in our team and in making TVF a safe workplace that is equally comfortable for women and men.
 
We will leave no stone unturned to find the author of the article and bring them to severe justice for making such false allegations.
 
It is our humble request that you do not to share an unsubstantiated, unverified and anonymous article such as this. We would like to thank all our fans and friends for their continued support.

Umm. Umm. WHAT?

I understand TVF is angry, but issue an open threat? How much desperate are you to save your founder rather than the brand?

As I understand, in the event of a sexual harassment allegation, the concerned company needs to immediately call a Vishakha committee to investigate the allegation. In fact, the company needs to have a sexual harassment redressal cell within the company so that these issues don’t come into the public forum and get resolved within the workplace.

Turns out that doesn’t happen and Indians still live in that archaic world where they believe that women have to sit at home, cook food for their husbands and be the prey of petty men who just feel entitled to prey on women. Because. It’s just so fucking normal. If women do come to work, they need to be stalked, harassed and asked for sexual favours for no woman should be doing a “man’s job”, I guess.

Again, I am digressing. Let us take a look at the allegations heaped on Arunabh –

He got drunk and tried to fall on the woman

Made ‘lewd’ advances

Told her he bought her from a red-light district

Even if these allegations are false, what we need to understand is that these things happen. Many women leave their jobs because of such people. They are forced to face these things on a daily basis on many occasions just because they want to earn their living. If they get too friendly with a man at the workplace or have a boyfriend, they are viewed as promiscuous. For which woman who has a brain and an opinion will not be “sleeping around” with everyone in sight?

If Arunabh is innocent, then the case of false sexual harassment will come to the surface. If he isn’t, then the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace needs to be tackled.

Indian companies like TVF are young, vibrant and attractive for young people. But today, if one company doesn’t take a stand, tomorrow thousands of women and men will stop/fear coming to the workplace for fear of injustice being meted out to them.

And like any other day, I have gone on a feminist rant, for my disillusion with the world around me has gone to the next level.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Yes, all we’re looking for is love from someone else

It’s Valentine’s day, that we all know. A day to celebrate love, get angry at the concept of love or just let life flow without any thought about the “significance” of the day. I, like many others, have decided to spend this day at home. Randomly musing after many-a-fortnight, I decided to pen my thoughts on love.

Love is a difficult emotion. For the longest time, I thought it was something selfless, a feeling where you can lose your heart (and maybe soul) to one person, who comes to mean the whole world to you. Gradually, I understood it was more my maternal instinct speaking than really “love”. Mothers unconditionally “love” their children. That can be called “love”. But, what is this “other” love that the world just seems to be so obsessed about?

Going through social media feed is a pain, for seeing photos of couples either with engagement rings or marriage certificates with the hashtag #love or #loveyouforever doesn’t make any sense to me. How can a personal emotion be so easily quantifiable? I tried to understand my dilemma through films. Maybe popular culture could quantify love for me in some way.

So, I went to watch La La Land. This year’s most iconic movie, tied with Titanic for the maximum number of oscars (14) and apparently the best musical ever made (contentious). Having seen it the first time with a Marvel-lover engineer friend, the experience didn’t quite leave an impact on me. So this time, I went with my PhD in Sociology friend. Hopefully her deep insights into human society could help.

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Halfway through the movie, I felt nothing. I understood why Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were attracted to each other, but I couldn’t bring the word “love” to my lips. Maybe I am just a noob who needs time to understand – but I really want to – how does one know that they are in love?

Love and relationships seem to be antithetical to each other. Love wants to be selfless, relationships are meant to be selfish. Why would we want to be with someone unless they always make us happy? Selflessness might bring misery, for no one’s perfect. Then, by that logic, the “love” in a relationship isn’t selfless, right?

Society defines love as a gust of wind that blows you off your feet, sends you into a parallel universe where everything is perfect and nothing can harm you. Then why are relationships facing boring questions like who’s paying the rent this time around, and why the hell should I cook for you?

Love has always been a utopia for people, and artists have just taken this insecurity as an opportunity to gain traction for their creativity. Films like La La Land or Titanic get made because we want to believe that there is that someone out there with whom we will have an epic relationship, something that came like a blast and stuck like a glue.

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Romance in the modern day world faces tougher questions than ever before. Now, relationships don’t embody compromise, adjustment. We have big dreams and many-a-times relationships don’t fit into them. I have woken up many mornings when I have wondered whether my ambition will keep me lonely for the rest of my life. For I am ready to move to any place for a good job, but will my love move with me everywhere?

Modern-day relationships are more about finding yourself, rather than finding ourselves. Between 20 to 25, I have seen myself change every year, change my taste every year. My struggles defined me, but they also made me change my mood, my way of thinking. Imagine a movie on this. How will such a girl find “love”? Her dilemmas are enough to drive people away. But that is reality. When critics scream for “realistic” cinema, do they realise that if their demand is fulfilled, a morbid cinema might just make them flinch and change their profession altogether?

On a lighter note, lets not trash love altogether. Lets stop defining it for a change. If you’re in love, love it. But try understanding it first. For you may not realize it, sometimes, all you are looking for is love from someone else, but it first has to come from you.

On a happier note: Happy Valentine’s day folks. Those who took out time to read this story, here’s a gift for you:

Why Feminism Is Important For Men In India

The title of this essay is very important. For it conveys a message very few people in India (apart from “card-carrying” feminists) acknowledge – the need for men to be feminist in this country. It’s a natural assumption for us in India to assume that any word with the first three letters ‘fem’ is meant for a woman. But it’s important for our men to realize that it’s time for them to let the feminist within them rise, and let their ego take a backseat.

Lets discuss the fundamental problem with men in India. A couple of points guys don’t keep in mind are (I don’t mean this in an offensive manner, this is just to educate those who never looked in-depth into their nature):

  1. As a man you’re not entitled to anything (even if your mother or father made you believe so). You’re not “entitled” to harass a girl, her family, nor “entitled” to assume a larger status in society just because you’re a man
  2. This is a generation of equal opportunities. Just because a woman in a middle-class household received an education and made good use of it, and you didn’t, doesn’t mean you can show her her true status as a ‘woman’ with your physical power
  3. Physical prowess is not a sign of superiority

A very significant point that was missed in the India’s Daughter documentary that came out more than 2 years ago was the entire point of why the rapist raped Nirbhaya. He didn’t rape her in his need for sex, he didn’t rape her because he had a ‘rapist’ mentality or was disturbed. He raped her because she raised her voice, and offended him. How could a woman speak to a man like that? An education doesn’t entitle a woman or give her a right to insult a man?! She has to be shown her true place!

The fundamental problem with the framework of Indian society is our natural assumption as men that women have to be subservient to men and have to be shown their place at the opportune moment. If not in her office, then outside. ‘Aukaat’ dikha do.

Why don’t we evaluate each other as humans for a change? If women are willing to understand that men can make mistakes, then can’t men accept that the woman in front of them is a fellow human who has to be evaluated on her merit and not on the fact that she has been physically endowed with breasts and a womb?

It’s not uncommon for women in middle-class households who have degrees from good colleges to leave their jobs once they have a child. A womb is a woman’s biggest enemy in a society that treats child-bearing as solely a woman’s responsibility. The man’s responsibility isn’t in that one beautiful moment when he holds his wife’s hand as she’s in labour pain. A man’s responsibility also begins the day a child is born, and just carrying his surname doesn’t mean that he’s fulfilled his duty.

Be it lower income households or middle-income households or rich households, the men in each section of society have a fundamental responsibility – to evaluate women as humans who also have aspirations, dreams and expectations. A man’s feminism is more important than a woman’s – primarily because one voice of a dissent from a man will be viewed with logic in this system entrenched in patriarchy. It’s funny that when a woman speaks out, she’s viewed as a troublemaker, but when a man speaks out, he’s speaking from logic. Then where’s your logic guys?

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Are you scared of that one moment when your wife will earn more than you or be more successful than you? Are you scared of that moment when you will loose your “manhood”? Is your ego bruised when that little girl scored more marks than you in that one engineering exam? How could she? She’s a girl, girls are not good at math?!

Are you eagerly anticipating that one day when she will take her maternal leave in office and then fall back in her career so that you can move ahead on not merit but social stupidity?

Why is it so natural for us to assume that a woman and her family is entitled to receive our bullshit, just because we were born with an organ that is worshipped?

My plea to the male feminists out there is – don’t “protect” your woman, she doesn’t need your muscle power to survive. Don’t “protect” her from bullshit your father is pulling on your wedding – she doesn’t want that. What she wants is respect, and your ability to ensure that. Your feminism lies in making others around you realize that logic is the way to move forward, not society or its customs that hold someone back because of their gender.

I understand my words sound harsh. Most men wouldn’t even want to be feminist on reading my essay. After all, who wants to fight for a cause that’s not even their own?

But retrospect – why do you “not” like women? Why do you feel that they should be subservient to you? Is it because of your social conditioning or because it’s logical to you?

Think guys, think. Because we need you too in this struggle to create change. If you don’t stand by us, and if both genders aren’t united in this fight, then we can never expect our society to move towards an egalitarian future. Neither can we dream of a ‘shining’ or ‘developed’ India. Because whenever one woman leaves her job in this country, we lose out on a portion of our GDP. Never realized this? For a change, think logically?

All you are going to lose out on is your ‘male privilege’. And trust me, that’s not a bad thing at all. You weren’t entitled to one, in the first place.

Which State Do You Belong To?

Which state do you belong to? – is the most common question faced by me, every time I meet someone new. Till I was 20, I used to answer – Mumbai, the city, not the state, Maharashtra. Somewhere, deep down my heart, I knew I was more a Mumbaikar, less a Maharashtrian. Now, 5 years later, I don’t know what to answer. My constant shuttling between the two cities Delhi and Mumbai and my ancestral lineage from West Bengal have confused me beyond my understanding. I am no longer too Bengali to be called Bengali, no longer too familiar with Mumbai to call myself a Mumbaikar, and definitely don’t know much Marathi or Marathi culture to identify myself as a Maharashtrian.

For the longest time in my youth, I vehemently denied being a Bengali. I hated to associate myself with Communist, monkey-cap wearing, Sreeleathers-loving stereotypical Bengalis, even though I had an upbringing consisting of Gelusil and Boroline, two of the most Bengali things ever. I didn’t want to associate myself with any stereotype, hence I preferred calling myself a Mumbaikar – I could easily identify my Bambaiya-hindi, night-life loving characteristics with the city and inadvertently be identified as someone ‘cool’, someone who came from that city of lights, colour, fame and Bollywood.

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It’s a weird world out there for people like me, who grow up in a different state from their ancestral one. Most of the time, we learn little of our culture, and unknowingly, try to hold on to it tightly without admitting it. I belonged to the same crowd. I loved Bengali food, Bengali culture, Rabindrasangeet, et al – yet refused to identify myself as a Bengali. Yet, emotions hit home ground the most when a dear friend from Kolkata called me a ‘fraud Bengali’, for not knowing anything about the Bengali culture, according to her.

I tried fitting very hard into every city – thinking every city is the place I can claim to be from. But, eventually, I realized, over time – I made friends not with people who were from a particular culture like me, but because we had a certain intellectual framework that appealed to our sensitivities.  My best friends are Sindhi, Syrian Christian, Malayalee Nair, Bihari and Baniya, all radically different from each other. Till 20 years back, it was unimaginable to befriend so many people from so many varied cultures and religions for my parents. Yet, this happened because I became part of a new cultural revolution – the Indian who is cosmopolitan.

I identify myself as an Indian more than anything else now, because I can’t see myself ‘fitting’ in anywhere, yet ‘fitting’ in everywhere. I don’t hate it when people tell me I remind them of a ‘stereotypical bong’ who says “ish” when she’s disgusted. I love it when people like the different facets of my personality and link it to my very Indian identity.

While stereotyping and being judgemental is part of being human, I also think it’s important for people to move out of their comfort bubble and see the world, because we Indians need to realize that the beauty of cosmopolitanism lies everywhere. Not ‘fitting’ into something conventional isn’t a bad thing. In the US, we have a half-Puerto Rican, half-Ashkenazi Jew entertaining us and he is currently touted as the next Michael Jackson. He’s none other than Bruno Mars. He’s a product of globalization and cosmopolitanism. Booker prize winning writer Arundhati Roy, who wrote The God of Small Things is half-Malayalee and half-Bengali. Yet, her understanding of Kerala’s culture in the novel is unparalleled.

It’s a wrong notion that if one leaves their state or marries outside their culture or identifies as someone else, they lose their culture. I know that deep down in my heart, some things about me will always remain Bengali. I know that even if I marry outside my community, I will never stop identifying myself as a Bengali. I will always celebrate Durga Puja, not Navratra. Because that is MY festival. There are certain traits I have latched onto, vowing to never let them go. Not because I like being Bengali, but because these traits define me.

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Yet, I hold on to my identity as a Delhi-ite and Mumbaikar ferociously too. I know my rich experience of a Mumbai local parallels that of a Mumbaikar, I know the roads of Delhi as the veins in my heart. These two cities are the mothers that taught me how to live life on my own, and I latch onto these identities too, albeit “shamelessly”.

I know there may be many confused folks like me out there. My surname is mistaken to be my identity on many occasions. I know who I am, but I don’t know whether I can fit into any classified identity. I can’t fit into that one bottle, for I am that free-flowing water, that can assimilate into any bottle you put me into. I can sing a Bollywood song with my friend from UP, I can dance equally madly on a Tamil tune with my friend from Hyderabad, appreciate that Bhojpuri song my friend croons, or eat momos with my friend from Manipur, loving to hear her complain how stupid it is when people can correlate things like momos with the North-east without knowing anything else about the region. I want to visit other regions of my beautiful country, assimilate more in other places, distorting my identity to the extent that even I can’t figure out myself where I fit into anymore.

I want to reach that state when I don’t identify myself with any caste, any region, any community anymore. Right now, I am that Bengali who speaks the language, but can be spotted with a Premchand novel in a metro. I am that Maharashtrian who grew up in the state but can’t speak Marathi. I am that Delhi-ite who knows all the party places in the city, but can’t tolerate the city at night. I am that small-town Durgapur/Navi Mumbai chick, who knows her world is just within a small city, where everyone she meets knows her.

It’s time we celebrate the plurality India is. Celebrate that Mallu who speaks Hindi with the heart of a Dilli-waala, that UP girl who loves Mumbai and identifies as a Mumbaikar for the freedom the city gives her, that Sindhi who speaks Punjabi, that Marathi girl who prides herself in knowing Gujarati and Tullu. That Indian who prides himself/herself for belonging everywhere.

Our complexities define us as the modern Indian who can move beyond barriers, accept each other as friends because of the thoughts we harbour, not because we pledge our identity to a certain community.

Which state do I belong to? I don’t know, guess I play for Team India now! 😀

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Partition, 1947: My most brutal tryst with history

Many people ask me why my eyes well up with tears when someone talks about India’s partition with Pakistan in 1947. They don’t well up in the spirit of nationalism. I cry because 15th August 1947 is the day my grandparents, with millions of other refugees, moved to India from East Pakistan. With the declaration of Independence, in a flash, their land was divided; one land became the land of the Hindus, the other became a refuge of the Muslims. They spoke the same language but were divided on the lines of religion. It is estimated that nearly 2 million people were killed in the ensuing partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

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We tend to take history very lightly and never realise how ever-lasting an impact it can have, on our lives. My grandparents grew up in present-day Bangladesh, spending the majority of their youth in an era where there was no distinction between a Hindu and a Muslim. Partition changed that. All of sudden, that Jafar or Sayeed or Mohammad was your enemy, not your friend. It’s funny how drawing an invisible line can divide people so much.

My grandparents each faced different scenarios during partition. My maternal grandparents moved with their family to Calcutta, without facing much bloodshed or violence, but heard many stories during their stay in refugee camps in Tollygunge. They met India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who promised them a better future post-Partition, but being the youth of the 1940’s, all they got was a brutal displacement from their home; a forced uprooting from their own country, that suddenly came to be called East Pakistan. They picked up the ruins of their lives and started life from the beginning, from stark poverty, with unemployment and homelessness staring them in the eye. Being accepted as Indians was the first big task for them, which it shouldn’t have been.

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My paternal grandparents, on the other hand, saw bloodshed. My grandmother was a zamindar’s daughter, and zamindars were known to be wealthy and oppressive back in the day. So, it was no surprise that the first thing that happened after partition was the burning down of their house. Peasants drove them out of their home, ran after them with knives, almost killed them. Violence shouldn’t be meted out to anyone, rich or poor, for it leaves a lifetime of scars, that never, ever heal. My grandfather, on the other hand, was lucky. He was in Calcutta at the time of partition and was just heading back home, when he saw people heading to the border with knives, shouting Hindustan zindabad. He went back to Calcutta and never looked back, ever again.

Violence was there on both sides of the border in 1947. Hindus killed Muslims, Muslims killed Hindus. My maternal grandmother once narrated an incident of a Hindu girl in her locality who was kidnapped by her Muslim acquaintances during partition. She was raped and put on a charpai (bed) outside their home, naked, and was raped by every man coming into the house, whenever he wanted.

Many women disappeared during the partition, were raped, maimed or killed. Those of my grandparents’ Hindu friends, who decided to stay on in East Pakistan after partition, faced an even greater amount of violence during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. It seems like violence refused to leave their generation.

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I feel saddened that the 1947 partition of Bengal finds little mention in our school books here in India, as compared to the 1905 Bengal partition, which we all know about, as it gives us an opportunity to diss Lord Curzon, a rather temperamental and racist British Governor-General. Unfortunately, even in popular discourse and in history courses in college, the 1947 partition of West Bengal is given lesser importance as compared to the partition on the Punjab border.

Narratives on partition need to be told, for they show the extent of brutality humans can reach in the name of war, and its discussion might motivate many of us to not repeat the same in the future. Bengal went through two partitions – 1947 and 1971, and both need to be documented to give voices to those people who faced grave injustice.

When I was a kid, I heard a distinctive term in West Bengal for people like me – Bangal. People who migrated to India from East Pakistan. In passing jokes, I was referred to as a ‘non-resident Bangladeshi’ by some people. I was even asked by many if I truly ‘felt’ Indian and felt any attachment towards my grandparents home in present day Bangladesh. It’s absurd that I can be expected to feel attachment for a place that may very well be submerged now.

In the present day, I have even been asked whether my grandparents ‘migrated’ during the Bangladesh Liberation war, even though I have told these very people that my father was born in the 60’s in India. Somehow, there still seems to be a doubt and disbelief in some people till date as to whether those who came to India as refugees do harbour a sense of nationality. As if living across the border all of a sudden demoted us from Indians to refugees, who were given asylum in India. The truth is, we do feel ‘Indian’, because we know at what cost we got it, as compared to other people.

Yes, I did feel that pang of pain when my maternal grandfather talked to me about his home in East Pakistan, about how beautiful it was, and how he flew kites there with his friends. I did get that feeling of despair when my paternal grandfather talked about his friend in Bangladesh and lamented not being able to meet him before he passed away.

My dad once narrated a story to me about his grandmother, well into her 40’s during the partition, who recollected so much violence on a daily basis that she used to wash her clothes even if the shadow of a Muslim fell on them.

I don’t hate Muslims. But I hate that period of history that divided us to the extent that we killed our own friends. I hate that independence that wrought so much conflict onto my family. I hate having paid the price for it, and for still paying the price for it, through the weird fear that arises in me whenever someone mentions Pakistan or Bangladesh.

No, Independence didn’t come easily to my family and millions of others. We paid a price for it. Many in the mainland of India don’t understand that, and it’s saddening that our discourse of history fails to address the unheard voices of 2 million people killed and displaced in this brutal event.

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As a child, whenever I asked questions about partition, my grandparents never answered. I only got access to any information in their mental archive when they spoke about the event themselves. Recollecting the good memories, they never let the bad ones overpower them. Sometimes, I felt very sad that they couldn’t go back to their hometown. Now, I am even more saddened by the fact that they died with their last wish unfulfilled – to re-live their childhood in their homeland once again. I always dreamt about growing up and taking my grandparents to Bangladesh, seeing those streets they grew up in, those stores where they got their food, that beautiful sight of the river Brahmaputra that they grew up being mesmerised with.

It could never happen.

There was an ad brought out by Google around three years back. About two grandchildren in India and Pakistan who got visas for their grandfathers to unite the two friends many years after partition. The ad may have touched many, but it failed, like so many other discourses, to address the violence both grandfathers must have faced while crossing the border.

If you ever meet any senior citizen from Bengal or Punjab, remember one thing – we Indians owe our Independence to their sacrifice, for what they gave up for their country. Till date, many of them and their children are asked if they feel ‘Indian’ enough. Acceptance into their own country, earlier just another state; but after 1947, a whole new country altogether, was an injustice inflicted on them. We should never forget the service they did for our country and always remember the sacrifice of those who died on both sides of the border.

Debates on genocide in India surround those events that took place in the 21st century. It is time we accept the price paid by so many people for our freedom today, so that every child, like me, knows the brutal tryst with history we all had. The Partition Museum project in Amritsar is one step in that direction, but it still needs to incorporate the voice of the Bengali people.

This article isn’t meant to be a treatise. And I know my experience in a household that faced partition is different from most people. But I also know that I grew up in a country for which my grandparents paid a price. And I can never forget that. And I am no lesser an Indian just because my grandparents were refugees. Because without their displacement, India wouldn’t have existed. The creation of India demanded their sacrifice, a price they shouldn’t be paying for, even today, by being asked for their loyalties towards the country.

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Why India Needs Good Social Scientists

The February 9 JNU issue brought out two important issues to the political fora:

  1. That the Indian institution is ready to take any issue and spiral it out of control
  2. That there is a need to not misrepresent and misunderstand social scientists

Indians have fundamentally shunned the social sciences ever since the tech boom or rather since Independence, when our founding fathers, with a background in the social sciences ended up unconsciously putting social sciences in the background in their search for ‘modernising’ India. The social tumult India went through during the years of the Emergency and later liberalisation of the economy failed to ask a very basic question – has India’s quantitative expansion of its higher education system failed to qualitatively discover itself?

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Image source: DNA

The tussle of the Indian government with JNU brought up very important debates into the public forum. All of a sudden, students of the most prestigious social science institution in India became ‘traitors’ and ‘anti-nationals’. The discipline of history was viewed with scorn when Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, students of the History department of JNU stood up in solidarity with Kanhaiya Kumar, the defamed students’ union leader of JNU.

This is not surprising in a country that has failed to produce good social scientists over the years to answer the never-ending debate of why social stigma, social differences and political unrest still prevail in a country that is supposedly a melting point of all the races of the world.

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Image source: Indian Express

India’s tryst with the study of the social sciences started under the British rule, with the teaching of European enlightenment ideas under their education system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The ideas of Rousseau, Voltaire, Kant and Aristotle did evoke generations of scholars like Rammohan Roy, Surendranath Banerjea, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Jawaharlal Nehru  and even Gandhi to take forth the mantle of independent thought and action forward in their struggle for India’s fight for Independence. But Independence brought with it an absence of the teachings of these leaders and what they learnt from the European Enlightenment.

Take for example, the Father of the Nation, Gandhi. How many of us in India have been exposed to his teachings in school? Hardly a few can even vouch for having read Gandhi, apart from the regular exposure to him in history books, that has reduced him to a mere political figure.

The Indian diaspora desperately needs social scientists today more than ever before as glaring problems confront India. From Naxalites in the states of Chattisgarh and Jharkhand to disgruntled students to changing voter identities to caste issues, the country needs a force of social scientists that can analyse the differences and formulate social methods to bind the country together. Getting more political scientists or historians into the Civil Services isn’t the answer. The Indian society needs to let writers, journalists, political analysts, think tanks, theatre artists – any form of social dissent thrive, that can question and reform the structural basis of Indian society.

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Image source: voanews

We need to understand why institutions like JNU are important for the society. Places that produce research on the social sciences reproduce talent that understands the social fabric of India, understands the behavioral psyche of people, treats people as humans, not resources. Take for example farmer suicides. In 2015, a drought in places like Latur in Maharashtra led many farmers to commit suicide after their crops failed. Politicians treated it as a scenario where the average day-to-day farmer was disgruntled with the credit system, and faced a rising debt in light of little or no crop.

A social scientist would have understood exactly which kind of farmers were being affected by the drought – the marginal farmer with land less than an acre, whose land was divided over generations, because of the Hindu system of land sharing amongst the sons. For him, the need wasn’t a better credit system or a better market rate for his crops – his need was for the government to understand that India still lives in its villages and we need to be prepared for the irregular monsoon by giving the farmers high-yielding varieties of seeds and better irrigation facilities, not bank accounts.

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Image source: The Hindu

Recently, social scientists are being viewed by people who are making use of the identity to pursue a career in politics. And I fail to understand why that is viewed as a bad thing. People like Shashi Tharoor, with a PhD in History are trying to make a difference to Indian politics by using their deep understanding of the Indian system and its failings/strengths to work within the system and produce something relevant out of it.

Politicians in the United States are mostly from liberal arts backgrounds,  and they are people who use their knowledge of American politics and foreign policy to represent their country better on an international platform (I am discarding the example of Trump’s election in this essay, for now).

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Image source: tehelka

Social sciences research in India has seen dismal growth in the past decade with a rather low number of papers from Indian scholars based in their country’s universities getting published in leading international journals. Even those assuming charge of important institutions like the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) have had papers published in only half-yearly college journals, with their academic research failing to reach an international forum, where feedback is more fierce and emphasis on analysis and quality more rampant.

While the dominance of the Global North in academics can not be denied, there is still a need to retrospect the failings in the Indian academic system that presents rusty social sciences research to the world. This is a scary number as it shows that Indians are failing to question their society, an example of inward regression into non-acceptance of many realities.

T.S Papola puts this in a better way in his paper, Social Sciences Research in Globalizing India:

Major concerns of India as a politically independent nation were seen to be economic in nature, and it was assumed that economic development would lead to resolution of most social problems as well…by reorienting the pattern of growth to make it more equitable and by adopting special measures, mostly economic, favouring the poor and the disadvantaged. As a result, Economics attained the major importance among social science disciplines, in terms of relevance for identifying, diagnosing and treating the problems of Indian society.

Yet, we can’t put the blame on the research universities alone. The Government also needs to set aside money for pursuing research in the social sciences. It’s a commonly known fact by students that it will be easier to get money for pursuing research in nanotechnology or even stem cell research, rather than on deciphering the Indus Valley script. That itself is alarming. Without funding, the Archaeological Survey of India took nearly 100 years to excavate the Harappan civilization and date India’s history back by another thousand years. And now, without further research in the social sciences, the discipline will be open to political conflict and re-interpretation because no new research is being undertaken to counter politically-inflamed views.

Economists now hold top positions in policy-making in the country, but historians, philosophers and political scientists have receded to the background. Interdisciplinary studies have diminished, making every view a narrow one.

India’s Constitution is a standing example of what can happen if only a particular discipline is allowed to prevail. At 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules, India’s constitution is the longest in the world, because it was composed by mostly lawyers. The Constitution ended up being a legal document with numerous loopholes, that answered many questions, yet remained silent on others, making it open to interpretation and potential abuse.

Institutions like the London School of Economics and Oxford have become institutions of excellence because students there are forced to think, and not conform to a certain academic viewpoint. In India, a Bachelor of Arts degree has been reduced to mere rote learning. Students are expected to mug thousands of pages, ready answers to furnish as their own in the examination, leaving no scope for them to think beyond what they can read in their academic text. The vast syllabus the universities aim to complete within three years is also an injustice on the students.

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Image source: blacknet

The presence of multiple view points in India present a unique scenario for social sciences research and if tapped, India’s market, economy and society can be mapped on paper like never before. Students, if led on the right path, can grow into conscientious individuals ready to question the things given to them, and can help mend the cracks in the current system.

The discipline of social science gives individuals an opportunity to think, something the sciences can not offer. If we don’t create our own Tagores or Gandhis, then very soon this country will become a walking replica of George Orwell’s 1984. And one doesn’t need to read the novel to understand what kind of state I am referring to.