feminism · Indian Woman's Musings · Opinionated

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.

 

 

 

 

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Indian Woman's Musings · Life

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:

An Indian Woman's Ramblings · Indian Woman's Musings · Life · Opinionated

Finding That Perfect Story…

Growing up in a typical Bengali household two things happen to you:

A. You need to learn English and have an “impeccable” hold on the language and its grammar

B. You have to read Tagore and you get introduced to the classics of English literature even before you can take your first steps as a toddler

As a kid, even without prodding from my parents, I always had a natural affinity for learning languages and moulding words. Whenever I wrote a story or a poem, I felt as if I had finally exercised my ‘creative liberty’. I felt proud of myself for creating something new, similar to what a civil engineer feels when he makes a new bridge, I guess. I have always wanted to find that “right” story as a child, that one concept that will change everyone’s life. Maybe this happened because Harry Potter was a literary phenomenon in my childhood days, or maybe this happened because my brain refused to understand anything except English (and sometimes) Hindi literature and language.

To be honest, I wasn’t really a grammar person. The technicalities of the language never attracted me. The intricate beauty of it did. Reading Amir Khusro, Tagore, Manto or even a Premchand takes you into a different world – a blend of the social with the fiction, and nothing gave me more joy than imagining that some day I will do so too.

But, is it easy to find that right story? Many-a-times, an idea strikes you when you’re in the train (or even in the loo). Can you always pen it down? There have been days when my mind is mentally writing a novel, but when I sit to pen it down, the words don’t flow. All of a sudden, I have lost my story.

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I read the life story of Christopher Paolini when I was in 8th grade (the writer of the fantasy-mythical novel, Eragon). When he was 16, he fled home, went into a forest, and then started writing a novel there, imagining the setting as a mythical-forest oriented set up. And boom, he wrote one of the most engaging pieces of literature ever.

Now, I can’t run into a forest to write a story. There is no forest in the concrete heartland of New Delhi. There are parks in Delhi, but they don’t inspire me to write a story as fantastical as Eragon. This brings me to my dilemma – how and where do I find my perfect story?

Stories are incidental. They aren’t manufactured products for an industry. I am not looking at being a Chetan Bhagat, hell no. I am looking at writing like an Arundhati Roy or a Rowling or a Rushdie, but I don’t have the incidental set up for the same. I have been told by many that money buys you peace that helps you write a novel, as was the case with Tagore. But then, there are people like Rowling who got an idea like a Harry Potter in staunch poverty. So I am pretty sure that money has got nothing to do with finding that perfect story. Some people just find it, and thankfully, pen it down.

It even takes years for people to write another novel, or find another story after they have found the first one. Take for example Harper Lee. Her masterpiece, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ fetched her royalties for a lifetime. And it took her 55 years to pen down her next one, which wasn’t even half as good as the first.

I don’t want to be a mass producing printing machine, writing one novel after the other to satisfy my growing fan population. I want to write that perfect story that will make people cry, will make them emote in wonderous ways and evoke a sense of happiness. Maybe it might make them emote otherwise, even make them angry, but it will still be a classic. But, what if I live this entire lifetime and don’t find my story? That can happen. Has happened for a lot of people. Had the talent, had the time, had the creativity level, but never found their perfect story.

I know writers like me have a hard life. Because we look for that opportune moment when a story strikes us, but that’s rare to come by. For technical people this is tough to understand – I mean, writing is still a job, right? Why can’t we just sit with our pen, write till something strikes us? But it doesn’t work that way. Creativity is like a flowing river. A tsunami in the river is rare, but as and when a rare wave rises, it sweeps everything off the shore away. I am waiting for that wave, and that is tough to explain. Even when I write this blog, I don’t write it every day. There are days when I just feel like I have to express, and that is the day I even blog.

When I meet a non-creative (by that I mean an engineer or a doctor or someone who is not pursuing a writing career) person, I find their methodology of thinking very daunting. If I ask them how they feel, they reply, “I am feeling good.” But when I am asked the same question by them, my brain (or rather, heart), churns out responses like, “is this even a relevant question for it is tough to feel something constantly for a long time” or “emotions are wandering beings, I may feel good at this second, terrible in the other, for time never gives you time to heal, it just makes you go with the flow.” Not a straight-jacketed answer, rather something deep, that seems just too bourgeois for a layman to comprehend. Yet, there are times when I meet uberly creative people who seem to bring a new twist to everything they say (happens a lot in the advertising industry) – you feel that if they can be creative at the drop of a hat, why does my brain get blocked while looking for THAT perfect story?

I am busy putting together my thought-ship. I am busy stealing the beautiful language used by other people. Or maybe I am yet to find my writing style. That style that will be the essence of my lovely/lonely story. There are days when I am so desperate to start writing my novel that I feel like penning down an auto-biography, with the feeling – I am sure my struggles will resonate with a lot of people and will be a terrific book! But, writing doesn’t and shouldn’t function that way. I don’t want to steal from my life. I want to find that one character who will be my buddy, whose life I can create. I sometimes do feel like being a Ruskin Bond – disappearing into my own little void and rising up only when pestering publishers want me to show my face to promote my book.

A writer is a weird personality. He/she is moody, unpredictable and insecure. Moody because they let all emotions get to them, for when you feel all the emotions within you is when you mature as a writer. Unpredictable because they can be hospitable at one moment, unwelcoming in the next. They may want company desperately at times, they might want to be alone in the next. Insecure because it’s tough to find their perfect story. Yes, we sound like whimsical creatures who just like things to be our way, but it’s not actually that. Imagine stopping Shakespeare when he wanted to pen down Antony-Cleopatra in his own personal space. Imagine forcing a Paolini to socialize while he was writing the climax of Eragon. We writers don’t see the world when we see our pen/paper. All we see is that character, that set-up and our perfect story. Writers are hard to come by, but easy to “manufacture”. You can always find a journalist in your friend’s circle, but it is hard to find a writer writing for a living in it. For it is very tough to find that perfect story and be that writer you always wanted to be.

I know writing and literature is present in my blood. Because it all came to me naturally when I decided to pick up a Shakespeare play over a Math CD (much to my mother’s chagrin). Writing comes to me naturally too. But that perfect story is still alluding me. Will I find it on a holiday or when I am sitting at my desk doing my daily job? Will I find it when my mind is clear of all clutter? Will I find it if I read a little more?

I know I am Bengali and it’s typical of us to get into the creative field. My community is dominated by people who are artists, painters, dancers, singers and writers. And that has happened because for generations my community valued intellectual pursuit over manual/technological work. Which is fine. But I don’t want to be stereotyped as another “bong who decided to be a writer”. I want to see myself as a person who is looking for that perfect story. A writer who will be remembered by people by her work, not her name. I want to resonate with a character who will flow in my veins, take her/his form when I am sitting down to pen the novel. I want to be free, I want to be in my own Narnia some day.

But when that will happen is a mystery and might continue to be in the years to come. But, as soon as I have struck gold, I will let you know. After all, why wouldn’t I want to introduce the hero of my life to those who loyally read me before he/she came along?

To summarise, this is what finding my ‘right’ story really means for me.

“Agar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”

(If there is paradise on earth, then it is this, it is this)

An Indian Woman's Ramblings · Indian Woman's Musings · Life · Life in India

The Anomaly Of The Workspace, “The Bad Worker”

It has been 4 months since I left a bad workplace. But the experience still rests in my mind, not because I like to remember it, but because that experience taught me to be miserable, and unhappy. A lot of people don’t understand you, when you may say, “I have a bad job”, or “I have a bad boss”. A good job is like that perfect arranged Indian marriage – where you strike gold. That’s why many people don’t leave their good jobs, even when they know that they can get a better pay elsewhere.

I had always considered myself a ‘good worker’, someone who fulfilled her tasks on time, who listened to her seniors, paid attention, learnt fast. I made mistakes, but not anything major that could cost me my job.

When I entered the bad workplace last year, I was under the impression that I could learn and grow there. I pushed myself to my limit, but got little or no appreciation. I tried learning my work, but my boss made my anxiety levels shoot up the roof with her unreasonable demands. Coming to office on time was more important than completing the task at hand, suddenly. I was in military school, but without the tag of one.

My bad experience made me bitter, unreceptive to criticism, arrogant, impatient and above all, angry. A vent up frustration started building up within me. I was frustrated with my life, frustrated that I was working hard and building something for someone who didn’t deserve it.

When I started the job, it wasn’t that bad. The initial month was the time to learn. A fellow co-worker, whom I then considered a bad worker, primarily because she didn’t perform well, left within a month after I joined. Suddenly the vortex of torture moved from her to me.

It’s not that my boss was angry at me every single day. She spoke sweetly to me. But she made me panic, made me feel overburdened, made me hate my job. You may think I have massive hatred for her. But I have only pity. Pity because I know that her behavior may get her through there, but will land her nowhere in the future (at least that’s what I can hope for and be happy).

I was told by many colleagues in my first job that I should struggle and then join a corporate. I needed to understand the value of my corporate job and learning on the field would make me resourceful. I did go to the field – but I began hating myself and my decisions. I don’t think I learnt much from this bad job– all I learnt was how to become a bad boss.

My personal life too took a turn for the worse. All my frustrations from my job life fell on my boyfriend’s shoulders. Maybe I was to blame – I didn’t know what to do, so I took it out on him. And I regret that.

I still remember taking up that job. I was on the verge of completing my Masters degree and highly stressed. I had dreamt of a high-paying job when I went abroad, and unfortunately, the field of work I had chosen didn’t have any well-paying job. My experience was little, hopes a little too high. I took the first job in my field that I could find.

Life had taught me many things, but not patience. Alas, I learnt that the hard way.

Four months at that bad workplace broke my confidence, made me feel like I am a bad worker. I used to come back home, all tired, but still opened my laptop to finish my work, because there was just no sympathy given to those people working more than 9 hours a day.

I still remember waking up and not wanting to go to office, but had no option. Every morning was a horror – I just didn’t want to go back to that horrible place. I had loved my first job, where I was so enthusiastic to go to office that even my parents used to be super happy seeing my enthusiasm.

But all that place did for me was to make me more miserable. There was a weird friendship-cum-power structure in that office. So, I could make no friend who could understand my calamity. Those who are in similar situations like you are the best people to confide in. But I had no one to talk to. I slowly withdrew into a shell and eventually became a victim of depression.

I had many hopes, I wanted to do big things. But a bad boss does what even an enemy can’t – make you doubt yourself.

We humans are inherently selfish creatures, and being bad workers is mostly not in our nature. All of us want to grow big in a job, get a promotion. But none of us want to wake up in the morning thinking about the week ahead and the realization that you have no weekends off, no holidays, but just work, work and work.

My manager used to walk into office at 11 every day. I wouldn’t have cared about this much normally, but I did. Because she used to harass me for walking in at 10, when she herself didn’t have the decency to walk in at a time when I could respect her for her position. I know she might be angry reading this, but she needs to know what effect she has had on people.

I know I sound angry, resentful, hurtful. Did I deserve to go through this? Deserve may be a bad word… but how else can one define phases that are rough and harassment which is unjustified?

I found sexual harassment easier to deal with as compared to mental harassment in office. Maybe that’s because since my childhood, I, like every other woman, has been taught to let go of sexual advances, molestation and harassment, because thinking about these things does no good.

But why wasn’t I ever taught on how to deal with office harassment? The fact that when I want to feel useful and productive, I would constantly be pushed to feel inferior every single day?

Why didn’t I leave sooner? I wonder. Well, the answer is simple. I had no other place to go. Maybe that’s what happens to women in bad marriages who have no qualifications to maintain that standard of life that cannot be maintained once they leave their husbands. No, bad example. What I went through has no parallel. What those women go through have different reasons. But right now, I am looking for anything and everything to justify my situation and my calamity.

I wish I could think straight, I could forget that bad experience and love my job again, love going to office again. But I have fear in me. A fear that I will  become ‘useless’ again.

I am an upper caste, ‘privileged’, urban woman, you may say. I got all I wanted in life, so I shouldn’t complain.

But I have also never used wrong means, never harassed anyone, never lived without a guilty conscience when I hurt someone knowingly or unknowingly. I have always wanted people to be happy around me, and be happy myself, but why does happiness elude me? I want to be happy, is asking for happiness a crime?

When people tell you, “you have everything, be happy”, I find that statement funny. What is the metric of happiness? Is wealth, class and education the only definition of happiness?

Every day since my childhood, I have looked for constant happiness, which I have failed to get. Maybe I am broken, I am weak, but I am not useless, not unimportant. I am beautiful, I am who I am, and I should remain happy. I should get what I want, not because I am ‘privileged’, but because I have worked for it. Because I want it, because that makes me happy. Happiness makes me happy.

My blog is called fortunate musings, and I am fortunate enough to be musing and writing about my woes right now.

But I want you to understand that you are not alone. You may be dark, brown, have curly hair, be deaf or blind, but you deserve to be happy. You don’t deserve to be told constantly that you’re useless.

Many out there will do that to you, but don’t lose hope. I have felt suicidal many times, I have felt helpless, alone. But I found you. I hope you find me. Together we can give each other hope.

If your boss ill-treats you, still believe in yourself. If today is a bad day, tomorrow is a new beginning. And, you deserve to be happy. You really do.

 

An Indian Woman's Ramblings · Indian Woman's Musings · Life

Why I believe I am my own enemy.

Apologies for being away for so long. Its been a long time since I took up the pen to pen down my thoughts. Primarily because I was suffering from the writer’s block. But this writer’s block isn’t something that came up because of my inability to pen down my thoughts, hell no. This was a self-imposed exile out of which it took me nearly two months to realise that a self-imposed hibernation would be better rather than an exile, because an exile isn’t a choice – hibernation is.

For many months, I have been struggling to grasp the true meaning of life. As a liberated woman (at least I tend to think of myself that way), I always grasped life as something I can lead on ‘my terms’. But over the course of some months, I realised that life is the worst thing mankind has to live through. Its got too many rules, too many struggles, too many hardships – you name it. Doesn’t it anger you when you feel helpless, or useless, or unsuccessful, especially when you know you don’t deserve it? Doesn’t it hurt to see someone else deriving so much happiness out of their little life, by being stable, strong and calm?

Why can’t I be like that? Why isn’t my life like that? Isn’t life what we make of it? Aren’t we taught since we were children that hard work reaps success?

Angered by these thoughts, I sought recourse in killing the only thing that I loved the most – writing. Or typing, since I maintain an online blog.

I have been hurt by many things over the past couple of months. First by my ego, two by my foolishness. Ego because it made me disrespectful, angry, made me overexpectant, irrational, hateful, depressed. My foolishness because I let myself believe that others are responsible for my actions. Those who loved me, stopped staying by my side, because even they got tired for being blamed for my actions, when they could clearly see I was in the wrong.

Was I?

The problem with getting an education abroad is that you tend to expect too much from yourself. A fancy, expensive education prepares you for a lifetime of struggle/happiness in the maddening corporate world. The girl in me wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a writer, the woman in me realised that writing would only happen if I had money.

So, that made me angry. Expectant. Foolish. And hungry for the wrong things.

I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. But I do know this – I want to document each and every emotion that passes through me on this blog, because it is the document of my existential crisis. Many of you or maybe some of you might be facing these conflicting emotions on a daily basis, and I want you to know that there is someone out there who is exactly like you.

Complicated beings like us are tough to comprehend, understand. I know I will be slogging away at a corporate house in a couple of months maybe, but stability may bring me happiness. But, for how long? I have created a barrier in my head that butts out happiness – but is that who I am? Is this all a part of growing up? If it is, why is it so painful?

Should I release it all by choosing the easier path of life? But what is the easier path of life?

My writing skills go unnoticed at the hands of those willing to monetise on my skills. But what are my skills? My face looks into the mirror and doesn’t recognize itself. What am I good at? I don’t know. Maybe I do, but my mind is blocked. I thought I could follow my passion, but low pay and bad behaviour made me quit. I think I can survive in a bad, mad corporate world, but I may change my mind in the future too. Does that make me defocused and shallow? Can I respect myself?

All these thoughts run through my head – not because I like wasting time, but because I need answers. I sometimes do feel at peace with myself at times – I feel calm, I feel like nothing can harm me. Then, am I my own enemy? I don’t know.

If I do figure it out, I will let you know. And if I don’t, I still will.

 

 

 

 

Indian Woman's Musings · Life in India · Opinionated

Liberation v/s Security

Ever since the telecast of the ‘Vogue Empower’ video of Deepika Padukone, women’s “liberation” has become a strong point of argument, analysis and debate. There are those who hated the video, others who loved it. There were some who found the video ‘liberating’, others who considered the video encapsulating – a wormhole into which women are pigeonholed and classified as beautiful creatures who should be bound to certain traditions.

But more than the whole controversy around the video, especially the lyrics- what is more baffling is the concept of liberation. What is freedom? Does freedom mean liberation? Can/Should an actress like Deepika Padukone define liberation for an Indian woman?

I once went to India Gate in Delhi at night with a friend. We were in the car, planning to get out, when a group of guys entered the car beside ours, and all of them kept their eyes glued on me.They kept looking at me, as if they had never seen a woman before in their life. While heading to India Gate, I felt “liberated” and happy that I could exercise my choice of travelling at night with a man in a car in a city like Delhi. But once I reached there, my liberation paved its way to insecurity. Even though those men were in the car beside mine, I still wanted to leave and go to a ‘secure’ location. My decision to feel free actually made me feel scared. I exercised my choice, but my choice made me repent.

This whole contradictory stance of society, especially Indian society, where women’s rights are an issue, but women’s security isn’t – is costing us dearly. While we have protests on the road, magazines writing about women’s rights, laws being enacted over molestation and laws being deliberated on marital rape- who can guarantee cent percent ‘security’ for every woman in the country?

While a Deepika Padukone teams up with Kapil Sibal and Homi Adjania to make a video on women’s empowerment & women’s right to exercise their “choices” – how far can we go with simple idealism? After all, there are some women out there who do get an opportunity to exercise their rights, but regret it because their rights have exposed them to the dirty side of society that prides itself in subjugating women to subordination.

I am not saying that Deepika Padukone is mistaken in making such a video. She is an actress, she needs publicity, she wants to stand up for a cause in her own way. I don’t blame her. We all are here on this planet, following our dreams, trying to set examples.

But this whole problem of security still bothers me. For a woman, security doesn’t mean having a man around like a bodyguard. Security has multiple levels – one can feel secure alone, secure in a crowd, secure without a crowd. But this feeling of security is lacking everywhere. I, as a woman, feel scared to walk into Chandni Chowk wearing a skirt. I can exercise my “choice” of wearing a skirt and entering Chandni Chowk, but can I feel liberated when I do that?  I can’t, because liberation doesn’t mean a guarantee of security.

I don’t want to sound like a “meek woman” craving for security. After all, there is the police on the road, there are  feminist men out there who want to protect women from the bad elements of society. When I complain too much, there are people present to tell me, “stop complaining and learn martial arts”, “carry pepper sprays”, “punch the guy in his balls”. I am aware that sitting and crying for something won’t change anything for me. But I want to understand how the whole argument of liberation will guarantee me security in India. How will it? I don’t have the answer, I am simply asking a question. Maybe some day someone will be able to provide me a constructive answer that can lead to the bridging of this gap.

Till then, Deepika Padukone can keep making her videos and Bollywood can keep churning out its item numbers – Bollywood actresses never really have to worry about walking on the streets on a daily basis anyways. And those who haven’t seen the Vogue empower video- take a look at it.

Indian Woman's Musings · Life in India · Opinionated

Why I can’t sleep after seeing India’s daughter

On 16th December, 2012, a final year Physiotherapy student was brutally raped in New Delhi. Brutally. The rapists not only gang- raped her, one of them also inserted an iron rod into her vagina, pulling out her intestines. They threw her body out onto the street, but she still survived. She battled for her life for 13 days, finally dying and saying these last words to her mother, “I am sorry.”

Am I angry? Yes. Have those who raped her been brought to justice?? No. The world hasn’t allowed India to forget this incident. Indians have a very short memory, scandals are scandals for a month, and then disappear into oblivion. But this time, people didn’t forget. They got out onto the streets, and the whole issue became a criticism of Indian society’s outlook towards women. I have grown up being told that I shouldn’t travel alone at night. Why? Because there is a possibility that I might get raped!

I remember talking to a friend about molestation one day and she told me how her experience of molestation made her feel so violated, even taking a shower couldn’t wash away the feeling of disgust. I just tried imagining how a rape victim felt. Death seems like the worst thing to happen to humankind. Not death, but dying while living is the worst thing to happen to humankind. And the structure of Indian society is such that once a woman gets raped, her life is finished. She is walking corpse.

Sex is a difficult topic in Indian society. People don’t want to discuss it, but we still are the second most populous country in the world. Simple life events like menstruation are treated like a disease. Menstruating women aren’t allowed to enter temples because they are ‘impure’. I don’t understand how we can consider ourselves a cultured society. What kind of a culture do we have? Where some places we have kanya puja (girl-worship), another place dalit women are treated worse than animals.

When the Nirbhaya case happened, I remembered reading the newspaper and imagining, for two seconds, if it was me in her place. It could have been anyone that day. But it was a young girl, aspiring to be a doctor, who was her parent’s only source of support. And it had to be her. I have stopped believing in religion. Because no God, Prabhu, Allah, Mahavira or Christ was there to save her that night. She was raped in the most brutal way possible. There are worse rape cases around the world, but India needed to learn a lesson. After 60 years of Independence, what have me managed to establish? We don’t even have 100% literacy. Our Ministers are themselves convicted of crimes. Despite having a woman Prime Minister, did we manage to topple US when it comes to Women rights? What do we have to be proud of, apart from our engineers running Microsoft and Google? Could those engineers save Nirbhaya?

India’s Daughter, a documentary on the 2012 rape case is made by a British lady, and a rape victim herself Leslee Udwin. A lot of people might be sceptical to see the video, given Danny Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire, which made India immensely unpopular. The Indian government banned the video, stating that it might create a culture of ‘fear’ amongst women.

My question is plain and simple- Why are we running away from the reality? We know our society is screwed up, men have a mis-conception of power. Men in smaller cities grow up believing they can OWN a woman, they have a right over a woman because they are a MAN. If a girl refuses a man’s love proposal, he can throw acid on her, so that she can never be with another man. If a woman speaks out of line, either her father or her husband will thrash her. If a girl in a village decides to wear jeans, she will be eve-teased by the local men. And if she walks out after 10 in the night, men will rape her, irrespective of her being 15 or 50.

We have a culture of male misogyny. We have a culture of sexism. We don’t have a culture at all, we have a screwed up conception that we have culture in the first place. All those politicians claiming that India is “pure” because we aren’t like the West, aren’t they the ones watching porn in Parliament and sleeping with prostitutes, or forcing young women to sleep with them because they are politicians?

While watching this documentary, I couldn’t bring myself to face Jyoti Singh’s mother. We collectively failed her a society. We have failed her. Plain and simple. Even if she had lived, she would have been crippled for life. It doesn’t matter which government was in power back then. The Sheila Dikshit led UPA or anyone else. The fact that something like this could happen and the perpetrators not be hanged immediately, is the collective shame of every government. AAP, BJP and UPA. Everyone.

We all have daughters, sisters, mothers. Would we ever submit them to this level of horrendous violence? India doesn’t need an anti- corruption movement right now. India needs radical change when it comes to making the country safe for women. That can be done even without educating people. It doesn’t need a educated man to know that women need to be respected, it needs a human to know one. By “safety” and “respect” I don’t mean, like the lawyers in the documentary said, keeping women at home. I am unable to sleep because I know if I ever land in India after seeing this documentary, I can’t trust the cab driver driving me home. I can’t trust the local shopkeeper. I am scared, not just for myself, but for my daughter. She will grow up in such a world and society where being a girl is the root cause of all problems.

Teaching women Taekwondo or giving them pepper sprays isn’t the way out. It is easy to hand a girl a pepper spray and teach her to use it, but when ten lecherous men try to gang rape, they can simply overpower you. Why doesn’t the government accept this harsh reality and make policing stricter? Why can’t we go on the lines of Singapore, where every rapist is given capital punishment?

The United Nations has been advocating that India rid itself of capital punishment. But what has the UN to say for SUCH a heinous crime? Such a heinous rape? Ban Ki Moon or Barack Obama, if you’re listening, please put yourself in Nirbhaya’s place and re-live the rape. Lets see where your advocacy for revoking capital punishment goes. It is very easy to read a legislation in the UN, much more difficult to do something for those hundreds and thousands of women getting molested and raped everyday.

I don’t care if the rapist was a juvenile. It’s been over 2 years, why haven’t the rapists been hanged? Did the UPA government, for vote politics and show business give those people a death sentence? And then we say lets make India safer for women? kahan se safe hoga! How?? If those rapists aren’t hung openly in Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, if their penises aren’t castrated and their intenstines taken out, then what kind of justice can we even espouse for Nirbhaya??!

Buddhism and other religions advocate that revenge is wrong. But we need revenge. It has been too long that Indian women have taken molestation and rape with a pinch of salt and moved on. Changing cities for a rape victim won’t reduce her trauma. Young girls who are molested don’t forget the molestation experience for life.

India has a golden opportunity. It can change things, become an exemplary example for other nations. But all Narendra Modi’s government cares about is NaMo’s image. Listen to me BJP, putting women in Parliament isn’t the solution. Rid the Parliament of people who pass comments like, It is the woman’s fault. Don’t blame Bollywood and it’s item numbers for rapes, discipline the people YOU elect into the Parliament who pass statements like, “it’s in men’s nature to rape,” “chowmein and mobile phones cause rape.”

The rapist showed no remorse while saying that they raped Jyoti Singh because she stood up to them. Even if the argument that Leslee bribed him is true, why is he even alive to say these things? He considers his case as no exception. It is not education that we need, we need the goddam men, the politicians to go to the villages, and start hanging all rapists from the nearest tree. India isn’t Europe or the USA, we can’t go around trying to impress the Western world and show them that we have Ipads and the newest technology in our country. A country which can’t safeguard its women can’t call itself a democracy. And women don’t need men to safeguard them, women need the society to support them.

Pre- marital sex is a taboo, any woman in a live-in is a slut, a widow or divorcee is the perfect person to be harassed for sex, because she isn’t a virgin anymore. I am not saying such mentalities are not present in other societies, but India now has these glaring into her face – these are cracks that have been exposed. And we need to change. Hinduism isn’t about purity of the woman, all those RSS activists or renowned personalities like Katju who claim to know everything about a woman, should put themselves in Nirbhaya’s place. I can’t sleep, eat or think after watching the documentary. Because I know a few months later I will be going back to a country where I will be scared, every day will be a battle for me.

And the saddest part is- there are women who support their husbands/sons who are rapists. Love for your kin is fine, but if your kin murders someone, you are also a partaker in the crime. Crying for your kin’s fate or blaming it all on the girl is cowardice. This is where our society has come to! I know that if I am ever eve teased in India for wearing shorts, everyone will blame me first. After all, its the basic right of men to stare and comment, isn’t it? Wearing short clothes is an invitation for rape! For how long will women take the blame?

All mothers – especially those with only sons, I urge you to please make your son watch this documentary. All I can do is write right now, but you can make a difference. Make your sons sit there and realise the extent they can go to if they wield the power granted to them. And schools should make this documentary compulsory viewing everywhere. This video is a slap on our democracy, our facade of “culture”. I don’t care if India has hundreds and thousands of achievements, as a woman I think every achievement is baseless because India isn’t a country for women. Its a soul less society today. And I am ashamed to call myself a woman from India.

I can’t sleep. Sleep won’t come to me anymore. Because I know that while I am sleeping peacefully at one corner of the world, another woman is getting raped in my country.