feminism · Life in India

Hello Dowry-seeking (and giving) educated Indian parents, I welcome you to witness a 21st century female

(this article will be shifting from dowry seeking to dowry giving people, transgressing the thin line. But the context remains the same. Read below with caution)

Dear Dowry-seeking (and giving) Indian Parents,

Oh come on, don’t pretend you know taking dowry is a crime. Aren’t you proud of your son who is going to make you malamaal (super-rich)? Aww, you cute people, look at you all going red like a beetroot! Please don’t be so happy at my revelation, the fact that you can read this means you’re educated na? That’s a great thing! Because I am going to say things you don’t want to hear. I know you want to shut me up, what kind of upbringing have my parents given me- they haven’t taught me that being a girl I need to be submissive, quiet and accepting of everything that happens to me? Of course they have! My parents have given me all the sanskaars in the world to kick ass. Don’t worry.

Aren’t you the same people who educate their daughters (now that they are born you have to educate them right, if you don’t, people will think you’re conservative rural class people), and then don’t care about whether they are doing well or not? Aren’t you the same class of people who think that just getting a degree and getting a job suitable enough to find a good “match” for your daughter is the way to go? Oh yeah, and you also prepare your fixed deposits ever since your girl-child is born- akhir dahej ke paise hai (dowry money). You look at the news and curse those lower class people who take dowry and then negotiate with the boy’s family on how much the amount of the “gift” should be.

Oh dear educated people, why do you even distinguish yourselves from the lower-class, uneducated people? What’s the point? After all, you think the same way. Did I offend you? Oh, I am sorry, I am a woman, I should mind myself, shouldn’t I? I need to respect my elders? Plus why the hell am I bothered with what’s happening in your family, after all its your ghar ka maamla. What problem do I have in life, why the hell do I want to throw my brand of feminism on everyone.

Yeah, you’re right. I should really shut myself up. Because nothing is going to change you people. You all claim to be educated, in certain cases religious people, but can not fathom the fact that a woman’s primary function in life is to not be someone’s wife. That she is a human being who should be taught to have her own aspirations in life isn’t a choice. If she doesn’t study, you would rather let her be, because she anyways just needs to pass. Even if she studies, you don’t allow her to take tuitions far away from the house, because girls of good “households” don’t go out that often. You will try your best to compell your daughter to get an MBA if her bachelors degree is not that great, because if she isn’t working, then how will you find a good groom for her? Everything is about marriage, isn’t it? Everything around a woman is concerned around her primary reproductive function.

It is not uncommon for parents to start worrying about their daughter’s marriage as soon as she completes her education and secures a job. Why not? She is settled, isn’t she? Now you can find a nice little boy for her, and get rid of your responsibility. That she can turn around and exercise her decision to stay unmarried or pursue a career or marry someone isn’t an option.

Keep up the good work folks. The Indian government alleviated you all in the 70’s and 80’s into the middle class so that you can all do exactly what you saw in your generation. Then don’t educate your sons or daughters na. What’s the point? When there is no difference between you and an uneducated person.

You all will decry rape, but you will, because its something that concerns your daughter’s and families honour. It is not uncommon for people to say, “thank god she is married, I don’t need to bother about her anymore”. Why not, daughters are born out of thin air, not the womb, their importance is much lower anyways. A sperm is not needed to produce a daughter. All you need is some bad luck, and hola! you have a daughter.

My words hurt, don’t they? But what is more hurtful is the way you perceive women. Just because you don’t beat up your wives or forbid your daughters from going to school doesn’t mean you’re “progressive”. Just because women are different physically than men, doesn’t mean they should be treated differently. Oh well, what’s the point of telling you all, you anyways belong to the backward class brigade. Oh no, I am insulting the backward class. At least they are openly conservative.  You people are of the crowd who say, “We are very progressive”, and then inquire about a woman’s virginity in the marriage “arrangements”.

If your daughter isn’t motivated enough to study, the fathers don’t bother- they have a son, who has to DO WELL. Put all the pressure on the son, the daughter is anyways gonna get married and move away. Pressurise the son to do something for the family, because he has to support the family. (also qualifications + government job of son is directly proportional to dowry amount). Post the marriage of your son, you will seek solace in the arms of your daughter, but you will take help from your son. Your son will light your pyre, he is the reason for your ascent to “heaven”.

The hollowness of my society doesn’t fail to astound me. It is extremely saddening to see people like you. And you know its more hurtful when folks like you butt into the matters of your relatives and other people who have daughters and keep inquiring about their marriage. You even keep your eyes and ears open to find a good boy for your daughter, you keep asking others to look for good “boys”, to whom marriage will be a social status for the family. You even force your daughters to get in touch with these “eligible bachelors” so that they can catch a big fish in the net. So smart na. If not arranged marriage, then arrange a marriage.

The current conversion of dowry to “gift” is so convenient. Instead of cash, now parents ask for fridges, ACs, bikes, cars, etc. And its an accepted norm. Even if not specified, it is assumed by both ends that something will be provided on the day of the marriage. Some of you even conveniently time your request, asking for a “gift” right before the day of the wedding.   After all, it’s all for the girl itself!  Now which girl’s parent would want her marriage to break up a day before the wedding? If that happens, she will never find another match! Look at you blushing in glee. Of course, you know that. Smart asses you all have, don’t you. So, when I say you’re buying a legal prostitute for your son, does that anger you? Why shouldn’t it, this is a transaction for buying sex for your son, isn’t it?

Beloved parents, as much as your children love you, don’t think they are fooled by your “conservative” bent of thinking. And unfortunately for you, today women are becoming educated in the right way. And they talk. Much to your dismay. Leave your sons unmarried folks, because one day a woman like me might just become a victim of your machinations, but will not be put down by your daily nonsense. If you think your methods will carry on for generations to follow, then I am sorry to say uncles and aunties, this is the 21st century. We have better things to do. And your daughters obviously don’t want their daughters treated like garbage bags. But then, you all are caring, you will pressurise your daughter to produce a son after marriage to please her in-laws, won’t you? Ole le. And you think that’s so adorable ain’t it. You’re fulfilling your duties as a parent even after marriage.

Hoped you loved my letter and I am assuring you there will be more to follow 🙂

Jai Hind.

And please don’t watch the new All India Bakchod video on marriages and laugh your asses off if you can’t get the satire. Idiots.

Indian education · Life

Why studying in a girls college is the best thing that happened to me in my life

College life, for all of us, is our first step towards independence, our first flow into adulthood. Growing up on quintessential Karan Johar movies, my perception of college life was pretty much about handsome boys, large campuses, and mushy romance. All my dreams post school dashed when I had to seek admission in a girls college. Though my college was the best in India for my subject, it was a girls college. All of a sudden, my whole life’s quest of having a KJo defined college life seemed like a movie. Unfortunately, KJo movies aren’t exactly reality. That is the whole point of his movies.

The first few weeks in college were horrifying. There was not a single man in sight. All I saw were women, women and more women. A young teenage (woman) does need to talk to men occasionally, and given the location of my college campus, there was no college with men in sight. Did I regret my decision looking at photos of friends studying in co-educational colleges? Yes. I particularly resented the women in engineering colleges, who were so minute in number that they got all the attention from the men around them. I always believed studying with women all around me would mean endless cat-fights, bickering, unnecessary drama, tears, and everything pink and girly. Within months, my facebook profile (much to the happiness of my parents) was filled with girls. The only guys I met at random fests wanted to befriend me because I was in a women’s college and could introduce them to more “hot” chicks and maybe get them entry into my college for some nayan-sukh prapti (provision of entertainment for their eyes- a literal translation).

A lot of my friends who had studied at girls schools were also going through a similar dilemma. For a lot of my acquaintances, college life didn’t really seem like college anymore- it seemed like an extension of school. For outsiders, I was a feminist and a lesbian. For myself, I was just a loser who couldn’t get admission into an equally good co-educational institution.

women, women and only women around

But, a few months down the line, I started noticing a change in myself. I noticed a different kind of confidence in myself. All of a sudden, I was doing everything on my own. From handling projectors to organising events- all of my fellow female friends and me were doing everything on our own. Before, at home, I used to pass over all ‘hard’ responsibilities like bank work to my dad. My dad was always the ‘go-to’ guy for everything that wasn’t related to house-work. My dad bought the groceries, my dad counted the bill, my dad did the math, my dad withdrew money from the bank.

At 17, I started doing everything by myself. Initially, life was tough- but then I realised I didn’t need my father anymore to guide me to do things I could very well do by myself. Unknown to me, I was transforming into an independent woman. A woman who could do  everything on her own, who could handle every responsibility. Even the elections in my college were different – no campaign attacked a woman’s sexuality. Suddenly, sexuality became something I was comfortable with. I knew I could walk in my college corridors in my pyjamas, and nobody would care. Whether my hair style was a bun or a bob- no one bothered. All everyone bothered about was the intense debate and discussion in classroom – the ability to speak up for oneself. I knew I didn’t have to look good for someone, I could simply look and feel good for myself.

I didn’t need to do ‘manly’ things to get accepted within a particular society- my college was the utopia I always longed for- it was a society of equals. By the second year, I couldn’t imagine myself to be anywhere else. I know a lot of people might perceive me to be a hard-core feminist who believes society is better off without men, but I believe the society my college gave me was necessary for me to gain my comfort level with myself as a woman.

In my second year, I got elected into my department Union, and in the first talk that our Union organized, the speaker was a Gay rights activist. He narrated incidents of how men in a co-educational college he taught at used to make a ‘chick-list’ at the beginning of the year, to rate the face quotient of all the fresher girls. I could never imagine being subjected to that in my girls college. Two or three months later I went to attend a fest at a prestigious engineering college, and I bumped into two dudes there who explained to me that the girls in their institute were non-males and only became decent to look at by the fourth year of college. For me, this was a wake-up call. After spending years in a co-educational school, trying to look good, achieve a certain standard of perfection- I realised that I had always been stuck in a vortex of patriarchy. It took me three years in a girls college to understand that women were perfect the way they were and were empowered irrespective of clothes, social status or appearance. Before, I was naive and always aspired to be someone I never was. There were a lot of my classmates who were already empowered before college, but for a person like me, from a background where women didn’t do certain things… this was a wake-up call.

My respect for women and their choices has increased manifold now. I believe in a woman’s right to exercise her decision, without judging her. My ability to reason has increased, my ability to question has increased. I became the person I am today because I went to a girls college that believed in empowering women in every way possible. My college taught me to love men, but without forgetting my identity and letting go of it. My college taught me to accept myself and be proud of my sexuality. My college taught me that there are no rules that I need to follow- morals are of my own making, not society’s. I made friends, became more than friends with others, shared my life with them, my emotions, my every movement. I loved my friends without reason, and made friends and lovers for life. The world couldn’t understand my love for my fellow college mates- no one will ever do. For them we are just a bunch of women bonding over our oestrogen-ness. But a girl’s institution is more than that. You need to be there to feel what I felt in those three years of college. Even Karan Johar’s movies can’t beat the romance I had with my college. I feel privileged sometimes, that I could live in such a space. The world is cruel, and harsh. But I know that one day, I can make the society into the kind of free world my college is. Every woman, like me can receive the privilege of being free, in every way possible. Yes, my college made me a feminist, but without my college, I wouldn’t even be half the human I am today.

Indian Woman's Musings

A free bird in this wide world, chained with shackles.

Being a woman is amazing. You are graceful, beautiful and wonderful. At least that’s how I believe myself to be. A woman is someone who makes and breaks the world – without women, the earth would be a barren land with no sentiments. It’s said that God made women to give man accompaniment. I think God made women so that man could never match him in creating the most beautiful thing ever.

But, unfortunately, as much as I love being a woman, I am also very scared of this identity. I am scared because when I walk on the streets late at night, I feel that I am a woman. The gazes I see make me realize what my ‘constituents’ are and how vulnerable I might be in this world, if it decides to devour me.

I have always been upset about not getting the same ‘benefits’ in society like a man. After all, which woman wouldn’t want to walk on the streets alone, take a trip alone or just board any bus with only men on it without fearing for her ‘safety’? Safety, and honour. These are two words I despise the most. But after being brought up in a patriarchical society where not only men, but women also uphold  “honour” as the highest virtue, which, if taken away takes away everything from you – I have become conscious of the fact that I need to ‘save’ myself.

I see lecherous eyes, I lower mine. I hear lewd comments on my body, I shy away. As much as I claim myself to be a feminist, I feel ashamed of myself for not being able to stand up to three men in an alleyway who just asked me to sleep with them. Why? Because I know I am incapable of guarding myself against three men. I know I am weak. And it is this realization, every day, that makes me realize that whatever happens, even if I am educated and highly successful, at the end of the day, I am still a woman. A vulnerable woman.

So, who am I? A bird stuck in a golden cage? Sometimes I wish my parents had deprived me of education – education opened my eyes to the world and made me realize how inferior I actually am. Ignorance would have been bliss, rather than this cruel realization.

Recently, a woman got raped in a Uber cab in India. Women get sexually harassed at parties all the time in North America. And I am still to blame for it, because I was the one drunk and wearing short clothes. What about those women who still wear clothes and get stared and jeered at? Sometimes I feel walking without clothes is the best thing for women – give men what they want, in full view. If that’s what they want, let them get it. Because there is no point in campaigning for women’s rights when there isn’t any.

I recently saw a video which totally reiterated this irony of society.

I know I am a girl, but I am the one supposed to cry. A lot of people say nowadays that domestic violence is a thing of the past, but there are many women, even today, who don’t speak out against their husbands or boy friends. Why? Because they have been brought up by their parents to stick with their husbands through thick and thin, because leaving them causes shame in the society. After all, what will a woman do, staying single? What will happen to the children? Won’t they get the name of a father?

I am not against men. My father and brother are the two most progressive men I have ever seen. And I am fortunate to be with them. But I wish that when I get out into the world, every man out there could respect me the way my father does. Not talk to me and look at my breasts, but talk to me because what I say makes sense. Not sit with me to flirt with me and get me into bed, but sit beside me to share their thoughts.

I want men and women to walk hand in hand in society. I understand sex is a biological need – straight men do love women. Women also love men, but they don’t do what drunk (and sometimes completely sane), straight men do to an innocent woman walking on a street. Sometimes, one can learn from women. Do love what you love, but don’t take it out on the streets. If a woman says she doesn’t love you, or doesn’t reciprocate your love, don’t stalk her. If a woman wears what she wants to wear, look at her, but don’t make her regret for asserting herself.

I don’t know why I am blabbering all this when I know that I won’t be alive to see what I want to see. I just don’t want my daughter to go through what I went through. Because I know that when she will want to go out at 12 in the night to watch a movie, I will say no to her. I will have to restrict her, because I know the world is not safe for her. I will have to guard her as I know the world will not let her be who she wants to be.

I wish things would change. I wish things could change.