Wednesday, January 20, 2021

I too will be Free

 

How I long to run
into wind, dewy grass
tickling my soles. My kite

trailing behind me. Unsure
of its place. Flailing
but not giving up.

I don’t care much about
the kite. I want to feel the wind
in my hair. The hill

I must climb. The view
from the summit. My town
lying still at my feet. I run

My kite runs with me. Red
like my menstrual blood.
Powerful. It finds a current

and climbs up. Steadily.
Strongly. Purposefully.
It tugs hard.

It rises high. I struggle
to keep up. One day
I too will be Free

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

I can do anything for you

"That's ridiculous. Ask for 
  something else. The moon is 
  beautiful tonight. 
Do you want it?"
"I don't want the moon. 
  Do this so our daughters 
  are born in a better world.”
"So we are having children! 
  I will sprinkle you with stardust. 
  I will love, cherish and 
  protect you. I will climb 
the highest mountains for you."
"I don’t care for all that. 
  All I want is space 
  to be me."
“Who do you think you are? 
  Whores like you sell 
  by the dozen in the bazaar. 
Do you know who I am? 
  I’ll show you.”

*he reached for the acid *


Saturday, January 16, 2021

"You are a girl, you are so lucky"

 “You are a girl. It’s easy for you”, is something every woman who is or aspires to be professionally qualified hears. I heard it too.

“You are a girl, you will get into IIM. We are the ones who have to struggle.”

Well, guess what. Standardized Aptitude Tests aren’t (to the best of my knowledge) calibrated to recognise gender. And someone who’s been on the high school and University debating team has a distinct advantage over the others in GDs and interviews.

Less than a year later, it was back.

“Girls always get summer placement in the first weekend itself.”

Some did. But most of us had to wait, and during every one of those five weeks when others were getting placed, we were constantly reminded of how it is easy for girls.

“Girls get Day Zero placements even if they aren’t I-Schols.”

By then, the statement had almost stopped hurting. But we saw a new aspect of discrimination. After clearing multiple rounds of interviews, when I finally made it to the last interview of my Dream Job, the question came, “what would you do if your child falls ill on a day when you have an important presentation." I fumbled and was out. Why are men never asked that question. Do they not marry or have kids?

The statements never end:

“You are a girl. You will get a cushy department.”

“You are a girl. You will get promoted before us.”

“You are a girl. Nobody will question if you leave early.”

That cushy department was a 6 month deputation where I was the sole occupant of the company guest house. The promotion almost never came because a boss had messed up my appraisal. I did leave earlier than the others, but also checked in long before they did.

Women balanced greater expectations at home, with demands of the workplace. Women missed out on informal networking opportunities because they weren’t a part of the Boys Gang. Women struggled to find washrooms when they had to travel. Women took on the tougher assignments because to refuse would have meant being branded weak.

Women learnt to ignore misogynistic remarks. Women pretended not to notice the condescending manner in which they were treated. Women accepted the fact that they would find it much more difficult to be heard and taken seriously. 

Worst of all, women learnt to shoulder the burden of the gender. When a man made a mistake, it was a mere stumble. When a woman made the same mistake, the entire gender got branded.

And yet, when a women says 'every woman I meet at the top position is extraordinary. Many men I meet at the top position are quite ordinary", she is called out for the statement. Isn't it time men acknowledge the truth. That despite their perceived victimization, it is women who struggle in the workplace.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Gratitude

 


‘It is the height of hypocrisy to celebrate a Harvest Festival when the milk comes out of a plastic pouch, and the rest of the ingredients are picked up from the grocer’, I would rail during my rebellious teenage years.

But gradually, I came to realize that Pongal wasn’t just a Harvest Festival. It was a chance to acknowledge the things you take for granted, to be appreciative of what life has thrown your way, and to hope that you will continue to be that way.

In Gratitude for all I have. In Hope that I will always have enough.

شکر



Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Paint an Eagle

 “What do you think I should paint?”, I asked my younger one.

“An eagle”, he replied.

“But I can’t paint eagles”, I said. “I can only attempt landscapes and flowers.”

“Do an eagle”, he repeated.

“But I can’t.”

He could have told me that if I wasn’t going to take his advice, I shouldn’t have asked him the question. Or he could have sulked and told me to paint whatever I wanted. Instead he insisted that he wanted me to paint an eagle.

“If you only do what you can do, then what is the point?” he reasoned patiently. “You learn only if you try something new.”

“But, I can’t paint an eagle”, I insisted.

“I don’t care. Make an eagle”, he replied with a shrug.

I glared at his retreating back. It was a test and it was a challenge. Was I going to back down? Or was I going to rise up? Had I backed off, he may have judged me or he may not. But could I survive how I would judge myself?

No, I certainly couldn’t draw an eagle, much less paint one. But did that mean I shouldn’t try? What was the worst that could happen? I’d waste a piece of paper and some time. I could certainly live with that.

And so I went to google- how do you draw an eagle, I asked. I followed the first few steps to get a form that looked a bit like one. Then I used a photograph to guide me with the colours. Spilt some paint, and covered it up.


The eagle looks a bit like an eagle, but not too much. It could certainly look much better, but it could have been worse.

“What do you think?”, I asked my younger one.

“Nice”, he said. And smiled.

I think I passed his test.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

"Go forth and sin no more"

 I was 14. My grandfather was after me as usual, berating me for wasting my time reading science fiction when I could be reading the Classics.

"How do you know it's a waste of time unless you read it?", I asked defiantly.

He conceded the point I was trying to make. We made a pact.

I would read a play by G.B. Shaw and he would read an Asimov novel.

The deal was that we would each choose the work we wanted to read.

I picked "Mrs Warren's Profession". In retrospect, a terrible choice, because I couldn't make head or tail of it.

But something about the characters charmed me and I continued onto "Arms and the Man", and finished Nine Plays that Summer.

'Caves of Steel' was the book he chose. A murder mystery set in a future where mankind is forced to live in underground cities, completely cut off from the outdoors.

I was convinced he would hate it. I was preparing my arguments to defend the genre.

"It has Biblical undertones", he commented when I asked him how it was going. "It's a little confusing, but he seems a smart chap."

"It's not Dickens, but it is not bad", he pronounced when he was done.

The reference to Dickens confused me. I had never claimed the book was great literature. But I still asked him to explain.

It was the story of the adulterous woman that he was referring to. Of how the robot grasped some part of 'he who is without sin cast the first stone'.

His praise of a genre I didn't think he would like, and his stamp of approval on my reading choice made me internalise the message.

"Go forth and sin no more", was what I would use in my mind when I forgave people for hurting me.

"Let he who is without sin" remains my philosophy.

 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

~ Tai ~

 

I was 14 when my husband died

A man I barely knew.

A man who’s life mine was linked to.


I was forced to 

    climb

      on

        his

  funeral pyre.

She rescued me. 

Allowed me to have my child.


She taught me to read

Made me a teacher.

Stood me on my feet.

Helped me marry the man I loved.


I owed everything to her

I would have given my life for her.

But the guilt remained.

One day, it burst forth- 


“Tai, I silently watched

    while my sisters 

       threw stones at you”,

           I confessed.

“I know”, she said.

And smiled.

[Savitribai Phule was born on Jan 3, 1897.

An illiterate girl from a lower caste, married off when still a child, she went on to become one of modern India's first female teachers, and founded a school for girls which rivalled those run by the government by young boys.

A staunch feminist and an anti-caste advocate, she dedicated her life to the upliftment of women and to the abolition of the caste system. Her protests earned her the active animosity of Brahmins, who saw her as a threat to the privileges they took for granted. Yet, most of the battles she fought were against unjust practices that affected Brahmin women the most. She could have chosen to look away, and only work to benefit the women of her caste. But she didn’t, because she realized that women couldn’t be free, unless all women were free.

Long before the term ‘intersectional feminism’ was coined, Savitribai Phule was one.]


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