The Indian Bride

I wrote this post about wedding dresses a while ago.

One reader commented that they would, infact, modify it because they always have a photo.

I attended a Hindu wedding last night. It was a reception actually, and one of those grand ones where everyone sparkles and guests are spread across a huge garden. (If you’ve ever attended an Indian wedding, you’ll know how many kinds of weddings could possibly be there).

The bride looked gorgeous. She looked like a bride, dressed in a shimmery, embroidered (and heavy-looking) red lehenga, an equally dressy veil and really heavy earrings and all that jazz. She glowed and shimmered (courtesy the make up). The bride always outshines the groom in any wedding and the groom had absolutely no chance against her beauty in his demure black suit in this case.

My mind went back to the post and the related article and I wondered what she would do with that dress? The answer is probably it will lie in an antique trunk and she would take it out for karwa chauth or something. Each element of that dress, worn separately, would probably not have the same kind of an effect.

Indian weddings are getting extravagant (were they cheap to start with?). A friend tells me her sister-in-law wore a dress that weighed 20 kgs. Yup. 20 kgs. Why would anyone put themselves through such torture, particularly on their wedding day when others are torturing them enough, is way beyond me.

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Aung San Suu Kyi

It has been a long while since I found a woman whom I deeply admired and respected. And the more I read about Aung San Suu Kyi, the more I am impressed.

This isn’t really a one-woman fight for justice but she definitely is the hope, the strength and the driving force of the NLD. I’ve read much of what I could lay my hands on for the past few days and even came close to a chance to interview her (fingers still crossed about that).

That was when I realized that this was one woman whom I really wanted to have a chance to interview. Often, as a reporter, it is the people you come in contact with that is as important as the story. I’m sure any reporter who has had a chance to speak to Obama, Osama Bin Laden, Bill Clinton, Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama or Martin Luther King has it firmly established in their minds. The meetings are never “just” about the story. It is the person. Their story, their driving force, the charisma. And much more.

The first encounter I had with the mention of Aung San Suu Kyi was sometime a little after high school. I was barely out of my teens then, and though many evenings were spent debating the Iraq war and worse, Burma played a very small role. But we were talking about influential leaders and Suu Kyi’s name came up. I perhaps googled her later that evening but her face struck in my mind.

She looked like a delicate woman who would perhaps be used for advertising Burma’s tourism. Petite, gentle and looked totally unlike the firebrand she was supposed to be.

My memory is short and I forgot about her unless I came about vague mentions on BBC, or till she was released.

That is the sort of faith and conviction I would like to have. Perhaps what I do have is scattered into various avenues.

The photo below, I believe, is what she is. She looks delicate and petite, till you look at her eyes. The determination in those eyes make you believe that her dream of a democratic Burma/Myanmar is perhaps possible.

The Veil

So Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena fame demanded the burqa be banned in India. Nobody but a vague little online newspaper really paid attention to his ramblings.

His demands have become routine and the public mostly has grown weary of it.

What did catch my interest though is the security angle. Yes, burqa has been often cited as a security threat, like those Kashmiri pherans. Pherans were banned for a while (are they still banned?) because people could easily carry guns and such under it. Similar arguments are being applied to the burqa.

I’m not sure if I do completely agree that it should be banned. I do think any woman who would choose to cover herself up like that is mad. But the thing is – it is about choice. If a woman chooses to cover herself up in black, not because her religion or her family or her society demands it, then it is her problem. But if she is compelled to wear the veil because of some writings on a piece of paper, that changes things.

They’ll never ban the veil in India. There are too many ramifications for that to happen. But yes, women wearing the veil will be perhaps subject to a lot more checking.

And I’m not sure if this is only me but there seem to be more women in black these days. Is it the Arab tourist season yet? Don’t get me wrong but that is when you see the influx of women wearing long black veils (and the more gorgeous clothes and make up underneath it that makes you wonder how they have the heart to cover it up).

 

Links and inspirations

I found this blog today. It is a fashion blog… but a little different. Called “A Dress A Day,” it is all about finding those vintage dresses in flea markets or whatever and make them into these really funky dress/tops etc. It is incredibly creative and a little inspiring.

Actually, inspiring enough to make me think of the pile of clothes in the bottom shelf at the back of my wardrobe… all those clothes I fell in love with and bought despite them being a tad too big for me and realised they didn’t quite hang right when I got home. I always do that. Buy it because I figure I’ll grow into it (duh!) or cuz I love it so much that I figure it’ll fit me right anyway. And then I hate it and don’t quite have the heart to throw it out and so it sticks in my wardrobe, till years later (and I’ve done this only once in my 25 years) I finally throw it out or give it away.

So this site is quite good an inspiration to make those subtle alterations except for two things:
a) I hate sewing/stitching and all those things. Sewing a broken button back on is pretty much all I want to do, which brings me to…
b) Sewing a broken button back on is pretty much all I can do I think. Now, there is a sewing machine in my house but I think my parents would have a heart attack if I sat down there to do anything at all.

But it must be fun to be so creative and stitch your own stuff. I am not saying that I am not creative… hey! I am. But clothes is a different ball game altogether. And if I did sew, it would save me so much agony of shopping.

*Side rant: Whose sizes do they make those beautiful clothes for anyway?*

Anyway, I spent most of the day looking at photos, when I wasn’t off writing about the world’s hungry population dropping. Yeah, apparently despite rising food prices, floods and droughts this year, there are fewer hungry people in the world for the first time in 15 years. I wonder if the mortality rate from natural disasters is also taken into account. I am not too convinced about the statistics. I mean 900-something million people are undernourished – that is it? But then if they UN says that, who am I to argue?

At least I am writing things that I care about… even if it is off a press release and a few random quotes I manage to get from experts. UN food reports, the food crisis, riots, the economy’s ups and downs… quite fascinating it is and makes me think a little. It perhaps also inures me to certain things. Like this article on Outlook I read recently by Arundhati Roy… she starts of talking about the CWG games and the human rights disaster it has been among other things (One line sticks out quite well – We are cleaning up the cities and herding poor people out of the nation’s capital to pay homage to games that were established for the British colonies). And then she moves on to talking about the Maoists, the Naxals and other violations that have happened in the country. The article went on for a while and I mostly skimmed through the end of it… but a friend of mine seemed to have a strong reaction to it while I was… unaffected. Maybe it is because I don’t think Roy is particularly fascinating. I love activists but when you have the tag, your message gets a little buried sometimes. But it isn’t that with Roy… the article was just too long. Or maybe it was simply because I’ve been reading tons of stuff about this forever. Maoists being killed, violations in North East India, army people shot to death, human rights violations in a million other ways.

It is a part of life and I do my part when I get a chance, and sometimes if it only a rant on my blog, perhaps it will make a difference.

Some believe in signing up for causes on Facebook. I did too… but then I figured what the hell was I doing? I mean what is the point of clicking “like” on ‘We are against female infanticide” on a social networking site? Who hears you anyway? Yes, we all hate it. But how does that make a difference unless you go out there and talk about it. Unless you step up when you have a chance… be it infanticide, or standing up against eve teasing.

It might seem quite innocent… a whistle, a guy copping a feel. But it isn’t.

Anyway, I discovered a whole new plethora of sites today… and I got some work done. And I still have stuff to do. Plus I’m inspired to really do something but I can’t figure out what. I haven’t painted in a while, nor have I written anything in longer. Photography has been the creative expression and that moves in bursts, usually.

Ideas?

Link of the day: As posted above 🙂

Movies; Women

So the third movie of the Narnia series is about to be released. Why?

I’m sure the producers forgot to ask themselves that. Or they didn’t realise what a dud they had as a director.

Now, I loved the Narnia series as a kid. Though to be honest, I had read only “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” and “The Silver Chair” for a long time. Then I picked up… I think it was The Voyage something. I eventually read all of the books but regardless of the age, they were a little disappointing.

And making a fantasy movie is no easy task, particularly as people who tend to watch such movies already have The Lord of The Rings standard in their mind. Yes, Harry Potter still manages to make money but ask how many of those people have read the book? Or are like me who know the movie is going to be torture, but still feel compelled to watch it. And then bitch about the casting, the direction and all those eliminated crucial scenes.

But Narnia… somehow I had a different idea in my head about Aslan, Peter, Lucy. Sort of like how Dumbledore was such a disappointment.

***

I caught some ad for yet another reality show on television. Hosted by Parvati of one of the K-serial fame, it was about how women fall prey to various horrible things in the country and if the death penalty is the right punishment for a rapist.

The focus of that program escaped me for a moment… they had shots of a bunch of other cases, including Rathore who is accused of raping a girl and then pushing the whole case under the carpet.

I wonder then – have we really come far in terms of protection for women? Yes, the laws are there. But that is only because the laws were made by a bunch of men who were far ahead of their time and wise. And those men formed a small percentage of the population then and now.

Women are mostly treated as objects in this country, even if we do not miss breaking a coconut for Kali in the temple. I recently wrote about how harrowing an experience it was to walk half a kilometre down the road at 11.30 in the night, when I was dressed in jeans and a simple top. And there was not a single cop on that road either. And I live in one of the most developed and cosmopolitan cities in the fricking country.

And then there are these shows. “Who is to blame for her death?”

The character of the woman gets scrutinized everytime… and somehow, she has never yet come out looking good, even if public sympathy is on her side. “Oh yeah she liked to party… but you know, sad thing that happened to her.”

And how does it matter if the woman liked to drink, to dance and wear short skirts? Personal liberty is a concept that is so absent in India.

Actually, personal space is a concept missing in India. A friend used to complain about how her boss or her coworkers would lean over her computer, reading her email, even if she mentioned it was personal. And how people would ask her questions about her dating life and sex life too. And it was assumed that because she was white, she wouldn’t really have a problem answering questions about her sex life.

“Saying it is personal simply doesn’t help!” she groaned, after her coworker was poking her about her ‘dating life’ yet again.

Does the concept of harassment exist in India? There are laws, I have recently learned, and the laws were made as recently as 1997 apparently. But would a woman actually file for a harassment case in India? The concept of personal space is so fluid, and the idea of “adjust maadi” is so drummed into us, we rarely consider certain things as harassment.

True, we are improving everyday and learning, at least legally. But how far does the implementation of the law go? It took the murder of a call centre employee to come up with laws for women who work in the night. And yet, there is a law in Karnataka which bans women from working at night. (Yup. True story. Infact this is just in the House now, with women’s organizations protesting against it). IT and “essential services” are exempted apparently, but it is a ridiculous law anyday, even if they claim it is for our safety.

But the implementation is a long way off. A woman out at night still gets the “you were out at that time of the night” comments and looks. And the tag of “she comes home at odd hours.” I despair sometimes, wondering if we will ever change. If we will ever have the freedom to live our lives without judgement.

Photo of the day:

Old Lady from Sikkim - Sukanto Debnath

In Which I Walk Down The Road

Not really far. From the door of the club to my car parked about a two minute walk away. And I’ve got whistled at and propositioned more than I have ever been in my entire life.

This was on the main road. In the centre of the city, lined with clubs. When my friends offered to walk me, I said I would be okay because this was
a) a brightly-lit street
b) it was barely 11.3 o
c) there were lots of people around
d) I was not wear any tiny pieces of clothing that would attract attention
e) It is Bangalore for Heaven’s sake!

I was on the phone and walking like any normal woman would. There were other women on the street but they were in groups, most of which had guys.

But even the most harmless looking college kids thought they had to prove something by calling out “baby” and “monica” in one particular case. The most decent person on the street was a ragpicker who went about his business, humming.

And finally I think I reach my car. It was parked outside an office… and though there were a few guys standing outside, I figured they wouldn’t pay any attention to me. I had my phone, I was looking down and headed straight to my car. But nope… they had to make catcalls… call out names, peer into the car and laugh. While a part of me really wanted to get out and punch everyone of them into the car… it really isn’t as simple as it is shown in the ads.

Indian men really need to get a life!

Photo of the Day: I know the artist shot it with different intent but what speaks to me was – two images of the self.

Get Over It!

I actually started this post earlier today about if women are naturally more inclined towards being generous and sacrificing than men are.

It got derailed when I came across this article – Iranian cleric: Promiscuous women cause quakes.

Not kidding. It actually appeared 5 days ago and I was too swamped in work to actually pay much attention to it. But I got an invite on Facebook today for “Boobquake“. It is an event hosted by a girl in the US who was pissed off enough by the article to ask women around the world to wear their most cleavage-oriented top or show off their legs or whatever they figure is “indecent”.

To sum up that article, the moron thinks women are capable of causing earthquakes.

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

I really have no idea how to respond to a statement so damn ludicrous. I wonder if anyone would even believe such a statement. Now I do wish we had such powers. I mean if all I needed to do was wear revealing clothes and cause earthquakes and other such ‘natural’ disasters, I buy a wardrobe full of the skankiest clothes I could find.

I would actually argue about the things men could do you know – like blindfold themselves and sit at home – but it just seems like such a horrible waste of time to even write it all out.

Or I wonder if the cleric mistook something else for an earthquake. People do say (mostly in M&Bs) that the earth shakes when you have sex.

I guess the Boobquake is equivalent to the Pink Chaddi campaign we had here. That is what we do now. You make a silly statement and we rebel in your face. But we need something a little more concrete. A little more education. As long as we have women rebelling against women, I don’t know how much progress can be achieved. Like that woman during the Pink Chaddi campaign who started talking about morality.

Who defines morality? Why should morality be a problem for anyone as long as it isn’t troubling you. A woman wearing a skirt on a street gets harassed. Isn’t the problem the guy there? The lack of his morals? Why is the woman targeted as the evil-doer here? All she did was wear a skirt and walk on a public street. But she is flogged for public indecency, while the asshole who whistled at her simply gets a slap on the wrist.

A friend of mine who is a reporter in one of the middle eastern countries mentioned about an engagement ceremony she attended there. Apparently, both the groom and bride bring a 100  guests each and then the guy returns alone to brave the woman’s 100 guests and propose to the woman. It maybe just a ritual, but rituals are the remanents of some time. And this one indicates that the woman had a choice. She could choose whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. And yes, they are Muslim. Which makes me wonder where the rituals of not even allowing her to meet the guy come from? Evolution? Mutation, rather.

I was watching Lajja today. The Rajkumar Santoshi movie that got great reviews abroad but got burnt in theatres here. It is a good, if slightly overloaded, movie about women oppression. Different scenarios… people from different classes… it was quite realistic. Beautiful acting by some of the top actresses in the country. But nobody watched in. The men I know who watched it are the ones who are already sensitized to this issue. The others called it “some shit about women”.

Women who talk about women’s rights are often branded “feminists”. I often wonder why. For most of the time, I am not even thinking about gender equality. My boss at work is a woman and someone I really do admire. There are no women in the immediate level of chain of command but there are some fantastic women I work with regardless. And none of them would really call themselves “feminists” either. They go on doing what they have to do.

My maid put her two kids through school with her own money. Her husband was an alcoholic and she booted him out a while ago. She doesn’t call herself feminist. She did what she had to do.

And honestly, none of my friends ever think that gender equality is a feminist thing. But yeah, i’ve heard these words. from my distant cousins, from people a step away from me… if not the word, the slight rolling of eyes.

In India, we still have much progress to achieve. It was such a relief to see some proactive action being taken in certain parts of North India with people being jailed and punished for ‘honor’ murders. And yet, we have people protesting to amend the law to ban same gotra (sub-caste, in a manner of speaking) marriages. It is Indian culture… but when it is not incest, should we ban it? Or should we ban it but make a special amendment for people to get married if they really want to if it is proved they are not related by blood. Or will that just be impossible in a country riddled with corruption and an issue so politically sensitive?

There comes the line between culture and doing what you think is right. Indian culture doesn’t allow for a lot of things but culture evolves through generations (which is actually how a lot of things are not allowed, come to think of it).

The problem with this issue isn’t allowing or not allowing the marriages. It is those self-made juries who judge and met out the punishment, which often involves beating the guy to death and raping the girl. What the bloody hell does that achieve? Oh yeah and they could just shoot both of them, sometimes.

There is yet another debate in France to ban headscarves… One could argue that secularism could mean no outward show of religion. Or you could counter-argue, it means allowing you to follow whatever you in a manner however you want. The latter is what we follow in India. Who would be more successful?

Just because something has a 3000 year old history, is it correct?

I like seeing those little steps we are taking towards progress. But it is also infuriating to see that huge wall that opposes it in the name of cultural traditions.

Song of the day: I Wish I was a Punk Rocker: Sandi Thom