Thank you, Mr. Anurag Kashyap! But here’s my problem.

Dear Mr. Kashyap,

I wanted to write a sincere note of thanks commending you on your recent efforts to give the women of India a quick fix to eve teasing. I recently came across your short film, ‘The day after everyday’ that went viral all over the internet. It was a very enlightening experience, not only because self-defense lessons for women in India is a nearly unknown concept, but also because after your remarkable yet abstract sort of genre of films such as Dev D, The girl in yellow boots, Gulal, Last Train to Mahakali etc, you are now seen as a humanitarian philanthropist who really cares for other people, not just the commercial success of your films. So yes, you did a good thing. For that, I would pat your back. And of course, for your pure talent to cast brilliant actors such as Sandhya Mridul in your recent short film.

I hope I’ve said enough good things about you, your work and your talent to get to the next part of my letter. Let me tell you that I really appreciate your efforts in the form of this film. Having worked in the media industry myself, I am aware of the amount of work and energy that goes into putting together a powerful project like this one. And to allot your precious time for a cause like this one is really your greatness.

But I have some fairly simple issues to bring to your notice about this short film. Something that really bothers me about this short film is the some what half-thought out, ambiguous message that it sends out. I am not entirely sure what to make of the quick fix solution that you’ve so blatantly used in this film. Violence. Is it ever a solution?

In all of my twenty-five years in Mumbai, I’ve survived eve teasing, lewd comments, random strangers feeling me up on the roads and inside public transport, men whipping out their private parts and wagging them at me, men staring down my unmentionables and being filmed and photographed in public places. So I can assure you that I come from a place of experience and this issue is of utmost importance to me. Having said that, not at any point during these years did I feel like just walking away. At every moment in my life, when a man was doing these absolutely disgusting things to me, my first instinct was always to slap him across his face. But at that very moment, I would turn around and find myself alone among a crowd of lechers and other helpless women equally harassed by these soulless men.  With not a single policeman or savior in sight, I would often think about my parents and the repercussions slapping a man in public would bring. Would I be followed every day till the day I was found alone and helpless and then the worst would happen? Would I ever be able to leave the house without expecting an acid attack? What would my parents have to go through if any of this happened to me?

This was all I kept thinking about when I watched your film. I am glad that the protagonist in your film had two other women friends to support her. But will she or any women in her position always have a friend to drop their bags, tie their dupattas by the side and start a Bruce Lee type fight in the middle of the road for a little more than ten minutes with no cop in sight?

And say they beat these bad boys black and blue. Then what? Is that the end of the fight against eve teasing? This is not a Karan Johar movie, Mr. Kashyap, where everyone lives happily ever after at the end. Do you know the repercussions of beating and kicking a group of men in public? Haven’t you heard of revenge raping? Haven’t you heard of women being raped and murdered for a hurting a man’s ego? Get real, Sir.

And say that these men are taken in to custody by the police and they are put in jail for a few days. How much time does a man have to do for eve teasing anyway? A week? one month or two? What happens when they comes back? Because surely they don’t have to go to a rehab or do compulsory community service after serving time. It’s not like they are being watched over after their jail time. Sure enough, they are out on the same corner doubling up their strength to retaliate. What happens then? Who protects these brave women then? Most of us women don’t have parents with high-level bureaucratic contacts. Nobody to help us fight the society and the judicial system after an unforeseen event.

Think again about your film, Mr. Kashyap. Is a martial arts class the answer to the attitude that men have towards women? Even the cops in our country believe that it’s actually the woman’s fault if she gets raped. Either her clothes are too slutty or her upbringing is to be blamed. In a country where men believe that women shouldn’t have careers and that they should restrict themselves to the kitchens, is bashing up a few bad men going to help?

Repercussions, Mr. Kashyap. This way or the other, the woman is always the loser. Unless you bring up your boys right. Unless every parent in the nation makes it their own personal goal to teach their boys to respect women. To not only consider them as equals but to  stop taking pictures of their breast and pass them along as cheap MMSes. Ingrain in them the idea of treating women as peers and not categorizing them based on their looks.

The onus is on everyone out there, educated and uneducated, to teach their boys not to commoditize women based on their backsides and upper body, but to see them as intelligent human beings not restricted to being a man’s nanny. Why do men need to be babied anyway?

Just like everything else, there is a real solution to this problem and it lies at the bottom of a  chain of reforms. A change that needs to be made at the grass root level. Violence never is and will never be the solution to any problem, let alone eve teasing.

Hope this helps!

Thank you.

Three separate stories; Repressive state of women in India.

This morning, the Supreme Court in India ruled in favor of a dead woman by sentencing her husband to a seven-years-jail term for torturing and driving her to suicide.

In an article titled, “Daughter-in-law be treated as family member, not housemaid: Supreme Court”, published in the Times of India, the judge urged family members, including the husband to treat daughters-in-law as human beings with the love and respect they deserve, and not as personal slaves.

While this comes as a ray of hope for many tormented women/daughters-in-law in India, there are two facts in this case/article that are highly disturbing:

a) A seven years jail sentence does not do any justice to a woman who suffered physical and mental torture for years and had to take her own life to get out of it. Nor does a small sentence like this one make for a good lesson for the families out there who still do not believe that their daughters and daughters-in-law are worthy of decent living conditions.

b) What kind of Indian culture are we boasting about, if in this day and age, a Supreme Court judge has to order people to treat their daughters-in-law with love and respect? What does the much preserved and celebrated cultural heritage teach us, if for starters we cannot even treat our own family members as human beings?

If this case wasn’t enough, skim through a Times of India. I obviously read the poorly designed app, which I think aptly fits as an example of the way media is trying to restrict our worldview by cutting off our access to real news. But, moving on, there were two other rather overwhelming reports that caught my attention. I don’t consider myself a feminist. Neither am I an expert on woman’s social conditions in India. But I do fear for my country’s extreme backwardness and absolute stubbornness towards change.

In two separate incidences, in different parts of India, village elders made decisions for two young brides, without so much as asking for their consent or giving them a choice. And as outrageous as this may sound, this is perfectly fine in India (even in major cities), where a woman’s opinion is barely heard. Hardly matters.

So what were their stories?

Well, bride A would not have in her entire young life imagined that she would be divorced the same day as her marriage on the whims and fancies of the village panchayat. A fight that broke out during the wedding ceremony between distant relatives of both the wedding parties, cost this young girl her marriage. An issue that did not concern the bride or the groom, was considered so important as to separate them even before they began their lives together. And honestly, this isn’t the worst thing to happen to her, because this her real misery begins now. Barely married, divorced and unwanted. She has quite a life ahead.

Bride B’s wedding had a ‘happy non-consensual’ ending. Because, nobody really knows if she is happy with the choice that was made for her. A wedding that went haywire after her would-be husband turned out to be married, this young bride was married off to the first person her father found amongst the guest present at the venue. Fearing societal humiliation, the brides family did not even consider asking her consent, but made a choice on her behalf. Because after what is she? Just a woman, unfortunate enough to be married to a man who she barely knows of.

Is it just a coincidence that these three cases however different in nature speak of the same suppressed state of women in India? We might not have definite answers to a lot of questions here, but one thing we most obviously know is that this demands immediate attention.

Why has education failed India?

Think about it. Has education changed India? Has education made us think? Has education prompted us to think ahead of our times? Has education created anything except engineers and doctors in our country?

Has education been unsuccessful in instilling humanity within us?

Here’s some more stuff to think about if you’re not sure of the answers to the above questions:

A woman is roughed up, photographed and flashed on the front page of a cheap vernacular newspaper for going out with her friends and having a good time.

Rape is probably the most googled word in the country.

Why is there still a strong sense of discontent at the birth of a girl child in the family?

Why is morality defined in such narrow terms in India and why is morality a larger issue when it comes to women?

Why is it that you can hangout with an open minded female friend or colleague, but when it comes to taking her home to your mother, you want a woman who stays at home, cooks meals and looks after your kids. Basically has no life of her own.

Why do I hear you chuckle every time I make sense? Why do I see you ignoring me every time I’m good at something?

Because education has failed at educating India. We know our tables well, we can spell better than anyone in the world, our grammar is perfect and yes, our history is altered, but all of this at the cost of a degrading society.

A society that has not bothered to keep up with the changing times. A society that is pulling us so far behind, that inflation is not an issue anymore. A society is so bothered by what others think, that it completely disrespects you.

We are so comfortable in our hideouts that we fail to see the light in progress. Progress in India means more money. It means a higher standard of living. It means you can buy more stuff to make your house look pretty, but nobody cares that it comes at the cost of deep internal deterioration.

Has education worked in India? Has it made any difference?

Finishing schools: New York City and Bombay.

I moved to Portland less than a year ago and I’ve never been more at peace with myself. But, while Portland has been that home I’ve never had, New York City and Bombay have been my finishing schools. I owe my entire personality, attitude and class to these absolutely ruthless, individualist, competitive yet fabulous cities.

I’ve often heard people talk in very broad terms about NYC and Bombay. Stuff like, one is almost like the other, or, you can either loose yourself or be found here, watch out for sweet talkers, keep away from pretty faces and most commonly heard, train schedules are more important than people.

But, I think you’ve got to spend the most impressionable years of your life in Bombay and New York City to be able to appreciate what these cities have to offer and even more, what you take from them.

Bombay (Not Mumbai)

I was born, raised and groomed in this city. Among the things life throws at you, I learned to follow the concepts of space and time here. To speak, when spoken to and to speak your mind, is the rule here. The clock is your master and  you’ve got to beat it. Keep up with the hands or lose.

Everything in this city is carefully designed (so it seems) to turn you in to this person you never imagined you would be. It’s as if it’s laying a foundation for you, for a more confident, stronger you. It teaches you to squeeze in to an over crowded ladies compartment and come out on the other side, without so much as a crease on your starched shirt. In the same way, it teaches you to hold up your breathing for up to four minutes to escape the nauseating stench as you make your way through the train. It also makes sure you get off the train with everything (purses, bags, jewelry) you boarded with.

Bombay teaches you to walk in to the very office where you’d spend an absolutely disastrous and embarrassing yesterday, with your head held high and a flashy smile. People forget, but rarely forgive.

Bump in to an ex, walk right past him, without so much as an iota of regret. Thats possible.

Walking on a crowded street, you feel a stranger pinch your butt, you turn back, hurl a few abuses at him. Move on. Bombay teaches you to speak for yourself. In a language that the freaks understand. Which doesn’t make you a weirdo. It makes you a brave person.

Street food, the lunches, the dinners, the cuisines and homemade food. It’s a complete package. No fuss, no worries. Packaged water is made in local factories, just outside the railway platforms. Unlike New York City, there is no food department to rate the eateries. Bombay helps you build your immune system. Resistance is better than cure.

Song and dance, Bollywood. It’s all a part of this grooming school. Shake a leg, move your body, let yourself go.

And when you’re ready to go to the next level, you experience that unfamiliar restlessness.  You know it’s time to move ahead. It’s time to pack your bags and enter the next level. New York City.

New York City:

This may well be called ‘the world’s best finishing school’. Because you’re going to come out looking like a diva here. It gives you everything that Bombay offers and more. Honestly, its turnes it up several notches. For instance, if you thought the women in the ladies compartment of the trains in Bombay were bitchy. Try riding a subway in New York City. Your first train ride will make you feel so naked. The subsequent ones get better. But you’re always naked.  With their Guccis and Pradas and their fancy ipad covers, scrolling through The Economist (with all due respect), barely reading it, they are glancing at you through their tiny designer glass frames, worn to impress.

You cannot walk on to the streets wearing rags. But rags are all you have.

This city makes you feel incomplete. It makes you feel like you’ll never make it. Like you’ll never be good enough. No amount of money spend can make you a size zero, or make you look like a ramp model.

It makes you try harder. And that is what it does. It makes you look at yourself everyday. Day in and day out and you hear the reflection saying, “you’re not good enough. but the good news is, you can do better”.

At work, like in Bombay, you have an awful day. Unlike in Bombay, people are not rude, they are sarcastic. That look they give you makes you feel like running to the restroom and locking yourself in there till after office hours, when you can quietly sneak out in the dark.

There’s food everywhere, street food (just like in Bombay), variety of cuisines (just like in Bombay), but everybody is eating their greens. Everybody wants to be a size zero. Reality is nobody is a size zero.

This is what I mean when I say New York City turns it up several notches.

Finally, you reach a stage where you don’t care anymore. You can walk in to the street with a size eight shirt on tucked halfway, with khaki shorts and a pair of flip flops. And you don’t care what they think. This is when you make your own style statement. You’ve understood that its not about what you wear. It never was. It’s been your sense of self all along.

They are not important anymore. You are. There. Right there, New York City has done it’s job. Mission accomplished.

Why I think constantly questioning things is important.

I was bullied all through school and college. I did exactly what people asked me to do till I was about 22 years old. The only reason being, as a child I was told repeatedly, not to question people or the ways in which they do things or make you do things. Simply because it was rude to do so.

So as to not come across as a rude person, I would blindly and without any self-respect do things other people asked me to do. This meant never saying ‘no’ to anything. This meant, accepting defeat. This meant putting up with people that made you feel like absolute shit. This also meant following inanely boring indian cultural practices just to make other people temporarily happy. And I say temporarily, because in India, nobody can be happy with you forever. You’re bound to offend someone or the other at some point in time. And for most part of it, you might not even realize it. People very commonly hold grudges (excessively seen in the Indian society) and express them at the most odd hours, enough to embarrass you and your near ones in the process. Sometimes causing irreparable damage, but let’s get in to that later.

People in India are so engulfed in their traditional ways of living that they would not be able to stand a person with the ability to question and resist getting entangled in this dark abyss. But i’m getting away from the topic at hand here.

So doing things without questioning them made me really unhappy. Until one day, I looked around and realized that I was the most miserable person in the world. Well, everybody at one point or the other feels that way and this was my turn.

But that moment made me realize that just because you don’t follow or believe in the same things as other, does not necessarily translate as disobeying them. And it certainly does not mean that you are being rude. And even if it does mean that you are being rude, I found solace in the fact that at least I could live with a happy self. Not a self-loathing, society hating, rapidly being pulled towards the dark side person.

The first time I actually stood up against a older boy in my class was when he was ordering me around to bring him a glass of water and some snacks. A very dear friend pulled me aside and pointed it out to me. I hadn’t even realized it till she said something to me. I was in my own sweet oblivious world, trying to please every soul. Dead or alive. That day I put my foot down and braved his insults. That was a new beginning. It was a small victory, but I felt a tremendous rush through my head. I knew then, that I would henceforth live my life on my own terms. And I since have.

Although, in the later years, I came across a lot of people who harassed the living crap out of me. And as bad as it sounds, they only made me stronger. But people who are very obviously vicious and out to get you are not the worst of the lot. The ones that actually matter are.

For people like me, there is a constant struggle between doing the right thing and pleasing other people. There is no way you can reach a balance between these two end of a spectrum. The difficult part is to migrate from one end to the other and once that is done, you are good to go. When you are in between these points, you will hear a million people criticizing you. They will say stuff to you that will nearly break you, but that is exactly the point where you can pick up the pieces and move on and become a better person. Not for others, but for yourself. Because you should consider yourself worthy of your love and attention. What is the point of living your entire life pleasing someone else?

I often come across people who lead a rather meaningless life and it makes me extremely happy to see that I am not one of them. I’d help them see the light on the other side of the tunnel, if they really want to. Till then, god help them.

Exposing India’s rotten social and cultural traditions: Devdasis.

While I struggle everyday to not get embedded amongst my peers and friend as a housewife, I came across a shocking article published in the Wall Street Journal about the now legally abolished, yet highly prevalent practice of ‘Devadasis’ in India.

The article titled, ‘Where virginity is for sale in India’, talks about the obnoxious and extremely unfair tradition of selling girls that have reached puberty to the man who pays the highest. This horrid tradition has existed in various forms in the Indian society. In most of the remote villages in India (the article highlights the example of the southern village of Andhra Pradesh), girls at a very tender age are handed over to the religious authorities at the temples under the disguise of being god’s servers. As these girls reach puberty, they are secretly auctioned to the highest bidder and forcefully made to serve as prostitutes for the rest of their lives. 

As the article highlights, these young women, depending on their attributes of the cultural background or lineage they belong to have either one rich buyer (a man who has a wife and family in the village and who purchases this young girl as his keep purely for entertainment purposes.

Alternatively, if these women have few or no buyers, they would be open for business to the other available men, who cannot afford to buy them entirely for themselves. As disgusting as this sounds, the practice of ‘devadasi’ is still very much prevalent in the country. And if this wasn’t bad enough, the law makers as well as the law keepers, turn a blind eye to this. 

In the recent times, many social and non-governmental organizations have come forward to help these women, either by rescuing them or by providing an opportunity to educate themselves and in turn earn a livelihood. But unfortunately, the orthodox and rigid society in the Indian villages haven’t been able to accept them as people who are worthy of living and leading a normal life.

In India, women aren’t considered to be equals. Many a times, they are not considered to be human beings. Their presence is considered as disgrace and their opinion has no ears.

 I agree the society has progressed a lot. And an excellent example of this would be me. Having received the best education and opportunities in the country, I can exercise my rights and help the world see the darkness in the Indian customs and traditions. 

But this doesn’t help the fact that more than 75% of the women in India are still waiting to be heard. They are still waiting to be treated as normal people with needs. One look at the numbers on female infanticides will tell you the disastrous state of the female child. Sex determination in India is as illegal as smoking weed in the world. But just like the other corrupt systems, medical clinics sell their souls to reveal the gender of the child. As expected, a female child is either aborted inside the womb, buried alive or drowned in a well at birth. 

It is not uncommon in India to hear elders advising young brides to have a baby only if it is a boy. What time period are we in again? 

In this, my endeavor, I’m going to expose and highlight the absolutely inhuman and stinking culture conditions that have suppressed women in India since time has existed. Here’s an excellent article to begin with:  

Where Virginity Is For Sale in India