Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Feminist Re-Born

Well, so the training I was singing praises about is finally over. Yesterday was our last session. And yes, I am sad. My Wednesdays will not be the same. Being in a room full of opinionated, intelligent, strong, passionate and yet extremely compassionate women, would leave anyone a richer and smarter person. I did a lot of foot-in-mouth stupidities, and yet I never felt judged. I go on the phone for the first time tomorrow, so I need all the good wishes and blessings I can get. But that is not what this post is about. This is about something that was discussed, at the end of the session yesterday, and left me wanting to say a lot, and more importantly once again brought to the fore my thoughts on the topic of feminism.

It was a five minute, self evaluation on how we felt at the end of the training, and it was then that I realised, that like a lot of other things in life, I had, through this training come to a full circle around my opinions and views on feminism. As a child growing up, I felt very strongly against the inequality between men and women or rather girls and boys as I saw it at that age. I saw it everywhere, in families who were part of the educated, moneyed middle-class of society, the stinking rich, the poor, it happened everywhere. When I look back now, I find it a bit surprising, that I was so infuriated by the situation, especially considering the fact, that being an only child, I did not have to deal with any such issue in my own life. But like most issues that are related to inequality and discrimination of any kind, I was passionate about it. But things changed.

The past few years, the term feminism, had me looking at it cynically. I had seen just way too many women, use it as a ruse to act selfishly. Rich women, with loving families, who don't want to do their part, women who use it as an excuse to reap the benefits and shy away from the duties. Feminism is not about getting the upper hand in every marital discord, or not breast feeding, or making sure that a woman does not take care of her children just because the father is not doing so(because he was at work), or yes, claiming she does not need to cook, because her husband does not... may I add here, that she does not do anything else concretely either. Yes, I have met and heard of women like that. I have heard about the huge fuss being made about continuing with her maiden surname after marriage, by women who actually do continue with it anyways. And while I agree, that it should be a woman's free-will, what name or surname she wants to use, at whichever point of time in her life, it just takes away from the real issues a feminist is fighting for, issues that determine the course of a woman's life. I think such women in the name of feminism, take away from what feminism is all about, they completely dilute the severity of the true cause. No I am not supporting women, who think they have the right to drink till they throw up, in the name of feminism, or women who think they should have many casual sexual encounters because men do, in the name of feminism, or women who say they are feminists and can hence sneer upon others who are more traditional in their outlook or lifestyle. And that being the case, I had become quite disillusioned about feminism.

And then I joined this organisation which is openly feminist in its views. Initially, I was not sure, how I would fit in, based on my the existing view of feminism and feminists. But then things changed. As I learnt and discussed, about the real issues facing women, violence, lack of rights, stereotyping, lack of options and choices, being controlled and dominated, being left alone with children and without any money to fend for themselves, I left more than one training session, enraged, angry and disturbed. And in the process found once again my true passion for feminist causes and issues. Being a mother now, just sensitises me more. And I found the gap between the true feminist, and the pseudo-feminist.

A feminist is a person(yes it could be a man too), who in actuality is bothered by discrimination or inequality of any kind, and is particularly sensitive to the issues, faced by women, because they are women, whether in her personal life or professional. That is how I define the feminist. A feminist would feel equally for a friend who is a victim of domestic violence, as she would for the poor homeless one, because she does not discriminate based of social or financial status of a person. She would feel for the boy, of a rich business family, who is taken out of school to work in the family business, while his sisters go on to college and more, just as much for the girl, who is taken out of school, to earn some to contribute to the family income, while her brother is allowed to do as he pleases. But yes, the feminist, would fight a bit harder for the girl, because she is after all a feminist. A feminist does not say all men are d*$#, but she is strong enough to stand up against any man(or woman) who takes away from any woman's basic human rights. And so, yes, that is me a re-born feminist. And believe me, I will fight any woman who tries to dilute the true issues, and problems facing women, with their fluff about the right to smoke.

*sigh* I feel liberated! And this was so important to get off my chest, that well past mid-night, I am up typing this, because I had to say it. Cheers to all the feminists of the world.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What Do You Give Your Child?

A love for books,
or maybe a taste for music,
Or would it be a brain for numbers,
A passion for sports it could be,
Or maybe even cinema.

Painting, dancing, birds and animals, or even spirituality. There are so so so many things to choose from. So what is it that you give your child? I am sure most in the blog-world would love to instill in their children a love and passion for reading, but then I am sure there are just as many out there who want their children to have a good ear for music, or whatever else they hold dear to them. And when I see parents around me taking so much loving effort to instill in their child, a passion, a hobby, or a love, I wonder what to do with mine?

Each one seems so passionate about what they foster into their offspring, that I get inspired by each and every one of them, and finally end up being a Jack of all trades master of none with the BB. And in this process, I have learned that I cannot do it all. I cannot get him to sing, dance, read, hop, jump, play, paint and more all in one go. Or atleast not with equal gusto. So what then do I do? Isn't he too young for me to pick a single skill a passion to instill. Isn't this the time he learns, sees, explores and picks out what he loves the most, I think. At the end of the day, I don't want to push him either way, I want him to go ahead, and be what he wants to be, and do what he wants to do. (Only hope I have enough money in the bank to transfer in his name, incase he wants to just be a street-side artist!) And yet I need to show him the choices he has.

I know he is introduced to everything in his day-care centre, and I know of parents who play mental-maths quizzes with their kids all day long. I know I have been the person who thought getting a management degree would be the pinnacle of her life. And I thank God that, it did not happen, because it would have been such a sheer and colossal waste of money, on an undiplomatic, non-corporate work worthy person like me. I know now, that the last kind of job I am suitable for is corporate management. But, then, I did not know any better. I knew about studies, school, college, professional degrees and that was it. I don't want the BB's vision to be narrowed in anyway like that. I want him to be free to look around and decide what he wants in his life.

A little too young for me to think so much you say, but believe me it is not. Because somewhere in life, the seeds of the kind of person we are, are sown in childhood. And I definitely don't want to bungle up here. No I am no perfect parent, I am as flawed, and imperfect as can be. But then I have my priorities too, and one of the main ones being, to give my child the freedom to choose his own life. Not to say I will not guide him, or instill in him humane values, but he has to choose the purpose of his life himself. I don't want it set upon him in anyway at all. While I want him to like books, music, the outdoors and some other things, I am worried that I should not force any of them on him. Now maintaining the right balance would be one tough job isn't it? Because what I truly want to give my child, is freedom, to carve out a path of his choice in life. Where he can follow his dreams and passions as he likes.

Till just a little while ago, I was so worried, about what he would learn from the world around him. When he was little, I could control the environment he lives in, the people he sees, but that was not to be the way all his life. I used to worry then, about him learning 'bad things' from the world outside.(To be clear I was not an all good influence, but then as I said, it was a controlled environment.) So once the BB started playschool, and his day-care sessions, he started coming home with a mixed bag of learnings. Some I liked, some not so much. And my initial reaction to it, like it is to most things that upset me, was panic. I was aghast, when I learnt that he was pushing other children. Oh! no, I thought. This is just because of the other kids, how else would he ever have learnt to push others like that. Yes, I am a fool that way. But this also helped me learn one of the bigger lessons of parenting. What is the test of a parent, whose child has no external influences to test him. The BB, maybe yet too young, for such huge philosophical statements, but the lesson has come to me in time, before he grows older, and I am in a constant state of panic. The important thing is for a child to go out, see, observe, learn and most importantly have the sense to select what he learns. It is upto me to teach him the guiding values and principles, which help him pick and choose. And that is no easy task I reckon!

After a really long time, I was browsing the newspapers online, and I came across this article, which really shocked surprised me. It talks of a man who is a master of astro-genetics, who used his knowledge to have children of a preferred sex twice(male of course) and to have a genius child the third time round(male again ofcourse!). The genius son is now all of 22, and stepping into IIT, Powai as a professor. I know a lot of parents out there who want their kids to be a genius, or a musical maestro or some other thing like that. There are plenty of tennis dads out there. But, what I do know for sure is, that as a parent, I would want my child to be just normal, and most importantly happy. I would never ever want to tweak the circumstances, to create something 'better', unless physical ailments are the cause of concern. The children we do have are the best that we can, and we love them for who they are. This kind of manipulation, takes the concept of 'conditional love' from parents to new heights. Scary, and scary indeed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Are We Weaklings?

Where are we today as people of the world? What are we heading towards? What are our goals, our missions? I wonder often about these things, about what is it that we are looking for. And I don't seem to get the responses I would like. Even within my ownself.

Somewhere I feel, we are a misguided lot, being led on like lambs to the slaughter, by the devil disguised as the enticing have-it-all. Sounds strange isn't it? But when was the last time you heard someone say, my aim is to be more honest, or more helpful or more charitable? But I am sure we have often heard others as well as ourselves say, I want to own another house, get a raise, make XYZ amount this year, bring my body weight to ABC kgs. And in these small monetary and materialistic goals, have the bigger, humane goals been lost somewhere?

I don't remember the last time I deprived my self of something that I really wanted and donated the money instead, to someone who really did need it, for something as basic as food or clothes. How many of us even aim to do that? How often, if ever have we heard someone say, my goal this year is to donate atleast half of my earnings to charity, or take a few weeks off work and help the people who need it? In my case the answer is never. And it is this that makes me wonder where are we as a community of people headed?

What are our real goals and ambitions in life? Making more money, getting a promotion, being thinner? Good things in themselves, but is that all we want for ourselves, is that all we believe we are capable of achieving? I think we underestimate and devalue ourselves tremendously when we limit ourselves by such goals. There are then some who aim to read more books, expand their knowledge of music or learn a new skill, and yet again I think we are limiting our potential here. These are wonderful things when we look at it from the practical world, and yet somehow, I feel that they are not what changes or improves the core of the person we are. I will never underestimate the value of reading, music or learning new things, but is that enough for us to progress as persons, spiritually?

I for one, never make new year resolutions, simply because they do not translate to anything more than words in my life. And yet, I know a lot of people who do. And of all those who have shared their's with me, I have never come across even one, which said things like I will be kind to animals this year, I will not say a bad word about anyone, I will stand up against what is wrong, I will not be greedy or demanding. How does this, then, represent us as a society of humans. Are we too absorbed with the material to want more, to actually unleash our true potential and achieve it. It scares me to think that in ways we are actually, being just mediocre and proudly so.

Often our vices are now, labeled as our personality, individuality, and left at that. I am moody, I am short-tempered, I am impatient. These are the kind of statements I hear often, and use them myself too. What saddens me is, we say it as a statement, sometimes even arrogantly, not wanting to change it one bit. We actually proudly claim these vices to be ours. Why? Why is it no longer thought of as a vice, as a corruption to our character that we should try to get rid off. Why is it used as a badge of pride instead? If we do not understand these qualities as a malignance in the wholeness of our persona, how can we ever think of eliminating them. And with each person proudly hugging their flaws, where exactly does that lead the society, which is comprised of people like us? Shallowness, materialism, weakness and yet full of arrogance?

In reality it is weakness, because we as human beings have such huge potentials, we can move mountains with our minds alone, and yet we give in, and do not even try to win over the smallest evils in us. We give in and let the vices rule us instead. It saddens me, because it feels like seeing a huge fercious lion, watching a small little deer, walk by, and not attack it, saying, oh well, why take the effort to run and hunt, let me just be lazy and sit around instead. And eventually that is what will kill him, because he needs the food to nourish his strong body, and without that his body will become weak and eventually he will perish. That is exactly what the virtues are for the human mind, the food that nourishes it and keeps it strong and flourishing. Our vices, weaken it, diminish its strength and finally leads to its demise.

Why do we not decide to do something to nourish our souls each day, each time we make a resolution, even if for just a day? Like each time I think, today I will try to lose weight by not eating anything oily, let me also think, and today I will also not say a bad word about anyone, or today I shall tell no lies, no matter what, or today I will send a good thought out for the person I hate the most. It will be tough no doubt, probably tougher than avoiding deep fried chips and pakodas, and yet it will make me that much stronger and better as a human being. And I think each day it will just get easier, till, one day I find, that, that is what is now me, my nature and I no longer need to make the effort to be that way. Imagine a society where most people are like that, whole, strong and pure. The way we were intended to be when we were created.

[This post is more of an introspection, than any kind of accusation. This is not meant to offend anyone, but was meant as an analysis of myself, and of what I see around me, what I think needs to be changed, more so in me than anyone else. ]

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Of Relationships

Relationships are strange things I have come to believe, fun, complicated, mystical, and many a times quite beyond my comprehension. Most times they are fun and nice, but every now and then there are little squeaks and creaks, just like old floor boards, which are usually quite incomprehensible to me, but throw the thing completely off balance. I am not talking about relationships, that are casual, the types we label as just friends or acquaintances, but the ones that come from the heart, where we form bonds, put down our masks and guards, and are free to be what we really are.

Relationships I have come to believe are best maintained with people who, are individually related or known to one. I meet X in the school/college/training/work/bus/pub/theatre/library, like him/her, and decide to be friends with. Works out much better than, liking and being friends with X, where he/she is a friend of or related to one of my friends/relatives/acquaintances/colleagues. The dynamics of any relationship between just two individuals alone, is forever changing. Where two human minds are involved, which are never stable, or stuck in just one place, the possibilities are many. But throw in the midst a few more people, with their own stakes in the line that connects me and X, and it surprises me, that things even reach the point of a friendship. I for example, quite like my friend's sister. In fact, I think I gel better with her, than my friend herself. She gets along just fine with me too, but then my friend may not like it. More likely than not, as adults no one is likely to come up and say what they really feel, and things can suddenly turn sour without me realising what happened. Not only do I then lose the new friend, but also an older relationship.

Relationships are like investments, just more precious!

They really are I tell you. Just like monetary investments, relationships need to be invested in and nurtured with immense care and caution. And believe me, carelessness is what kills more relationships than anything else. A bit of taking for granted, or some just not making an effort, and sometimes just plain laziness. These things matter, especially when it comes to relationships that matter. And yet again, even with all of that it is not a 100% thing, simply because just like the stock exchange, there are no guarantees here either. And then there is always the case of when things change. People, situations, circumstances, other relationships. Anything, anytime may change, and it affects relationships.

What affects me more in case of relationships, is when instead of a clean break, where I can mope about a loss, cut my losses and move on, the relationship becomes a caricature of what it originally was, a fake hollow shell. That becomes a cross to bear for the rest of my life, and its just not my thing. I cannot go from being best buds to I-am-just-tolerating-you and maintain a relationship on face value, just does not work for me. But then that is just me, zero skills in the department of diplomacy.

Then there is the possibility of misunderstandings. Just recently I had one, with a friend, who is very dear to me. (Yes, I am talking about you! And hope the misunderstanding is cleared up.) We are very different temperamentally. If I am genda phool she is a long-stemmed rose, I am rustic, basic, blunt, she is artistic, deep and talented. But somewhere we connect, and it is wonderful. And yet, the written word which does not convey our tone, led to a misunderstanding. When I received her mail, I was surprised, because I never realised that I had written anything to upset her at all, only when I re-read it, did I realise, that without my mocking scowl, and clown-like expressions, the words alone could in fact have sounded harsh. Just made me realise how frail relationships can really be, especially since we both are secure, strong people, and know that our friendship is much more than frivolous.

And with all these things that can go wrong, is it not really a wonder, when a relationship, that we invest our heart and times into, actually blossoms, and grows. Relationships, that are true, and honest, which truly reflect a bond between two people. Each time, I lose a friend or a relationship goes sour in my life, I do thank God, for the other amazing ones I have in my life, the ones that stand the test of time, change of circumstances and more.

A word from the wise here, please invest very carefully in every relationship in your life. Take your time, never rush in, and think deeply before you let someone into your heart. And when you do, make sure you are ready to fight to keep the person in your life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Not Womanly Enough?

I am doing a tag after really really long, and I know I have many a pending tags, and to be honest I don't know if I will ever get to them. But when I saw this one, it seemed interesting, and since its a dear friend, I wanted to give it a go. Only now, that I have actually sat down to write it, I realise how difficult it is for me. For one I believe in the differences between men and women, I don't even for a second think they are the same, or are meant to do the same things. 'Unique halves which together form a complete whole', that is my take on the sexes. So even though this is likely to cause great consternation to many, I do in fact support some of the so-called stereotypes. Add to that, that I have been an only child, so nothing gendered affected me there, I have grown up in a place, and studied in a school, that was full of the rich and famous. So I think what I grew up with was the exact opposite of the Gender stereotypes, this tag talks about. So I thought, I will try and do this the ways, in which I think I have broken norms or expectations, in certain ways, maybe even the opposite of the stereotypes this tag expects me to talk about. Smitha, I hope I do justice to your expectations in tagging me.

Smitha from Any Excuse To Write, Deeps from Perceptions and live on impulse has tagged me to do a post on My Sins Against Gender Stereotypes, and so here I go with my own interpretation of it. I will try to list it based on the enormity of my sins.

1. I gave up work to be a home-maker and a mother. I still have not heard the last of it, more than four years down the line. An educated woman of today, sitting at home and wasting away her education. I have been asked questions like 'Don't you get bored at home all day?' to 'Don't you feel bad wasting all the money your parents spent on educating you?'. These questions come from people I barely to know, as well as close family and friends. The kind of work I have chosen to do now, is raising more eyebrows than ever. I think its a stupid stereotype, that every educated woman need to work professionally and earn, even if that makes her unhappy.

2. I was never coy or shy. (This I think can go in the more typical stereotypes.) I am not shy or coy even now, but the realities of life have taught me to be more careful and reserved around people, and especially men, because I know, that ugly comments about me, now reflect on the GP. When I went to college, I never played the coy, shy babe in distress, and formed easy and close friendships with boys. I was labeled everything from easy to cheap. And surprisingly these came from boys, who were supposedly my friends.

3. I practically lived in my jeans and my father's shirts during my growing up years. SO much so, that an old lady, a family friend, can passed a snide remark about how I would wear a pair of jeans even during my wedding. huh????

4.I love manual work. Yes I do, send me out, to dig a hole, paint a house, chop some wood, I would love it really. Infact I think such work gives me immense pleasure. I can handle wires, and plugs and tools. But I think I am losing touch with those things being with the GP who does it around the house now. Infact when I was in school, there was a vaccination drive of some kind going on. My parents did not approve of it for me, so I did not get the shot, while most of the others did. And by the end of the school day, most of them had fever and could barely stay awake. I remember I carried about 7-8 of the school bags besides my own into the school bus that day. And I still remember it with pride.

5. I loved sports, throughout my childhood. I would discuss sports with the boys in school, I knew the ins and outs of most things, my room was full of photos of all kinds of sports stars. Sportsworld is the magazine that I subscribed to as a girl. I would stay up nights during the Football World Cup, and watch every match. Tennis was my special favourite. Surprisingly I have lost the passion completely now. I am ashamed to say I am not sure I even know all the players of the current Indian cricket team.

6. I don't like either singing or dancing, nor am I artistic by nature. Fortunately the GP has a much better sense of aesthetics than me, and I can trust him to take care of that aspect. I have to make concentrated efforts to beautify things, and presentations, I don't have a natural eye for such things.

7. I love the outdoors. Given a chance I would camp in my own backyard, well maybe not, I love my bed too much for that. But the fact is that I love the outdoors. I hate weekends, that do not lead to outings. I love walking, trekking, hiking. I just love being out, the sun shining, the wind in face. Not very girly na?

8. Inefficient Home-maker. Now this one really bothers me. Because I would love to be able to maintain the perfect home, with discipline and orderliness. But that would mean, early mornings, every day, order and discipline for myself. Just not my thing!

9. Comfort Always. That is my motto when it comes to clothes and footwear. I never wear heels, because I just cannot walk well in them. My clothes are always picked for comfort, and looks follow in second. The need to dress up for an occasion or a party, throws me into a tizzy, and I wait to rip the clothes right off of me, as soon as I can get back home. I still love wearing men's shirts and pyjamas/track-pants are my only home-wear.

10. Cosmetics don't entice me. I have been influenced by people around me, and purchased things, which have never been used. So I have learnt my lesson, and never buy those things now. I have attended weddings in my kajal and lipstick, and happily so. I forget to even moisturise my hands and feet regularly, so buying anything more is a complete waste of money in my case.

Yay! I got 10. I was really struggling for the last couple. In some ways I think I am quite a stereotype myself. However I shall pass this onto others, who I think will do a much better job than me.

Soul OF Alec Smart