Life of an Indian Woman

‘Are women in India,which proudly celebrated its 65th Republic Day today, really safe?’.  This is a question which troubles me very often, and I am always left pondering. This  is a question which occupies newspaper headlines each time the news of a girl being raped comes to the fore. And very often people think the word  ‘SAFE’ simply implies ,an environment where a girl/woman does not face the fear of being raped. However, for me the word ‘SAFE’ implies a host of other things- being able to go to college/office and come  back home without being eveteased ,stalked; being able to wear shorts and walk on the road with head held high, without the fear of being stared at or being touched ; being able to get married without the burden of having to pay dowry; being able to give birth to a girl without the fear of the foetus being killed.

In India, the ordeal for a girl begins right from birth. When she is the womb she faces the danger of being the next victim of female foeticide. If the girl is allowed to enter the world , she faces the fear of being the next victim of ‘female infanticide’. (Some horrifying manifestations of female infanticide include the baby girl being left to drown in a cauldron of boiling milk as in Haryana; being buried alive or poison being mixed in her milk as it happens in Tamil Nadu).Once she matures , she faces the problem of being ostracised by her family/society during the time of menstruation, by not being allowed to attend religious or other auspicious functions , on the pretext that she is ‘impure’, and it is inauspicious.( Hello, people, this is not self created by women, it is something natural, god given, something that enables a woman to bear a child. There is nothing inauspicious about it and she has no reason to be ashamed of it)(This does not happen in every religion, happens mainly among Hindus.) She fears being raped and then bearing the stigma and blame for it, if at all she dares to speak of it, thanks to the society we live in, which instantly places the onus on the girl/women. When she reaches marriageable age she fears that along with her, her parents and will also be harassed by the way of having to give dowry(But there is also something known as bride price in some religions, a practice in which the groom pays money to the bride’s family. In Islam , the groom has to give the bride a gift called ‘MAHR’, prior to the consummation of marriage)  If due to some reason , she does not get pregnant , she is looked down upon by the society, for inability to bear a child , though the fault may not lie in her. Finally, she has to take  the blame for giving birth to a girl child, instead of a boy.

What are the reasons for this? Firstly, women are undervalued and looked down upon as being weak. Secondly, we still live in a society in which patriarchy is very deeply entrenched. Women have been taught to be submissive and live with the exploitation and not speak about it. Also women very often are treated as mere objects. On one side women, we idolise women and pray to them(deities like Parvati, Lakshmi) and on the other hand we treat them like mere commodities. Thirdly, a lot of these Bollywood movies and Advertisements are to be blames for commodification of women. I do not see the reason behind showing a girl walking out of a pool in a bikini in an advertisement for a cement company.Fourthly, widespread alcoholism is also a major reason, as very often women become the victim of the misbehaviour and beatings of her alcoholic husband.

On one hand we talk of ‘Incredible India’, on the other hand women in this country still do not feel safe, in the true sense of the word. A thought that keeps daunting me every moment is that ‘the girl who got raped at a park yesterday could have been me’

Things  have changed a great deal. Women are now coming and  talking about the harassment they face. The country has always had laws to deal with all this and these have been strengthened in the recent past, but still lacks greatly when it comes to implementation and enforcement. The main change will come only when we change our mindset and outlook  of looking at women. And this change has to come about at home. Boys need to be taught from day one to look at their sisters , mothers and  other women as equals and with respect,and this responsibility lies with the father as much as with the mother. After all ‘Change starts at home’.

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My Personal Account

Well, to give a little background, I am a south Indian girl studying in Delhi. I am in 2nd year college and I belong to a place called ‘Palakkad’ on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. My Parents used to stay in Chennai till I was 6 years old, but since then I have been living in the Capital city. I have, to be fair, literally been brought up in Delhi, the Heart of Northern India, so to say. Even in Delhi, I do not stay , in a ‘South Indian’ dominated area, in fact the area I stay in, has very few South Indians. 

As a South Indian, staying in the North, a question that I have encountered on repeated occasions, from my ‘North Indian’ friends is ‘Shobha, your complexion is too fair for you to fit in as a South Indian, Are you really a South Indian?!’. Well, I just feel like telling them, my dear friend, my colour is God given, neither I nor the region I belong to, has anything to do with it. And I also feel like telling them that ‘Hello, I have been speaking  Tamil since childhood, how can I have a doubt of which place I belong to!  And there is a lot of perceptions that people in the north have about their brethren from the south. For them , a South Indian means ‘a girl with long,oiled hair, dark complexion, unwaxed legs and hands, long skirt, socks pulled up till the knee, typical South Indian accent, and submissive, soft spoken’ and a host of other things. And for people here , if they know that you are a south Indian, they will be like ‘oh! You are MADRASI’. Guys, just for your information, the South of India, consists of four states, all known for their distinct and unique, non overlapping cultures,  languages and they merge it all into one. Well, talking about colour is racial discrimination, which is unwanted, because even south Indians are as much Indians first as much as you. And since I am fair, most people say I am a Punjabi and get to know that I am a south Indian only from my last name. And then they go on to ask me, ‘are you a Brahmin, or are you not?’. Well how does me belonging to one caste or the other have any bearing on the person I am. Well, no wonder , my brethren who come from the South, for pursuing studies here, find it so difficult to adjust , because they are very often being looked upon by and facing people who look upon them engulfed by perceptions they have.

And when my friends go down south, to Tamil Nadu, they come back and tell me, that ‘Dude, people of your state, do not like, us north Indians, and cease to help us when they get to know we belong to the North.’  Well, but these same people do not realize that South Indians face the same thing when they  come to settle down here, in fact sometimes even worse, as they take on racial lines. Well ,I don’t approve of the south Indians who are not hospitable and helpful towards the people from the north, who visit their place, either.

Just yesterday, I happened to tell one of my friends over the phone that my hometown is Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and his first reaction was that ‘Dude, you are too fair for a Tamilian man’. Well he being a very good friend of mine, and being in college and well educated asked me this question. Well, I sure, do not doubt his intentions , he is so used to it that he just asked me. And when I responded to that and said ‘Come on, do not get racial’, he said he was joking. Well I agree, that he was perhaps joking but it said a lot.

Well, I am not trying to say that all North Indians are bad or that all North Indians have very prejudiced opinions of South Indians. Incidentally, most of my very close friends are north Indians. Neither am I saying that people in the South do not do similar things to people in the North or that they do not have prejudiced opinions about people in the North.After all , one cannot paint everybody with the same brush and in the same colour.  I am sure people from other regions face similar situations when they come to Delhi. I am just through this blog, putting forth, what I have seen and experienced first  hand . There will be people who would differ as I have just written what I have seen . There may well be people who may have had different experiences. I am not trying to generalize here.

 

I also want to say that we are all Indians first and then South Indian, North Indian, North East Indian much much later. But the bottom line is that ‘we are Indians first.’ Then why do we people form perceptions about people and follow stereotypes and try to fit in a certain person within the preformed perceptions? Why not just judge someone by the person they are, and not by region, religion, caste,colour, looks. It makes things much simpler and more pleasant. After all, we all belong to the same land ‘India’.

The wrong act of the Aam Aadmi Party

The new player in the political horizon, the Aam Aadmi Party, which recently assumed office in Delhi, raised a lot of hope in me. As a youngster i am fed up of the corruption that the country has been wreathing under at the hands of the political bigwigs whom we vote to power. I am tired of corruption, various manifestations of which I encounter on a daily basis.The big and empty promises of the politicians regarding a whole host of things during elections , and of their policies which favour the haves in making them richer and further impoverishing the  the ‘have not’s’ and thus facilitating the widening of the divide between them puts me off. As a normal middle class citizen I want a relief from the ever rising prices of vegetables, power and water tariffs, and a safer environment for women, etc. When the Aam Admi Party started campaigning, its main motto being ‘Anti-corruption’, it seemed like finally there is someone in the political class who still cares to stand up for the ‘Aam Admi,’ and fight for their causes, and who are willing to be the mouthpiece of the common citizen of India.

Ever since the Aam Admi party has come to power in Delhi, it has been trying its level best to solve the problems of the people, standing by its credentials of a ‘Solution based’ party. And the party has kept its word and succeeded a bit in its effort by cutting the power and water tariffs.( though the cut in the water tariff would benefit only those who receive piped water from the Delhi Jal Board), by calling a Janta Durbar where the people could get their problems redressed with the direct engagement of the politicians. ( this was done so that politicians could engage directly with the people, instead of people having to run  with their problems with politicians trying to solve them sitting behind closed doors in their air conditioned offices). The first Janta Durbar ended in a fiasco and has been scrapped since.In case of the Janta Darbar, the Delhi Government should take a cue from Kerala, where the Chief Minister has successfully been running a Mass Contact Programme, and addresses the grievances of the people first hand, and has also been awarded by the UN for the same. The cut in the water and power tariffs, however had a ripple effect across the country, with many other states discussing and deliberating similar possibilities. And despite the many loopholes in the initiatives brought about by the party, many people and I were still positive, and felt since its a new party, some time should be given to it get things in place. In fact I always defend the party and argue with my friends when they say that the party is just making tall claims but will not be able to render much. In the run to portray itself as a ‘solution’ based party, it is trying to find overnight solutions to problems, without proper deliberation, rendering them ineffective and fool of loopholes. They need to realize that such a huge endeavour requires a proper plan to be laid out and cannot be achieved in a jiffy by simply stepping on the stones that come their way while walking.

In a recent attempt the Kejriwal government has gone a bit too far. Some three, four days back the Delhi Law minister also Aam Aadmi party leader ordered the Delhi Police to raid against the African women inhabiting an area called ‘Khirki Extension’ in Delhi. The law minister led a mob with the aim of wanting to clear the area of the African women living there, charging the women with prostitution and drug peddling. The minister along with the mob forced his way into the houses of some of them and searched their houses without a warrant. The mob also stopped some African women returning home and forced one of them to give urine samples in the public to conduct drug tests. The police who were forced to detain them and get drugs tests conducted on them, found that the tests were negative and had to release them. Above all this Kejriwal went to the Lieutenant Governor to suspend three policemen for not complying with the Law minister’s orders.

This recent incident was uncalled for. And it has blurred the line of difference that the party proudly claimed to have compared other parties. The party said they are for the common man and will protect their rights against any wrongdoing by anyone, but with this act a shadow has been cast on this claim.(The party probably is talking only about the Indian citizens living in Delhi.) The politicians do not have the right to take laws into their hands and crackdown at anyone’s house and check their house without a warrant, just on the premise that they suspect them of something. Also they cannot interfere into the functioning of the police and need to respect their independence,( one of the things the party stood for). On the one hand party talks about enhancing security of women in the city and on the other hand breaks into their houses in the middle of the night, heights of double standards. Kejriwal is demanding that the Delhi police be brought under its ambit, but if this is the shawdy manner in which he and his men are going to manage things, it will only worsen things and people will lose faith in them. The party forgot something that every Indian is taught as a toddler, and that is ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ where a guest is considered equivalent to God( the atithi in this case being the, Africans here)

Its time the party gets its act together, deliberates on things and chalks out proper plans  before acting. If they continue doing things this way, it will not be long before people lose faith in them. Kejriwal and his men need to remember that if the citizens of Delhi have voted for them in large numbers, the same people also have the power to dethrone them from their positions.

Aside

The new player in the political horizon, the Aam Aadmi Party, which recently assumed office in Delhi, raised a lot of hope in me. As a youngster i am fed up of the corruption that the country has been wreathing under at the hands of the political bigwigs whom we vote to power. I am tired of corruption, various manifestations of which I encounter on a daily basis.The big and empty promises of the politicians regarding a whole host of things during elections , and of their policies which favour the haves in making them richer and further impoverishing the  the ‘have nots’ and thus facilitating the widening of the divide between them puts me off. As a normal middle class citizen I want a relief from the ever rising prices of vegetables, power and water tariffs, and a safer environment for women, etc. When the Aam Admi Party started campaigning, its main motto being ‘Anti-corruption’, it seemed like finally there is someone in the political class who still cares to stand up for the ‘Aam Admi,’ and fight for their causes, and who are willing to be the mouthpiece of the common citizen of India.

Ever since the Aam Admi party has come to power in Delhi, it has been trying its level best to solve the problems of the people, standing by its credentials of a ‘Solution based’ party. And the party has kept its word and succeeded a bit in its effort by cutting the power and water tariffs.( though the cut in the water tariff would benefit only those who receive piped water from the Delhi Jal Board), by calling a Janta Durbar where the people could get their problems redressed with the direct engagement of the politicians. ( this was done so that politicians could engage directly with the people, instead of people having to run helter skelter with their problems with politicians trying to solve them sitting behind closed doors in their air conditioned offices). The first Janta Durbar ended in a fiasco and has been scrapped since.In case of the Janta Darbar, the Delhi Government should take a cue from Kerala, where the Chief Minister has successfully been running a Mass Contact Programme, and addresses the grievances of the people first hand, and has also been awarded by the UN for the same. The cut in the water and power tariffs, however had a ripple effect across the country, with many other states discussing and deliberating similar possibilities. And despite the many loopholes in the initiatives brought about by the party, many people and I were still positive, and felt since its a new party, some time should be given to it get things in place. In fact I always defend the party and argue with my friends when they say that the party is just making tall claims but will not be able to render much. In the run to portray itself as a ‘solution’ based party, it is trying to find overnight solutions to problems, without proper deliberation, rendering them ineffective and fool of loopholes. They need to realize that such a huge endeavour requires a proper plan to be laid out and cannot be achieved in a jiffy by simply stepping on the stones that come their way while walking.

In a recent attempt the Kejriwal government has gone a bit too far. Some three, four days back the Delhi Law minister also Aam Aadmi party leader ordered the Delhi Police to raid against the African women inhabiting an area called ‘Khirki Extension’ in Delhi. The law minister led a mob with the aim of wanting to clear the area of the African women living there, changing the women with prostitution and drug pedalling. The minister along with the mob forced his way into the houses of some of them and searched their houses without a warrant. The mob also stopped some African women returning home and forced one of them to give urine samples in the public to conduct drug tests. The police who were forced to detain them and get drugs tests conducted on them, found that the tests were negative and had to release them. Above all this Kejriwal went to the Lieutenant Governor to suspend three policemen for not complying with the Law minister’s orders.

This recent incident was uncalled for. And it has blurred the line of difference that the party proudly claimed to have compared other parties. The party said they are for the common man and will protect their rights against any wrongdoing by anyone, but with this act a shadow has been cast on this claim.(The party probably is talking only about the Indian citizens living in Delhi.) The politicians do not have the right to take laws into their hands and crackdown at anyone’s house and check their house without a warrant, just on the premise that they suspect them of something. Also they cannot interfere into the functioning of the police and need to respect their independence,( one of the things the party stood for). On the one hand party talks about enhancing security of women in the city and on the other hand breaks into their houses in the middle of the night, heights of double standards. Kejriwal is demanding that the Delhi police be brought under its ambit, but if this is the shawdy manner in which he and his men are going to manage things, it will only worsen things and people will lose faith in them. The party forgot something that every Indian is taught as a toddler, and taht is ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ where a guest is considered equivalent to God( the atithi in this case being the, Africans here)

Its time the party gets its act together, deliberates on things and chalks out proper plans  before acting. If they continue doing things this way, it will not be long before people lose faith in them. Kejriwal and his men need to remember that if the citizens of Delhi have voted for them in large numbers, the same people also have the power to dethrone them from their positions.