On Women

Women, in general, have attracted the imagination of probably all of the men. They have been quite successful in altering the neural path in almost all of us and have been major cause of turning some of the lunatics in to finest scholars (e.g. Tulsidas and Kalidas) and we probably never know how many were ruined vice versa since nobody keep tracks of loosers. If there are N men alive, guaranteed that they will come up at least N^N views about women in their total lifetime, mostly contradictory at times. Some of the finest male brains have pondered over the questions of women and found themselves miserably inept at solving this riddle. In their life time, if some of them compared all beautiful and elegant things with women, many of them have devised a huge number of words which are mostly of disapproving nature. Well, there have been many extreme cases which can not be true. Like in Braj Bhasa dialect of Hindi, in Ritikavya tradition of poetry, these guys were over obsessive with female body parts. They compared anything beautiful with woman. Some of them have gone up to the level comparing mountains with female breasts. Scary man! What kind of image they had in mind? Boobzilla!!

Among few of them I’ve read, Einstein knew very well about the complexity of subject he was handling. As a wise man, he used humor while talking about women. One of the finest thinker in East Asian human history, Confusios have said things about woman which would make him no 1 enemy of feminist (of whatever kind). His least popular depreciation of woman has been one the most fundamental of his thinking, “Women and people of low birth are very hard to deal with. If you are friendly with them, they get out of hand, and if you keep your distance, they resent it.” Quite ironically, another Chinese, Mao Zedong, was of the view that in China woman “hold up half the sky“. The comparison don’t sit easily given the fact the Confucius still touched deep chord in Chines society. However, in a move that would have the sage himself raising a disapproving eyebrow, feminism is being introduced to Confucianism with the recent decision to recognise, for the first time, women as descendants of the philosopher. Anyway, 2400 years is a big time.

Back to our India which have its both glorious and dirty history in the matter of women. Manu’s views are probably well known. He might have become best friend of Confucius. They both have love to spend time over tea discussing ills of women company.

None of them, however, denied the role woman plays in shaping up a society. Even Manu and Confucius were well aware of the fact that precursor of a society downfall is degradation of woman. Probably that is why they came up with these regressive ideas. Centuries later, Napoleon  summed it up in his famous, “Give me good mothers, I’ll give you a great nation.”. In Mahabharta, a great deal of arguments were made only on women role in a society. Woman agency, as Amartya Sen discussed in his Argumentative Indians was the topic of discussion between Krishna and Arjuna in which Arjuna was worried about the degradation of their character will lead to their kingdom destruction. In fact, the flow of this tale Mahabharata is governed by women only. My favorite part have always been in which Kunti encounters Karna revealing that he is her son. This instant was well captured by Ramdhari Singh Dinker in his Rashmirathi.

The degradation of women in India after Brahmans took over Hinduism was colossal and also very much acknowledged. Among some of the good things (in my opinion) which came out of it was strong family. Unfortunately, to make this institute sustainable, women were forced to give up so many rights than was necessary. A lot of things changed in this time. Like as in Mahabharta, it was a warrior duty to not to refuse a woman if she wants a son from him. Sex have always been a whirlpool around which a lot of philosophy born and perish.

In Hindu religion, there are lot of goddess (devi). Prominent are three. But they are not central deity. In spite of their power, knowledge and wealth, they had been married (or denied individuality in letter and spirit) to the three gods, the trinity. Perhaps, that did not serve the purpose of Manuvadi. A fearsome, uncontrolled devi was made a biwi, an uncontrolled power had to be subjugated. Then they fabricated a sense of morality out of it. Oldest Indian civilization, Indus civilization has some sort of central deity. Since Indus script is still un-deciphered its hard to say exactly how these deity were treated and perceived; whether they were total independent or considered as ‘the other half’.

Perhaps world could have been better off in gender-equality if the deity were left only devi and the the status of Biwi could be an additional one . One should be attached with the least number to identities. It makes life harder to create an identity for oneself otherwise.

Almost all of the religions have shown a remarkable homogeneous approach towards woman. I am quite amazed how effectively they have stole power from women. How they were able to control the other gender, women (as mother and wife)? Whenever religion peaks at its height, woman will find themselves at their lowest. In one of my favorite literally work by Orhan Pamuk, Snow a lady told the protagonist, “When men turn to religion, women turn to suicide.” If does not make sense to you, get a copy!

Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde have also spoken mildly about woman – through their alter ego. I do believe that if you try to get close to a woman, they will try to take away almost everything from you. Your freedom to think, your freedom to be bold. For a normal person who cherish normal life, company of a woman is possibly the best company. But most of the philosophers and thinker have avoided woman as expected. However in the century we are living in, its quite ironical that most romantic singers were either single or gay. Something got to be wrong with woman. Take Bernard Shaw for instant, “It is assumed that a woman must wait, motionless, until she is wooed … She often does wait motionless. That is how a spider waits for the fly. But the spider spins her web. And if the fly, like my hero, shews the strength that promise to extricate him, how swiftly does she abandon her pretence of passiveness, and openly fling coil after coil about him until he is secured for ever.” A picture of woman-hood as articulated by Prof. Mehta in the novel Godan by Premchand, Shaw probably had the same picture in his mind “all men of genius who have contributed anything original in the true sense of the word have qualities of altruism and self-sacrifice that are the embodiments of true womanhood.” It is also worth noticing, most of the males who chose to stay single are those who have quite extraordinary views about woman.

Whatever acquaintanceship I had in my brief period of life – generally speaking – I am not a big fan of Indian women . I refuse to believe that they are any better than Indian men. In boldness and patriotism, probably they are the best in the world. We had (have) Lakshmi Bai, Panna Dhai, Arundhati Roy, Irom Sharmila, Indira Gandhi, Padmini, Mayawati and not to mention larger than life figures of Ramayana and Mahabharata etc. In boldness and patriotism, Indian males, however have shown a tremendous decline. We no longer have equivalent of Gandhi, Nehru, Tagore and Bhagat Singh – not even distant one. Unfortunately Indian mothers no longer make their children bold, they make them wise. By being wise, they mean be opportunistic for their benefits. When it comes to power and corruption, both of them shows a tremendous appetite. Just look at the profile of any Indian politicians, male or female. Compassion is ‘a missing’ among both of them. Its quite easy in India to feel disconnected with almost anything. Indians, especially in this century will not be known for compassion unless one take only corporate media as the primary source of their research in distant future. Some times I wonder if I reborn to become a historian and write about this period taking clues Times of India and other right wing media, I probably call it the golden age of India. Though I know now very well that Rome is burning and over a billion Nero are playing flutes.

They say that putting a large number of women in prominent positions will make a difference – due to their compassion with other women. I highly doubt that.  There are so many women in media, both in national and international, and there is hardly any change in the way women are being depicted over there.

Besides a country with over half a billion woman have not produced a Mother Terasa or Any Besant. Or our media fail to acknowledge them if any? The only politicians in India who really seem to care about poor people or woman is an Italian born Sonia Gandhi. Despite the opposition (even from Mamta Banerjee) she successfully implemented Women Reservation Bill and NREGA. A good thing about Indian men and women is that both of them are crazy about family. Possibly, in my opinion, Indian males are best suited for Russian females. Russian woman seems to worry about a lot about low investment their males put in their family. Besides Russian Woman are known for their agency and living life with less stress. You doubt me, look at the difference in life expectancy of Russian male and female. Over 12 years and most of the males dies due to over consumption of alcohol. Dudes, Don’t chicken out with life!

I can not locate any parallel in animal kingdom, in which, in a single species so much mistrust exists between male and female despite of living so closely for so many centuries. They sometimes claim that woman are from this planet and man are form that planet. A growing number of homosexuals, divorces, breakups and domestic violence shows this phenomenon. It surely will not auger well for us. A rising tide of individuality and profit driven attitude have already taken a toll on relations. “Whats there for me?” possibly the first question people ask themselves before committing themselves to a relation. Among these all mindless (or wise?) pursuit, agitation and ego clashing – sometimes fueled by good intentions – always put our biggest investment, our children – at risk. All the wars for gender equality or for whatever must be fought outside the home. Peace and harmony must prevail in home. There is need to acknowledge that families are irreplaceable – by both of the genders. Feminism – though there are thousands of definitions – must come to the term of motherhood and family. Males are not equipped with to take care of their children better than their mothers. The idea of equality between male and female is misplaced. Man and Woman can not be equal. One can not be equal to a part when one is born a part apart!  This kind of arguments in which a male shows his incompetencies dealing with children and family affairs make some woman angry. Why is it only my job to care of family and children? Well, I don’t know! You should ask your children. With whom they want to be around, their mother of their father?

Writing in Hindu, R. Vasavi, has this to say, “Women are a rare species as they are the only non-living creatures inhabiting the earth. Their lifelessness is visible in their eyes. They are the only species in the entire world who do not want to give birth to their own kind and have an instinct to kill their own kind, a characteristic known as ‘female infanticide’ in scientific terminology”. In killing daughters, these children of Manu and Confucius knows no limit.

Television has done whatever it could to make the mistrust more acute between the genders. Look at any drama on Indian television. We never had so many female villains. Every in-laws is trying to kill her Bhabhi, every secretary is in some lewd relation with her boss and every mother-in-law is to her Bahu is more than what Lax Luthor is to Superman. Now if it is a movie, you get out of the theater and forget the villain (save Gabbar Singh), but the effect of small screen can not be ruled out. Almost all of these  Indian woman spends so much time in front of it, I really shudder at the thought marrying someone who have spend a significant portion of her life in front of this idiot box.

Possibly the most spineless Indian women are found among the followers of media and television who shapes their worldview reading and watching them and mostly concentrated in Indian cities (see End Note on this). Print media on the other hand, use sex as the strategy to inflict more disaster. Whenever they talk about women, Sex is always the topic in background. Barring some sensible newspapers and magazines, there is hardly an article to be found in which woman are treated as individual human. Not even a single article, even if written by a female, speaks only for woman, as an independent entity where a male or Sex is not in background. Most of them are about relationships, how to deal with man and blah blah. Can they devote a small space where a woman can really talk to a woman or the woman are dumb enough to understand that. You can not blame males here, Indian media have fair share of females at prominent positions. Some other peculiarities are also observed in this species. Lets go back to Vasavi, “Women are the only ones who willingly allow all kinds of nasty and cruel things to happen to their bodies in the name of enhancing beauty. This phenomenon can be observed in every part of the world and throughout history. If the women belonging to primitive societies wear heavy copper rings around their necks to “look beautiful” according to their social and cultural code, others who belong to the modern world wear high heels (which are of course lower than hills) for the same reason. Neither of them is bothered about the resultant health hazards.”

So called Market is running a big scam to manipulate girls. Media is in hand in hand with it so is TV. Market expect you to be low on your dignity, submissive to its authority. It’s champion will attach moral to it, so you don’t even criticise it. The media, News-papers, A, B, C,..,M…,Z TV; feminine magazine makes you believe that depicting you as an object is the sole purpose of your existence. They make you ‘heroine’ for that – which mostly means being a damsel in distress to be rescued or to sit motionless in bat to be wooed by a good for nothing male. They give you titles ‘Miss Universe’ to enjoy more naked shows so next day they can sell it to people. They call it beauty and art. Women scientist and engineer do not make the headlines. They do not give awards to great mother, great wives, or great sister. These roles are not good! “No these are subjugation of one gender towards other gender. This is slavery! Women must break away their barrier and must become an object to please manhood. Spending time with her children and making a man/woman out of them is not a profession. Why shouldn’t child be cared for by husband. Family is perverse. Be single and spend more in economy.” Destruction of an institute life Family is quite easy but these guys never give an alternative. What can replace a family? And can we survive without family? When market and media go hand in hand, disaster follows. And they have been remarkably successful in that aspect.

Woman, especially girls, love to consider themselves an expert about boys. I found it amusing that despite of this colossal confidence in their abilities they mostly end up with a guys whom they think they have been avoiding all of their life – and they repeat this many times. Girls, do make judgement quite early about boys. In 2-3 minutes they will preoccupy themselves with some idea of them and then there is no power in this world which will make them change their mind. It also happens at home. Arguing with a female is never been a good idea, and will never be. They somehow can not believe that in the matter of emotions and relations, a male can think more rationally than themselves. No doubt they mature early but I have no iota of doubts that they grow wise prematurely. It is better if you understand this and never argue with the girl you really want to spend your life with. There is not hope dude. If you really love arguing, stay single or become a gay. 
Despite of limited resources, security and opportunity available, Indian rural woman are infinitely stronger than their urban counterpart. Though they shows a quite a week nature while they are girls, but when married they do whatever they could to take over their new home. The battles which ensues between the newly wed would-be-owner and the current owner which is her Mother-in-law always visible and make a significant portion of rural stories of the day. Though, most of the rural families faces a decline in these battles, but a few good things come out of it. A larger voice of the mother always guarantee a better future for her children. Rural males, however find themselves at the mercy of females of their homes. I have never seen any man in my village trying to shut-up the women of his home. They generally leave the home and come back when the storm is over. Well, this is not the case in every caste. Women become more stronger as the status of cast declines. In higher castes – take for example Chauhans – women generally do not go out of their homes (even if you insist, they will not) but the power within the house they enjoy are immense. Home  and finance ministry are in their hands, labor ministry is given to the male members. Outside the house, however, its the male member who is all-mighty but all of them know who is the real king inside the house. Even if some financial deal is made between them outside the home, others will ask this guy, go ask your children if deal is fine. By children they mean, go ask your wife if she likes it. Nothing happens in a Chauhan family without their approval. Among Jats also, woman enjoys quite a power – but not in all of them. Some castes are very oppressive towards women. 
Rinki Bhattachararya, in her recently-released book Behind Closed Doors: Domestic Violence in India (Sage, 2004) has narrated first person accounts by women of different communities and classes of their experiences in encountering violence and verbal abuse within the four walls of their marital home. Again, some of the most disturbing are those of women from middle-class “educated” families. I place the word educated within quotes deliberately. The true meaning of education ought to be enlightenment, a liberal and generous approach towards other human beings, and above all humility because the more educated we are the more we realise how little we know. Unfortunately, the way the word “educated” is used these days has very little to do with this definition. It merely means an accumulation of paper degrees and qualifications. It has very little to do with the world-view you develop, the way learning changes your approach to life.

 Following passages are from Kalpana Sharma’s review of this book. 

One of the stories in the book illustrates this point. In Neela’s words: “I had heard about wife beating. But I was under the impression it did not occur in the educated class. Although my parents never got along, violence was never a part of their problem. Certainly there was a lot of bullying from both ways. A great deal of verbal abuse, but not actual beating. My parents argued non-stop. No one knew what triggered their rows — the smallest and silliest things could start it. If my father lost his kerchief — it was enough for us to be tense the whole day.” Sound familiar?

Neela goes on to narrate how she could never tell her “educated” parents that she was abused even as a child and how she ended up in an abusive marriage. Within 10 days of her marriage, her husband forced her to give up her job. And in the end, she did not walk out of her marriage because: “My attitude was, when you have accepted life, keep quiet.” Neela was also led to believe that she could not be self-sufficient, that she could never survive on her own. As a result, she remained inside a marriage and suffered the worst forms of physical violence until she, and her newborn child, were literally thrown out.

Many people complain that women’s activists never stop talking and writing about issues like domestic violence. Why don’t they get on with their lives, women are often asked. Why do we keep on whining?

The reality is that most women want to get on with their lives but cannot. Even women with the highest of qualifications are often hampered. The worst off are those whose hopes are raised with education and skills and then crushed when they realise that the men they are forced to marry or even choose to marry do not share their dreams.

Kalpana is quite sympathetic to fellow woman and hence hesistate to write about unpleasant things about woman. A lot of misery which urban woman put themselves into are their own deed. They seem to have much more freedom to choose their life partner than they can afford. Somehow most of them ended up with someone they always claim to avoid. I have never been a big fan of their judgmental capabilities about men.  


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