Stop! #BangaloreMolestation

 

Yesterday, I turned an observer.

I observed myself.

I dressed up to meet a friend and as I did I realised that I looked at myself from every angle ensuring that the kurta I was wearing wasn’t too well fitted and my flowing hair stylishly, and cleverly, covered my chest. I even stood in the light of the balcony to ensure that my Patiala salwar wouldn’t turn transparent in the sunlight. As I walked to the mall I realised how tense I was, with elbows sticking out slightly to push away men who manage to ‘accidentally’ brush against you. My eyes were alert, looking for a look or a gesture that could spell trouble.

And do you know what saddened me the most? This is what most women do every single day, and they don’t even realise it.

Then I wondered if men, from strangers to the men we live with, our brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles and the like, even realise what it feels like to be a woman? Being guarded all the time, in real life and online. Thinking twice before you say or write something. Being trolled if you speak your mind.

As a Social Experiment, Women around the world should be allowed to behave and act out all they have seen, heard and experienced in their day to day lives as Women. Irrespective of their age and backgrounds women everywhere should behave like men do towards them, towards and with the men.
No this is not revenge, nor is is an eye for an eye. Sometimes people only understand what you go through only when it happens to them, and this is the only way to make Men realise what some of their fellow men put women through.
No, not all Men are bad. But almost all women have had an experience which was not pleasant.

The ever increasing news of injustice towards women is terrible. And what is even worse are the platitudes, cliches, snide remarks and the verbal post mortem that follows.

Let us develop empathy , and a backbone, to support someone when they need it.
Create a world where our sisters and daughters feel confident, feel safe and thrive. Don’t let your ‘It’s ok. It happens to everyone’ attitude encourage perpetrators and leave behind a world where all they can do is cringe and have to fight.

Because it may have happened to everyone, but that still doesn’t make it okay for it to continue.

 

 

 

Why I keep Karwa Chauth, and why should you keep your opinion about it to yourself.

Karwa Chauth is an annual festival largely observed by women in the Hindi-speaking Northern and Central regions of India. It usually occurs 10 days before Diwali, and on this day women fast without food or water from dawn till they spot the moon, as they pray for the long and healthy life of their husband.

My very first memory of Karwa Chauth is that of returning home from school to see Mom, my aunts and their friends sitting around having Mehendi being applied on their hands and feet, in preparation for Karwa Chauth the next day. It was such a fun atmosphere, with chatter, the fragrance of henna and endless cups of tea and snacks and we kids being asked to help them eat and drink.

screenshot_2016-10-13-10-47-22My Mehendi

We woke up the next day to see a platter of Mithai’s kept aside for us, from the Sargi that mom had eaten before sunrise that morning, and Mum readying her Thaali for the evening Pooja. The rare occasion that it was a holiday on the same day we rejoiced, as the aunts and their friends would troop in from morning and the ladies sat together to watch films on video. What a treat that was for us!

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My Pooja Thaali

Come evening and the ladies started dressing up, and how! I remember Mom looked, and still does, like a Goddess, in her saree, jewelery and bangles.

We sat for the evening Katha and Pooja with the ladies. After which the Husbands returning from work joined us. There were stories, teasing, bantering and gossip galore! As a teenager my favourite bits were hearing how the couples had met and when the ladies recounted their experiences of their 1st Karwa Chauth.
As kids it was our duty to run up to the terrace and spot the moon, so that the ladies could break their fast. The Moon always troubles women on this day, by hiding behind the clouds and refusing to make an appearance. When the moon was finally spotted, the women prayed to it and broke their fast, by being made to sip water by their husband’s. After which there was a feast! With everyone sitting down to a sumptuous meal together.

I am married into a South Indian family, where Karwa Chauth has zero significance. My Husband didn’t ask me to observe it, nor did my mother-in-law. For that matter, nor did my Mom.

I chose to keep it.

Logic, education and exposure to life have given me enough sense to realize that one person abstaining from food and water will surely not extend another’s life. Just like taking a dip in a holy river will not ‘wash away your sins’ or fasting for any number of days will not ensure a place in heaven. Or that candle marches will do nothing except bring in business for the candle maker.

Nor do I think I hold the kind of power to grant someone a long life.

I fast because I choose to. Because I love the significance of it, and the romance around the thought. Because like all the festivals we may follow, this too brings with it happiness and creates memories. And because I love my Husband and this is one way of showing it.

Karwa Chauth is a day like any other. I am not treated specially nor do I treat my husband specially, on this day.

Each Karwa Chauth I see women posting anti Karwa Chauth messages on all social media, some going so far as to verbally attacking women observing the fast. Shouldn’t you be respecting another woman’s wish to do as she pleases to with her priorities? Imagine, if a teetotaller like me attacked your choice of enjoying your glass of whatever spirit you choose to sip on or smoking your lungs away with cigarettes? That too just because I choose not to, which is why I don’t think you should either? Weird right? My life, my choices, and all that? Exactly!

If YOU think keeping Karwa Chauth makes me regressive, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think it is ridiculous, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.
If YOU think that I am being subversive by ‘going hungry and thirsty for a man’, that is YOUR opinion, not mine.

And I only respect opinions I ask for.

Sisters

 

As girls we grew up hearing, ‘There is safety in numbers’.

We started believing it when we were whistled at, or followed, or deliberately brushed against, or had filmy songs sung loudly for us as we walked the streets alone.

We protested, we raged, we swore to change things when one of our ilk was molested or abused. But we were told to shut up and live with it.

By our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends and other women. And we did.

We cringed inside, carried compasses or safety pins on public transport, discussed it, were angered by it, and learnt to live with it. Incidents of rapes angered us, drove us to protests, inspired candle-lit silent marches, and a primetime slot in news channels for a day or three, and soon became a memory. We blamed the Government, the Male species, the lack of empathy, and raged and ranted. And then we were silent.

The degradation of a woman’s honor continued, as did our rants.

When will we realize that no one will do a thing. Not the government, nor the media, nor the protestors.

No one, except us.

As a woman, it’s time to stop looking outside for help.  It’s time to start reaching out with a helping hand instead. When you see a deliberate brushing past, a grope, a leer, which brings fear into a Sisters eye, stand beside her and watch that fear become a fearsome look. Any action or word that violates a woman’s safety and honor, come together as one and help bring about a change. Be a silent supporter, and a violent one if need be.

Believe, reassure and be there for a Sister who has been through it. Teach your Daughters to be brave, to take care of themselves, to hold their head high, and lash out fearlessly. Be there for your Sisters so no one can get away with scarring her with a horrible memory.
Not because we are weak, but because we must.

After all didn’t we all grow up hearing, ‘There is safety in numbers’.