Monday, December 29, 2008


How many of you women out there have been at the receiving end of that classic pigeonhole defining statement "OH. You're a FEMINIST"
(preceded by curious cocking of head to one side, followed by understanding nod with almost sympathetic look - usually from a man you've only just met a while ago)

I did, a few days back from a rather nice boy I'd just met once before. We were all in the midst of a conversation about what bachelorhood pleasures women thought were acceptable for their husbands to still enjoy (watching porn being an example) and somehow we veered into a topic that made him do the pigeonhole thing with me. I got the classic "Are you a feminist" question and my response was the usual 'whatever' shrug that I reserve for snap judgments.

Thing is, indifferent expression notwithstanding, the question apparently does get to me, cause in my last post I made a rather open threat to slap anyone who called me a feminist again. And P (1 of the 2 regular readers on this blog) asked me why. What was wrong with being a feminist, after all?

I have to admit, that sort of took me by surprise. I've simply become SO used to the negative connotation that goes with the word, esp with the body language described above (which smacks of "I've figured you out. You're one of them.") that despite what Wikipedia has to say about the term, my association with the word was no better than that of an ignorant layman.

So I'm going to have to finally admit that me (and most women I like) are feminists after all. (And, yes, I can ALSO say it without having to hide behind a group of like minded women).

Because I would be as ashamed of a man who needed taking care of, just as I would of a woman.

Because I believe we all need to know how to cook (men and women alike) because it's such a basic survival requirement. Conversely, I don't find it 'incredible' that a man cooks despite being a man.

Because I believe neither of us is better at something than the other regardless of predefined roles (women aren't necessarily better at parenting, men at earning money).

Because I believe men have as much a right to take time off work and get a break for a few years as women do.

Because I don't believe in burning bras even to make a point. (They're too darned expensive)

Because I believe men are entitled to whatever stereotypical activity gets their adrenaline pumping (sports/ porn) before AND after marriage. Just as women are entitled to theirs (shopping/ not keeping a perfect house) before AND after so long as it stays within the limits that their mutual consent has set.

Because I believe that the GRAND proposal (an elaborate plan + a ring that costs 2 months worth of pay) and the whole "you need to send me chocolates/ flowers/ fluffy bears coz I'm a woman and you're a man and that's just how it is" and also the "You should know what I'm thinking even without my saying it" should ALL be taken off the list of mandatories that men are expected to provide.

That does make me a feminist, I guess. So label/ stereotype me all you like. I promise not to bite. Or even bark. Regardless of how YOU meant it, I'll choose to hear it for what it is. A good thing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tradition ...

Holds a special place in the hearts of our parents and their generation. Perhaps to some extent in mine (mid to late 20s to take the vagueness out of the definition), but is much less incident.

Tradition manifests itself in the form of little habits that despite a genesis that is usually rooted in fairly irrational beliefs, become so deeply entrenched in a way of living that they come to be de rigeur and even expected.

Some traditions acquire a meaning that is bestowed upon them by the person who practices them. (Category 1)
Like when praying before a meal becomes a way of saying thanks vs. a way of randomly stringing together a known set of words. Like when shlokas, whose meaning is understood and hence which serve to communicate thanks, apologies and the like in a repeated standardized form vs. (again) random words in a sing song voice. Like when touching the feet of elders to ask for blessings is faith in the ability of unconditional love to make good things happen to the recipient vs. repetitive back bending to ensure no adult ego in the room is offended.

Others just stay, not cause they're welcome, but cause no one thought to ask them to leave politely. (Category 2)
Like (and this is obviously very personal) not praying when menstruating or not touching freshly laundered clothes for fear of polluting them.
Like having to wear symbols of being married (the mangal sutra, the toe ring, the sindoor) even if it doesn't influence your love or respect (or the lack of thereon) for the man you are married to.
Like fasting for somebody else's well being coz you believe that putting yourself through misery will bring happiness to someone else. Like how all of the above and most others are conveniently limited to women.
(No I'm not feminist, and I promise to slap the next person who stereotypes me as such)
Like believing homosexuality or atheism is sinful and will land you in hell. (See, this one's not about women alone.)

There's others that aren't even justifiable no matter how personal a POV you spin them into. (Category 3)
Like not letting a certain class/ section of society near a place of worship or a source of water for fear of contamination.
Like paying another family in cash or kind (also fondly known as dowry) to have them take your daughter in and bestow the oh-so privileged position of wife (bless their soul, wouldn't I absolutely lack meaning and identity without that label they're willing to give me after I take on their family name, and sometimes give up the first name I was born with?) on her.
Like finding it acceptable to kill someone or shun them from a family they were born into for falling in love with someone outside the community.

The thing is, apart from category 3 traditions, I'm indifferent to the others because they're just so personal in nature. It becomes tough to classify something as right or wrong unless it does physical or emotional harm to a living being. Or unless it constitutes a violation of someone's set of beliefs. And starts to intrude into their lives, pointlessly so.

Which is a battle we're constantly fighting with our parents' generation. I know of friends who've called off healthy happy relationships because of parental disapproval over the issue of a different community/ religion. Of friends who dread going home even to their own parents because it means donning an identity that is now SO far from who they are that it just feels like cheating on oneself.

And who mostly give in, because the parents in question don't leave tradition to choice, but turn it into emotional leverage, putting the child in question through utter anguish.

What's sad is how little education or claimed progressiveness has to do with it. That the same parent who proudly boasts about his child having entered the big league with a masters and a settled life in the US of A hangs his head in shame while hesitantly informing the social circle that the kid is marrying someone outside the community.

With my own parents, I've had the chance to sometimes be pleasantly surprised at how much they've opened their minds to a newer way of looking at things. Yet, there's things I still haven't managed to change their mind about. Like even if they'd not raise a fuss about the religion of the person I'm about to marry, they'd still create a huge fuss about me sitting through my own wedding ceremony if I'm in the middle of my period. Like even if they're in agreement with compressing the 1.5 day ceremonies into 1 hour of the core basics, they'd still be very upset if they found out I don't plan on wearing the Thali (Mangal Sutra) or the ring that signify that I am a married woman.

The thing I've realized through the small victories and the disappointments is this.
More often than not, making the effort to talk parents through a certain rationale to shed adherence to a tradition is worthwhile. While at times the clashes involved might feel like repeatedly banging your head against a wall, there are times when they will surprise you with their ability to understand and embrace a new way of being. While at times you may leave the room with a sense of utter failure wondering how you'll ever end the imposition of nonsensical rules on your life, there will be others when you'll have scored a big big victory for the generation that is to come. And for that, your children will thank you :-)

P.s: Dear you know who, this is inspired by and for you. :-)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Testing 1..2..3..

Wow. It feels physically weird to be writing after this long. One would agree that 1 page summaries at work DO NOT count. But even if typing the words doesn't feel as alien, it's almost like I've forgotten blog-speak, perhaps even blog-think!

The past 2 months have been like a whirlwind that just rushed past. So much has happened. So much of it was long due and admittedly, more than what I bargained for just happened without warning.

It's been about 2 months since I last ran, yet my mind and body have felt as if mounted on a non stop treadmill every single day. I've woken up every morning almost falling out of bed, wondering what else I've got lined up to 'finish' that day or what meeting I have that morning. Finish/ wrap up/ close out is becoming the new buzz word. Every minute of every day, work and for most part of non work, has been an investment in a task that needs to be concluded.

But updates aside, let me, for now, treat this post with the respect that's due to an "I'm back!" post.

I'm back to writing. Even if it means whining sometimes, or a hurting hand at others. Even if it means there's still a significant chunk of life that cannot be narrated here.

It didn't take much to figure out when it had to happen. Like most things that we discover our love for, this one had to make the need for its presence felt through its absence. :-)

Hence, I'm back. And all that. See ya around!