Volume 8 : Issue 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2009

Group : And Life Goes On

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International Woman’s Day – Alisha in the wonderland?

By Arun Babani

It's all there in the newspaper. A big splash on the International Woman's Day, on the 8th March 2009. High profile society women celebrating that 'inner strength' of being the fair sex! The wife of an industrialist is congratulating herself on meeting the U.S. President in White House. A trendy columnist concluding her ignited piece by warning women about the one asset they hold: their womb. A single woman, a film director, proud of her individualistic viewpoints feels it an advantage to be a single woman in a man's world. A pretty postcard of an actress shuts everyone up at the success of Indian actresses in Hollywood. A woman writer laments about laziness of Indian women at taking the centre stage; another writer writes about the 'Superior People Skills' of women who, he predicts, will take majority of jobs in the future.

All across the western world the Woman's Liberation Movement has all but died down. Here in India some cheap imitation is taking shape with all this talk of 'Woman of Substance'. Even in the hey days of lib movement women did not have all the answers to their philosophy. What you do with a woman's liberation once it is snatched from the Male domination? Is a woman there only to follow a man's footsteps, on the corporate ladder, adorning the black suit? Is there any separate, distinct and unique identity for women instead of aping the male? And considering for a moment that a woman is sufficiently free of man's shadows, is she then free of her own vehicles and self glorifications which is a rebounce from being a slave to man for so long, in the first place?

In India, a handful of 'free' (read rich) women seem to apply a different set of rules to themselves and to their less fortunate fellow sisters. The force is too childish even to deserve a thoughtful comment. These ideas are a spicy mix of saas-bahu serials, page 3 gossip and heady cocktails bought at late night lounge bars.

The ground reality however points the other way. Among the 600 million (60 crore) women in India, 70% are illiterate or only semiliterate. These are the traditional 'holy cows', meant for bed-n-breakfast. Then there is the new breed of urban educated women who appears in a weird combination of jeans and bangles, tee-shirt and tika, traditional to the core but modern in their make-up. This species, forever stressed out, doing the tightrope of in-laws and being in tune.

That leaves a very minuscule minority of truly educated, cultured and modern Indian women, a real woman of substance, Ignored by media and masses, who does her thing in total privacy, away from the flash bulbs and fashions. There are a handful of such truly liberated and blessed ladies of excellence who don't need to flaunt their photos or opinions, a calm passion that burns and burns. These are the visionaries and torch bearers of hope.

On the other hand simply to label a lady with being liberated because of a cushy corporate job or an MBA or being a CEO is a folly that endorses a business card more than the belief system. We tend to get impressed by a woman's gusto and grit rather than her silence and strength. With this kind of measure Ms. Rakhi Sawant, with due respect comes across on top of the list!

For a genuine woman's liberation, we'll have to liberate men first. In the meanwhile, these events like the woman's day, father's day, doctor's day, secretary's day are just token consolations for that part of society that is ignored and exploited all year round.

They are just reminders of our own rather fragile memories. Nothing more. One newspaper advised men to 'gift her a spa session' today on D. W. D. Fine. Go ahead, do it and shut-up. That's all there's to it. A sensuous spa session for entire society!

Rewards of an Award

A funny story, full of sardonic humor, goes something like this; an unknown writer writes a book about the utter meaninglessness of life in society. No publisher is willing to buy it. The unknown writer publishes it himself. The book wins the highest award of the land: the most meaningful book of all times!

Something like this happened to the movie 'Aakrosh' made by Govind Nihalani. The story revolves around a dumb villager being victimized by the corrupt government and it earned a gold medal from the government. The doyen of Indian literature-Nirad Chaudhry too earned his awards by showing the dark side of being an Indian. His famous book 'The diary of an unknown Indian' was held in high esteem by the same media and society that Mr. Choudhry debunked in his writing. Another example is that of VS Naipaul's 'An area of darkness' also was held in esteem by the Indians that the book exposed. More recently there was 'The white tiger' by Arwind Adiga that won the Booker prize for intelligent writing about stupid India!

And now there is the hoopla around 'Slumdog Millionaire' complete with street kids from Dharavi, walking for a few minutes on the red carpet and the Indian media going crazy over the 'First ever' Indian achievement. In the meanwhile every one has forgotten the movie itself which is the darkest ever portrayal of India and its people. Thus the darkness has come under arch lights, wondering whether to smile or cry. The movie is about the losers and has won awards, so the winners who actually happen to be the losers in real life are, for a few minutes facing the strobe lights of the cameras until the cameras turn to other faces, other films and other farces.

This is the farcical nature of all art, which while focusing on 'reality', the other eye is always eagerly following a possibility of publicity, of awards, money and fame. In the history of arts there have been many 'artists' who may go a great length to even destroy themselves only in order to be rediscovered, recreated and immortalized by the media and the PR firms. Or you have 'artists' who can kill simply in order to be noticed, and you also have 'artists' who write, paint or create dishonesty only to be honoured with the most completely honest work of art!

Slumdog has once again proved the age old wisdom that there is big money to be made in the subject of poverty. Clever isn't it!

And the Indian middle class who are used to mantra of 'Shining India' don't know whether to feel pride or guilt at Slumdog's reality and its Oscars, because they have earned the highest award for the worst dressed person in an international fashion event.