Category Archives: American Literature

My India: The Mistaken Story – An Indian Woman’s Perspective

India the story you never wanted

Shwetha Kalyanasundaram rebuts this story which lambasts India and makes you feel the country is made up of vultures only looking for prey landing in form of women tourists. A must read for all, no matter what nationality.  

Ms. Rose Chasm’s article “India: the Story You Never Wanted to Hear” has been trending for the last couple of days, with many of my friends sharing the story on various social networking sites. The headline of the article prompted me to read and I was shocked to read about Ms. Chasm’s traumatic experience in my country. As a woman, my heart went out to Ms. Chasm. When I read your article Ms. Chasm, I was ashamed of my country (for the first time!). But pondering over your article, I realized that I cannot sit in my comfortable space and watch people tear my country down (with reference to the 1000+ comments left behind by people to your story).

As a citizen of this wonderful nation (and not a nation of snake charmers and elephants), I am writing in to clear the air and do my bit to support my country. I love my country. And I am not blind to the flaws that exist today.

India has been my home for over two and a half decades. As a woman who bears resemblance to a South East Asian (rather than having the typical Indian features), I have always been looked upon as a foreigner in my own land. I can understand how it feels to have hundred pairs of eyes follow your every move. There have been many instances when the local people have tried to sell their wares to me; with a hope their goods reach foreign shores. I wouldn’t call them advances, rather we are just a group of people who take pride in what we do and feel the need to be appreciated by somebody from a foreign land.

We have always been dubbed as a nation of brown-skinned people and I don’t have any qualms in accepting that we have an obsession for the “white” skin. That could probably explain why people stopped and gaped at you in the bazaars. And I can bet they weren’t just men who stared at you – women and children would have looked at you as well. As a foreigner, you must have been prepared to stand out in the crowd. I am sure you would have been briefed about the cultural differences between the two nations. Yes! It can be uncomfortable to be stared at and photographed but lady, you know ignorance is bliss.

Almost every woman who grows up in India has been subjected to some kind of sexual innuendoes. For the millions of women who use public transportation in India, there have been numerous cases of “accidental” brushes and gropes. There have been numerous cases where women have been stalked and flashed – at. But for every man who cannot control his libido and gives in to his over-crazed sexual drive, I can assure you that there will be ten men who will fight for you and your dignity.

The recent spate of rape attacks and incest cases that we hear and read day in and day out have definitely tarnished my country’s image. And your story just adds more fuel to the fire. If there had been an attempt to rape against you or your friend, did you reach out to the local police to lodge a complaint or did you approach your consulate for help?!? I assume, as an exchange student, you would definitely have been briefed about all these formalities in the event of any untoward incident.

In Sanskrit, we say “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam” (translated: Mother, Father, Teacher, God). The meaning of this adage is the greatest truth and is the order in which we offer reverence. This is the basic tenet in existence from time immemorial and every man has been taught to place the womankind even above God. The Indian men know to treat their women with respect. And I cannot tolerate your generalization that Indian men are bad. You cannot blame the entire male population for the actions of few.

I have seen the best and worst of both the worlds, having spent a considerable portion of my adult life in America and the Middle East. In all the countries I have been to, I have been subjected to roving eyes and sexual overtures from men. I have been leered and heckled by cab drivers and pedestrians alike. Even a middle aged woman is not spared!! Let’s not be too dramatic here and accept that sexual crimes against women are a problem world over.

Do you know that every 1 out of 5 women in America are raped every day (This is according to a UN report published in 2011 and the same figure has been quoted in a NY times article, published December 2011). Does this mean I can issue a travel warning and tell people how unsafe America is?!? Your country is a beautiful place Ms. Chasm and a few bad moments are not going to deter me from travelling again. I just hope your personal experiences don’t make you too judgmental about our great country.

Ms. Chasm, I sympathize with you completely. As a woman, I understand the trauma of your three months stay in my country. Your problem is with that category of homo-sapiens bearing the Y-chromosome and not with my country.

It tears me apart that men and women have apologized on behalf of the Indian population and have left comments to your article. I’m not going to offer apologies. I can only offer you an olive branch and hope you visit my country again, and view this nation from a different and an unbiased perspective. 

Advertisements

Remembering The Radical Romantic On His 221st Birthday – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Blonde-Shelley-rfvx8a

Regarded as one of the finest lyric poets of the English-speaking world, Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792 in Sussex, England. Immensely radical in his works and political as well as social, Shelley unfortunately did not receive much recognition during his lifetime. His worth as a genius as a poet came along only after his death. Shelley became such a strong influence on the next generation of poets and writers, so much so that he was great admired by the like of Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. 

Shelley’s literary compositions exemplify both extremes of Romanticism – joyous ecstasy and brooding despair. The major themes of Shelley’s works comprised – interchange with nature, pursuit of ideal love, rebellion against authority, visionary imagination and the untamed spirit always in search of freedom. 

Though Shelley’s themes exude certain similar hues with his contemporaries, nonetheless, he has left behind certain peculiarities on the literary movement of Romanticism. Pursuit of the idea and the creation of powerful symbols are idiosyncratic to Shelley’s works. His compositions like Ozymandus, Ode to Intellectual BeautyPrometheus Unbound and Ode to the West Wind are not only intellectual feasts but also a delight to the visual imaginations. 

It goes without saying that Shelley’s radical ides embodied in his literary compositions, still remains as a challenge to us to achieve our extreme potentials. 

Battle of the Sexes in The Story of an Hour

The Story of an HourTrue to the title, The Story of an Hour is a story of one hour in the life of the protagonist, Louise Mallard, who is ‘happily married’. When she hears about the death of her husband her immediate reaction is remorse. However, a while later, she feels ecstatic on being free! Mrs. Mallard cries with abandon instead of being paralysed with shock at the misfortune. While she withdraws to her personal space to reflect on her future life, a realization dawns on her which makes her cry out “free, free….Free! Body and soul free!” Ironically, she dies on seeing her husband alive and unhurt by the train accident.

The simple words of Mrs. Mallard allude to her subjugated status. The experience of ecstasy at being liberated from what seems to be an agreeable marriage is the crux of the story. Mrs. Mallard’s situation is not an isolated incident of repression in the lives of the so-called ‘happily married’ couples. The significant sentences which convey the rigid patriarchal domination and Mrs. Mallard’s subsequent relief at her husband’s demise were, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in a blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime….”

The subtlety with which Chopin delineates the mindscape of a woman trapped in a despotic Kate Chopinmarriage and her realization of her zest for freedom is commendable. Mrs. Mallard’s first name being revealed only towards the end of the story is significant since it shows the subsumption of the wife’s identity in her husband’s. Ironically, the protagonist experiences tragedy and liberty at the same time. But the real irony and paradox lies in the doctor’s comment of “a joy that kills” at the death of Mrs. Mallard.

A hardcore feminist, Chopin’s intention behind writing the story seems to be to emphasize the damaging results of the battle between the sexes. The subtle expressions, metaphors and paradoxes combined with the economy of words add to the impact of the story.