Category Archives: Indian Culture

How Independent Are the Independent Women of Our Independent Country?

Debolena Bose speculates about the notion of independence conferred upon contemporary Indian women!

Independent woman

“Ma, I’m leaving”, shouts out Tarun to his mom.

“Okay but don’t be late”, replies his mom.

“Fine”, says Tarun and he leaves.

“Ma, I’m going out with friends”, says Tarun’s sister, Hrishita.

“Oh! You, too, are leaving…alright…but when will you be back”, asks Mrs. Bhatt.

“In about 3 hours”, answers Hrishita.

“THREE HOURS! What will you do for such a long time?”

“Going for a movie, Ma. Please understand! The movie will take at least 2.5 hours. It will take us 15 minutes to reach the theatre and the same time to come back. That makes it 3 hours!”

“Do you really need to go for the movie? Why can’t you simply invite your friends over? All of you can sit around and chit-chat! That’s also a fun thing to do. Don’t you think so?

“Ma, it’s Friday evening! I don’t wish to sit at home. We chit-chat every day. Any way, I will be out for just 3 hours!”

“Listen, you have to be home before dusk. Do you understand? I don’t want you to be out in the night. And what kind of clothes are you wearing? The neck is so deep! How many times have I told you that capris don’t really suit you! Put on your black jeans.”

“Ma, enough now! I’m going! You’ve already delayed me by 20 minutes. In case I am late, it will be all your doing; not mine!”

“Rishu, I’m not allowing you to step out of home in these clothes. Go and CHANGE. Right now!”

“FINE!”

(After a while) Hrishita comes back wearing jeans and a different top. “Does this make you happy?”

“Ya, this is alright! Now listen to me very carefully – don’t look at any boys in the neighbourhood. If anyone tries to speak to you, or even make an eye contact, don’t utter a word. Just move on. If you hear someone making catcalls, don’t retaliate. Also, if some passerby car stops by you to ask for an address, ignore that person and move along. Make sure the auto driver does not take you through those small alleys. Always take the road which remains crowded. Most importantly, how many of you are going? Are there any boys accompanying you?”

“No Ma! Sujata, Priya, Poonam and I – four of us are going for the movie.”

“Four girls ALL ALONE”!!!

“Ma, be reasonable. How can four girls be alone? We are four of us and we can take care of each other. Don’t worry!”

“Abhinav and Hritik could have accompanied you. Had you informed me about your plans earlier, I would have asked you brother to drop you off to the theatre! Any way, one more important thing – don’t befriend strangers in the movie hall. In case, someone offers you popcorn, politely refuse. And yes, COME HOME EARLY!”

“Yes Ma, thanks for the advice-cum-lecture. Now, if you are done, can I leave?”

So, how many of you have gone through this routine? Raise your hands! I’m sure all of you have! I guess this has now become a part of our cultural heritage. Just like we brag about our ancient monuments, art and culture, so can we boast about the number of Hrishitas and Mrs. Bhatts our country has created.

When I was 6 years old, my mom warned me about strangers for the first time. “Don’t talk to strangers”. “Don’t accept chocolates from them”. “Keep your eyes open, always”. By the time I turned 10, strange questions poured in – “Why do you have to smile at everyone beta? A familiar face does not mean that you have to smile brightly. You are inviting trouble. When you grow up, you need to have such a personality that people are afraid to approach you.”

Such questions and remarks are a part ‘n parcel of every girl’s life in India, starting from the prominent metro cities to the small towns. A girl has to be chaperoned wherever she goes, otherwise some invisible hands will grasp at her and tug at her virtue or pull it off completely. And, of course, since the family’s honor rests on their female’s virtue, it has to be guarded with utmost care!

India became independent 66 years ago. Yet, half the country is still under the throes of bondage! Yes, bondage it is! The captivity of half the population of the country is not represented by heavy iron chains or handcuffs, but something more subtle, therefore, more powerful and long-lasting – lustful eyes, a picture of unbridled animalistic instincts. In the largest democracy of the world, half the population of India can’t move about freely, whenever they want to, in whichever way they wish to, wearing whatever they feel like! If this is not a gross failure of democracy, human rights and civil liberties, then what is it!

girl childWhat I fail to understand is that in a country where female deities are more revered than their male counterparts, how can such brazen acts of irreverence happen towards women? What are we doing about these acts? Most importantly, can we really solve this problem? Or, may be, we can pray to God for our safety every time we step out of the lakshman rekha of our home. If we are able to come back home with only a few catcalls and some lewd gazes, we can consider ourselves lucky! If not, probably we are paying for the sins committed in our previous birth!

If I am able to reach the age of 70 unharmed, perhaps I will go on some grand pilgrimage to thank God for keeping me safe!

Oh shit! Recently, there was some news about a 70-year old woman being raped by a neighbor! Ok, maybe I will pay my regards to God only when I have a tete-a-tete with him after death!

Conflicts for a New Mommy

Antara Roy debunks some popular myths about motherhood.

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So finally, he arrived!! After the 9 months long drill, I couldn’t wait to take him in my arms… It was different, he was red like a tomato, eyes tightly shut by the heavy eyelids; felt like a little mountain baby in my very eastern bong hands. I was a first-time mom, and it was the first time I held such a tiny creature. I was beyond elated and blissfully unaware of the days and nights ahead!! But that story of how I embraced motherhood is for my journals to bear. Here I am more interested in bawling around how a new age mommy deals with her baby, her house, her hubby and her work… oh!! Did I forget to write Indian?? Let me reframe then; ‘I am more interested in bawling around how a new age Indian mommy deals with her baby, her house, her hubby and her work.’

Why such emphasis on Indian, you ask? Simply, because we have got it too easy; it’s too easy to outsource and delegate. Baby Bathing-outsourced, cooking-outsourced, baby massage- outsourced; you name it and it can get outsourced. Where else in this whole wide world can you find this luxury? But again, luxury ensures a cost. Our traditional society has designs for a new mommy already made. And thus it is the tryst of this modern mommy to understand, embrace and somewhat rebel (ah, the best) these designs…

Myth: eat limited after delivery, especially water as it leads to obesity…

Really, and then what… Drink ghee and full fat milk which will keep you lean?? Eating moderate helps, but not limited. Eat what you have eaten all your life. Do not restrict. If you are breastfeeding you need a lot of strength from proteins and stamina from carbs. No point shying away from it. Pictures are evidence enough that even Aishwarya Rai didn’t!!

Myth: beer and wine helps in lactation…

How much so ever I wanna scream ‘it’s true and I love it’, sadly it isn’t true!! Though one glass in a couple of weeks won’t kill anyone, yet ensure you breast feed after a couple of hours of drinking it. Let your body get enough time to absorb and break alcohol, before it reaches the baby.

Myth: no rotis/chapattis/breads of any sort for 40 days after delivery

This is one of my favourites that I heard of. Apparently wheat is not good as it will lengthen the time taken for one to heal from delivery. Come on people, use logic to your limited knowledge of science. Whole-wheat is the best kind of carb you should subject your body to for the first few weeks after delivery. It is one magic ingredient that will heal your body as well as give stamina for you to do the onerous task of feeding and caring for a newborn.

Myth: post-partum depression is for the weak hearted.

And the weak hearted can be easily sorted out because they have 2 noses??!! Baby blues happen and you are bound to feel it one way or other. One stray comment on skin colour or the shape of nose can put you off or lift you up. Trust me, better days are up ahead. And there is no shame in owning up and doing the right thing.

Saving the best for the last…

Myth: baby boys put in disposable diapers turn out to be eunuchs.

Oh goodness!! I feel like taking a bat to run after these so called educated people suggesting these in a cosmo city like Mumbai. Where did our education system fail? How come people are so blissfully unaware of biology of our bodies?? Though using disposables will blow out a huge hole in your pocket and ozone layer, but u will surely get grandkids to put on cloth diapers!! :-p

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Having mentioned about cloth diapers, if you are a mommy and you read till this point, you might wanna try out these amazingly innovative products afloat in the markets of today. It’s a completely washable diaper, designed to leave kids dry on skin, while soaking up the pee and poop and keeping it in without visible accidents. It’s leak-proof, adorable to look at and very cost effective in the long run!! If you need more info about these, write in a comment and I will get back to you!!

Eat well, stay loved and spread care. Cheers!!

The Great Indian (Before) Marriage Tamasha – Part 4

By  Shwetha Kalyanasundaram

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The last blog post (in this series) ended with the following question “So what happens if the horoscope matches?!?” Read on…

If the horoscopes match at both ends, one moves onto a phase where you try to get to know each other!! This is done to see if they are compatible with each other. Well, in most cases, the two people involved are always going to be at their best behaviour, giving stereotypical answers, in an attempt to impress the other person.

Questions are asked on a variety of topics and hypothetical situations are drawn and one is gauged on the answers given and the level of compatibility is measured based on these answers!! Practically speaking, people tend to behave in a completely different manner, when faced with the actual situation. And one’s thought process is going to change as you mature and one is going to act according to the situation at that point of time. Given this, how will you know you are choosing the right person as your life partner?!?

Pondering over this question, I finally drew my own conclusion and here it is: (mind you, the next few portions can be serious!)

There’s always the pending fear and anxiety of things going wrong. The person you are trying to match needn’t necessarily portray their true nature. The whole act might be pre-mediated in an effort to create impression. Even assuming that the true nature is always portrayed, human character is still amenable to change with growing years.
It’s hard to judge a person based on a finite set of questions however hypothetical it may be.

I would like to draw a similarity with that of a job interview. If 3 people were being interviewed for one position and all of them seemed technically strong with good credentials, then it’s a tough call right? In that situation I would go for the one with that extra zeal, motivation and rapport. (Psst…Behavioural reasoning would help me weed through this.)

You make a choice based on your essential needs and requirements which absolutely cannot be compromised – your core values. How do you gauge that this person isn’t pretending to possess those? You observe how they behave in their surroundings and with their surroundings. You follow their journey to the current destination which should usually serve as a predictor to where things will proceed. But remember that there will always be forces beyond your control that can cause disruptions and distress.

That would explain why horoscopes are so heavily relied on. By placing your faith and fate on an astrologer you are essentially alleviating the anxiety levels and creating self-assurance on a secure future. Hell, I have seen things go wrong even with horoscope match.  Remember, humans are innately good. It’s how each person reacts to different circumstances that define their character.

Hence proof that I m a thorough Human Resources professional! *chuckle*

After years of the groom hunt, I finally found my man. And yes, I did have my share of “flashing bulbs” and “ringing bells” moments that I believe are supposed to happen when you come across your soul mate. And a definite proof that it takes just over two and half minutes to decide your soul mate!! (A recent research quotes this!)

I now truly believe in destiny!

And as every fairy tale ends, we live happily ever after!!!

Single Woman In A Village

malathy in a village

By Malathy Madathilezham 

This is the first time I am living on my own in a remote little place in Maharashtra (actually not as remote as some of the other places my travels have taken me.. but yet). This is my first job after graduating from Tata Institute of Social Sciences this March.

All my life I have been travelling. “I have studied in 14 different schools!” is something you will hear me say as part of my introduction. Yeah I know its a bit corny but yet. But all the traveling and living has been in a sheltered and protected manner and largely very comfortable. The culture and way of living mostly urban. I have never experienced rural life until very recently during the course of my two year study and the training that I received in my organisation. I have read enough and more but experiencing it shows how different life in ‘Bharat’ is from that in ‘India’. Even more so being a woman…

No, I am not going on a tirade against gender discrimination here… don’t worry. Just a few points on what I constantly find myself thinking about.

I am really privileged. Yes, I am. My birth has guaranteed me certain success in life even if I am mediocre in my performance. Unless off course I am really stupid or have real bad luck!! I cannot imagine being born a woman in one of these villages. Off course then I would simply be blissful in my ignorance and thankful about whatever I have.

(Lack of) Information is power. This is the game people play here. It is not that there are not enough government schemes, or opportunities to help people. But there is no smooth flow of the information regarding these to those who need it. Illiteracy is not the only reason here. A few people have the monopoly over the access to this information and they try their best to keep that monopoly.

The slow pace of life. Its really slow. In addition, the more you make someone wait, the more important you are. This is the culture here. Getting used to it takes time.

A single woman living (so far) away from her parents and native is a shock for many. “ Even boys will not be so daring!” was a quip by a Gram Sevika when I told her that I am from Kerala. Everyone is curious to know what I am doing here. To add to that curiosity is the fact that I have really short hair right now. So then dealing with the number of questions that a random shopkeeper, autowala or tai on the road can sometimes be simply frustrating! There are days that I don’t feel like going out to avoid this!

I love to cook!! I never thought I would say this but it is true! Yeah am not so organised or planned as my mother but yet I realise that I actually look forward to cooking something different and tasty everyday .

Well that is it for now… Looking forward to more learning and understanding the rural reality…

The Great Indian (Before) Marriage Tamasha – Part 1

By Shwetha Kalyanasundaram

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As customary it is in India, for girls to get married as soon as you enter the 20’s, I was no exception. A few days after I turned 21, my parents sat me down for an “adult ” talk. (The last time that happened was before I entered my engineering college where I got a discourse on the do’s and don’ts at college). My parents bogged me down with questions pertaining to my social life, more directed towards my “preferences” to the opposite sex. When my parents were convinced that I wasn’t seeing anybody, out popped their question – “Are you ready to get married?”

Boy that did set me to think. I set my grey cells in action and tried to introspect if I indeed was ready for marriage. After days of pondering, I decided that the answer was a “yes”!! When I told my pals’ bout my decision, I received a variety of emotions – some rolled their eyes, some laughed it off, some cried (honestly!!) but most of them were shocked. My girl pals bombarded me with a lot of (silly) questions like:

What happens to your career?

Why do you want to settle down so early on in your life?

What happens to your identity?

and many more!! Does this drive me to another state of confusion?!? No!! I was sure that my decision was spot on. Here’s why.

I’m blessed to have wonderful parents, who belong to a small group of people who have evolved with the times and they have always been very liberal with me. They have been very supportive in whatever I have done till date and have always ensured that I carve a niche for myself in whatever I do. Till date, I have been able to do just that and I know for a fact that people recognise me for who I am and what I stand for. They have made sure that my head is held high all the time and that has indeed made me a better person. And I am sure that my partner would respect my ideals and give me the same encouragement that my parents have showered and I am absolutely sure that he would support me in my every step towards success. So, getting married is definitely not going to stop me from achieving my goals.

The entire concept of an arranged marriage, these days can be compared to an online dating process with parental control! My parents, who are very liberal, did give me an option of finding my partner while I pursued my masters, within their reasonable expectations and by far, the only expectation they set forth was that the guy had to be a Tam – Brahm!! But with my studies occupying most of the time, I just found it to be a humungous task and removed it off my list of things – to – do.

I find the whole concept of arranged marriage very appealing. I like the fact that there is commitment before there is love – there is a strange allure to that. In arranged marriages, two people make a commitment to each other and then embark upon the voyage of really getting to know each other – trust before anything else. This is what drove me to ask my parents to hunt down a groom for me.

That’s when the whole fun started! Stay tuned for the fun ride J

Defining Moments : India at 66

As India takes one more step forward, let us take a look at 11 defining moments after its Independence.

From Dominion to Republic, 1950.

From Dominion to Republic

The Dominion of India becomes the Republic of India on 26th January 1950 by adopting the newly drafted constitution. Today, we are the largest democracy in the world and the constitution is the largest one in the world and maintains its unique nature while adopting several portions from British, US & other constitutions of the world.

Biggest Gamble in History : First General Elections 1951-52

First General Elections 1951-52

It was like the biggest gamble in the history of India. Consider, first of all, the size of the electorate: 176 million Indian voters of whose more than 85% could not read or write. Each one had to be identified, named & registered. At stake were around 4500 seats – about 500 for Parliament and rest for Provincial assemblies. Again these figures are not enough, there were 224,000 polling booths, 2 million steel ballot boxes (made of 8200 tonnes of steel) and about 380,000 reams of paper were used. And with all this, India went to its first general elections.

Redrawing the Map : State Reorganization Act, 1956

State Reorganization

India is a land of many languages, each with its distinct script, grammar, vocabulary and literary traditions. And as we became independent, demand for states on linguistic and ethnic identities started growing. It was the 58 – day long fast of Potti Sriramulu that led to the creation of Andhra Pradesh and setting up the First State Reorganization Commission. Potti Sriramulu might be a forgotten man today but his fast and its aftermath sparked off a wholesale redrawing of the map of India on linguistic lines.

The Experience of Defeat ; Sino – Indian War, 1962

1962 India China War

As the Dalai Lama crossed into India in 1959 and China tightened its control over Tibet, the “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ slogans on the border were replaced by “Yeh Zameen Hamara Hai, Tum Wapas Jao”. Border & territorial claims of both the countries were starkly different and as China grew stronger under the Communist rule, it was determined to undo all the ground positions. As China attacked India in 1962, the war lead to a bitter defeat for ill-prepared India. The India-China conflict, then, was a clash of national myths, national egos, national insecurities and ultimately of the national armies.

Victory against Pakistan, 1965

1965 War

Pakistan’s ruler Ayub Khan and his company were encouraged by the debacle against China in 1962. But they forgot that it was in wet & slippery Himalayas, while war with Pakistan is on a terrain that Indians knew much better. The victory in the 1965 war came as a confidence booster to everybody, be it army, civilians or the Govt.

The Uncertain years and the Bangladesh War, 1967-71

Pakistan

Once the Congress was the national cohesive force, but by late 1960s, it was split into disputatious parts. Between Banking nationalization, slogans of “Garibi Hatao” and several other reforms by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, India was again facing trouble from its western neighbor, but this time on the eastern frontiers. The than East Pakistan was witnessing popular uprising for a separate nation and this lead to a war between India & Pakistan. Within 6 days, Indian army had marched till Dacca. It was hailed as the biggest victory ever in Indian history and it changed the map of the subcontinent.

The Emergency Years, 1975-77

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After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was found guilty of electoral malpractice, she declared State of Emergency in June 1975. The emergency revived the debate as to whether India could, should, or ever would be reliably democratic. The emergency was lifted in 1977, and India saw its first non-Congress govt, though a short-lived one.

Operation Blue Star and Assassination of the Indira Gandhi, 1984

Assassination of Indira

As militancy and violence was on the peak in Punjab, the Indian Government decided to attack the Khalistan movement and “Operation Blue Star” was launched in July 1984. As a consequence, in October that year, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards and this was followed by large-scale Anti-Sikh riots in Northern India. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Mandal, Kamandal & Economic Reforms : 1990-92

Babri Mosque Demolition

In 1990, the controversy rose over PM V.P. Singh’s decision to implement 1980 recommendations of the Mandal commission for further job reservations to “other backward classes”. The same year Bharatiya Janata Party launched nationwide protests over Ayodhya issue. After the tenth General elections in 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by LTTE terrorists. The economy took a downturn, and gold reserves were pawned to stave off default on international debt. In 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished and riots broke out not only in India but in several other countries.

Peace & War, 1999

Lahore Bus Trip

As Prime Minister Vajpayee undertook a historic bus journey to Pakistan and signs a declaration of peace; within a few days, Pakistani soldiers crossed the LOC and infiltrated Indian Kashmir. India repulsed the attack and Pakistan lost the brief, but bloody, border conflict in the Himalayan district of Kargil.

Gandhi’s land in communal riots, 2002

Gujarat Riots 2002

As several Kar Sevaks were burned to death in an attack on Sabarmati Express in Godhra town in 2002, large-scale Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in Gujarat leaving over a thousand dead.

Bum Bum Bholey

By Shivani Gupta

Saffron clad thousand of man just walking with bare feet under sky, balancing decorated Kavad (a wooden stick with pot at both ends) on their shoulders. Every second person feet were wrapped in bandage but head high and face delighted. It was breathtaking scenery because I was in Meerut.

Driving courageously (I am a female driver) my car without wearing glasses and in MEERUT. Meerut surpasses all good chefs in their art of indigenous (very desi) culinary but when comes road, it does not even trespasses the standard definition of Good Roads for Transportation (Heil Uttar Pradesh Govt.).

However, the blog is nowhere related to murky politicians and their mindless (mint more) businesses. It’s all about devotional and unique walkathon of Bholey Nath devotees. This walkathon is an auspicious rally organized every year (for technicalities please Google) but this year it was indeed a happening event for me. So I will go back from where I started ….

I was driving courageously my car without wearing glasses in crazy traffic of Meerut. Few meters away from the main four lane intersection of Mall road, I saw swarm of people walking and it was nowhere ending. I drove to the nearest point where mixture of pot bellied city police and lazy traffic police men were busy diverting the erratic traffic (which was surprisingly quite under control).

Pumping hormones of curiosity and watching energizing walk of young and old (but still young) people was enough to send impulse to my feet on brake pedal and I parked my car on the roadside.

I have read many a times that continuous chant of mantra has enormous power and yes, it was evident with the wave of energy carried by these saffron clad men and women. This divine energy has stimulated the stationary people standing on the roadside to chant with them (shows the fan following of Bholey Nath in Meerut).

‘Small’ Meerut city became all more prominent in my life (not buttering my mother – in – law) after got a chance (by chance) to watch this energetic and divine walkathon of Bum Bum Bholey devotees which usually get lost in charming ‘Big’ city Delhi.

Enjoy Kavad Yatri

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