Shame Is A Weapon You Are Not Entitled To Wield

Trigger warning: This post discusses shame as a motivator for weight loss, and as such might be triggering for anyone with a history of disordered eating and/or feelings of strong body shame.

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Have you ever been ashamed? Not just a little embarrassed, actually ashamed. Did you do something you knew you shouldn’t have; something really, really stupid, and got caught by someone you like and respect? Did you tell someone about your huge crush on them, and have them respond by laughing at you? Did you have to walk the famous walk of shame, and unfortunately felt neither cool nor ironic, just … ashamed? Whatever it was, I bet you remember the feeling.

Let me guess: You blushed so hard you felt your cheeks burn. The phrase, “I wish a hole would open up and swallow me whole” was suddenly no longer just an abstract idea. Your stomach dropped so low, you thought you might have to check the basement for it on your way out. Perhaps you felt nauseous, or even light-headed. You had the thought, “I will never ever be in this situation again” running on repeat inside your head. However you felt, I bet you wanted to escape.  I think most of us would want that, I think most of us would do a LOT to avoid feeling truly ashamed again.

“Go on a diet, fatass! You’re disgusting!

I wonder how you felt about yourself the day those two guys shouted this at you, from their passing car. I think you felt a little insecure about your body, maybe you had been feeling that way for a while. I don’t think, however, that you were thinking about what a ‘disgusting fatass’ you were, right at that moment. I know the shame washes over you like a tidal wave; you look around and realize that at least a couple of people walking close by also heard them; the tears sting in your eyes.

Maybe that is the day you decide to go on a diet.

Maybe it goes well for a while. You’re losing weight, and people are paying you compliments. “You’re looking great, what are you doing differently?”

“You look good, have you lost some weight?”

“I see you’ve lost some weight, good for you!” It makes you feel good!

Maybe it’s not going so well anymore. Maybe, like at least 95% of the people who go on diets (even the diets that are ‘lifestyle changes’), you gain the weight back. Maybe, also like most dieters, you end up fatter than you were before you started dieting. (Not that you were actually that fat before, but you definitely are now).

You’re reading an article about actor/director Kevin Smith being kicked off a plane for being too fat. In the comments below the article, a large amount of people are sharing ‘horror stories’ about the time they had to sit through an entire flight with a smelly/ugly/sweaty/just plain fatty pressed up against them.

Maybe you start to wonder if you might be too fat for the plane. You weren’t too fat the last time you flew, but you’ve gained weight since then, and,  come to think of it, you did feel cramped the last time you were on a plane. Maybe you start thinking about how absolutely, terrifyingly awful it would be, to be on a plane full of people and to be kicked off it for being too fat. Maybe you begin to feel like flying might not even be worth it anymore.

Maybe you start a new diet the next day.

Maybe it goes well for a while. You’re losing weight again, and people are paying you compliments again. This time you don’t enjoy them as much though, because what if you’re too weak-willed to keep the weight off this time too?

Maybe it’s not going so well anymore. Maybe you gain the weight back. Maybe you end up fatter than you were before you started this new diet. (Not that you were actually that fat before, but you definitely are now).

You’re dating a person you have a huge crush on. Everything’s going well, until one day when they tell you the reason the two of you never go out, is that they’re ashamed to be seen with you, and, by the way, won’t you lose some weight?

You stop seeing them. But maybe, every time you fall for someone new now, your subconscious reminds you how it felt to have someone you care deeply for tell you, you aren’t good enough. Maybe your subconscious is very effective in its messaging, and maybe, without noticing it, you start shying away from relationships.

Maybe you start a new diet.

Maybe it goes well for a while. You’re losing weight, and once again people are paying you compliments. Maybe it’s not going so well anymore. Maybe you gain the weight back. Maybe you end up fatter than you were before you started your diet. (Not that you were actually that fat before, but you definitely are now).

*

To be honest, when I first thought about writing of shame as a motivator, I thought I would be telling you it’s a useless tool. As I’ve since realized, that is not true at all. Shame can motivate you to a great host of things. Indeed, shaming someone can have lasting effects on that person’s life. Which is why, while you have the right to free speech (I hope), shame is a weapon you are not entitled to wield. Because, as with all weapons, it has a vast capacity for destruction, pain, and upheaval, and a very limited capacity for anything else. So don’t even pick it up, just leave it be, and you won’t end up doing something you (should) regret. We, the shamed, will be truly grateful to you.

 

Jaded16’s note: Meet Veronica from excellent Musings From The Soapbox who in addition to being a kickarse LadyPerson and a hardcore Gilmore Girls fan, is also fat, Norwegian, bright, feminist, a student, a woman, a nerd, an idealist. When asked to write a whinyarsed bio by me, she describes herself as “In short, I am a human being, and I believe that all human beings deserve to be treated like just that;  human beings. Quite simple, I thought”. Are you as much in love with her as I am already? Or at least gushing as I am? Also People Of The Olde Interwebes, remember the Open Guest Posting Policy? It’s still on!

Another note: This is a fat-acceptance space. Any comments or e-mails that lead to fat-shaming, giving suggestions to eat healthily, are condescending to the writer’s body or shape will be promptly deleted without much consideration.

 

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I Am Woman! Hear Me Roarrr

Jaded16’s Note: Welcome Brittany-Ann of A Bookish Beamer people of the Olde Interwebes! Funny, smart and pissed off LadyPerson by choice, Brittany-Ann is an all-inclusive feminist, living in a conservative state, working toward making writing her lifestyle. She also writes for WLKY.com when not smoking camels or moderating ‘My Fault I’m Female‘.

A little background. Read my stance on guns as a feminist issue here and here.

I bought my first gun today. And it was an experience, let me tell you. I’d been wanting to for months, since the day I turned 21 and was legally able to purchase and carry a pistol, actually. But I’d put it off, for various reasons. Until one day, last week, something happened that reminded me why I wanted one in the first place: I found out a co-worker was being stalked. I found out because he showed up at work that night. That night, I broke company policy and texted a good friend that I wasn’t waiting any longer. That weekend, this past weekend, I was going to finally do it.

Later, when I told my brother and his best friend my intention, my brother laughed. “You don’t need a gun,” he said. What I said next I’m sure all of you know very well—this world is dangerous for women. Bad shit happens to women every minute, and largely, we depend on luck and circumstance to avoid it. But it never works. We all have our stories. I told my brother and his friend of a couple of my own experiences, just in the past few years. His friend was shocked. “Whoa,” he said, “that’s crazy.” Yes, yes it is. In both situations I was lucky, and circumstances allowed me to escape physically unscathed from both—no cars were coming so I could safely blow a red light to avoid being carjacked in one, and the other, my anger and raised fist was enough to scare off the guy who’d followed and harassed me to get me to come with him and his friends to “a party.”

Today, I bought my first gun. My good friend, mentioned above, drove seven hours to help me choose a weapon suited for my needs and pick out the additional equipment I needed, show me how to operate, disassemble, clean, and reassemble it, how to stand, how to hold it properly, told me what to do when it jammed, and even snuck spent casings in my magazine to mock a jam and drilled me relentlessly on how to react to it quickly. He made sure I had information on concealed carry permit classes, and made sure I knew everything that comes with carrying openly until then. He made a big sacrifice, and I’m grateful—because this is my safety, perhaps my life that we’re talking about here. And I’m not talking about shooting myself literally in the foot, though that’s a possibility, (A highly unlikely one—I’d like to think I’ve the presence of mind to avoid that!) I’m talking about having the ability to actually do something to actively protect and defend myself the next time something happens. And I’m quite confident that it will. World, dangerous, women, etc.

I was scared. I felt very intimidated. Guns are serious, deadly tools, and now I own one. It’s mine, and now a very big responsibility rests on my shoulders. My hands shook violently the first couple of magazines I shot at the range. (I have a massive ego. I told him it was the lack of breathing I was doing that he pointed out. But it was also because I was freaking out.) The more he relentlessly drilled me, “Get those rounds out faster! Smoothly squeeze the trigger! Slap, slide, shoot! It should be instinct!” the more I adjusted to the new label I’d bestowed upon myself: gun owner. As we left the range, I knew it changed me, but I had no idea just how much.

One of the things he’d picked out for me was a holster, and I’d tried it on in the store to see how it felt. Now, I wanted to see how it felt with my gun in it. I slid it in, and wow. My friend had always teased me about my lack of situational awareness. I thought he was silly—overreacting. I see what he means now. As a member of a vulnerable population, I know what it is to be constantly aware of your surroundings. Is that someone walking behind me? Better brace myself if it’s someone else coming to harass, grope, or attack me. Should I have come to watch this movie at a new friend’s apartment? Watch for the signs—dimming lights, seating proximity, excessive flirting. Yeah. If you’re a woman, you know what I’m talking about. But this one was different. I was walking with sincere confidence—knowing that the sight of my Ruger sticking out of my waistband would deter most from fucking with me, and if they did, I actually had the means to do something about it—other than look around for that luck and circumstance. That knowledge—that I could actually do something about it—made all the difference. It was such an empowering feeling, unlike anything I’d felt before. I had one of those giddy moments; I wanted to shout “I AM WOMAN. HEAR ME ROARRRRRR.” But you know, that ego. And, of course, my friend would never let me live that down.

I open carried all the way to the car. I open carried the whole ten minute drive back to town. I loved the feeling of my Ruger nestled up on my side. I looked down and enjoyed the way I’d adjusted my top so I wouldn’t inadvertently conceal my weapon before I am legally able to do so. I’ll admit it—I even felt a little sexy. Then we got to the china buffet we’d chosen for lunch. We got out of the car and my friend said, “I gotta ask. Loaded or unloaded?” Deer in headlights. “Unloaded. I didn’t reload after we finished at the range…” We stopped fifteen feet from the car. “Well, why are you carrying then? You’re just making yourself the first target should anything happen. Load it up or put it away.” Tbbblll. That was my bubble deflating. Dejected, I went back to the car and put my gun, holster and all, in the glove compartment. Like I said, he was relentless. But he was right.

Carriers can never forget, not for a moment, that huge responsibility on their shoulders. My allowance for giddiness ended at the range. I am fully capable of defending myself now, but in taking back that power for myself I also accepted that when I took that power back, I also took responsibility for the safety of others, too. I had to be very careful that any word, facial expression, or action I took could be interpreted differently now that I was doing them as not only a gun owner, but an open carrier of that gun. I had to be hyper-aware of my surroundings, even more so of the gun at my hip, what it represented, not only for me, but for anyone I might meet, and be sensitive to that. As I pulled the holster from my waistband, I remembered again that I could so easily take a life with that dangerous tool, and I must never forget it. As we were leaving the restaurant a little while later, my friend asked, “I didn’t rain on your parade earlier, did I? I mean, you could have reloaded.” (A respite from relentless! Wow! I’m joking. This is a seriously awesome friend I’m talking about here, and more than just because of this.) “A little,” I replied, “but you were right.” Soon, we got to my house, and he showed me how to disassemble my gun, what to clean with what, reassembled it, handed it to me, and asked for a cigarette. I bummed him one, and went to light up myself. “What are you doing? You have a gun to clean.” Relentless. My only retort was one of my trademark faces, and he chuckled as he enjoyed my cigarette, keeping a careful eye on my cleaning technique.

Hours later, I sit here, writing this. My hands are sore. I took apart and put back together my Ruger several times to get used to it, and practiced pulling back the slide. They’re sore, a little grimy, oily, and pinched in a few places, but it feels good. I still feel that acute self and situational awareness, but it’s so much different from the fear and paranoia that spurred what came before. The responsibility is something I will carry, respectfully, and I will ponder it often. But this responsibility? I’ll gladly take over the feeling of being the woman facing the violence and misogynist world alone any minute of the day. And this is just the beginning. I’ll feel those emotions—the fear, the empowerment, the giddiness, and the sobering power over and over again, for as long as I carry. I’ll experience more tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, for as long as I keep the label I bestowed on myself today: the feminist gun owner and carrier.

P.S. Are you in love with her as much as I am? As a person who gets freaked out by even thinking of guns, this is something you’d never get me to write or even think about. Even if you gave me all of Sylvia Plath’s unedited journals. And a unicorn. This is why I need more guest posters! That open guest posting link? Yes, it’s STILL there.

Weekly Textual/Sexual Reader (Week Two)

Remember that part in our dynamic where I torture you weekly with inane book reviews and you understand, albeit patronisingly and let the inaneness pass? Sort of like the Flu or the Clap for LadyBrains? It’s that time of the week again.

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Dear Tumblr,

As you know, I’m a big fan of fissured spaces, the idea that a niche can be carved out in a place which is virtually airless makes me more happy than book sales. Or those tiny little owls. Which is probably why I find quite a few VictorianVulvas deeply fascinating, for what better age to discuss Repression Of The Female Variety? And then add the idea that within these repressed collective psyches, a few Ladies dug up pens — or fancyarse feathered quills — and wrote ambiguously about themselves and their lives. Or perhaps it’s the side-effect of my love affair with Colonial texts that started when I was 11. Or somehow I can’t stop looking for clues of my country’s colonisation in these texts. Whatever the reason may be (pick one according to your mood! And watch it change colour too!), I’m ShameLess when it comes to my adoration of these LadyVulvas.

So when I read Eliot’s Mill On The Floss again, I was surprised to see so many broken, occupied spaces; mainly because this book was never about spaces but mainly about little girls with a serious case of tumbling down memory lanes to my silly LadyBrain. To top that off, I’m somehow supposed to hate anything that comes from the Queen’s Land, because extremely thought-provoking counter-arguments like “DON’T YOU REMEMBER HOW BRUTALLY THEY COLONISED US? HOW DARE YOU FORGET THEY MADE US LEARN SUCKY ENGLISH?” are quite commonplace out here. Even the ever entertaining, “They introduced panties and now we can’t seem to go back” accusation doesn’t repulse me enough to fling the book across the wall or get struck all over with CountryLove; whichever is supposed to come first. In fact, year after year, I can’t help but falling in love with these ladies even more. Perhaps the ultimate sense of betrayal comes when even after I read Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak or Homi Bhaba’s postcolonial analysis of the texts, where they pit the woman protagonist against the radicalised and nativised ‘other’, where they strengthened the sense of the Self by Objectifying the Third World Woman; I can’t seem to stop swooning over these books. And this week I discovered, it’s more a confused-fascinated-mesmerised daze that pulls me to the novel each year. This confusion stems from failing to slot the protagonist, Maggie as a Native or The Coloniser; in a rootedly Victorian novel, in a time when colonisation was a  household hobby. You can see People of the Olde Interwebes the number of tangled webs this novel makes in this LadyBrain, right?

Now don’t think I’m excusing colonisation or redeeming the Coloniser — I’d happily eat my own face before I do such a thing — but it fascinates me to no end that it’s within these words I see moments of doubt, chaos and guilt over possessing and defining people and even space. To such a point that Maggie so emphatically fails in reclaiming her position and literal space, let alone colonise it that she is dubbed as ‘Crazy Kate’ and later more painfully, “That dark-eyed girl there, in the corner”. Even in Jane Eyre, Jane is the center as well as the fringe of the narrative, ‘slipping in and out of consciousnesses and rooms’; she possesses control and then slips, repeatedly. For Maggie, continuously losing in the tug-of-war to become the possessor and agent, she ends up being an alien on her own land. A speck of dust in her own canvas. As a child Maggie loves the spaces of childhood — the kitchen, the fields — she simply cannot follow the domestic constraints and earns the titles of ‘devilish’ and ‘difficult’, ‘straight black-eyed wench’ (which is only so close to calling her a classy tart); the very titles I may or may not have gotten myself. Through out the book she is too loud, too ‘brown’, too uncouth, too wild-eyed, too unfeminine (she doesn’t do patchwork! Add appropriate shocked gasps here), too subversive as she fetishises her dolls in the attic; she is continuously regulated and excluded by the very people in her home she loves the most. When aunts and relatives come from far-off places, they inspect her along with the Mill’s furniture, find her too clever, she tries to reclaim her native space by running into her mother’s room and “seizing her front locks and cutting it across the middle of her forehead”, scatters those little dark locks all over the room to mark her space; even as the very space slips right under her feet. Ironically, women’s domain or the “domestic” is the one space she chokes in, but repeatedly tries to inhabit, only to find herself propelled outward; to take the anonymous fields rather than take the lane. It is even out in this undefined space she fragments, confronted by her inability to truly be or live in a space without being eaten up by its shadows, Maggie is constantly at war with spaces, with her own head and ultimately her innate inability to colonise. Rejected in the feminised domestic sphere, intimidated by the masculinised outdoors, she can only posses a transient position, on the road. At the climax of the novel, she is faced with an empty Mill, a blank canvas of sorts to imprint her own distinctive marks on it. And the moment she crumbles seeing the empty space around her (and by extension disintegrates the space itself), my heart lurches. As she is stripped, divided and essentially erased in and by the narrative do I fully gauge what it is to colonise someone or something. Try as she might, it is not in her to dictate anything, least of all the liminal space she is allowed to occupy, ultimately entwining herself to Phillip’s identity, as a slave and prisoner, unable to unpack herself or to escape his memory and gaze. Locked, frozen and still; she speaks.

While the rise of the Empire did help LadyVulvas to write more (less pesky dudes to hover over them, see?), even here there is a restraint or policing at work, that refuses them to be as adventurous as Conrad and label something as ‘The Heart Of Darkness’, as if there is a disconnect from the idea of defining boundaries and the act of drawing the lines; around the Self and the Other. There is resistance, acceptance and sometimes even complete submission to other people, yet Maggie will still cherish the space she held in the attic, of locked drawers, preserved items and small boxes, she lets herself become invisible, untamed while in shackles. For it is here, she allows herself to groan, cry and howl like a trapped bird, within disappearing walls that she choses to leave her mark. This very reliance on doubt is what makes this novel so appealing, especially to a direct descendant of a colonised country. It reminds me that not every one was as convinced about carving, silencing and castigating entire populations as it seemed to me.

As a child of 13, I remember distinctly not understanding why Maggie runs away from her mother as Mrs. Tulliver tries to comb and tame her wild hair. Today Maggie whispers and conspires with me to explain that even within submission there is rebellion, that not everyone has to be okay in the box they are fit into; there is always a cool basin of water to completely foil all predisposed tracks.

Love,

Jaded16.

George Eliot a.k.a Mary Ann Evans wrote The Mill On The Floss and try as she might to  speak like the Default Human i.e. a White Male, the woman inside slips through. Explain to me one more time how can I not love her?

[Cross-Posted]

Negotiating Silences Within Spaces

As the eldest daughter of a Hindu family, I occupy a number of spaces that intertwine, merge and blur with the larger idea or identity that I like to believe is me, somewhere inside. Whether or not I believe in the values and ideals endorsed by Hinduism is inconsequential to the space of the ‘dutiful Hindu daughter’ that is allotted to me. It works as a double bind, where even imagining another identity is impossible and at the same time, this old one is a comfortable claustrophobia we’ve become used to. This weekend while talking to a few of my old friends as we sat discussing and catching up whatever we’d missed over the years, one thing was clear — this is a big one people of the Olde Interwebes — All Of Us Were Uncomfortable In The Skin That Is Technically Supposed To Be Wearing! After a little alcohol and a few hours of talking, all of us started talking about things that left us uneasy about our ‘roles’. From too much expected virtuosity to too many barriers to being “ourselves”, the problems started coming through. What struck me is how natural the whole conversation was, like I’ve heard this many times before and knew exactly where to sigh, exclaim, gasp, be silent, chime in accord. Like a well rehearsed scene, it flowed seamlessly. So did the guilt that comes after such a confession.

Even the way we were talking was shrouded in ambiguity and a hazy layers of meanings. We didn’t say, “I hate such and such” but instead started sentences with “I wish I didn’t have to…”; never fully coming out and expressing what lay inside. And then like an extremely French déjà vu I remembered where I’ve seen this happen. Practically everywhere, my LadyBrain now remembered. In family discussions that involve Decisions Of The Extremely Serious Kind, I’ve seen many an aunt and even my mum enter the discourse from breaks and silences. Retreating before anyone else notices, the Voice is again beneath the purdah safe in its distance from the world and yet sad due to its very muffled impact. I will not say that this is how every woman is every day but confess that we’ve all played a part in this hide-and-seek at some part of our lives. What really strikes me is how voluntary the action seems, more natural than breathing sometimes.

Keeping in mind the above contexts, it is fascinating to this LadyBrain to see how these spaces and silences are navigated and at times even transgressed, without seeming so. Now that is what people call duplicity! I say, learn a thing or two from my aunts who can seem like they’ve never heard of subversion while they turn the oldest practices sanctioned with collective approval to a personal rebellion. A few of my aunts and great-aunts are widowed, single and without children. After the demise of their spouses, they spend more than half of their day praying to God, worshiping his various forms, chanting kirtans.  You’re probably wondering what is so transgressive about the act of bowing down to publicly approved modes of worship, faith and religion. It’d help to see these practices as a way of carving out time for themselves, a concept so invisibly radical I can’t even begin to explain. Most of these women have spent a better part of their life being subservient and obedient, selfless and almost spineless; putting everyone else’s desires before theirs. And now, within this space religion allows, they’re spending time with themselves. Thinking, feeling and simply being. One of these aunts I mentioned spends about five hours every morning in various religious practices, she’s famous for them in my family. In fact, no one calls or visits her at those specific hours, allowing her that space unto herself, which is more than many people get irrespective of their age or social standing. I don’t want to romanticise their loneliness, or their near-outsider status but just point out how within these regulated spaces too, between cracks and fissures, there is space for a person to breathe and live.

Another interesting space is the Kitchen, typically No Man’s Land. Yes, I know these are the pesky NewAges and MenPeople cook too! And wash their own dishes! And even use a glass for drinking water! And some even go as far as to wash the glass after drinking water! However, more than 80% of the time, it’s women who cook clean swab taste wash dry and do everything else in and out of the kitchen — it’s all unpaid and glorified labour after all! — let’s just agree on that. Here, again the kitchen can become a space for freedom, away from the white noise of other rooms. I’ve heard my cook and my mum bond over the silliest and sometimes the most serious subjects these past years. One thought sparks off another, and in this space largely undisciplined by Men, thoughts can drift, be bodiless and even be let out. I’m not glorifying female labour, or trying to show how resourceful  women are as beings (ick!) but a space traditionally understood as oppressive can co-exist as a liberating space, sometimes.  These are the Post-Modern times after all!

There are many essentialist arguments that show the benevolence of women’s silence, how it is their innate virtue to remain quiet, by which the offender gets the opportunity for self-reflection and eventually change or transform which is just a fancyarse way of saying “Stand all the abuse, and keep your head down while you’re at it”. I’m not talking about that silence — I’d rather talk about the various kinds of frogs on the planet than about the ‘virtue’ of silence — but one that allows us to be whole only within breaks. It’s not necessarily a choice, certainly not an overt one at the same time these ripples do help us be without literally splitting into two halves. For people like my friends and I, this speaking from within the invisible purdah becomes our way of articulating what lies inside while wrapping it in the garb of Tradition and Duty. I won’t deny there are many flaws with such broken talking, but how can I critique something impartially that allows me to be whole, in different parts? To quote Gertrude Stein only when I begin to “Dance a clean dream, secure the steady rights and translate more than translate the authority” do those little bits of me start coming back. With breaks and stops, but they come back nonetheless.

[cross-posted]

Surges Of Nationalism And Just Where To Stuff Them

The last few days out here have been rather strange. Strange enough that I actually paid attention to what was happening around me instead of just going on under the oblivious haze I call my eyesight. It so seems everyone is very concerned about ‘India’ these past three weeks — concerned only in the worst possible of ways — and more specifically about how is the ‘image’ of India being represented. This isn’t to say there aren’t such tower guards employed by the Government to make sure we’re represented as a footstool of human civilisation and or as a growing super-power (as per your specifications and the amount of money you can loan us!¹) but rather the whole country now wants to openly engage in this ‘patriotism’. For a while I thought it was because of the Gandhi anniversary on the 2nd of this month that has swept the nation into wholesale CountryLove but then I remembered all we do on Gandhi Jayanti is stay at home, drink the stocked up alcohol and try to look interested in the latest GandhiFlick that Bollywood spurned this year. And it turns out the real reason for this mass-ejaculation of patriotism are two entirely different polarised debates.

For the uninitiated, Delhi is the host of this year’s Commonwealth Games and garnered a lot of justified negative reputation when ceilings and bridges began to collapse two weeks before the event. Of course the media had a field day supposedly ‘exaggerating everything out of proportion’ (frankly I don’t blame them. I’d take the Government to task every turn I could too) while the politicians in charge started paling and gave out silly and inane replies providing the weekly quota of entertainment. In the light of these events, a lot of people were ashamed to think of what would happen to the image of India now? “THEY WILL ALWAYS SEE US AS A BACKWATER SEWAGE DUMP NOW” has become the chief concern. Not the gang rapes of Dalit women a few kilometers out of the national capital, or the fact that someone set another Dalit woman on fire after raping her but what will people (read: other countries) think of our sanitary practices. We’re quite placid about massive groups of Delhi beggars who have been shipped out of the city since the past four months² just so the city can look like poverty never touched it but the fact that international candidates are opting out of the game makes us cringe wholeheartedly, collectively and uniformly. So the poorly constructed stadiums and terrible lodging arrangements are the source of national shame but the thousands displaced by floods last week in Delhi hardly make it to two centimeter notes in the paper. When I raise such questions, often I’m berated for being a ‘bad’ Indian; for don’t you know good Indians don’t critique the Government — especially in events like this one — but instead make groups to encourage positive environment? I didn’t know either till fifteen different people sent me the same e-mail coaxing me to join the group that will magically pump me up with Optimism! and Happy Feelings! about the Commonwealth Games (without any drugs they say!). Which is the exact same time, co-incidentally, I burst a blood-vessel in there somewhere.

Repeatedly ritually and routinely we’re encouraged to participate in this ‘nationalistic fervor’ to promote India while easily turning a blind eye towards the internal problems that plague us such as the Olde Woman Problem where silly feminist bitches want to destigmatise abortion and abolish female feticide, the Dalit Question where those ruthless buggers are still demanding equal rights — Didn’t we give them three seats in buses and trains? people can’t stop asking–, The Army Question where the army is engaged in ‘encounters’ every other day in Jammu and Kashmir as countless rapes, thefts and forced entries go unreported to name a few. To top this, the Babri Masjid verdict came out yesterday which sanctioned that Lord Ram was indeed born in Ayodhya and the Hindus were always right and the Muslim buggers need a swift kick you-know-where. Or at least that’s how it sounded like in my head as many people from my community set out to celebrate Hindu domination and force out into the streets. In fact, I even heard many people saying, “Even if we will shame ourselves in Delhi, we at least showed those Muslim devils their place” as we once again croon how great Hinduism is while completely forgetting to mention the fascist leanings of Hindu Supremacy groups (one of them being the B.J.P which is the national freaking opposition). Why does our nationalism have to be so ruthlessly set on Othering and marginalising minority groups?

As I’ve said before, nationalism isn’t for me where I’d be required to let go of my humanity, build up this ‘love’ for my country on the basis of hating someone else’s homeland. Somehow boxing and labeling people isn’t something I’d like to do, even if my life depended on it , despite how much ‘fun’ it may seem like (it’s just like doing origami! Only you fold people to your imagination instead of coloured paper they say). What disgusts me here is the CollectiveReprimandTone almost everyone — from my parents to the woman who dusts my house — has so easily internalised. “What do you mean you don’t feel a thing about the Babri Masjid verdict?” or “How can you even call yourself Indian?” are common questions as well as sickeningly popular opinions. Whenever I manage to steer the conversation to letting go of personal biases and evaluating the situation critically, the easiest remedy is to say “But don’t you think we deserve to win the court case?” or say “scrounge up your two-inch deep respect for the country, will you?”. Apparently these statements don’t hamper common sense in other people. Supposedly. But I digress.

This is a particularly sore topic for me and many others to discuss because so much is wound up with both of these events. Not ‘national pride’ people of the Olde Interwebes but the massive effort it takes to come to terms with such nationwide brutality. The fact that so many people were exploited as they worked the last few weeks to make the National Capital ‘seem’ worthy of International press or the fact that the same city espouses currently thousands of displaced people who lost everything in the floods or the communal riots that can take place soon considering the verdict was more legally unfair than believable and so many things I may not even be aware of.

These bouts of nationalism that we seek and encourage epidemically just turn us into perpetrators of violence, inhuman as we are so ready to marginalise and exploit anyone we can in the social, cultural and economic ladder as long as we can look like the country people see on our coins and notes. All I know is, these surges of nationalism just need to be shoved up capitalism, cultural imperialism and neo-colonisation’s respective hindquarters — after nationalism needs to be reunited with its parent ideologies. Don’t believe me? Google Gramsci. He’ll explain everything.

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1. Seriously, ask P. Sainath. He has all the answers you need.

2. Observation of a police officer in Delhi who wishes to remain anonymous.

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