Learning Relevance Through Erasure

One of the few things people connect with India besides Slumdog Millionaire and hub of cheap Third World labour are the epics Ramayan and Mahabharat — which are of course, anglicised to Ramayana and Mahabharata. Almost always, these epics are seen as the narrativisation of ‘the great oral tradition of storytelling’, basing this tradition in the past, which not only increases the net worth of such a text but also binds the epic with ‘history’; it’s seen as a ‘pre-colonial’ Indian¹utopia and as the ‘pure’ culture, while neatly obliterating the existence of more than a few hundred narrativisations of these epics — which are subjective to the caste and class of the community they come from — and they’re seen synonymously with Hinduism and our religions — meanwhile western epics like the Iliad and Odyssey are seen as Great Literature and not the representative of a population. Thanks to this pact with ‘history’, these texts are seen as — forcibly — situated texts that describe how Things Were Back Then and almost always read when mirrored with Christianity or the western gaze. So when the text turns out to have any contemporary beliefs or depict any ‘modern’ behaviour, it is hailed as a new ‘discovery’, when in reality these ‘discoveries’ have always existed in the texts. Insert quip about colonisation here.

Lately, there is a new surge of reading ‘religious’ texts through a queer perspective, which perplexes me to no end — for these particular texts, Mahabharat especially, have always been queer texts. I grew up with stories from the Mahabharat and have known tales of Krishna and Radha role-playing and switching genders, Arjun living as a woman for a year with a man’s mind, Draupadi as the daughter born of a man’s body — and these are a few instances I can remember without even looking at the texts my grandmum used to read. Agreeably, in most re-tellings of this epic, even these gender transgressions are somehow inserted into patriarchy — Krishna becomes a ‘womaniser’ who doesn’t mind ‘playing around’, Arjun is written and seen as a character who ‘just dresses as a woman’ while retaining his identity and physical form, Draupadi’s birth is naturalised — however what these studies do is anthropologically ‘carve out’ queer instances and characters, instead of just rescuing the regional-dialectical re-telling from the mainstream one. Not to mention, even these queer characters are seen through the Western lens and then we have debates and papers arguing just why Arjun isn’t a trans* character, without taking into account that being trans* across different cultures or that even ‘queer’ manifests in different forms here. Because of such ritual and continuous exotification, books like Devdutt Pattaniak’s ‘The Pregnant King‘ are a cause for wonder and amazement in the Western world — more like a mild case of, “I used to be Brown but now I Think!”.

The Pregnant King is a text that narrativises and fictionalises the tale of a childless king who was a contemporary of the Pandavs, thus we know the setting is around the Kuru-kshtera war, but it moves on to its obscure characters — some of the most fascinating are Somvat a Brahmin boy who transforms to a woman to be with his lover, a queen who cannot rule because she is a woman, a woman who is raised and eventually identifies as a man and the protagonist who drinks a magical potion that makes him father a child and is then uncertain about his identity — written in English to either get a wider (Western) audience or to cache it under the genre of ‘fantasy’ considering the author is on risky ground for ‘questioning the sanctity of the epics!’. It goes without saying, writing such a novel does take courage, keeping in mind the religious-state-sanctioned communal identity most of the politicians thrive on, how most people view these texts as religious dictats and not just tales, how most of the Hindu-cultural identity is coded into these texts and the fact that the author takes great pains to illustrate gender and caste biases wherever possible. So on some cognitive level, I can appreciate the efforts of the author, but there are too many silences and silenced voices in this text to go un-noticed. As the text is written in English, names are anglicised², alienating me in the process — every time I said the anglicised names out loud, they’d seem foreign and harsh as they don’t roll off like the Sanskrit names do — but I’m used to such translations. What really unsettled me is how culture is diluted and broken down into actions — for instance the puja is described as an “appeasement of Gods with flowers, food and waving of lamps” — is if to make sure the Omnipresent Western Reader would understand every ‘exotic’ word used. Much like footnotes used by the British to ‘comprehend the Hindoo animal’ this text too explains each cultural practice. An apsara is called a ‘nymph’, a bhrama-rakshas is called a ‘demon-spirit’, a yaksh is called a ‘goblin’, each time reminding me that the culture I grew up in is legitimate only when tied to a western-marker. I can already see people protesting, “What is your problem if a text is made relevant? This way more people can read and appreciate it” — this is only half-true. More people will read it because it’s a ‘queer’ perspective to a ‘sacred’ text, an aura of taboo mixes with the erotic thus making it more consumable and irresistible. We don’t always need these western-markers to ‘understand’ a text — I grew up reading words, terms, cultural practices like “Chaise”, “Halloween” etc without anyone  explaining what they exactly meant, read Wordsworth’s infamous poems on Nature and Daffodils without ever smelling the flower for instance —  and turned out quite okay. Reading Dickens was a nightmare — besides his countless race and genderfails — because of so many cultural practices he’d mention that I’d never heard of, so it was Dickens Plus Dictionary in my household. Somehow, just somehow I ‘understood’ it all — no one had to tell me ‘English tea’ was nothing like the chai women in my house would drink in the afternoon — I knew our cultures were different and this difference was used to map supposed inferiority in our skins and authority in theirs.

In addition to dilution of culture and specific practices, the climax of the novel is the fact that most gods are male, female, both, neither all at once and then Yuvanashv comes to terms with his identity that presents as a male and yet he gives birth to his son — by the time I got to this bit, reading had become a chore. Anyone familiar with Hindu mythology knows that Gods are not separate from their feminine forms — Shiv is Parvati is Kali is Krishna is Radha is Indra and so on — but because we read these texts as one does Christian (Western) ‘religious texts’ which are more or less gendered, these characters are also confined to the gender binary. Then of course, liberal universities and humanities departments host fests that ‘uncover’ the ‘queer’ elements in the texts — once again re-enforcing a half-swallowed truth: We Don’t Exist, Till They Say We Do. Growing up too, I learnt that to ‘gain’ relevance I must be ‘understood’ — and if you ‘understand’ the Other, you can possess and chart the Other — and this ‘understanding’ comes when I erase myself, a culture I was raised in, markers that tie me to my current geopolitical location, become a tabula rasa and wait for the Nice Imperial Person to write over me, for only then I am given existence. And people still don’t believe that colonisation exists, or that we live such fissured lives because of our colonial past.

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1. This is factually  incorrect considering the fact one of the first colonisers were the Iranians, dating back to 1800 BCE and invaded the land of the Dravidians — which is why most of us today aren’t entirely neither Aryan nor Dravidian in complexion.

2. It’s not about what ‘sounds’ better entirely — Sanskrit names are derived from that of one’s father to chart a character’s lineage — by anglicising them, these names and tradition are distorted.

Re-Righting Nether Roots

Breathing as the Dusty Third Worldling on a regularly alarming basis, is a difficult space to occupy, surely; even more so if you identify as feminine, which by this time almost always needs a special mention, like a parentheses of obligation. Given the Empire’s dedication to mapping and charting such invisible spaces, boundaries and borders often make me anxious and claustrophobic. Growing up with the ‘Kargil War’ being a part of the bigger, back-ground, constant state of war with chalk lines between two supposedly different countries of the Subcontinent, hearing rumours in the school playground that America was going to invade us — soon after 9/11 — that Pakistan is going to launch an attack, that people from Over There may come in any time and take us over like they did in ‘those’ countries like Iraq and Iran, that it was indeed true when we’d hear someone’s aunt’s sister’s cousin’s maid’s mistress’s sister had fled Over There because these days patriotic-and-patriarchally-inclined people decided it’s quite okay to invade borders and bodies personally because they belong to the ‘opposing country, that ‘those’ horrid buggers — any nation we’re displeased at the moment comes in this category — are going to be the End Of Us, destroy the sanctity of a country as diverse, at parts even ‘broken’ like ours and then you’d hear sighs when people said, Leave It All To God. I’d think of all this when I’d pore over maps and atlases with my sister, tracing ‘borders’ with our fingers, see if we can stretch edges and make it a Nation Of The World, like our geography books said with, what seemed to me, utmost confidence. At the end, I’d read a paragraph that countries like India and ‘Others’ of the Subcontinent, continents like Africa are a part of the Third World or the Nether World — as my Childcraft books called it — and that such countries haven’t joined the First World, but if they ‘work harder’ and ‘do more’, one day we’d join the league of ‘developed nations’ too.

So, being a Lady born out of such Nether Roots, when I sit to write in my NotMotherTongue, I break and close while trying to form words and shapes of sounds; especially when I use this ‘harsh’ tongue English sometimes becomes to me to talk about ‘my’ roots or my experience that sees the world through dark-tinted glasses with splotches where ‘religion’, ‘culture’, ‘regional tongues’ intertwine to make what I can half-claim as ‘my world’. I was going over my earliest short stories this week and (quite predictably), they smacked of something Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie would write, with characters that had names I’d only see in such books, always in search of the ‘perfect Indian sun’. It’s only in the last six years or so that I found the knotted and restrained writing of most Dusty Ladies, echoing the truth I was feeling but could somehow never word out. A few months ago, a relative asked to read my ‘writing’ or the short stories I was working on, and when I showed it to her, as much as she wanted to support and encourage me, she said that, “Are you sure this is our reality?”, words I can’t seem to forget now; for in less than ten seconds, she’d outlined the biggest problem I face when writing out ‘my’ world: The Cultural Polemic that somehow speaks in a collective echo instead of ‘one voice’. Even while growing-up, seeing the occasional Indian contestant in whatever American game-show or later, ‘reality-show’ meant knowing ‘their’ victory was somehow compulsively caught with ours, and that any flaws that person would show on TV would be marked somewhere on our skin too. One writing advice I’ve got repeatedly — advice I specifically didn’t ask for — is that, “Forget everyone else, just write your own story” as if this ‘personal’ and the ‘public’ were indeed two neatly ordained narratives, and as if I could easily slip ‘in’ and ‘out’ of each at will, as it were. Relegating the ‘personal’ to the ‘political’ or trying the inverse isn’t an option, for Dusty Ladies — supposedly — Never Air Dirty Laundry, be it in private or public, because as it seems we don’t have any ‘dirt’ to show anyone anyway. Maybe this is connected to the idea when ladies write ‘angry’ writing, it comes from a deep and a dark space — maybe even the uterus? — and that this ‘anger’ that women have is just for attention or to join the race to become the country’s Next Best Prostitute¹. But I digress.

Constructing realities for me (and it seems many other dusty ladies²) is a problem, mainly because we can’t seem to divorce the personal from the polyphonic polemic reality we see around us. Either the words are too harsh or too far removed from the reality, because Cartesian dichotomies are quite fun to see the world with, no? Either, the words are completely censored, or the ‘fantasy or dystopia’  enters reality through tubes — as it does routinely for Mahashveta Devi — and then the stories don’t matter at all; for if it’s a fantasy, then it can’t have any bearing on our dusty backs or daily lives, of course. To voice such entangled truths, that we’re perpetrators, victims, enemies, servants and commanders of this epistemological violence, that the Empire may have crumbled — if history is to be believed at all  — and we’ve created a new one in its place. As the Universal is designed to leave hued bodies like mine out, speaking from the personal is the only choice there is, at least until you ignore the censorship that sometimes runs bone deep. And after having these thoughts get past between my brain and eyes³, if any words do come out, it’s very difficult to not paint the picture like Shobha De tends to do, to show conflict that is consumable and easily resolved with a few — if at all, any — changes in the class structures; or to see the world through a single lens of ‘wholeness’ and ‘oneness’ the Indian government is always too quick to rationalise ‘diversity’ as. There are times, my friends and I wonder how would it feel to buy into the Nationalist Vision of India, to see it as a burgeoning economy which has somehow no debt to pay to the various people it oppresses — for ‘dalit’s’ are all ‘Maoists’ anyway, surely — and to enthusiastically and guilelessly cheer with Obama whenever he and the power he symobilises urges us to ‘do more’. Most times, we can do nothing beyond indulge in such empty fantasies, for we do know, that the moment the tongue starts twisting truths, it spits sharp stones edged syllables, no matter how thinly we veil it or not.

As a lady, who has always had history narrated to me, by people who do not resemble me, in a language that is not mine, many times, history feels like an interesting story someone’s weaved, but never physically real, were I to only rely on books and no narrativised accounts, of people I know and those I don’t. In such cases, I often wish I could change history, frame it as I see fit, stretch out voices that get shut in, and mostly, ‘erase’ the idea that we’re somewhere ‘down under’; so in some fiction pieces, I tried that too only to see the words didn’t sound like my tongue could ever form. It’s taken me a long time to see that I’m not a ‘point of access’ for people — familiar or otherwise — to my localised ‘history’, that constructing a reality that make me comfortable in my skin is the one that is going to dislocate someone else’s, or that I don’t need to be ‘away’ from the ‘story’ or ‘land’ or ‘soil’ that I see as ‘mine’ to build it successfully. Mostly, it’s a relief to find that Re-Righting My Roots isn’t my privilege, nor my duty, all I have to do is sound this ‘voice’ that comes as close as it can to mine, before I forget it altogether.

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1. Because ladies write about the time they had coitus (even consensually! Gasp!) or the time they wanted to indulge in coitus (even consensually! Gasp!) was enough for some famous dude to claim that Indian Women Writers Are Basically Doing The Prostitution Under The Name Of The Feminism. And dude’s opinions on ladywriting is never wrong, obviously.

2. Ask the ladies in the ‘Storylines‘ anthology, they’ll explain.

3. I stole this from Regina Spektor, but it’s alright because we’re both Ladies and therefore practically the same person, no?

OutSourcing Dusty Bodies

Existing as a Dusty Third Worldling while being a Lady is a strange enough predicament on its own –whether it’s under Western or Oriental eyes — anyone who identifies as a Lady in this part of the world will tell you so. Before you can get your words out, she’ll tell you how unfair her life is simply because there is no Y-chromosome in her body, she will meet your stare and agree that it was too essentialist of her to fixate on that Y-chromosome but won’t let you make her feel guilty as she firmly asserts, “This is how things are here” and when you start to talk about enough trans*people in the world get discriminated over a few socially ‘unfit’ or ‘mismatched’ genes, she’ll observe wryly that it’s the System and Patriarchy that makes her so and this cold, scientific speech and facts aren’t her preferred mode of communication or discourse anyway; then she’ll go on to say how trans* bodies are policed in her community and you’ll squirm in your seat, wondering why did you ever challenge the notion that being a Dusty Third Worldling  is a hard position to occupy as she points out systematically the many viscerally real forces that oppress her while now you feel guilty for pitying her even as she talks which she sees right away and starts enumerating other factors that lead you deeper in the existential quagmire this conversation has long become and you further alarm yourself by thinking if she wants some donation money out of you as you try to keep your face expressionless. Meanwhile, the ‘economically-challenged’ Dusty Lady she employs sweeps the floor beneath your feet as the two of you further dis-sect the post of the post-colonial.

Leaving creative flippancy aside, many discussions and discourses coming out and around the Third World tend to not engage with the Subaltern — who knew the Third World had its own systems to squash and oppress? — they simply talk about this bottom tier as it were. Words keep floating by, and till people from the Subaltern are addressed by someone stepping in from caste or class privilege, the Subaltern is kept mute — raise your hand if you think this is too imperial to be true — and when the Subaltern does speak, these words are too exotic, even for its Dusty counterparts. So then this detongued bottom shelf is appropriated and fixed in as many ways as possible, quite akin to a laboratory animal positioned to be experimented on. One example of this Subaltern-animal is the burgeoning female surrogacy industry in India, where we speak of the people who give out away their Wombs as helpless, agency-less creatures who don’t understand the ‘importance’ or ‘boon’ that motherhood is as she ‘pawns’ her uterus away. Not only is this image of the benevolent Third World Woman perpetuated in urban and privileged echelons of India, but quite predictably in the West as well, with an even more sinister motive. When the image of the Dusty Goddess-Mother is created for Western audiences, it creates quite ostensibly a loophole that allows people to see it as a part of our chemical make-up, where we exist to serve you and just as easily over-writes the slavery it really is, leaving the Westerner free of guilt and ready to consume bodies, like microwaveable dinners. It comes as no surprise that Indian wombs come cheap for rent, as medical tourism is quick to remind us; too quick even. While I am not at all against surrogate mothers or people who choose to have babies through IVF, I am skeptical to what extent this transaction is consensual or non-exploitative for Dusty Ladies.

Thanks to India’s lax laws when it comes to adoption and surrogacy, we’re the perfect location for OutSourcing Bodies, both in reality and in metaphor; both locally and globally. One thing that irks this LadyBrain to no extent is how many people completely dismiss surrogacy as potential exploitation by saying “It’s paid for, like a womb-service if you will. Besides it’s not like the mother is made to do 16 hours of backbreaking labour each day” as if exploitation or exploitative spaces exist only if menial labour is factored in. As a Lady who has never given birth, I cannot possibly know what are the emotions associated with birth or the attachment a mother develops for her child, I do know however arguing that “the skin tone of the child will be different from that of the mother, so she wouldn’t feel very attached to this child” is too simplistic and an effort to erase Dusty Ladies off of the scale of sentient, autonomous graph. Such myths also obscure other forms of reproductive labour, such as contracted breastfeeding — like Mahashveta Devi’s text ‘Breast Giver‘ beautifully shows — and bonded child-rearing. More often than not, the Lady offering her mammary glands or other parts of her body associated with reproduction is of a lower caste background — somehow here we aren’t too concerned with casteism in such instances — and a backward socio-economic background; giving people with means a ‘Mother’ to purchase and use. Like Devi says, contracted motherhood isn’t as simple as an exchange of money as capitalism would have us believe, she even goes as far as to say, ‘Is a Mother so cheaply made?/Not just by dropping a babe!” bringing to our notice how the label of ‘mother’ can mean a plethora of violent meanings. Even mothers of ‘normal’ households are aware that they’re womb-machines, like Gehna of Balika Vadhu contests in one of TeeVee’s most popular shows, she even walks out on her husband and child initially keeping up with the implied transaction but she’s (predictably) brought back due to insistence of a large horde of fans. As Dusty Ladies, we know how important our wombs are in society and in determining our value as ‘useful resources’, which is precisely why Indian surrogate mothers are said to be ‘more compassionate‘ as we know how skin-deep the stigma of being barren goes.

In instances as hued as these, a traditional Marxist analysis of exploitation of labour doesn’t do as Marx never really accounted for the transaction of wombs or other reproductive services, certainly never thought about Dusty Reproductive labour. For instance, many surrogate mothers give up to some extent, domestic space and work post the first trimester and the Dude of the house resumes the domestic responsibility for a while. So, who is being exploited in the case, the domestic worker who doesn’t get paid or the person renting out her reproductive service? It’s important to see Dusty politics from our perspective and more importantly from the point of view of the Subaltern — I am after all a privileged lady class and castewise — to see how far OutSourcing reconciles the notion of ‘profit’ or even ‘just compensation’ back to people who need it the most. The Breast Giver’s milk is Dusty, she squats in the muddy soil while stepping in (un)knowingly in the shoes of the Earth Goddess, and to validate such a specific position we use tools and methods of analysis that were designed to leave her out of the bargain? Explain to me once again, how this isn’t exploitation; I admit, I’d love to see you at least try.

 

Dusty Women And Our Spaces

Yesterday I was cleaning my grandmum’s cupboard as I do every winter on her death anniversary. We’ve given most of her things away, all that is left of this amazing woman are a few clothes, a few letters and many photographs for which I cannot be thankful enough. Every year I see these frayed pictures, and she’s always standing in the kitchen, or the veranda. Some pictures show her in room where the temple is. And a few are with me, standing beside me in the balcony, pointing at something far off in the distance. I’ve seen these pictures many times, today I couldn’t help noticing how in all of her pictures she is in one corner or a room. There are just two pictures of her outside the home space, those are when she went to her native place with my grandfather. This isn’t to say she didn’t ever travel out of the house or that she was kept confined. In fact, my grandmum has visited most of India and a few countries of the Subcontinent as well. But if you just see these photographs, you’ll see a woman always in a room, in a corridor or in the veranda; never is she idly sitting either. She’s either cooking, praying or showing something to her grand-daughters. If I were to construct her life on the basis of these photographs alone, you’d see a Lady who never set foot outside the house, was preoccupied with many household chores as one would expect from any Lady of her generation — or this one too — a life that revolves around others while she is lost in one of the other corners of the house. The truth is, there are many women who didn’t enjoy the class and social privilege my grandmum had, who spent and continue to spend decades in their homes. I don’t mean to intone that this is in any way a negative thing or just blame The Evil Patriarchy for it — how I wish it were that easy! — but rather point out how some spaces are so heavily hued with this blemish called ‘gender; till even their representative counterparts share the same inscription.

These gendered spaces aren’t unique creations of this country or any specific community, rather it is a universal disease. White Women’s writing and even movement has been heavily censored and controlled by their spouses or other male-relatives — from Christina Rossetti to Sylvia Plath — isn’t exactly a secret or a revelation. However, if these women had been Dusty, this LadyBrain thinks their disembodiment would have been much more severe — here we can place responsibility on the Empire all we want! Squee! — as the idea of a Dusty Lady being anything other than an object to be gawked at is a threat to Whiteness. Earlier this year a movie called Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts came out and I can safely say I’ve never seen so much loosely packaged neo-colonisation since AVATAR came out. Spaces, people, cities, people all open to lead the Whitewashed tone of the film into giving us a ‘well-rounded’ spiritual journey of a woman who wants to ‘discover’ herself, predictably in adequately exotic countries. For the most part, indigenous people exist in the movie to lend insights to the Poor White Woman who is simply lost, who has lost her appetite for life and simply must appropriate other cultures ceaselessly to feel better about herself. At one point, the protagonist comes to India in search of ‘the spiritual’ — because White people come to Dusty Land for mainly two reasons leaving aside their fascination with Dusty Poor People: Either to feel closer to God in a language they don’t understand or to learn Kamasutra — and quite predictably, we see the protagonist provided with a Dusty Lady (Tulsi) who makes her realise how lucky she is, to not have parents who will marry her off like cattle. Liz enjoys the kind of mobility and agency only White people can in movies and spaces like these, where she says “Perhaps you and your husband will be happy after all” in her parting scene with Tulsi. Another similar example that comes to mind is Elizabeth Russell from Lagaan — yes Dusty films can perpetuate Whiteness too. Insert appropriate gasps here — who is allowed physical as well as social mobility because of her pearly exterior, whereas Gauri is laughed at when she talks about the power Elizabeth yields. In addition, Gauri has to contend being the Third World Earth Goddess, one who soothes the male protagonist’s wounded ego, Elizabeth can openly defy her brother’s imperial policies and is rewarded in the course of the narrative. Even in many books, Dusty or otherwise, the same claustrophobic policing of gendered spaces is upheld when it comes to further erasure of hued women. As readers we’re encouraged by the narrative to sympathise with Jane Eyre while Bertha burns in the attic, to not question when Tagore’s Dusty women remain within the home sphere while his Memsahib’s coo exotically over the ‘enchanting landscape’. Even in Amitav Ghosh’s Shadow Lines, women who identify as Western (though they may never be able to scrub off their hued epidermis) or who are Western are the one’s with any real complexity or nuances. Many Dusty Ladies are simply a litany of names, or are present in the scene just to make their lighter counterparts seem more ‘liberal’ or ’emancipated’.

Even in literature that comes from pens of Dusty Ladies themselves, strangely we carry our confined spaces with us. In Nabneeta Dev Sen’s ‘Ami Anupam‘, as delightful and wickedly funny the prose is, women almost always speak from within rooms, from the kitchen or from the periphery of the garden; Kamla Das’s ‘LadyInsights’ in her autobiography center around her being completely still and passive — in and out of situations involving coitus even — where thoughts come to her the moment she goes catatonic; Jumpa Lahiri’s Ashima’s silences in the Namesake speak volumes at the dinner table or when she’s cooking food. The names, bodies and faces change, the voice still comes from somewhere within the structure. Like the jarokha Mughals kept their wives behind, Dusty Ladies see and perceive their realities through the gauze of the DudeCouncil’s pre-approved gendered spaces of the inner courtyard, of the back room and other places where silences each come heavily garbed in meanings, waiting to imprint or latch on to anyone who enters. Today, we still have gendered spaces, only now it seems like a unanimous ‘consensual’ action as yet again all Ladies flock in a corner at any social gathering or dinner.

What really perplexes me today is how easily many feminists or ‘gender-sensitive’ people talk about ‘Sisterhood’ without missing a beat, without pausing to consider how much privilege it takes to say “We’re all sisters in a struggle” when the ‘struggle’ we face as Dusty Ladies is more than just a fable of the Third World, it’s our lived reality. Instead of toting around Sisterhood as some kind of badge for identifying as a Lady, it would be wiser of said feminists and ‘gender-sensitive people to make it a goal to aspire toward to: Sans appropriation or patronising  Dusty People. I know it will be hard — for where will all the well-meaning neo-colonising-Empire-hugging-people do now? Think of deconstruction as your new hobby and it will just come to you.

 

 

 

Musings From The Empire

So this Link Fest is two weeks late. In my defense, I was super busy, away on weekends and lazy the days I wasn’t away. But this means there are more links while I try to drag my lazyarse into writing more regularly. I’d like to remind you nice People from the Olde Interwebes that we have an open guest-posting policy here if that sort of thing interests you. Also, this time around in the link fest, why don’t you drop in a few links from your own blog or anyone else’s writing that you enjoyed reading? This way sharing becomes truly sexay!

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1. Kuzhali Manickavel in oh little flower. see you lover. see your chittu kannil pattu pattu sikki konda lover (which has got to be the best title for a post yet)  talks about povertyporn, Previlege Denying Dudes among other things:

 

I think we can all agree that orphans with AIDS have enough issues to deal with without having to also deal with multiple abandonment issues from wealthy temp caregivers from other countries who are hoping to do something exotic and charitable for their summer holidays. And so I nobly offer this alternative. Voluntourists, come take care of me. I live in third world country, hence the third world name of this third world blog. I don’t have any major diseases but almost all my acquaintances have had diseases like typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, jaundice, chikungunya, cholera and one person even has TB! So you can come down here and wash my clothes and cook for me and buy me stuff  (you can’t touch me though) and I won’t talk in English at all, we can communicate using sign language to make your experience more authentic. Then you can give me lots of money and you can go back home and tell everyone you were a caregiver for a third world ghetto vampire in India. That’s way haut, trust me because it’s like poverty porn and Twilight mixed together. Massive street cred.

2. The Indian Homemaker discusses how patriarchy percolates in women’s friendships and makes dichotomies between then in A Woman is Not A Woman’s Worst Enemy. Patriarchy is :

Traditionally women’s partners are discouraged from seeing their marriages and their wives as important parts of their lives. It’s common for men to be shamed and taunted for showing they care for their wives or marriages.Jokes like ‘Shadi ke laddu, jo khaye wo pachtaye‘, or taunts like Joru ka gulaam are common. And this when women must move in among near strangers and depend on the spouse’s support to feel at home in a new environment.

Traditionally men’s partners are brought up to believe that finding a partner and ‘keeping him’ is their only goal in life. The education they receive, how they talk (softly), walk, look , respond to questions (always respectfully), the careers they choose (no jobs that require traveling) – everything is permitted keeping the comfort and approval of a future husband and his family in mind. Women are brought up to seek approval.

3. Desi Girl talks poignantly and beautifully about the plight of Desi Parents when their children abandon them and how they are stuck between two lands effectively in Desi Mothers: Lost In Translation :

In two years the couple had a baby; MIL immediately took off from work to take care of the baby and the new mother. Once the new mother was out of childbed things started to change, MIL’s work load increased, she was the one responsible for the baby and gradually two more children followed along with new dramas. Once bahu had a baby she became edgy, she started having problems with everything MIL did and she would not let her husband be alone with his parents even for a minute. Their son started acting up, yelling and screaming at the mother and often times not talking to the parents at all for days. After second child bahu asked MIL to give up her job for good as she wanted to work. MIL took it as a retirement bonus to be with the grand kids. Managing two homes across the border and three children under five became a full time job for MIL. Gradually the quarrels became so frequent that MIL felt she was a prisoner in her own home. It is then she asked her husband to move out.

4. Sharanya Manivannan’s poem Parampara among others in Softblow :

I willed my bleeding to
coincide with full moons.
It’s easier for them to
attribute my lunacy that way.
Rumour has it that I do my
sprinkling at the stroke of
midnight. I do it in the late
afternoon, after the radio
switches to news. I don’t
care for news.

5. KJB rebuts an article by Rita Banerjee in Locating Gandhi where she smooths out more than a few factual mistakes :

One of the best quotes I ever read about Gandhiji and women came from his great grandson Tushar Gandhi –

“I would say that Bapu was a champion of gender equality. But the moral strength that he imputes to women has an almost inborn, genetic complexion to it, which bears little or no relation to the exploitation, humiliation and hardship that has been women’s lot, historically speaking. Bapu remained fixed on the symbolism of the Mother. His was a passive picture of womanhood, of a person who undoubtedly possessed freedom but functioned within narrow parametres [sic] and defined boundaries.”


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