Feminism is the radical notion that women are people said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded definitio...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

When the joy is removed from Feasting

Thinking this Eid of all the women hunched over their kitchen stoves, toiling over copious amounts of festive food. Our festivals and celebrations are inextricably linked to food. Often such occasions have integral to them, recipes handed down over generations, cooked with love, care and devotion. Wait! Sounds corny to you too? 

Yes, the trope if the all-nurturing all-sacrificing mother is such a well worn cliche, specially in the Indian context. Why is it a cliche? A cliche is a "trite expression or phrase, a hackneyed theme, something that has become over familiar or commonplace" yet it never grows old, does it? We all happily buy into it. 

Mother became synonymous with woman. When did it happen? It's no accident; it didn't happen overnight. 
All misogynists for whom the ultimate put down of a woman is 'get back into the kitchen' or 'make me a sandwich' know very well they are hitting hard, where it hurts. 

Woman is reduced to motherhood, which in turn came to represent a cook, a care giver, a nurturer. The plan is to keep women house bound, so men can have a free run of the 'real world'. So while we are at it why not make it sound noble and fulfilling? Yet, paradoxically most major celebrity chefs are men, not women. 

The fact is that one is not born a woman, but becomes one. Similarly one becomes a mother, not a parent - men have wilfully built a system where they are left out of the caring and nurturing parts. 

Yes, yes, before you start shooting off on how it's the loss of men that they have to give up claims to their emotional sides in order to keep up their masculinity- or its facade- let me stop you in your tracks right there! That's a different discussion altogether and this ain't it, my friend.

Getting back to the talk of women. Yes, there are many women with love to cook and many who find it therapeutic even.  And that's fine too. As long as it is in small doses, for yourself. The problems begin when women, out of conditioning try to cook to please those around them, specially, loved ones. What's wrong with that, you may ask. Nothing, I agree. 

Yet, who doesn't have the one family member who  spends hours conjuring up the perfect meal, laying it out in the perfect manner. Of course once you pour so much of yourself into a meal you are raising your hopes for some appreciation at least. Alas, often it is hard to come by. Sometimes, even if it does it's not enough. 

Cut the women in your life some slack. Dissociate all celebrations from food, or at least home cooked extravagance. And  if you're a man, do get into the kitchen once in a while while you're at it!  

P.S: Writing about Eid as it happens to be Eid today. Of course this post applies equally to all festivals and feasting 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

To Pee or Not To Pee

So, during my morning run a few days ago, I got flashed by a man.

At first, I assumed he was peeing in public, in the park where I go for my morning run. Dawn was just breaking with the sun yet to come up and the light was pleasantly dim. I looked away. But as I approached him - he was right in my way- he slowly turned towards me and flashed his penis at me. I was outraged, and I felt violated.

I've ticked off men peeing in public before. I make a pointed comment, "is this a public toilet?" to men hunched against walls in all kinds of public spaces, along a road, in a park, what-have-you. Not sure how much it helps but my hope is maybe the person will not repeat the offence, at least for a while, though of course, I have no way of knowing.
I was still making up my mind whether to go ahead with it, when he precipitated the situation and I was too dumbfounded to do speak. I looked away and walked off.

My first instinct was to go up to the private security guard a little distance away and report it to him. However, anticipating a not very helpful reaction from the guy, and knowing it would only make me angrier at the situation, I walked home, upset.

This is a call every woman has to make at various points in time, almost on a daily basis, specially when negotiating public spaces. All kinds of creeps are out there harassing you. How you react to each incident affects how the rest of your day will go. It entails lost time and energy, if you choose to make a complaint. That's assuming there's someone in authority willing to even hear you out, let alone act upon it, and to to your benefit. It also involves allowing a stranger to determine your mood- you are bound to become angrier as you discuss this and have to explain exactly how the situation arose.

But I digress. My thoughts here are prompted by something more mundane : public toilets , or the lack of them. I go for my morning run, the Rabindra Sarobar in Kolkata which is open to the public. In a public space spread over an area of 73 acres (300,00 sq m) of you'd expect at least a few toilets. Guess how many are there? Not one. Wonder whether the Kolkata Improvement Trust is aware of this or has even given it a thought. It would seem like common sense to me.

Had there been easily available toilets in public spaces, hopefully men would not be let off so easily for relieving themselves in public, either to urinate or for urges best restricted to private spaces.

So although one may outrage at men peeing in public, the fact remains that without a valid option, what is a man to do? Till such time as the government provides more options for the public to relieve themselves, the recent drive to send people to jail for relieving themselves in public can only be seen as a piecemeal effort. Not much will be achieved from such drives.

There's a laudatory effort undertaken by a lone woman Mayuri Bhattacharjee who is going around our city checking out loos  for our benefit.
Of course, we don't regularly come across women peeing in the open, for some strange reason. Wonder why? 

Friday, 10 July 2015


Koi saleeb, koi kafan bhi uske nam nahin, Koi humsafar bhi uske sath nahin.
Kyun humdardi ho us se bhala, 
jab maseeha bhi uske sath nahin 

Ab kaarvaan bhi talaash na kar, 
khud apne sar kafan bandh ke chal
maseehai tujhe na naseeb to kya, zanjeeren khol, saleeb utha.