Punctuate Life

Pause Breathe Relax


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So I’m Bossy Now

The other day my husband remarked, “Of late you’ve become so bossy.” I told him I was tired of being nice because I never got anything I wanted. The kids keep telling me to stop yelling and I’m like if I ask you nicely you just don’t do it,  so I have to yell to get you guys to listen to me. I’m just sick and tired of us women being told to be nice and quiet while every Tom, Dick and Harry steamrolls over us and hands us a cartload of patriarchal nonsense.

I stopped caring about what people thought about me and started thinking about me and what I need to be happy. I think it’s called taking charge, being in control. If you find me loud and obnoxious – I don’t care. Just like you didn’t care about anything I wanted or expected out of you!

When men do it, they are applauded for strength of character and leadership skills and when women so much as raise their voice they are bossy, intimidating and unlikeable. Well sorry! We’re done with the all cute and cuddly purring kitten types that are dripping honey and hanging on your every word. You stepped on our tails more than once and we’re lashing out with our teeth and claws.

You wax eloquent about your stressful day and how much you have accomplished while we straddle corporate careers and motherhood, cooking gourmet meals and coding and so much more that your testosterone-filled veins can handle for a day.  And yet WE are the fairer sex? The weaker ones needing your patronage and protection? Why don’t you hulks try birthing a child or nursing twins or even trying to fend off nausea for a week. Or maybe try, just try to make dinner every night after work.

So if I yell when I come home and the entire kitchen island is filled with everything you ate from breakfast cereal to tortilla chip crumbs and the sink is overflowing with dishes, its because I just finished my day job where I get paid and appreciated and now I’m at my second job that is thankless with no pay.

I don’t like microwave meals myself or I would have abandoned kitchen duties the day I started working full-time. Or stopped packing lunches for the kids and asked them to make do with the gross school cafeteria food. And with cooking comes mountains of dishes. I’m thankful for the dishwasher but unfortunately it doesn’t load itself. I don’t think it will kill anyone if they loaded the dishwasher every night after I was done making dinner.  Again everyone would rather I do it, till I make a scene and ask the kids to do their chores.

Then again why is dinner my responsibility ALWAYS! Why do chores have to be gender based? All of this churns through my psyche and makes me yell every once in a while. You have a choice to not cook or clean and I don’t? That really makes me yell dude! And since it’s my kitchen, it’s MY RULES. Obey or be prepared to be shredded to fine saw dust.

And  you can shove that unsolicited advice you know where! If you aint helping, I don’t need your suggestions for improvement. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I think I qualify as an expert! So there you go. I’m bossy and unapologetic. They may promote me to a manager at work for my much sought after leadership skills!

 


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Womanly Woes

I caught a glimpse of a serial on television the other day. This was the scene – a blind wife throws herself at the husband’s feet begging to be allowed to stay with him. Her disability is seen as a major hindrance that prevents her from doing her wifely duties and chores. Well-wishers urge the husband to dump her at an ashram and find a new wife to take care of the house and his child. With tears streaming down her face she begs this stone-faced man who scolds her and tells her to make her way to the ashram.

She painted such a pathetic picture of herself, wailing uncontrollably, helpless and totally at the mercy of her husband that it stirred something in me. This was no modern day soap but inklings of such desperate behavior do show up in pretty much every television offering. Forget television, in the back drop called real life a lot was going on. The triple talaq debate for one. Raping an unconscious woman gets a Stanford student a light sentence to protect his future. And in another part of the world a woman gets on the wrong side of law for reporting sexual assault. A Bollywood star (I’d rather call him scum) compares the rigors of shooting his film to being raped and if history is to be believed he will get away with it thanks to his celebrity status and blind fans who will back him up unashamedly.

Where is the justice? I wanted to reach into the screen and shake up that waling woman and tell her she was better off without that jerk of a husband and to stop treating him like some Greek God that needed to be appeased. Known for people pleasing, we women take it to another level when it comes to men. We deny ourselves in order to please our men. Oh he doesn’t like me wearing make-up. Oh he likes my hair short. Oh he doesn’t want me to work. What the hell do you like woman? Does he honor that as well? I hope so or he is so not worth it. Some women deny their own needs to the extent of living in loveless or abusive relationships. You deserve to be loved and honored for what you are. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. It is sad that so many economically impoverished and uneducated women are left high and dry by men who use and abuse them. It is sadder that many educated, highly capable women suffer in silence instead of walking away from abusive or adulterous husbands.

The excuses are many. Kids. Society. Financial dependence. But when a man does the same thing no one questions him. He can wash his hands off his kids and get away without paying child support or alimony. But women? Oh no! Walk away from an abusive relationship and you have ruined your child’s future, marital prospects, psychologically damaged them and what not. And guess what? It’s always the woman’s fault!

If educated women can’t stand up against these atrocities then what hope does a poor housewife who can’t read or write have? Her fate is sealed and she can be cast out on a whim or just by uttering a word three times. Or worse held hostage and made to do the housework while the husband carries on with other women. Victims of aggression and insatiable lust, these women suffer unspeakable horrors. Some pay the price for standing up. They are burnt alive or marred for life by acid attacks. When will this end I keep asking myself. Sometime soon I really hope and then even the media will reflect that change with empowered women who hold their own without a man hovering in the background.


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Unleash the Goddess Within

Whenever I think of Goddesses incarnating on earth I fondly remember my grandma. She was a powerful matriarch with an iron staff (or should I say sword?) She was fearless and stood up to most anyone – die-hard patriarchs included – who saw her as a hapless widow. She owned her power. She was kind, generous, loving and very shrewd. She saw through facades and flagrant unctuousness although she appeared to revel in it. She was like a fierce lioness with a brood of cubs that she guarded vehemently. She was definitely a Durga. There is this picture of her taken on her birthday. She is dressed immaculately in white, brandishing a sword (thanks to her indulgent brother) while sitting on her bed with her dogs languishing in the background. On her nightstand she had a picture of the Goddess Durga slaying Mahishasura with his decapitated buffalo’s head and body lying under the goddess astride a lion. The lion is mauling the remains of the demon while blood drips off her trident.

I was reading the book, “Awakening Shakti” by Sally Kempton and it was all about the different goddesses and their powers. It even had a fun quiz at the end – Which Goddess are You? The author didn’t want the readers to take it too seriously and just wanted everyone to have some fun. I took the quiz in that very same spirit but slowly it took on a serious turn. I related to different Goddesses with very contrasting qualities. Of course everyone is a mix of qualities and it’s not always possible to fit in one particular category. In my case however, I saw how I was dominated by one Goddess during one part of my life and others during other parts of my life.

Every woman goes through a phase in her life when she feels like a goddess, oozes charisma and a dizzying fragrance that others find irresistible. In fact some men fear the power of such a woman and demonize her as the femme fatale. The evil one that seduces one and all. Some patriarchal societies don’t encourage women to flaunt their beauty. They want it kept under wraps and want women to feel ugly about their bodies. In extreme cases they mutilate women as a way of punishing them for embodying the beauty of a Goddess. Look around you and notice how people make you feel ugly or unworthy or encourage you to hide your inner beauty because they are afraid of it. To be a goddess you must see beauty within you and appreciate beauty around you.

At one time widows were expected to shave their heads and wear drab or white robes and no jewelry so they would not tempt other men into entering into a liaison with them. Which brings me back to my grandma. She wore white saris but was the epitome of style. Probably the years she spent in England made her realize that not everywhere are widows treated as outcastes. But she did not discard all of her Indian upbringing. She somehow molded the two and made white her fashion statement. How empowering is that?

Remember Sita? The beautiful goddess who married the handsome Prince Rama. The divine couple were a dazzling sight and people could barely take their eyes off the two of them. But later on in the story the beautiful Sita follows her husband to the forest, suffers untold miseries and then gets abducted by a demon king. She waits for her husband to come rescue her while ugly demons taunt and torture her. Ravana, the demon king waits for her to join his harem. She refuses until one day he can take it no more and attacks her with the intention of molesting her. Only then does the timid Sita take on a fiery persona and forbids Ravana from touching her lest he gets burnt by the intensity of her Shakti or power. Ravana backs off, sensing the intensity of her power and not wanting to risk his life.

To cut a long story short, Rama kills Ravana and rescues Sita but refuses to accept her since she has lived with another man (Sita suffered the changing seasons and was at the mercy of the elements in the Ashoka garden. She never stepped into Ravana’s palace nor did she wear any of the silks and jewels that he offered her.) She had to pass the test of fire to prove that she was chaste. Only then did Rama accept her as his queen.

So many women I know fall into the Sita category. They sacrifice their joys, ambitions and dreams in order to support their spouse and always put themselves last. Why even I am guilty of being a Sita during the early days of my married life. Isn’t that what every mother teaches her daughter consciously or unconsciously? I was reading my journal from many years ago and one of the entries struck me. I was told to “act submissive” during the wedding ceremony. It incensed me now, but my 23 year old self was willing to comply with that absurd request!

We are all taught to be Sitas. To be docile, in the shadows, ever serving our Lord (husband!) Made sense in Sita’s case because Rama was really the Divine incarnate. Now how many husbands treat you the way Rama treated Sita. And even Rama wasn’t perfect!

I was happy to play the domestic goddess. To cook, clean and care for the kids while my husband worked for a pay check. After a few years my domestic goddess felt disempowered. I could no longer play the role of a supportive, self-sacrificing Sita. The Durga in me emerged – fierce and seated on a lion – ready to pounce on anyone who doubted my power. I had to find a balance between nurturing others and myself and that came only from knowing where to draw the line and having the power to defend it.

When I don’t take good care of my needs the Kali comes out in me. Now Kali is the shadow side of the goddess. Dark and menacing with a necklace of skulls and a thirst for blood. Some call it PMS  which to me stands for Protesting Matriarchal Suppression! No one wants to be around Kali. She strikes terror in the hearts of men. And yet she is needed every now and then to restore the balance when it is too far gone to humanly restore.

Is the female of the species deadlier than the male? Occasionally yes, if you push her buttons too hard and too often!  But in a balanced state she nurtures one and all, imparting beauty, knowledge, protection and creativity. So which Goddess are you or which Goddess do you aspire to be?


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The Other Side of Shiva…

Blue and pink. Fairies, princesses, ballet and gymnastics. Legos, pirates, superheroes, cars and trains. Even before they are born, our babies have their whole lives planned out – what color their rooms will be, what clothes they will wear, what toys they will play with and preferred activities and games. We put our babies in neat little boxes painted blue or pink and label them boy or girl. When they try to crawl out of the box and get into the other one we push them back into the box we think they should be in. Think about it. Do we truly honor our children and see them as unique marvels of creation? Nope. We thrust our preconceived sexist ideologies on them.

Try dressing your baby in blue even if she is a girl and take her out for a stroll. I did that! Everyone went on about what a beautiful baby boy I had. Keep your girl’s hair short and again she gets mistaken for a boy. Once in school, girls with short hair get bullied for keeping their locks cropped. When boys grow their hair long it is cool – except in India. Schools out there don’t like boys with long hair. I’ve heard that they send some of them with their hair tied up in rubber bands just to make a point.

I recently dug up some old tapes with footage of my kids as toddlers. My son was walking around with a pink baby doll and kept calling it “baby”. As much as I encouraged him to play dolls with his sister, somewhere along the way he got the message that dolls are girly. It makes me sad to see my kids drift apart and do their own thing when at one time they used to play together for hours.

But this kind of bias runs deeper than just the color pink or dolls. It is like a subliminal undercurrent that sometimes catches us by surprise. Like the time when I was talking to my kids about growing up and having families of their own. My daughter who decided pretty early in her life that she wants to be a doctor asked me, ” Ma, who will take care of my kids if I go to work?”. It never occurred to her that her future husband shared the responsibility of raising the kids. I was stumped by her question and instead of telling her that raising kids was not solely a woman’s job, I offered to babysit while she worked!

While women have been excluded from boxes labelled ” A Man’s Job”, even if they were worthy and competent, men seldom crawled into boxes that had roles specifically for women. Remember Ben Stiller who played the male nurse in “Meet the Parents”? He was constantly ridiculed for his career choice. In my own life I theoretically believed that I (being a foodie and all) would love being married to a chef. In real life I turned down an alliance from a chef who worked in a five star rated hotel. So somewhere deep in my psyche I felt women needed to do all the cooking, maybe?

Back in my grandmother’s days women were not allowed in the kitchen because they had male cooks. My great grandmother who shares my name must be tut-tutting – two generations down the line her infamous great granddaughter has surrendered to the patriarchal system.

Born in the 70s I must have imbibed some of the energy from the Women’s movement. I grew up with a brother and we got treated differently, especially in our youth. He got to stay out late, go to clubs and discos and New Year’s eve parties, while I had to stay home. Anytime this happened,  I would raise a red flag and rant and rave (till I was blue) about discrimination of the girl child and women’s rights. My parents married me off young lest I go rogue.

After I got married my husband and I took on traditional roles – he worked and I stayed home and cared for the kids. I didn’t mind it at first but over the years I felt like I was taking on more and more. I was resentful and constantly nagged him about doing more around the house. Fortunately we both realized that our relationship is constantly growing and changing and that to make it successful one needs to adapt. Now I get more help from my husband and sometimes I don’t even have to ask.

Things are far from equal when we compare the two genders but in an ideal world we’d be equally balanced. There is a story in Hindu scriptures of a time when the mother of the universe playfully closed the eyes of Shiva. The entire cosmos was shrouded in darkness and all living beings suffered and perished. When the mother removed her hands, Shiva chided her and pointed out the destruction that she had caused. It broke her heart to see the suffering that she had inadvertently inflicted on her children. She set off to do penance and obtain Shiva’s forgiveness. At the end of her severe penance, Shiva and the mother merged as one so they would never be separate. The story is symbolic of the oneness of the male and the female aspects of the universe but we find it hard to picture that as humans. So the result of the merging of the mother and father of the universe is depicted as below. All we can do is hope for a time when we would honor the male and female aspects of ourselves instead of suppressing one or the other. For one cannot flourish without the other and they are inseparable.


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The Charge of the Pink Brigade

  Tucked away in a remote part of Uttar Pradesh, India, is a firebrand of a woman. Her name is Sampat Pal, leader of the Pink Gang (Gulabi Gang). The word gang conjures up images of mobs of unruly thugs out to create chaos. But believe me this gang is a far cry from that. Donned in pink saris, wielding lathis or sticks, these women show up at courts and police stations when justice turns a blind eye to crimes committed by powerful politicians or wealthy landlords.

So who are these powerful women? Usually victims of abuse or violence who had no one to turn to and got justice through the Pink Gang. They in turn joined the gang to help other women. Sampat empowers these women – usually illiterate, tied down by housework and children and financially dependent on their husbands. She teaches them to speak up, seek help from other women and also stresses the importance of education. Learn to ride a bike so you can get to the meetings by yourself  says Sampat. She even encourages them to learn a skill that can help them earn money.

To understand how much she has accomplished, one has to get an idea of the Bundlekhand region. There are no sewers, no running water ( in certain villages), no roads even. The caste system is alive and well and inter-caste marriages are frowned upon. Many cases of honor killings have also been reported. Dowry deaths and abuse of women and girls is rampant. Where are the police you ask? The police pay the politicians to get them a job. The politicians are mostly criminals with several pending cases and criminal charges against them. The police end up being sidekicks to these lawless netas (leaders). The poor don’t stand a chance here where money can make the scales of justice sway its way.

From the gutters of Bundlekhand rose a lone Dalit woman. She simply decided to take a stand. To not be afraid anymore. To fight instead of cower in fright. Her grassroots movement has given a voice to the voiceless, faceless victims of Goonda Raj (thugs ruling over the state of Uttar Pradesh). Her fearless spirit wreaks terror in the hearts of anyone on the wrong side of the law.

Sampat’s life was not easy to start with. She was married off at the age of 12 and was a mother by the age of 15. The little she knows to read and write (she didn’t go to school) she learnt by watching the teachers and with some help from local boys. She taught herself how to sew, bought a machine ( by selling grain that the family stored!) and made money by stitching garments. She also knew how to ride a bicycle. One day she gathered a group of women from her village and accosted a neighbor who was battering his wife every day. After they threatened him, he stopped beating his wife. This marked the beginning of her activism.

Sampat believes that in unity there is strength and women should help other women. She also felt that wearing the same color sari gave them an identity and that is how they came to be known as the Pink Gang. She has an office and people show up asking for her help when the corrupt police turn their cheek. She then organizes rallies and sit-outs, outside the police stations and the court houses. She even gets the media to inform the public about the case. Invariably she wins and justice is served. Now the Pink Gang operates in other towns as well and she has women (trained by her) who deal with simple cases on their own. As of today they have twenty thousand members.

In the past four decades the number of reported rapes has gone up by 792 percent. Sadly, the conviction rates are dropping. Domestic violence on the other hand has risen by 30 percent. We can no longer wring our hands in despair and say – what can we do? If someone with Sampat’s background can make such an impact, we have no excuse. We have to form our own gangs and demand justice. This can’t go on. We have to deal with it. We can’t allow our daughters to deal with it in the future.

I encourage you to read the book “Pink Sari Revolution” by Amana Fontanella-Khan and I would also like to thank my friend V for thrusting the book into my hands at the library. After reading this book, I’m filled with hope. I know we will leave a safer and much more empowered India to our daughters and sons.

 

 


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Yo-Yo Feminism and the Unsung Glories of a Die-Hard Housewife…

My mom had this plaque on the living room wall when I was a kid. It read…

I’m just a little housewife

With dishes three times a day

With laundry and cleaning and cooking

And toys to put away

Now it’s not that I mind the housework

Or the screaming kids at play 

It’s that husband that burns me

When he says with a smile

Did you do anything today??!!??       

I’d like to say that is the story of my life. But that wouldn’t be true. I go back and forth between being a domestic goddess and a die-hard feminist.  You just have to walk into the house to know which avatar has taken hold of me. The DG version will have the house vacuumed, dishes done and dinner prepared well ahead of time. She will also be humming a tune as she scrubs the tub and she might even bake a batch of cookies for the kids.

It’s a whole different story when the feminist takes over. You will have to hop over the shoes strewn in the foyer to get to the living room, from where you can see the mountain of dishes piled up in the sink. Your truly will be on the couch wearing a grungy T-shirt and stained PJs. As the kids rummage the kitchen for something to eat, la femme reluctantly uproots herself from the couch and grudgingly makes dinner. Cupboards will be slammed, pots and pans banged around, while she mutters something about being a slave!

The unsuspecting husband walks in. “Hello”, he pipes. Only to be met with an icy stare. He knows better than to say something because that is all she needs. One word and she’ll start her tirade against all men and the thankless job of being a housewife.

Out here in the U.S., nobody uses the term housewife. It’s home maker or stay-at-home mom, which are equally unglamorous, unless you are in a reality show – The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills! These glam dolls just have to dress up, have lunch dates and dinner parties, launch perfumes, vodkas or clothing lines (another excuse for a party!). They also meet with their dermatologists and plastic surgeons regularly. They are a poor representation of the common housewife and a sorry lot.

While there is some part of me that envies them- the part that doesn’t like housework I’m guessing – I wouldn’t last a day in their silicone/botox world. Also being a person who hates the limelight I’d rather live a life of obscurity than have a camera crew taping my every move! So all I can do is pretend I’m a diva and expect the imaginary help to do the chores. When I’m done with being a diva or the house starts to stink, whichever come first, I suck it up and go back to being domestic goddess.

An unpaid job is a thankless job. There is no reward for cleaning up your house except that you have a clean house. There is no reward for cooking fresh meals for your family, except that you all enjoy vibrant health. There is no glory in showing up day after day at the bus stop to pick up your kids after school. No glory in sweating it out in a hot soccer field as your child plays. No bonuses to be had. No promotions to work for. Just the quiet satisfaction of watching your children grow up. Just having enough time to smell the flowers. Just the wisdom to know that life is magical and is unfolding right before your eyes.

Oh who am I kidding? I have often wished fairy god mother would show up, wave her wand and turn me into a princess and turn the mice and cockroaches in my house into maids, cooks and ladies-in-waiting! Until then I will never cease to sing my glories, be a domestic goddess and fight for my rights!

P.S. Domestic goddess just read this post and she insists there are NO mice or cockroaches in the house. Did I mention she was appalled?


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Calling All Warriors…

I’m not done saying all that I wanted to say about the treatment of women in India. There’s more to the story. It pains me to write about this but someone has to do it. My sincere prayer is that you are moved by my words to take action. I hope and pray that I too can go beyond just these words of mine to do something to change the future of women in India and other parts of the world.

A woman’s struggle doesn’t start when she is a girl. It starts much earlier. In the womb. Ultrasound technology which should be used only to detect birth defects and possible difficulties in labor is now used to determine the sex of the baby. The obsession with having only boys has driven many men and their families to take possession of women’s bodies and their reproductive rights. Forced abortions without the consent of the mother done by demonic doctors is a commonplace occurrence.

Little did I know that before I was born, women in the U.S. struggled with similar issues. I’m not talking about female feticide but rape, domestic violence and inequality. There were no laws in place for crimes against women and men just got away with everything. Women were dependent on them and didn’t have the courage to speak out. They couldn’t get credit cards in their names. No contraception. No abortion. Imagine if these women never fought, never broke the mold, never rallied for equality. Then where would we be? We’d be at home, doing the dishes and in all probability we wouldn’t be able to vote or go to war!

The images from America’s past took me to present day India where girls 9,7 and 11 were raped and murdered. And the world goes on. People wake up, drink their coffee and go to work. Life goes on. Apathy so deep-rooted that it has made us sick. We need to revive the Women’s movement. Not just in India but all over the world. See what the Women’s movement in the U.S. has accomplished. And don’t you roll your eyes and say it’s not possible in India. Martin Luther King had no idea that when he fought for civil rights in the U.S. it would spill over to South Africa and end apartheid. If it worked for African-American rights it can work for Women’s rights. Why even look to other countries for inspiration? We as a nation stood up to the British super powers and sent them packing.

We did not fight to be a free nation only to succumb to demons from our past. The very demons that Mahatma Gandhi, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Subramanya Bharathi tried to rid our society of. We did not oust the British to be governed by a bunch of unscrupulous thugs. It won’t take a small group of protesters in a few cities to change things. It will take every woman in every corner of the world. You cannot look away, ignore and not care. Your sisters need you. Not tomorrow or in a few days when you think you have the time or when you think you are ready. But now. Right now.

When something happens to one of our sisters anywhere in the world I want to hear every woman protest loudly and openly. Demand justice. Do everything in your power to help. If you don’t you will be an abettor, a facilitator and you will have to one day stand in judgement for not speaking up for those without a voice, those that have been violated or forever silenced.

If the cops and the justice system will not help women who have been wronged, let’s open shelters for these women. Let this be the first place they got to. Where they are not shamed or judged. But listened to and comforted. Doctors, counsellors, cops and lawyers who want to serve these women can help out at these shelters.

As you read this, many women will endure another night of battering, girls will be preyed upon by sexually aggressive men. Some will live and some will die. Some of these men will be punished. Some will go scot-free and hurt many more. You can read this and go on about your life as usual or you can don the raiment of a warrior woman. Take every slight against every woman personally. Say enough is enough. And fight till your last breath. Till a new era dawns and India can hold its head high and every woman can be free of fear.

Children of a Lesser God?

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My blood was boiling all of December. The newspapers were full of stories of rape and abuse of women all over India. It made me sick to the stomach. This was not the India I used to live in. How did we ever get here?

Attitude

Most mothers tell their daughters to ignore bad behavior or to put up with it. Not in my family. My mom never put up with men falling all over her on the bus or sticking to her like nettles. She nudged them, stepped on their toes, yelled at them royally and even prodded them with her umbrella! When I got pinched by an auto driver, my grandma went straight to the cops. Many were afraid that the auto driver would seek revenge and pose a threat to me. But I did not buy that story.

So don’t go telling your daughter, “Men are like that only! Get used to it.” HELL NO! That leaves our daughters powerless and at the mercy of lecherous men. My generation put up with eve teasing and groping and the present generation has to put up with rape? No can do!

Fight

Animals resort to two types of behavior when threatened. Fight or flee. I think as women we have done enough fleeing. The time has come to fight. We are not weak and powerless. What we lack in brute strength we make up for in our keen sense of intuition and our power in numbers. Every girl should learn self-defense. Carry mace or pepper spray. If you are a target don’t let the incident scare you out of seeking justice. Fight till your last breath and get all the support you need. This is where power in numbers shows up to your advantage.

Justice Delivered

I’m against the eye-for-an-eye-and-tooth-for-a-tooth policy. But the perpetrators of such heinous crimes can only be categorized as beasts. So if we can castrate pets who go berserk when in heat, why not castrate these insane men who think they can satisfy their urges by attacking the first female form they see. Makes sense to me and it seems to work in the Middle East countries. The crime rates are low because the punishments are severe!

Our defunct judicial system is badly in need of an overhaul. The victims shouldn’t be the ones that get humiliated and ostracized while the criminals waltz away. Don’t even get me started on the sorry lot that call themselves politicians or leaders!  About time that our democracy spells freedom and a right to a good life for all – women included!

Until then, sisters, mothers and wives, brothers, husbands and sons come together to create the India of your dreams. Don’t wait for someone else to make it a reality. You have the power. Go for it!

http://www.indusladies.com/forums/blogs/induslady/indusladies-4th-annual-international-women-8412/


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Nurturing the Goddess in you…

All you men out there, this one is for you as well. You may have six-packs and rippling muscles and testosterone in your veins. But you still have a feminine side. You have a heart, don’t you? That thing that pumps blood and also has the ability to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps you haven’t been listening to it lately.  I’m sure you have faced the classic dilemma posed by your mind and heart. Your heart says go for it and your mind gives you a million reasons not to…You listen to your head and end up with heart ache later…

In a world built on logic and ruled by logic what place does the heart have? Well, the world built entirely on logic and largely by men in power is slowly crumbling down before our very eyes. It lacks sensitivity and creativity which are primarily feminine aspects. The mind thinks and the heart knows. We have forgotten how to trust our hearts to make decisions for us. We think through our decisions but forget to feel our way through them. We deny our feminine sides. Shun it, deplore it, mask it! And all you women out there are facilitators!

Just the other day I heard  a single mom say about her son – I don’t want him to be too girly. I’ve also heard soccer moms go on about how their daughters are not aggressive enough and push them into competitive sports. When boys cry we say to them – strong boys don’t cry and lead them to believe that crying is a sign of weakness. Or even worse – don’t cry like a girl – creating the notion that crying and being like a girl are both highly undesirable qualities.

In my house most of the crying is done by my boy. He is what they call a Highly Sensitive Male (HSM). He feels everything deeply and hollers his tiny heart out every once in a while! I wish he would relax a little while still holding on to his sensitivity. It makes him a remarkable little person. He senses my angst at the end of a long day and will come and ask me – Ma do you want me to help you. It just makes me want to cry!

Just hope the world that thinks sensitivity is a weakness and power comes from supressing others doesn’t take it away from him. I’ve heard so many opinions about raising boys that I’m sick of it. Don’t hug, kiss and coddle your boys too much. You don’t want them to be sissies! Go help your Dad (like helping your Mom out with chores makes you less macho!!) And then these very same boys that you raise rough & tough, grow up and shy away from changing diapers or feeding babies. Their women will lament about their lack of sensitivity. And then these very same women will go on to raise identical replicas of their husbands! Do you see the vicious cycle we have created?

Women too seem to suffer from the mind-rules-and-hearts-can’t-be-trusted psychosis. After years of supression, women came out of the home, out of their nurturing roles as moms and wives. And into a harsh corporate world where the rules are different. The rules were made by men – men who had suppressed their feminine side. Men who only thought of numbers, figures and bottom line margins. Women had to be tough, put family last, work long hours and put their heart-centred nurturing on the back burner. But we have seen how this fractured way of thinking without a balance of mind and heart has failed time and again because it forgets that people are the life of an organization and not figures.

Nature however loves balance and the time has come to balance the mind and the heart. The male and the female. The yin and the yang. It is no surprise that this year there were women Olympians from every participating country. Today several top companies like Yahoo and Pepsico are headed by women. My only prayer is that these women share their wisdom and chart their own path to success instead of following the foot steps of  those before them.

It’s heartening to see stay-at-home dads who love and care for their babies. I remember a time when dads never did any parenting. They brought home the bacon, drank beer and watched TV. They never read to their kids or even hugged them. Those days are long gone but some men still hang on to remnants of those days and think parenting is mostly the mom’s job. No wonder many single women think they don’t need a man to procreate anymore! But there is a reason why children need both a mom and a dad. So they grow up balanced. So their minds and hearts are equally developed. So they can think and trust. Judge and love. But in order to raise balanced kids we need to be balanced ourselves.

So how do you get in touch with your feminine side? It’s the playful, creative, loving side of you, that is connected to nature and all beings. When you hold your baby and your heart fills with so much love that it might burst – you are connecting to your feminine side. When your dog showers you with unconditional love and you mirror it back you are connecting to the feminine. When you reach out with compassion you are connected to that force. When you dance, sing, write, play, have fun you connect to your inner goddess. When you pay attention to your feelings instead of that little voice in your head you are connecting to your heart.

I love the picture in which Shiva has the right half of the body and Parvathi has the left half. Male and female totally balanced. Where the heart listens to the mind and the mind bows down to the heart which always comes from a place of compassion and unconditional love.

 


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Daring and Different…My Dadima

This post is long overdue. I meant to write this is 2009 and get it published in a newspaper or magazine in Chennai, India. Since that didn’t happen I guess I’ll have to be happy with this. M asked me the other day – who is your idol? I mentioned the name of my deceased guru. But as I thought about it I realized I have several people on that list. And my grandmother is somewhere on the top of that list.

I called her Dadima even though we don’t speak Hindi at home. She was not your usual run-of-the-mill granny who told you stories, cooked for you and tucked you in bed. In fact, she has never cooked a single meal for me. Nor did she read the Ramayana or wear tulsi beads. You see Dadima had a career. And she worked right up until her dying day. She lost the love of her life, my grandfather at the age of 35 ( I shudder to think that I’m almost 35!) All the odds were against her. She had only passed 10th grade, had no college education, no work experience, no trust fund, no nest eggs…nothing! My grandma had to fend for herself and support my Dad, who was in college. She could have slumped down in a corner and cried for the rest of her life. Or lived off her relatives. No. Not my Dadima.

She went on to become the first lady distributor for LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). The kind that comes in ‘cylinders’ and is used for cooking in India. As a business woman she was tough and put everyone in their place. Everyone who thought she was an old widow and can be pushed around learnt their lesson quickly. She was feisty and fearless. She did what she wanted and offered no explanations or justifications. People thought twice before messing with her. She could be an angel or she could be your worst nightmare.

To me she was an angel, dressed in white and always hovering around me and whispering words of endearment to me. She called me her ‘gem’. She was one person who really truly believed that I was precious. I practically grew up in Dadima’s house. My parents feared for my brother’s life. They were quite certain that I would get into a jealous rage and attack him with sharpened pencils! So I was packed off to Dadima’s house.

I used to sleep next to Dadima every night, sharing the bed with two overfed dogs, Diana and Priya. Dadima loved them as much as she loved me. They ate off her plate, drank from her glasses, dirtied her pristine white sheets and she would look the other way. I’ve heard people say, “Oh how I wish I could be Mrs. Damodaran’s dog!” Spoilt rotten they were. Used to ride the car to school everyday with me, with their tongues lolling out of the window.

All the dogs she had were female by the way. Did I mention Dadima had the words ‘GIRL POWER” etched in hot pink invisible ink all over her house? Oh yeah! There were pictures of goddesses wielding fierce weapons and trampling weak male villians. I remember playing dress up with her numerous white handbags and high heeled shoes and sandals, draping her sheer duppatas around my head, the way she used to when she was in the sun with matching white sunglasses. She was always well dressed. Hated the heat and used to complain about it and how she loved the cold when she was in Great Britian. She had so many funny anecdotes she used to share with me. Stories that gave me a glimpse of the carefree life she lived in the past when my granddad was around. All she used to do was dress up for parties and manage the scores of servants they had.

One of the reasons my grandad treated Dadima like the Queen of England was her poor health. She had several close calls. She almost died of a brain tumor and was so ill on a ship headed to India from England, that the captain of the ship said she’d have to be buried at sea if she didn’t make it. She made it and went on to have a granddaughter – me. But as far back as I can remember, she had been in and out of hospitals most of her life. Some visits were short and routine. Others were long and scary and I’ve been called many a time to her bedside where she lay with one foot in the grave. She had appendicitis, blood pressure, an enlarged heart, a hysterectomy and then diabetes in the latter years of her life. But everytime she’d make it out of the hospital stronger and more full of life. Never would she take a day off work or lie in bed all day complaining about her health.

She was very proud of her brain. She always said my heart gives me a lot of trouble but my brain was overhauled in England (during the brain tumor years I think). It was true. She never forgot a single birthday or anniversary. She personally selected and wrote birthday cards for everyone. She made sure we all got a card and a birthday cake every birthday. New clothes for New Year and Diwali. Black Forest Cake and Fruit Cake over the holidays with puffs. She loved entertaining and loved having people over for dinner. Even if someone turned up uninvited and it was lunch or dinner time she would ask them to stay and eat with her. She never wrote lists for groceries or anything. I’ve seen the servants tell her before she went to work that they needed soap or shampoo or rice and she would somehow remember everything and bring it home in the evening.

She had an opinion about everything. Her political and religious views were radical. Around the house she had pictures of Mother Mary and Jesus. Statues of Buddha. She had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible. She loved the villian Ravana for being fearless even when fighting a God and hated Rama (who was the hero of Ramayana) for doubting Sita’s chastity and subjecting her to the test of fire (Agni Pariksha). Tinge of feminism there. She loved Saddam Hussain for having the ‘guts’ to stand up to a super power like the United States.

At her funeral several people read verses from the Bible while her family chanted Hare Rama and her Muslim neighbors of 40 years looked on. She truly embraced one and all. Put aside her troubles to help others. I was foolish to think she had touched but one life – mine. When people came to me with stories of her kindness and love, I cried copious tears. It felt like their pain was my pain. We had all lost someone special. Someone who thought we were special and treated us like royalty.

She was everything every woman would want to be. And in these years that I have had to live without her, this is my constant prayer – if ever I have to live on this earth again please let her be my grandmother for many lifetimes to come.