The ‘Correct’ Behaviour Of A ‘Good’ Girl

A day before the Times of India published a report about the documentary made about safety of women in India, I was going out to meet a friend, when my ever-so-liberal parents told me that I must come back home before 9. With Holi right around the corner, they were worried about hoodlums and ruffians passing lewd comments or molesting me. I tried to brush away their fears by telling them that I had grown up in this neighbourhood, and that I knew the place like the back of my hand. What harm could possible befall me here?!

My father grimly said, “Nirbhaya probably thought the same thing. No one plans on getting molested or raped. Be back home on time!”

The idea that restrictions should be based on my movement because of the sick perverted minds of certain men, rankled me, but I couldn’t argue. My parents had my best interests at heart and were their fears really unfounded?

The next day I read the report about one of the accused in the Delhi rape case blaming the female victim for her rape and death. It made my blood boil. The Nirbhaya rape case was a crime so heinous and barbaric that it united an entire country in shock and outrage. It brought about legal reforms. It (and this part I am only assuming) led to more awareness being spread about the violence against women and it led to more crimes being reported. A few questions, as is the norm, were raised against the character of the girl, but the outraged cries silenced them. And suddenly we have in the public sphere the opinions of an unrepentant murderer about how the girl deserved what she got!

At first let me tell you, I haven’t seen the documentary. I have only read about it in the newspapers and heard snippets on television channels.  Being a media student and an aspiring writer, I am a strong proponent of the freedom to speech and expression. Since then I have also read accounts online on how the documentary is actually passing a very strong message about women safety, and for all I know it might be. All I am concerned with is the effect the rapist’s statement will have on the lives of young girls like me, all around the country!

I am also a woman, and probably among the more fortunate ones born in India. I wasn’t killed at birth; nor was I sexually assaulted as a child. My parents sent me to school, and they haven’t married me off to a stranger yet. I have received many of the blessings denied to many other daughters born in this country. Yet even my free-thinking, modern parents cannot ignore the dangers posed to women in India nowadays.

A few years ago, I got into a debate in school with my Hindi teacher, when she stated that for their own safety girls should return home before dark. I vehemently protested against her statement in class. But she, like my parents and like numerous other Indian parents, are only concerned about their daughters’ safety from lunatics. When I express concern over the documentary, I am simply expressing concern over how the accused’s statement would affect my life and the lives of my peers.

In the 2012 rape incident that took place at Park Street in Kolkata, there were accusations levied against the woman’s character. “No decent woman, wife or mother would be out at a pub after midnight”, they said. Then happened the Nirbhaya rape case in Delhi at 9pm, and much too soon the gang-rape at Shakti Mills in Mumbai of a young photojournalist in between 5pm to 7pm. It is still early twilight in Mumbai at that time; it’s not even dark outside.

Am I the only one who seems to notice how the ‘correct time’ for a woman to be outside her house seem to be decreasing day by day? I read somewhere that constitutionally India is the safest country for women, but in reality we do not seem to have progressed much since Lakshman first drew a Lakshman-rekha for Sita.

“For her safety” the girl must still not leave her house at certain times or in certain company.

‘The correct place’, ‘the correct time’, ‘the correct dress’, ‘the correct company’ — I am tired of society and people who don’t know me setting these rules for me. Restrictions that bind me and suffocate me, but which I must obey if I want to remain a ‘good girl’; because a bad girl is anyone’s for taking.

When a child cries for a toy do you close-down the toy store because it is tempting the child, or do you teach the child to have better control on his whims and fancies?  Instead of teaching the women to restrict their movement shouldn’t we be teaching the men to restrain their desires?

Laundry Wars: Gender Inequality After-Hours

It has been a long and tiring day at office. Anil and Priya meet in the lobby and climb the stairs to their apartment on the first floor together.

Turning the key Anil asks, “What’s for dinner? I am starving. Skipped lunch to finish a report“.

Let’s order” Priya said dropping her handbag on the couch and passing a weary hand over her eyes. “I am too tired“.

Anil flopped down on the sofa and picked up the TV remote, “Ok. But don’t forget to wash my blue shirt before you go to bed. I have a client meeting tomorrow“.

I am really tired” Priya said. “Do I have to do it tonight?

Yes” Anil flipped channels languidly yawning. “I need it tomorrow”.

You know what – why don’t you do it Yourself!“Priya said.

Anil turned to gape open-mouthed at her, “What happened? Why are you angry?

“I am not angry, just tired. I don’t want to do the laundry tonight. Why don’t you do it for a change?

But – but I don’t know how to!” Anil said.

You have never done it before?

No! My mother used to do it!

And when she was unwell…or couldn’t because she was too tired?” Priya’s nostrils flared.

Then my grandmother did it. Or my aunt“. Anil got off the sofa and laid a placating hand on his wife’s arm. “Why are you being like this? I am sorry if I said something to upset you. I need that shirt tomorrow, so be a dear and please wash it. You know doing the laundry is the woman’s duty in a household“.

Duty?!” Priya shook off his hand and glared at him. She tossed her hair behind her back. “Well now that’s just sad because I am going on a strike! I am not washing your dirty laundry anymore!” Anil stared at her bemused as she stalked off to their bedroom. The door closed with a loud bang.

Arial

Debates in intellectual circles revolve a lot around the equal treatment of both men and women, on the necessity of giving them both equal salaries and responsibilities at the workplace. But the debate is rarely carried forward to the household. How can we dream of equality when everyday after returning home from work the husband gets to relax following his hectic day of work, while the wife is left washing the dirty laundry.

Some revolting statistics  discovered by Ariel’s survey conducted by AC Nielsen:

In a nutshell this it what it means:

You are allowed to leave the household and work at par with men*

*Terms and Conditions Applied. You must be extremely proficient in multi-tasking. No matter how strenuous your career is, you are still expected to do the household chores. Being an independent career woman does not free you from your traditional chores, but adds on to them.

This blog post is a cry to spread gender equality not only in the workplace, but also at home. It can start with something as simple as doing the laundry. 

I am writing for #IsLaundryOnlyAWomansJob activity at BlogAdda.com in association with Ariel.

Top 11 Books That Will Change Your Life

I am a bookaholic, I swear I am. That being said it’s nearly shameful that I hardly wrote any posts about books!! Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt I have decided to turn over a new leaf, and start writing about books, as I had originally intended to, when I first started my blog. I, however, was afraid that my blog would revolve too much around books, and that might make it boring. So, in attempting to evade a possible error, I over-corrected myself.
Enough time spent repenting, time to start writing. What better place to start than with classics. Here are some classic books that changed my life, and that I would recommend to every young-adult out there:

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: No book helped me more through puberty than this poignant tale of the 4 March sisters. I must have read it a thousand times over the years, fingering through the familiar yellow pages and finding solace, comfort and advice, that I sourly craved for. I empathized with the March sisters, wept at their sorrows, and rejoiced at their joys. I revered Mrs. March as a mentor. I turned to her for advice on those petty issues (read: boys and fashion) that I couldn’t confide to my mother.

Little Women

2. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee: 
One of my favourite literary quotes are from this book:

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

I love it for its sheer simplicity and also the its veracity. To really understand a person you need to understand HIM – his background, his past experiences and his frame of reference. Put yourself for one minute in the shoes of the worst person you know, and see how your opinion about him, mitigates (if not change).

lookmama_mockingbird

3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: I recently read thisbook for an Economics project and was touched to the core by the story. Though the novel is set in the Great Depression in the United States of America, a country I have never even been in, it somehow manages to give voice to the exploited and the homeless across the globe, including in my country. My favourite quote from the book is Tom’s farewell speech to Ma Joad. It echoes my belief in the fact that one should always, always fight for one’s right, if only in the hope that someone else like me, in the future, won’t have to go through what I went through. 

Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry n’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there.graors of wrath

4. The Chronicles ofNarnia by C.S. Lewis: I love this book. I love how simple it makes the eternal struggle between good and bad seem. You have to support the good, just because it is right. There can be no excuses. Especially, I love the portrayal of paradise in the last book, as a place with all the good things and all the good people of Earth. Earth is, according to the book, simply like a trial round for all creatures to see who deserves Paradise:

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different – deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more.

the-chronicles-of-narnia

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: I read this book as part of my fifth-grade reading list, and I have been in love with it ever since. It is a thrilling tale of vengeance, but my favourite scene is when the Count asks forgiveness from Mercedes, and bades her farewell. He asks her where shall they meet again, and she tells him they will meet in heaven.

the count of monte christo

 

6. Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde: Oscar Wilde is easily my favourite playwright. This play, highlighting the hypocrisy of society, especially the concept of ‘a good woman’ seems as relevant to me, in today’s age of feminism, as in the Victorian Society.

Lady Windermere's Fan-8x6[1]

7. Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle: Do I even need to explain this?! The adventures of this great detective will help you happily spend many a rainy day. It might also increase your skills of deductive reasoning.

holmes

8. And Then There Was None by Agatha Christie: As we are on the topic of mysteries, I must of course name my favourite lone-standing mystery novel. This one is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that will keep you guessing till the end.
and then there were none
9. Jeeves by P.G. Woodehouse: When I first read this book I kept a dictionary beside me, and I will frankly confess that I had to turn to it more than a dozen times, to get through a single page. But I am glad I persevered, because this is undoubtedly one of the wittiest and most humorous books I have ever read!
Jeeves
10. Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan: Not sure if this counts as a classic, but R.K. Narayan’s beautifully described plot with its vivid imagery will transport you to the idyllic villages of India. It is indeed awe-inspiring the way he managed to weave such poignant tales out of the petty problems and daily obstacles of the average middle-class man.
rk_narayans_malgudi_days_volume_hindi_dvd_video_icl086
11. Nirmala by Munshi Premchand: Premchand does a wonderful job in this novel at giving voice to the subaltern masses and highlighting the social evils of pre-independent Indian society. I love it for its boldness. His protagonist is a woman, and not a rich princess, but a common everyday housewife – the one, who was in this era, usually secluded behind the curtain.
nirmala
…I could go on forever on this topic, but the old doubts are returning now. I don’t wanna bore you, and hope I haven’t. Try reading some of these books. I promise you won’t regret it.

23rd February 2014 – What Girls Want

# Disclaimer: Everything mentioned here are not generalized statements for EACH and EVERY girl/film/book, but only accounts for the majority of them.

Sunday mornings are the second most favourite time of the week for me (the first being Saturday evenings, when once every week you have the satisfaction of knowing that you can sleep in late tommorow). Sunday mornings, the only time in the week when I get to wake up to bright sunshine, and not to the bleak streaks of languid pale light of dawn. There is the promise of good things to come in the future, especially a hearty breakfast, something apart from cold milk and cereal. Time stretches in front of you and all I want to do is laze around – and so I did, with a Sophie Kinsella novel ‘Can You Keep A Secret?’ Its a good novel, as good as fluffy, light chick flick book can ever be. Chick Flick literature, I firmly believe, is just the adult girl’s fairy tale. When we were young, we dreamed of handsome princes in shining, golden armour who would come and swoop us off our feet and take us to beautiful palaces; in teenage the prince was replaced by a pale shining vampire or a hunky muscular werewolf depending on whether you were Team Edward or Team Jacob (come on, we have all been through that phrase!!) who lured you with promises of undying love and denying sex to immortality; and finally as you are disillusioned of all dreams about having a romance in a fantasy world, in swoops the wide range of chick flick books and films to create daydreams of enchanting real world romances. The dashing knight on the white steed is replaced by the handsome and rich businessman in his Porsche, the pale vampire by the successful young entrepreneur and the hunky werewolf by the oh-ever-so-thoughtful Mr. Right, who always knows what the girl wants, when she wants it. Seriously, it hardly seems fair on the poor men who have to compete with such high standards when trying to woo us girls. There are so many protests conducted on how mainstream films and literature portray the ideal woman as a beautiful blonde with perfect body and size 0 waist; isn’t it equally sexist to portray Mr. Right as the handsome rich man who manages to juggle perfectly the needs of his company(which he probably founded or is a partner in, always a high position) with the needs of his lady love, always be there when she needs him without so much as a sign of protest or weariness, who is always thoughtful and understanding while the truth is the mysteries of the female mind have befuddled men since the beginning of time. So I thought, being a woman myself, and one who has often handed out advice to equally clueless male friends, some tips on how to become a mirage of the perfect man. (Disclaimer: I have never been in a relationship. These tips are from my vast experience of listening to friends talk about their boyfriends).

  1. Letters: Everyone thinks writing letters are passe. But they are the most romantic thing ‘ever’ to most girls, especially if you are in a long distance relationship. Texting and skyping and chatting are all fine, but do send her a letter once in a while so that she can cherish it, and also show it off to friends.
  2. Take her on Picnics: Instead of the usual movie and dinner, take your girl on a long drive, ending with a romantic picnic dinner for two in a park or on the beach or beside the lake.
  3. Gifts: Gifts are usually the trickiest part, since all girls have different tastes, but jewelry is one standard and age-old fallback, especially rings. Chocolates are good gifts too, unless she is on a diet, in which case it is just an invitation for a fight. Oh, and flowers – everyone likes flowers.
  4. Recite Cheesy Lines: Now this is the cheesiest advice ever, but if possible memorize some good romantic lines and dialogues off the internet, not Shakespeare mind you, normal lines like ‘Seeing you makes my day special’ or ‘I like the way your eyes shine’, things like that, and try inserting them into appropriate times. No matter how ‘modern’ a girl says or feels she is, we always like being told we are beautiful or special.
  5. How To Deal With Difficult Questions:Try to sidestep it as gracefully as possible, if you think that what she is asking is a trick question. For example, ‘Am I Fat?’ can always be answered by, ‘You are the prettiest girl I have ever seen’, and ‘How Does This Dress Look on Me’ and if you feel bad, answer tactfully like ‘I never like you in this colour. I think you look best in red or black or *insert colour here*”
  6.  About Her Day: No matter how tired you are, you can always spare a few minutes to ask her how her day was.
  7. Like And Comment: Any time your girl posts a picture on facebook, you should be the first person to like it and comment on it.
  8. Text/Call: Every morning as soon as you wake up, and before you go to bed, no matter how tired or busy you are, call her or drop a text, wishing her good morning, and simply just letting her know that you were thinking of her.
  9. Drop Her Home: After every date, make it a point to drop her home. In case you are getting badly late, drop her in a cab, make sure to note down the license plate number, and also insist that she gives you a call or text the minute she reaches home. All this shows that you care for her safety.
  10. Don’t Forget Anniversaries: Seriously guys, how difficult is it?! You have mobile and email remainder services to help you out now. Think about the cave man who forgot to get a boar for his wife’s birthday!
  11. In Public: When in public, especially in front of her friends, hold her hands. Touch her face maybe, but not too much PDA, that’s just gross!

Okay, now I am out of tips. Go and try applying some of these at least. Best of luck. Leave a comment if you found them helpful, or otherwise.

Glass Ceiling: The Challenges Women Face at the Workplace

imagesIt was at twilight that my friend and I sat talking about our future, both of us having recently passed our higher-secondary exams. I told her that I wanted to be a journalist and travel extensively, meeting new people and having novel experiences. She looked perturbed and told me that maybe I was not being very realistic, as both of us knew being women that sooner or later we would have to settle down and form a family, as our mothers and grandmothers have done for years. As a woman, she declared, I would be forced to adopt a desk job, so as to be near my husband and children. Another one of my male friends also said a similar thing when he told me that after marriage he would expect his wife to stay at home and look after his house and kids. This got me thinking that despite being modernized to the extent we are, whether Indian women still have certain obstacles and barriers left to transcend. Till date the house and the family is considered a woman’s domain – whether she is working or not – while the men are to bear the brunt of the financial responsibilities of the household. When a working couple returns home after a day of frantic work, in most Indian families it is the wife who proceeds to the kitchen while her husband relaxes on the couch, maybe deigning to ‘help’ her do the dishes after. The emphasis is on the word help, for while the man’s efforts in the household is termed as help to his wife it is the duty of the latter and it is the duty of the man to provide for his wife and children, while the woman is merely helping her husband bear the burden. These stereotypes are not a modern innovation but have existed since the dawn of civilization, for marriage has almost always facilitated economic division within the families of our ancestors, where men hunted game while women cooked the meat and sewed skins to make clothing. This disparity continues to exist in the modern world, especially in India. The woman is allowed to pursue her own career and economical development if she has time but never at the cost of her familial duties.

It is at childhood that the initial seeds of gender stereotypes are sown, when relatives and family members gift dolls to the young girl, symbolising her future role as a mother and care-giver; while her brother is gifted a toy gun or a toy car. Most of us girls are given to understand from childhood that we are to marry and have children in the future. This belief is reinforced by films and literature as the clichéd ‘damsel in distress’ waits for her ‘knight in shining armour’.  Keeping these in mind, it is hardly surprising to find our women lacking behind men in the workplace, as they have to handle the dual responsibility of both work and family. It has been noted that most women drops out of their career in its prime to meet such social obligations. Social norms also dictate that the wife relocate with her husband if he is transferred, a ‘good wife’ is supposed to leave her own career and accompany him. Another important aspect is that while ‘house-wife’ is an accepted and even socially commended role, ‘house-husband’ is still very rare, and mostly mocked at by the common masses. A survey conducted in 2011, found that in 19.9% families the husband was the sole earner, but the number was a meagre 8.3 for families with the wife as the sole earner. Stay-at home husbands in the US are less than 2 percent of the total population. The employment rate for married women is comparatively lesser than unmarried/divorced/widowed women with the ration being 6:15. Society orders that a good mother place her children before a blossoming career. Thus, marriage is a significant barrier to the career of women, and will continue to remain so as long as social doctrines state that it takes more time and better efforts to be a good mother than it does a good father, a good wife than a good husband, and even a good daughter than a good son, women will be at a disadvantage because women cannot commit the same amount of time and effort to work that a man can.

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Sylvia An Hewlett said, “We’ve been trying to fix women so they fit into the lockstep male career model, instead of changing the model.” In a country, where many girls are still being killed in the womb or unable to attain even the basic education, females lack the numeric advantage of males in the workplace. Add to this the beliefs of women being less aggressive, less strategic in their thinking and risk averse, it is not surprising that so few women manage to reach positions of leadership and authority. A poster by the UK Equal Opportunities Commission states “prepare your daughter for the workforce: give her less pocket money than your son”. Gender inequality and stereotypes are so common and pervasive in the workplace that it is often overlooked. The percentage of women in senior management in our country is only 3% to 6%. A study conducted in 2001 by Schien can be cited, where she found that though women account for 40% of the world’s labour force, their share of management positions remain unacceptably low, thus emphasising the ‘think manager – think male’ global syndrome that persists even in a society that legally awards equal rights to both genders. Numerous studies conducted all over India found that women were often denied equal opportunities for pay-rise and promotions than their male counterparts, as well as equal pay.

In conclusion, I will just like to sum up saying that though women have been awarded equal status under the law, we still have plenty of social and cultural barriers left to cross to achieve equality at par with men in the workplace.