Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Where are the women anyway?

The perks of working from home is that you can cut down that draconian travel time in Bengaluru traffic and use those precious hours to do what you like. Today I went out on an excursion to explore the very architecturally attractive CCD near my place. When it turned out to give me a capitalist and mindless consumeristic feel, I decided to move on to take a walk (more like a stroll actually). In the stretch of 3km I came across a humongous playing ground, 3 beautiful parks (yup that’s Bengaluru) and serene streets of J P Nagar (a predominantly middle class and upper middle class settlement). To arrive at the point of this article, there were no women at all! Now you would accuse me of making a preposterous claim but before you do that let me clarify what I’m trying to say.

The gigantic playground that I mentioned above was filled with only boys! Not a single girl found. The streets were empty of women who strolled around in leisure. The very few women who were on the streets were young mothers taking their kids on an evening walk and the elderly women walking in pairs. My question is where are the women like their male counterparts just chilling in the breezy Bengaluru weather? Do good girls avoid public spaces because that’s what makes them good in the first place or are the public spaces so unsafe that even a soothing chilly weather doesn’t pull the girls onto the streets?

When our system and culture celebrates a fit body, does it dutifully open up public spaces to girls? Is a playing ground the property of only the boys? It means that only the rich who can afford an enclosed safe place for sports  can indeed indulge in sports.

The gender politics doesn’t get played only in the parliament, government buildings and corporate offices, schools and hospitals, instead it reeks its bloody teeth in public places. You needn’t go look into compelling radical feminist articles and books to understand the nuances of sexism. Just look around. I ask for only this puny indulgence. When you are whizzing away on your vehicles, or sitting in a coffee shop or simply sipping chai on the roadside tapri, look around. You’ll see that the roads don’t welcome women. They prove that it’s a man’s world after all!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Boys vs girls

On my visits to multiple rural schools I am greeted by beautiful school campuses with gardens, lively colours and huge farms attached to the school premises. One cannot help but relish this picturesque view outside the highly populated cities. But as soon as you bring people inside those school buildings, my heart gets punctured rudely with the inequality that reeks in every nook and corner of these schools.

A stark gender divide appears in the schools. Starting from the teachers to the students discriminative gender roles are a norm. Majority of the lady teachers show submissive nature. Most of it has to do with the typical gender stereotyping that occurs in Indian households. Teachers favour boys which is evident in the way they position themselves while teaching (they stand closer to the boys' column, they joke around with boys more (that is whenever they do)). Teachers restrict girl students to gender typical jobs such as fetching snacks/drinks to guests, decorating the school premises etc., When it comes to  students, on a qualitative analysis boys answer more number of questions than do the girls, boys undertake more volunteering tasks while girls are typically huddled up not taking initiatives on most occasions (like typical good girls, they come forward only when asked to).

I do not know the ways to end these seemingly minor yet potentially harmful gender discrimination acts as an outsider. In my capacity as a teacher too I  found it hard (if not impossible) to make everyone act in gender neutral ways since gender stereotyping runs deep in our psyche as a society. I know 'this is how the world works' but let me tell you that it is definitely wrong. There are societies that are worse than ours but that doesn't stop us from progressing on right paths.

Sunday, January 17, 2016


One of those days
The only movement you make is to crawl from one end of the bed to the other
The sun shine dims
The thirst, the hunger all wait to knock until you are ready to receive them
The phone calls have more pauses than words
Videos run in tandem with the stories that flow through novels
Sleep beckons you yet you are wide awake
Tomorrow seems further apart while today is a story of your slumber
A leaf rustles, a bike horns, a cat cries
Golden hues of the day light are arrested in the orange of your drapes
You plot a poem, novella and are waiting for the first word

That. Is when you seek yourself.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


'Hireath' is a word I newly learnt. It means "homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the last places of your past".

I just finished reading " The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran. It is one of the most acclaimed literary giant ever written. The reading was an act of mindfulness for me. Those 3-4 hours that I read this book were reflective, contemplative and unencumbered. I am left with such a pleasant sense of being. A certain peace has washed over me. Is it the prose poetry, my most favourite form of literature that affected me? Or was it the effortless philosophy rendered in the most naturally possible simple way?

This reading took me to places of deep conversations I've had with strangers. To the sweet pains of the failures I've had. To the humbling life lessons I've endured. To the lost love and care of close ones. To the bliss I obtained by sharing laughter with children. To the friends who travelled long paths beside me. To the gentle warmth of my beloved and to his irrational ways too. To the irksome thorn of societal conventions, to the callous religion and the tender humanity.

Hireath is the word that I'm left with. This book took me through moments of intense mindful awareness. I cannot say what really stuck me about the book. It just flowed. It's one of those books you read only to realise you've known this all throughout and that the poet/writer gave ink to your thoughts.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Plight of a bibliophile

Due to the pressures of my academic study,work and wedding preparations I did something unthinkable this time! I had willingly decided to not indulge in reading apart from my academic and work related ones. Although there wasn't a dearth of intellectual stimulation (as part of my sociology, curriculum and pedagogy courses I read famous sociologists, linguists and revolutionaries) I felt a nagging void in my life.

So after 2 long months of refraining from reading for pleasure I picked up Gloria Steinem's title 'As if women matter'. This is one of the essential feminist reads that was recommended to me strongly.

It's a delight to loose myself in this book. Bus stand, coffee breaks, bed, loo - I have taken this reading everywhere. But you would then think that this book makes for an excellent read. Frankly, no. It doesn't. I have read better authors who have a balanced approach to delicate matters, who give both the sides of a narration, who keep strong emotions at bay while convincing readers about their theories.

However, I certainly am enjoying responding to a book and engaging with it by employing all my mental faculties. It is a cheap thrill to Google about the greater matters that a book has to offer. Reflecting on one's own life through the lens of the author is a highly desirable act. Gaining new perspectives, analysing one's current mental makeup and accommodating new knowledge is what makes for an exciting learning opportunity.

I can never run away from being what I am- a bibliophile.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Gender equality and safety

As part of my work, I happen to travel to interior villages and not so forward minded taluks. On one such visit when I was delivering a training at Gubbi taluk, I felt threatened in a very long time. For the past few years, I've been blessed with the company of rational and egalitarian individuals. I've revelled in conversations that challenged, refined and pushed me to be a better individual. As a result of these exalted opportunities I've come to strongly believe in a society that celebrates free and equal individuals. But this recent experience violently woke me up from my slumber.

Upon finishing the training, I sat with my team to have lunch. One enthusiastic participant who held respect for me came to serve food to the place where I was sitting with a big vessel. A young fellow in my team discarded the entire scene as one that of patronising a girl. He rashly commented that all those people who complimented and showed respect to me in various trainings (there are about 10+) did so mainly because I was a girl. He felt that people admire me only for me being a girl. In the process, this young villager belittled my expertise in content, public speaking and interpersonal relationship in one single statement. Not only was my pride hurt but I felt extremely inconsequential. There were few others in the team who enthusiastically agreed to this man! This interaction highlights the following facts in villages:
1. After all that a woman does, her gains of the game are associated to society's tender feelings for a girl
2. A woman is expected to fill in the shoes of the stereotypical girl

I still believe there is merit in me being me because:
1. Upon seeing a girl who doesn't fit the traditional roles of a girl, the people will take notice of the progress society is making in gender equality
2. If I deliver good results irrespective of gender, the villagers will have a fine woman role model
3. My gender atypical actions might inspire someone who is trying to break free of gender stereotyping

Women do not highlight such subtle discrimination in their day to day life. A typical reader might now feel that I'm coming out too strongly by stating the above pointers. But I see my role beyond the confines of my job description. I'm not there to just provide guidance to village teachers about curriculum and pedagogy. I see every human as a potential force to alter the mechanism of this world. If my stubbornness to defy stereotypical roles brings about a subtle change, then I believe I like many other people in the world hold a power to influence others. And as Spiderman says "with great power comes great responsibilities". I will not allow any one experience to kill my spirit of achieving equality. I demand equality and thereby hold the responsibility to deliver equality myself.

On the same day I had to halt in the town to deliver one more training the next day. After a tiring visit to the village (35km away from the town. A village with no running tap water, electricity for 1-2 hours of the day, food still cooked on firewood) of the same young man mentioned above, all I wanted was to crash on bed and nourish my tired body with a good night's sleep. The hotel I decided to stay at was a newly constructed, comfortable and clean one. I was immensely grateful for this! But the whole experience was uncomfortable. A male colleague also decided to stay back, although he confessed much later that he did so to ensure my safety. And guess what! I was glad for that gesture since I was the only girl to stay in the entire hotel, which had about four floors and some 10-15 rooms on each floor and my colleague's presence gave a soothing assurance of safety. Where ever I walked that evening in the hotel I had different eyes set on me wondering what exactly I'm doing! When you have so many people looking at you trust me it is not a welcoming feeling outside your home city, in a strange small town.

In my opinion, nobody should  feel unsafe just because of their gender. I might be comfortable walking travelling alone in the cities I've lived in. But it's disheartening to accept that I don't feel safe travelling alone in small towns and villages, particularly at night. Will this condition change? Yes. I'm definitely hopeful of that. Whether that change is going to be one at high speed or at a snail's pace is left for the villagers to decide!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ultimate solution to educational crisis

A religion focussed solely on education is the ultimate solution to end all the educational woes of our society. 

I recently finished watching Zeitgeist and reading the book Rise of Kali by Anand Neelkantan. What's prominent in both these intellectual discourses is that dominant people in the society fabricate the rules and ways of a religion to influence and manipulate the commoners.

Theists who lead life within the constraints of a religion follow anything that the priests/religious authorities put forth as the good code for life. Imagine a religion based purely on making the population rational thinkers set out to create a free and equal society. The followers of such a religion based on the ideals of democratic education would definitely solve problems in our education system.

If anything can save the doom of education then it is a strong blind faith that will make people believe in any tough way of life and fanatism that will fuel the minds with a craziness.