Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What's your motive?

A/N: This piece was written some months back when it seemed fairly relevant to what was happening around me. Time has passed, but the issue has persisted in hanging around! So I figured I'll put it up here. For the record, I am not passing judgment on anyone; I'm simply stating an opinion.

April 09, 2006:
My generation's in a furore these days. The HRD Minister announced an increase in the reservation quotas for SC/ST/OBCs in institutions of higher education. So protest marches, SMS forwards, impassioned emails, online petitions et al. have been back in full force. In fact, this time, even fasting and self-immolation were being used from what I hear.

Immanuel Kant said that the value of action depends on their motives, not results. He spoke of "duty for duty's sake"; the only proper motivation for any action is faith in moral law. According to him, doing something because you feel it is good or right to do it is immoral. I don't agree with him to the extent of calling it immoral, but to a certain extent, he makes sense.

One of the emails I got asked us not to join in on the protests simply because Rang De Basanti made it cool to speak out. The writer was right; many of the people who protested against the verdict in the Jessica Lall trial did so for that very reason. There are dozens of such verdicts made in this country, which go unnoticed - either because the victim isn't a model, or because these isn't an inspiring movie around at the time to propel people to notice it.

I'm not saying the hype shouldn't have happened. On the contrary, I'm glad it did. At least Jessica will get justice - hopefully. But I do believe the reason the hype happened was not wholly a desire to see justice. And that is sad.

The motivation for people reacting against the possibe quota is very different. This time, it affects us directly. My own chances of getting into a decent master's program went straight from a fairly optimistic 5% to 0.1%. No kidding.

So I'm guessing the protests will be even more vociferous this time round. However, chances are, the protests won't be covered by as many news channels this time round (After all, Salman Khan just got bail!!!). The hype will be there, but not as visible.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Feminism - Part II

Look at the newspaper in the morning. Have you noticed how frequent it is that we read of a rape case? Moreover, have you noticed how the reports about rapes have slowly moved from being splashed all over the front page to becoming a tiny article squeezed in somewhere on the third or fourth page? It's almost as if such reports have become commonplace in the eyes of whoever it is that decides the importance of various newspaper articles.

When you do read about a rape case, it horrifies you (at least, I'm assuming it does, because if it doesn't, then you've got to be the worst kind of sadist there is). Even so, there will always be a section of society that tries to, if not outrightly justify the heinousness of the crime, explain how it is actually the fault of the girl that it happened. They talk about the way the girl dresses, what she was doing at the time, who she was with at the time - anything to try and lull the general public into believing that the... what's a polite word to use here?... ass who committed the crime was almost forced to do it by some temptress.

Well, forgive me if I sound crazy, but I really beg to differ from such utter hogwash. No matter how a woman dresses, behaves, or lives her freaking life gives any man the right to rape her. I once read about a prostitute who was raped, and the perpetrator was acquited because after all, she was a prostitute. I think that's unfair. I might not condone her choice of... uh... career, but that still doesn't give a man the right to force himself on her. No matter what the situation, there has to be mutual consent, for crying out loud.

Then there are of course those philosphers who talk about how it's the short skirt, the tight jeans, the low-necked tops, and what-nots worn by the victims that are too blame. The guy's fault? Of course not! I suppose they've never heard of child sexual abuse, where half the kids aren't old enough to be able to tempt the ass? I suppose they've never heard of marital rape, where often the woman doesn't even know what's happening to her? I suppose they've never read those reports which categorically state that a majority of rape victims are usally dressed in staid salwar kameezes?

If you're a girl/woman living in Delhi, it's practically impossible to walk down a road alone and feel safe at the same time. You know there will be at least one guy out there who will leer at you. It's a way of life most of us have got used to by now. I sometimes think I'm lucky to have just been eve-teased badly a few times (dressed in salwar kameezes, mind you!) and not raped. But then the feminist in me comes out and wonders why we should have to put up with it in the first place. Why cant we feel safe walking on the road in our own colony? Why should we constantly have to worry about what might heppen if we have to use public transport? Why can't two girls walk down to a dhaba at two in the night without one of them getting pulled into a car and gangraped?

Honestly, all this talk of equality coming about between men and women? It's utter nonsense. Women have always got a raw deal, and I really don't see it changing anytime soon.

Feminism - Part I

My friends call me a feminist - I suppose it would be only fair to say they're right. I think the lot of women has been full of hardships for aeons now. Moreover, people might say things are improving, and that men and women are treated equally, you only have to look around you to know that's not true.

I read the book Princess by Jean P. Sasson when I was 11 or 12... I often think that's what made me so cynical about relationships and men. It's the 21st century, and the women of Saudi Arabia are still treated like puppets, with no will of their own. Even the women who are, in the materialistic sense at least, surrounded by every luxury known to man, have no voice of their own, and in many ways have come to accept that as their lot.

Look around you in India itself. A large majority of the female population still knows that her future, no matter which college she might be attending, still lies in a marriage to a man her family will choose for her. She knows that ultimately, her life will all about looking after the needs & wants of her husband and children, and very often, in-laws. Having a career is an impossible dream for innumerable Indian women.

There is a soap on Indian television these days about a joint family where the autocratic head of the family has always treated the women like puppets, and they have never felt it should be any different either. Along comes the new daughter-in-law with her modern ideas, and the women of the house decide enough is enough, we need to rebel. Melodramatic? I wonder. I think the attitudes depicted in that show are a very real depiction of Indian society even today, whether people choose to accept it or not.

Honestly, I don't think there's anything all that wrong with being a stay-at-home wife; in fact, I have the utmost respect for such women (more so because I don't see myself ever being able to lead that kind of a life). However, I do think that it should be the woman's decision. It should be her choice, and hers alone. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Most women are stay-at-homes mothers because that is what is expected of them. Of course, very often, they have never even thought of any other option (mostly because they're been brought up knowing what their future held). But what of those women who may have dreams of going out and working, and are unable to do so because of their family environment.

Of course, things are changing. The number of women taking up courses that could lead to great careers and the number of women actually going out to work has been increasing steadily over the years. I read a report in the newspaper a couple of months back about how this year, the number of girls applying for courses like B.Com and Economics in the top colleges has been far more than any other year, whereas a couple of years back, these same colleges were actually considering having a separate quota for girls to encourage them to apply to these courses! So great, things are changing. But to what extent?

How many working women have the complete and unwavering support of their families? How many working mothers have their husband helping out around the house? Not too many. It is still the woman of the house who has to come back home every evening, as tired as her husband, if not more, and start with all the cooking, cleaning, dusting of the house. And God forbid if her children misbehave or do badly in their studies even the slightest bit, because of course it's the fault of the mother for not paying enough attention to her children.

Yes, things are changing. I come from a very different background. Many girls are now expected to have a career, just like the sons of the family. Yet, it is a very small section of society which is changing. We have a long, long way to go before men and women are truly treated equally in this country of ours.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's all about the quality...

A/N: I'm no parent, just a regular person who's too fond of whiling away time by thinking up thoughts which others unfortunately get to read. So these aren't the opinions of an expert, but then, as one of my favourite quotes goes: you don't have to be an authority on a subject to express your opinion.
One of the most clich├ęd terms we hear today is "quality time." It refers to the time a working parent spends with his/her child, who is otherwise neglected. The phrase originated in the United States of America in the 1980s, and according to a spot of research I did, it came from the notion that parents can 'have it all', i.e. a successful career and happy home life.
I remember hearing of this phrase all the time as a child - parents would proudly claim they spend "quality time" with their children. With the passage of time, the phrase started being viewed with some degree of cynicism. There came about an attitude of thinking, "Oh, that person completely ignores his/her children, and then thinks (s)he can make up for it by spending a few minutes or buying expensive gifts," etc.
In today's world, most families do have both parents working, which isn't that bad a thing. Yes, it is sad to see parents leave their children with nannies even as infants - I think you need to stay with your child for at least some time till (s)he is somewhat old enough. But after a point, it gets necessary to leave them (however heartwrenching it may be) and go out to do your job. And that's when quality time kicks in.
Quite frankly, I don't see why quality time is such a bad thing. If you get to spend less time with your child, it makes sense to make those few moments matter. You've only got to look at families where there is a stay-at-home parent, but the child is still completely spoilt to know it's not always quantity that matters. On the other hand, if in the time that you have together, you manage to have conversations with your child over things that matter, you'll probably do a better job at instilling values than a harried mother who ends up pleading with her children (ineffectively, at that) to behave.
Of course, it also depends what exactly you take quality time to be. I would say talking, playing games, or doing anything together would count. Giving the kid an expensive toy, and then just sitting in the same room with a bunch of files probably wouldn't have the same effect.
Quality time isn't just restricted to parent-child relationships either. If you have a friend who you don't get to meet too often, then the occasions when you do meet need to matter, and you need to think of ways to stay connected despite not meeting too often. A lot of relationships fade away because not enough effort is made by either one or both parties to keep it going strong. And it's up to you to decide which are the relationships that deserve to be kept going, and which ones you can let fade away.