Friday, 10 March 2017

International Women’s Day: Are our dreams also Gendered?

“Aisa lagta hai hum apne liye jeete hi nahi hai!!”
“Kabhi socha hi nahi ki mera sapna kya hai, kabhi samay hi nahi mila”
“Nahi pata nahi kya sapna hai mera”

A simple question “What are the dreams that you see at this age of your life?” baffled many women sitting in the circle during the event ‘Kadam Milakar Chalna hoga’ organized by Sahas. It’s a very simple question, isn’t it? We are asked this question at various stages of our lives, starting at the tender age probably when we are 6 or 7 years old – what is your dream? What do you want to become? And there are many happy, confused, colorful, vivid answers to this. But many women don’t even have this basic opportunity or rather they don’t even know whether they can dream also? 

International Women’s Day holds a very important place in my heart, not just because I am a woman but also because few years back when I started my career in Journalism, the first program that I scripted and produced was for Women’s day, while the rest of the people were engrossed making special programs on the festival of Holi. And today when we are hosting ‘Kadam Mila kar chalna hoga’, I am witnessing a big leap in my life!

‘Kadam Mila kar chalna hoga’ was organized to celebrate International Women’s Day by starting the process of dialogue, conversations, and discussions with the women residing in Dwarka on the issues that concern us as women and as a society. We had also posted this event on the social media, just to share that we are celebrating Women’s day. Interestingly at 2.30 pm a Lady along with her mother came in to attend the event all the way from Noida Extension. At that point, I felt happy, responsible and also it restated the importance of the discourse that we were looking to start. One after other women were coming to attend the event and then around 7 women came together with my mamiji- I always hear that women don’t form great leaders or there are rare women leader, but for me my mother and my mami ji had emerged as amazing leaders who not only came for the event but also motivated others to come to the event with the very basic information about what will be happening in next few hours!  

We screened “Parched” a very beautiful movie directed by Leena Yadav. The seriousness in the room was overwhelming; the participants were hooked to the movie. There were no gossip, all the eyes were fixed on the screen and then there was out burst of laughter- on the scene where one of the women talks about verbal abuses being made by man and then she turns the abuses on the opposite gender! I had already watched Parched, for me- no other movie had talked about women’s sexuality in this way, at the same time I was in constant dilemma as to how this group will react to the film! And just when the film ended, there was huge round of applause in the form of thundering claps, I could see moist eyes, changing expressions and the dynamics of the room had changed. This was followed by inviting the participants to share on, ““What are your feelings, thoughts after watching this film?”

“Disheartening” “This is happening to each of us, less or more” “We are all suffering from this violence” 

“Women are just considered as baby delivering machines” 

“we are modern for saying, nothing really is different from what is shown in the film and the life that we live”
“we need to support each other” 

“Why everything that happens in our live is linked to family’s honor, why do we live with this burden” 

“We are considered sex slaves, men need us only for sex and his own pleasures, nobody talks about me, my desires. I feel restricted, for everything that I need to do I have to ask for permission”

“We women don’t have respect” 

“I loved when the mother in law treats her daughter in law as her daughter and let her live her own life”

The film “Parched” talks about dreams, desires and aspirations of women, we invited the participants to share on, “What are the dreams that you see at this age of your life?”

It took more than 10 minutes to make them understand that they need to write about the dreams they see for themselves, the dreams that only belong to them, the whole churning of facilitating this question to them thinking about it and writing it on the paper made me wonder “whether our dreams are also gendered?” Even after this process 4 to 5 women couldn’t think for a dream, that says why we need this International Women’s day so much!

“I want to take out an hour for myself in a day. I have been thinking about this, but couldn’t do it till now” shares a teacher, homemaker and mother of 2.

“I want to see people associated with me happy, I believe in god, so I want to see all the temples around the country”

“I want a well settled and happy life, travel around the world”
“Mein khule aasman mein jeena chahti hoo, puri duniya ghumna chahti hai. Mujhe pahad paani dekhna bahut accha lagta hai”
“I want to have well settled life, making my company one of the best, doing seva and travelling around the world”

One of the woman who couldn’t think for a dream before, shared that, “I am from Nanital, I always wanted to travel a lot, but I can’t”

After Mona shared her dream, two of the women said, “you are already doing that!”

It was an overwhelming and very interesting experience to co-create a space where participants first saw the reality through a film, than build discourse around the same and finally to be able to see things for themselves beginning with a dream! 

Also while all of us proceeded for refreshments, the commonality we discovered through the day helped not only build conversations but also helping them to be empathetic to each other’s problems or issues of the life. One such interesting conversations that would stay with me and motivate me to keep doing what I aspire to do was-
“It seems nothing can change. There is so much violence, I know this shouldn’t happen but there is no way out”, shares one participant
“I don’t agree to this, things are changing. Seeing this younger generations doing this kind of work that we couldn’t even talk about says a lot” shares another participant.

While there is no much violence happening all across our country against women, the rape threats given to women students, the whole environment of fear being created so that women don’t even dare to come out of their homes, we are trying to build a counter narrative through Sahas- building community – inviting people to come together, have conversations, think about themselves and empowering them to build their dreams and translate them into reality. 

Nothing makes me happier than this and for all those people who think why one day as Women’s day? Why don’t we celebrate Man’s day? Why Man’s day is not as popular as Women’s day? Why don’t we celebrate entire year? Please pause and think for yourself that why you are so resistant towards celebrating the women who gave you birth! Why do you also crib and talk about problems? It’s because you are still stuck to the shackles of power and patriarchy, you can’t accept the simple fact that it’s has taken such a long struggle since 1909 to have this one day- so I request you to please let your pseudo-intellectual self  rest for a day and let women have this one day to celebrate themselves :-)

Friday, 3 March 2017

सत्ता, देशभक्ति और दमन

वाह रे! सत्ता का डंका बजाने वाले
क्या चौसर बिछाया है,
राष्ट्रवाद, देशभक्ति और देशप्रेम
के नाम पर अच्छा चक्रव्यू बनाया है,
विकास और उत्थान के नाम पर
हज़ारों का नहीं करोड़ों का मज़ाक उड़ाया है
‘बेटी पढ़ाओ बेटी बचाओ’ का नारा देकर
बेटी की इज्जत, आबरू को सोशल मीडिया पर नीलाम कराया
अभिव्यक्ति की आज़ादी छीनकर
पत्थर, लाठी और खून का पाठ पढ़ाया
वाह रे! सत्ता का डंका बजाने वाले
क्या चौसर बिछाया है
शब्दों और आश्वासनों का मायाजाल बुनने वाले
नफरत की राजनीति करके तुने क्या पाया है ?

Man’s world: Rational and empathetic approach to understand Patriarchy and Power

I have been watching number of web series recently, owing to my disinterest in the  television- for the obvious reasons like same content, same story line, same love stories with unwarranted and expected twists and turns, the kitchen and power dynamics, portrayal of women in the most retrograde manner! Even if some writer attempts a different concept or progressive script, it falls into the same trap of saas-bahu drama. Anyways coming back to the web series, I happen to watch Man’s world, original Y-film series written and directed by Vikram Gupta.
I was really offended when I saw the first episode, it had everything that would annoy a girl like me- the lead character of the series is Kiran, a marketing professional who enjoys all the luxuries of the gender he belongs to and still believes that women plays a victim card under the label of “weaker sex”.

I was impressed how gender biases was clearly depicted in the spaces like home, public spaces like bus stop, inside the bus, in the work place. One of the most interesting conversations was between Kiran and his female colleague, where he says, “Mothers have such difficult jobs. How many mothers have died feeding their children and putting clothes over them! Then you say society doesn’t appreciate this. You have heard about Mother India? But did you see Father India? No, you know why because such film is not even made. Sab log maa ki mamta jaante hai baap ki baapta ke bare mein kya?” Sadly, he compares marital rape to taking out money from his own wallet and getting jailed for it. 

Clearly his actions and words makes him a big male chauvinist, who doesn’t respect women, clearly dismisses the work that women engage in and for him stalking is as simple as looking at someone! And in this ignorance he wishes that power dynamics shifts and the roles are reversed. Interestingly, his wish is granted and next day everything changes- he gets lot of messages from a girl, he find himself inside the kitchen cooking breakfast for his mother and sister, his mother threatening to restrict him to household, the hoardings, crowd in public spaces and even the conversations in his work space, he talks about gender quality from man’s point of view!

After an amazing beginning from the first episode, the second one is even more interesting and would come as a shocker to people who believe there exists no gender biases at work place. Whether it is about work distribution, promotions, salary hike, clothes that you wear or judging people on the basis of gender, and conversations at workplace being highly gendered is shown with so much ease, they appear effortless and bring out the pain in the most realistic manner.

The third episode is very intimidating as it tries to speak about Gender based violence in form of violating the consent, molestation and attempt to rape. The same guy Kiran now lives in women dominated society where men are judged, subjected to violence and at the same time are accused to the violence faced by them, while earlier he used to spend time with his friends drinking and enjoying in the bar, the same thing becomes an adventure to him for which he needs to seek permission. He is stalked and molested and when he tries to complain in the police station, he is subjected to more humiliation. He follows an advice from the stranger girl who rescues her and ask god to reverse his wish! Unfortunately nothing changes.

The fourth and the finale episode of Man’s world get more intense, because a girl drops Kiran at home, his mother comes to know about it from some neighbor she decides that before it gets late Kiran should get married. This starts the new circle of girls coming in to see Kiran, where he is rejected over trivial reasons like his color, his education, he not looking homely to heavy dowry. And finally he is married to a Doctor with a dowry of about 1 crore. On his first night, he wanted things to go slow where as his husband celebrating her new priced possession forces herself on him. Leaving his well earning job, he is restricted to household chores, throughout the day he just takes care of home and his wife. He gives birth to a baby boy, none of his in-laws including his wife is not happy with it.

The climax of the last episode is what wins my heart and I couldn’t control my tears. His conversation with his baby boy where he urges him not to follow or believe in the gender roles rather follow his brains- there is nothing like men or women roles, he wants to make this place a better world to live in where people are not judged or discriminated on the basis of their gender. The important piece of advice is to begin this with oneself :-) The last scene sums up the change that I aspire to see in the world- a world without gender discrimination. 

There are lot of amazing things in the Man’s world- there is no lecturing on gender issues, story is weaved by placing Men into the Women’s shoes- an empathetic approach is used, no going round the issue., keeping the point upfront, covering all aspects of women’s life be it her home, work space, public spaces or marriage in the most sensitive manner! The content, portrayal, even the small things are taken care of be it conversations, or girls night out or sending out texts too. The social construct is so deeply embedded in me as while I was writing this blog, I end up writing her/she instead of he/him- it was unbelievable and I was constantly feeling challenged.

I feel happy, inspired and encouraged with this kind of media who believes in bringing the Gender issues out there in front of us, showing our attitudes, beliefs and mindset naked and then facilitate us to challenge the same. There are few things which I don’t agree to in the ‘Man’s world’, but I don’t want to take away the honest effort invested in making the web series.

Kudos to this kind of cinematic magnificence :-)