I was reading the synopsis of the story last night and today I received a forward from my father of an article in Boston Globe. Sometimes, it makes me feel glad that I am from a family which has given me ample opportunity for my education and has not treated me like some second class citizen.
During the final year of my undergrad, a family friend, who was about the age of my father and had equivalent social status, ( the mark of broad mindedness for the naive like the "then" me) asked me what do I intend to do after my college. I intimated: I want to work for a while before I study further. And I want to travel. See places. Meet people. Their customs, attire, food. I want to live it. He casually remarked: Aar porashona kore ki korbi? Ekhon biye tiye korr. ( What is the point of studying further? Get married now.) His vested interest was his marriageable elder son who had just cleared an entrance for the judiciary system and had a stable career ahead. He was looking for a bride. He admired me a lot. My family knew about it. But I felt scandalized. I had a very high opinion about that man until that day. If he really wanted me to be a part of his family, he should have waited for some years until I was ready, instead of trying to mutilate my growth . Like some fathers do- for cultural , religious , and purely non-medical reasons.
FGM was an unknown concept to me till yesterday, when I decided to browse through the story of The Color Purple in Wikipedia. By the time I got reading to Type III FGC , I was so sick to my stomach that I wanted to puke. The ancient Chinese practice of foot binding was equally cruel.
My intent is not to shock and awe. Or to transform the usually "responsible" content of THE VARIEGATED SKY into a sibling of a shock site. I'll probably get back to sipping coffee and preparing case studies after this. But I wanted to say what I felt. And I don't care if I am labeled a Feminist henceforth. The term itself is unfair. It should be an "Equalist". Feminist makes it sound as if we are trying to give women a status they do not deserve. Even some of the "great" minds at work believe it is charity they are doing. And in their modesty lies the silent pride that it is their greatness that makes them work for the social cause, not the necessity. (How lame is that? )
We might have come a long way since 4 December 1829, when Sati was formally banned in Bengal by Lord William Bentinck. Raja Rammohan Roy might not live today to campaign against the practice but it hasn't stopped burning alive of women. Oh , they don't do it on funeral pyres nowadays. When I was residing in NCR, I often came across articles like this. Made me wonder where I was living.
But I don't blame the society. Because I am a part of it. Some days back when I was walking to school, I saw a bully thrashing a small young boy. The kid lay writhing in pain on the pavement while the big boy stamped his wrist under his feet. It was so horrible that I wanted to stop it at once. But 1) I did not know if it was happening under parental observation and the parents thought it was a healthy way to play 2) I knew the kid had to get up himself and hit back if he wanted some dignity in his life. I could hear his cries a long way down the walk, and I thought to myself: You will grow up to be a strong man or you won't ever grow up at all.
What I mean by narrating this random incident is that it is the rule of nature. The strong feed on the weak. You either grow to be stronger or you perish. If women want respect, they will have to earn it. They won't be given alms.
Education, empowerment, financial independence- are the three first crucial steps. Then comes sexual liberty- the right to say no.
Many women tolerate domestic violence because they are not able enough to support their children of their own and would prefer to lead a degraded existence than see their kids suffer or their daughters be subjected to the same atrocities when they grow up fatherless.
If only these women had means to support themselves and run a family. Or made a choice to do so. That reminds of a real life incident. She was a small town girl from India who grew up in reasonable comfort. After two elder brothers, she was the only daughter. She had an arranged marriage soon after she had her Bachelor's degree to a guy who was "working in America", from the same town. The emphasis on "working in America" was so great that the parents of the bride did not check on the guy's background. Who turned out to be a big time drunkard and gambler. She started working to pay the bills. The woman had two sons with him. One fine day, she decided she had enough and left him. They are now separated. Not legally divorced. Every one back home knows they are happily married.
I respect her for her strength to go on herself, being a single mother, and not going back to her folks for help. Even if she did, she would have probably been turned away in fear of "lok-lajja". She might not be the ideal woman for me. But she made a choice. And that makes me look up to her.
I'm not a commitmentphobe or a man hater. But I definitely know when a man does or does not respect me. If I ever exercise my right to choose a life partner, I will go for a man , who more than anything else is a good human being and does not take me for granted. It might have nothing to do with the Feminist Movement but I will save at least one life. Mine.