Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Celebrating a success or a failure?

I received this picture in a mail forwarded to me by a friend. The subject of the mail said “Ads for thought”, so this one got me thinking. The idea was to impress upon people not to abandon or abort a girl child and that girls can be more successful than men, by pointing that Ms.Kalpana Chawla’s brother runs a “small” business and is less successful than her. But what got me thinking is that no doubt we should celebrate the success of Ms.Kalpana Chawla, but should we debase her brother in doing so? Are we happy that she succeeded or are we glad that her brother failed?

This has been going on for quite some time in my mind, that the many feminist who raise different issues or non-issues, concentrate more on degrading men rather than uplifting women. This makes me wonder are they at all clear about their objectives??

For example, these days there is a lot of talk over whether a lady should write her maiden surname or her husbands surname or both after wedding. My question is does it at all make a difference? Does a woman writing her husbands surname become “less of a daughter” for her father? Or can her husband deny that she is his wife if she writes her maiden name or for that matter, is she a little bit of a wife and a little bit of a daughter if she writes both the surnames? And I further would like to question all so called “feminists”, how important is this issue to that woman in a village who actually needs “upliftment”[Please excuse the distortion to the language]. Will her husband stop torturing her if she writes his surname or will her father agree to support her after a failed marriage if she writes her maiden name?? Or will her husband respect her a little bit and her father help her a bit if she writes both the surnames??

Another example is if whether to write Mrs or Ms. Well, I echo my question what difference does it make to the position of women in the society? Will your colleagues treat you with more respect and will acknowledge your capabilities if you write Miss? And if they do so, are you really being respected?

My aim in pointing these issues is to highlight the futility of such issues; rather I would like to call them non-issues. How will the position of a woman improve if her male counterparts fail in their lives or if the surname or title issue is resolved?

What I would like to understand is why in the quest to uplift women do we end up concentrating on degrading men? Well, let us women actually ask ourselves, are men the only reason why women don’t have an equal position in the society. Are women not equally responsible? Consider a case of dowry death. There are many cases where the mother-in-law is also equally involved along with the husband. Isn’t she a woman who has an equal hand? Or for that matter, in villages very often the mother herself doesn’t want her daughter to be educated. With such cases can we just blame men for our position? We condemn the “saas-bahu” serials because they frequently show scheming and evil women, thus putting women in a bad light. But isn’t all that true, just dramatized obnoxiously? Again to see the other picture of this, don’t men have a big hand in the success of women? Didn’t Kalpana Chawla get immense support from that “not-so-successful” brother of hers to reach where she did? All women who are in a better position than others, can they deny the role of the men around them for their better life?

Are we going to define “women liberation” as “the time when men will start fighting for their own liberation”?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Jai Gorakh Daju

In the years when daddy was in the army, one of my finest memories lies in the time spent with all the "dajus". Here is an account of some of the special ones.

Chete - daju :- He was with us when I was about 2.I had just learnt how to speak and I was making very good use of this new found ability. But mind you, there were just a few people or "things" who or which could experience the pleasure of listening to my constant blaberring. Others I guess just simply lost patience. Well to elaborate clearly, I used to put forward my opinion either in front of my mirror[which could never protest, if it was bored] or to Chete daju. Chete daju was my companion throughout the day[I am not sure whether he enjoyed it or not, but I guess he dint have much choice.]. We lived in tiny cozy little place called Bakloh, in Himachal Pradesh. With not many companions around, I found solace in being with Chete daju. For me he was the best guy in town and I preferred having lunch with him and used to end the day with a cute peck on his cheek. He used point to his cheek and say "Kaju, pappi?" and I planted a peck on his cheek.[Now that I think, he must be missing his children terribly...a soldier's life is tough indeed].Many years later,when I had grown up enough to speak nonsense in a sensible manner, he came to visit us and tried reminding me of things which I never remembered. Well to describe it exactly, I felt like "Mini" of Tagore's Kabuliwala...the part where Kabuliwala meets Mini after many years and a term in jail and tries reminding her of things which she never remembered. Am sure daju felt as helpless as the kabuliwala. :).

Ghale daju :- He was with us when I was around 7 yrs of age. He was simply our[me and my sis] hero. A constant source of entertainment, whatever he did was just too cool. He crooned "Papa kehte hai bada naam karega", playing the papa's tennis racket as a substitute for a guitar. He created innovative games for us, like hitting a target,which used to be a half made lamp shade. Ma was trying to make a lampshade with ice-cream sticks.Mom, there are better uses of ice-cream sticks!!. Anyway, sorry for diverging from the topic.When Ghale daju went to Nepal on leave, he asked us what would we like for a gift. Me and my sis after much thought decided on some furniture for our dolls. We had a tough time making him understand the kind of wooden chairs and tables that we wanted for our dolls.Daju on returning got lovely colorful slippers for us. Well it was a little difficult hiding our dissapointment, but the slippers were very pretty. Thank you daju. For the time being I guess Barbie had no choice but to sit and sleep on Papa's Oxford dictionary.

Prem daju :- Dressed in the best of brands and with an awsome pair of glares on his eyes, we thought he could give Salman Khan a run for his money. Only thing which we never figured out,....why did he wear full shirts during summers and half sleeved tees during winters. Well never met him again to ask him.

Pune daju :- But the sweetest of all, was Pune daju. Though I was never very close with him, but there was a special bond. I learnt to speak Nepali from him. He was strictly instructed by Papa not to speak to us in any other language. A fifth member of the family, Pune daju was one of the most caring persons I have ever seen. More than us, he shared a very special bond with my parents. Through out the 6 years that he stayed with us, we were touched by his concern for the well being of us "Behnis". We being away from home and staying in hostels, he used to constantly enquire Ma, how we were managing with our food, about our studies and when we would be home on leave.

Oh by the way, those who are a little confused about all the technical terms used above, heres a glossray. "Daju" literally means "bhaiyya" or "Elder brother". Papa being in the Gorkha Regiment in the Indian Army, we came across many daju's. By profession they are soldiers but for us they are very special to us.They stay with us, as a professional obligation but are no less a part of our families. And they are really really special to us kids. Away from their families, they shower all the love on us and leave behind a lot of lovely memories.

"Jai Gorakh" is a common salutation used in Nepal. Literally it stands for "Hail Lord Gorakh" and is used as a greeting in Nepal.

"Behni" - nepali for "sister".

Salute to all of you.

Jai Gorakh Daju.