Posts Tagged With: Women

Indian Women’s New Beginning…

Women facing the Police's water cannons in Delhi

Woman facing the Police’s water cannons in Delhi

I don’t like sad news.

So, it was difficult for me to deal with the subject of this post, on the one hand because I was too heartbroken to read all these terrible reports in the media to be able to write anything, on the second hand, many Indian bloggers have done it far better than I could. However, now the mediatic storm has settled a little, I need to write something. I will also quote some Indian bloggers I like so that I will have the feeling I share with them this painful but decisive episode for the Indian future.

 The terrible gang-rape of a young woman on a bus in Delhi (read Insight’s post for further details) overwhelmed the whole world. During the Christmas period, in every French News Flash, there was a report about it. They didn’t give much information ; the reports lasted for about one minute; as often, when French TV deals with countries like India, all seemed very far, as if all this was not real or was happening on another planet.

She…

What stroke me was the fact they didn’t give the name of the young victim. She was just “l’étudiante indienne victime d’un viol collectif dans un bus de Delhi”. Since then, I’ve realized that naming a woman who had been raped was forbidden. Blogger Vicky Nanjappaexplains this law: The law clearly states that any person disclosing the name of a rape victim shall under punishment for a term of two years.There is a law which clearly prohibits anyone from revealing the name of the victim and this is enshrined under Section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code.

That’s why some journalists had the idea of giving her a symbolic name: Nirbhaya (was given by The Times Of India, Amanat ( means “treasure” in Ourdou), Damini, (the heroine of a Hindi film)… The debate has intensified when Minister and writer Shashi Tharoor stated on Tweeter: Unless her parents object, she should be honoured & the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being w/a name, not just a symbol

But today, She is more than a name, more than the victim of six demons. She has become India’s daughter. Like tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi whose death had launched the Arabic Spring, she is the martyr whose life has been sacrificed for a new beginning.

She is the one who has made India stand up.

Demonstrators (Le Figaro)

Demonstrators (Le Figaro)

India in the Streets

In her moving letter to her “sister from Delhi”, the author of The Revolution Breathes Fire writes: We did nothing to protect you. And we couldn’t do anything to save you. Forgive me, Sister.delhi_3

 Rahul from Insight introduces his post that way:Most of you would feel ashamed after reading this real incident happened in my country 2 weeks back! Yes, I belong to a country where brutal acts and sexual abuses against women and children are increasing day by day. But why?

Indian people feel ashamed but they shouldn’t, because Indian people have stood up, they have shown their anger and have raised their voices. Unfortunately, this feeling of shame has increased when the demonstrations in Delhi have turned into a battle between furious protestors and the police.

Where is the Ahmisa of our Gandhi-led society?Asks the Conjecture Girl.

My friend Françoise from Indomaniaque published this cartoon. I find it so meaningful.

However, this anger is positive. Revolutions often start with anger. It is the first step before taking decisions.

Time to act:

 There are long term and short term goals to get rid of the problem. Short term – Making stringent laws. Long term – changing the mindset. (Amit from Mashed Musings on the Conjecture Girl’s post « Scared for Tomorrow »)

After the shocking bus-rape event, immediate measures were taken to stop rapes in buses in Delhi:

In a report by Channel France 2, Delhi’s women talk about the problems they daily face on these buses which seem to be the perfect places for sex harassment and “eve-teasing”. In crowded buses, men stick to girls to touch them. “Forget skirts! You must be covered from head to toe. When a man touches you, shouting is useless, some other men on the bus even smile, as if they were excited.

Unfortunately, most of women must take the bus which is the only way for them to leave their household and be independent: “It is my only means of transport. I don’t go out at night and I always check if there are other women on the bus with me,” a young woman explains.

Cartoon often seen on Facebook

Cartoon often seen on Facebook

So, Delhi women should be relieved by the following measures concerning only Delhi and its buses, which seems a little absurd by comparison with the mammoth task that India will have to face across the country.

No more curtains and tinted glasses in buses. During the young student’s ordeal, the bus was said to have passed across several police checkpoints and they didn’t suspect anything because of the curtains. But shall we also ban the doors and the windows in houses to prevent some men from raping their daughters or in-laws?

Private buses, when not in use, will have to be parked with their owners and the drivers will have to be checked. I was very surprised to hear that bus drivers used their bus as a taxi after their usual working hours!

The 24-hour helpline for women which will be in connection with the police-stations in Delhi: number 181. I don’t really understand why they have to launch a special line only for women in distress! The police are supposed to help anybody in distress, aren’t they?

– At last, I read on I Love My India Facebook, After 7 PM, if any Autowala refuses any girl for going at any place, she can take Auto’s number, Dial 100 and complain to Police. Traffic Police will charge that Autowala with a huge fine, on the spot. to prevent women from getting on illegal chartered buses if they have no other means of transport.

Policewomen during the Delhi demonstrations

Policewoman during the Delhi demonstrations

Measures to come:

During the demonstrations, people demanded different things. Will they manage to maintain pressure on the authorities to get changes even after public passions have calmed down?

People, not only women, have to be protected:   There will be more policewomen in policestations:  Studies show that women are more likely to report sex crimes if female police officers are available. India has historically had a much lower percentage of female police officers than other Asian countries. (The Washington Post )

There will be more police patrols at night. On his blog, Ramanan commented on this article from The Washington Post which is really interesting:   Delhi, for example, is home to one of the largest metropolitan police forces in the world with some 84,000 officers. But only one-third are involved in any kind of actual “policing” at any given time, while the rest provide protection services to various politicians, senior bureaucrats, diplomats and other elites. According to the Times of India there is one officer for every 200 citizens and about 20 officers for every VIP.” 

This reminds me of Pavan K. Varm‘s book Being Indian in which he explains that for Indian elites, the signs of power are the most important. So, being overprotected by plenty of bodyguards or policemen doesn’t always mean that you need it but that you are very powerful.

delhiRapists have to be punished severely, -some protesters ask for death penalty and chemical castration- and courts have to be more effective. Procedures and trials are too slow and complainers often withdraw their complaints to preserve their family’s honor. Thus, according to France 2, only one case out of 635 in Delhi has ended to a condemnation. On the other side, can death penalty and fast procedures work together? Can the judge make a decision rapidly when the sentence can be irreversible?

The way people consider women has to change. I won’t write a post about “women’s conditions in India”, but persistent sexism and modern freedom are conflicting in a duel in which some people, even among public people, are a bit lost. Some of them don’t even seem to realise what they say and left many bloggers in shock: “Dr. Anita Shukla like many other women have questioned like imbeciles, why the victim was out of her house after 10 pm? Unless, one chooses to shun the mindset that these pathetic women have, India cannot change. Unless the same women teach their sons to respect women and not ask their daughters to stay cocooned in their homes once the sun sinks, India cannot change.” (Sharmila Ravinder )

We won’t rest in peace if you just hang a person or two,

You can’t change the world, until you bring a change within you!

( I won’t rest in peace, Pseudomonaz )

Thanks to all the bloggers I’ve quoted. If you want to be removed from this post, let me know!

You may like these posts:

On my Bookshelves: Desperate Housewives
Satyamev Jayate: Aamir Khan Makes the Truth Triumph (Female Foeticide)
Trishna, by Michael Winterbottom

Categories: Media, Society | Tags: | 6 Comments

On my Bookshelves: Desperate Housewives

In Europe, it is Wedding time! That is a good opportunity to talk about novels dealing with marriage. Everybody knows that marriage, looking for the right match, is a national sport in India! There are so many books about marriage! I think I am just going to talk to you about two novels I have read and liked.

Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali.

This book, as far as I can remember, is one of the first books about India I have read. I read it in French, (Jours de Pluie à Madras), which I do not like doing but, well, you cannot always do everything you want to!

Layla is Indian and muslim. She studied in the USA where she lost her virginity. She agrees to return to India and to get married. Although it is an arranged marriage, Layla does her best to be tender to her husband and ends up feeling something like a sort of love to him. However, her husband is not the man he seems to be. The disclosing of his own secret will be a real shock!

Layla’s story is a story about today’s India, a society which sways between tradition and modernity. I loved this novel! I liked the long descriptions of the different stages of a muslim wedding in India. I liked the suspens the author managed to sustain. I liked Layla who was so real, so sincere and so mature, so sensible and thoughtful. I liked the sensuality which was never dirty. I read this novel a few years ago but it is a really good memory!

 A web review at random:

extract from a review by Curledup.com

At one point in the novel, Layla gripes: “Growing up, it was always so confusing to be in both places. I would go to school there and all the kids would point and say, ‘Hey, look, the Indian girl is back.’ Then I’d suddenly be dropped into school here, and the girls would say, ‘The American is back.’ I never fit in.” This complaint might be standard issue immigrant angst, but Ali’s prose does a good job of detailing lives that are bent over by many societal expectations. It is to Ali’s credit that by novel’s end, we can see that Layla and her husband Sameer are products of their unique, individual circumstances. One begins to feel sorry for both of them.

The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

 I promise, I will stop saying « I loved this book » but what can I say else?  

Nina arrives in Canada after an arranged marriage with Ananda, aka Andy, a dentist who immigrated like her a few years ago. Although she is rather optimistic in India, the change of country does not fit her and her relationship with her husband is not what she expected. She feels as a stranger, which is what she is, and she fits nowhere. Andy does not seem to bother about her; he is so absessed with his own problem of premature ejaculation and his attraction to blond-haired girls. Nina’s marriage is doomed to fail.

The Immigrant is about uprooting and boredom. Nina is a kind of Emma Bovary who does not really expect anything and who lives her depression in a kind of melancholic submission, contrary to Flaubert’s heroine whose unfulfilled dreams took her to the worst. Manju Kapur knows how to tell stories of common people, in a down-to-earth way but softly and tenderly, without ever manhandling her reader.

Instead of trying to find an extract to make you read, I show you this review from Youtube. The girl seems quite funny with her side poney tail, her comic tee-shirt and her loud voice but she really talks about this book very well. She didn’t like the book because she found there was no emotion and the different events were set coldly one after the other. For my part, I think that is what makes this book so charming and special. Manju Kapur’s style creates the atmosphere in the story, the coldness between a wife and her husband who are strangers in the country where they live, and strangers in their marriage.

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Satyamev Jayate: Aamir Khan makes the truth triumph…

There is a real TV world-wide phenomenon, currently. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan is producing and presenting a talk show on TV. But it is not just a talk show, it is a programme which deals with sensitive issues in the Indian society. It is called: Satyamev Jayate.

Satyamev Jayate, a meaningful title:

Satyamev Jayate means « The Truth only triumphs ». It is India’s motto that you can read on India’s national emblem. This emblem mainly represents four lions back to back and the Ashoka Chakra at the base. This chakra is familiar to you because it is drawn on the Indian flag. The original sculpture was at the top of a pillar in Sarnath (near Varanasi); it is now in Sarnath museum but you can see this emblem everywhere especially on Indian currency.

Consequently, it is easy to understand how difficult it must have been to make this excerpt of a matra the title of a TV show. Satyamev Jayate motto belongs to India like a kind of intellectual property which cannot be used for business. (Imagine if someone gave the name « Liberté Egalité Fraternité » or « God Save the Queen » to a sportshoe brandmark or a sort of lowfat butter!)

So, Aamir Khan and his team decided to borrow the motto from India; this TV show represents, talks about and belongs to the Indian people so, this choice was considered as an evidence.

(The article continues after the photo…)

A sensationalist TV show?

The format of this show is quite simple. It lasts for one hour but the timing has a good ryhtm and there is no tedious part. On the set; a large sofa, a screen at the back, a small audience around. People come and simply tell their story, make you cry, but always keep their dignity. There are very short films, -maybe too short-, to introduce the guests. Then, people who daily struggle against those problems come and explain what they do to make things improve and the obstacles they meet. At the end of the show, Aamir Khan sums up the situation and tries to find solutions, asking the viewers to support him by signing petitions or making phone calls.

But this apparently simple series of talk shows has been prepared like a new TV drama! During the shooting the secret about the contents of the programme has been kept carefully. Songs have been written, one song for each of the 16 episodes; these songs are broadcast on TV, on the Web and even in cinema theatres as if it was the soundtrack of a new blockbuster. Many sponsors like Coca-Cola have joined the project, the amount of money used to promote this talk show has been more tremendous than ever!

As far as the social issues are concerned some critics could say they are a bit too sensationalist, too easy and that they call pity. But this criticism turns out to be rather limited considering the importance of these topics in a country like India. Indeed, subjects like dowry, child abuse or honour killings are real issues which directly or indirectly touch the whole Indian society. They have nothing to do with some talk shows we can sometime watch on French TV like « I have slept with my brother » or « I left my husband for my son-in-law »!

A charismatic leader:

Other more sceptical journalists considered that as obstinate and famous the actor can be, this is not Aamir Khan who will change the world and make people better. I beg to differ a little. I think it is a good thing that a Bollywood star involve himself in that kind of projects. It is terrible to say that but nowadays people tend to trust superstars more than brilliant scientists. Great causes always need a charismatic leader to draw people’s attention like Tibet has Dalai Lama or the Black Americans had Martin Luther King, if I can allow myself this daring comparison! Anyway, doing nothing is not really effective either!

The viewers themselves quickly realised that Khan was not just a glamourous character; he is sincere and very motivated in his search for the truth. He travels through the country; he uses surveys and investigation results, he puts a lot in that job, he laughs, he cries. He is simple, he is himself, he is no longer a Bollywood star.

For all these reasons, Satyamev Jayate is one of the most successful programmes ever telecast. It is shown in more than 100 countries, on two different channels; it is shot in Hindi but dubbed in different Indian languages so that everybody in India can understand. Every-one is concerned about the issues treated. Even though one usually says that India can’t be considered as ONE, it seems that the whole country is totally united when Satyamev Jayate is on.

 (The article continues after the photo…)

An Indian debate for the Indians and by the Indians:

It is always very delicate for foreigners to talk to Indians about India’s problems. Indians are very sensitive about issues like corruption, dowry, education, sanitation, especially when they are raised by foreigners like me. Imagine you are visiting someone, it is a bit tactless to say to your host: « Well, you should do something about your ceiling! It is covered with damp patches!» Of course, it is the same for every country, but as an India lover, I feel sometimes a bit frustrated not to be allowed to exchange opinions and feelings about this country I am so interested in.

So, I was very happy when I discovered this series of TV shows in which Aamir Khan and his guests come to tell their stories and run through things. It enables me to get more information about serious but sensitive issues and I feel less guilty.

But the success of this programme proves that I am not the only one to be satisfied with it! When I surf the web, I realise how Indian people or people of Indian origin need to talk about these subjects and how they are proud of their representative Aamir Khan. This Bollywood actor has become a real Indian hero. Lots of net surfer gets into discussions on forums or Facebook groups and many of them want to do something to help the situation improve.

Of course, this show has its opponents too. The Indian Medical Association, for instance, accused Aamir Khan of diffamation after the episode dealing with medical malpractices and asked him for apology, which the actor refused.

 How far will Aamir Khan go?

The question I ask now is: Will Aamir Khan dare to deal with even more controversial subjects? Among the 90,000 comments left on Satyamev Jayate web site, a man has asked for a show about caste-based reservation in the Indian education system which is a really controversial topic today. If corruption, girl foeticide or illiteracy are subjects that most of people agree to consider as harmful, what about topics that bring about more debates and devides people?

An episode among the others: Female Foeeticide

The episode I have decided to show you is about the problem of Female Foeticide.

People do not want to have baby girls for two main reasons:

Having a girl is a financial burden. It is « like watering your neighbours’ garden ». When your daughter gets married, on one hand, the parents have to pay a dowry to the groom’s family, on the other hand, the daughter leaves her own family to go to her husband’s, which means that she will not be alble to take care of her parents when they are older. I think the third reason might be a kind of unexplained traditional and social obsession helped for the worst by ultrasound.

I will not comment on this episode too much because it is very pleasant to watch though very sad. It is well-made and the explanations are simple so that everybody from every social class can understand it. I also like the way Aamir Khan talks to the viewers and to the guests, his honesty and his sobriety. The introduction on the beach is really moving without being ridiculous nor overacted.

This issue was rather familiar to me as I had heard and read a lot about Indian girls’ doom. But the stories told made me thrill all the same and I was very impressed by the courage of these women who came on the set without excessive pathos and without sunglasses. Some had been forced to have an abortion by their in-laws, others had been beaten by their husband until miscarriage. I remember this short candid camera report where a female doctor agrees to carry out an abortion and says to the mother: « Ok, she will be born alive but she won’t survive. You can bury her behind… »

Strangely enough, most of the people who get rid off female foetuses are wealthy and well-educated like professors, doctors, since they have access to the ultra sound and have the money to achieve the aim.

Despite all this sadness, I laughed at this satellite connexion between the set and a little village in Rajasthan where lots of men cannot find a wife because there is a girl shortage. One of village people says: « Aamir, why don’t you ask Salman to join us! He has difficulties finding a woman too! He could be our captain! » Aamir Khan laughs and answers « Yes, but Salman has another kind of problem! He’s got too many girls around him so he can’t make a choice. » I don’t know if this joke had been prepared, but I found it funny and so representative of the differences between people’s lives.

 If you want to watch more episodes, go to Youtube and specify “English” or “English subtitles”. The videos don’t work on the official website or maybe it is only on my computer.

Categories: Society | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trishna, by Michael Winterbottom

I do not like reading reviews or summaries about films I intend to see. I instinctively guess which film is made for me and which film isn’t. I usually base my choice on the film maker’s name, sometimes his origins, his previous films or the theme he deals with. Which explains why I only go to the cinema five or six times a year.

As far as Trishna is concerned, I just knew it was the story of a kind poor girl who is manipulated by a naughty and wealthy man. Such a cliché would have made me run away from that film if I had not heard that it had been mainly shot in Rajasthan, an area I am fond of. I must admit I am not a Freida Pinto fan either; her sexy poses in fashion magazines seem a bit commonplace to me. So I was moderately enthusiastic as I was walking to the cinema, thinking that it would just give an article for my blog or whatever.

However, during the beginning credits, something drew my attention: « Film adapted from Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Ubervilles ». Oh dear! I realised we were not going to kill ourselves laughing for two hours! But that was fine! Hopefully, I didn’t know the end of this classic by Thomas Hardy, as I had never had the opportunity to read this novel although I love this author. I also remember watching the first part of Roman Polanski’s film on TV, but I had not enjoyed it at all.

The story starts softly. Freida Pinto is respectworthy and simple; she is a pretty servant from a Rajasthani village near Osian. Riz Ahmed is both elegant and disturbing as he plays Jay, an Indian mesmerizing daddy’s boy who cannnot even speak Hindi. These two characters will end up in the pleasures of the flesh of course, in an elliptic way for a start.

But I will not tell you the whole story which starts softly but goes on very slowly! Indeed, this film which rather looks like a beautiful TV documentary on India strangely lacks rythm, which could make the puzzled viewer wonder: What does the director intend to do? Except in thrillers, sluggishness has nothing to do with such a film!

Despite this apparent lack of rythm, Trishna is a film which makes people think. The themes that Thomas Hardy used to deal with are highly developed: first of all, the contrast between modern cities and traditional villages is depicted in abundance. Little naive butterflies like Trishna are dazzled by the lights, the frenzy, the chaos of urban life. But to be frank, I think Michael Winterbottom’s first aim was to make a film about India. So, he showers the spectator with innumerable pictures of the Indian society as Thomas Hardy provided his readers with innumerable descriptions of the English society. That is why people who have never been to India will travel for a few euros, discovering a wonderful collection of colourful postcards: typical Rajasthani villages, children running in school uniforms, goats and cows frolicking in dusty courtyards, jeeps speeding among garish rickshaws and overcrowded buses on bumpy roads, palaces and havelis converted into luxury hotels, Jaipur, its pink walls, its human tide, and terrible Mumbai, its huge white buildings, ugly, splendid, both harmonious and busy, swarming with dancers and so called Bollywood producers. All we need now is a little trip to the Taj Mahal! I guess the director has been refused the permission to shoot there or perhaps this symbol of neverending love has been considered as unsuitable for the story told in Trishna!

But let’s not forget the second theme treated in this film: women. Thomas Hardy and many of his victorian colleagues dealt with this inascapable subject; the evolvement of women in the 19th century. Even if nowdays, western women may be a bit too emancipated to correspond to this doomed servant-master love story, there are still countries where hopeless submission of low-class women for well-off bourgois is not just an artistic fantasy. Trishna is not the kind of woman to be married but the kind of woman to have sex with. Besides, Jay ruthlessly tells her there are only two sorts of women men can sleep with: servants and courtesans.

During her stay in modern Mumbai, Trishna tastes dancing and freedom. She meets artists, free young women… Suddenly, her master’s hand is not so soft. But it is too late. She is the lost woman from the victorian society. Jay leaves her and she locks herself in her attic – here, it is her lover’s appartment which looks down on the beach- as Bertha Mason and Catherine Earnshaw did it before her. Trishna cannot build a brand new life; she cannot rebel, she is trapped, she is docile, she is tamed. Her name, Trishna, has to be understood in its literal meaning now; she is just the beverage to quench her saviour’s sexual thirst. Jay keeps on leading her on the way of humiliation. Will she find a way out?

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