Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Celebrating difference

The Hindu, August 26, 2007


Like thousands of others across the country, I too went to see the new hit film “Chak de India”. Not because Shahrukh Khan is acting in it. Not because I love Hindi films. Not even because everyone is talking and writing about it. I went because I was curious to see what a mainstream Bollywood filmmaker would make of a subject that deals with a game that is hardly written about, that is field hockey, and one that centres on women’s hockey.

Rare attempt

The film certainly does not disappoint although I found the constant harping on patriotism a little cloying. It attempts to tackle several issues rarely written about, leave alone shown in popular cinema. Such as the claustrophobic connection between “national honour” and sport, any sport and not just cricket. The double burden that Muslim sportsmen and women in this country must shoulder by virtue of belonging to a religion that has defined the nationhood of a country perceived perpetually as the chief rival in every venture, including sport, and that is Pakistan. The political and bureaucratic interference that is the rule in the way our world of sports is governed. And in addition to all this, factors common to all sports, the fact of being a woman who wants to excel in a given sport. Surprisingly, the film does manage to touch on all these aspects in a fairly honest and straightforward manner.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

How 'independent' are we?

The Hindu, August 12, 2007



Just a fortnight before India turns 60 — an
age that is supposed to signify maturity and
respectability — a front page newspaper
headline hammered in another reality.
“Bigamous man tortures spouses for male
offspring,” stated
the headline of a story on page one of The Telegraph
on July 29, 2007. “Six abortions, all for a
son,” read the strap.

Not an auspicious way to mark 60 years of
Independence if our society continues to be a slave
to son preference. Something has to change. But it
hasn’t happened yet. Not by a long shot.

The story referred to above was about two women
married to one man in Padra, near Vadodara in
Gujarat. Bigamy is illegal. And so is sex selective
abortion. In Padra, however, none of this mattered.
Rajesh first married Sunita, who is now 27 years
old. In nine years of marriage, she has been forced
to have six abortions because after the first child,
a girl, Rajesh insisted he wanted a boy. So every
time she became pregnant, she had to find out
whether she was going to have a boy or a girl. If it
was a girl, then she had no choice but to abort.
Except once, when it was too late to abort, and she
delivered another girl. Today, seven months into her
ninth pregnancy, she says she refused to have
another abortion and survived her husband kicking
her to induce an abortion.

The second wife, 22-year-old Kajal, had just given
birth to a baby girl. She says that when her child
was delivered, Rajesh held the infant upside down
and said, “I didn’t marry you to produce
girls”. She had to beg him not to kill the

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Be safe, don't exist

The Hindu, July 29, 2007

The Other Half

The Delhi police have given a new twist to the old tale of women’s safety in cities. In their desire to “protect” women especially from northeast India, they have issued a strange booklet. Titled “Security tips for Northeast s tudents/visitors in Delhi”, the booklet sets out tips that are supposed to help women from northeast India feel safe on the streets of India’s capital.

For the uninformed, this might sound an unusual step for the capital’s police force to take. But Delhi is the place where several students from northeast India have been raped in recent years. The booklet suggests indirectly that this could be because of the way the women dress. So once again, the onus for remaining safe has fallen on the women.

The booklet, with an introduction by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Robin Hibu, who is an IPS officer from the Northeast, is remarkable for its language and its contents. On a dress code it suggests: “When in rooms do as Roman does” (whatever that means). Under security tips: “Revealing dress to be avoided.” “Avoid lonely road/ bylane when dressed scantily”. And “dress according to sensitivity of the local population.” The fact that for the male half of the local population, your being a woman is enough provocation to tease, fondle or attack irrespective of how you are dressed does not seem to count.

Inappropriate and offensive

I have only read excerpts from the booklet. For all its good intentions, it is clearly inappropriate and offensive to the sensibilities of women from Northeast India. Not only does it give gratuitous and useless advice to women but it also proceeds to tell everyone from northeast India how they should behave in Delhi. How else can one explain a sentence that reads: “Bamboo shoot, Akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating ruckus in neighbourhood”. Smelly dishes creating a “ruckus”? This would be amusing if it were not culturally offensive.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)