Friday, August 28, 2009

The Wail Behind the Invisible Veil

This post is written by my friend and guest blogger Karthikeyan Chandran. He blogs at Glocal View
How many times have we heard that our culture is the best in the world? How many times we ourselves have repeated the same without even giving a second thought to what we are saying? What is this culture, tradition, the nebulous set of values that we are so proud of? Recent events that i have been witness to made me think. It made me evaluate the set of values we hold in such high esteem and the conclusion that i arrived at was completely at odds with ideas that were ingrained in me since my childhood. Notwithstanding all the paeans we have heard about how Indian culture gives a special place to women, i found ours to be deeply misogynistic which punished women in every walk of life, in every stage of their life. Each and everyday we are witness to so many atrocities committed against women that we don't even bat an eyelid anymore.
Right from the day a girl hits puberty, she is shackled with a whole set of rules that should put anyone to shame. Even in things like eve-teasing and sexual harassment that women go through on a daily basis, the excuses to justify such acts (like the girl invited trouble by not dressing properly) simply reeks of sexism. Or take the atrocious act of rape. How does our society treat women who have been raped? They are branded and face innumerable hurdles before they can even get married. How is this a tradition/culture that we have to be proud about? If art forms, popular or classical, does imitate the real world (or viceversa) it doesn't look great either. How many times have we seen a reel hero marry off his sister to the guy who raped her, and we don't ever feel a sickening feeling in our stomach watching such scenes. How in God's name is this justified? How many of us even notice the sheer stupidity and vulgarity of such an act? We don't because this misogynistic tendency is instilled deep in our thoughts right from our childhood, all in the name of Indian values, that we don't even realize this. I can give a whole list of dialogs from Tamil Superstar with his ridiculous misogynistic dialogs.
Another blatant hypocrisy in our society is the ridiculous value that is placed on female chastity (alone). If it is that important for the functioning of the society i am sure it would have been placed for both men and women. Why is infidelity of men condoned so easily, yet women are punished so hard. Or how many of us even question our own mythologies (not if they are real or not, but the underlying principle). How many of us think about Ramayana and question whether Lord Ram was wrong when he asked Sita to prove her chastity by going through agnipariksha? Again, as i see it, Sita was the victim here. (i know this is going to ruffle a lot of feathers, but i am not sure i have heard any decent explanation about this).I am not sure i am so proud of a culture that penalizes the victim than the criminal.
Dowry system, institutionalized to such a ridiculous extent in parts of our country that each educational degree carries a particular amount, should make us hang our heads in shame. The irony of the whole thing is, as the society becomes more literate all these practices (mind you, i am not even going into superstitions and rituals here)are supposed to wane. But i see the dowry amounts being discussed here as a matter of fact among desis (the educated world traveling ones) with respect to their degrees, their income and GC status. Some might try to explain this away with how the idea in the old days was doing the right thing by giving a girl a share from her father's side. In this day and age, when the property rights have been properly written, it doesn't hold good. I am sick and tired of having to listen how it all made sense a few thousand years ago, so its not all bad. I say Bullshit. I hear the same explanation many times to explain away the caste system. Again, i say Bullshit.
What do we do to widows, young and old? They are branded and they are not allowed to attend any functions. They are not allowed to remarry (easily). They are forced into a life where each and everyday is a monumental sacrifice, a fight for survival, a struggle for acknowledgment. What does our society do to a woman who loses her husband say at around 30 years of age with a little kid? Is ours a compassionate culture that places value in rehabilitating them, one that strives to help her get over the personal loss? No, it is one which doesn't want her to part of any other happy occasion like a marriage. It is one which never ever wants her to have another companion in life, even if she has another 40 years ahead of her. It is one which wants her to stay put in a corner praying till she drops dead and be grateful that she was born in a "wonderful" culture like ours. It is a story like this, of a young 30 year old widow, that made me think.
Is there any reason to be proud of this invisible veil called culture that is so cruel to half the population? I don't see one, do you?
(Note - This is my first post here at Sonyvellayani. I expect to post atleast once every two weeks. Originally published here.)
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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The current tradition in India maybe like what you have said but definitely it was not like this before (Vedic Times).

The below comments are to show how rich our(Barathaa's) past was....

Just by writing some BS will no way justify your opinions or can deny the TRUTH.
You should have made some ground work before commenting on Barathaa's legacy. Yes, its Barathaa and not the so called "India". The Arabs traders refered to Barathaa's as Sindh people as that trade happened alond Sindh river. "Sindh" is pronounced as "Hindh" in Arabic and so we got the name India, Hindhustan etc;


Your are the kind of person who would beleive in Aryan invasion theory; who would know few poems written by Wordsworth and ignore the rich legacy of invaluable scriptures in your mother tounge. who would beleive any damn BS from the history books and not take the pain to understand the TRUTH.

For your information; (the following are facts from my Nobel friend)

Untouchability was not existent even when the Mughals rules. Historical records state so. (Have you bothered to read unabridged records by Marco Polo? Or Huein Tsang?)

Sati was always a voluntary practice. No one EVER forced women to jump in. In some cases, the women actually did it to avoid the insult of being raped by some Muslim or British - oh yes, these fellows loved to 'claim' all the 'available' women. Virgin rapes were as common then as corruption is today. The best thing was most of these women committed suicide after experiencing the ultimate insult to their existence - yes, they were a race of Honor.
This made things perfect - no traces of the heinous crime...

The Caste and Ethic System was so perfect that it is mentioned in many historic records as the fabric that held Bhaarathic Society so strongly that even the Muslims gave up! There was no point of raping a woman if she'd kill herself afterward -they needed converts, NOT dead women.

In 1825 Lord Macaulay told the british parliament (you can verify this if you go to the UK and access parliamentary minutes that record meetings/sessions) "I have traveled the length and breadth of this vast land, and have not seen a beggar, a thief, or a woman disrespected. Even though the barbarians from Central Asia (Mughals) have raped countless native women for conversion-and slaughtered their sons/husbands, many proud natives have chosen death over conversion- they know no fear. I have never seen a braver or more powerful peoples. The only way we can conquer this nation is to destroy its greatest heritage - it's spiritual backbone, and show the natives that everything we have is superior to what they have... "

Barathaa was the worlds largest economy in 1945 and became a poor country in 1947. Have you ever bothered to know WHY?

800 years ago, when Marco Polo traveled the globe (and he took noodles from china to italy to create Pasta, coffee from Arabia to Italy!!) he said of what is now known as Kerala in Bharat - "... this is a land of bounty - there are diamonds in the fields and there is gold in the river, but no one cares- these people are rich and prosporous - there is enough food for everyone, women walk with their heads held high and are respected throughout the land, the people are free to make opinions, and the Kings make decisions based on peoples' preferences...."

First you must make an attempt to know Barathaa's legacy before spilling you hallow words...

And regarding you reference to Ramayana - First try to understand/unearth the above points which happened in recent past before trying to create a mess abouth the long-past. Grow-up!

August 30, 2009 12:52 AM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

Anon@4:53 - Part of your first sentence correctly says it - we are talking about India circa 2009.

While, as you say, i grow up, i can only hope you pull your head out of sand, wake up and smell the coffee....

And when you do that we here in the 21st century would be happy to welcome you.

Our society is at this state since there are still people who are only happy carping about things that (might) have happened 1000s years ago and can't see the injustices right in front of their eyes.

August 30, 2009 1:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karthikeyan still you seems to show your sloppy attitude and ignorance. All I am asking you to understand the WHY Barathaa is in the current state. Try to understand what caused such a rich tradition to be now in pity/pathetic state.

Also Some of the events that I mentioned are recent events and didnt have 1000's of years ago. If you cant even comprehend this there is not point in dicussing with you.

I have no hatred/grivence upon you. I just couldnt stand seeing the false interpretions about Barathaa.

August 31, 2009 5:59 PM  
Blogger Karthik said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 31, 2009 7:13 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

Dear Anon,
You have never tried to refute a single point i have made. Rather went on a pointless drivel about some utopian society, even if it existed, is of no use to what i am pointing out.

So, instead of calling me sloppy/ignorant etc., whilst trying to show as if you are open-minded with "i don't have any hatred" statement, share your thoughts on India, if you have any. If you still want to talk about some bygone Bharataa, there are many forums online for that.

August 31, 2009 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karthikeyan, I would not have bothered to comment on you blog if you would have just written about the present situation. But you without proper understanding about the great land blabbered some non-sense to reject the tradition/culture.
I again say that the current way is now how the men and women lived in tha past.
You may say by-gones are by-gones but when people refer to the great heritage of Barathaa there refer to the great Vedic times and not about your current day nonsense.
So you better know more about the great land or stop you nonsense in ridiculing the past.

August 31, 2009 8:53 PM  
Blogger Karthikeyan said...

ok, one final time....if you cannot see that the current system is just a legacy of whatever was there initially, however pure it might have been, then no point arguing with you either.

Also, it was never as pure and equitable as you claim or wish to believe.

At any rate, i can never convince a guy who thinks Sati is ok since it was voluntary. So, if you can add to the discussion, please do so. Else, take your blather elsewhere.

August 31, 2009 10:02 PM  
Blogger Abhi said...

Karthik, I hope I m not intervening and fighting your battle on your behalf but there are a few points in the suitably titled 'Anonymous' comment which i have huge issues with:

"
Untouchability was not existent even when the Mughals rules. Historical records state so. (Have you bothered to read unabridged records by Marco Polo? Or Huein Tsang?)
If you could quote the page and the paragraphs then it would be mightly helpful , untill then please dont write a blanket statement to go and find Marco polo and Huein Tsang's statement. Even Ramayana has made a big deal out of Ram eating food from an untouchables plate. In mahabharata too there are instances of Shudras not being allowed to be priest. Or is it that your definition of untouchability doesn't encompass freedom to choose the life you want?

Sati was always a voluntary practice. No one EVER forced women to jump in. In some cases, the women actually did it to avoid the insult of being raped by some Muslim or British - oh yes, these fellows loved to 'claim' all the 'available' women. Virgin rapes were as common then as corruption is today. The best thing was most of these women committed suicide after experiencing the ultimate insult to their existence - yes, they were a race of Honor.
This made things perfect - no traces of the heinous crime...
Really ? Can you show any proofs to corroborate it? Probably all these women left notes before they committed suicide or perhaps there has been a mighty psychic who can talk to them after death.
contd.......

September 01, 2009 3:33 AM  
Blogger Abhi said...

contd...

The Caste and Ethic System was so perfect that it is mentioned in many historic records as the fabric that held Bhaarathic Society so strongly that even the Muslims gave up! There was no point of raping a woman if she'd kill herself afterward -they needed converts, NOT dead women.
Please again mention the historic records so that we ignorant ppl could read and get enlightened as well. Just in the above paragraph " oh yes, these fellows loved to 'claim' all the 'available' women. Virgin rapes were as common then as corruption is today. " and now we have that they gave up on it? so this takes us to the conclusion that they raped women not because they wanted to vanquish and insult enemies but more so coz they wanted converts and consequently gave up as the women would commit suicide rather than convert. I for one think that If an army could be so disciplined as to try and convert women and give up as they couldn't they are to be applauded. As you would find that no army in history and I am talking about well documented history as recent as Japan and china in ww2 have raped women for conversion. They did it to humiliate and inflict the final assault on women.
On the same point , can you explain where the caste system went wrong? or is it that we are wrong in trying to change the natural order of things today ?

In 1825 Lord Macaulay told the british parliament (you can verify this if you go to the UK and access parliamentary minutes that record meetings/sessions) "I have traveled the length and breadth of this vast land, and have not seen a beggar, a thief, or a woman disrespected. Even though the barbarians from Central Asia (Mughals) have raped countless native women for conversion-and slaughtered their sons/husbands, many proud natives have chosen death over conversion- they know no fear. I have never seen a braver or more powerful peoples. The only way we can conquer this nation is to destroy its greatest heritage - it's spiritual backbone, and show the natives that everything we have is superior to what they have...

I m sure that you took the trouble to go to the UK parliament and pour through the records rite? or did you(horror) just take word of someone who had an agenda in writing these words

Barathaa was the worlds largest economy in 1945 and became a poor country in 1947. Have you ever bothered to know WHY?
Please , Please, Please atleast for this one let me know your sources.

800 years ago, when Marco Polo traveled the globe (and he took noodles from china to italy to create Pasta, coffee from Arabia to Italy!!) he said of what is now known as Kerala in Bharat - "... this is a land of bounty - there are diamonds in the fields and there is gold in the river, but no one cares- these people are rich and prosporous - there is enough food for everyone, women walk with their heads held high and are respected throughout the land, the people are free to make opinions, and the Kings make decisions based on peoples' preferences...."
Yes, of course, there was no one poor and thus every one did the shudra duties by themselves, or perhaps the shudras were so well paid that they could walk on the earth with their head held high.

First you must make an attempt to know Barathaa's legacy before spilling you hallow words...

And regarding you reference to Ramayana - First try to understand/unearth the above points which happened in recent past before trying to create a mess abouth the long-past. Grow-up!
Yes Karthik grow up and I m sure that soon Anonymous would let you know the valid sources which would help you grow (atleast horizontally by sitting on your rear end pouring through the material)

September 01, 2009 3:33 AM  
Blogger Abhi said...

also , just stumbled on this nugget , probably this author went to UK parliament to check the records :
http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/hinduism/macaulay.html

September 01, 2009 3:36 AM  

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