Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A question

Who am I? This question, though simple superficially, it isn’t so. On the contrary, it is one of the most profound questions any introspecting person can ask himself. Who am I? All of us have multiple personalities. While I am an ignorant student in teacher’s eyes, I am all knowing and wise young man to a particular friend of mine. I am a carefree, independent, and epicurean young man. At the same time I am a deep, introspecting philosopher. I am stoic and emotional...I am someone in presence of a particular person or a group of persons, and someone else with another. It all depends on whose company I have at the moment. So where amidst all this is real me, if at all there is anything called me?

Let us consider this waiter in the cafe. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precise, a little too rapid. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the costumer. And there he returns, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness while carrying his tray with recklessness of a tightrope walker. All this behaviour seems to us a game. He applies himself to chaining his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other. His gestures and even his voice seem to be mechanisms. He gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing. He is amusing himself. But what is he playing? Of course, at being a waiter. The game is a kind of marking out and investigation. The child plays with his body in order to explore it. The waiter plays with his condition in order to realise it. This obligation is not different from what is imposed on all tradesmen. Their condition is wholly of ceremony – the public demands of them that they realise it as a ceremony. There is the dance of the grocer, an auctioneer, a tailor. A grocer who dreams is offensive to the buyer, because such a grocer is not wholly a grocer. Society demands that he limit himself to his functions as a grocer. There are indeed many precautions to imprison a person in what he is as if we lived in a perpetual fear that he might escape from it, that he might break away and suddenly elude his condition.

And what can be said about the waiters and the grocers, can very well be said about the whole lot of us. We are what the society demands of us. There are very few of us who can be what they truely are. As for the rest of us, we will continue with our lives carrying different, and more often than not, conflicting personalities within us. So who we truly are?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Empowering Women

The world (at least the female part of it) is abuzz with noble words such as ‘feminism’, ‘gender equality’, ‘women empowerment’ and the likes. However, not many realise the actual meaning of any of these. Of course you’ll ask (those belonging to the fairer sex definitely) what is a male member of the society doing teaching the proponents of the feminist movement meaning of the words they themselves have coined? Well, I undertake the task because I am an ardent supporter of feminism myself (yes. A man can be a feminist). This I don’t do to win the approval of my lady friends or to get into the pants of unsuspecting ladies, but because I have been brought up in a family in which a woman (my mother, for the benefit of those who don’t know about my family) is the bread winner, and symbolises everything any self-respecting feminist fights for. I respect and honour most members of the opposite sex (the exceptions being disliked by their sex alike) and I seek to address this issue so as to clear the misconceptions associated with it.
First of all, feminism is NOT about male-bashing. As much as you (the ladies) may hate us (the gentlemen), it is hardly fair on our part to be criticised for everything that we do (or don’t do) simply because we are fortunate(un?) to be born male. Feminism vouches for gender equality – equal rights, equal opportunities, equal say in matters pertaining to all the walks of life. Feminism is about fighting gender oppression. It is about dowry free marriage. It is about right to live your life the way you choose (without being illegal of course). It is about her right to live…this is what I understand from feminism. Correct me if I am mistaken.
Now, wherein lays my dissatisfaction? It is in vogue to criticise men for showing courtsey towards women – we are easily labeled MCPs for opening the door for a lady or pulling the chair (or vacating one). This is not a sign of weakness on the part of the lady in question but her social superiority! We do the same (at least it is expected of us) in presence of a man who is superior to us in the social hierarchy (think the Prince of Wales for example). While it will seem fashionable, even witty, to joke about Mr. Cliton’s sexuality, God help the poor soul who commits the blasphemy of saying something similar regarding Mrs. Clinton. He will have to face the wrath of feminist lobbies from across the globe. Reason? Mrs. Clinton is obviously a lady, and a sexual remark towards a lady is tantamount to sexual harassment! This brings up another point in case, as far as India is concerned. There is absolutely no provision for men who are sexually harassed by women. Of course, on would say, that this is a figment of my imagination – no woman would abuse a man sexually (and isn’t this a fantasy of many a men?). But no. This does happen in the country that boasts of culture and tradition. Only recently a Bihar MLA was charged with sexual abuse by her guard. Then she threaten him with life if he went to the police. He did go to the police and lodged an FIR. But the FIR was lodged for threat and not sexual abuse. The case is pending in the Patna High Court.
There are other instances as well where women are treated as more than equal to men - child custody, maternal holidays, divorce & alimony…even reservation in govt. offices. Do they deserve to be treated as some OBCs. Surely they are more self-respecting than this. It is like appeasing a child with a candy bar while the parents feast on a gourmet meal. Many rape cases are judged on testimony of the ‘victim’ herself, without a fair trial. As a result there are a number of men who are doing their time in prisons. More than 60% of the rape cases that were reported in Bihar in 2007 were false. I am not saying that rapists should be let off. They should be dealt with the most severe of punishment – but the innocent should not be punished. This, after all, is the guiding principle of the Indian Judiciary. Thanks to the lopsided laws, we frequently hear about ‘husband-abuses’. It seems that the balance has swung to the other end the spectrum. This is what happens when the law ceases to be equal.
For centuries women have been oppressed in almost all the societies. And it is for the first time in the history that there seems to some hope for them to overcome this subjugation. However, their goal can only be achieved if the men cooperate with them in their struggle. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that the women are weak and cannot empower themselves on their own. But lets be rational. If women could've got freedom from their enslavement without the support of men, they could’ve got it long back. Even India did not gain freedom without the support of the Brits. The question is: how do you expect us to work with you if you reackon us your enemy?

Sunday, July 13, 2008