Posted in Random, Thoughts

Necessary. Not Evil.

I am angry.

Rather, I was angry. I’ve sort of calmed down since then, and decided to be less angry and more calm and composed, and do something about what was making me angry. And so, I decided to take up what was bothering me on the massive platform that is this blog, with all of its twenty three followers. And twenty visitors on a good day.

Here’s my problem:

People have an issue with women menstruating in India. At least, it’s very visible and open in India. It happens outside India too, this stigma, but especially here, among Hindus, it’s a kind of bordering on stupidity. It makes me angry. Very angry. I had heard and read about this. That women are not allowed entry into temples when they are on their period. That they are not allowed to enter the kitchen on their period, and they have to eat separately and not directly touch any other people because that may defile them.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

According to this stupid rule, a woman, whose domain, according to the scriptures, is the kitchen and household in general, is not allowed to go into the kitchen, or into the thakur-ghor (a room for the gods, a mini temple room. Most Hindu households have at least a cabinet or shelf of images and idols, if not a room). She is to be ostracised and treated like a pariah for the simple reason that she is a woman and can bear children.

Fun fact:

Recently, a Goods and Services Tax was introduced by the Hindu leaning BJP led government across all of India. What this tax aims to do is replace all the various taxes and cesses levied by the central and state level governments by one single tax, making the general functioning of markets easier and so on. This tax levies a 12% tax on all menstrual sanitary products and makes sindoor and bangles tax exempt. Sindoor is a red pigment that married women wear on their forehead. Both sindoor and bangles are considered symbols of a happy and auspicious marriage. The irony isn’t lost, I hope.

Feminism, circa the stone age.

And before you shake your head, remember that this is the same government that, to further the Hindu devotion for cows, illegalised the purchase of cows for slaughter a few days ago. That’s another thing I am angry about, I do love a good steak. And they just made it harder to get one.

https://goo.gl/mOE1xc This is what triggered me, and made me angry enough to write about this. A couple of these stories are heartbreaking.

And a lot of you all can immediately go, “Well, this doesn’t happen in my family” (I hope to god you can). Neither does it in mine, as far as I know. At least, I was never told to not touch someone, not for these reasons anyway. But there are people I know, who have to face this. And it is really sad, that in educated households, women are treated like this. Even in the educated and urban parts. Chew on that for a moment.

And to the guys reading, it may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Think about it this way, you’re being punished for something perfectly normal and natural. Let’s say people treat you like you’ve got some deadly disease cause you breathe. Makes no sense? I know. You need to breathe to stay alive. It’s a bodily function. Right? Everyone does it. Right? Yeah, right. Same here. Every woman has periods. YOU EXIST BECAUSE YOUR MUM HAD PERIODS. And yet, we treat women like this.

There is no way this kind of behaviour is acceptable, but it’s a special kind of wrongdoing when children are brought into this. Poor girl, she is hurting, she is confused and scared, she isn’t used to this.The pain and discomfort isn’t enough, humiliation needs to be added to the mix. And so, on top of that, she’s isolated from everyone else, because she might pollute the others. She might induce menstruation in the girls who haven’t yet started. Science at its finest. She is not at all comfortable with the fact that she is bleeding, and the teacher announces it to the entire classroom, that the girl is to be avoided. That she is impure. Imagine, if you can, what that girl is thinking. And if she is unlucky, she has to go home to the same treatment. Her siblings cannot play with her. She’s made to sleep separately, and her food is put out on separate plates, in one corner of the room. Anyone who touches her must wash themselves. From childhood up, girls are indoctrinated with the idea that they are impure and foul when they have their period. If that isn’t pathetic, I don’t know what is.

For someone who hasn’t faced this, imagine someone made to feel they are unclean, being left out of everything because of something they biological. Now imagine how they would feel about this if they were made to feel so by their own family. They didn’t ask to have periods. No woman likes to put up with this, but they have to. This is probably the time when a woman feels most vulnerable and has all sorts of aches and cramps going on, and instead of offering care and compassion, the custom is make her feel like she’s committed some filthy sin.

I don’t know, what I want out of this. There’s not going to be any sweeping social change among India’s masses thanks to one post in an obscure blog by a college student. Heck, I’m not even angry anymore, just sad. It feels bad to know that I won’t be able to exorcise this devil. The best I can do is rant. And that’s it.

 

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Posted in Thoughts

Too late to apologise?

We had Dr. Shashi Tharoor visiting our campus a few weeks ago, during our cultural festival Pearl. The turnout for his session was huge, with even the laziest of students abandoning their rooms and trudging all the way to the auditorium an hour in advance and hunting for decent seats. Among the various topics that he spoke about, the one that struck me most was his demand for an apology from Britain for the atrocities committed against Indians during their colonial rule.

 

There are multiple reasons for why this is a good idea; how an apology from, say, the Queen, on the anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, could possibly change a lot of things. It could bring a sense of justice, closure, some sort of retribution maybe. But then again, would it really affect anything? And even if it were to, are we even eligible to demand an apology?

 

There is a story in the Bible, which throws light upon this question. A woman is about to be stoned for immoral activities, when Jesus calls for the one without sin to cast the first stone, following which everyone leaves. If we stand up and raise our voices to condemn, we must first examine ourselves. None of us are truly innocent, no nation has a clean record, and thus, it would seem hypocritical to ask for an apology. If one was to argue further that the extent of the Britisher’s atrocities were extreme, another question to be answered would be, who decides which act is atrocious enough to be condemned or apologised for?

 

Moreover, to whom do the Britishers owe an apology? To the Indian government? To the people of India? Or should their apology be addressed to the departed souls of those who suffered at their hands?

 

The concept of asking for an apology is, surprisingly, not as simple as it seems. This is a conclusion I have come to after almost a decade of observing how actions or words affect people to different extents and their subsequent expectations from the person who has supposedly wronged them.

 

My earliest memory pertaining to this topic is when I was barely 10, and in the midst of an argument with my mother. I probably said something along the lines of “what yaar, you never understand what I’m trying to say” to her. After the discussion had reached its natural end, my father lectured me on my usage of “disrespectful” language with my mother and demanded that I apologise to her. Something little 10-year-old me refused to do. The logic that I offered then was that if my mother had no objection to the way I had spoken to her, why must I have to apologise? Had I spoken to my father in a similar fashion and had he been hurt by my words, yes, I would apologise. But who is a third person to dictate how I must behave with someone, especially if that particular person has no objections? One can argue, of course, that in this case, the fault did lie with me and that my father had every right to say that, but that isn’t really the point I’m trying to make here.

 

The contrasting line of thought is that no matter your intentions, if you realise that you’ve hurt someone, you apologise to them. Period. Now, whether you meant something as a joke, or it’s the other person being extremely sensitive, the moment it comes to your notice that your actions or words have caused pain, you ask for forgiveness.

 

And then there’s the whole “say sorry only if you genuinely mean it” angle to this as well. The movie ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ has a scene where Hrithik Roshan tells Farhan Akhtar, “maafi sirf tab maangna jab dil se aaye” (ask for an apology only when it comes from within). A half-hearted apology is probably worse than no apology, if you really think about it, because you’re just apologising for the sake of it.

 

Personally, I think that it’s never acceptable to hurt someone and not atone for our actions or words. Sometimes we don’t want to hurt someone but we end up doing precisely that. And the knowledge that we have caused unnecessary pain to someone should be enough to make us want to mean the apology. Hence, not only do you apologise even though it’s not entirely your fault, but you also mean it.

 

An apology doesn’t make you the smaller person. It doesn’t make you the “submissive” person in any relationship. It doesn’t make you someone who always adjusts for others, or someone who can be pushed around. It’s never too late. Of course, it makes more sense to apologise as soon as you realise your mistake, but honestly, a late apology is better than none. So go on and say that magic word, after all, what goes around, comes around.