Sunday, 12 March 2017

Rani, Lakshmi or bai?



-Brian Mendonça

At a seminar on women poets in Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu a speaker said women in India face the Rani Lakshmibai predicament. When they are born they are queens (rani) for their parents, as brides they enter the house with much fanfare as Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth), but the reality is they end up as bai’s (top servants) in their homes.

This tongue-in–cheek remark in the face of the feminists was nevertheless borne out on Women’s Day this year. After I breathlessly wished one woman a happy woman’s day, I asked her what she was doing to commemorate the day. She said, ‘I did the jhadu (sweeping), now I have to do the pocha (swabbing).’

Today two issues appear before us. One is the courage of a Gurmehar Kaur (20) student from Delhi University, the daughter of a Kargil war hero. She boldly took a stand on social media saying, ‘Pakistan did not kill my father, war did.’ Faced with threats of rape and murder she nevertheless withdrew to her hometown in Jalandhar in the safety of Punjab. The fact she pulled out of the campaign is a sad comment on the fabric of a nation which prides itself on democratic values.

The other issue is why Karan Johar is in the news. The media is ga-ga over his twins. The babies were born through a surrogate mother. The children will probably never know who their biological mother is. What KJ, who is gay, has done is to do away with the mother altogether. The fact that he is averse to a relationship with a woman, does not stop him from depriving his children from a nurturing bonding with a mother for all their lives.

What really got my goat was the WhatsApp forward below about Goan girls and ‘Goan English’:

First Goan Girl: What men! Not talking? Become big or what?
Second Goan Girl: Why you told her that I told you about Perpet going to movie with Pilot?
First Goan Girl: Told foo men? Ah that Concessao? But I told her not to tell annnnnnnybody that you told me.

What one can see, beyond the titters, is that the snatch of conversation projects a negative stereotype of Goan ‘girls’. A sociolinguist would ask is this language specific to female Goan speakers? If so why? Why do we persist in forwarding content which projects us in bad light?

As woman all have common concerns, so aptly put across by Kalki Koechlin’s womanlogue. Women get stared at, so much so, as their chest heaves, it becomes difficult to even breathe.

At a fancy dress organized on Woman’s Day girls dressed up as an airhostess, a clothes designer, a Bharatanatyam dance teacher who pursues her calling after marriage, and a business woman. One could also be a maternity and post-delivery photographer like Ranisa Pires, a professional boxer like Sonia Parab or a conservation diver like Gabriella D’Cruz. Great careers, limitless choices. Your life is what you make of it.
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Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 12 March 2017. Pix source indiglamour.com

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