Although the Indian Hindi film industry has been known to be considerably less gerontophobic than the western popular culture (Hollywood, in particular), our aging Naanas and Naanis have been often represented as either able keepers of family “sanskars” or hyper-ritualized subjects (with added effect if in some diasporic setting)or as self-sacrificing elderly parents to prodigal children (or ruthless grandchildren). Continue reading “Bollywood’s re-imagination of growing old: Tannistha Samanta”→
The recent murder of an SFI activist, Abhimanyu, at the Maharajah’s College, Ernakulam, allegedly by activists of another student organization, the Campus Front, has once again triggered a series of intense campaigns against the Popular Front of India (PFI), which is accused of having terror links, even with the ISIS. This last claim has become commonsense almost impossible to contest. Continue reading “Who feeds who? Reflections on the Left responses to the Abhimanyu murder case”→
After the Modi government came to power, citizens of this country have seen gate after gate of Hell — the Narakas — open relentlessly to suck them in mercilessly or condemn them to be helpless spectators to unspeakable acts of injustice and violence. We have by now crossed the Arbudanaraka and the Nirarbudanaraka many times; the ordeal of having to watch evil unfold in the attacks on people in the name of what they eat, how they love, what they speak, who they pray to, which caste they were born into, what gender was assigned to them at birth — the list is growing day by day. We seem to be reduced to waiting endlessly at the doorsteps of police stations, courts, morgues, nearly overpowered by the stench of power and majoritarian hubris, fighting to stay conscious, waiting for the dead, broken, defiled, or dismembered bodies of our kin, our friends, neighbours, people. For instance, can one ever forget how we stood in sheer anxiety outside the Supreme Court, truly like souls awaiting judgment at the gates of Vaikuntam, reduced to droplets of pure worry? Those of us who fought for Hadiya’s rights can hardly forget.
കേന്ദ്രത്തിൽ മോഡിസർക്കാർ ഭരണത്തിൽ വന്നതിനു ശേഷം നരകത്തിൻറെ വാതായനങ്ങൾ ഒന്നൊന്നായി പിളരുകയും അവ നമ്മേ വിഴുങ്ങുകയും മഹാപാതകങ്ങൾക്ക് നിസ്സഹായരായ ദൃക് സാക്ഷികളാവുക എന്ന അപാരപരീക്ഷണത്തിനു നാം വിധേയരാവുകയും ചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നു. നിരർബുദനരകവും അർബുദനരകവും പല വട്ടം നാം കടന്നിരിക്കുന്നു. മാട്ടിറച്ചിയുടെ പേരിലും പിറന്നു പോയ ജാതിയുടെയും മതത്തിൻറെയും പേരിൽ നിരപരാധികളായ മനുഷ്യർ ഇവിടങ്ങളിലേക്കു വലിച്ചെറിയപ്പെടുന്നത് അധികവും നിസ്സഹായരായി കണ്ടുനിൽക്കേണ്ട ദുര്യോഗം താങ്ങാവുന്നതിലും അധികമായിരിക്കുന്നു. Continue reading “മഹാനരകങ്ങൾക്കെതിരെ : ഏപ്രിൽ 23ൻെറ പ്രതിഷേധക്കൂട്ടയ്മയ്ക്കു വേണ്ടി ഒരു കുറിപ്പ്”→
The raging controversy over the cover of a breastfeeding woman looking up with no shame about her exposed breast has, quite expectedly, sent conservative fools in Kerala into a raving frenzy. The case against the model and the conservative breast-beating going on now must be dismissed summarily as useless bullshit.
However, I must say that I had very mixed feelings about the cover and the defense offered for it by many. For many arguing in its defense seem to be saying that all one needs is gratefulness for the effort to open up the issue and the space gained, and all else raised isn’t really worth the trouble. Even this intelligent piece in the Ladies Finger slides into such complacency.
If you ask me, this cover is not of a woman breastfeeding, but of one who is declaring her determination to be comfortable while breastfeeding, thereby reinforcing her commitment to breastfeed her baby. I think this difference is important. Breastfeeding is a very intimate act; it is highly physical. If the mother and child are well, happy, and don’t have issues that may make this feel like a chore or hard to do, then it is very highly pleasurable too. As a woman who has breastfed continuously for 9 years with just a short break of a few months during my second pregnancy, I can say this: breastfeeding is also ‘breastfeeling’, so your attention is on the act, and you really don’t want to focus on anything else, especially irritating stares. It is as pleasurable as lovemaking. Many years later (my daughters are 25 and 20 this year), when I remember the act, my nipples rise, tingling. Breastfeeding was also play time, when the little one played with her mum’s breast with her tiny fingers feeling and squeezing it; and my younger one was especially playful, twisting her tiny body in sheer pleasure, and sometimes, remaining still and then naughtily sinking her little tooth into the nipple, rolling her eyes up to check the reaction from her mum! So when we traveled, I always carried a big, opaque duppatta with which I made a ‘tent’ over our heads that covered us completely. We would be sitting in a corner seat in the train, and having fun, she sitting on my lap (and later the tent would be big enough for the three of us, myself, my six-year-old, and one-year-old, the former listening to a story, and the latter happily suckling). We would sing, tickle, do what not. Demanding the freedom to breastfeed without being too bothered about modesty and in public without anyone staring, for me, then, is demanding the right to such intimate pleasure in public. In that sense, this should have been one of the afterlives of Kerala’s Kiss of Love protests.
However, the sartorial codes of the model make me feel very disconcerted. Sharanya Gopinathan, in the above piece, argues that Grihalakshmi caters to largely savarna women probably. But no, savarna women are not the demographic majority, and they are possibly not the dominant section in the magazine’s readership. But savarna culture is pervasive in Kerala, cutting across caste and faith, and the cover clearly panders to it. The model’s huge sindoor — mark you, wearing the sindoor is a very recent import from the north to Kerala, the demure-looking sari, and the girl-next-door look was probably calculated to make up for the exposure of the breast. So we have a young woman who announces through her sindoor that she is married — legally and customarily penetrated, to adopt a Foucaldian way with words — and modestly dressed, that she belongs to the elite, evident in her professionally-groomed looks, and also tells the world that she is determined to breastfeed no matter how much the lechs stare. Intended or not, it brings to the mind too readily the dream-girl of the Hindutva modernist vanguard: the educated woman, maybe even a corporate professional, with looks that fit that environment, who is determined to mother well and indeed stay close to her biological ‘essence’, and of course whose maternity has not been allowed to affect her slim body and maidenly-looking breasts. The idea, I think, was to say that such a woman can and should be brave enough to fend off irritating stares — but it backfired with the conservatives, apparently, who are not ready to concede any quarter. Breastfeed she must, remember her womanhood, she must, look pretty and stay slim she must — and demand no open breastfeeding.
When will we see the image of a woman you see in the bus stops every day in Kerala, harried, sweaty, with her budget-beauty parlour looks and less-than-chic sartorial choices sitting in a bus shelter perhaps and immersed in feeding her infant, her not-perfect breasts bulging out un-prettily, caring nothing at all for what the world thinks? She can of course be imagined as staring back defiantly, but the glow of pleasure is what should animate her being and fill her with courage. Normination to be a good biological woman and mother. Not the developmentalist commitment to produce healthy babies. What ultimately counts is the space of intimacy between a mother and her child, which is physical, which involves pleasure — and we need to demand that women should be able to create it everywhere.
And why on earth are we waiting for Grihalakshmi to lead? Thankfully, third wave feminism in Kerala is devoid of prudishness and values pleasure — and among our third gen we have a great many artists — poets, painters, photographers, of many genders! We should be able to assert that what is at stake is breastfeeling, not just breastfeeding. Let us reduce ourselves to neither those who sneak in a litany to biological motherhood through their seemingly radical cover, nor with those who want to see nothing but physical nourishment in breastfeeding.
The aborted move of giving the Emigration Check Required (ECR) passports a distinct look by orange-jacketing them was arguably driven by reasons of administrative expediency. Though unexplained officially, the aim was to ensure discreet and dedicated handling of the large number of ECR passport-holders emigrating from India for overseas work. Had the colour code been carried through, the orange passport holders would have been relegated practically to an inferior citizenship not just at overseas but also through the multiple stages of emigration at home and in transit. The ill-thought colour-bracketing would also have nearly stigmatized the most vulnerable section of Indian passport-holders through contravening ‘special’ treatment at multifarious levels. Continue reading “ECR Devoid of Orange is Still a Deterring Passport: V J Varghese”→