Tag Archives: Dileep

Keep Calm and Carry On: Dealing with Patriarchal Carpet Bombing in Kerala

For all women in India, what is happening in Kerala should be an eye-opener.  This is how Indian society rewards you for reaching the top, aspiring seriously to be on top, and actually asking questions to authorities about why they keep drawing on women’s energies and resources while simultaneously undermining the very ground on which they survive. In Kerala, two things are going on: there is on the one hand, a vicious gang led by Rahul Easwar which is openly threatening women who would dare to enter Sabarimala with the worst kinds of violence, on the other, the horrid misogyny of the press was revealed at the press conference held by the Women in Cinema Collective who expressed their deep disquiet at the way in which the organization of cinema actors, AMMA, and its president Mohanlal, were eager to protect oppressors and ignore survivors. Also, even male intellectuals who have been very supportive of feminist and gender justices causes have been named in the MeToo campaign among journalists in Kerala.

Kerala is a society where, in the past twenty years, we have seen women come up everywhere — in journalism, literature, academics, cinema, architecture, engineering, art, management, sports, trade unionism, activism. Women in Kerala have been the force of social democratizing as evident from the struggles ranging from the Munnar tea garden workers’ struggle to the brave nuns protesting against sexual violence. For sure, a very large number of women in Kerala are ultra-conservative, and that is apparent both in their presence in the muck that Easwar and his gang are raking up in Kerala, as well as in the shameless way in which some of them were emboldened to hurl caste insults at the Chief Minister of Kerala. This is therefore reminiscent not so much of the Battle of Britain in World War II, but for the Battle of Stalingrad — which was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe, even as there was hand-to-hand combat on the ground for control of the tiniest slices of the city, and where the city residents were often subject to the terrors of both the Nazi and the Soviet sides alike.

If you want to see male hubris overflowing, please take a look at this video, of https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FWomeninCinemaCollectiveOfficial%2Fvideos%2F249328929064857%2F&show_text=0&width=267“>the press conference held by the Women in Cinema collective. All I can tell us all is, Keep Calm and Carry on. After all, unlike in the World War II, the ammunition of these creeps need not hurt us at all; it can make it only more powerful.




Fly, Manju, fly!

For some time now, I have been arguing that the apparent acceleration of tension around gender in Kerala, especially on the male-female axis,is because Malayalee women of this generation, as a group, have become far more individuated than their mothers.

Several friends have been quick to point out that I may be wrong — there seems to be quite a bit of evidence that women of this generation, despite improved access to higher education, are crawling before patriarchy when asked to bend. I do not deny this, but I would still argue that it may not be evidence for their lack of agency and that their subversive behaviour may, in the long term, actually confuse the system enough to render it ineffective. My fieldwork of the last seven years has only made my belief stronger: wherever I go, I have met women who struggle within the system, whose fights may not be feminist in a certain familiar sense but yet contain a noticeable anti-patriarchal charge.

But more importantly, I say this because it is hard to ignore what I experienced for eleven whole years of my life when I was a housewife-cum-research student, in a very middle-class, upper caste, very average Malayalee family that typically embodied the uniquely modernised patriarchy of twentieth century Malayalee society. More than ten years after I escaped its confines, Manju Warrier’s comeback movie, How Old are You? made me return there. Fourteen years ago when Manju decided to quit acting, she was admittedly the most successful female actor in Malayalam, and perhaps the most talented as well. Before she became a successful actor, she had shown tremendous potential as a classical dancer. She chucked all this, to become an ‘ideal’ housewife, retreating behind the fame enjoyed by her husband, the actor, the very ordinary Dileep – in fact so ordinary that he almost symbolizes the ‘average’, mediocre, insecure, young-to-middle aged Malayalee male both in his roles and his off-screen behaviour.That was the time when I had begun to plot my escape. I knew how wrong her decision was — and it saddened me that members of yet another generation of Malayalee women were mistaking what was a gaping cellar-hole to be a snug refuge. Continue reading Fly, Manju, fly!