The almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, not our own powerlessness, stupefy us.
As frightening spectres of untouchability and unseeability hover around the festering sore of the ‘caste-wall’ at Vadayambady in Kerala, as the so-called mainstream left-led government here continues to pour its energy and resources into aiding and abetting caste devils there, as most mainstream media turns a blind eye, as the Kerala police continues its mad-dog-left-loose act, many friends ask me: why have you not yet written about the struggle there of dalit people fighting of the demon of caste now completely, shamelessly ,in the public once more? Continue reading Malayali Feminism 2018: In the Light of Vadayambady and Hadiya’s Struggle→
Sonam Mittal’s recent piece in Kafila, “Kashmir is Feminist Issue” draws upon an oft-cited gendered analogy to describe the Kashmir’s relationship with India and Pakistan. Though it makes a few pertinent points about the nexus of power and patriarchy and the urgent need for Indian feminist solidarity with the Kashmiri resistance, I found the analogy deeply problematic and strongly feel that it needs further unpacking to underline its worrying implications.
संसद में दिए गए आपके भाषण को सुना. इससे पहले की मै अपनी बात रखूँ , यह स्पष्ट कर दूं की यह पत्र किसी “बच्चे” का किसी “ममतामयी” मंत्री के नाम नहीं है बल्कि यह पत्र एक खास विचारधारा की राजनीति करने वाले व्यक्ति का पत्र दूसरे राजनैतिक व्यक्ति को है. सबसे पहले मै यह स्पष्ट कर दूं कि मै किसी भी व्यक्ति की योग्यता का आकलन उसकी शैक्षणिक योग्यता के आधार पर नहीं करता हूँ बल्कि साफ़ साफ़ कहूं तो मै “योग्यता”(मेरिट) के पूरे कांसेप्ट को खारिज करता हूँ.
मानव संसाधन मंत्रालय का पद भार लेने के साथ ही यह अपेक्षा की जाती है कि आप इस देश के केंद्रीय विश्वविद्यालयों में उनकी ऑटोनोमी का सम्मान करते हुए उसके लिए उत्तरदायी होंगी. रोहित वेमुला के मामले में आपने क्या किया यह सबके सामने है कि किस तरह से वहाँ के प्रशासन पर आपने दबाव डाला जिसका नतीजा रोहित के institutional मर्डर के रूप में हमारे सामने आया. लेकिन मै इन सारी चीजो पर अभी बात नही करना चाहता. आप बार बार अपनी औरत होने की पहचान (आइडेंटिटी) को assert करतीं हैं और इसको करना भी चाहिए क्यूंकि नारी जाति उन ढेर सारे हाशिये पर किए गए लोगों में एक है जिनको सदियों से शोषित किया गया है. मै आपसे यह पूछना चाहता हूँ कि एक दलित स्त्री जो कि हर तकलीफ उठाते हुए अकेले अपने दम पर जब अपने बेटे बेटियों को इस समाज में एक सम्मानपूर्ण जगह देने के लिए संघर्ष कर रही थी तब एक नारी होने के कारण आप की क्या जिम्मेदारी बनती थी ? क्या आपको उस महिला के जज्बे को सलाम करते हुए उसकी बहादुरी के आगे सर झुकाते हुए उसके साथ नहीं खड़ा होना चाहिए था? हाँ, मै रोहित की माँ के बारे में बात कर रहा हूँ. जो महिला इस ब्रहामणवादी व पितृसत्तात्मक समाज से लड़ी जा रही थी, अपने बच्चों को अपने पहचान से जोड़ रही थी, उस महिला को आप व आपकी सरकार उसके पति की पहचान से क्यूँ जोड़ रहे थे? आपको भी अच्छा लगता होगा की आपकी अपनी एक स्वतंत्र पहचान है. लेकिन यह अधिकार आप उस महिला से क्यूँ छीन रहीं थीं? क्या आप भी पितृसत्तात्मक व ब्रहामणवादी समाज के पक्ष में खड़ी होती हैं? अपना पूरा नाम बताते हुए अपनी जाति के बारे में आपने सवाल पूछा और आपका भाषण खत्म होने के पहले ही लोगों ने आपकी जाति निकाल दी. मै आपकी जाति के बारे में कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं रखता हूँ और मै यह बिलकुल नहीं मानता हूँ की अगर आप उच्च जाति के होते हैं तो आप जातिवादी ही होंगे लेकिन आपके विभाग/मंत्रालय के तरफ से जो चिट्ठियाँ लिखी गई उसमे रोहित और उसके साथियों को जातिवादी /caste-ist बताया. मैडम क्या आप caste-ism और caste assertion का अन्तर समझती हैं? मै समझता हूँ की आप ये अन्तर भली – भाँति समझती हैं क्यूंकि आर एस एस जो आपकी सरकार और मंत्रालय को चलाता है, वह वर्ण व्यवस्था के नाम पर जाति व्यस्वस्था को भारतीय समाज की आत्मा समझता है और आर-एस-एस के एजेंडे को लागू करवाने की राजनैतिक दृढ़ता हमने समय समय पर आप में देखी हैं.
For about a year now, I have been teaching 33 wide-eyed and wise middle schoolers. As we have read fiction, studied history, exchanged stories, and tried to understand the world together, I have found my students to be wonderfully curious and innately compassionate. As the school year drew to a close, I wondered how to conclude our time together. Because our parting at the end of a fulfilling year together was bittersweet, I was looking for something both lighthearted and meaningful. I settled on an old favorite of my own, The Paper Bag Princess, an unconventional fairy tale that turns the ‘prince saves princess from the dragon’ stereotype upside down. As always, I was amazed by my students’ heartfelt and fresh responses to the story. Continue reading Fairy Tales and Feminist Theory in the Face of Fear: Indus Chadha→
Really, nothing. It’s been more than a week since the Vogue Empower video directed by Homi Adajania and featuring Deepika Padukone amongst others, has appeared, been watched, digested, commented upon, counter-videoed, spoofed and counter-spoofed. And a week on the internet constitutes nothing less than a geological age of course, so there’s been a veritable melting Ice Age of responses. To list just some of the reactions to the video – the female fan responses, that say kudos to Deepika for “saying it like it is”. Uncritically starry-eyed as they are, they point to the real chord struck by the video with thousands of young women fighting, thinking, arguing and surviving their way through a breathtakingly conflicted urban India. This is an India that by all appearances works hard and parties hard, in the process occupying a fraught and frequently violent terrain of interaction between the sexes.
On April 3rd, 2002, Israeli peace organizations led by women activists tried to enter Palestine, but were violently rebuffed by Israeli soldiers – 21 required hospitalization when it was all over. The picture shows seven members (six women and one man) of the organization Kveesa Shchora – Lesbians and Gay Men Against the Occupation – as they set out that morning.
It was through Amalia Ziv ‘s work that I came to know about ‘Kvisa Shchora’ (Black Laundry), an Israeli anti-Occupation queer group, which positions itself against both Israeli Zionist queer politics and the Israeli Left, against whose universalist understanding Black Laundry poses its queer identity as a platform for critique. Ziv suggests that Black Laundry tied together ‘sexual deviance’ and ‘national deviance’ with slogans like ‘Free Condoms, Free Palestine’, ‘Bull Dykes, Not Missile Strikes’, ‘Transgender not Transfer’ (that is, forced deportation of Palestinians) – which break down the hierarchies of Nation and Sex, challenging queer politics in Israel with anti-occupation politics and Left anti-occupation politics with the queer gaze. Ziv argues that through the ‘twin strategies of national betrayal and sexual depravity’, Black Laundry deliberately situated itself outside both discursive communities – that of Israel/Palestine as well as of hetero/homosexual.
Read this wonderful interview by TSAFI SAAR with Amalia Ziv in which she talks about queer parenting, pornography, masochistic fantasies, her envy of people who have the capacity to be polyamorous, how tolerance in Israel for queer politics ‘runs out when queer politics melds with politics against the occupation,’ and about her crush as an adolescent for Woody Allen. ‘Eros is blind’, she says unrepentantly. Continue reading Interview with Amalia Ziv – queer, feminist and anti-occupation in Israel→
Here’s wishing all men and women across borders and boundaries, in New Delhi and New Haven, Ranchi and Russia, Dublin and Damascus, Srinagar and Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Bermudas, a very happy International Women’s Day. These images are from the ‘I Need Feminism’ Campaign at the Lahore University of Management Sciences
(This article began as a rejoinder to Hindi columnist Raj Kishor [Vaam se dakshin tak ek hi tark, (‘The same argument from Left to Right’), Rashtriya Sahara, January 13 2013], but it has also provided an occasion to address some common misconceptions about women’s freedom and capitalism.)
When women demand ‘freedom,’ why does it immediately raise the spectre of ‘licentiousness’?
Why, in other words, is women’s freedom automatically taken by many as equivalent with ‘licence,’ whereas the similar freedom on the part of men is never branded as ‘licence’?
This question arose in my mind after reading a piece by Hindi columnist Raj Kishor. Raj Kishor’s argument is that those – from Left leaders like I, to those whom he sees as representatives of the market – who are calling for women’s freedom are ‘consigning women into the fire of capitalism.’ When he hears me use the word ‘azaadi’ (freedom) he calls such freedom ‘utshrnkhalta’ (literally ‘unbridled-ness’, or licentiousness). He says and I, and the capitalist market alike, are calling for women to be free to ‘break all bounds of licentiousness’ if they so choose. Of course, Raj Kishor anticipates my criticism of his use of the word ‘utshrnkhalta’, since he says that is a word that ‘has feminists up in arms, demanding with red (infuriated) eyes the definition of ‘utshrnkhalta’.
Last week, I went to a bachelorette party. The party props were unbelievable to the point of being ridiculous—shot-glasses shaped like body parts, kinky trinkets, balloons in unmentionable shapes and sizes—and other items that would have made many women of another generation collapse in horror.
At the end of the party, everyone was slightly drunk and a good deal of time had been spent asking the bride-to-be embarrassing questions and cracking dirty jokes. I realized that our revelry had a close parallel in the cult classic “The Hangover”, a story of four men who go to Las Vegas to celebrate a very eventful bachelor’s party. Our party shared common themes from the script of the movie, including inebriation and the obsession with bodies, both perfect and imperfect. We missed the tiger and the stripper from the movie, but I am told that strippers are a very common feature in bachelorette parties in India.
A new product ’18 Again’ has hit the Indian market. A vaginal tightening gel, the advertisement left us mildly bemused.
With her newly tautened privates, the saree-clad lady seems in remarkably good cheer, given she apparently ‘feels like a virgin’ and ‘it’ (it presumably being sex), ‘feels like the very first time’. Namely awkward, painful, inexperienced fumbling? Ah well! There’s no accounting for tastes, not least the fantasies of the Indian man.
Regardless, we think this is a step in the right direction. Virgins being a scarce commodity these days, a handy at-home converter for any sacrifices you may have planned is a thoughtfully designed product indeed. (The makers of ’18 Again’ are unclear on what to do with those of us who escaped the wastelands of virginity before 18, but there you have it. You can’t please everyone, certainly not those sluts who didn’t even wait till they were legal). The makers of 18 Again are hoping for strong revenues on the back of exponential domestic demand.
As this article details, the Indian vagina now caters to a broad spectrum of consumer taste and preference. Backed by a strong commitment to product diversification, the Indian vagina is set to enter the 21st century with applications and appliances, room fresheners and Christmas trees. Needless to say, we are delighted; our only grouse being that the products are somewhat limited in scope and vision. And so with an eye to the future we present a small list of potential uses and a plea that we all broaden, rather than tighten, our imagination. Continue reading Gird Your Loins→
Reading Saba Dewan’s post, on patriarchy and St Stephen’s, was a release. For years, I had struggled to make sense of two contradictory things—my years at college were some of the happiest of my life, but the institution that was held up to us as one of the best in India was also built on a flawed and deeply discriminatory set of beliefs.
(It’s hard to write about this in part because it always felt like complaining about what was, in essence, a very privileged life–those of us who went to St Stephen’s were by definition lucky, in our acquisition of English, in our officially liberal families, in our assumption of a secure place in the hierarchies of power in India.) Continue reading What I learned from “The Patriarchy”: Nilanjana S. Roy→
Widely circulating just about everywhere, but for the unfortunate few who may have missed it…
I for one want to kiss the hem of her salwar/sari/jeans/other modest outfit.
I write to complain about the abysmal standards of modesty I am noticing in Indian society. All bad things – sensationalist TV, obscene movies, diabetes among elders, pickpocketing, dilution of coconut chutney in Saravana Bhavan – are a result of Evil Western Influences. However, to my surprise, in this issue of modesty, even the Great Indian Culture (we had invented Maths and pineapple rasam when westerners were still cavemen) seems to encourage this.
The problem, sir/madam, is that revealing attire is being worn. Deep-neck and sleeveless tops, exposed legs–and these are just the middle-aged priests! Some priests are even (Shiva Shiva!) doing away with the upper garment. And I am told some temple managements even encourage this.
We, a group of concerned citizens and feminists wish to register our sorrow and shock at the death of W R Varadarajan, member CPI (M). We also wish to record our extreme unease at the manner in which crucial facts to do with the events and circumstances that preceded his death appear to have been deliberately ignored by the party leadership. That the party was aware of these facts is evident from a letter that the late Varadarajan addressed to CPI (M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat, and extracts from which were reproduced in the Indian Express, New Delhi edition, dated 24. 02.2010. Continue reading Statement of Concerned Citizens and Feminists on the Death of W R Varadarajan→
Slavoj Zizek spoke on Tragedy and Farce in Delhi on January 5, 2010.He spoke for about an hour and a half, then I responded for about 18 minutes, then he came back spiritedly for about forty-five minutes. This post is in two parts. The first part is the brief intervention I made at Stein Auditorium. In the second part of this post, I expand on my critique in the light of his response. I could not of course, speak after he had spoken the second time, so I’m doing it here.
A jinn appeared to a man and granted him three wishes. First, said the man excitedly, I want to be Slavoj Zizek. You idiot, said the jinn. You are Slavoj Zizek.
This is one of the many stories that the internet throws up on the eminent Slovenian Lacanian whom it has been our pleasure to listen to today. His own jokes and anecdotes are of course legendary, the medium through which he makes complex theoretical points. It thus becomes the burden of every unfortunate person writing about him or commenting on his work, to tell a few jokes themselves. Often Profesor Zizek’s own.
So. It struck me that the truth of the joke with which I began is that Slavoj Zizek longs to be Slavoj Zizek. He never quite makes it, though, because Zizek keeps escaping himself. In an interview to The Guardian a couple of years ago, he was asked – What do you most dislike about your appearance? And he replied – That it makes me appear the way I really am.
Having followed Professor Zizek’s work for a while now in growing bewilderment, I understand his predicament There are at least two Zizeks in there, and whichever one manifests himself, Slavoj is taken aback and rather dissatisfied. This is me? He seems to ask.
The picture had been circulating on the web, in blogs and email lists for some time, and without comment, as a funny, jokey kind of thing. Autos and trucks (in Delhi anyway,) are renowned, as Aman pointed out in his comment, for pithy, witty, quirky, dolorous, amorous etc. comments on life. Briefly glimpsed, their ability to linger in our minds is a reflection of their literary quality.
When this one was sent to me, the reason I posted it on kafila was initially light-hearted too, since we consider autos to be our mascots, as representing kafila’s philosophy and relationship to the city in some way – small, cheeky, full of “attitude”, winding nimbly through the mass of traffic, a resistant challenge to the idea of a shiny, “world-city-like-paris-and-singapore” that our various governments want to turn all our cities into, by neatly removing the poor, the workers, the slums etc.