A speech on Art

Good evening, everyone. The name is Shruti. I come from Bangalore but I am from Pune although I am a native of Kerela. (pause for laughs). Art. That’s my topic for today, I am sure nobody here can say that they don’t love any kind of art form. Everyone of us is passionate about something. Some love music, others love paintings and some others love writings. I myself love dance.

You know what’s the beauty of art. Freedom. Freedom to express oneself in any way possible. This freedom is what makes artists become what you call ‘creative’ when in truth they are just being themselves. Creativity comes when the artist knows that he has the time and the freedom to express whatever he wants to. If either of these aspects are affected, the creativity comes down which in turn affects originality or rather uniqueness.

Ideally, art should never be controlled or monitored. However, unfortunately, we live in a society where art forms are censored due to conservative beliefs and perceived insults. It is the failure and ultimate doom of a society which curbs the freedom of its art forms. It has been proved by the history of past societies .

 

 

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Still alive from Surashettikoppa…

So time for the people of this village to make an entrance. For knowing what I am talking about see my previous blog post (https://indianwomanwithaspine.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/live-from-surashettikoppa/).

The first thing that struck me about the villagers is that how hardworking they are, especially the small farmers. They start off early in the morning, feeding the cattle and milking the cows. Then they take their bulls or tractors and go to work in their fields for the entire day! Lunch is polished off sitting under a tree in the middle of their fields which is probably their favourite time during the course of the day. After which the work continues until sundown. While the sun is setting the roads are filled with tractors and bullock carts filled with people returning from their fields.

Nobody has diabetes here. The very term obesity is laughable here. Women are active throughout the day and every minute of the day there is something to do. Either it is feeding the cattle, tending to the kitchen garden, cooking food for the entire family or even simply shelling peanuts. There is nothing like social media or whatsapp. Conversations are made face to face over community meetings. In the evenings all the family members sit together and talk their hearts out.

The Indian Caste system is dragging us down

It is a pleasant evening. My husband is out and I am sitting alone in my beautiful house with free internet connection and reading the harrowing account by Kausalya from Tamil Nadu about how her family hacked her husband to death and grievously injured her. Her only crime being she fell in love with and married a man of lower caste. And I, being from a privileged family who had the opportunity for education right from my great-great-grandparents’ time and thanks to capitalism, am one of the lucky few from the same country, who can read about this sitting in the comfort of my home that too with no major insecurities other than those of an Indian woman brought up in a chauvinistic and casteist society.

The caste system follows us from the time we are born. From the time I could start perceiving the nature of interactions between people around me, I could sense that there was a hierarchy in the society. Brahmins think they are better than Dalits; Ashrafs think they are better than Ajlafs; Nairs think they are better than pelayans; fair-skinned people think they are better than dark-skinned people and it goes on and on. But it doesn’t end there. On one hand when higher caste people are declaring their superiority, there is another section of the society who believe they deserve to be exactly where they are – downtrodden. When children of the so-called elite section of the society are indoctrinated to believe in and enact their superiority, the offspring of the untouchables are taught to bend low before their masters from a higher caste. The sad part is that there are many people – educated people, who think that this is how things were, are and should continue to be. The age old argument of India’s superior traditions and culture comes in. Truth be told, some things within our traditions and cultures  are hindering our freedom and growth by creating divide among us. The caste system is one of them. We must do away with it if any substantial progress has to be made.

When I reached college, it was a trend to have a boyfriend. Every girl had one and I didn’t want to be left out. However, there was the tiny hiccup. Where will I find a Nair boy in Pune in a college where 90% are, well, not Malayalees? But eventually I understood the cliches that lovers in movies spout so easily and naively. Love has no boundaries. I fell in love and married a boy from Tamil Nadu from a different caste. Both our parents agreed for the marriage without much protest. My parents were liberal enough to see that they cannot and should not try to change my mind. But I doubt if my parents would have readily agreed if he was a Dalit or from a different religion. My own parents, who are well-educated and having respectable jobs, have on numerous occasions expressed pride in their caste and had asked me to marry within the caste. Thankfully, I had the good sense to move away from them and learn things my own way.

People say that Indians are starting to follow the western culture. Tell me, in which part of the west do they murder couples for falling in love? If you are one of those people who had the good fortune and freedom to chose your own partner and marry them, count yourself as lucky. For people like Kausalya, to love is to put their very lives on stake. If the citizens of a country do not have the freedom of choosing their life partner and living a secure life with them then the constitution of that country is just a bunch of words which have lost all meaning and the country, in no way, can be called civilised.

The next time you are dancing close to your lover in a packed night club in the uptown area of your city, remember there is a couple somewhere in a remote village in India who are being beaten up simply for talking to each other. The next time you are breaking up with your partner because he/she forgot your birthday, remember Shankar and Kausalya who had to fight for their lives to stay together. They may have lost their fight, but all hope is not lost. Kausalya is alive and so are many more like her. We can still help them. Give them hope. Give them the hope to live in  a society free of caste and bondage. This cannot be done without an uprising. Bullet trains and statues of freedom fighters can wait. What India needs right now is another struggle for freedom.  An uprising against the atrocities committed in the name of caste; an uprising against discrimination of any kind. Because a country can be called developing only if each and every citizen living in it, feels safe and secure. But then again, how do you safeguard a person from their own family?

 

——dedicated to ‘braveheart’ Kausalya

 

image credit: theviewspaper.net

Logical Love

pinky-love

It’s a strange relationship…

There’s me and him, both different yet same.

There’s our life together, no secrets, no games.

A thought, an idea, shared and analyzed,

A part of me; a part of him, saved and severed.

I know he cares, yet I don’t need it. As his wife,

his support is all I need,to cross the river of life.

 

I used to fear death, but not any more;

for I have my elixir, when fear leaves me sore.

The thought of him gone, is all I fear now.

But the memories we made,  will lift me when I am low.

He shows me the truth, when I refuse to see it.

He guides me towards the light, when darkness surrounds it.

 

I have said, ‘I love you’ to many,

but never really meant it.

Now that I mean it, I don’t have to say it.

We do not express our love, with pictures and flowers;

for we express it with actions, innocent and pure.

They say love is not logical, it is blind and unseeing.

I, however, prefer to see the logical and the evident,

that he loves me and I love him. And in our love

there is logic which gives me reason to think.

 

As I said, it’s a strange relationship…

 

 

 

 

 

10 stereotypes that SBI Youth for India has busted for me

SBI Youth for India fellowship has taught me so much in just a few months and has opened my eyes to many things that I took for granted. It has also busted many myths that circulate among the city folk about villages.  Here are some of the myths that have been busted for me. I am staying in a village called Surashettikoppa near Hubli in Karnataka.

  • Villagers get up before sunrise

This is something that I had assumed would be definitely true. I was quite prepared to arise at the crack of dawn and start milking the cows!! But after coming here I realised that most of the villagers get up well after the sun is up which was quite relieving 😛

  • Villagers eat their dinner and got to bed early

This of course derives from the myth that villagers rise early. But looks like villagers don’t even eat their meals at a fixed time. Most of the families here eat dinner as late as 11 pm.

  • Villagers are highly casteist

Since most of the time we hear news about mistreatment of dalits, honour killings, dowry deaths etc in the villages, I was a bit apprehensive. However, where I am staying, all the villagers are bound together under one caste called lingayat by Basaveshwara and the caste system was abolished. Although they do have other castes, they don’t live violently as shown by our media.

  • All farmers are men

This was a huge eye-opener. When we say farmer the image in our minds is that of a man wearing dhoti and Gandhi topi. Women work in the fields as much as the men, sometimes even more so. The women of the household are the pillars on which many of the families survive. Some women have also started cottage industries using some of the farm produce.

  • Village women are not treated well

I know a farmer who is working very hard to help his daughter complete her engineering degree. Many girls are doing higher studies and others are going for work. At night, it is quite safe to walk in the village and there have not been any rape cases reported. In many houses women have started becoming the decision-makers.

  • Villagers are very suspicious of educated city people

I have never felt more welcome anywhere else. The villagers were very respectful and curious to know what I was there for. Some were even appreciative that I had come from so far to work with them. I realised that they just want assurance that atleast there are still people who care about them.

  • Villagers don’t have a balanced diet and hence are malnourished

I have never met healthier people in my life. The adults work hard and eat well too. Many of them walk a lot every day. Children are very active and always playing. Women show signs of anemia but nothing serious. There is hardly anyone with diabetes or heart disease or any such diseases found among the city folk.

  • People in the village are not aware of health and sanitation

All of them have toilets built under a government scheme but none of them have taps inside. They have to use up a lot of the precious water which they collect from the public tank after walking a considerable distance and standing in long queues. So the easier way is to take a small lota of water and head towards the bushes. But everyone knows that toilets are important and slowly the attitudes are changing.

  • The houses of the villagers are dirty and smelly

On the contrary, the villagers keep their houses very clean and the floors will are scrubbed daily. Nearly all of them, sleep on the floor, hence it is very important to them that the floor remains clean. All the houses have verandas where everyone can sit and talk or even sleep!!

  • Villagers are very poor and can’t even afford proper clothes

Many villagers who look like paupers are actually quite well off. They just have a very different lifestyle. They save money like crazy. They won’t spend money on clothes, footwear, accessories and other luxuries which are considered so essential in the cities. Many of them wear the same clothes for nearly a year. Nearly all of them walk barefoot. But everyone will have a TV and dish connection in their house. The money saved is used mainly during weddings or religious events.

Basically, before you go to a village, empty your mind and keep your eyes and ears open. You never know when those assumptions of yours are going to make an ass of you.

The good girl

We, as Indians, are very well aware of who is the ‘good girl’. The good girl always listens to her parents, is god-fearing, never falls in love, will be a virgin until marriage, will be a dutiful wife and daughter-in-law and the list goes on and on. And if you don’t know the traits of a good girl, just open the matrimonial section of the newspaper and check out the demands by the groom and his family. Apart from the requirements of fair skin, the list includes the usual ‘looking for god-fearing, obedient, respectful girl from a good family’ etc. Are we ever going to break out of the good girl stereotype? Are girls ever going to come out and protest against the good girl image they need to maintain for the sake of acceptance in the society?
                             The sad thing is, the girl child is conditioned to this image since childhood and the norms become stricter as she grows older. Recently, one of my friends announced that she is getting married soon. Although just a few months back she was dating another guy whom she really liked. When asked, she said her parents would have never agreed to the guy (obviously he was from another caste) and of course, she had to maintain the good girl image. This eternal fear of parents not agreeing to an inappropriate alliance is there in every girl’s mind (and boy’s too but our social system has ensured the emancipation of men). Women don’t realize that they are victims, not to mention the fact that they are blamed for everything done to them. We may refute that this happens only in rural and backward communities. Then why is it that so many educated and independent women from urban areas give into family pressure and marry within their caste inspite of having had affairs and having met the person they want to live their life with. Either they are too scared to tell their family or once told the family members choose to emotionally blackmail them into submission. The spate of honour killings through the course of history have not helped either.
                            But its not just the way the girl child but also how the boy is brought up that affects this propaganda of the good girl image. From an early age, men are conditioned to look for a girl who satisfies the demands of the elders. We, ourselves can recall so many educated men who label women according to their dressing and manner of talking or how many men they are friends with etc. Although, what a man does is hardly ever under the spotlight. The demand for a virgin bride has been hyped to such an extent that many girls have chosen to hide their past affairs or are in constant fear of being discovered.
                             According to historian Romilla thapar,”Within the Indian sub-continent there have been infinite variations on the status of women diverging according to cultural malice, caste, family structure, class, property rights and morals.” Its time the status of women diverged towards equality with the help of education, public awareness and rationality. Women themselves need to initiate this change by coming out of their shells and fighting for the acceptance of their choices. There is nothing wrong in being human.

Its about being an Indian woman without any restrictions or compromises. This is me as I am. No rules