PINK – A Different Movie Experience

Usually am not a Hindi movie buff as I find most of them remotely connected to reality. However, watching PINK was a refreshing experience. It lays its finger on so many societal and cultural aspects of the country, that is normally either left untouched or swept under the carpet by cinema, though in reality movies must be slices of real life, mirroring life in all its starkness – good, bad and the ugly.

PINK really reflects the conventions in the modern Indian society. It throws light into the capriciousness of minds especially when it comes to matters targeting women. Patriarchy. Parochialism. Nepotism. Harassment. Threats. Abduction. Contortion in courtrooms. According to the Gender Inequality Index table of 2015, India ranks 127th in gender inequality (lower than some Middle East and even Sub-Sahara countries) and 114th in gender gap in the world. Despite the rise in female literacy, only just above 30% of women workforce. It is clear that the society refuses to hand in freedom to the working Indian woman.

pink-poster-0122643

Poster credit:

http://www.comingtrailer.com/movies-posters/pink-movie-official-poster-wallpaper

The movie’s opening is riveting. As credits roll over, in the background you hear voices from a party in progress. Conversation. Fun. Laughter. And then when credits fade away, action begins. Flashes of what’s happening unfolds. Effective montages that alternate from one group to the other heightens the thrill of nail-biting action. From then action builds, on and on. Almost keeping you on the edge of the seat, till midway. Then the courtroom drama unfolds.

What struck me most is the scary turn of events. How a simple No can be manipulated and maneuvered to wreck the lives of three working girls in upscale part of Delhi. This is something that could happen anywhere in India. And it speaks volumes of how judgmental, and Janus-faced society is about women. It goes something in this vein:
If she wears jeans and tees, she must be ‘loose’.
If she accepts invitations to parties she ‘fast’.
If she takes a drink at a party, she’s ‘solicits’.

It shocks. Yet, it is true. And the society comprises you and me. At some point all of us have assumed and presumed. It’s time to say a big NO to that.

When Deepak Sehgal lists the ‘code of conduct’ for women, he hammers nails one after the other in the repressive and highly patriarchal Indian society’s coffin.

Some scenes are so powerful and remain etched in your mind. Actions do speak louder than words. In one shot Minal is taunted by a passerby as ‘one involved in the Surajkund case’,  she feels ashamed and covers her head with her hoodie – almost covering her face, and a very reticent Deepak pulls down her hoodie. It is like saying, don’t be ashamed of yourself for what happened, in just one simple action.

Falak’s breaking down in the court scene and the ensuing resigned compliance of something the threesome had not done is a pointer to what generally happens in such legal cases.  The rich and powerful trod mercilessly on the underdogs, making them into a squishy squashy pulps, from which you will never recover physically, mentally, emotionally and least of all financially.

Andrea’s deposition in the court scene that being from India’s North East she’s harassed more than the average Indian girl, is like a whiplash on our sensibilities.

The three men present the frightening picture of depraved souls with very regressive mindsets. Falak’s friend who invites them to the party comes across as gullible fall guy. And their lawyer makes you loathe him passionately for his no-holds-barred cross-examinations. Birds of the same feather, so will flock together.

Deepak (Amitabh Bachan) vocalizes some of the compelling takeaways from the film. He says that we need to educate our boys more than girls. It can’t be more true. Men, women – especially mothers, many knowingly and some unknowingly, play a significant part in perpetuating the patriarchal mindset. Deepak also says No is not just a word. It is a full sentence. It needs to be respected. A No is a No and not Yes. Here too parents’ responsibility is crucial. Train children to say yes and a vehement no when the situation warrants it. And that a NO for an answer must be respected.

While there were lots of claps while the punch dialogues were delivered, it was disconcerting that there were titters in the scene where the girls walk into a police station to file an FIR. The cop in a no-nonsense way says, you went for a party and there was ‘give’ and ‘take’- one cannot miss the innuendo. Ah, did I forget, patriarchal blood courses through our veins. In a cricket field men are cricketers and women? Cheer girls, of course!

I loved the movie. Especially if you are an Indian parent with teen aged children, this movie is a must see.

Tailpiece: Just read today about the Egalia Pre-School in Stockholm, Sweden, where the school does not use gender based pronouns to nurture an egalitarian community. The aim is to get students address each other either by first name or by the pronoun ‘they’ so that they grow up on equal terms, avoiding discrimination of all kinds including gender, age, religion, class, disability and sexual orientation. Kids,  thus, learn to judge each other on their actions, not stereotypes. No doubt we need to start something like this and other concerted efforts to blot out the vestiges of discrimination from our blood stream and psyche! 

 

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F.L.Y (First Love Yourself)

(This post is meant for many young girls whom I know hate themselves and their bodies.)

Way back in February 1990 when Photoshop 1.0 was shipped to its first customer, the Knoll brothers, Steve Guttman and Russel Brown along with Adobe’s creative team looked at it as the programme to help process digital images, the gray scales levels of which Macs could not display. After 6 versions (2.0 – 7.0) the 8th version, Photoshop CS, was released in 2003 and has had 5 more in the series – till C6. The latest version, CC, was released in June 2013.

I delved into the history of Photoshop when I came across two links which laid threadbare how the advertising industry is exploiting human bodies to earn billions in profit for themselves and their clients. They make us buy the products and try new ones over and over again. And the byproduct of it all is the mindless objectification and commodification of women which has led to a lot of other disastrous effects including the abject loss of self-esteem in many young and even old people. It would be wrong to say only women are affected by it – men are too because they expect women to be like in those chic ads. Needless to say it has engineered a vicious circle.

Many young people implicitly believe what they see in ads and posters, films and videos – curvaceous models, fair and lovely skin, lustrous long hair, all the other beautifully seductive parts of the human body. For the old, it is a desperate attempt to regain their lost youth. No one realizes that there is a great deal of difference between what they see in those visuals, digital and in print and what is real – and that there is a great deal of manipulation taking place. Did you know that almost 100% of the pictures of models that you see are altered???

Ah, and it is Photoshop that enhances the quality of these images with its sharpening tools, softening skin tools and also those that create high contrast portraits. Take a look at this image to see how changes are effected. And the result, beautifully sculpted bodies, fairest of ‘fair’ and flawless skins – dreams of many a person, young and old!


The saddest thing is that many young people hate their bodies and have very low self-esteem. They think their bodies are far from what is touted to be beautiful and desirable. This eats into them and each day they lose their confidence. Without self-esteem and confidence they become fragile individuals, ready to hurt themselves and others; and even kill themselves. They hate their bodies and are constantly comparing their body with that of these models. They diet and starve to get ‘zero’ size figures – the result: eating disorders like Bulimia and Anorexia. Thus the effects are two-fold – physiological and psychological.

Today beauty parlours are big time business. Endless hours are spent before the mirror. Thousands of rupees are spent on beautifying activities and cosmetics. Much more money is spent by the rich on Botox, nose jobs and silicone implants various other surgical procedures. Beautifying the body and preserving it is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Feeling good about oneself is one thing – but being obsessed by that alone is sure to drag one’s life into a quagmire of ‘pining for what is naught’. The stereotypes generated through these ads of how a woman or a man ought to be for that matter has only degraded human beings, bringing out the worst in them. It is high time that we see through the profit-making ploys of burgeoning global beauty business.

It pays to watch this Youtube video:

Girls, love your body, just the way it is. Make peace with it. This is what your parents bequeathed you and embrace it lovingly. When you do that, you will find a metamorphosis within and outside you. You look at life in new light and say – Life is Beautiful! We owe this to ourselves!!

I love this Mark Sterling quote: “If you want to Soar in Life, you must learn to F.L.Y. First Love Yourself.”

F.L.Y

Violence against Women

Today: November 25, 2013.
When I saw a faint watermark of a ribbon (in the likes of the pink ribbon) on the Google page, it kindled the curiosity in me.

November 25

A click on the ribbon led me to this website:
http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/end-violence-against-women

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It said that year after year, 25th November and the following 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence culminating on International Human Rights Day on 10th December is observed around the globe, providing everyone a chance to create awareness and invite attention to contain the ever increasing violence against women and girls. It has always been there, but now more women have gathered couraged to raise the din.

November 25th 1960 also is the day on which the three Mirabal sisters who opposed the the dictatorial regime of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina aka  El Jefe, meaning The Chief or Boss, in the Dominican Republic were brutally killed. Incarcerated and tortured many a time for opposing the tyrannical regime, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa along with their driver were heinously clubbed to death. Their battered bodies were then piled in their jeep and run off the mountainous terrain to make it seem like an accident. The fourth sister lived to narrate the horrendous fate of her sisters.

Unwittingly and ironically, by ordering their death, Rafael Trujillo, invited the beginning of the end of his atrocious regime. Dominican-American writer Julia Álvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies (1994) is a fictional account on the lives on the Mirabal sisters. A movie of the same name was also made in 2001. In 1999 the United Nations paid homage to the sisters who were referred to as the “Inolvidables Mariposas”, the “Unforgettable Butterflies” by declaring November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The sisters thus have become a symbol against victimization of women – a scourge that needs concerted attention. Rape, domestic violence, inappropriate surveillance and strip searches, trafficking, gender discrimination, genital mutilation, female infanticide and foeticide, dowry killing, honour killing… violence against women is countless.

The statistics in the website are simply scary – some of which are:

  • One in three women and girls experience violence in their lifetime.
  • A 2013 WHO global study points to the fact that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence.
  • Every year 2 million girls are thought to be at risk of genital

    mutilation.

Diana Russell, the sociologist, calls killing of females by males just because they are female as “Femicide”.

Did you know that activists all over the globe, governments, NGOs and communities have organized Orange Day actions calling for safety from violence at homes, schools, work places and public spaces? In 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign. This aims at a special awareness campaign and activism against gender violence and through that Orange the World in 16 Days. Every 25th is to be observed as Orange Day according to the UN.

We need to raise this awareness in our own communities. Schools should be places where we can sow these seeds and help our girls look boldly, meeting the eye, and say a big No to violence inflicted on them. Catch them young, isn’t it?

Say No

Resources: 

 

Mahashweta: A Review

” The novel is the one bright book of life. Books are not life. They are only tremulations on the ether. But the novel as a tremulation can make the whole man alive tremble.”
– D H Lawrence

The story of a bright, beautiful and talented girl living with her father, stepmother and step sisters who are not as pretty or brainy has plenty of vital ingredients for a potboiler. But far from it, Sudha Murthy in her compelling reader, Mahashweta, has converted it into a captivating tale of a woman who rises like a phoenix from the ashes of her own self.

Mahashweta - by Sudha Murty

Mahashweta – by Sudha Murty

Imagine this: After troubled growing-up years without your biological mother to share and care, meeting a dashing young doctor who is besotted with you and then that fairy tale love culminates in a dream marriage – it has all the trappings of a happily-lived-ever-after story. But not for Anupama. The edifices of her dream world crumbles when she discovers that she has an incurable disease. What happens to her after this revelation and the twists and  turns in life that she has to cope forms the crux of the story.

Sudha Murthy in all her grace and wisdom has succeeded in making Anupama a symbol of all women who fight against odds, both expected and the unexpected. As a reader, I loved the decisions that she takes in the end – they are perfectly in line with the character etched by the author. It is indeed a tale of hope, acceptance, and through that emerging victorious and much more stronger. Through this poignant story Murthy brings to light societal prejudices and stereotypes.

The best thing about the book lies in the postscript. And coming from somebody as respected as Sudha Murthy who is not only an established writer but also the trustee of Infosys Foundation, am sure it is only the truth. If with this book, if one person has moved away from the oft taken path, therein lies the success of the book. And if that is the yardstick, this book is a runaway success.

Savage Ravagers

There is no agony like an untold story inside of you. ~~ Maya Angelou

Picture a little three year old gypsy girl…

Imagination sure will run riot! The picture of a little girl who is in her “magic years” comes to my mind’s canvas… a little one with a dusky complexion… wild unkempt hair because her mother cannot afford oil…
Chattering non-stop in a language that is soon losing its babyishness that would probably make her impoverished mother smile and forget temporarily the trials and tribulations of her dreary existence…
Living life in a make-believe world, pretending to make pancakes with coconut shells…Asking so many questions about things around her that will whet her curiosity…
Nimble hands getting used to handling small objects and thus perfecting her motor skills…Getting familiar with the concept of “I, me and mine…”
Boundlessly energetic and exploring world around her…
Enjoying blissful sleep huddled to her mother and waking up again to the beauty of another day…

Can we imagine such a girl? Eyes shining with a wondrous sparkle at the bright new world around her… The innocence of a sweet smile adorning her little lips… Tiny fingers and the frail legs that make her flit around as gracefully as a dandelion seed floating in the air… An embodiment of innocence with a disarming ability to trust everyone implicitly…

Normally, at the age of 3+ she would a pre-schooler. Perhaps running around the verandah / yard of an Anganwadi because that would only be what her poor mother could afford. No, here she was perhaps just tagging along holding the pallu of her mother’s sari for they belong to a nomadic tribe… leading a gypsy-like existence…sleeping in the street…

It is such an angel who was despoiled by a group of men! And where did this happen? In the literate shores of Kerala! In God’s own country, where men seem to behave worse than devils!! It is reported that the little girl was abducted at dawn when she was sleeping with her mother in the verandah of a shop. By the time the ant eaten little one was found at about 10 am, she had suffered inhuman aggressions on her tender body. She may be a gypsy girl. But doesn’t she have a right to live and that too to live safely and securely???

The whole world loves a child. But not these fiends… How can anyone even look at such a small little girl with such deviant lust??? What ails these menfolk? Have they no conscience at all? Reports say 14 of them were arrested and that they were drugs addicts and habitual offenders. So what??? If you take drugs, wreak havoc on your own body, not others. Respect their body temple. If you drink, ditto! Habitual offenders – you brutes have not had the real taste of punishment and that is why you repeat such foul acts with impunity. To those MCPs who say that women invite rape unto themselves, pray what provocation did this little girl give to be ravaged like this?

The little one is in the ICU, battling for her life in a Calicut hospital. She has already undergone two operations. There is the lurking fear of an infection. What will her future be? Will she make it alive from this ordeal? What emotional and psychological scars and trauma will be hidden in her persona as long as she lives?

Little girl, we beg forgiveness. I hope you will beat death on its face. I hope you will grow up to be a brave girl who does not blame yourself for what happened to you. Like what Albert Camus said, I hope, in the depths of winter, you will learn that there is in you an invincible summer. Let your light shine and be a source of strength and courage to all. Like a tiny bird through a storm cloud sky, a tiny piece winged its way through the chaos and I hope and pray that is YOU. I know it is easy for me to say all this while you suffer. But I feel your pain. I feel your agony. I feel your numbness. I feel your helplessness.

Well, can 22-female-Ks* of all ages wake up and do the act???? We must or we will never be able to protect our mothers/sisters/daughters from sexual assaults of such base creatures that are just worms of the veritable hell! When the state does not act, when law keepers cannot protect and when there is no justice delivered to very many sex offenders coupled with the snail’s pace of trials at even fast track courts, the only option seems to be taking law into our hands and mete out retribution, like how Tessa did. If you feel that I am exhorting for eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth dictum like Hammurabi, the Sumerian ruler did, my answer is: Yes, there is no other way out.

(* “22 Female Kottayam” is new generation neo-realistic movie where a woman with a ravaged body and a distraught mind plans a macabre yet much needed revenge against the one who ruins her and executes it with élan. It appealed so much to the angry woman in me.)

Ma Nishada!

The Ramayana dramatically begins with the poignant story of the Hunter who happened to kill the ‘Krauncha’ (heron) bird – and thus the sadness of Valmiki is brought out with spontaneity through a mighty holler, Ma Nishada, meaning ‘refrain, wild hunter!’ or ‘Don’t do that, wild hunter!’

From the Ramayana to the present times, the scene has just changed to this: in place of the bird is the woman and that of the wild hunter, the modern day man.

Today, everywhere she is targeted. She is branded. She is hounded. This doesn’t seem to be a new phenomenon for it has been so from time memorial. Look at our own scriptures – the ones I am familiar with – the Hindu scriptures. A recent reading of The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni which lends a poignant yet powerful voice for Draupadi, made me realize that she was truly a woman born into a man’s world. It must have been so difficult for her to be wife to five men! But who has drawn our attention to this aspect? She is in fact looked up as one super woman, one of the ‘panch kanyas’ (meaning five ideal wives) whose very remembrance is enough to wash off even the worst of sins, as per this sloka:

‘Ahalya, Draupadi, Sita, Tara, Mandodari tatha,

Pancha kanya smare nityam maha papa vinasanam’

I chanced upon another eye opening article by Nilanjana S Roy (in the Business Standard) which relooked at five rapes/sexual assaults in our epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata: that of Sita’s abduction by Ravana; the disfiguration of Shoorpanaka; the disrobing of Dhraupadi in the royal court and the ‘sanctioned’ rapes of Amba and Ambalika. Yes, these made me look at our epics in a fresh perspective – that there are so many instances that smack of patriarchy and chauvinism.

Times now are no different. When I point out some cases here, it does not mean that there is nothing more than these. Oh, yes! There are ever so many Daminis. Anamikas. Nirbhayas. They all suffered. Few fought and won the battle like Sohaila Abdulali, who was raped in 1980. A born fighter, she writes, ‘I was wounded; my honour wasn’t.’ Some fought tooth and nail but lost the fight in the face of the powers of the establishment and male aggression. Some amongst them were hounded in police stations and courts, where they were forced to relive the horror and pain of the events, day after day. Many silently bore everything. Some weakly succumbed and found solace in a bottle of poison or a piece of rope.

Along with assault & rape comes pure vitriol. Look at how elected representatives and law upholders refer to rape victims with absolute impunity and insensitivity. With Jyothi Singh Pande’s incident we saw many who came out with ‘dented and painted’ remarks – which just revealed their dented and painted minds. With people like Dr. Ratish Kumar and Justice Basanth unleashing their venom on anti-girl tirades, I am proud that a chit of a girl like Arya stood up to protest, when a sea of women sat listening dispassionately to the speaker. Then came the saga of Amritha who was returning after ‘One Billion Rising” and was lewdly teased by some youngsters. When things reached a flash point, Amritha did not hesitate to bring out the tricks up her sleeve. A Kalaripayattu expert and a Karate Black Belt, she rattled her tormentor. “Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it”, said Saint Augustine of Hippo. Atta girls!

One of our ministers, Vayalar Ravi, hurled sexist innuendos at a woman reporter of a media house and then in the face of rising rage and criticism from all quarters made a semblance of an apology. I saw the video wherein the Minister said that he told the girl “not to take it to heart.” Even then the word “sorry” was least forthcoming.

Each day new twists are breathed life by our drama-savvy politicians. After 17 years of unmitigated distress and harassment – physical, mental and emotional -and another politician, MP Sudhakaran, spewed venom today and says the Suryanelli girl had consensual sex and it is not rape!! Actually what the man, who is notorious for his antics, a loud mouth and who suffers from verbal diarrhoea did was mirroring the insecurities of the psyche of his ilk. Looking at reactions of many men to this and other similar incidents, i.e. the character assignation of the Suryanelli girl by Justice Basanth, the veiled innuendo of Vayalar Ravi against a lady reporter and comments in the social media in response to the bravado of Arya & Amritha make me wonder if the highly patriarchal men are losing their foothold and orchestrating support for their tribe!

  • They are worried that women’s empowerment is gaining momentum.
  • They are apprehensive that their sense of security and supremacy is gradually eroding.
  • They dread that the economic freedom as well as power of choice that women enjoy will sabotage the upper hand that they have gained over women many many centuries ago.
  • If The Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law headed by Justice J.S. Verma and his colleagues are enacted in the parliament, they are vexed it will protect the right to dignity, autonomy and freedom of victims of sexual assault and rape – thus cramping the style of many who have money and power with them, to get away not only from these crimes but also cold, premeditated murder.

Come on women. Let us unite. May a billion of our kind rise all over the country! Let us voice our strong opinion against any kind of oppression. Yes, only the drum is to be beaten! That is the very need of the hour!!!

PS: And to patriarchal men: Ma Nishada!!

Sources & reference:

1. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

2. http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/nilanjana-s-roy-a-woman-alone-in-the-forest-113010800064_1.html

3. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/opinion/after-being-raped-i-was-wounded-my-honor-wasnt.html?_r=1&

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suryanelli_rape_case

5. http://bit.ly/Z8kzbX (Dr. Rathish Kumar’s controversial talk)

6. http://bit.ly/Z8fkZJ (Interview with Amritha)