Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bringing up daughters

One post caught my attention recently. Reema talks about parenting and bringing up daughters. Combining anecdotes with personal experience, she paints a rather accurate picture of what exactly happens today. Thanks Reema, for being objective and analytical. I am not going to comment on parenting methods, because I am not one. I have no idea on how to bring up a child. But, I would definitely like to contribute to the discussion as a daughter.

She cites three incidents, all of them illustrating how excessive control can actually backfire. I guess I have a lot to learn from them. Reema says all there is to say about what she calls misguided discipline. I agree. But, what I have never been able to understand is why parents feel the need to do what they do. Yes, they have given birth to the children. But, the children are individuals too. They are not cattle or property that can be subjected to stupid rules that make no sense. First, and the most obvious problem is the dress code. My cousin, all of 9 years of age is not permitted to wear short skirts or tight-fitting clothes because "everything is seen." I mean, what the hell? She is all of 9 years old for heaven's sake. She is refused capris or shorts because she is a girl and cannot expose too much of her legs. She is refused plunging (or even relatively high) necklines because her slip is visible. She is made to wear clothes that look like they have been stitched in the 60s because they are the only "conservative" ones around. Imagine her plight at 18. Thankfully, I have never had to follow such ridiculous restrictions. My mother's taste in clothes have always been more modern and even bolder than mine. I am thankful to have a mother like that.

Second, the problem of guys. Not all women fall in love and get married. Even among those who do, not all run away from home. Forbidding contact with guys or threatening to lock them up hardly serves the purpose. If someone had treated me like that, I would have eloped a long time ago. Liberty brings responsibility. And children are smart enough to realise that. Unfortunately, parents seem to be too dumb to realise that their kids are smart.

And finally, one comment on the above post pointed out that parents get their daughters married off when they are still studying to avoid problems caused by a possible love affair. Someone I know is getting her daughter married. The girl is 20. She is her third year. She is getting married to a man who is 30, going on 31. The justification?

"We want to get rid of our liabilities. Plus we have a son. We need to save for his education right? What do we do for his engineering seat if we spend all our money on educating our daughter? Plus, her cousin had a love marriage. What if my daughter gets such idiotic ideas too?"

I find this attitude shocking. For me, it was a rude awakening. I had assumed that only uneducated, economically backward families behaved like this. And here we have a chartered accountant drawing a hefty salary of 8 lakhs per annum telling me that his daughter is a liability he must get rid of in order to educate his son better. What about the girl's education? He says it is not important. Because she is going to make babies and stay in the kitchen anyway. So, what's the point in sponsoring her MBA? Then is the question of love marriages. Her cousin fell in love. So? Is that a crime? I am in love too. How does that make me a bad girl? The problem is that they don't want any social criticism. Society and "people" are more important to them than their daughter. What can I say? All this makes me wonder if India has really progressed as much as we claim it has. I think not.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Help!

My comment form is not displaying. Is blogger trying to change something? Please mail me with your suggestions at contact@amruthaupendran.com. Please please!

Edit: Managed to fix it. Thanks to IHM who mailed in. :-) Apparently, something is wrong with the embed function. I disabled it.

Arranging marriages - part II

I just came across this post by Nita. As always, she analyses the issue objectively and dispassionately, something I can never do. Maybe I will as I get older. This post is also a reply to Sidhusaaheb's comment on the previous post on arranged marriages. He links to a Times of India article stating that arranged marriages are catching up in the west. Interesting piece of news that. But, in the western context, arranged marriages would simply mean going on a blind date and eventually deciding to get married to that person.

First things first, as I clarified in the previous post on the issue, arranged marriages per se are not bad. Indeed, I know many people who have had arranged marriages and are living happily. The problem arises when these arranged marriages are forced on the people getting married. Take for example, the custom of getting married to one's first cousin or maternal uncle. A girl is forced to get married to her first cousin because the wealth should not go out of the family. This is often the case with men too. Even when the age difference is very high, such arrangements are made for reasons varying from finances to keeping the family together.

Also, the fact that the west is adopting this system does not automatically justify its existence in the 21st century. I continue to believe that people should be free to choose their partners. Whether it is for love, or for other considerations, is immaterial. What is important is that the choice be with those getting married. Much as we claim that India has evolved, this evolution remains confined to urbanised, educated India. Even in this category, there continue to be forced marriages, even if this reality is too difficult for us to accept.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Indian Feminism

Read this article in the International Herald Tribune. It speaks of Indian feminism. And lo and behold, it is written by a man. Who seems to understand exactly what women want and need. Before moving on to my post, do check out this excellent rebuttal by sociologist Shilpa Phadke. It's definitely worth reading.

Anand Giridharidas' article starts innocently enough, talking as it does about a fictitious character in a "chick-lit" novel. But very quickly, it degenerates into woman-bashing. No, scratch that. "Modern-woman"-bashing. This paragraph for example.

"Arshi and her female friends smoke, drink and fornicate their way through life. But if liberation is defined more sweepingly, as the freedom to do whatever men do, and to define oneself other than by one's relationships to men, then Reddy Madhavan's heroines are less liberated than they think."

Excuse me, but all women need not smoke, drink and "fornicate their way through life" to be considered modern women. Indeed, women who have never done any of the above can well be considered modern. If the author of the novel reviewed really intended to show the shallowness of the women who pay "lip service to women's lib", she might have said things differently. Then again, all we have in the article is a skewed and prejudiced viewpoint as projected by Giridharidas. Too many generalisations, too much prejudice and an assumption that he knows all about Indian feminism results in a badly-written review that is insulting to the book, and to the intelligence of the readers. The author allegedly said in a telephonic interview that the book reflects the "real dualities" that Indian women straddle. According to the author, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, her heroine sees men as "emotional and financial feeding tubes." It cannot get any worse. The author is free to create any heroine she wants. But claiming that it represents a large majority of Indian women is ridiculous.

I just don't get the point. So, urban women, however educated they may be, smoke, drink, get laid with multiple lovers and get married for money, simply because they want to show the world they are feminists? I am insulted. I belong to that category of urban, educated and independent Indian women. I do not do any of the above simply to prove I am liberated. I made certain choices. They were entirely mine. Smoking, drinking or getting laid are not symbols of modernism. Nor are they symbols of feminism. I am tired of explaining this over and over. Feminism does not mean behaving like a man. If men sleep around, it does not mean we must do the same to be feminist. Feminism simply means having the right to choose how to live, within the framework of a society. Having as much freedom as any other individual.

Anand Giridharidas makes yet another unpardonable generalisation when he says,

"Indian feminism is the feminism of compromise. It is the feminism of daughters who press their parents for late curfews, but would never hurt them by dating a man of another religion. It is the feminism of women who collect big paychecks by day, but do not question husbands who treat them like maids by night. It is the feminism of women who cope privately with workplace harassment, but never see it as a systemic phenomenon to be fought."

All this is simply untrue. Yes, daughter hesitate to hurt their parents by falling in love with someone from another religion. But, that is not because they are scared of them. It is because they, or should I say we, love our parents too much to see them hurt. But, if it does happen, we are not scared to stick to our decisions. Sexual harassment at the workplace is hard to fight because people in decision-making areas are men. And those men do not want to see change. It is also because when a woman is sexually harassed, she somehow brought it upon herself and invited trouble. It is because our society does not want to see harassment or even rape as a crime. It is a way to prove to the world that you are a man.

On that note, I saw a movie the other day. Titled "Varalaaru a.k.a Godfather", it symbolises the worst of Indian society's attitude towards its women. The heroine stops her wedding to an effeminate man, a classical dancer. The man, wanting to prove that he is indeed a man, rapes her. This act is condoned by the mother of the victim, because her daughter is arrogant and adamant, apparently enough reason to rape her. What the hell? The victim, not even called a victim in the film, ends up in the psychiatric ward, mentally deranged by the injustice meted out to her. But the story is not hers. It is the story of a noble classical dancer spurned at the altar by an arrogant bitch, whom he taught to a lesson. You seriously expect women to report sexual harassment in the workplace, given that the movie was a stupendous success? She will be blamed of course. Labelled characterless, she will lose her job and be rejected by family and friends to die lonely years later. What do you expect?

Finally, Giridharidas assumes he knows all that women want. And he is not even one. What gives him the right to generalise and assume the way he does? The fact that IHT has given him a regular column? Oh come on! Give me a break!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tagged! :-)

So, I have finally been tagged. Was thanking my stars nobody thought of me so far. But Cris broke the jinx. Thanks Cris! :-) Here we go. The rules, as I found them on Cris' blog.

RULE #1 People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.

RULE #2 Tag 6 people to do this quiz and those who are tagged cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by continue this game by sending it to other people.

1. If your lover betrayed you what would your reaction be?

Hmm. Tough one already. Probably walk out. And certainly never forgive.

2. What’s it that you see in an ideal partner?

A stable head on his shoulders, and a mind of his own. Even if it means we fight.

3. What, according to you, is the perfect date?

Cappuccino, and more cappuccino...and more cappuccino! :P

4. Would you like to have children soon enough? Or would you wait till your mid-thirties for the first child?

Replacing question: Do you like children?

I prefer to answer Cris' question. I like kids as long as they don't cry.

5. Will you fall in love with your best friend?

No. We were never friends. Cannot think of a friend as a lover.

6. Which is more blessed: loving someone or being loved by someone?

I am greedy. I want both. But, if I have to choose. Being loved is much better.

7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you love?

As long as necessary. Forever.

8. If the person you secretly like is attached, what will you do?

Walk away. It's not worth it. As I said, being loved is better than loving.

9. If you could root for one social cause, what would it be?

Free education for children. For as long as they want to study.

10. Do you lie?

Yes. I would be in major trouble if I did not. :P

11. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Happily married, two kids, enough money to live, happy with work. Don't ask what work I will be doing. I have no clue.

12. What’s your fear?

Losing people I love. It's always been my greatest fear.

13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

A good writer who I hope will be famous some day. Then, I can proudly say I knew her all those years ago. :P

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married and poor?

Married and poor. Can't think of life without him.

15. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously who will you pick?

Lol. Sweet dreams. Falling in love once is bad enough. Twice?? No thanks.

16. Would you give all in a relationship?

Yes. Without compromising some basic principles.

17. Would you forgive and forget someone no matter how horrible a thing he has done?

Same as Cris. Might forgive, but will definitely not forget.

18. Do you prefer being single or in a relationship?

In a relationship of course.

19. Your all time favourite song. Only ONE. And why?

Hmm... Tough one again. Will settle for New York Nagaram from Sillunu Oru Kaadal.

Tagging.

Can't think of anyone in particular. I leave this tag free for anyone to take up. :-)

Friday, October 03, 2008

On the US financial crisis

Check out this great post by Greatbong. If you have no idea what the hell is happening in the US, this is a good place to go. :-)