Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gender Dynamics

The case stated at the two ends of the spectrum are, women have gotten assertive given their new found economic strength, they treat men shabbily. The other end being men are being boorish, don't give women their due, today she is at equal footing and then why is she still expected to carry out chores which have traditionally been on her plate, whence she is doing as much if not more than the man is.

The other point of discussion that keeps cropping up is the comparison of India with the western world. If they can, why can’t we? Are they not better off? Why is the Indian man being defensive and in a state of denial when compared to his western counterpart?

Let’s get the easier piece out of the way. Comparison beyond a point is meaningless. If we know where we want to be, where the rest are should not matter to us. Where it could add value is to set benchmarks and aspirations. The challenge is, a large part of our perception about the western world is formed from popular entertainment and brief cursory peeks into their world. This can result in flawed views of their world. Another divide is the urban and non urban, just as much as our social values/norms and acceptance of deviations from them are a lot higher in urban India, so is the case with the western world. They too have the divide leading to different levels of acceptances to deviations and levels of freedom to operate purely based on individual choices. Hence when making comparisons we might want to keep this factor in mind. The challenge of society readjusting to an assertive woman who demands equality and the right to make the choices she deems fit is by far faced world over. Each society is at a different stage and the degree of acceptance of the woman being an equal varies, not just in between Countries/culture but within these geographical confines, in terms of urban and non-urban. Socioeconomic parameters and structures play a significant role.

Are man and woman equal? See no reason why not. They are different and have carried out for a long while distinctly different functions. They are not the same is obvious, but does not make them unequal. Are they equals in today's world? No they are not; I doubt any sane person would even try to debate that. Where lies the rub then, it is in the degrees. It is by and large the man's attitude - 'it used to be a lot worse, count your blessings....’ or ‘I have given up so much of my power, yet you’re not happy'. Power shift is at all times a messy affair, the one in decline trying to hold hard - for remember though in a decline, it remains the more powerful and hence is likely to resist. On the other hand the emerging force will do its best to unseat. Given this nature there is bound to be chaos.

Society is at all times in a flux; it is in a transition given the dynamic nature of life. The woman is finding her place and today is beginning to find the strength to assert and hold her ground. From an Urban India perspective, I would call this the first generation of working women. For many of us in their late 30s, if one looked back at our childhood a working woman was the exception not the rule. Today in urban India it is a lot different, a large number of women do go out and work and make enough monies to support them-selves. Slowly but surely a small percentage of them are finding their way to positions of power. Many of them are in a position of financial independence with which come, the freedom to be able to make choices. Does not mean that the deep set social conditioning vanishes, for the few who are able to transcend that conditioning they find that they are in a position to make choices.

My sympathies are for this generation at large, men and women. I as a 'man' grew up in a time where clearly the 'man' called the shots. The social landscape I grew up in told me this. If I the man told so, the woman would do it. The man put the money on the table so he pretty much set the rules. If he did not beat his wife up, it was his benevolence. Most of us grew up watching Daddy ask for tea and Mommy making it. Father just sat at the table mother brought the food. Division of labour one could argue, but the point remains I grew up watching the man order and the woman listen. Depending on various parameters the ordering might have varied from autocratic and harsh, to an order sugar coated as request. Without dwelling on the reasoning or being judgmental, suffices to say that it was the social norm of the day.

Today now when I am grown up and it is time for me taking over the baton, ain’t I likely to replicate the old order, and more so given it is an order convenient and kind to me. But hey here is where I am in for a shock, the order is changing (Like in 'Who moved my cheese' Hem and Haw did not see this coming - and some of us are still in an empty cheese station howling and ranting). Today the woman is in the process of finding power, given her financial independence and the belief that she can look after herself (at least in many parts of urban India) and does not have to take all that is dished out to her. Now here lies the crux the issue, the shifting power and two entities finding themselves in places they are not used to being in. It will take the man a while to realize that the order he grew in, no more exists and that he has to move on and live in a new order (like the mice and men in "Who moved my cheese (pdf)" - the men take a lot longer to learn then the mice) and in this period of learning, he is lashing out hard and making it difficult for himself as much as for her. He needs to realize the old order had inherent flaws; it treated the woman as being subjugated to the man which is not tenable in today's world. As for the woman who has this new found power in hand, she is not sure how best to use it. Given the generations of oppression she is likely to be hitting really hard at every small and big issue, though understandable it does a fair share of damage. This phase brings with it, its own sets of challenges. Compromises don't come easy with both sides hardening up. Many more small fights are fought with same uncompromising fervour of the large. From the man's point of view the woman has a lot to celebrate. From the woman's point of view the man has a lot of growing up to do, lot of insecurities to shed, and lots more work to share in areas he will never have dreamt off. The woman has many a rightful grudge. If the man entered the kitchen it was like he lifted the Himalayas, where as he was just sharing work load. A man looks after the baby, and 'Awwww he is babysitting so sweet of him', heard of a retort from a not so pleased wife ‘He is parenting his child not babysitting' so no big deal. These are milder anecdotes. Many of the stories, many of us have heard cease being anecdotes and are nightmares.

Changes in society takes time coming, in individuals it could be faster, generally an intellectual acceptance to the need for change will be the first step, once that is made one needs to undo the deep set conditioning of the mind, an act easier said than done. Hence the dichotomy we see in people. In principle I would accept many things. But my actions are not driven only by my intellectual understanding but also by the conditioning of the mind. No wonder it is so common to see a person you think is strong and will have the strength to stand up for herself and make the choices she deems fit, falter time and again. So many times we see them not making the choices they want to in-spite of being convinced it is the right thing to do. Leaves us wondering 'she is confident, can look after herself and yet takes the shit she does'. This plausibly comes from the deep social conditioning, reaffirmed over generations until now, stating her place in society based on the old order. Same would apply to the man, where in theory he sounds perfect, and liberal, believes all are equal yet his actions might not match up.

We say the urban western world is way ahead of us, they are possibly in the second or third generation where the working woman has been the norm and hence they have learnt a lot more (They too continue to face challenges). Can we not learn faster? For that there has to be a primary acceptance that women are equals and hence any act that serves the purpose, needs to be seen as a correction and not an act of charity or concession. The systems / laws of the land need to reflect this consistently. Social norms and values will follow. In time the man will, or rather one hopes he will find the confidence to be himself and let got the old crutches of power that help him oppress. The woman in time would learn to wield that new found power better. Yet lot would depend on how well the man readjusts to the new order and in the interim we are going to see gory stories strung out to justify extreme reactions on both ends of the spectrum.

This upheaval is not true only for gender; probably the mechanisms remain same for all social inequalities old and new.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Every Crest Has A Trough

Every crest has a trough
Every high a low
Every rise a fall
Life does ebb and flow
So is the rule of life

A straight line, sans the highs and lows
Wouldn't life be a boring ride?
Aren't we better, with twists and turns that life begets?

Does one not need to experience darkness to appreciate light?
Does not the vanquished understand victory better than the victor?
Does failure not teach more than success?

Life seen through a looking-glass is a full of warts and all
Every trouble, a magnified
Fly up, look down from a thirty thousand feet above
If you have reasons to smile, what more could you ask of

As for me, it is a smile that spans from ear to ear
More blessings to count than curses to mourn

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Mad Tibetan -Stories from then and now- by Deepti Naval

Deepti Naval
The Mad Tibetan -Stories from then and now by Deepti Naval, is a book of short stories. Ten of them to be specific a combination of fiction and biographical...

Brilliant, easy read, very nice stories, liked them all. The kind of stories that tug at your heart. Many a times we like stories because the underlying philosophy resonates with one's own, so was the case with "Morning After" .some stories bring back memories of incidents from one own life, like "D" just one has to be grateful, when you are not a celebrity the implications are a lot less intense. The ones that seemed biographical had a pleasant tone to them at  the least(not blowing your own trumpet kind), would think one of them "Thulli" was moving.. we all have our biases - the story that went by the name "Balraj Sahni" was half liked before it was read - though the story itself had more the quality of an entry in a Diary... 

Here I would have to state my bias, the author is a person whose fan i have been for a long time... though when it comes to this book, her fame as a movie star just might have worked against her work being critiqued,may be  the book would have received more acclaim. The other side of the coin could be that the sales might have been aided by her fame from movies...

Over all a pleasant read, would recommend it

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rushdie unwelcome, Why?

Salman Rushdie
The headline was pretty much the first thing I saw when I woke up this morning. The news on Rushdie being eased out of the Jaipur literature festival, that got my goat for sure.... my thoughts took me to Balbir Krishan who was in news a few days back, displaying our growing intolerance and the extent to which the extreme views with their violent actions are holding freethinking and expression to gun point.... this whole thought process lead to the raising up of so many of the older happenings.. M F Hussain, Taslima and so on..... as I continued to wake up, clarity  dawned. To write about all of them in one piece would muddy the waters with too much to say and each point having different shades and hues....

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Year Gone By

A year gone by, many a times is that mile stone that provides some of us the needed excuse to look back, assess the happening and at times allows us to wonder how much did we travel, if at all we did....

After very many years, felt that the year gone by was not brilliant..... yet when I looked at the fine print, there were sure a few stress points... the year started with an imminent closure of the business line I was involved in, the element of uncertainty that brought was one, another was I had gone on not only to like the city (as I had never done before-best part of my life I had not liked Chennai too much)I also went on to make a few good friends after many years ( For a long time until then had not made many new friends who would belong to my inner circle so to say). Just as much as I missed home and family for the period I was away, and looked forward eagerly to get back, leaving Chennai and the bunch of friends did add to a few stress lines.  Add to that, an unexplained estrangement of a  friend. On the home front, the wife had challenges far larger on her work front,which saw her in quasi government agency offices,and police stations more then in the clinic through the first quarter of the year managing the owner (whom we saw in poor light to say the least) of her then premises.

Having said all of that, I had more reasons to celebrate. Through the clinic-landlord fiasco the wife found a lot of support from local residence associations and the elders involved. We found a lawyer in a friend of ours, Geeta-who was a huge blessing and was instrumental in the end game in finding closure with out us loosing out financially. The wife went on to find a good place on the same street keeping disruption to the minimum.Mid this year started writing on my blog, though sparse (in quality and quantity) it is something I have enjoyed.
2011 saw me take some of my best road trips, started the year with a couple of memorable drives through