Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too disappointed for words India...

I came in this morning intending to follow up on a suggestion given by blogger Kunal in the comment section of my previous blog post, to write about the 10 things that make R2I worthwhile, I like the idea because it is both interesting, as well as an exercise in happy thoughts ...but was brought up short by the results of a Newsweek Survey that I happened to see online.

The survey was conducted to find out the worst countries in the world for women and India ranked as one of the very worst...not quite but very close to the top ten worst countries. Of the 165 countries surveyed in order of women's status, India ranked 141...falling behind our neighbors Nepal and Myanmar, politically chaotic countries like Libya and Syria and impoverished ones like Haiti and Malawi...

(I mention the countries compared above to reflect that women's status, unlike popular belief, does not have much to do with the political/economical/religious reality of a country...instead it is culture and societal norms, values, mores and expectations that well, something's rotten in the culture of India)

There goes my happy thoughts for the day! Sigh...maybe I'll come back and attempt the R2I post sometime later...after  the disappointment over this "status quo" has somewhat faded...

Also, this one has me in a puzzle, so any thoughts, reflections, comments, opinions would be really appreciated!

P.S. DH (Dear Husband) is of the opinion that this is very to be precise, the question is, What makes this country such a difficult place for women and why?

Friday, September 23, 2011

My country messing with my mind...

All my antiquated notions about child labor took a hike after watching the kids who sometimes fill in for my house maid, at work in my house.

When my first maid first sent in her son and niece ahead of her to do her job, I was annoyed. They were kids, they had just come back from school and according to my lofty ideals, they were not supposed to be doing housework...then they began to "work".

We had just moved in and there was hardly any furniture in the lots of open space...the bathroom with it's shower board with the numerous buttons was their pleasure dome...between getting soaked cleaning the bathroom, scampering all over the apartment and me in the process of cleaning it, trying to teach me Gujarati and having me teach them English words, they had a royal cleaning!!...Now how could I have put a stop to this saying I don't want kids working in my house? Would they even understand where I was coming from or would I have simply been an uptight Bi.....?

The next instance was when my current maid took french leave and I asked our apartment building cleaner if she could come in for a day or two...she said she was busy but she would send in her came this little 9th grader with a big smile and cheerfully cleaned up the day she brings her even tinier little sister with an even bigger smile and the two did the work together. They go to school but they take in such work for after school and weekends. They are obviously from a very poor family and are very proud of being able to contribute to the family income in their spare time. The little one even proved herself to be quite the "take initiative" kind of person by asking me if our regular maid cleaned the bathrooms, if not, could she get that job! Hmmm...I guess I shouldn't be surprised she zeroed in on the bathroom of all things!

So yeah, if I had turned them away from doing a job they are actually good at (unfortunate perhaps but still good at it...)and gives them some extra income to maybe buy books or something,  am I doing them good or harm?

I suppose I am still against kids being taken out of school to work full time but I wonder, if I get an intimate look into their lives, thoughts and feelings...if that principle would hold good as well? I don't know! 

India My certainly have a genius for complicating the simplest of principles, overturning pet notions and scattering confusion like rose leaves in bath water...

A Recap of the R2I experience...

A year and four months since I moved back to India -
Let's see how it feels...

Much of the intensity of the loss of a lifestyle is gone. Stray thoughts bother me at times...maybe when I watch a Hollywood movie or come across a favorite cold weather outfit and high heels hidden away in some corner but otherwise for the most part it is a pretty sanguine existence.

The material negotiations of life, like haggling, scolding, arguing, endlessly chasing...all feels normal again...

Traveling through insane traffic and sticky pollution is no longer the big deal it seemed to be once upon a time...if you get into an accident and only your vehicle is hurt...fling curses at each other and move on...if you are hurt, go to the nearest hospital and pay your own bills...the other person has to do the same too...if your vehicle happens to be the bigger one, regardless of whose fault it is, give the small vehicled guy/gal some money and lots of apologies and move on...and oh ! obviously if you die...Rest in Peace.

The climate feels fine too...after the grandeur of the monsoons and the pleasant warmth of winter, summer is the price you pay for enjoying the rest of the seasons...after all there's no such thing as a free lunch! So what if you go absolutely psychotic in the summer and live in fear of losing your mind and sticking a knife into somebody? As long as you don't actually do it, you are OK! 

Keep your eyes open for the heartwarming resilience of life, be it poor little children or the brilliant flowers that grow in the teeth of so much that is deadly about Urban India.

If you get tired of the politicians' embarrassing and most times downright criminal activities, remember that they are politicians and they at least are doing their jobs without us having to chase fact they are so good at it that we have to chase them to stop doing their what if we don't have the world's best athletes and the like? We have the world's best politicians!

And before I get carried away by my own cynical eloquence, let me remind myself that none of this is as bad as it least, I am free to get into traffic accidents, enjoy the seasons, revile the politicians and generally make an ass of myself to my heart's content with no fear of being stopped, either legally or violently...

R2I? Wise or let me know!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meaningless Conformity...Is that any way to live?

I think the most annoying thing about living in India is the petty stuff that comes about due to our immense cultural  diversity and differences and the godawful number of unwritten rules that make up the day to day lives of us Indians. Every culture is convinced it is the best, every person is convinced that s/he knows best how to follow what should be followed, every role is expected to be played out with inhuman perfection...and any so called transgressions are considered crimes extraordinaire...

On the surface, there's a veneer of progress but any attempts to put that progress to hard testing and it invariably collapses crushing you under its stinky weight...

Will this ever change? Will we ever go beyond our differences and culturally imposed expectations and recognize the frail humanity beneath that could so easily flourish if it were allowed to do so? Or will we continue to hold a gun to each other's heads and demand meaningless conformity?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good Lord! Am I in a polyandrous marriage after all???

Disclaimer: I am not obsessed with's just that I couldn't find a better analogy for this state of being! 

Ques: (Me) "Can you not come home early? Your schedule is throwing  mine off pretty badly and I cannot continue like this any longer. You used to come home early before, what happened now?"
Ans: (Cook) "No...I have work to do... places to go before I come here...excuses excuses... whine whine... and don't take tension, I will come even if I am late" (????!!!!!)

Another time, another person

Ques: (Me) "You can't keep doing the disappearing act and calling me to inform that you've already vanished from town..can you not be a bit more responsible?"
Ans: (Maid) "I am not lying, sachi..promise! Sometimes, things come up...Can I just come in sooner or later, morning or night, sometime or anytime...?" (WTF??)

Whew! A year and three months since I moved back to India and my household "help" trauma continues unabated. 

I am at my wit's end and sorely tempted to turn off the cook and after buying some appliances turn off the maid as well. But DH (Dear Husband) is a total scaredy cat when it comes to living without household help for fear that I'll play my "I am an aspiring writer" card and force him to become the "household help" by default...well, I can't blame him because that is probably what will happen anyways!

Also, to be fair to my cook and maid, they work well once they come in, I like them, trust them enough to leave my house and plants in their care when I travel and... thank God they don't know this but they are very much an integral part of my pathetic social life here...!!! All of which makes me feel like I am in some insane polyandrous marriage.

I grumble, complain, converse with them, seek their help sometimes and throw orders at them that they have no qualms about disagreeing with if they don't feel up to following on that day. I continue to let them be a part of my life no matter how frustrating their unprincipled attitude towards time - and meeting our needs the way I need them to at least most of the days - are for me. Many times I feel as though I adjust my times and days to facilitate their needs instead of the other way round. Now, if this does not sound like marriage, what does? 

You know, the state of being where it can get frustrating to constantly work at twining your life with another individual, but once you've started on that route, it feels senseless to let go unless the issues are earth shattering?Well...hobnobbing with Indian maids is kinda like that...

So here I am , a year and three months later working hard at making my relationships with my maids work...good thing DH and I had already had four years to work at our marriage before we landed here...else I shudder to think of the consequences!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eve Teasing/Female sexual harassment in India

There was an interesting response from "Bharathiya Nari" to my previous post - titled India Bashing: Favorite tourist activity - commenting about "eve teasing" of women on the streets of India.

Why do we have this problem, this "eve teasing"? 

Three reasons;
One, our culture seeks to confine sexuality to marriage including placing intense emphasis on a women's chastity while being very forgiving of male peccadilloes; thus repressing and titillating some men...

Two, men do not have innumerable outlets like topless bars, strip clubs, peep shows etc etc (as these outlets are rightly considered distasteful in our culture) to satiate their lust at whatever level they choose. I mean, not every one is hungry all the time for the complete sex act, or always up for visiting sex workers! What if at the end of a long hard work-day, a man decides that the best way for him to de-stress is to watch a pair of bouncing boobs without being called upon to perform in return?! Yeah yeah, we have Bollywood but what if he feels that nothing beats a live act? Not that there are live acts on the Indian streets but he could use the "male gaze", I mean his X Ray eyes on live women.... everywhere else in the world, women in India too are objectified one way or the other which means they are open targets for male entertainment whenever and wherever the men choose to use their "privilege".

So does this mean legal and organized sexual entertainment for men, using a woman's weaknesses, be it moral, emotional or economical, in the form of strip clubs etc has no connotations of sexual harassment??

Aren't both eve teasing and the regulated sexual entertainment industry different symptoms of the same problem? A forgiving acceptance of uncontrolled male libido and objectification of women? Well, of course, eve teasing is not legal and not considered least in theory.

Eve teasing is another instance of a universal problem assuming a unique form in India. 

1. I am aware of the existence of male strippers, male sexual harassment by females etc...but this post is chiefly about female issues in response to the comment, not a comprehensive analyses of this topic.
2. I am not branding the entire male population as repressed or sexually uncontrolled, only those who get their joys out of eve teasing/sexual harassment.