Hinduism’s fight against Caste and Birth based discrimination

This was written for Myind Makers, a Startup Platform for exchange of Ideas, run by a team of US based Indian professionals. The article was published in July 2015

I hope the title of this piece did not make you read it twice. Hinduism’s fight against Caste and Birth based discrimination is not an oxymoron or anomaly. For the population that was made to study for at least three generations that ‘caste-ism is one of the evils in Hinduism’, this might come across as a surprise. We have sadly failed to study about the scores of Hindu gurus, composers of Bhakti movement and literary poets who in their own ways have shown the irrelevance of caste in their body of work.

One of the earliest commentaries advocating the need to look beyond the concept of ‘outcaste’ appears in Mahabharata in the Ashvamedhika Parva (I shall not be surprised if one is able to find even earlier sources too). A Brahmana named Uttanka is given a boon by Krishna that he would be able to find water whenever he is thirsty. Uttanka remembers the boon when he feels thirsty while travelling through a desert. He then encounters a Chandala who offers him water to quench his thirst. Looking at the Chandala’s state, Uttanka is angered and refuses to drink the water despite repeated requests. After the Chandala leaves, Uttanka invokes Krishna demanding that a Chandala cannot be sent to give him water. Krishna chides him saying that it was in fact Lord Indra who was offering him the Amrita upon Krishna’s request. Uttanka’s attachment to the Chandala being outcaste thus deprives him of the divine nectar. A lot of interpretations could be drawn out of the episode but philosophically it does glaringly strike that obsession with untouchability keeps one away from realising the true potential of Atma (The jnana being symbolized by the nectar in this case).

Coming to the Hindu gurus, Adi Sankara’s encounter with a Chandala in whom he saw Shiva is well known. Maneesha Panchakam of Sankaracharya composed in that context stresses on the concept that Atma is unaffected by the physical attributes, one of which is caste. Adi Sankaracharya also composed Upadesha Sahasri, which is regarded as the teacher’s manual for imparting the concept of Advaita. In the verses describing a student’s graduation from learning theShrutis to learning about the nature of self, Sankara urges the teachers to prod the students to answer the question of ‘Who am I?’ He then directs the teachers to question and refute those answers which associate the student with birth, caste, gotra and other physical attributes which limit the self to just the body. Obviously, a school of thought which propounds ultimate one-ness, the identification with any classification is a strict no-no

Most of us might have heard this story of Sri Ramanujacharya, the leading proponent of Visishtadvaita. Ramanuja as a young student receives the mantra from his teacher to attain moksha (loosely translated as liberation). The teacher gives strict instructions to keep it a secret. As is believed, Ramanuja climbed up the roof of the temple and shouts out theMantra so that everyone in the village hears it. He then argues with his teacher that it is worth facing the consequence of leaking the ‘secret’ if everyone in the village gets to know of the path to Moksha. In another incident, Ramanuja became the disciple of Tirukachi Nambi a proponent of the Vaishnava philosophy, who belonged to a lower caste. Defying scepticism from the orthodox people around him including his wife, Ramanuja went ahead to serve Tirukachi Nambi with a single point aim of gaining knowledge. Sadly these anecdotes are not spoken about much and the reformist side of the great guru remains eclipsed.

Bhakti movement saw scores of composers who sang in the streets about the Supreme Lord’s equal treatment to all beings and that human made stratifications meant nothing to Him. A striking success case is the movement headed by Mahatma Basaweshwara of Karnataka in the 12th Century. A poet, philosopher, reformer and a political figure himself, Basaweshwara put up an active fight against untouchability. Shivanubhava Mantapa, an institution he founded is believed to have initiated the concept of social democracy ensuring fair representation across genders and classes. Exponents of this institution like Akka Mahadevi have propagated this philosophy through the Vachana literature. The success of this movement is seen today as we see the members of this community assuming positions across all spheres of life from priestly to political.

Narsi Mehta or Narsihn Mehta, composer of the famous bhajan Vaishnav Jan Toh, also known Adi Kavi in Gujarati literature was believed to have dined with scavengers, going against the orthodox beliefs of discrimination. The spirit of soul being unaffected by such discriminative attributes was echoed by a number of saints across India from the compositions like Sant literature of Maharashtra, compositions of Odiya poets and the Dasarapadas in Kannada. A cursory research into these works throws up a lot of examples speaking against birth/class based discrimination and oppression. Legends about miraculous incidents like the statue of Lord Krishna in Udupi turning around to give Darshan to Kanakadasa tell a lot about the strong belief that the divine favoured true devotion and merit over social privileges.

I personally desire to study them all in detail and also wish there was encouragement by State towards propagating the compositions of saints which establish Hinduism’s intellectual transaction of discriminative thought. The propagation of such knowledge and awareness of the oneness behind these compositions I am sure would help us unite and progress as proud inheritors of this civilization.

One example which stays close to my heart is the Telugu composition, Brahmamokkate Parabrahmamokkate by Annamacharya, another exponent of the Sri Vaishnava philosophy. I shall end this article with a loose translation of the immortal composition.

There is but one Supreme Being, the one and the only one Supreme Being

There are no such fixations of who is high and who is low, for Sree hari resides in everyone

The state of sleep of a king is not different from that of his servant. The earth on which a Brahmana steps on and a Chandala moves on is one and the same

The sensual pleasures are the same irrespective of whether celestial beings indulge in them or the animals and insects. The day and night are one and the same for those who are rich and those who are poor

The taste of delicious food and decaying food would differ but the tongue that tastes them is the one and the same. The wind that brushes past the foul and fragrant is one and the same

The rays of sun are one and the same whether they fall upon an elephant or a dog. The name of Lord Venkateswara is the one that can protect the meritorious and the sinful alike.

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Scion of Ikshvaku: An Engrossing And Moving Read

This was written for Swarajya Magazine and published in June 2015

There are few books that leave you sleepless when half-read. Scion of Ikshvaku by Amish Tripathi was one such a retelling of Ramayana. It goes without mentioning that the epic of Ramayana has undoubtedly captured the imagination of poets over millennia all across the Indian subcontinent, with versions travelling as far as Indonesia. Each retelling carried a fresh perspective with each poet trying to drive a contemporary message. Hailing from the southern part of the country, I can say Sri Ramachandra is one name taken by one and all in every instance of extreme emotion. His is the first cradle story an average child hears from his or her parents/grandparents or it would not be much of an exaggeration to say that celebrating Ramayana begins right from the womb.

Scion of Ikshvaku was surely one of the much-awaited books this year and, fortunately, the Kindle version was available overseas too. For those who know the structure of Ramayana, this book covers the Bala Kanda, Ayodhya Kanda and most of Aranya Kanda. The opening chapter ofSitaapaharan grips your attention and gets you hooked as the story flashes to the beginning of Ramayana. Amish has taken care to detail the prevalent socio-political dynamics of Sapta Sindhu in those days and the inevitable dangers of an apparently unwise belief of looking down on trade activity by the Kings.

For those who have read his Shiva Trilogy, Amish’s creative liberty does not come as something new. Creative liberty, of course, has been something that every poet and storyteller has indulged in the literary history of India and this book is a welcome continuation of the same tradition. We see Ramachandra having a troubled childhood taking the burden of an undeserved blame and moving us with his commitment (in contrast to who we know as someone being everyone’s apple of eye).

The second thing which would strike the reader is the amount of discussion and debate over philosophies and codes. The indulgent conversations between Guru Vashishta and the four princes of Ayodhya would make one wish that the kind of education system returns to us, where each student is encouraged to voice his/her opinion and build upon the same with differing perspectives. I really liked the part where Bharata boldly points out that Ravana was a better ruler of Lanka than Dasharatha was of Koshala. “Even honourable men sometimes prove to be terrible leaders. Conversely, men of questionable character can occasionally be exactly what a nation requires” is one pragmatic quote of Bharata where he separates the desired personalities of an individual and a ruler without superimposing.

The amount of care with which relationships between Rama and his brothers have been dealt with is another endearing aspect of the book. We would adore the young Rama for his steadfastness as much as we would adore Bharata for his frank views often disagreeing with Rama and yet take delight in the unaffected fraternal bonding.

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Intriguing conversations don’t really hamper the pace of the plot. One can see the amount of effort that has gone into balancing the philosophical content with the lively nature of characters while reconstructing every detail. In the second half of the book, we are introduced to Sita, who like Sati of the Shiva trilogy is a warrior princess with steadfast beliefs. The ensuing romance of the poised characters of Sita and Rama is something one would look forward to read. The couple who are probably the most celebrated couple in our culture (The only ones who come close are Parvati and Shiva). Sita Kalyanam, the eternally celebrated event though has been retold in a thrilling manner where the newly wed couple would face the battlefield together, almost immediately after their wedding. We also see Ravana, the antithesis reconstructed with great care.

The readers should be ready for Vanavasa episode to gather new reasons other than just Kaikeyi causing it in the last moment (as told in most of the narratives). The quick pace with which Vanavaas came to a close was surprising. I was expecting a discussion or two with Rishis like Atri, Gautama and the Charvaka Jabali, who Rama meets in the original Valmiki’s version. Surprisingly, Scion of Ikshvaku does not contain Rama’s interaction with either. But the nail-biting chapter where the book ends surely makes the reader await the next book.

The book in its first part also has, what I felt, the author’s tribute to Nirbhaya, an event that made our national conscience shake with shock and burn with anger. The character Roshni (the word is of Persian origin though, which I felt was slightly out of place), the daughter of Manthara and the childhood mentor of Rama and his brothers endears herself to the reader in the short duration of the narrative. As a woman, it satisfies me that in this book at least, justice was dispensed even at the cost of the law.

In summary, the book rekindled my love for Ramayana and reminded me about my own earlier love-hate journey with Sri Rama since my teens before I settled as a seeker. Caught between singing Thyagaraja Kritis like Jagadananda Kaaraka while seething with anger about how he (supposedly) treated Sita, my past predicament would have amused Lord Rama for sure. I remember a certain blog post of mine hailing Rama got me angry messages from my feminist friends (the reasonable ones too). After a lot of books that have given a glorified platform to those against Rama or angry with Rama, a counter view from Rama’s perspective was much needed rather than the usual defence of ‘He did what the society expected of him’. This Ram Chandra series by Amish Tripathi will hopefully go a long way in bringing the reader closer to what the spirit of Rama is.

Jagadananda karakaa Jaya Janaki Prananayaka
Gaganadhipa satkulaja Rajarajeshwara
Sugunakara sura sevya bhavya daayaka Sada Sakala
(Jagadananda Kaaraka)

Hail, the one who is cause of universal bliss, the soul mate of Janaki,
The scion of the blessed dynasty of the Lord of skies, the king of kings,
The Ocean of noble characteristics, the one worshipped by gods, the bestower of divinity,
The eternal cause of bliss to all the worlds

-Saint Thyagaraja

Here is the Amazon link to buy Scion of Ikshvaku. Hindi translation can be bought here

Sadaalambaa Saraswathi – Reclaiming The Field Of Arts And Humanities

This was written for Swarajya Magazine and published in June 2015.

For those whose history enthusiasts whose awareness is beyond what the erstwhile NCERT wanted us to learn, the name of the Paramara King Bhoja of Dhar strikes a chord. Best known as the King who organized a confederation of Hindu rulers against the armies of Muhammad Ghaznavi, he was also an acclaimed scholar. The patronage of arts and literature reached an all time high during his rule despite turbulent political conditions. In fact, Sri Krishna Devaraya in whose time the Vijayanagara empire reached its zenith was given the epithet ‘Andhra Bhoja’, the Bhoja of Andhras after the original Bhoja Raja. The following was said in support of his patronage of arts:

Adya dhaara Sadaadhaara Sadaalambaa Saraswathi
Panditah manditah sarve Bhoja Raaje bhuvangateH

The Dhara is supported for good. Saraswathi is well secured.
The scholars are prosperous as the Bhoja Raja descended on this earth

The lament around his death was

Adya dhaara niraadhaara niraalambaa Saraswati
Panditah Khanditah sarve Bhoja Raje Divangateh

The Dhara is unsupported. Saraswathi is without security.
The scholars are broken and scattered as the Bhoja Raja departed from this earth.

The disturbing fact however may be that Saraswathi continued to be a niraalamba save the periodic bright sparks in the Gajapati, Vijayanagara, Tanjavur empires and to an extent the Maratha and smaller regional empires. Southern India however had a brighter period with epics written in fresh perspectives and selected Puranic episodes being expanded into Prabandhas with sufficient intellectual inputs and literary expertise to drive a contemporary message . But when seen in in the last 1000 years or so, the Saraswati continued to be a niraalambaa for a large period. We can understand that the tumultuous foreign invasions, new empires hostile to the native roots followed by the impoverishing British rule took its toll over patronage of arts.

It is however lamentable that the situation only worsened post independence. The areas of arts, literature, history and economics continued to stay without the much needed prop. One might argue that the governments did do what was in their hands with Sahitya Akademi grants, Padma awards and so on. It can also be accepted that the performing arts got their share of recognition albeit the scepticism around who really deserved the awards. But when I searched for some answers to the following questions, it did not leave me with a sweet taste.

How many avadhaanis won a Padma award compared to say their luckier (or cronier) counterparts in English?

Forget awards, how many avadhaanis are even alive and how many would pursue the skill in future? (When I asked this to a friend, he replied with a laugh saying how many of us even know what an Avadhana is)

Are there contemporary poets who can match the literary versatility of the historical poets?

Forget contemporary poets, how much of the historical literature is even taught in the high school level to create enough awareness and hence, interest in the field?

Are the art forms of Harikatha, Yakshagana, Katha Shravana, etc staring into extinction (if not for some passionate artists who choose to sacrifice their careers to live those arts)

When was the last time the town halls in our small towns (not metros) witnessed a concert/recital/Kavi sammelan?

Plainly speaking, how many students choose the field of arts and literature with a passion and how many do so because they just could not manage to get into professional career streams?

For the mainstream population which in the last five decades has depended on a salaried career for their survival, the field of arts had little to attract. The situation spiralled into a vicious circle with lesser students opting for a career in arts and humanities. The departments in the universities turned into vehicles for narrow propaganda with negativity dominating an average arts student. If one was not a lucky child or relative of a well-placed bureaucrat or a politician, unemployment loomed large and generations of Humanties graduates fell prey to ideological battles rather than growing and contributing to the field.

The fields of technology, management and medicine are self sustaining and a generation of techies who had to migrate out of the country in search of opportunities have actually contributed to the rise of ‘IT generation’ saving the country from a large scale unemployment (despite the jibes like ‘IT coolies’ and ‘those who voted with their feet’ from known corners). But arts and humanities needs patronage by the governments, by the affluent class and the common class alike. The result of lack of patronage has come out clear in the recent times. A humanities graduate embarrassed us by asking stupid questions to the Managing Director of International Monetary Fund. A so called study circle in the Humanities department put a premier technology institute on headlines for wrong reasons. At personal and anecdotal levels the examples could be endless. I remember encountering a humanities student from Karnataka who did not know who Sri Krishna Devaraya was! (He also had the audacity to ask if I was mispronouncing the name of Sri Krishna Raja Wodeyar of Mysore!)

With the return of a nationalistic government to power, I expect more action in reclaiming the lost field of arts and literature. Entrepreneurs and professionals have survived hostile governments and will definitely flourish in the present term. But artists and believers of native Indian arts need proactive measures from government and initiatives by voluntary organizations. It is not for the living support of these artists, but for the continuity of the legacy which makes us proud. Our ancestors made us proud with their exploits in the field. Are we adding to the pile so that our descendants have an increased pile to be proud of? Importantly, can we enable an average student of arts to dream and aspire like his/her peers in professional education without descending into political crony-ism? Or do we leave them to fret with envy at their peers and get manipulated by vested propagandists? Can we reclaim the field of arts and humanities to reflect and refine our identity as the oldest existing civilization? Or do we leave it to become a convenient tool in the hands of Indophobic entities? Will the Saraswathi get back the home she deserves? Or does she have to await another Bhoja Raja’s descent in the age of democracy? Let our actions determine what we want to answer.

Did Rama doubt Sita? – The episode of Agni Pravesham (and not Pariksha)

I had written this post for my blog on Speaking Tree (published in December 2013. Sounds like long back. But the topic is not dated at all :-))

Ramayana had caught my fantasy even as a toddler. The anecdote that introduced me to the epic was about the infant Rama crying for the moon. When nothing else could appease or divert him, his doting step mother, Kaikeyi calmed him by showing him the image of the moon in a mirror. As a child of three or four, I could connect to the cuddly toddler Rama who cried for unattainable things.

As I grew up, I wondered about the importance of this anecdote especially when it had no tellable influence on the plot of Ramayana. In my teens, the narratives of Sri Rama failed to impress me. The episodes of Agni Pariksha and the subsequent abandonment of Sita had started to give me a feeling that we as a culture have only inherited a legacy that punished a chaste woman for no mistake of hers. The philosophical explanations did not help much either. All the anger aside, I used to wonder what kind of a hypocrisy could make us extol Sita as well as sing glories of the one who abandoned her for no sin of hers.

It was a later flash which struck me about the symbolism of  Rama yearning for the moon that is unattainable and hence had to be content with the image of moon. It was much like he had to be content with the statue of Sita during the Ashwamedha Yajna which as a climactic end, brings him closer to his sons.

It was then that I started to re-read the agni pariksha episode with more curiosity than anger. A couple of words chosen by Valmiki in the episode intrigued me even more. We all know that the Ramayana was narrated by Lava and Kusha in the court of Rama. In the first chapter, Ramayana is described as the great story of Sita and that of the destruction of Ravana. When Lava and Kusha get ready to narrate the story, Rama is seen as instructing his brothers to listen carefully as the work contains intriguing words.

The first intriguing word I encountered while reading the Agnipariksha episode was the one Rama uses to address Sita before declaring his detachment. ‘Bhadre‘. The meanings of the root word  Bhadra are many. Auspicious, fortunate, fair, beautiful, blessed, happy and similar meanings. If Rama had actually doubted her chastity and was planning to abandon her, the usage of this word with any of the above meanings would only highlight the irony of the context. One can wonder if the irony was intended. As I read further, another metaphor caught my attention.  Rama says to sita, “With a doubt arising on your character, you are as unaccepatable to me as lamp is to the one whose sight is defective.” The metaphor further highlighted the irony as it is clear that the short sight is the inability to appreciate the light from the lamp is of the eye sight and not of the lamp. Rama is seen as referring to himself as the short-sighted one and Sita as the lamp.

There is also the part where he says that the war was fought in a bid to reclaim Rama’s honour and not for Sita. If we read the earlier scenes, there is one (at the beginning of the war) where Rama describes to Lakshmana about how much he misses Sita (while she is in the captivity). He goes ahead to appeal to the wind to pass by Sita and come to him so that he could feel her presence. He agains says that he is content with touching the earth because he knows that his Sita lives on the very same earth. Would the same Rama who at a point of time seems like he lives for Sita be able to utter as harsh a sentence like “I have nothing to do with you”? If the intended irony of Valmiki is not observed, one can very well take Rama as a split personality. It also makes a laughable case when he says that no man with honour would accept a woman who is sullied by another’s company and hence Sita can be free of him and set her mind on Lakshmana, Bharata or Shatrughna or even Sugriva (like they don’t have any honour or he does not care for that?)

The study made me wonder if the conversation really took place. Or if it was scripted by Valmiki deliberately as he knew that it was going to be sung in the presence of the citizens of Ayodhya who had subsequently cast a doubt on Sita’s Chastity. Did Valmiki take an opportunity to portray the ‘short sightedness’ of Ayodhya citizens in being unable to recognize the lamp that was sita? (Even as he used Rama’s character to depict the same). The combination of words, the deviation from Rama’s usual character in this one episode convinces me of such a possibility. The experiences of hearing a slander on one’s chastity is a fire ordeal in itself, much more to a woman like Sita.

The consistency of Rama’s character can be seen when he installs Sita’s statue by his side for the Ashwamedha showing in his own subtle way to every one that it was not he who ever doubted her. One might argue if he loved Sita so much why did he not abdicate the throne and go with her. In my understanding, such an act would not only have disturbed the social balance in the city, but would also have condemned Rama’s children to the same slander. Instead of running away from the city, he stayed on to ultimately give his sons, their much deserved inheritence before giving up the throne to follow Sita. Yes, it now appeals to me that Rama is the true embodiment of Dharma not because he gave up his wife for a ‘larger good’ (else one can question the very truth of the larger good), but because he persisted to not let the slander affect Sita’s children and did not let them fade into obscurity.

Ab ki Baar QWERTY Sarkaar – A concerned citizen takes stock of Indian General elections 2029

I had written this inspired by a spur of witty conversation on Twitter. This was published by Swarajya in March 2015 http://swarajyamag.com/politics/ab-ki-baar-qwerty-sarkar/)

As the world’s largest democracy gears up for its general elections in 2029, the results of the race to power are fairly evident.  Much to the anguish of liberal India which is just a sad minority, QWERTY of Bharatiya Janata Party seems to be the favored leader according to the internet polls and the social media. I only weep in silence at the rash choice of young India for an industry fanatic like QWERTY over the pro-people contenders like Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress party. The younger generation sadly seems to be in the delusion that QWERTY represents a younger version of Narendra Modi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the yesteryears’ BJP.

Keeping political inclinations aside for a moment, one would be greatly insulting the development man of India, Narendra Modi, by comparing fascist and dictatorial QWERTY to him. I was an active detractor of Narendra Modi in the historic 2014 elections when he swept the nation leading the BJP to an unprecedented majority. But I, and all my compatriots admit without hesitation that Narendra Modi carried an air of commitment towards the country which QWERTY can only badly mimic in his rhetorical campaign speeches.

Narendra Modi, despite having his political origins in the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, a fascist Hindu organization, set himself apart from their ideology. The country cannot forget the pro-people commitment in his memorable statement “Pehle Shouchalay phir Devalay”. The regrettable statement of “Vyapar karo Naukri nahi” to the rural youth by QWERTY is sadly being pepped up as the slogan of the decade. One shudders to think about the consequences when a whole generation thinks of a salaried job as a burden and favours Vyapar!

Acknowledged as amongst the most powerful leaders in the world, Narendra Modi received a pittance for his pay, only higher than that of his Chinese counterpart. His assets would hover around a meager figure of Rs. 1 Crore, which is less than a decade’s earning for today’s corporate executives. QWERTY, on the other hand, flaunts his fashionable wardrobe as a ‘testimony’ to his entrepreneurial past. How can one equate him with Narendra Modi, who devotedly stuck to his simple kurta?

QWERTY’s anti-minority stance bared its horns when he roared in his Patna rally that gods should be restricted to homes and hearts. His unabashed hatred for religious minorities stares into our eyes as he said, “you are India’s sons first and devotees of your gods next”. Can’t the star-struck youth see the brazen patriarchal tyranny in the statement?

Our generation remembers mutely the Narendra Modi who graced Christian congregations and spoke about Swami Vivekananda, showing the diversity of thought in the India we remember. Crimes against minorities were pursued with increased agility in Modi’s regime. QWERTY’s assertion of equality in crime can only pale in front of Modi’s true secular credentials.

Gone are the days where the political leaders of BJP gave space to opposing views. The “candle holder”, as those on twitter call me, can only sigh in sympathy for the simple-minded, bespectacled, kurta clad man whose pro-women, pro-people, pro-country legacy is going to be usurped by a brazen businessman-turned-tyrant who will force a country of 1.4 billion into a dark, risky uncertain regime which he packages as ‘entrepreneurial’.

‘India’s Daughter’: The Problems I See With It

This was published in Swarajya in March 2015 (http://swarajyamag.com/culture/indias-daughter-the-problems-i-see-with-it/) and before that the first part was first published in Mirror to India (https://mirrortoindia.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/indias-daughter-the-problems-around-it-as-i-see/)

After a day of outrage (against the video), I started to ponder on the points that led me to oppose the much discussed video. My ponderings brought me a welcome relief by realizing that the end outcome wished by both the stances is the same – a safer world for women. The ones supporting the video (the saner ones) argue that we as a society need to stop living in denial about the atrocities happening amidst us and need to face the devil within. The other side including me has multiple points from different angles. Most of the saner arguments boil down to aspects below.

– Providing an undeserved platform to a perpetrator of a heinous crime that has shocked the country, a shock that nearly destroyed the faith in the society and system.

– Loose usage of terms like “Rape Culture”, “Majority of Indian men think like this”, “Showing the mirror” are thoughts of as more damaging to the cause than strengthening it.

– A criminal commits a crime only after convincing his own perverted conscience with some perverted sense of entitlement and legitimacy. There is no rocket science to it. A thief reiterates the one having more money does not deserve it, a murderer decides that the one he is going to kill has no right to live and rapist is sure to justify that the victim/survivor asked for it. All the criminals blatantly disrespect and belittle the law, constitution and the system. Many opine that this is exactly how a criminal thinks which is well known and is not an issue which needs a documentary to understand and analyze.

I agree with all the above reasons. My greatest pain has been in realizing the stereotypes the self proclaimed feminists have taken to the town in supporting the video. I hail from a middle class family settled in a town (now a city) in Andhra Pradesh. In my childhood, I have seen my parents struggle to provide me a take-off point in life which would give me more than what they got from their parents. As I finished my schooling, I could gauge an increasing social pressure to provide equal education to girls from same middle class peers. Apart from the academic pressures and career stereo types, I sense the developments as welcome changes.

Today when I visit back my native place, I see girls coming from the remote villages to work or study, braving the twilight travel twice a day through unlit roads. Though their struggle moves me, it gives me the satisfaction of the society going on a right track albeit barriers and obstacles. Fathers, brothers, colleagues, husbands do send their women to claim their rightful public places and that is the Indian male contributing to gender equity which makes me proud and secure.

So the brigade wanting to ‘show the mirror’ needs to contemplate who they want to show the mirror to.

To the Indian father who sends his daughter to far off places so that she studies/works to claim her rightful social share?

To the Indian male colleague who do their bit in making the work place even a tiny bit more friendly and secure to women employees?

To the Indian friend who supports his female friends in variety of free choices and growth?

To the Indian husband who participates in household chores and strives to see his wife succeeding in her career?

To those cab drivers who ferry women to the safety of their homes during late nights? (The bad ones make news and the hundreds of good ones don’t. Of course doing your duty is not something to make news)

To tea-stall vendors, Security boys and countless people on the roads who do their bit in making the world a safer place?

No, I am not glorifying the above men. Neither am I doing an emotional pitch for them. Each of the men mentioned above is contributing to gender equality doing his duty. I dare ask the feminist achievers if they came up in their lives with no male contributing to their success at all? I don’t mean to belittle the stereotypes that they fight, but are they creating new ones in order to fight the old ones thus defeating the very cause of equality?

What we strive for, the world safer for women is an evolutionary goal. Evolution needs each of us to build strong steps to climb upon and build the next steps. And this flight to evolution can be built upon strengths and not by blowing up weaknesses. If the documentary makers are indeed interested to contribute to the cause truly, they would be making inspiring videos of those day labourers whose daughters have made good headlines instead of promoting negative stereotyping about cultures that they hardly tapped into. They would be showing the resilient women and supportive men instead of claiming to show mirrors that are not. They would be appealing to reason and evolution of minds instead of publicizing terrorizing statements by sick minds.

If we are to broadly categorize the Indian men, there are many advancing towards the much awaited gender equal world. They hold dreams for their women and might have fears for them as well. Keep in mind, that rural father or elder brother who sends his daughter/sister to work and study but has a problem with her going to a cinema. Appeal to his vision to broaden even more and call him over to the side of your ideal world . Don’t threaten his roots and push him to the other side, for that would make the world tougher to women and defeat the very cause!

On a side note about those racist perverts who are trying to demonize “majority of Indian men” as rapists, I would dare to say they are unprofessional dishonest and unethical individuals who are capitalizing on the tragedy of a dead girl to sell their narrow minded self serving agendas which would harm the larger interests of not only this country but the world too. And I, a daughter of India along with my sisters, the increasing number of aspiring women workforce stand as a testimony disproving the crap they want to paint my country with!

“India’s Daughter” – How it failed the daughters of India

The British Broadcasting Corporation had to indeed choose the day of Holi to broadcast the documentary “India’s daughter”, despite the concerns expressed by the Govt of India.  Upon viewing the video, I could not help wondering if this was not at all a coincidence. Following the advice of some friends I struggled to keep my mind open to view the video. I am definitely going to fall short of words in describing what I actually felt after watching it. It was a feeling akin of being stabbed in the soul again. It was like getting all my wounds opened up again and being given no medication. I swallowed the details of painful ordeal, Jyoti Singh’s parents had to undergo. I took in the monstrous way in which she was assaulted and murdered from a totally remorseless criminal. Worst of all I had to listen to the self  sanctimonious sermon of those lawyers about some ‘best culture’ knowing that they knew and respected zilch about Indian culture.

The ending of the grueling video felt like a slap, like a mockery with an invisible voice taunting that they can come in and shoot and present the details to their selective satisfaction, open up our wounds and still take a moral high ground. The next day, I hear from news speculating about payments given to the criminal by the film makers for telling us about how his ‘courage’ deserved sexual submission by a free spirited girl! I still do not know how much dirtier the issue can get if an appropriate legal investigation is conducted.

Regardless of the procedures, as a woman, I severely felt let down by another woman. I realized it was not about India’s image outside. That is more determined by the behavior of Indian Diaspora out of India as my western friends assured me. It is not even about alleging all Indian men as someone needing this horrendous ‘mirror’ as I had feared before watching the video. I am prepared to even overlook the needless focus of the camera on the statue of Shiva-Parvati. (Someone is obviously desperate to challenge faith rather than raise relevant questions and someone needs to be charitable about it, fine!)  But it is the sheer casual attitude with which the discourse on rape was derailed which came as a shock. The video severely failed India’s daughters while flaunting the title by thrusting the accountability of a heinous crime on to something loosely (and wrongly) labeled as ‘culture and society’.

I strongly believe we live in the times where people make a system that protects them and abide by the code of the system. We call it constitution. Events like crimes of any nature reflect a failure of the system and as a breach of the code by some people. The video does NOT critique the speed of corrective action by judiciary. It does not even touch the periphery of law making regarding the issue. It raises no awareness about the civil initiatives against the crimes such as rape. There are scores of NGOs that fight against atrocities against women despite all odds and they don’t get a mention! Worst of all, it gives the perpetrators, a full platform to seek legitimacy of their action from their perverted understanding of culture and society.

The narrative in the video elaborates on poverty and troubled childhood of the perpetrators as if circumstances can take the blame. Do the film makers want us to believe that the crime does not exist among the rich, educated and socially suave?  If the fault lies in the ‘Indian Society’ as the film maker wants us to believe, then there have to be societies around the world that have overcome the crime. But a preliminary online research shows that rape is a global shame and no society has been really successful in eradicating it. So who is to take the responsibility for the atrocity according to Leslee Udwin?

A litmus test about the intent of the video would be to examine individual feelings just after viewing it. Is it a resolve to continue in the path to an atrocity-free world or a broken faith on the law and the people? I felt the latter. Yes, the makers of “India’s daughter” grossly failed the daughters of India.

PS : To the daughters/sisters of those monstrous lawyers who said women had no place in our culture. I, a daughter of India care for you, a daughter of India too. Please immediately do what another daughter of India did in our scriptures when she was stuck among atrocious kin. Her name is Devi Rukmini. She has a revered place in Bhagavatam (I am sure that lawyer knows nothing about it)