Reflections on Mr Chetan Bhagat’s “Five things women need to change about themselves”

                           I’m disappointed. Writers, those who attain a particular stature at least, would, to my mind, think out of the box. There isn’t much point in serving old wine in new bottle is there? And that is pretty much what I found in Mr Chetan Bhagat’s post on Women’s day..platitudes, clichés and still some more of those. What was there in his post that we haven’t heard before? Male egos, male bashing, women’s rights and all that women should stand up against. Really now! We already have enough of the Bra burners  doing pretty much the same and in the process harming their cause. Do we need more people, men and women alike, to join them?

                        The first of these five things that women need to change about themselves as per Mr Bhagat is “the constant desire to judge other women”. Are we to believe only women do that? Don’t men judge each other? May be the parameters are different but yes we all judge, irrespective of sex. What he seems to be saying is that in a male dominated world, women should stand by each other. How about saying that in a world rapidly losing its sense of right and wrong, let us all stand by what is right. A woman who misuses her sexual or legal power deserves to face the consequences just as any man who misuses his power.

                       Second , “faking needs to end”.  What – the fake orgasms or the fake feminism? Carrying the same argument ahead, it would seem it’s okay for men to lead fake lives. Or is he implying that women fake more? Has he not seen men trying to impress women?  

                           Third, he says , women should stand up for their property rights. So should we all- for all rights forget property rights. But the other side of the same coin is “responsibility”. Are we human beings up to shouldering the responsibility that comes with demanding rights? Yes it is every woman’s right to be respected at home and work as it is of every man, of every child. Anyone who violates it, needs to be made answerable.

                         Fourth – dream bigger, be more ambitious. And who is he or any outsider to define what ambition means to any one? Does ambition lie merely in breaking the glass ceiling? What is wrong in wanting to be “just” a mother or a wife? Bottom line- don’t define ambition for women. Let each woman and man decide what he wants from life and then go and get it.

                            Fifth- “don’t be trapped in drama of relationships”. What is he trying to say here? That the relationship with the self is important for women alone? Relationship with the self need to go beyond narcissism.. let us all develop that and without trampling on others.

                    Life cannot be quantified- neither its mistakes ( 3 Mistakes of My Life) nor its achievements ( Five Point Someone). It needs to be lived and seen from a very humane perspective, not male or female perspective. It’s so convenient to become a champion of women’s cause because that is the latest trend. What about the rights of men? Or in today’s emotionally charged pro -women society, they don’t have any ?How about a new take on this whole “Liberate Women- Empower Women” phenomena? Why are we promoting this man vs woman dichotomy? Is it a battle in which one side has to lose? If we see it thus, there is something basically wrong with us. And as long as we continue to see it so, there is no end to this see saw fight for power.

          How refreshing it would have been if Mr Bhagat had urged all mankind to be just human instead of churning 5 or 6 or 10 platitudes for women and women alone? How about addressing all mankind, irrespective of caste, creed, sex or nationality ? We as women today love to bash up men. How about refraining from such blanket judgements and statements? And how about valuing every human being in your life be it a man or a woman?

                    E M Forster put it all very succinctly with two words- “Only Connect”. If we would only connect our heart with our brain and connect with each other ! Neither would there be any need for 5 things that women need to change nor any need to quantify the mistakes we’ve made in our life.

           

    

         

 

 

The changes that Mr bhagat advocates are not specific to women..those are the changes we need to bring about in all human beings. Don’t we run down each other, judge each other all the time? Is that something endemic to women?

Being A Woman

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                     Women’s Day ! Wow ! Honestly, what celebrating days such as this means, I don’t understand..women’s day, father’s day, mother’s day and the list goes on. Does it mean that you can pay lip service to the person/s concerned on that particular day and carry on in your old, staid ways for the rest of the year? Would seem so. What not will we witness today? Long sermons, tall promises, host of demonstrations- some peaceful, some may be not so. And tomorrow we’ll be back to same old, same old.

                 A question that is often asked today is  “what being a woman means to you?” Prima facie, it sounds like a fairly silly question. It means being myself.  I mean I’ve not known anything else. So being a woman means being “me”. On more considered thought…what does it really mean? The question seems to evoke more questions than straight answers. When I woke up to the whole politics of “being a woman”, it became synonymous with being a firebrand Feminist. As a student of English literature, feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millet, Eve Ensler made their entries and influences earlier in my life than they might have otherwise. Patriarchy,society,men became easy punching bags and not necessarily in that order. Being heard meant having an opinion on everything and that too a loud one. Holding your own, not becoming a door mat varied from the stubborn to verging on the downright rigid. From fiery speeches in crisp cotton sarees to equally fiery protests and demonstrations complete with breaking police barricades and facing the water cannon and lathi charge – been there, done it. Unknown to me I, and many  around me had fallen into pitfalls that face any kind of activism – seeing everything through tinted glasses. Every non issue was an issue and many issues were blown out of proportion.  Or to put it another way, making a mountain out of a mole hill and, in the process,often missing the mountains worth noticing.

              Living at such an emotionally charged level can be quite draining. Even a strung bow needs to be relaxed. Luckily for me, I grew out of this bra burning feminist phase. Then came the lull ‘after’ the storm and now I think I’m somewhere near finding my balance. Men vs women; us vs them – where will this battle of the sexes take us? Is it, in fact, even a battle? Does “empowering” women mean taking something away from men? What, in any case, constitutes ‘empowerment’? Are there any blanket solutions and universal answers? Can I impose my modern day cosmopolitan thoughts and sensibilities on women from entirely different background and socio-economic strata?

                    As a society, I often think we are living on clichés. Not so long ago I witnessed a glass of cold drink being thrown on a boy by a girl at a Mc Donald outlet, who it turns out was his classmate. The boy’s crime? Asking the girl out for coffee in full view of all their friends. The last time I checked, that was not a crime. Assuming she was not interested, did she have any right to humiliate him? A simple and straight no would have sufficed and been in line with the boy’s forthright approach. But we are a sexually repressed society – straight approach doesn’t work. The instinctive reaction of the bystanders was to assume the boy was at fault and almost lynch him. What happened to our sense of perspective and fairness? Is it fair for us to assume that always men are at fault without even looking into the matter?

              Yes women deserve respect. So does every human being. Do women treat the men they come across, from the labourer on the road to the milk delivery boy, with as much respect as they demand? I’m afraid not. By behaving thus we ourselves set the standards of behaviour for these men who in turn will treat their wives and other people similarly. Preaching is one thing, practicing in daily life quite another.  

                      Power, of any kind, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What started out as simple division of labour with women taking care of the household and men of the outside work, eventually led to subjugation of women. Do we want to rectify this wrong by making the pendulum swing to the other extreme? When and how will the swinging pendulum find its centre? Is it not as wrong for a woman to misuse her power, be it sexual, social or legal as it is for a man  to misuse his? In this dog eat dog world, how many show the responsibility that comes with power? Not many I’m afraid.

                               Today if anyone asks me what being a woman means to me, my answer is simple- it means being human. Is this the kind of thought that Salman Khan had in mind when he founded his “Being Human” foundation? Looking at his asinine movies, one is not likely to think so but people are capable of profundity (and stupidity) beyond what is apparent. Even if he didn’t, it’s about time that we started focussing on being human rather than being a woman or a man. How do we propose to empower women in any case without the support of the other half of the population? For every Asaram who shot off his mouth with comments that don’t even merit attention let alone a protest, there were thousands of men on the roads demanding justice for a woman they didn’t even know. If this is not being human, I don’t know what is. This women’s day we ought to celebrate not only every woman in our life but every man in our life as well for it is only together that we can build a better world for us human beings.

A Big No No…Inkaar

Inkar-2013-Arjun-Rampal

                 With hotties like Chitrangda Singh and Arjun Rampal, the latter though an ageing one, and a theme that is the subject matter of much debate, sexual harassment at work place, Inkaar was something I was looking forward to. However, I missed it and after seeing it on TV recently, I can just say Thank god I did! So where does “Inkaar” falter? Well, pretty much everywhere.

                 The subject matter per se is definitely worth a dekho. And to its credit the movie steers clear of any black and white answers. As Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) puts it very succinctly, it’s the woman and her mood that decides what is harmless flirtation, and when this flirtation becomes something as strong and politically loaded as sexual harassment. The narrative rapidly moves back and forth in time and place as we, along with the Women’s Rights social worker played by Deepti Naval, try to decipher what conspired between the two protagonists. That is just about where the novelty ends and clichés take over.

        Rather than being a textbook or even real life example of the ambiguity of something like sexual harassment and the lacunae that such laws have, the movie becomes nothing more than a typical case of an office romance gone sour and the woman trying to get even by using the weapon most readily at her disposal- sexual harassment suit. Both the main characters, despite their small town roots, want to make it big in the dog eats dog world of advertising and leave no stone unturned in the process, including a so very typical affair with the boss. For all her rant about alpha males and the need for a woman to become an alpha female, Maya (Chitrangda Singh) is anything but a hapless woman fighting the glass ceiling. She knows the rules of the game and uses them to her advantage. There are plenty of hints on her capabilities that extend beyond office skills and how she has used her sexuality in landing some plum assignments. Her fiancée is not unaware of her wanderings either and in the light of such a background advises her to drop the case. Only that “hell hath no fury like a woman spurned” and she uses all available means to bring to ruin the man who has been her mentor, boss and lover. Not that Rahul is a saint by any stretch of imagination. He clearly is not but in a fight unto death, all is fair and Maya uses the one weapon only a woman can- sexual harassment.

                      The characterisation of both Maya and Rahul is sketchy and inconsistent at best. Ambitious, strong headed with few moral qualms both are quite a match for each other. Battle lines are pretty much drawn from the very beginning. How and when the casual affair becomes more than that for either, or both, of them remains unconvincing. In fact, it is only towards the end that we become aware of this deep-rooted, misdirected love or whatever one might want to call it. Moreover, it seems bruised egos and lack of communication is what led to lost love. Quite a volte-face after a damning suit! And then suddenly, abandoning the path of the greys where every side has two versions, the movie falls in the clichéd Bollywood love movie trap. What did I miss? This is all that I could ask.

          Inkaar is quite a let down from Sudhir Mishra who has films like “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi ” , “Chameli” and “Yeh Saali Zindagi” to his credit. It seems promising enough but only tentatively touches upon the subtleties of a sexual harassment at work place – that there are more than one versions of the same story and that women can be as sinning as sinned against- all this and much more could have taken the movie to a different level altogether but sadly that is not to be and we are left with yet another Bollywood cliché.