Sunday, October 20, 2013

Stay away, you prick!

I am quite sure you are aware of the story that is going around on the internet these days?



Well, it is an age old discussion: how do you tell men that women count. That women have desires that need to be addressed, and men can’t just turn their face the other way pretending that because they, gendered male, made sex with a woman, she is over the hill with joy!

The First Online Tamil Lifestyle Magazine called Tamil Culture ( See link below) has done it going way out to bring sense to the male (It’s just about the penis) mind, to consider women’s desires too, before they go the whole hog to say, that only men count.

The nicely done article by Niveda Anandan hits hard on men. “But we Tamil women get horny too. Contrary to popular belief, we have sexual urges as well. Just as you experience complete sexual liberation, we wish to have the same without being judged and ridiculed as “not marriage material”. We are not objects to be judged as “easy” or “used” and are disgusted that you would even use these terms to describe us.” Atta girl!

Now, what is marriageable, material you may ask?

Please note: virgins, women who have never touched a man or not been touched by one either, who have kept their bodies covered and not exposed it to public, who have not hungered for sex, in mind and body, these are your, yours truly virgins; woman who have not had sex, before marriage, in other words. The impossible, is hardly possible in these times!

In a culture that is schizophrenic, caught between the extreme conservative and traditional while at the same time modern, Indian society stands as a classic clash between the past and the present. Really there are no women out there who fear being ‘deflowered’ before marriage. They simply follow what they have been taught from childhood – virginity is paramount and must be a treasure to be offered only on the night of marital conjugation, that too with a man, of course. Many are bolder and don’t waste their youth on such rules. Behind the curtain, sab chalta hai, everything goes!  They simply hoodwink the parents/guardians and go ahead to take a “full body dip, in the well of passion”. Refreshing change!

I ask why is it important for a woman to be a virgin to be marriageable. And the answer is: it boils down to that absurd practice remember, patriarchy thy name is foul. Primitive, regressive and downright demeaning, patriarchy is about possession – the body of a woman, land, house, wealth, jewels, all and everything that must go to the child who is the ‘real’ inheritor of the wealth, which is the legitimate child of an unpolluted (read virgin) woman, who belongs to one man.  
There are other questions that come to mind. Why has the article not addressed the growing numbers of women who love woman? In a state where the Chief Minister herself has been living with a woman for decades, why has the author not addressed these desires as well and told the men off!

If desire for love and sex is not to be dominated by the penis, then, it certainly breaks the patriarchal norms, and finds its own shore in some other bed. And that discussion has been left out, sadly. So, really, while fighting the battle against capital ‘P’ – prick and/or patriarchy, has the author, sidelined same sex partnership as a valid and bold route to overthrow the ‘P’-factor that ails our society?

Tamil Culture Online Magazine:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One step forward; two backward!
Earlier this year, in February 11, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy because he is gay and "could no longer live a lie."

Quoting The Daily Currant, February 28, 2013, “In a statement released to Italian news media the 85-year-old departing pontiff says he is relieved to be coming out after eight decades in the closet and urged the Catholic Church and other faiths to accept homosexuality as a natural part of God's creation.

"Like many gay Catholics, I have been forced for too long to choose between my faith and my identity," the statement reads. "My profound love for my beloved church compelled me to lie to myself and to my fellow believers about a basic component of my humanity.

"I deeply regret that deception. I have not been honest with the Church, and for that reason I decided that I could not continue my role as leader of the world's one billion Catholics.

"Now that I have been liberated of this secret, I wish to express my belief that homosexuals are equal in the eyes of God. I beseech the Catholic Church to reconsider its ban on gay clergy and become a leading force in the struggle for gay rights."

Since then a whole lot of rumours which in any case float around almost all religious institutions went flying around the world. It is suspected that at the senior level homosexuality in the papacy exists. Indeed, many even have a secret conclave within the Vatican who visit the local brothels.  Not only that, people are shocked and the outrage that followed said, Pope Benedict ought to have remained in closet, which he had been doing for eight decades!

"Look everyone knows that the only people who sign up for a lifetime of living in all-male dormitories with no possibility of marriage are gay men," says Phyllis Gates, a conservative Catholic blogger. "But why did he have to actually say it? Denial was working so well for us."

Then, followed denial:  "I don't believe him," Santorum says from his home in Washington, D.C. "Homosexual activists have clearly compromised Pope Benedict through blackmail or brainwashing or some sort of queer subterfuge.

"He's not gay. He can't be gay. That's just not possible. He's just pretending for some reason. And it's my job to figure out what that reason is."

And finally some positive reactions were:

"It's heartening to see a leading person in the Catholic Church finally take a stand for equality," says Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "The church has hitherto been one of the most powerful anti-gay rights organizations in the world.

"Although it's a shame that he was forced out because of his orientation, we're all hoping that Pope Benedict's words of tolerance will resonate with people of faith around the world."

Gay Catholic blogger Andrew Sullivan, who speculated yesterday about a homosexual relationship between Pope Benedict XVI and his personal aide, was phlegmatic towards the news.

"I wish I could take some credit, but honestly anyone could have predicted this. No women, fabulous hats, and Prada shoes? This is the gayest institution in the world."

Nearly one year has passed and there are some points I want to bring forth to my readers:

(a)   Pope Benedict XVI ought not to have resigned because he is gay. He ought to have declared his sexual preference and continued as Pope giving out a strong statement to the world, loving/having same-sex partners, was a positive way to be.
(b)    What has religion got to do with one's sexual preference?
(c)    Why must the Pope remain in the closet, as some suggested? It has indeed taken him 8 decades to come to term with himself and his identity. Instead of celebrating his courage, why are we suggesting he remains lying about his preference?
(d)   Indeed, why is sexual preference, such a big issue in the first place? How does it really matter?
(e)   Coming out is not so much a declaration to the world as much as accepting oneself, in the first place.
(f)     Keeping it a secret/ in the closet, is the Pope’s choice, not anybody else’s choice, at all. There is no need to suggest anything either.

Read the full article
: Pope Benedict XVI comes out as gay. The Daily Currant, February 28, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ek-onkar satnam!

The moment I saw, Dr Daljit Singh’s Clinic, in Amritsar, I was elated. The name brought memories for the first Sikh sisters in my life, at the boarding school in Shillong. Daljit and Jyoti, were from Amritsar. Jyoti, who was in my class, gave me the first kada, in school and it was a steel one I remember. Ever since, I have worn a kada on my wrist, most of the time. In later years, I met many Punjabis, but the Sikh girls left a lasting impression in my mind.
There was Arvinder Kaur too, later in my life in Mumbai. She had once asked me, before she left to Amritsar – What shall I get for you? I said, get me the Golden Temple.
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, is one of the most profound experience I have had in this life. I arrived very tired from Jalandar to be at Amritsar for a night. I was sure, I wanted to stay at the temple premises and also eat at the langar. A comfortable room, just outside gate # 2 gave me a pillow and a bed to sleep the night. Before I had put my head down, I went to the temple to pay my homage to Guru Granth Sahib.
The golden temple premises and the temple itself are silent. The only sound you hear is the recitation of the Granth Sahib and the sound of the plates at the 24-hours langar. Thousands and millions of people visit every day, but, in groups, waiting and moving, all get to see the temple which houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the only text the Sikhs worship. There are no pandas, no one coming to disturb you with an offer to take you in, through the back door if you pay Rs 1001! Like the belief of the Sikhs, there is only one way that leads to the inside of the temple where the Guru Granth Sahib is worshiped. At every nook and corner, you will find, women and men, doing seva – giving you water to drink, keeping your shoes and luggage, allotting rooms and sleeping places for you to stay. There is no talk, no gibberish going on. Everyone is with the nam on their lips or on their mind. No wonder, for that night and two nights after, I heard only the nam, even in my sleep.
Wikipedia  says – “Satnam (Gurmukhi:ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ) is the main word that appears in the Sikh sacred scripture called the Guru Granth Sahib. It is part of the Gurbani shabad called Mool Mantra which is repeated daily by all Sikhs. This word succeeds the word "Ek-onkar" which means "There is only one constant" or commonly "There is one God". The words sat means "true/everlasting" and nam means "name".In this instance, this would mean, "whose name is truth". The word nam in Sikhism has two meanings. "It meant both an application and a symbol of the All-pervading Supreme Reality that sustained the universe. Guru Nanak in his teachings emphasized the need of repeating Sat-Nam to realize the All-pervading Supreme Reality.”
I did not find my friends, Daljit and Jyoti there. I did not find many other friends I have had from the same Sikh religion. I did not seek them too, even the next day, when under the sun of the everlasting sky, the temple, spoke the same language – here, within this hallowed shrine, is the only God and He has a name - Ek-onkar satnam!
Memories faded as I left, some of whom, made contribution to my life, people I have lost in time, but people, who were valuable to my experience of life and made it richer.

Happy Dussera, my dear readers, from across the globe, who have helped this blog to cross way above 100,000 readership. 

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Kurukshetra II: Dynasty VS Dalit power in UP

The stage is set. The battle of 2014 for UP is going to be one of the most spectacular sight ever seen in India politics. On the one hand, you have a puppet-down-the string, Akhilesh Yadav, a symbol of youth force, with his nada (string) tied to his father/uncles who are the players from behind the wings, although he vehemently denies it. His cabinet is full of criminals, inherited from his father’s times as CM of India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh. He may be resisting the influx of goondas to his cabinet, but there is nothing he can do, about his lineage. Bare little, I would say, if they are his father’s best friends, trusted allies, even blood brothers, cousins and the like.

The Yadavs are from a place called Saifai, in the heartland of goondaland, Etawah. Ever since, his father entered politics, the goondas too followed to join public life, even reaching the Rajya Sabha! There they found others like them from Jharkhand, Bihar and other states, to make merry and rake hell with public funds. In UP, indeed, all the goondas are in some way or the other related to the Yadavs. Goondagiri, is their parampara, their inheritance and culture.

But Alkhilesh Yadav is made of different ether. He wanted to join corporate life, maybe, because, he did his Masters on Environmental Engineering from Australia. Throughout his life as a student, in Dholpur Military School, or Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, Mysore, he kept a low profile and in fact, no one knew he was the son of Mulayam Singh, CM of Uttar Pradesh. It is while holidaying in Dehradun, when he received a call from his father saying, he had to return to file his nomination.

Akhilesh was never a disobedient child, not a rebellious one either. In fact, the real Akhilesh is demure and shy and if a goonda happens to be his uncle, he will touch his feet in public even.

Now, take his major opponent, Mayawati. Four times Chief Minister of UP, Mayawati is a phenomenon, few Indian politicians can match. Rising from a poor Chamar background, Mayawati, born on 15th January, 1956 in Delhi, is the daughter of Prabhu Das, a post office employee in Badalpur, Gautam Buddh Nagar. In 1975 she passed BA and went on to do LLB, at Kalini Women’s College, under Law campus (Delhi University). Her aim, like many from depressed classes in Delhi, was to join the IAS, because that was the ultimate seat of power, as perceived by most people. In 1976 having completed her B.ED, she joined Inderpuri JJ Colony as a teacher. In the following year, 1977, Dalit politician, Kanshi Ram visited their home and changed her destiny – "I can make you such a big leader one day that not one but a whole row of IAS officers will line up for your orders." Kanshi Ram included her as a member of his team when he founded the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 1984.

After that, the growth tangent has only gone up. She is the first female Dalit Chief Minister in India. In the true sense of the word, she is of the people, by the people and for the people. The Dalits love her, trust her and call her their Behenji. She has the unfailing support from Dalit women, across the country. And no matter what her report card may show vis-à-vis corruption and amassing wealth, it can’t be worse than what the goondas posing as politicians across India have managed to siphon off from public funds, in the numerous ‘deals’, scams, and what have you.

About Mayawati, one can say, that when she is in, the goondas are out; about Akhilesh Yadav one can definitely say, when he is in, goondas are in. As an administrator with a tough hand, he fails because, the inheritance from his birthplace, although his parentage was from farmers, his father Mulayam Singh Yadav being a Socialist even, highly influenced by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. Yet, the ancestral homeland was plagued by men who lead a life by killing, snatching, threatening, in short, goondagiri. As long as Mayawati was in power the goondas were in hiding, as soon as the Yadav scion came in, so did the ruffians.
Faced with these facts, the real battle in UP, is not only about the Yadav dynasty, it is also about what is Akhilesh going to do with this khaandaan?

“Now Arjun saw stationed there in both the armies, his uncles, grand-uncles and teachers, even great grand-uncles, maternal uncles, brothers and cousins, sons and nephews, and grand-nephews, even so friends, farther-in-law, and well – wishers as well.” (Bhagavadgita: Verse 26 and first half of 27)

If the Arjun in Akhilesh Yadav trembles and he is not able to raise the bow to destroy the past which continue to rise its ugly head, then, it is better that the scepter is won by the first female Dalit Chief Minister of the country, who knows how to eradicate the ravanas from her Ministry and push Dalit issues to the forefront in UP. So the real battle, the Kurukshetra is between dynasty and Dalit power.

Even if her obsession with PMO, must wait in the wings, for only a few months post the 2014 elections, she can clean up her house in Uttar Pradesh, to be dirt-free, once again.

(1)There is no reference made of congress here, who in my opinion, have lost their pie in any case, in UP and no matter how many times, Rahul Baba, dines at Dalit homes or claims to adopt a Dalit girl child, the much enlightened and aware Dalit population of today can see through his guile.
(2) All thoughts presented here are my own.

Picture creditCourtsey:

Recommended readings: Behenji - the biography of Mayawati by Ajoy Bose and Akhilesh Yadav - Winds of Change by Sunita Aron

Vidya Subrahmaniam,Deputy Editor, The Hindu, 2008

Friday, October 04, 2013

Silent is the lamp...

At the break of dawn, a lamp went off!

The year was 1995. I travelled to Delhi with two people from a film production company called Mantra Magic Films, from Mumbai. We were to remain in Delhi for 4 days to attend a Week of Broadcasting at Pragati Maidan. While my colleagues put up with their cousin’s at Nizamuddin, I settled into the very clean, very white, very British YWCA Guest House in Delhi. The room felt very cold and distant and while I was in Delhi, I wanted some warmth and friends around. I did not know anyone in Delhi, at that time except that I had got an address and phone number of two people, who were part of the women who desire women community in Delhi. I called the number and talked to someone, who said that they had a guest room where they put up women who came from out of town.

I checked out of YWCA and moved in with them. The house belonged to Giti Thandani and the two girls I met there introduced themselves as Cath Stuggart and Betu (Anandita)Singh. While I was away all day, I liked the warmth of their presence in the evenings, the quick breakfast with them in the mornings, little chats and sharing. I liked my little room on the top with an electrical kettle, tea bags, milk sachets, books and magazines on same-sex love. The little room was a sheer delight, with a window that looked out at the world, from the top. And on the last day of stay, I enjoyed meeting other women who desired women, in a neatly arranged beer and chips party on the terrace of the house.

I struck an instant rapport with both girls but Betu is someone I spoke to from Mumbai too after I returned. There was something in that child-like face that attracted me a lot. Cath Stuggart was staying over from England and learning Hindi and together they were doing a great job of managing Giti Thadani’s Office-cum-residence in Delhi, while she herself was in Germany.

The first beginnings of Sangini, began in Delhi, supported by the well-known Naaz Foundation. Betu and Cath were instrumental in bringing this to life.

Today, at the break of dawn, the lamp went off. Betu (Anandita) Singh passed away, the immediate cause of death being, stage 3 of cirrhosis of the liver.

This brings me to the main subject I want to write about.

The LGBTQ community in India suffers extreme isolation, marginalization and hence is an extremely lonely community. While there is a lot of companionship and friendliness among people, the togetherness is absent. People meet for drinks, dating, parties, but that real family feeling and togetherness is hard to come by. In the earlier days, the in-fighting overtook the outward seemingly out and about façade.

It has taken many of us a huge amount of courage to come out to family about our sexual identity. Very few families accept and support people who are out. So there is already the family one is fighting to find approval in and then there is the society at large, which finds any woman who is single, not partnered with a man, two women living together, something they cannot make sense of. Even tolerate. And what they cannot make sense of they want to eradicate. Kill. Or forget about it. This gives rise to the well of loneliness that very often hound, the LGBTQ community.

It is surprising that even after the decriminalizing of homosexuality, multiple films supporting same sex partnerships, so much literature, society at large has not accepted us in their midst. Families continue to ostracize us, or treat us with shame. If this is the attitude with families, then the society at large will also follow suit.

For example, consider the coming apart of a heterosexual marriage. Friends, family, extended family, friends of friends and all and sundry will come together to keep the marriage going. It is the opposite in the case of LGBTQ couples. Even in the community, people turn their heads away, and of course, the family beats hell and fire to break the relationship – in most cases. The laws of the land do not protect us, nor help us in any way, so that we feel included in the overall society at large. Do you mean that there is only one way to relate to another human being and that is the heterosexual way?

The well of loneliness is often filled with insecurities, alcohol, drugs and behavior that cry for help. But no one hears these cries, until it is too late.

These forced silences speak louder than words. These dead moments of life, even in a living body, are what regressive societies perpetuate and promote.

We really must wake up to some glaring, disturbing, uncomfortable truths that surround the LGBTQ movement in India. For that we need to know, about struggle elsewhere in the world and how they overcame it.

Now, the question is - who is going to bell the cat and make the first move?

Also read: Film review: And you thought you knew me by Pramada Menon