Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Woman in man's rage

Personal Jottings
RK Rishikesh Sinha

Since immemorial time, a woman has been the image of culture and custom of one’s society. She observes all the cultural societal norms. Subsequently, she has always been the subject of discussion, analysis, and study. Recent incidents related to women are not new but the upsurge of hue and cry does claims genuine concern for the lesser half from men too.   

Notwithstanding, society has also been playing its role since the beginning of human civilization. But it could not be observed as negative, prejudiced or derogatory but certainly it has founded few conceptions, beliefs related to women, which have taken a drastic form now in this modern era. 

A major component of discussion and debates about women are related to dress. It is through dress a woman speaks about the class, society that she belongs. And non-adherence of rules is subject to scrutiny on her. Here I recollect an incident while I was in school. One day, our class teacher, who was an old Kashmiri lady, instructed me to call a particular girl from a group of girls who were returning from the morning assembly. As soon as I brought her to our class, the teacher scolded her in front of the whole class for wearing above-knee skirt. Though, it was a passing incident for me, I remembered it. As I have said in the beginning dress speaks a lot. Her father was a high-rank Army officer, a ‘class’ of its own, especially in defence.

Not enough, the same teacher once in her visit to our house commented, “Do women in Assam wear such dresses”; I immediately retorted, “Madam, I have never seen women in Assam wearing ‘this’ particular dress”. I learnt her observation came after watching a song from the Caravan movie that was coming in TV. Today, I think, how people make wild guesses and start believing about ‘other’ culture just watching mere dress of an actress. And in this present time, we are indeed living in a movie-like world. We watch a girl who is not in conformity with our prejudiced eyes, and we start making assumptions after assumptions, later we don’t know when these turns into beliefs.

That day I was in conversation with a familiar friend in my locality. Suddenly his topic changed to women or girls from Northeast India. The change in topic came when we both saw a girl from Northeast India wearing ‘western’ dress passed across us. She was looking extremely elegant. He said sarcastically, “‘See, the girl is uncomfortable in her dress and high-heeled sandal; still she is walking’. ‘They are ‘western’ in culture, isn’t’?” I amused thinking what on earth gave him the impression that the girl is feeling uncomfortable in her attire. I didn’t say anything to his talent of reading people. However, that day to kill my time with complete black-out everywhere, I commented on his ‘western’ perception about the girl’s dress. I said, “No, they are not ‘western’, they follow Indian culture”. Not amused by my answer, he stopped the conversation without uttering a word and soon left.

The girl went to her own way, but she gave lot of messages to be manufactured by the observers and onlookers; ironically all the messages are being interpreted according to one’s social and cultural milieu.We can’t deny that we are living in a paternalistic society where man decides the shape of the society without any consent of his other half. He can’t face sharing of same space with women.

The struggle on space between both the sexes comes down even into public places. Few men forget while travelling in buses and metros they have to abide by certain laws. In Delhi Metro rail, the first boggie is reserved for women. Some travellers knowingly or unknowingly occupy the reserved space there. When confronted by women, these men take it into their big ego and they erupt like volcano.  Tongue-tied in English, these men finding their machismo been hurt go berserk and roar, ‘angrej chale gaye, angreji chor gaye!’And some travellers are too smart to raise women issues in public transport system. One day while travelling from Chowri Bazaar Metro Station (the deepest metro station in the Delhi metro network), I witnessed a middle-aged man seeing a woman entering into the overcrowded boggie started saying ‘sarkar ne mahilao ko bahut adhikar diye hein, jinka mahilaye galat istemal kar rahi hein.’

Talking about the Guwahati incident and the attack on a ruling Congress legislator from Barkhola Assembly constituency in Barak valley, I somewhere consider it was pre-planned, and was minutely detailed in newsroom, the way they wanted to see it to happen.

Keeping aside the role of media for a moment, one thing that surprised all of us is the social acceptability of violence on women. In these two incidents, 5-6 persons were not involved, a mass of people were directly or indirectly were perpetrating the violence. It cannot be just said that these acts were based on patriarchy or machismo; rather it has got something to do with the power structure of our society. And those on the high echelon of power or the so-called elites don’t want to upset the power alignment. 

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