By me. Published in April 2014, Fountain Ink Magazine
Seema Moses’ Bangalore was very different from the chaotic, traffic-stricken city it is today. The matriarch of one of Bangalore’s last Jewish families, she saw the city change over the decades.
By me. Published in April 2014, Fountain Ink Magazine
Seema Moses’ Bangalore was very different from the chaotic, traffic-stricken city it is today. The matriarch of one of Bangalore’s last Jewish families, she saw the city change over the decades.
I got called a female chauvinist last evening (actually my writing was called a female equivalent of chauvinism – the assumption that chauvinism is male by default was curious). While I do not respond to all accusations/ name-calling towards me, this one gave the final nudge publish the post I’ve left lying in my drafts for so long.
What is my feminism?
A good friend once asked me why feminists fight so much among themselves. For one who has been following any kind of –ism, it’s natural to know that definitions are subjective and open to interpretations. Feminism is no different. For this reason, there is no consensus about what feminism should mean (if at all it should mean the same thing to all).
As someone who appreciates subjective opinion (and debate of objectionable opinions), I venture here to define what feminism means to me. Feminism is the pursuit of equality: equality of rights, fair treatment, reasonable expectations, unequivocal respect and due share of voice. My feminism is about pointing out the bias in the status quo and debate for positive change. It is about challenging patriarchy and seeking a more gender-neutral public (and private) space.
Why is it important?
I’ve been told several times that feminism is no more relevant – women can vote, pilot flights and marry the man of their choice – therefore, we must all drop the feminist hullabaloo and go on with our business. Another argument from the feminism-is-no-more-needed brigade is that women are equal to men now and talking feminism creates a wrong impression that there is indeed inequality.
Let me explain this with anecdotal evidence. Someone I worked for, a man I had immense respect for as a professional, went to a conference once. He was totally underwhelmed at the discussions that happened there and was complaining about all the speakers and their incompetence. However, when he spoke about a lady, who happens to be the CMO of a major corporation, he said “I don’t know who she had to fu(k to become the CMO. She has nothing else going for her”. If that isn’t enough reason for you to believe there is still bias that needs to be challenged, I can go on with the anecdotes. Or would you rather I point you in the direction of some research?
Then why rant about religion, caste etc.?
Because they are all equally important. None of us are fools to think all women have the same difficulties or the same privileges. Dalit women, homos3xua! women, urban (/rural) women, Muslim women, obese women have all their own set of issues that need to be spoken about and dealt with. Perhaps, the reason why one feminist has an entirely different point of view about a certain issue from another is that there are very many layers that need to be taken care of.
While white, middle class feminists in the Europe are worried about how feminist is high heels, there are a group of them fighting to be able to compete at the Olympics. The reasons priorities change are various – but almost always comprise of religion, caste, culture, history, sexual orientation and the like.
Writing a feminist account arising from being a woman alone (if that is even possible) would be half-baked and useless.
Why do I do movie reviews?
If you haven’t already read the disclaimer on my blog, let me explain this to you. I do not treat myself as the sole authority on goodness/ badness of films, in fact the technicalities are sometimes irrelevant to me.
As the blog header points, the only thing that is of concern to me is the representation of women (femininity, female perspectives etc.). We’ve all read enough research to show that films go beyond entertainment and help shape the cultural and political leanings of the society. I believe I have a point of view that arises from education and experience, is legitimate and is meant to begin a healthy debate. I don’t give scores to films, I don’t rank them on any scale, I don’t even ask you not to watch a film. If at all, I only ask you to watch a few films I’ve found interesting – from my (by now sufficiently disclosed) ideological perspective.
So what makes me right?
My point of view – derived from observation, reading, and debate. While I always argue for equality and fair representation, never once have I argued that women are better than men at anything or must be held higher. That, is in fact, the opposite of what I endeavor to argue.
Now that you’ve heard me out about my feminism, if you still want to debate, bring it on, I say!
Over the last two days, I was part of a conversation that can be seen as a metaphor for the way ‘the privileged’ look at reservation. (Read this one about privilege – some interesting points made). I’ll leave the metaphorical interpretations to you and make a few points that I wish to strictly about reserving seats for women in buses.
When are reservations needed (or administered)
My personal experience tells me that reservations are needed (or administered) in situations where there is a one has been historically marginalised (or even is being marginalised).
All reservations – based on caste/ creed/ race/ gender – are aimed at lending a helping hand to a group that has been marginalised and need help to reach even moderate levels of equality and acceptability. How this reservation is handed out is perhaps a topic of debate but you cannot argue generally that reservation is bad. Again I am digressing. This is about BMTC alone.
Now then, there is a reservation of seats in buses (16 out of about 64 seats in Bangalore and 50% in Chennai – as some Chennai folks tell me) to ensure women are given equal (or near equal) opportunity to avail facilities. Reservation, by definition, is a claim to something. If 50% seats are reserved for women, it’s understood that a woman is entitled to it and can be used by others in case there is no woman to claim it – same goes for seats reserved for the elderly and disabled as well. Given that, a man is expected to get up from his seat and give way to a woman who is entitled to it, by law.
If that is clear, here are some scenarios.
Scenario 1: If a man is seated on a women’s seat and a woman is standing. He is expected to give it up for a woman who claims it – social protocol says he must volunteer, but then who cares, right? So, when the seat is unclaimed, he can stay seated there as long as he wishes.
Scenario 2: If a man is using a seat reserved for a woman and a woman claims it, he has to give it up. Legally, it is her seat. Now, all you standing on your moral high grounds can argue about the right-ness of a woman to claim it. But she is entitled to it. She claims it.
Scenario 3: This is the interesting part. If a woman is seated in what is not reserved for women, she may not be legally asked to give up her seat simply because it is not reserved for a man. It is simply not reserved for a woman/ transgender/ elderly/ physically challenged or whoever else. That seat is available on first-come-first-served basis. If you have problems with that law, go fight in the court. DO NOT go around breaking the law. That is like saying – “I don’t think a licence is a fair way to judge my driving skills. So, I will drive around without it.” Absurd, to say the least.
In this context, let me bring in all the relevant and irrelevant points.
The relevant ones:
The point about women given the reservation of seats because they are often sexually harassed by men is greatly valid. More often than not, it is the men that harass the women. One of the reasons the law of reservation exists is to protect women from such situations.
The point about giving the marginalised an opportunity to speak up for themselves is very valid. In this case, women are often victims of patriarchy. 50 years ago, a woman would have been petrified of asking a man to give her a seat – mostly even standing out of respect to men, stranger or otherwise. So, a reservation gave them claim to it. This is greatly relevant even today.
The irrelevant ones
Chennai is more cultured than Bangalore – Great! Keep the change! (Oh yes. I am feminist you see? I have no sense of humour. Sorry).
About sexual harassment – if your point is that there are assholes among women and therefore they should not be entitled to reservation, it is irrelevant. All men in the world did not get murdered because some are rapists. So, sorry.
If it outrages you that all women are playing victims because they are even now being deprived of what is rightfully theirs, you are irrelevant. No you are not. You are actually harmful to the idealistic aim of equality in society.
Reservation will not save women from gropers. #ok
And in the end, if you have half a thing to say, please type it out in the comments section. I am not an expert in reservation and I’d like to hear from you if I’ve been mistaken. Try and keep it relevant though! 🙂
I’ve been a lot of things in the last 25 years I’ve spent on the planet – a daughter, a sister, a friend, a dude, an enemy, and a fool among other things. The one thing that was most troublesome of them all is being a feminist.
Being a feminist is obviously not like being a woman – you can’t look down my neck and see that I am a feminist, right? I have to go out of my way and say it – talk about it, hang out with other feminists, read a book that’s called ‘feminist film theory’ or at least shout out on my blog header. The moment someone spots I am a *feminist*, the conversation travels through a whole new tangent. Some apologise, some cringe, some turn away and some others try to talk me out of it. The most common reactions to me being feminist had to be televised…err, written about.
Have I offended you?
The most common reaction to my being a feminist is apology. I’ve known people all my (feminist) life being sorry for my being feminist. Most people begin conversations saying, “I hope you don’t get offended by my saying this, but I think…” When any sentence begins this way, I want to sigh, bite my fist, drop a little tear and run dramatically into my room weeping my heart out like Saroja Devi in Anbe Vaa. NOT.
Do you really have a boyfriend?
This is an extension of people thinking that all feminists are women and most of them are single (or l3sbian), have *bob cut*, burn bras as a hobby, smoke incessantly, are extremely unsatisfied and abnormal. Some people have gone so far as to ask ‘what kind of a man is in love with a feminist?’ and asked *me* that question for good measure. Here, I shall let you in on a little secret. My boyfriend is imaginary – there is no real person I can call a boyfriend and I live happily in my imaginary (feminist) relationship! Peace?
Now you are overdoing it!
This is every sociologist’s nightmare. When I watch movies I observe hidden meanings that have been passed on over generations to indicate (and perpetuate) a particular idea. When Rajinikanth says “adhigama aasapadra aambalayum, adhigama kovapadra pombalayum…” you do realise that he is saying it is all right for men to get angry (which in turn leads to physical/ s3xual abuse)? No? I am overdoing it? Okay.
Come on. Take a joke.
“Chris Gayle *raped* the Delhi Daredevils bowlers” was taught to me one evening as funny usage. I’ve been led to believe that saying one person outperformed another is the same as raping the other person. When I refused to believe it, I am generally asked to come on and take a joke!
I am not much of a feminist
This is what I hear from the ladies. This is the female apology to mean that they are sorry they are not as much feminists as I am. They don’t mind men opening their car doors, carrying their heavy luggage, fixing their *technology* problems or making their travel plans as long as the men are willing to do dishes, change their children’s diapers and earn for the family.
My dream reaction
You know all said and done; I don’t think I have seen the worst yet. I am waiting for the day when a child will look at me and say, “Ayyo, feminist” (like Ayyo, bootham) only to run and hide in the dupatta of his/ her mother. That day will also come and bring along with it tranquillity and peace to my feminist mind!
It is one of those days when you had an avalanche of emotions and feel drained even before the workday ends. From happiness to pride, satisfaction, love, freedom, revenge, anger, disgust, pain, insult, you’ve experienced a range of emotions that half the human population hasn’t even begun to feel. At 6 PM, you grab your handbag and leave for the day. You find that one colleague you don’t mind spending time with at the end of such a day and go for coffee to a comforting café. Sipping (a rather strong) coffee, through some nice conversations and comfortable silences, you see a strange calm dawning on you when it starts drizzling outside and you decide to walk home.
You zip up your overcoat and start walking in the drizzle (secretly thanking that colleague of yours who didn’t insist on being chivalrous and drop you home). It is still drizzling. You plug your earphones and switch on a playlist of melancholy love songs on shuffle (to be surprised) and start walking – a smile intact on your lips.
You walk a few steps and the auto rickshaws start slowing down near you (the helpful Bangalorean gentlemen that they are). You give them a condescending smile and look away with a heightened sense of self. The mighty rain washes Indiranagar down and you see people slowly move to the sides of the road. The world opens up for you and you feel like the brave one surviving the vengeful rain. When the first drop of rain reaches your lips and you slowly swallow that drop, the sense of bravery vanishes and all you feel is noble love for the rain that has now enveloped you – in your entirety, just the way you are, the shape, the size and the personality. The rain envelopes the car that just passed by, the buffalo that refuses to move, the umbrella that the school girl is hiding under and every person else – the same way it embraces you. You can’t resist being jealous – jealous of all the other people it is raining on – even worse when they don’t even love it back like you do. You smile knowing yourself all too well.
You’ve walked quite a distance and you want to know what time it is but the smartphone you trust for everything is not rainproof. You look up the night sky and continue walking. The stupid shuffle on your android phone plays Adhiradi Kaaran after Anal mela paniththuli – you can’t resist singing ‘jakkal jackal dammaal dummeel’ and admiring the genius that is vaali!
While passing through that one-way street that has colourful shops lining up either side, there is a power cut. That sense of divine reassurance that (you are the only one walking on the road while everyone else is waiting for the rain to stop) you will not get groped in the dark. That sense of fear that you might fall into a ditch and therefore move to the middle of the road. That joy of walking in the middle of the road in Bangalore and not get yelled at.
You don’t feel thirsty because you know you’ve been drinking rainwater. But you are finding it increasingly difficult to walk. You look down to see dripping wet pants and you thank rain gods that it isn’t Friday else you’ll be in jeans and it would have been heavier.
You wait to cross the road and a gentleman in a black VW Polo stops and waves for you to go. You give him a thumbs-up and thank him. You climb on to the footpath (you finally find after several minutes of walking) and a van splashes muddy water on you. You smile back at him thinking ‘this too shall get rain-washed’. Nothing really seems like a problem anymore. Not the pair of earphones that are also drenching in the rain, not the handbag that has a kindle that is getting wet, not the cold and a fever you may catch tomorrow, not all the worldly problems that bothered you during the day.
You know you will write this post and publish it. You think about calling it ‘a walk to remember’ and then think about how inappropriate it would be in an otherwise film-review blog. You decide to call it ‘mazhai kaadhali’ and you take mental note of giving title-credit to @codenameashtray.
You get home and open the door. The power is still *cut*. You light a small candle lying on the teapoy and inhale the smell of home. Nothing seems like a problem anymore. This too shall be washed.
Direction: Joseph Cedar
Featuring: Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi
Footnote is an Israeli film about a father and a son – both in the Talmud department of the Hebrew University. The father is a researcher following traditional research methods – hard-working, meticulous and perseverant. The son, on the other hand, is modern, publishes without being entirely sure, is sociable and highly appreciated. The father doesn’t take his son’s successes too well.
To understand the film in its entirety, one must have some knowledge about Talmud research or at least Judaism and its texts. When you don’t understand the literature, the film is a blindfolded ride through complex dynamics of this father-son relationship of envy, rage, sympathy, irreverence, fear and love (that is much considering the father is said to be autistic).
The father is proud and the son is sacrificial (more out of the fear of breaking the family). The father is contemptuous of his son’s research but the son is sympathetic of his father’s work. The father publicly calls his son an empty vessel but the son attributes all his successes to the father. In spite of the father being portrayed as the pompous guy, I felt for the father more than the son – almost as if he was wronged by the world (of research and rivalry).
The women characters in the film are very interesting. There is the typical mother – hosting guests, folding up the newspaper, protecting the son and spreading love. There is the son’s wife – whose job is to be a mother (for the grandson) and she even refuses to do it right. Then there is this girl who submits a research paper that is beyond bad and a journalist who is said to be amateurish.
The film’s ending haunts you with its openness leaving you contemplating for a long while after the film what the father will do with the prize (knowing fully well he was awarded it at the mercy of his son). You are wondering if you know the father well enough to conclude that he will arrogantly refuse acceptance – or bury his wisdom and take the prize he waited decades for.
In essence, footnote is the story of a bunch of convoluted relationships that the director leaves you to untangle in your own time. Well played, indeed.
Direction: Patricia Rozema
It brings careers, sexuality, religion, theology, pedagogy, literature, performing arts, substance-abuse (okay, it’s p0t they talk about) etc. together through stark symbolism and bold imagery.
Camille (played so naturally by Pascale Bussières) is a literature professor at a religious college dating a fellow professor (of theology). Martin, the lover, is chasing career opportunities while Camille is looking for real love (which she loses when her dog dies in disturbing circumstances and chooses to make space for the dead dog in her fridge).
While mourning for the dog, she meets Petra (charmingly affable Rachael Crawford) – a circus performer who is said to wear racy clothes, living in a converted truck, drinking out of glasses with round bottoms and performing interesting (feminist) gigs. The one gig with the iron box is a great display of absurdist feminist performances.
Camille and Petra fall in love – after Petra almost stalking Camille and cornering her to take interest. Camille, of course, is immensely attracted – she initiates their first kiss, comes around and initiates their first love-making (which is picturised in great detail and class). She is embarrassed about her sexual preference in the beginning and cringes at the thought of PDA. The film takes you through Camille’s life in stages of indifference – interest – denial – contemplation – pursuit – embarrassment – acceptance. Her struggle is palpable. Petra being a woman of colour adds a new layer of complexity to the story. (A very interesting read here on racial complexities)
At the end of an extremely moving, highly engaging, intriguing film, I am left to wonder if the symbolisms are indeed intended the way I perceive it. The relationship between Camille and Martin is seen as bland and unexciting – they wear grey clothes, accept religious teachings as the final word, spend no quality time together and there is discomfort that is more felt than seen. However, Camille’s scenes with Petra are filled with references of being out-of-normal – the glass I mentioned earlier, the gigs in the circus, the nomadic life, the pot-smoking, the struggle for making ends meet – make me wonder if the idea of the film is to treat lesbianism as non-mainstream (if not exactly deviant). Not that I am saying that is a good or a bad thing.
In all, when night is falling, is moving, feels real and highly engaging with the beautiful colours and breathtaking imagery. If it doesn’t bother you to see two women in love with each other (or even if it does), watch this film.
My biggest crisis with Twitter is that I confuse between sets of people. Sometimes it’s similar handles, sometimes names, sometimes DPs and mostly just nothing realistic – but confusion prevails. Ignore it if you think I’m being narcissistic. If you can relate to it, please leave comments.
@vetti and @kickassiyer
How could someone confuse between such starkly different handles?! I did because they are both called Karthik. One generally has his picture as his DP and the other some cartoon (he could kill me for calling it cartoon, but anyway). One I’ve met more than once and spent quality time with, while the other I’ve had long conversations about his love life. The two are such different people and I still confuse the two. Hmmm.
@pavadanada and @davaratumbler
This, I think, is because both of them feature in my offline conversations with Twitter people. After repeated recommendations, I followed the two. For the love of my life I cannot differentiate between the two without conscious effort.
@Eml_a and @askabuska
This also has something to do with the people (off Twitter) who talk about them so often. But now confuse between @askabuska and @pavadanada as well. Sigh.
@4SN and @Vasudevan_K
This confusion happened when I was travelling to Chennai and both of them changed their DPs. Even now, I cannot trace back to how I know each person and what I have told them in the past. To make things worse, now @4SN has strange DPs.
@dreamydr and @neelavanam
This must have something to do with being dreamy and writing poetry. Over time I have realised one has recently become a doctor while the other is mildly aunty generation! 🙂
@18pattinaattaamai /@thekaipullai /@raghuthaatha
It took me a while just to figure out that they are all not bots and when I did, I followed them. But you see, when someone has a DP like @raghuthaatha has and a handle like his (his being male is an assumption of course), I can hardly think of him (assumedly) as a real person with real opinions. I always expect him to slam my mentions columns the way @APPATAKKARbot does.
@degree_kaapi is a girl. NOT.
My first memory of him on my TL was when he tweeted about his “favourite female characters being Shakti in Alaipayuthey and Jessi in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya – both wore starched saris”. Proof enough that he is male? Don’t answer that.
Direction: Girish Kasaravalli
Written by: Amaresh Nudgoni, Girish Kasaravalli
Featuring: Vyjanath Biradar, Umashree, Sadashiv Brahmavar
The film won National award for Best Feature Film in Kannada and for Best Screenplay.
After college (at MIC, Manipal), I’ve not seen a Kannada film, that’s in over 5 years. Even in college, the only two Kannada films I remember watching were ‘Dweepa’ and ‘Hasina’. All along, trying to brush aside the beautiful nostalgia attached to Kasaravalli’s films in my life, I sat down to watch Kanasemba Kudureyaneri.
The film is about dreams – Rudri’s, her husband Irya’s and one that is theirs. The dreams are intertwined in the superstitions of the villagers, the materialism of a son, the death of a father and the stench of his dead body. Going back and forth in time, Girish takes us through the culture and belief systems of a village full of people.
Irya is a gravedigger. He dreams of the death of a man in the village and believes that to be true – so he takes off to dig his grave. When he is told that there is no death in the village, he is left devastated.
Rudri – his wife – dreams of Siddha’s arrival and she prepares a lavish meal for him. When he doesn’t arrive, she is also heart broken.
Back and forth, in two days, we see capitalism, poverty, ignorance, self-sufficiency, agriculture vs. industry, and many meaningful arguments weaved subtly into a realistic story. The beauty of the film of course is in the hope with which he ends the film. The cynic in me wants to diss it as romanticising real problems, but Girish leaves me with Rudri and Irya’s dream of cultivating barren land in the hope of a better life.
Afterall, aren’t dreams all we’ve got!