Mrs. Notmy Name

Author’s notes : This is a poem in response to traditional patriarchy. I hope it resonates with the pain of women everywhere, and it helps men empathize to the human experience of being a woman.

Mrs. NotmyName

I am not your mother, wife, sister

or your daughter. Nor am i a slut, whore

or shrew. I am half of you, yet invisible.

A Misses., amidst Masters.

I am torn because i want you, yet

i do not want to be of you. 

You punish me for my sin of passion, 

yet offer me delicious murmurs

when i promise it only you. Your gentle caress

is bestowed upon me only when I lay supine

only your gaze and your desire matters,

but darling, why not mine?

My greatest power lies in tears and sacrifice,

and I must pledge them – as my duty – to you.

Must I only be for birthing and slaving, 

like our mothers before us, in this life ?

Or can I be a leader, a taker, an explorer 

and  still see that gentle love in your eyes?

I am tempted into cowardice

to win your approval, because i want you.

i cover my head in false humility to please you,

But isn’t it silly, my darling, that a scarf is my integrity?

That my skin is so alien when it spills out of

it’s confines, you feel helpless and afraid?

I am a precious diamond, you explain.

to be cherished by men and to be protected from them;

But I yearn to fall from this pedestal

and to stand beside you, with you. I want to be free

from these shackles of purity; To be shades of gray

and still be seen ; To feel the earth against my skin,

and the sun warming my hair.

Can you allow me this? ; to feel like you do?

To be bare chested and unashamed?

Shade your eyes from my imagined radiance,

For I am not a currency.  I am my own,

like you are yours.

I am not your mother, sister or daughter,

but i am someone.

A Miss, amidst Masters.

End. 

How to completely miss the point, Coldplay style.

Oh Coldplay, you tried so hard. I empathize, really I do. But your latest song has left a bitter after taste that may affect my (previous) undying love for you. My initial excitement about the video (omg, shot in India!) soured into disappointment and confusion. I had a huge moment of cognitive dissonance after watching it. I love Coldplay, yet how could I hate their new video?

The cultural appropriation barely bothered me, Beyonce can wear mehndi and the ridiculous jewelry on her face all she likes. It was the objectification of so called ‘Indian culture’ that really annoyed me.

                                        Here are some screen shots of the video. 

 Shiva? Hanuman? How exactly did you choose these deities? Most popular? Most relevant? LOL. You shot in Mumbai and forgot Ganpati (the most popular deity in Mumbai) for God’s sake. It just proves to me that there was zero thought process behind the video. The priority was ‘ooh look pretty!’ or ‘ooh look, exotic!’. This would be okay except for the fact that this is not your culture to try and depict in a cute little video. In fact, it is a culture of many faiths and beliefs. It’s a complex, vibrant, contradictory, rich, poor, messy, beautiful, wonderful country that you have reduced to generic temples, kids in Hindu God costumes, colored powder, slum children, and levitating sadhus.

To put it in perspective. This is like an Indian making a video to celebrate American culture and filling it with images of only hamburgers, cowboys, (murdered) ‘red’ indians and the empire state building. The difference is that you, Coldplay, have done this to a civilization that is thousands of years old and is grappling with serious issues like poverty and building its economy. You did this to a country that has spent a lot of its history being oppressed by the same civilization that is now trying to ‘celebrate’ it by a patronizing ‘Oh look how exotic and colorful’ video.

Remember, people. Context is everything. Is there any in this video? Haha, Sorry, but no. Let’s move along… 

Holi/Slum screen shot

I have a big problem with white people from developed countries coming to Mumbai and filming happy, dancing slum kids. Again, let’s talk about context. What are you trying to depict Mr. Director? No, really. Tell me. Because I cannot fathom the logic behind these scenes. If you say that you are trying to celebrate the happiness and humanity of these kids, I will SCOFF. Because you’re really not. The point of these shots is to show how cool YOU are; Being amongst these strange creatures who seem to be happy even though they’re dirt poor. ‘Look, guys! We’re just like them! Let’s play music and throw Holi colors ( even though it was not Holi the time you were filming) all around so we look the same.’

Another shot : 

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.19.14 AM

I’m not being exploited because I’m smiling!

Yes, let’s celebrate how happy these kids are! Isn’t it strange how they smile and laugh even though they’re from a slum? Wow, we have so much learn from them,  fellow #white people! All your shallow, one sided video has done is to further ‘otherise’ these kids from the viewers. White washing ( haha) the fact that these children suffer real problems like malnutrition, drug addiction, violence etc. is not ethical. I’m not saying don’t show them as happy kids. A lot of them are. But if you choose to include them in a video, it is your responsibility to depict them as realistically as possible, and not just as props. For e.g. a good way would be to show them happy and playing cricket, or happy and going to school or happy and helping their parents, or happy and saying no to drugs.

Babas’ : 

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.15.02 AM

Blocking parking space like a boss.

Also, wtf is this? Is this Varanasi or Mumbai? The number plates on the car behind say MH02 ( Mumbai) but you sure could’ve fooled me. This is not a normal thing to witness in Mumbai. How much did you pay to have these guys here? Or did your guides forget to mention that this is severely out of place in a big city? Something more realistic would be to shoot  -I can’t believe I’m saying this – cows. If you want to use babas in your video, why don’t you show them doing something else instead of levitating. Levitating, for God’s sake ( I can’t even)! As hard as it for you to believe, India is not only a bigger, fetishized version of Banaras. 

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 12.22.31 PM

Sanjay Leela Bhansali does it better, sorry.

I don’t care how pretty your shot is. When you are trying to ‘celebrate’ a culture, you don’t choose the most stereotypical visuals, dramatize them ( all this shot did was remind me of Aishwarya Rai running in Devdas) and spew them all over your reel. Especially when you come from the dominant, more powerful culture. Why is this so hard to understand Mr. Director?

Some more examples of “Ooh, look Pretty!” that do absolutely nothing but to serve as a exotification and objectification :  I take particular umbrage to the second one. This child is supposedly on a busy Mumbai street. LOL. Funny, I’ve only ever seen that in carnivals in Rajasthan.

   

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.19.25 AM

Gotta be inclusive, yo!

Why are these cute little girls dancing Bharatnatyam on a terrace? Who cares? We have to include some sort of dance, so lets just randomly add a shot of them in our video with no context whatsoever.

Oh, and this shot ( amongst others) :

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.16.03 AM

Look Ma, Orange!

Yes, the colors are very pretty and the cinematography, wah bhai, wah! . However, you make the city/country look like a RSS (a right wing political party) wet dream rather than the inclusive, diverse place that it is. India is not only stereotypical Hindu culture. Yes, I went there. Where are the Muslims and the Jains and the Sikhs ( the taxi wala doesn’t count) and the Catholics and the Parsis ? Where are the shots of churches and mosques and temples side by side and coexisting?

The only thing I can conclude is this : If you really did want to celebrate Indian culture, you would celebrate its diversity. You would include people of all faiths, you would try and depict it’s wide economic gap, its 300 million strong middle class, its contradictory nature.. I could go on.

Maybe it’s too much to ask from you, Coldplay. After all, maybe your video is exactly what you took away from your visit : Pulp Hinduism, sadhus, Holi colors, two dimensional slum kids, and temples. And maybe that is exactly why I was so disappointed. I held you to a higher standard than white tourists who visit India for their ‘holiday’. Honestly, I thought even the video for ‘Lean on’ was better. 

If you really want to know how to shoot a video in India, here are some non objectifying videos you can learn from :

 

 

Oh yeah, i almost forgot. Fuck off, Coldplay.

 

Liability

I am a feminist. Now before you hit the back button in haste to get away from me, hear me out. This post isn’t about hating men. In fact, it is about loving them. Let me explain.

One day at office, a bunch of colleagues and I were discussing Caitlyn Jenner. Amid the uncomfortable laughs and the effort of left wing hippies to appear #tolerant, my mind started to wander.  I began to wonder about the male and female soul and whether I would ever survive waking up tomorrow and being transported into a man’s body. This has nothing to with actual transgenderism, but whimsical fancy. I wondered whether I would want to change back.

Speaking for myself, and feminists, please don’t kill me, is NO. I would not.

The truth is that I experience acute moments where I yearn to be a man. This is different from wanting a penis. While I see all genitals as equally gross and wonderful, my yearning doesn’t come from wanting a ‘mini me’, but wanting the advantages that a penis gives a human. People may laugh and say that is not surprising at all. All ‘man hating’ feminists secretly want to be men. Since they can’t, they seek to destroy them out of jealousy and plain old resentment. But in reality my moments of want come from cowardice. I am just too much of a pussy to be a woman.

It would just be easier to thrive as a man than to survive as a woman. The desire comes from the same place a lot of poor people want to be richer and why children want to be adults. It all has to do with power and convenience. Rich people have access to many more things and adults can make their own decisions.  In the same way, I would grab the privilege of being a man and never look back. 

Yes, Mr. MRA activist, don’t look at me like that. I would never change back despite the ‘unfair’ alimony laws, the standing on the bus, the disgusted looks women give me if I bump into them by accident, the child custody laws, the ‘threat’ of false rape complaints, the token promotion of my female colleague over me, the bouncers outside a club rejecting me, women rejecting me  because of my low salary etc. etc.

Because None of that actually compares to the feeling of being a liability. To the ones that you love and to yourself. This brings me back to the point of my article. As a human being I feel the need to protect the people I love. To make them proud of me, to allow them a feeling of security in my presence. However as a woman, I find it difficult to provide these things to the men I love, especially in public spaces. 

Let me give you an example.  While chaperoning a bunch of younger cousins on a picnic to Elephanta caves, I remember my mother telling me to take my 16 year old cousin to my trip to the bathroom so I would stay ‘safe’. To put this in perspective I was 30 at the time. It was humiliating. I remember how embarrassed my own cousin was, but I also remember the slight puffing of chest, the boost to his self confidence as his power was validated. I have never been allowed to feel that. And I can’t even resent my mother. There were packs of men roaming about that place, veering too close to my younger sisters. My mother could not leave them, and she could not send me alone either. After that,  my cousin’s and my relationship changed forever. Yes, he still respected me. However, I was no longer someone who protected him, but someone who needed to be protected. And make no mistake, only one of those roles is empowering.

In private spaces, where gaze is (mostly) not gendered, I am able to be a security and strength.  In public spaces I brace for not only my humiliation but theirs. I am never allowed to forget that my vulnerability is not only mine anymore. My womanhood, my weakness, is projected onto the men that I love.

Let me give you another example. My father lives in a household of women. Two daughters, a wife and a widowed mother. One day my sister, mother and I were all dressed up for a wedding and we bundled into the car. My dad was driving. I felt the usual anxiety I feel when exposed in a such a way ; steeling myself for the hungry, violent sneers that bored through the car windows as we drove by. However, this time, a trio on a bike started following us after I mistakenly made eye contact at a signal. My mom and dad were oblivious, involved in their own bickering and my younger sister had her eyes glued to her phone, probably a defense mechanism in itself. It was only me who’s neck hairs rose when I realized this trio swerving close to our car, trying to get my attention. The three young men, probably adolescents, were grinning and pleased at my obvious discomfort and lowering of eyes. They probably thought they were wooing me successfully . Or maybe just took a predatory pleasure in making someone afraid of them. Or maybe they were validating their ‘manhood’ in the only way that they knew. 

Whatever the reason , the end result was that I was afraid. Very afraid. Logically I knew nothing could happen. They would probably follow us, make rude gestures and speed off after making sure they had had their intended effect. But at that moment, with my blood rushing to my face, and my heart beating very fast, I was aware of two things. One – if they wanted, they could swerve in front of us, and physically overpower my father easily. Second, the reason they would do this was because of me. ME. My father was a target because I was a woman. He could get hurt trying to protect me. And why? because I had a vagina.

Shame was the over riding feeling. I remember wishing desperately that my sister had a brother and not me. Because if I were a man, my sister would not be a target, my mother would not be a target and neither would my father. My glare would not be a source of amusement that spurred their harassment, but a concrete power. The three men on the bike would make a risk assessment and decide that this car was not worth it since it had two men protecting it. As it were, with only my father and three vaginas, it was a prime target.

I could barely look my father in the eye that day. I wondered where else my reproductive system had  made him feel more vulnerable than a father of a son. I started to remember sympathetic eyes and ‘hmms’ as a child when my father would say that he had two daughters. I don’t even blame those people. To have only daughters in India is to gear yourself to a life long fight. The physical danger is real. It looms. It stalks lone men accompanying women with the same persistence that sexual violence shadows women. And I haven’t even touched upon the economic repercussions.

If my father read this he would be horrified. He has communicated to me time and time again by his actions that he does not care what gender I am. But I can’t help but feel that society has never let him forget that he has no sons. In a thousand different ways. From the well meaning advice to start saving as soon as I was born, or to the shock and sympathy to know the large amount my sister earns and it’s negative effects on her marriage prospects, to the priest’s disapproval when I insisted on no kanya daan during my wedding, to the leery eyes when my family is out together, to the discomfort when bosses make misogynistic jokes, to the threat of violence in public spaces everywhere and all the time.

It is systemic. It is heart breaking, It makes me hate myself, my vagina and my vulnerability.  It makes me want to be a man. If only to the effect that I can be considered worthy of being a strength rather than a liability. In this kind of atmosphere I feel it is impossible for any true equality. This is why a woman’s love is forever idolised as subservience and duty to her protector and lord god.  And that makes me very, very sad. Everyone deserves to provide a love that empowers. 

And yes, people will say that the only reason I feel like a liability is my own insecurities. I am sure this does play a part. But I would ask you to consider the reality of the ‘jungle out there’. It does not matter how much you earn, your position of power, the number of people who respect you. As a woman, every breath you take you are conscious of the fact that the leering man on the road Can, if he chooses , overpower you , hurt you and humiliate you in a way that they would never do to a man.

I would compare the fear of rape in a woman to the fear of castration in a man. Yes, death is worse, but the fear associated with castration is much more visceral. This is the kind of threat women feel everyday. The worst part is that we are made to feel responsible for the violence in another person. We are reminded every day that most people do not look at us and see a person, but just a cunt or someone’s mom/sister. If one dares to be more and venture out unprotected into the ‘jungle’, then beware.

And best of luck.

#sorrynotsorry.

How to be the perfect Indian (urban) Husband

Really, it’s not as difficult as it seems if you follow these simple tips:

1 ) Stick to your job. Your whole family depends on you now. Society and your parents made sure your wife is at home or on a teacher’s salary. Hate that soul sucking work place? Too bad. What’s that? You want to follow your passion? LOL.

2) Complain about how tough it is to be a man. Ignore the fact that society pushed you into a position of financial independence and responsibility while it pushed your wife into a position of dependance and subservience. Claim you got it much worse.

3) Make BABIES. Can’t afford it? Get promoted, you loser.

4) Forget anniversaries because you are too busy trying to get promoted. Feel indignant at your wife’s disappointment. Doesn’t she realize how tough it is being a financially responsible, independent person?

5) Buy your wife things that she can’t afford herself because of the shitty part time job that you let her take. Feel manly about it.

6) Invite your boss to your home for dinner. Pretend that it was hardly any effort for your wife as the impressive spread is an every day affair.  Laugh at your boss’s significant disappointed remark towards his own wife, who sadly works full time.   

7) Help with the dishes. Expect a blowjob for your heroic effort. 

8) Partake in mysogynistic wife bashing humor even though your wife barely nags you about anything and conversations about your work dominate most communication between the both of you. Pretend that your wife is like a whiny child even though she is your biggest supporter and you love her dearly. 

9) Go to Thailand with your guy friends. Pretend you want to sleep with prostitutes even if you don’t.  Bully the one guy in the group who is brave enough to voice this by calling him a ‘pussy’ or a ‘chutiya’. 

10) Agree with your mother when she says that your wife shouldn’t go for that abroad trip with her friends for her ‘own protection.’ It’s really not safe for women out there! Promise your wife that you will take her yourself one day. As soon as you get promoted.

11) Feel confused, ashamed and disappointed when you have a daughter. Feel guilty at your       own  emotions. Promise yourself, your wife and your new born child that you will raise her just like a son. Hope desperately that your second child is a son.

12) Complain that alimony is unfair and that your wife has no right to half your hard earned money. Who cares if her sucking up to your boss’s wife,  fancy dinners, cooking, cleaning, taking care of your parents and rearing  your children have given you the time to build your career guilt free? She knows nothing about the corporate world. She’s just a house wife.

13) Write blog posts defending your wife’s choice to be a stay at home mom. Describe how being a mother is the most beautiful thing in the universe and how you’re secretly jealous of her.

14) Lastly, never move out of your parent’s house. 

If you want to know how to be a perfect urban Indian wife, please click here!

How to be the perfect Indian (urban) wife

Really, it’s not as difficult as it seems if you follow these simple tips:

1 ) Change your name. What’s in a name, you ask? Nothing except for your entire identity. The sindhoor is in place, beta. You are now your husband’s property, sorry, responsibility. He is going to provide for you your entire life. Changing your name is the least you can do. 

2 ) Change your place of residence. Move into your in-law’s house. Or move to where your husband is currently located. What’s that, you say? Your husband’s house is your own? LOL. Tell that to your mother in-law’s terrible taste in furniture which she refuses to change because she doesn’t want her son to feel any less at ‘home’ after marriage.

3 ) Change the way you dress. You are married now. You are the symbol of honor of your husband’s family. Why tarnish it by provoking other people to talk about your character by wearing shorts. Chee!

4 ) Be a house hold management expert. Don’t know how to cook paneer makhanwala for 10 people and vacuum at the same time? What did you go to school for?

5) Be an expert actor. Smile good natured-ly when all the women get dinner ready while your husband and his friends watch your favorite football team lose the game. Agree with equally resentful but smiling wives that even if you let the men into the kitchen, nothing would get done anyway! Titter and giggle at the favour you are doing the universe. Die a little on the inside.

6) Be forever grateful for the willingness of your husband to ‘help’ out with household chores. Gush about his expert dish washing skills with your friends. Bask in the jealousy of other wives.

7) Change your career plans for your future baby. Corporate job? Don’t be silly. Be a terrible teacher instead. Better hours, beta. How will you cook and manage a corporate job at the same time? What’s that you said? MBA? From Harvard? LOL.

8) Say yes to whatever your in-laws ‘suggest’. You don’t believe in rituals? So what. Such a small price to pay for their happiness. Their happiness is yours, is it not? In fact, everyone else’s happiness is your happiness! How can you be so greedy to ask for your own! Karva Chaut FTW!

9) Accept the roti belan as a gift from your mother in law and smile like an angelic idiot when asked if you know how to cook chapatis. MBA, you said? LOL.

10) Pretend not to be horrified when your father in law jokes that the roti belan is a good defense against your angry/horny husband.

10) Get pregnant. Multiple times.

11) Have a son. If it’s a daughter, practice your apologetic smile and promise to do better next time.  If it’s a second daughter, practice your verbal groveling.

12) Partake in male bashing humor even though you know your husband is not ‘a sex crazed maniac’ and the opposite of a ‘mama’s boy’.

13) Bite your tongue when your husband’s best friend’s wife mistakenly thinks her husband forcing himself on her is ‘normal and cute.’  Try and explain consent without mentioning the words ‘marital *ape’. Everyone knows that such a thing does not exist in India. 

14) Introduce yourself as ‘so and so’s wife’ rather than your own name at all public functions.

15) Bask in the reflected glow of your husband’s achievements. Act superior to the wife of your husband’s junior colleague. Suck up to the wife of your husband’s boss and secretly hate her. Ignore the fact that you have achieved none of that yourself.

16) Lastly, post pictures on social media of your perfect marriage and no.1 husband. If it’s not online, it didn’t really happen.

To know how to be a perfect Indian urban husband, please click here!