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.

 

Mere Pass MAA Hain

Disclaimer : This article is not meant to be about all moms. It is meant to be about a majority of them. If throughout this article your main bone of contention is, “hey, not my mom!” or “hey, not me!”, then you have missed the point.

                                “Mere pass MAA hain”

This iconic line symbolizes the deep rooted respect that Indian culture holds for the ideal known as “the mother”. Our generation (and the previous) extolls the sacrifices, the pain, the blood and sweat that our mothers squeezed our of their pores to bring us up. Every mother meme on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat bleeds love and dying devotion to their moms.

Now let’s pretend for a moment that the abusive/absent mom doesn’t exist. I want to talk about this so called ‘respect’ that all of you have for your mothers. The thing is that I have a feeling it’s not really the ‘I am in awe of your accomplishments and life’ respect that you give Steve Jobs or a General in the army. It’s the more of the “omg, how did you manage to live your life like that? Kudos for doing that ’cause I can never do that, ever,’ sort of respect you give someone like a storm drain cleaner. I wonder which ‘respect’ is more equal.

Now before you throw rotten tomatoes at me. Think.

Pause.

If you were born again, would you want to live the life of your mom ( boys and girls, I’m looking at you)?  Yes I know you respect her, but then why don’t you want her life?

Is it because she had to sacrifice her dreams once you were born? Is it because she chose to? Is it because she waited on you hand and foot without once thinking of herself? Is it because she still doesn’t own one piece of property even though she’s contributed to your family as much as your father has? Is it because she still uses her management skills to run the house? Is it because her worth in society is strongly correlated to your father’s status, your marks/job, her skills as an unpaid chef?

Most of us, sadly will not want our mother’s life. Probably some of you will say, ‘Hey, that whole generation was fucked, we don’t want our dad’s life either’. But really, if you had a choice, who’s life would you choose? Probably your dad suffered under the hands of terrible bosses or he was mainly responsible for your entire family’s finances, and that was hard. But you’d still prefer his life to your mom’s.

Why is this? Why can’t most of us ( boys and girls) look at our mom’s and say, “ I want to live the life you lead!” or “When I grow up, I want to be just like you!” or “I want to achieve what you did!”

The truth is we’re all hypocrites. We love the sacrifice that our moms’ made. Because she made it for us.  If we’re asked to do the same thing, we balk at the unfairness of it all. Because guess what, it is unfair. 

It’s unfair that she was expected to slave in the house when dad got to go out. It’s unfair that she had to be subservient to her in-laws much more than your dad, it was unfair that she didn’t take the promotion she badly wanted because it meant longer hours.

And guess what, it’s unfair that we still expect her to pamper us when we go home. I don’t care if she enjoys it. Why can’t we give her something else to enjoy that is not service to her family? Is that so bad?

Next time you meet your mom, especially if your mom was the kind who sacrificed her happiness for yours, break her free from the shackles you put on her. She is a person, a human being first. A mother, second. Just like everyone is a human being first, their ‘role’ second. Give her that freedom. It is your duty. Buy her a spa day, plan the entire day’s meals, encourage your father to help around the house, talk to her about her dreams, pay for a class that gives her a new skill outside of the home.

Validate her as a person, not only a mother. This is not easy. It means being able to look at your mom and see her as her first name .  Your father always had another role to give him confidence, and moms need that space too. From your perspective the role of your parent as mom or dad was the most important and the only one that mattered. But as a human being, a lot of people need more than the validation of being a parent. This is not blasphemy. It’s the truth. The parent may be the most important role, but supporting roles lend a lot to a story of a person. They give them confidence, support and build the personality of the main character. 

Whether male or female, validation doesn’t only come from family, though it plays a large part. It also comes from the feeling of having contributed to something larger. Give your mom this opportunity . Let her connect to the world not only through you or your father or her father, or God, but independently. Give her the confidence to define herself, to choose

So let’s make a promise together : Let’s respect our moms. Let them grow. In the way that we actually want to one day be like them.

                              End