Friday, December 21, 2012

No Country for Women

The more I read about the gang rape of the 23 year old student in Delhi, the more I feel helpless about not being able to do anything about it. Having learnt the details of the gruesome crime, I left for work feeling both aghast and extremely angry. I  wondered that in a country where only one in four rape accused gets convicted, what the odds of her getting justice were. And more importantly, I hoped this will be one of the last sacrifices a woman will have to make before our country wakes up to creating a system that is a strong deterrent to such acts - including others such as abduction, dowry harassment, molestation, domestic violence, honour killings, female foeticide, forced prostitution or even verbal harassment and eve teasing. (No wonder India has been ranked as worst country for women of the G20 countries, even behind Saudi Arabia!)

I am not going to talk about stuff that we read in the headlines. I will talk about the lives of the ones I know and my own. I have witnessed a woman being groped in public by a group of hooligans while she was getting off a shared passenger tempo. A cousin of mine was harassed and beaten for dowry for many years until she divorced her husband. My maid left her husband because he was physically abusive. One of my friends confessed to me about how a member of her family had once made an attempt to take advantage of her when she was 13. Another friend spoke about how his friend and neighbour was killed on resisting a sexual assault (this one made it to the headlines). I am appalled by the frequency with which I hear/see such instances of varying degree in my daily life. I can go on and on but I intend to focus on a more deeper problem - of the male mentality.

I started a discussion with my team (graduates from a tier two college) over lunch about the recent cases in Delhi and Mumbai. One asked who the Delhi victim will marry, to which the other replied "the guy who she was with in the bus". Regarding the rape of the Spanish woman and murder of my friend's friend in Mumbai, they commented that it is not always the male fault - "Women should not encourage men by wearing provocative clothing and inviting unnecessary conversation". My friend who's friend was killed was asked in the interrogation by the police - "What was a girl doing with a him at 10.30PM in his house when they were 'just' friends?" and "Did she always wear clothes like this (probably pyjamas/shorts and tee shirt) ?"

To such male chauvinism and highhandedness, I have the following questions:

Why should a woman dress decently to prevent rape? Even if she is naked, would it still not be her prerogative whether to get physical with a man? Why can't men stay at home to keep the women safe? Why does a woman with many male friends become immoral? Why is the onus on women to not get raped? And the more universal questions related to all acts of violence against women -Why is a woman victimized when her only crime is "being forced" into the act?

The worst part is this chauvinism is not restricted to just one section of the society - it's prevalent across economic classes, castes and education levels - more in case of some pockets of the country, less in case of some others. I can't speak on behalf of these men because I don't fall in their category.

However, I can't do nothing about it. I can challenge the derogatory mindset when I get an opportunity. I can help and support the ones who have been roughened up by these experiences. I can educate children on the importance of being sensitive to people from all genders and respecting their opinion. I can vote for governments which take proactive steps in prevention of violence against women. I can respect the women in my life for the individuals they are.

I can't be both enraged and helpless - anger is valuable driving force best not wasted. I can however channelize these feelings into better activities and not just FB/Twitter symbolisms. I can change one person's views and hope that the next time he looks at a woman as a sexual object that can be owned and abused, he remembers my words. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

For the sake of Formality: The Arranged Marriage Intro


A prospect recently mailed one of my friends giving a brief introduction of himself. I couldn't help writing down the probable reply (in italics) she could give to the expressive bloke (names changed for the sake of everyone's privacy). I mean no offence to him, but the world can live with a few more SMILES :-) 

Hi Anita,

This is Nilesh Piramal. I am pretty sure you might have heard about me from your family. Our parents/relatives are trying to find best companion/life partner for us. You are the first girl that my parents strongly suggested to get in touch with. So, let me take a moment to thank you and your family for sharing your profile with my family.


Hi Nilesh,
As you already know, I am Anita. I don't introduce myself in third person. I haven't heard anything about you so your mail comes as another shocker. My parents are trying extremely hard to find me a companion (don't know about best) and you will not be glad to know that you are just another boy in the unending list. At this point, they will be okay if I even marry an orangutan (not that I am calling you one).

My parents really wants to tie my knot. Ahhh, i guess they hate my freedom ;-). 

Haha. Which of your knots are you talking about you naughty boy? :P If you meant your parents want you to tie 'the' knot, my parents want the same too. They don't hate my freedom. They do not want to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions anymore (I am not an obedient daughter). 

Let me introduce myself in brief. As you might know, my name is Nilesh. I am born and brought up in Valsad, Gujarat. I belong to lovely family of 5 members (Mom, Dad and 2 elder brothers).  I am proud and lucky to born in such a beautiful family. From the childhood, i was taught importance of education, independence and respect for fellow human beings.

Oh I forgot you still had not started. Yes, this time I know your name is Nilesh (good for you). You must be one hell of a guy to be born and brought up and eligible for marriage in one mail. I am glad your family is lovely. My family is family, though I may have called myself lucky had I been Bill Gates' daughter and proud if my father was Tendulkar. I love my family but that doesn't make them lovely for the world. I appreciate the values your parents have taught you. From my family, I learnt the importance of mutual respect and the myths of traditions (like marriage). I learnt the importance of education and independence myself, which may in all likelihood affect the outcome of our interaction. 

Career & Education:
Currently, I am working as Software Engineer with O-General, CT, USA. I have passion for software development. I believe that my work should directly or indirectly improve lives of people. I have always been star performer and awarded with best performer awards couple of times :-). 

Oh I too was a software engineer. Back then, I wondered how anyone with the slightest intelligence could be passionate about software development. That is by no means directed at you. That was in India where they could make a donkey do coding. I know engineers are smarter here. I would like to know how your work directly improves lives of people (not including you). BTW, that star performer at work bit is of no consequence to my rating of you unless you are talking about extra curricular activities :P

I came to United States in the year 2009 to pursue my Masters in Computer Science. Prior to coming to United States, I worked as Software Engineer with one of leading firm in Hyderabad, India for 2.5 years. I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from Christ University in the year 2005.

Oh come on, you can use the abbreviation U.S. and MS in CS. Don't have to be so formal and/or insult my intelligence. Which leading firm did you work for - Accenture/TCS/Infosys/CTS/Wipro/HCL? I am assuming leading firm means one of those in IT services and not truly leading firms like Google/Facebook/LinkedIn where the work you do actually impacts lives and sets new technology trends. I worked for one of the former too which is exactly why I quit to pursue higher education. I don't think my affiliations matter as much as my accomplishments as far as career goes. 

I am pretty good at what i do. Just to illustrate, I manage to gather some information about you from the web :-). Currently, you are working as a Project Manager at DuPont. You did your Masters in Information Systems from Ross School of Business, Indiana - which is very impressive. You are gorgeous and heavenly pretty ( my cousin sister words :-) ).

Wow, you are a star Google searcher. I didn't even have to use Google to know that you have poor vision/impaired judgement. I am heavenly ordinary in the looks department but thanks for the kind words.  

Hobbies / Interest:

I am foodie. I enjoy great food - pasta, mexican, italian, indian, … you name it ;-).  

Mr.Foodie, Pasta falls under Italian unless you have found a Gujju variant of it. ;)

I am fond of good music. I love watching TV shows and movies.

I would love to know which bands you listen to and the TV shows you watch. I may well base my decision to continue talking to you on your reply to this question

I like to jog and exercise at GYM during evening hours after work. Oh, once upon a time, I used to a badminton champion :-). I used to play badminton at state as well as at National levels.  

I am a fitness freak too. I went from Size 10 to Size 2 in like one year, but well, I can't guarantee that for the rest of your or my life. For now, I run 5 km a day. "Once upon a time"? You will have to be really old or a fairy from the classics. I don't have any "once upon a time" moments in sports. I was a fat lethargic kid.

I love to travel. One of my dreams is to go on World Tour for vacation.

I hope you have more than two stamps on your passport to prove that. That is as general as anyone can get. If you love travel so much, you should know exactly where you would want to go. 

During weekends, I like to get together with friends to share a laugh or two and have a great time.

All of us in the US end up doing that. Unless you are a sociopath. 

BTW, I still don't know which of these are your hobbies and which are your interests. Do you even know the difference? 


About Me:

I am compassionate, confident, smart, handsome, hardworking, decent, laid-back and a happy person ( Too much ? :-) ). I believe that you get only one life and you should live your life to the fullest. I will tell you more in chat.

I am surprised you have to use words to influence the opinion I have formed after reading your mail thus far. You will be surprised to know that I do agree with some of them, like confident and decent. Happy person, yes, considering the amount of smileys. I would prefer you let me form your opinion of you than make me memorize your impression of yourself. That will be truly - uh, classy NOT and a bad indicator of the direction our life could take post the 'knot', if it does get there. 

I think I have already bored you enough :). I would love to know more about you, your thoughts, family, dreams, hobbies. I look forward to your email. 

Finally, you realize you are boring. As you can see, I am a person of few words. Sarcasm is my natural defence to stupidity. I can tell you about my family and me, but as far as the thoughts and dreams part goes, it is too soon to get there. I am 27 (yes, OLD), have two brothers (surprise, they are twins), one father and one mother (no surprises there!). I also have two dogs (who are not twins and tend to put on/lose weight as quickly as I do). 

Let us first start communicating over mail / chat /phone /sms. Let me know the best time to catch you on chat. What do you think ?

I don't think you will be able to deal with me on chat. Let us continue mailing and test your ability to 'work hard' to impress me.

Finally, Smile :-).  Say "Hello" to your family members on my behalf.

You are one Happy Person, aren't you. Cheers to your lovelies too!!

Take good care of yourself &  Have a great day.

I will do both. You stay jolly.

Best,

-- Nilesh :-)
(See attached photos of me, if you are little curious :-))

Cheers,

Anita

I can't imagine you expect me to smile seeing them. Nonetheless, you are more pleasant looking than some of the others who my parents have recommended but alas, it is a pity that God doesn't bless more men with 'heavenly' looks, brains and some emotional IQ.