Sunday, June 17, 2007

Home And Alone

News of the living goddess from Nepal brought back memories of Kumari Puja in my childhood in India. For a few hours each year a some little girls would be worshiped like they were living goddesses. I was one of them too - a couple of times. We looked forward to it, felt special and most importantly so safe that nothing could touch us. In being elevated to the status of a deity, even if only temporarily we became convinced of the divinity within us and all the protections that afforded.

By when we were in our teens and had made way to younger prepubescent girls to be worshiped on Kumari Puja, we realized how different the rules were for men and women. To be equal would have been a dream come true. Far from being revered as a manifestation of Goddess Durga,
our place in society was anything but safe or secure. While the Reuters story is replete with stereotypical notions about India complete with the de rigueur mention of Sati, some facts are undeniable.

"Women are discriminated against in every possible way -- in villages, in cities, in the home, in the work place, everywhere," said Brototi Dutta from Lawyers Collective, a national network of lawyers fighting for the rights of abused women.

"They are beaten at home, sexually abused, face harassment on the streets and at the work place ... even when they are raped, they are often treated by police as the culprit, rather than the victim and blamed for wearing 'provocative' clothing."

Even for a miniscule part of the respect we were shown as young girls during a Kumari Puja, India may have been a far more hospitable to the female diaspora in the west who prefer to soldier on in a foreign land (alone sometimes) than come "home" to feel constantly violated. Evidently Swami Vivekananda's words "All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which do not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future" largely fell on deaf ears in his own motherland. But every once in a while there is a heart warming story about a man who did right by the woman in his life and proved the wisdom of Swamiji's words.


ggop said...

Reuters needs to hire a fact checking team. Wasn't sati outlawed in 1829?
Maybe they are confused with that infamous Roop Kanwar case.

I was psyched out by the 60% abused number. I never knew the extent of abuse. Wonder if they included emotional abuse to the equation. A lot of women may not be harassed for dowry or physically abused, but there is definite emotional abuse.


multisubj yb said...

Not reasonable to say that women are discriminated against in India as if US and the Europe is totally blemish-free. US such a great country of equality could not have a lady-President even after 230 years of independence. In Hollywood and on American/European TV woman is a symbol of sex which can be marketed. India is imitating the West. As Virginia Woolf wrote, women will get respect when they have "a room of their own" and "Pounds 500 of their own per annum". Real question is of money.
Vivekananda spoke much about freedom of women, but did very little for women. Because some American women gave him shelter and money, Vivekananda unduly flattered American Women and degraded Indian women. Gender equality has to come as a matter of normal course and if there are obstructions to the operation of natural course, they are to be removed.

Saintly Sita said...

Well HC. What can you expect? I believe its up to us Indian women to either stand up for our rights and end the injustice we suffer everyday or well, just suck it up!
Indian women tend to whine a lot and do very little in term of correcting these grievances.
Frankly, the world will not hand you your rights on a silver platter with dulcet sitar music playing in the background. No oppressed group in humankind's history has won rights without a long,and often bloody struggle.
Women are just naive when they think they will be the first and only exception to that rule