Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tokenism

J loves going to our local Hindu temple and I am sure she will be overjoyed to see a female priest there as this story reports is becoming common in America (via Salon).There is no evidence of multitudes of women being anointed as priests around the country in this story which introduces us to one such woman.

In contrast to this uplifting account(even if somewhat sensationalized story) of Indian women being able to arrive where their Western sisters are still struggling to reach is the one about
Dalit scavengers participating in a fashion show possibly to demonstrate that even their lives need not be a dead end and that there is a world of possibilities (also via Salon)

Both stories are about tokenism that often stands in the way of efforts to do the right thing by Indian women (specially those who lack there wherewithal to do so for themselves). Shashi Tandon, the Hindu priest will let her fifteen minutes of fame, bask in the afterglow of limelight for that much longer; it would be business as usual in temples after that. Before we retire into the familiar and comfortable contours of status quo we will all heartily agree with her when she says :

"Mothers came to America because they didn't have enough freedom. Then, after getting freedom, they forgot their culture," she said. "They are not doing prayers because they don't know why they need to do them."

Usha Chomar, the scavenger turned catwalk model for a day will have her hopes up for a bit and may even find work as a seamstress if she is lucky but more likely than not her walk on the ramp will do precious little for those who she represents. Just as Ms Tandon cannot by her laudable example, take the long suffering Indian mothers out of their homes and have them installed as priests in our mandirs. They will both remain talismans for change we would love to see happen.

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