Friday, November 27, 2009

Part Liberated Woman

An expat desi friend and I were discussing what it means to return to India when you have cobbled together a life in a foreign country no matter how flawed and imperfect. We have both spent over a decade outside India and have kids who were born abroad and have spent very little time back home. Returning "home" is something a lot of new immigrants like L and myself think about. We want very much for that to be an option because a full assimilation into our country of domicile is likely never going to happen. L has visited India more often than I have and has a much better pulse on what's going on there.

For me the strongest drag force working against my desire to return home is my experience of life as a woman in India. I neither want to live that suffocatingly sheltered existence myself nor subject J to it. The freedom, independence and safety I have had in here in suburban America was not even something I knew I could expect to have in India. I never knew what it felt to be treated as person first and woman after that.


I would hate for J's world-view to be shaped by a society that puts her gender before her and have that influence the most significant decisions in her life.
I don't see the point of living inside the sanitized confines of a gated community so one does not have to deal with any of the "unpleasantness". That life would be a poor proxy of the Indian experience - J could end up being even more confused about her identity than she will be growing up in America.

L was not sure that my concerns were particularly valid in present day India and I was quick to chalk that up to India Shining Kool-Aid drinking. According to L, the current societal view of the gender allows for more nuance than the Sita or Slut that I was familiar with from my time and it was hardly fair to pass judgment without experiencing the transformation for myself.

Apparently, everything that was true from six or seven years ago (the last time I lived and worked in India) is null and void now. As much as I would like to believe that, I have seem little evidence of this seismic shift that L talks about, in print and on-line media and lesser still in the attitudes of the brethren who have arrived here very recently.

To have to believe that the magic will be evident upon setting foot in India is a giant leap of faith I find really hard to make. That said, it does not help to read about
harassment of women in India who are in research and academia being more norm than exception.

If that is the fate of researchers and academics, chances are that the average woman will fare only much worse. When I read the comments by women on this post on their own experiences of harassment, I feel even less hopeful about what the future holds for women in India.

111 comments:

Partha Pratim said...

Agreed! But are you trying to say that this is the logic you would tell your children for not letting them grow up in their own country? Aren't you depriving them of something they deserve?

Anonymous said...

It is up to individuals (or children) to decide eventually which country they want to call their own. For a parent to impose an arbitrary conception of what the child should regard as her/his country would simply be undemocratic, not to mention a repetition of the mistakes of an earlier generation of migrants, no?

After 7 yrs, I am back in India as a man of relative leisure supported by my partner who has landed a job working here for a Western organization. She got here 14 months ahead of me and loves it, but shares somewhat similar, but not quite the same, views as yours. However, she is also in a position of substantial professional power which is, in many ways, a game changer when it comes to gender relations. We also have the luxury of flitting back to the West every now and then when we choose. This, I suppose brings a degree of 'mental space' which allows her to stay detached from such expriences. She is also, a very tough, bright and wise cookie very much at home in ambivalent spaces (bias showing, oops). She would return, I think, and if she really wanted to seriously, I would dump most of my career in the West and tag along (with Plans A, B, C and D to 'get back into the system' and one foot still planted in the West, of course. I am nobody's fool).

My point is that the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Middle-class India has changed a bit for the better in relation to gender, but not that much. But then I am a man, so I probably am talking through my backside:)Sorry

nevermind

Anonymous said...

really hard to believe such things when an indian talks in such a manner!anyways we are proud to be indians and are striving to improve rather then sitting in some developed nation and finding faults..if you compare the last 60 years india has grown far more than your happy land America,,I am also living in london from last three years i knw it will be difficult to adjust at once bt nothing is difficult & it is your efforts that make differences the most.

Amrita said...

Well, yes. But as a woman whose journey closely resembles yours, I'd have to say that going to America wasn't the eye-opener you suggest it was for you. I already knew I was a person first and a gender second because that's what I experienced in my home. And I knew that wasn't the case at large in India because I grew up in deeply misogynistic Delhi.

The influence of external factors on your child's worldview is obviously significant, but your parenting is half the battle won. So your kid seems to be off to a good start already :-)

But yes, India isn't exactly America-by-the-Ganges yet, so if you can't handle the inevitable aggravation then you're better off where you are. God knows tons of desi kids brought up in America seem to be more "authentically desi" than kids brought up in India.

Heartcrossings said...

Partha - The places where back to India expats usually live in are not exactly the small town Indian experience we as parents remember. Inside the gated community, "real" India does not seep in. So not much of an experience loss for the kids as far as I can tell.

Annon - Being in position of professional power goes only so far. When she goes about the business of daily life outside the plush confines of her corner office - she is instantly reduced to the lowest common denominator - just a woman. The cab driver, the random "eve-teaser" in a crowded can do exactly what he wants with her and more likely than not he will get away with it. Her Rs 50 lakh per annum salary will not afford her any protection. She has to constantly worry about her safety and work her life around those concerns. That's the reason we have organizations like Blank Noise in India.

Annon @ London - I grew up in India and have lived there the majority of my life. It is still my home and I would love nothing more than to be able to return. As a woman,my quality of life in the public space is so much better in the West that I find it hard to make a choice that would be step in the reverse for my young daughter not to mention for myself. Had I been a man, I would have not thought twice about heading back to India given the career growth opportunities in my line of work.It seems as if I don't have the same freedom of choice being a woman.

Amrita - It does not matter how liberated and open-minded your family and friends are. Mine never made me feel like I had fewer options than men. It is the world outside that I am talking about. I no longer have to deal with random men staring, making lewd remarks or worry about physical molestation in public places. All of this was true of my day to day life as a student and as a commuter when I started working.The way I am perceived by the world outside in America was an eye-opener.

Anonymous said...

i am born and raised in india , i am 60 now ,still i am afraid to go out without any male protection after sundown.if there is a power-cut, i am afraid if i am alone outside.this is the fear that was created in me by my grandma and mother. even now i have not overcome that fear.

when i visit my children abroad i become a different person. i am no longer afraid to go on a walk alone. in my next birth i want to be born in a free country so i can live with freedom even if i am born as a woman.

in india, even today young girls are taught to be afraid to go anywhere alone, after dark without someone to accompany them. like me these girls may not be able to get over their fear even when are old women.

Anonymous said...

Ms Liberated Woman: I do not think you have a clue about how India has changed over the past few years. Given the social ladder that you are going to be in once you decide to return to India, I can assure you that you can stay as "liberated" as want in India and lead a life that is as free and whatever else that you described about your life in "suburban" America.

Several people who have relocated to the west many years back are in a sort of a black hole or denial about the changes in India. A couple of weeks back an expat Indian friend of mine in the UK was taking me shopping and was expecting me to go ooh, and aah looking at the malls and the merchandise but there wasn't a single thing that I could buy there that was not available in India.

This armchair pontification and spewing opinion and analysis without having a clue about life in India is funny. You can quote news articles about oppression or women and social inequality and injustice or whatever you want, but all of that is news and hearsay. There are 100 incidents in the US to every single incident that is reported in India, but that does not mean that your life has become unsafe or is in danger. Get a grip on reality. In the end, no matter where you live is your own choice, but learn to respect all other countries and cultures and accept it that there is good and bad everywhere. Do not diss others on news reports and hearsay.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, life is very unfair for women in India
(and developing/religious countries in general). So i think you are taking the right decision.

- A Woman @Bangalore

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - For someone who was born, raised and lived for the most of their life in India, to be depicted as "clueless" about India is quite laughable.

For the record I have spent equal amount of time living in big Indian metros and in the belly of the beast - the BEMARU states (if you know what that is). I know a little too much about India and specially what it is to be a woman there - living, working and traveling.

Sure, the country has made great strides with malls and high-rises and the like - that's not what I am in America for. It does not impress me here and won't back home.

Freedom is a very different thing - and I guess anyone would be hard pressed to argue that America is still the free-est country in the world. India is not there yet and for that reason women are not able to make the most of the opportunities that the country has to offer without making significant compromises in their way of life.

I am assuming you are male and to that extent you have no idea how wonderful freedom to live life as a person first and a woman next feels and I am talking about society at large.

Women who are born and raised in India like I was are told that things have to be different because they are female - they don't even know they could expect or deserve different - so when they realize what they can have it is very hard to go back to the old way.

I am guessing the "liberated" in your comment implies - pub-hopping, smoking, dating, live-in relationships and the like. Again, none of that interests me and is not what I am in America for.

It is actually this perverse understanding of "freedom" and "liberation" that desi men seem to have in the context of women that is the root cause of much that ails the position of the second gender in our country.

A woman @ Bangalore - I hear you and feel your pain. I have lived and worked in Bangalore for a while and know that getting on a bus from Shivajinagar for as single woman past 8:00 p.m is no walk in the park.

Anonymous said...

You are as free as you want to be. It is not about the malls or the economic progress, it is the acceptance of several things that has made people's lives better.

But well, you will still be shocked taking that bus in Bangalore and will be eve-teased in Delhi. If that was your point of women not being free in India, then well thank you very much because I get the point now. (Did you try taking a bus in Central Europe, for example?) Probably in the America that you live in you have that kind of 'respect or freedom' of a person first and woman next but I can guarantee you that there are a list of dos and donts that you need to follow to live as a woman anywhere in the world! You will also avoid several things in America as a woman. Hmmm.. where did all the single-woman survival kits originate?

So, do not bestow your pontification on the country and its men. As a woman you will have to make compromises in any part of the world: to start a family, to go against establish social norms, take a break from career for the sake of family. I think you are kidding yourself if you think that you havent had to make any, once you got there. Especially if you say you have kids.

I again say the same thing - I have nothing for or against you or your kids living in America. I'll take that 'standard of living' or 'kids cannot adjust' argument. Its just that 'freedom and liberation' argument that is bogus and sounds more fake coming from someone who lives elsewhere and continues to diss India.

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - Both men and women are expected to take common sense precautions anywhere in the world. In the developed world women are not expected to do disproportionately more than men in order to safeguard themselves. In my mind that is completely fair.

How very stereotypical to suggest 'As a woman you will have to make compromises in any part of the world: to start a family, to go against establish social norms, take a break from career for the sake of family.'

In an egalitarian society both men and women are required to "make compromises" to do all of the things you list. A woman is not required to do it all. That would however be the expectation of women in India.

India offers excellent education for kids, a great standard of living for those who can make the money. I am not even going to suggest the kids can't adjust line - it is terribly lame.

The only reason I would hesitate to move back is as a woman I would have to give up too much of the freedom and independence I have here and my daughter would need to do the same. Had I been a man and had a son instead of a daughter, I would be living and working in India today.

Anonymous said...

Not stereotypical. Just reality and fact. Take two scenarios:

1. A married couple, both working. Man is faced with a change in his job, requiring him to move cities. Other than the odd case where the man turns the job down, or moves by himself, the most probable senario is that they move lock, stock and barrel and the woman ends up dumping her job or getting her employer to move her job to the new city.

2. Single woman, gets married. Invaribly has to quit her job and move to her husband's city (or country, for many Indian women). Lose a few months in this process. A couple of years down the line, another break in the career for kids.

You give me a scenario where women do not have to make such choices or compromises in your part of the world and I will subscribe to your argument that you are freer in America than anywhere else.

Well, I do not like this, but this is how it is. However free or liberated we are, this will not change. And you might like to tone down the "women make all the compromises in India" because like I said again India is not in the 70s or 80s.

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - As it turns out I know a lot of desi couples in America who are dealing with Scenario 1. As amazing as it may seem to you, the man frequently moves alone, the woman stays back and continues with her job. Does mot matter whether the couple has kids or not.

They meet on weekends and holidays until one of the parties is able to find a job in the other's city. The process can take many months.

It is hardly a foregone conclusion that "the most probable scenario is that they move lock, stock and barrel and the woman ends up dumping her job or getting her employer to move her job to the new city." as you seem to think. It is very likely to happen in India - exactly my point about lack of freedom.

In scenario 2 - you are spot on about how things will play out in India.Desi women of my acquaintance who have been graduate school students here, met their desi husbands and got married here in America have done none of the things you suggest.

They have stayed put where they were, found work in the husband's city only when it made logical sense to do so. Woman working in small town mid-western city living in a rented apartment, husband works in Chicago and owns a condo there - clearly makes sense for the woman to move. The man has moved to her city if that was the smarter thing to do for the couple.

These women don't always take breaks from their jobs to stay home take care of the kids. I have desi girlfriends who have sent their 2 month olds to daycare and come back to work.

Women have options in this country and are freer to exercise them. I am not arguing the merits of any if the choices they make only the fact that they have the ability to make them. That is freedom.

If a woman wants to move to her husband's city, quit her job, become a stay at home mom it is not because that is the only choice she has. She is free to choose. I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

I get your point. I guess it is for you and others that you've been referring to figure out what matters more in life!

And I rest my case :) Enjoy your freedom.

sanjay said...

My daughters returned to India in their early teens and now they don't want to return to North America. When asked aout the reason, the response was "I don't want to live like a second class citizen".

While an Indian woman in America may perhaps gain more personal "gender" space (although it is hard to explain away stats like 69% of women riding in NYC subways are groped; a woman raped every 35 seconds in America etc), she would be losing significant ground from cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic perspectives.

In the meanwhile, my daughters have completed their schooling and have started higher education in various parts of India. Today, they are able to comfortably traverse India (between Bengaluru and Lucknow, for example) all alone by air & rail not to mention the daily local commute via 3-wheelers, taxis etc.

A recent survey by executive search firm EMA Partners shows that 11% of 240 large companies — Indian-owned as well as multinational, private as well as state-owned — have women CEOs. In comparison, only 3 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs. Looks like my daughters have a 4 times better chance of rising to a top corporate post in India.

The number of powerful women in Indian politics are legion, former PM Indira Gandhi is just the start. Some of the most powerful kingmakers in Indian politics today are women - Sonia Gandhi, President Pratibha Patil, Meira Kumar, Speaker of Lok Sabha at the national level; regionally, these are just a few of many - Mayawati, Mamata Banerji, Jayalalithaa, Sushma Swaraj, Mehbooba Mufti, Sheila Dixit of Delhi etc.

At the local level, a survey noted the election of a million rural women and almost 23,000 urban women in local office at the time (2003). In September 2009, India passed a law reserving 50% of all self-government seats for women. This means that 1.4 million women will occupy 252,000 self government seats in future. A precursor to 33% seat reservation for women at the state and national levels.

Even in traditional male bastions there is change. The Indian air force announced this week that a decision to train women as fighter pilots will be announced soon. Women are already flying helicopters and transport planes in all three of India's military services.Note that women were only allowed in as cadets/ officers since 1992 and many have already risen to 3-star level since.

Anonymous said...

Sanjay,

"In September 2009, India passed a law reserving 50% of all self-government seats for women. This means that 1.4 million women will occupy 252,000 self government seats in future. A precursor to 33% seat reservation for women at the state and national levels."

Sure that is how you want gender equality to be attained? By forcing it on a society by law when it wouldn't do it culturally or naturally? The ladies-only train/compartment in fact is a sad commentary on the Indian society that said that we cannot trust our women with our men and we would rather have them travel separately.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - Thanks for the very interesting insights. I happen to live in the backwaters compared to say a SFO or NYC. Ethnic diversity is definitely lacking where I live and something I feel less than comfortable out.

My daughter was born here and raised here is not in the least bit perturbed by the lack of color in her surroundings.I have to admit that I have limited interaction with the local desi society.

However, I do notice that desi kids who socialize almost exclusively with their own kind are very different in attitude, temperament, mindset etc compared to J. She tells me that she finds almost nothing in common with them beyond similar physical appearance.

I don't see those kids ever feeling comfortable in America or being able to fit in. I have several family members who came here in the 60s with similarly maladjusted kids who are of course adults now.

They are either trying desperately to shed their Indian skin to blend in or self-segregating themselves into a ABCD only society. The parents never gave them the chance to figure out cultural assimilation on their own.

I am able to understand the second class citizen sentiment from their perspective. Since I have yet to be discriminated against in the workplace for my ethnicity or gender I have no direct experience of feeling second class in America. And I only came here only some time ago. As for J, she strongly identifies herself with India and is happy to have roots that come from outside America.

While working in Bangalore for Fortune 100 company in a fairly senior level position as late as 2003, I had to answer questions about my personal life every day - they came from my team, my peers and my managers. It was relentless. Subtle forms of harassment were part of my day to day work-life as it was for a lot of my female co-workers.

In the last six/seven years, I have never been asked a single probing question by an American of any color any place that I have lived and worked - not even here in the backwaters where I live now.

Desis are a mixed bag. Some do know to keep respectable professional distance but the vast majority will start off with the FAQ within the first ten minutes of setting their eyes on me.

As for your stats on women in positions of power in India, it would be interesting to see the ratio of powerful women to the total number of women in India. I doubt if that will paint nearly as rosy a picture.

Also, with all these wonderful women with all their clout. how were the unspeakable atrocities at Nandigram and Singur allowed to happen ? What did any of these women do at that time ?

As for the stats on rape - it would be instructive to understand the the operating definition of rape. There is such a thing as date rape in America which by extension could be all non-consensual sex. If the same definition was applied in India, I would not even begin to hazard a guess at the numbers.

Malika Sarabhai was on TED recently taking about violence against women in India and societal attitudes - I would encourage you to check it out.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - In continuation to my previous comment..

Indian women have been conditioned to believe that they did something to invite undesirable male attention and to that extent they are at fault if they get molested. As such, the true number of molestation and rape incidents is never known.

Women will claim nothing 'really serious' in terms of "eve teasing" ever happened to them - they take credit in saying so even it were a complete lie. These are educated women, I am talking about.

They realize it is part of the Indian experience to be groped or touched in crowded public places and being in denial is sometimes their best defense.

In America, incidents will get reported because a woman is not socially stigmatized for being abused by a man.

Given the very different grain of data, trying to compare the numbers is an exercise in futility and does not bring out the truth.

More power to your teen-aged daughters if they love it in India. When I hear women in my extended family and friend circle in India worry themselves sick over their daughters' safety when they are late returning from college or work, I am not sure I want to be in their shoes at all.

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - I could not agree with you more on the reservation for women and ladies compartment issue.

sanjay said...

Anonymous:

Sure that is how you want gender equality to be attained? By forcing it on a society by law when it wouldn't do it culturally or naturally? The ladies-only train/compartment in fact is a sad commentary on the Indian society that said that we cannot trust our women with our men and we would rather have them travel separately.

Laws are made either by the elected members of parliament or by the courts, both of which are legal instruments of Indian society. I am sure that whatever is passed into law does indeed represent the socio-cultural ethos of contemporary India. so, I'm perhaps a bit unclear what you mean by "it wouldn't do it culturally or naturally".

That said, let us also keep in mind that it was the British colonial era law that only males could hold legal title to land. More than anything else, this created a have vs have-not dynamic in modern times that has deepened the gap between men and women and led to a cycle of dependency which must be snapped. At any cost. If India now needs to pass a law (however "unnatural") to undo the law (also "unnatural") passed by the Brits, I fail to see the problem with it.

The ladies-only train/compartment in fact is a sad commentary on the Indian society that said that we cannot trust our women with our men and we would rather have them travel separately.

The Indian Railways move the equivalent of the entire world's population in any given year. Men and women do travel together all the time in India, including in the very trains that boast women-only compartments. That there are a miniscule number of women-only compartments and women-only trains in India is not a social commentary but a practical response to the sensitivities of Indian women about the over-crowded, dog-eat-dog nature of some of these train routes.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Issues of identity are as complex as they are personal. One cannot ignore the undeniable element of whiteness in America that shapes how individual/ group identities are negotiated and formed in America. I introduce the topic of whiteness because no serious discussion about desi identity, ABCD'ism, who is maladjusted and who is not etc. can be held without accounting for the pervasive influence of whiteness. That the half-white Obama is still labeled "black" in 21st century America and no one seems to find it odd begs the question about which behaviour is more unnatural.

I am able to understand the second class citizen sentiment from their perspective. Since I have yet to be discriminated against in the workplace for my ethnicity or gender I have no direct experience of feeling second class in America. And I only came here only some time ago.

Not just workplace, the feeling of being second class is undeniable and starts right from school & persists throughout life. The contributing factors are not just race and color but extend to religion, ethnicity, language, food and economic status. In any of these factors, the greater the distance from the mainstream, the more marginalized. With virtually no scope of redress.

While working in Bangalore for Fortune 100 company in a fairly senior level position as late as 2003, I had to answer questions about my personal life every day - they came from my team, my peers and my managers. It was relentless. Subtle forms of harassment were part of my day to day work-life as it was for a lot of my female co-workers. In the last six/seven years, I have never been asked a single probing question by an American of any color any place that I have lived and worked - not even here in the backwaters where I live now.

Some would say it is even worse in America where one is automatically type-cast based on race, color, language, accent, food etc. In America, it is a case of shoot first, don't even ask questions. Why even bother?. Seemingly innocent questions like "where did you go on vacation?" , "did you like Slumdog?" are all about seeking cues to identity.

As for your stats on women in positions of power in India, it would be interesting to see the ratio of powerful women to the total number of women in India. I doubt if that will paint nearly as rosy a picture.

Simple math will show how incorrect this approach would be. The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members to represent 300 million Americans. By comparison, the Indian Lok Sabha has 552 members to represent 1.2 billion. Too simplistic.

Also, with all these wonderful women with all their clout. how were the unspeakable atrocities at Nandigram and Singur allowed to happen ? What did any of these women do at that time ?

These kinds of statements are completely unprovable because they confuse correlation with causation. It could just as easily be be said that these "wonderful women" actually prevented a lot more "atrocities" from happening.

As for the stats on rape - it would be instructive to understand the the operating definition of rape. There is such a thing as date rape in America which by extension could be all non-consensual sex. If the same definition was applied in India, I would not even begin to hazard a guess at the numbers.

In India, rape is defined not in a few sentences but it is a whole book about what constitutes a legal definition of rape. If even two of those conditions were applied in America, then every sexual act with a female under age of 16 and every extra-marital tryst would be defined as rape. Even if both were consensual. I would not go down this path if I were you. There is an old saying "be careful what you wish for".

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

Indian women have been conditioned to believe that they did something to invite undesirable male attention and to that extent they are at fault if they get molested. As such, the true number of molestation and rape incidents is never known. They realize it is part of the Indian experience to be groped or touched in crowded public places and being in denial is sometimes their best defense.

I am not sure this is accurate. The vast majority of India lives in small towns and vilages. where all that a woman has to do is to raise her voice, forget harassment or actual rape. A crowd will gather and thrash the perp - instant justice. Bollywood movies show this all the time. Far from denial, Indian women are socialized to raise their voice in public at the very first sign of harassment. Prevention is better than cure.

More power to your teen-aged daughters if they love it in India. When I hear women in my extended family and friend circle in India worry themselves sick over their daughters' safety when they are late returning from college or work, I am not sure I want to be in their shoes at all.

I don't think we can generalize. People worry about their daughters being late for different reasons i.e. accidents being the chief one. About being out late, my niece and her friends in Mumbai can be out even after midnight in Mumbai and no one would think twice about it. Otoh, not many people would want their daughters to be out late in Delhi.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - I don't think I understand how the second class-ness your girls feel is related to ethnicity. The neighborhood I live is full of whites with old money. They look down on everyone that does not belong to their socio-economic class. Race does not play a part in this condescension. That is probably true anywhere in the world.

Affluence is a great passport in any society - it is no different for rich desis in America - and a qualification for first class citizenship unlike any other.

If desis chose to self-segregate themselves as they very often do, they get tagged with a host of stereotypes that become fodder for the Russel Peters of the world. Very likely they will be made to feel declasse by the majority.

In my parochial little town, people black, brown and white have asked me about my reaction to Slumdog and it has lead to many interesting discussions.

When a desi jumps up to say that no one they know ever saw a slum in their lives let alone lived in one they are being disingenuous and that can only lead to unhappy outcomes in a foreign country.I have had discussions a lot more nuanced than that.

"In America, it is a case of shoot first, don't even ask questions. Why even bother?. Seemingly innocent questions like "where did you go on vacation?" , "did you like Slumdog?" are all about seeking cues to identity."

Sounds like a much better deal than being prodded and probed about my personal life and would take it over the third degree torture of desi inquisition any day.

I am sensitive but not to the point where I am offended if someone wants to know where I went on vacation. It beats being asked publicly as desis have done to me 'Why did you get divorced"

"It could just as easily be be said that these "wonderful women" actually prevented a lot more "atrocities" from happening."

You mean we need more brutalities to be committed on women in India to justify these female figureheads who hold positions of power because of their connections - almost always through marriage ? I am a lot more impressed by the likes of Indra Nooyi who prove that when you have what it takes, there is no glass ceiling or second class citizenship in America.

'I am not sure this is accurate. The vast majority of India lives in small towns and vilages. where all that a woman has to do is to raise her voice, forget harassment or actual rape.'

As I read this, I wonder if you live in a parallel universe where there is a country that resembles India somewhat. I have spent the majority of my life in India and have most of my family living there. We are in touch on a daily basis. I have never seen or heard any evidence of the Ram-Rajya you describe.If your version of was even remotely true organizations like Blank Noise and Jagroti would not need to exist.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - In continuation to my previous comment :

'Far from denial, Indian women are socialized to raise their voice in public at the very first sign of harassment. Prevention is better than cure.'

Wow ! Are we still in India ? This is reading more and more like a 70s Bollywood flick script where the Sita like the heroine has only to set a Lakshman Rekha to reduce the villain and his sidekicks to dust. Even Bollywood had managed to get its storyline together by the 90s where they started to show some realistic stories.

Indian males in being unable to protect their women from the unsavory attention they get outdoors prefer to be like ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.

Case in point my own uncle. He had to once thrash a guy in the neighborhood who was harassing my teen-aged cousin. The same man will now claim that his daughter never been "seriously" eve-teased, that Calcutta is a lot safer than Mumbai or Delhi.

The subtext for my cousin is to stop complaining about harassment and deal with it the best she can - stay out of trouble,when out late make sure she is with a large group. dress down - it is a long list.

Her father has gone as far as he could an is clearly powerless to do more. They have to just deal with it and as I said before, sometimes denial is the least painful option.

I have had girlfriends break down and cry as they have shared for the first time incidents of molestation that took place in their teens. These are grown women with children who have not been able to find a way to tell anyone about what happened.

So deeply ingrained is their sense of shame and feeling that they contributed somehow in being the victim that will not open up to men in their family who refuse to even acknowledge there is a very serious problem. The women can't do more than be sympathetic and that does not help.

sanjay said...

Sanjay - I don't think I understand how the second class-ness your girls feel is related to ethnicity. The neighborhood I live is full of whites with old money. They look down on everyone that does not belong to their socio-economic class. Race does not play a part in this condescension. That is probably true anywhere in the world. Affluence is a great passport in any society - it is no different for rich desis in America - and a qualification for first class citizenship unlike any other.

Even for the richest desi, ethnicity is reverse-engineered via a 360 degree feedback loop i.e by what you do, say, eat, wear, practice, hold sacred, books you read, how you speak, movies you like, causes you endorse, opinions, views, attitudes, friends etc.

Being a practising Sikh, Hindu or Jain will immediately brand you an ethnic regardless of how rich desis get. We can be faithful servants in the background raising funds, hosting dinners etc. but will never be allowed to hold real power. How much real (institutional power, since America is composed of institutions) power and privilege one gets in America is directly proportional to where one falls on the whiteness scale.

We can talk theory until we're blue in the face but reality speaks louder. A figure like Sonia Gandhi (ethnically european, christian, foreigner, cannot speak Hindi) is thriving in India but nothing comparable to her can possibly exist in American society. Can you see a first generation ethnic Hindu woman who cannot speak English be allowed to run, let alone win even a municipal election? forget about becoming the most powerful politician in America.

Several Lok Sabha seats are reserved for the Anglo Indian community to ensure appropriate representation for this tiny community; there are several Christian Chief Ministers, in the Cabinet and heading up important portfolios like Defence etc. Even at this stage of development and emerging out of the most destructive brand of colonialism, Indian democracy has reached a level of pluralistic inclusiveness that is light years ahead of the American.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

If desis chose to self-segregate themselves as they very often do, they get tagged with a host of stereotypes that become fodder for the Russel Peters of the world. Very likely they will be made to feel declasse by the majority. In my parochial little town, people black, brown and white have asked me about my reaction to Slumdog and it has lead to many interesting discussions.

Do you even realize what you are suggesting here? it sounds very much like what is precisely wrong about America, imo i.e assimilate or be marginalized, ridiculed, analyzed like an object and be treated like an outcast.

When a desi jumps up to say that no one they know ever saw a slum in their lives let alone lived in one they are being disingenuous and that can only lead to unhappy outcomes in a foreign country.I have had discussions a lot more nuanced than that.

That desi lacks self-confidence. Yes, slums like Dharavi exist in India because we Indians do not bulldoze them away as they would be in many countries, including in the U.S. This is called protecting the private rights of individuals.

Sounds like a much better deal than being prodded and probed about my personal life and would take it over the third degree torture of desi inquisition any day. I am sensitive but not to the point where I am offended if someone wants to know where I went on vacation. It beats being asked publicly as desis have done to me 'Why did you get divorced"

A desi's bark is worse than his bite. In America, once you're typecast as an ethnic you can be assured of second class status. It will come back and bite.

You mean we need more brutalities to be committed on women in India to justify these female figureheads who hold positions of power because of their connections - almost always through marriage ?

Precisely the kind of absurd conclusion that I warned about :-) In any case, Mayawati is a dalit woman who came out of the slums, daughter of a postman, worked as a school teacher and is single! just one example of how little you know about India.

Only Sonia Gandhi fits your generalization and ironically that actually helps make my point! how? because, in America her late husband would never have been elected to head the country because of his marriage to a foreigner. How little you understand America :-(

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay -

Do you even realize what you are suggesting here? it sounds very much like what is precisely wrong about America, imo i.e assimilate or be marginalized, ridiculed, analyzed like an object and be treated like an outcast.

Actually I have a perfect understanding of what I am suggesting. I have lived in India in many different states and never in West Bengal (where I am from).If a Bengali refuses to assimilate and absorb for the cultures of their domicile they will be "marginalized, ridiculed, analyzed like an object and be treated like an outcast" even in India.

I have seen it happen time after time with my brethren who self-segregate themselves as Bengalis in other parts of India in the same manners as desis do in America.That is the fate of any kind of outsider.

Likewise Bengalis are not overly charitable to those from other states in India who refuse to make themselves part of the local culture in Calcutta.

It is no different in America. As an outsider you are expected to do your part and make your new home comfortable both for yourself and your neighbors. Your neighbors who are local are under no obligation to roll out the red carpet - be it an another state in India or abroad.

Having known a lot of Parsis in my life, I cannot think of a people who exemplify true assimilation any better than they do. We would all be well served to learn from their example.

To that extent, I am very proud to be highly conversant with South Indian culture, cuisine and languages having spent many years of my life in that part of India. I do not feel like a cultural misfit.

I am far less Bengali than my friends and family who never lived anywhere except Calcutta. I think it is my privilege to have seen more of India than they have and learned so much from that experience. I would say the same about living in America.

Only Sonia Gandhi fits your generalization and ironically that actually helps make my point! how? because, in America her late husband would never have been elected to head the country because of his marriage to a foreigner. How little you understand America :-(

As much as I am tempted to respond to this piece of absurdity I am going to check myself. On principle, I do not get into discussions on religion or politics on this blog and this stuff is totally in the wrong territory for me to respond to.

Anonymous said...

I too was born and raised in India and have been living for a while in India. And yet, I feel no particular discomfort in thinking about relocating myself or my daughter to India, should that occur. Why? Because, wherever I or my daughter live, we will work. This is the one truth I have to come believe in: that ultimately power and "freedom" all depend on whether or not the woman has some financial independence - anywhere in the world. I find my working women friends in India far more empowered than the average, stay-at-home suburban American mom who thinks she's enjoying "freedom" because her husband brings home a paycheck.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, meant to say that "...having been living for a while in the US."

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - I totally hear you. There are degrees of freedom we are talking about in the context you describe. A desi stay-at-home mom in America will enjoy all of the social freedom that any other woman does in this country but often that can be very poor compensation for financial independence that she does not have but could have had in India.

In that situation, she could very well want to give up one for the other. She will lose the social freedom but gain financial freedom.Absolutely.

That is one the primary reasons Indian brides are not interested in non-US-citizen NRI grooms these days.The legal process for them to become eligible to work is too long, uncertain and complicated to warrant the risk - I think they are making exactly the right call.

The value of financial independence is much higher even if it comes stringed with day to day hazards of the kind I have mentioned.

However, for a woman who was working in India and is now working in America, she has a much higher degree of freedom just because of where she is located.
As a result, she may be willing to give up the better material/
career prospects in India (not to mention the proximity to family)
as a price for social freedom that she has in America.

Quite often this is a hard decision to make and that is exactly my point in this post.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

Actually I have a perfect understanding of what I am suggesting. I have lived in India in many different states and never in West Bengal (where I am from).If a Bengali refuses to assimilate and absorb for the cultures of their domicile they will be "marginalized, ridiculed, analyzed like an object and be treated like an outcast" ....snip

I too lived in Bengal for many years (as a non-Bengali) so I can relate to your experience & concur with your observations. Having said this, I am a bit puzzled to see you rationalizing assimilation - one would think that those who have experienced the horrors of assimilation would be opposed to it wherever they encounter it. I must also add that Bengali assimilation was primarily on a linguistic basis and there was very little of the relentless religious (unless one considers Marxism a religion), racial, ethnic component that characterizes American assimilation. In Bengal of the 60s and 70s, I lived a very normal school boy life even as a non-Bengali and there was no pressure to assimilate, except to read/ write/ speak Bengali and perhaps to support Marxist ideals.

It is no different in America. As an outsider you are expected to do your part and make your new home comfortable both for yourself and your neighbors.

I disagree, assimilation is done on a vastly increased scale and scope in America, involves every facet of life & deploys every weapon available to society including brainwashing from early childhood. That aside, my chief problem with this comparison has to do with the fact that you are comparing two societies that are vastly different in many ways. The analysis would be far reaching and I mention just one key demographic difference between India and the U.S. India currently has a rural/ urban mix of 72:28 and when America was at a similar rural/ urban mix in the mid 1800s, slavery for life, bonded labor, dis-enfanchisement of women, genocide of natives, civil war etc. was the norm in much of America.

Having known a lot of Parsis in my life, I cannot think of a people who exemplify true assimilation any better than they do. We would all be well served to learn from their example.

I'm sure we can learn a lot from the Parsis but assimilation is surely not one of them. The Parsis have gone to great lengths to maintain their distinctness and it is a credit to the low level of assimilation pressure in India that Parsis have been able to maintain their distinct culture, religion, language, inter-marriages etc for a millenium. If a population lives in India for 1000 years as the Parsis have and number less than 70,000 population, it is a miracle how they have been able to maintain their distinctness. Of course, just this past week the Parsis have demanded reserved seats in parliament so that specific Parsi concerns are addressed. So much for assimilation.

I am far less Bengali than my friends and family who never lived anywhere except Calcutta. I think it is my privilege to have seen more of India than they have and learned so much from that experience. I would say the same about living in America.

No argument from me. One can live in America and still disagree with the policy of assimilation. That's how slavery got abolished.

As much as I am tempted to respond to this piece of absurdity I am going to check myself. On principle, I do not get into discussions on religion or politics on this blog and this stuff is totally in the wrong territory for me to respond to.

First, my comment has nothing to do with religion, nor politics but the difference between two cultures wrt acceptance i.e. an Indian culture that will elect a PM with a foreign spouse, of a minority faith, cannot speak the language versus an American culture that will not. In any case, it would be remiss of me not to express my appreciation for your big-heartedness in allowing me to share my views here. At the end of the day, this is your blog and you set the rules.

Anonymous said...

"As a result, she may be willing to give up the better material/
career prospects in India (not to mention the proximity to family)
as a price for social freedom that she has in America." Aha! But that's what the crux of the matter is: you're free in America, mainly because you're far away from family and the burdens of expectations that go with it. It's the classic freedom of the immigrant - the freedom to construct your lives away from the surveillance and stultifying structures of small communities and families.

The other angle to the public sexual harassment (which is a definite problem) is also about class, isn't it? And how differently the social classes and races share public space in both countries. The kind of men who are perceived to be "eve-teasers" in the US are segregated in inner-city ghettoes where middle class Indian women would never venture, even in daylight. Just because we don't experience sexual harassment in our own gated communities - for what are suburbs but gated communities of slightly larger radius? - doesn't mean that there isn't a frustrated, harassed woman who lives only twenty miles away. In India, there is little segregation of this sort,at least in the cities. So the good, the bad, and the ugly all jostle for space on the same streets. And then go home to their separate spaces.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heartcrossings,

Many thanks for engaging with this rather long debate so thoughtfully and patiently.

Someone in that long comment thread mentioned correlation and causation, which got my antennae up, since this brings in some of my bread and butter. And there were also generalizations about women having to compromise more within relationships anywhere in the world. I am a medical doctor, and unfortunately, I study some of these issues in a professional capacity as an epidemiologist and a social scientist (too many professions). So I will now nitpick briefly.

A note about context: Middle-class India is not India (obviously). For the women my partner works with in rural India, the most pressing issue is whether they will be allowed to be born, and if they cross that barrier, whether they will be allowed to live beyond a few days. The rates of female foeticide and infanticide in India are way way way above the global average. Recent epidemiological surveys indicate that about 30.5 million females are "missing" from China, 22.8 million in India, 3.1 million in Pakistan, 1.6 million in Bangladesh, 1.7 million in West Asia, 600,000 in Egypt, and 200,000 in Nepal. India also has some of the highest maternal mortality ratios (and rates) in the world. A quick and dirty search on PubMed will uncover original research that shows that such high rates are not just attributable to generalized poor access to healthcare, but also to inversely preferential access to resources (including healthcare) accorded to women in rural and urban India.

Any amount of pointing at Jayalalitha(a), Mayawati, Sonia Gandhi and 'date-rape' etc. are not going to change these statistics.

A note about compromises: People have conducted well-designed cross-national studies about the domestic and social trajectory of marriage, civil partnerships and live-in relationships. Men in Scandinavian societies are most likely to share in household chores and take up responsibilities and roles that facilitate their partner's jobs/careers/roles outside the home. Societies in West Africa, East Asia (especially Japan), the Middle East and South Asia (except Sri Lanka) are somwehere near the bottom. Refer journals like Marriage and Family, Family Studies etc. for original research.

And finally and anecdotally, I have observed 2 broad categories of NRIs in London. The first tend to view the West almost exclusively as a world that exists outside the home and which serves the primary purpose of bringing in the money. Any ingress of this world into the home is tantamount to 'cultural contamination'. These Indians also tend to be less successful than they can potentially be, and are more likely to hit glass ceilings earlier on in their careers and social lives. They tend to live in 'Indian suburbs' and lead a largely 'Indian' social life.

The second are more open, more curious and fundamentally more confident, socially, linguistically and intellectually. In other words, they take risks. They tend NOT to live in 'Indian suburbs' and have a diverse and multicultural social life, be it with people from Africa, Japan or Britain or Europe or whatever.

These are of course, I repeat anecdotal observations, but no prozes for guessing which type of Indian ends up more successful at, say 40 yrr or 50 yrs and is less likely to hit a glass ceiling early. And this broadly corresponds to the career trajectories of calculated risk-takers vs habitual non-risk takers as any garden variety B-school curriculum will tell you.

Best wishes

nevermind

sanjay said...

Anonymous, Nevermind or both:

If you insist on discussing foeticide, perhaps we can start a different thread and debate the topic of foeticide more comprehensively.

At minimum, I would want to include the 35 million child foeticide cases (missing children, in your colorful street lingo) in the U.S. between 1970-2005.

Adjustments
------------------
Since India has 4 times the population of the U.S., absolute numbers obviously do not make sense so I would want to adjust upwards the U.S. "missing children" numbers to account for the population difference between India and America. The American number gets bumped up by a factor of 4 i.e. we now have 140 million "missing" children. Next up, an adjustment for income levels since it is well recorded that abortion rates amongst Hispancs and Blacks is approx 4 times that of white women (49:13 per 1000). Voila! the number of "missing children" climbs to an astronomical 500 million+.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - You call it the "horrors of assimilation" - that is an interesting perspective. I don't see it that way at all. If you are certain about what you stand for and where you come assimilation can only enrich. You don't have to your identify effaced or even fear such may be the case.

A lot of times FOBs (myself included) will project their insecurities around being in alien country and culture on their hapless kids who look up to their parents for cues on how to navigate their way around society.

I have learned time after time the best way is to give them a chance to figure their way out on their own and limit my role to help them understand their roots.

"If a population lives in India for 1000 years as the Parsis have and number less than 70,000 population, it is a miracle how they have been able to maintain their distinctness."

That is exactly what assimilation based on confidence and ethnic pride looks like. Anecdotally, Parsis were said to have promised to blend into the Indian social milieu like sugar does in milk. They have delivered on that promise many times over.

Annon - "So the good, the bad, and the ugly all jostle for space on the same streets. And then go home to their separate spaces."

I agree completely. In India, for better or worse there are no seperate places as you describe. I think we are getting there with the mini township gated communities sprouting in urban India.

At some point, these will become self-sufficient to the point that they become their own city inside the city and need to have nothing to do with the "real" India outside.

For my generation at least, the real India that our nostalgia craves for is the one outside these communities - it is getting increasingly more challenging to inhabit it - particularly for women.

Like I said in my post, if I wanted to live in a gated community to be "safe" what sense does it make to live in India. I am sure that perception will change for generations after mine whose world view will allow such communities to be an integral part of their Indian experience. I was not for mine and hence the trouble of reconciliation.

Nevermind - Thanks for the thoughtful comments and insights. Specially love your anecdotal observations about NRIs in London. You are spot on and it is no different in the States.

Anonymous said...

Well, I really meant to say that our gender "peace" in the US comes at a price - that of social segregation. In fact, I meant to say that "gated communities", whether they are the suburbs of America or the "townships" or "colonies" of urban India are not entirely desirable things to have. The lack of harassment in homogenous communities is precisely because they are full of "people like us". There is a reason why small town America feels so uneasy about ethnically and linguistically diverse urban metros like New York and Los Angeles. On the other hand, it is true that homogenous little enclaves are probably the safest for women. So at least until everyone is on the same page regarding respecting women's bodies and spaces, we have to live with two choices - interesting diversity and the potential for harassment, or boring homogeneity and gender "peace". One day I hope all parts of every city are safe for me and my daughter to work in. Until then, we have to empower ourselves as best as we can. That empowerment takes different forms in different places.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

You call it the "horrors of assimilation" - that is an interesting perspective. I don't see it that way at all.

Assimilation may be either voluntary or forced. The latter form of assimilation is not acceptable and I reserve judgement on the former depending on the tactics employed.

Tactics

Simple social exposure is preferable to violent re-education. No brainer. It is ok if there is a prevailing sense of collective cultural norms to adhere to but not if this degenerates to over-bearing cultural domination. Assimilation achieved through education, social activities, and participation in mainstream culture is ok but not if it involves financial motivation, ridicule and/ or shaming.

If you are certain about what you stand for and where you come assimilation can only enrich. You don't have to your identify effaced or even fear such may be the case..

If this how you understand assimilation, then it is quite different from how I understand it. To me, assimilation is a process of integrating or absorbing members of an ethno-cultural group (such as immigrants, or minority groups) into an established, generally larger community. This presumes a loss of many characteristics of the absorbed group.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

Wow thats one long debate folks. Heartcrossings, while I respect your sentiments, I beg to differ on the point that India is to blame for women getting treated badly. Its like saying that the British Government is responsible for oppressing India and Indians for several hundred years. Yes, they are accountable, but India and we Indians are responsible for letting it happen. Finally, when we put our foot down and stood up for our rights, the empire bowed. I would only draw a parallel to any case of oppression be it against race or gender. You put up with it, you are only encouraging it. Women in india have to stand up for their rights than and fight it out rather than hide behind a veil of sensitivity, delicateness and blame socity and stigma.
Please do not think I'm biassed, I respect for any individual sans race and gender. Its only fools like me that I find difficult to tolerate :)

I believe that every society has its own plusses and minuses and its the choices we make and the path we take that make our life most of the times.

Let me try and express my views on some of your points. The discrimination and opression and invasion of privacy.While I can understand that the average Indian is quite probing and that's the way we are, while probing is Indian nature, preserving our privacy is our right. Its up to us to defend our privacy. Drawing a line and being blunt about it helps. Also, I'm not sure if this particular issue is gender specific. Men face equal share of this and we dont have problems drawing a line. I don't understand why it should be difficult for a woman to do the same!
While the references you make(the NGOs etc.,) speak about oppression against women, they wont speak about cases where women were being women and defended themselves. It defeats their cause you see.
Cases of rape and public misdemeanour are quite high in any metro as you rightly admitted to. NYC, Chicago and Hartford fits the bill as much as Calcutta, Bangalore, Delhi , Mumbai or Chennai.I have never felt comfortable traveling in a public transport system late into the night in any of these US metros. Much like american suburbs, Indian suburbs and small towns are generally safe for Indian women.
As for cases of groping, raping in public transport,may I ask you what an Indian woman would do should she face a similar instance in the US? I'm sure the Indian woman feels more empowered in the US and will not hesitate to raise her voice and defend herself better. Why not do the same thing here? What stops women from defending themselves? Again, is it not the choice we make heartcrossings? Like Mr.Sanjay said with hard hitting statistics, women have become what they wanted to be. You are asking why they did not prevent Nandigram or other such massacares, its like asking why the US GOV with all its power and technological prowess and big brother watching over every individual in the US soil, was not able to prevent Muhammad and Malvo in the Beltway sniper attacks, why was it not able to prevent 9/11, why was it unable to prevent children from being massacared in schools. Its a moot point to even debate such things and to ask why the government is not in control of every individual in the society.
Yes, India is still far from the general gender parity and racial parity as spoken in western parlance, looking back we have not done all that bad for a country with just 60 odd years of freedom behind it as opposed to one with several hundred years of freedom behind it and took several hundred years to abolish slavery. America celebrated an african american as its president and a cornerstone in american history! this took several decades for general society evolve and embrace an African american as their president . Well, it took them a law to abolish slavery didn't it? Sometimes changes have to be forceful to ensure that the government is empowered to show hypocrites and social terrorists their place and let civil society evolve.
Coming back to general status of women in Indian society

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

continued..
Coming back to general status of women in Indian society
As i said in the beginning, its our choices that makes us who we are and it made these wonderful ladies who they are today. Kiran Bedi, V.Shanta, Preetha Reddy, Kiran.M.Shaw, Chanda Kochhar, Indira Nooyi, Anu Aga, Lalit Gupte, Sulajja Firodia, Neelam Dhawan ,Lakshmi Venu of TVS, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Bharka Dutt,P.T.Usha, Konery Humpy. I'm not even sure If i can reel off as many gents' names in high power.
Not all of them were born with the proverbial silver spoon and they made their own destiny. India has its own weeds, but alas its among weeds that such lovely lotuses grow!

tearsndreams said...

God!
The fact that people are naming a few women and claiming by deduction that this suggests there is no penalty to being a woman in India makes me want to throw up. Sure there is no racism in America because Obama got elected. Then why are you suggesting there is? Aren't you contradicting yourself? Because we have Obama, there must be perfect acceptance.

Its pathetic how you some people take a higher pedestal and argue.
The post is specifically about women so if you are fair, you should all start with a disclaimer that 'of course you don't know how bad it is'. Just like HC has no rights to say anything abt India, if she hasn't been there for the past 6 years.And you! You are fully qualified to talk abt women?
Have u ever been one?
I am sure all of you are men (just like you I am making intelligent deductions!)
If there is a woman here supporting India, can u please come and honestly claim that you were not molested in India.
And men instead of reading about Kiran bedi, please go and ask your daughters if you let them venture into real India if they have been groped. They want to stay in India just means that have learned how to deal with it. It does not mean that freedom exists. I am 100% sure they will tell you that of course such things exist yet they choose India over America coz America has its own negatives which might be unacceptable to them. No body is denying that.
But you can not quote statistics over personal experiences of so many women.
The harassment statistic would be 100%. All the Kiran Bedis of the world faced the gender penalty too. They rose despite not because of it. Okay?
Please read this:
http://www.unmana.com/2009/11/why-i-am-feminist-ii.html
And please read this:
http://alwayshappykya.wordpress.com/2008/11/21/finding-courage/

I worked at Ficci in New Delhi. One of my colleagues was asked by a Sr person if she shaves her pubic hair.
The HR refused to do any thing abt it.

Did all these ppl have a choice?
Do you think all they had to do was raise their voice.
Do you think its that simple.

Are you trying to suggest that US is as bad as India for women because someone might ask me if I liked slumdog?

Do you know what such a suggestion says about you?

Heartcrossings said...

tearndreams - Finally I get to hear from a woman and hear her side of the story said like it really is ! Thanks so much for your comment and perspectives. I would love more more women living in India talk about their experiences.

I found it very instructive to note that the vast majority of the comments on this post have been from men who want to pretend that all is well for women in India because Mayawati came out of the slums to become a politician.

Fat lot of good that does for the average woman in rural or urban India who puts herself in harms way each time she walks out of her home !

There can be all kinds of arguments made about a woman's safety in inner city Baltimore compared to any place in India but the fact of the matter is if you want to live your life independently and freely as a woman you chances are better in the developed world. How this is even contestable is not clear to me.

Sudhir Venkatesan wrote a path-breaking book about gangsters in Chicago - surely that proves Chicago equals Dhanbad in India - they have just as many gangsters. This is exactly the kind of backward logic that seeks to prove groping on a NYC subway makes NYC just as unsafe for women as Delhi.

Sanjay - The way you depict an immigrant's life in America is as if they were being subject to some kind of pogrom designed to deface their identity and characteristics. First off, that is untrue. Secondly, desi immigrants come here of their own free will and put through the worst as far as the legal immigration system and yet they stay. They can just up and leave. The door is wide open and encouraging them to leave.

I have yet to come across a desi woman who is financially independent in this country who is chomping at the bit to return to India. Their husbands (if they are married) often are.Obviously the trouble they go through to come and remain in this country seems the lesser evil.

Life refactored - 'India has its own weeds, but alas its among weeds that such lovely lotuses grow!'

In a billion plus population a hundred odd names - lotus among weeds ? More likely miracles that only God can explain.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

People, I'm sure we men cannot fully understand your plight unless we go through this ourselves and perhaps we would gladly take your side. Until then cannot we encourage you to fight back?
Come on folks, If we don't look up to people who have achieved things and tell us 'if they did it, i can do better' where are we headed?

nevermind said...

Hi Heartcrossings, having now managed to read through your comment thread, my admiration for your patience goes up exponentially. As someone who clearly has a full life beyond the computer keyboard, I find your patience remarkable. It is interesting that all the female commenters seem to agree on some things: that women in India feel unsafe and second-class. What is more interesting is that those commenters who are so vociferously disputing are all men. Maybe all the women are on the secret payroll of NGOs. These NGOs, I tell you, they are everywhere. Just like the CIA and the ISIJ

Sanjay, ‘missing women’ is a scientific term, as anyone with a basic knowledge of any of the statistical disciplines will tell you. It was introduced by Amartya Sen in the 1990s. Read this paper for an introduction to the concept (you can download the pdf for free).

"Missing women: social inequality outweighs women's survival advantage in Asia and North Africa

In Europe and North America women tend to outnumber men. For example, in the United Kingdom, France, and the United States the ratio of women to men exceeds 105. In many Third World countries, however, especially in Asia and north Africa, the female:male ratio may be as low as 0 95 (Egypt), 0-94 (Bangladesh, China, and west Asia), 0-93 (India), or even 090 (Pakistan). These differences are
relevant to an assessment of female inequality across the world...."

A Sen. Missing women. BMJ 1992. 304: 587-588

Read these for the progress of the concept in the noughties.

http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/327/7427/1297

http://www.nyu.edu/econ/user/debraj/Papers/AndersonRay.pdf

And as you can see from the papers, both female infanticide and foeticide are robust indicators of the safety and status of women in a society. And that is precisely what this blog post is all about. These measures go into calculating indices like the Gender Parity Index and the Human Development Index, both robust and internationally accepted measures of how well countries treat their women. India lags way behind Western countries (including the US and Canada) on these indices. This is science, not internet fantasy. It may be useful to read the specific section on India as well as the conclusions of the last paper (pdf).

As for your figure about ‘missing women’ in the US, I would be keen if you could provide me with some basic information.

1.A credible source for the figure. As you are aware, governments shape policies based on scientific evidence, which are either published as collated reports by respected national/international bodies or as papers in credible peer reviewed journals. One of these would count as a credible source. Not stuff from blogs and popular websites and other such.

2.It’s frame of reference and sampling strategy e.g. whether it is a longitudinal or cross-sectional figure, whether it is based on a prospective cohort or a retrospective one etc. As you are aware, it would be idiotic to compare one of these with the other.

3.An idea of the methodology by which this figure was calculated.

As you can see, the papers I have linked to provide all of the above. And here is some very recent scientific research into what exactly happens to

1.Female babies who are ‘not born’ in India

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(06)67930-0/fulltext

2.Adult women who disappear in India every year. This is directly relevant to the large category of women missing due to’injuries’ pointed out by Anderson and Ray (pdf).

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60235-X/fulltext

sanjay said...

tearsndreams said...

The fact that people are naming a few women and claiming by deduction that this suggests there is no penalty to being a woman in India makes me want to throw up. Sure there is no racism in America because Obama got elected. Then why are you suggesting there is? Aren't you contradicting yourself? Because we have Obama, there must be perfect acceptance.

I'm not aware that anyone has made this deduction, sounds like a straw man to me. It is beyond doubt that many Indian women have advanced far in India, professionally, politically, socially etc. As far as, or farther than women have in America.

Does this mean that all barriers against Indian women have been removed? of course not, but India is moving steadily and purposefully towards that goal. Whereas the Obama phenomenon could be termed a one-time wonder, a fluke i.e. he was catapulted to power due to the shock induced by a rapidly collapsing economy, the empowerment of women in India is more broad-based, institutionally and politically supported.

Someone like Mayawati becoming CM of U.P. can only be equated with a black (not half-white like Obama) woman from the slums overcoming race/ gender/ poverty and being elected governor of Texas in the U.S. Not in this lifetime.

One could claim, as some have done in this thread, that the average woman has achieved more in America because she enjoys more personal space & freedom in America. Even if this were true, I'm not sure that this personal space is due to some intrinsic respect for women (the rape stats prove otherwise) or just the by-product of the trend towards the fragmentation in American society that tears apart marriages, families etc.

sanjay said...

tearsndreams said...

Just like HC has no rights to say anything abt India, if she hasn't been there for the past 6 years.And you! You are fully qualified to talk abt women? Have u ever been one? I am sure all of you are men (just like you I am making intelligent deductions!) If there is a woman here supporting India, can u please come and honestly claim that you were not molested in India

I agree that as a woman, you would have a better empathy for the experiences of other women but it still does not give you the right to make hasty conclusions and generalize about all Indian women. No one denies your personal experiences are valid but please do not try to universalize from them. You would be making the same error of which you accuse others.

I know that Indian women are harassed and molested in India as well as in North America so it is not a case of waving the Indian flag vs. the American. This is not a game of cricket. It is fine to claim victimhood but not when it becomes some kind of badge of honour to say "Look at me, I am a bigger victim than you". This kind of thinking becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of dependency for women and turns them into becharis-for-life, just that the shining knight becomes shifted to big brother government or its step borther, the NGO.

You say the The harassment statistic would be 100% but why limit it just to women or even to India? Every man has experienced some form of bullying, including outright thrashing, by someone who is physcially stronger. The statistic for date rapes/ harrassment/ molestations would also be 100% in the West but women tend to keep it quiet because they don't want to lose the freedom to date.

sanjay said...

tearsndreams said...

Are you trying to suggest that US is as bad as India for women because someone might ask me if I liked slumdog? Do you know what such a suggestion says about you?

This is not about you or me. I do not think you are seeking a certificate from me, nor I from you. My comment about slumdog was in a completely different context and I have absolutely no clue what you are talking about.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

Sanjay - The way you depict an immigrant's life in America is as if they were being subject to some kind of pogrom designed to deface their identity and characteristics. First off, that is untrue.

I really do not wish to keep repeating what I have already briefly posted about my issues with the American assimilation model. Those remain unexplored.

It is instructive to note that virtually every immigrant-friendly country has rejected the American model of assimilation and immigrant integration. Instead, nations such as Canada, Australia etc have opted for multiculturalism which is seen as more accepting of multiple ethnic cultures, advocating, even promoting, the extension of equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without placing on a pedestal any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central/ mainstream.

In the Canadian Parliament, as many as 8 Indo-Canadians (many of them ethnic Punjabis, not converted Christians nor married into the mainstream) hold MP seats and one large province, BC is even headed by an Indo-Canadian. The difference from the U.S. is quite stark.

nevermind said...

Sanjay, you evidently have a lot more time to spend in front of a computer than me. So, I'll keep it short.

To put it as politely as possible, your so called statistics are mostly garbage gleaned from the net or Wikipedia or other such.

1)Your so-called 'rape stats' prove nothing. Rape reporting in India ranges from 2 % (in the BEMARU states) to 25 % (in Kerala). Read up on this- an intelligent search on Google Scholar and Social Science databases will unearth credible research. Some of the articles I have provided also mentions this in passing. The US has an excellent 'routine data'(another scientific term, FYI) collection system as opposed to one of worst ones outside Africa in India. Plus, it has a culture where women have far more rights and empowerment, unlike in India where they are either aborted as foetuses, killed as babies, burnt as brides or denied medical treatment as elderly women.

2) Read up on the Gender Parity Index and the Human Development Index (they take into account your favourite rape stats as well). This should provide you some startling insights vis a vis the relative positions of the US and India.

3) Equally, your understanding of how migrants adapt to societies is illiterate at best and deliberately misleading at worst. Read up on the continuum of acculturation, alternation, biculturalism, multiculturalism, fusion and assimilation. And about the role of individual choice in a migrant's favoured means of adaptation.

3) A child feeling like a second class citizen has as much to do with bad parenting as the characteristics of the social mileu. If a parent is determined to feel like a second class citizen himself, it is highly likely that the child herself would feel likewise. You don't need to know much statistics to understand this one.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

I just read many previous posts by Heartcrossings, and I have far more sympathy for her position now. India has bad personal memories for her, and for her, personally, living in the west is a better option - a new start in a new place, etc. On the other hand, I have mostly good memories of India and so am less anxious about any potential move back there. And this is despite the knowledge that, yes, there is more public harassment there and less here, and with the full acknowledgement that women are more empowered politically in India and less in the US. Given her experiences, Heartcrossings is fully entitled to her feelings. Those are not feelings that I can entirely share, though, even as I can and do support her critique of social pressures on women in India.

sanjay said...

nevermind:

Your personal attacks and emotive comments are not contributing much if anything to the discussion. Your basic approach is as amusing as it is transparently self-serving "all my data is good and all your data is bad"!

Open questions would still remain about the quality of the data and whether the conclusions drawn, the peer review process etc are justified, fair, complete, balanced and unbiased. The debacle of the HIV research/ UNAIDS numbers has shown quite unambiguously how wrong and self-serving were the India stats on AIDS.

sanjay said...

nevermind:

Plus, it has a culture where women have far more rights and empowerment, unlike in India

This is your opinion, not supported by facts. In India, I have already shown that women reach the top levels in government and business in higher numbers, percentages, more consistently than they do in America. Moreover, in America the women who do rise to the top have to be white and /or Christian, no one else need apply. In India, women have risen more on merit.

where they are either aborted as foetuses, killed as babies, burnt as brides or denied medical treatment as elderly women.

Hmm, lets see. Of the 35 million abortions in America between 1970-2005, at least 50% or 17.5 million must have been female. Wonder if 'ole Amartya counts that towards that so-called "scientific" missing women number.

In America, a couple of thousand women are killed each year by men for economic reasons i.e. to collect on insurance, stop paying alimony etc. In India, we Indianize it by labeling it dowry but greed is greed in any culture.

oh btw. Somewhere between 46-87 million Americans have no health insurance, majority of them women. Wonder if these poor souls have access to medical treatment.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LIFE_REFACTORED said...

People,
I dont see this going anywhere. The comments are becoming caustic and seem to serve no purpose other than disrespecting one other's view points. Well, heartcrossings has said what is hers and all others have. There is no point in berating the same thing over and over again and again. Please do agree to disagree at the least and move on.
I'm no mahatma, i'm not your mother, i'm not your teacher , nor am i a big brother. I'm not telling you anything, but just beseeching my fellow Indians to respect heartcrossings views. This is after all her blog and she has a right to share her view point as much as she has given us our share. So, pls reconsider your stands and put an end to this.
Heartcrossings, Pls feel free to delete this post if i have stepped over the line.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - You say "It is beyond doubt that many Indian women have advanced far in India, professionally, politically, socially etc. As far as, or farther than women have in America."

Really ? Says who other than yourself ? You could repeat this line in its variations till the cows come home and yet no one would agree because this is no more than unsubstantiated opinion. There are many creative ways to look at data selectively and out of context. If we consider the writings of Swami Vivekanada after his Chicago address, we learn that American women have about a 200 year head-start over us desis. And they have not been sitting around since that time.

'It is instructive to note that virtually every immigrant-friendly country has rejected the American model of assimilation and immigrant integration.'

And yet no country needs to offer nearly as much disincentive to prospective immigrants. And yet the US is the still the most favored immigrant destination. Clearly the vast majority of the people are comfortable with the "assimilation" model here.


'Wonder if 'ole Amartya counts that towards that so-called "scientific" missing women number.'

Last time I checked Amartya Sen had been a Nobel Laureate and this exactly is his line of work. Are you suggesting that you are a better more credible source of data than he is - not to mention possessed of superior ability to analyze it ? If so, I rest my case humbly. I had no idea who I was talking to.

Heartcrossings said...

Annon - Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the social pressure faced by women in India. As always it is good to hear from a woman who is from India and can speak from her own experience.

life_refactored - Sure, there is quite a bit that is off-topic on this comment thread but that in itself in very instructive. Clearly, it is a topic feel about with some passion :)

nevermind said...

Sanjay, for someone who is following the tactic of shouting down a range of Indian women with falsified figures deliberately quoted out of context, the comment about being "emotive and personal" is a bit rich.

To refresh your memory, I refer you to your earlier comments:

1. "Some would say it is even worse in America where one is automatically type-cast based on race, color, language, accent, food etc. In America, it is a case of shoot first, don't even ask questions. Why even bother?"

2. "Be careful what you wish for"

Now that you have got what you wished for, lets get back to the point.

Can you provide a single, credible, peer reviewed reference for each of these figures that you claim are your "stats"?

Once you have done that, we can start a genuine debate based on researched evidence, not internet fantasy. After we have discussed that on a scientific basis, we can then move on to a discussion about acculturation and the role parents play in making their children feel second-class.

Go on, give it a shot.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings said...

Really ? Says who other than yourself ? You could repeat this line in its variations till the cows come home and yet no one would agree because this is no more than unsubstantiated opinion. There are many creative ways to look at data selectively and out of context.

I cited Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati as Indian women who have reached the very top. Exactly which part of this is "unsubstantiated opinion"? are there three women in the U.S. that come even close to this ......... even with a 200 year headstart?

Go ahead, I give you carte blanche permission to use "data selectively and out of context". Give me three American examples that come moderately close to matching this.

If we consider the writings of Swami Vivekanada after his Chicago address, we learn that American women have about a 200 year head-start over us desis. And they have not been sitting around since that time.

Then why on earth are we comparing apples and oranges? I had asked the same question earlier (i.e. India and America being at different stages of development) but you have so far been unable or unwilling to respond to my point. Yet, now you use this to make a point. A bit too convenient, perhaps :-)

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings wrote...

And yet no country needs to offer nearly as much disincentive to prospective immigrants. And yet the US is the still the most favored immigrant destination. Clearly the vast majority of the people are comfortable with the "assimilation" model here.


Lets get real. Indians come here for economic reasons, for stuff that money can buy, not because we are eager to assimilate. On Black Friday, Walmart has people lining up for blocks because they want to buy stuff, not because they love Walmart culture.

Last time I checked Amartya Sen had been a Nobel Laureate and this exactly is his line of work. Are you suggesting that you are a better more credible source of data than he is - not to mention possessed of superior ability to analyze it ? If so, I rest my case humbly. I had no idea who I was talking to.

Irrelevant. Sen did not win his Nobel for coining the term "missing women", rather it was for his theoretical work on famines. Sen first used the "scientific" term missing women in a controversial (non peer-reviewed) magazine article, hardly a credible source of data.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay -

"I cited Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati as Indian women who have reached the very top."

When a desi man cites these three names in the same sentence to prove his point about women in India having reached the top with no parallels in America, he has already lost all semblance of credibility with another desi. You make me laugh.

In having chosen who you have, you have already said enough about the prospects of women in India. I could not have said it better myself - thanks so much for proving my point.

"India and America being at different stages of development) but you have so far been unable or unwilling to respond to my point."

Not a very coherent line of reasoning I would say. In the previous sentence India had produced three superstar women Sonia, Indira and Mayawati ( I still can't stop laughing at that one) and yet India is not nearly at the same place as America in development ? By your account India is light years ahead and the battery of female CXOs, Senators, Secretaries of State Governors et al in America can go sulk in their corner.Maya Angelou can never hold a candle to Mayawati.

"Lets get real. Indians come here for economic reasons, for stuff that money can buy, not because we are eager to assimilate."

That would be exactly the kind of desi who feels like a second class citizen in America no matter what their vintage. While there are plenty of those,there is also a robust population of the other variety who are not here for the money (that is another joke btw - coming to US for money.Really? Not a lot to be made here these days ). Someone who wanted to make money in this day and age would work in India.As a matter of fact one should never immigrate to any country if the idea of assimilation feels so abhorrent. They are totally not the right fit for the job.

"Irrelevant. Sen did not win his Nobel for coining the term "missing women", rather it was for his theoretical work on famines."

I think I would go with Sen on this one guessing his data and analysis would be a tad bit more relevant that yours at least until you win the Nobel for your groundbreaking analysis on "missing girls". Love the chutzpah though.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

When a desi man cites these three names in the same sentence to prove his point about women in India having reached the top with no parallels in America, he has already lost all semblance of credibility with another desi. You make me laugh.

Appealing to emotion is not a valid logical argument, although understandable if one wishes to concede.

In having chosen who you have, you have already said enough about the prospects of women in India. I could not have said it better myself - thanks so much for proving my point.

Which point? that a foreign woman of a minority religion and a poor woman from the slums can rise to the very top in India but would have absolutely no chance in America?

By your account India is light years ahead and the battery of female CXOs, Senators, Secretaries of State Governors et al in America can go sulk in their corner.Maya Angelou can never hold a candle to Mayawati.

This is a hasty and unwarranted conclusion. My point was limited to the comment that there is no parallel in America for I Gandhi, S Gandhi and Mayawati. Angelou is a poetess, an academic who has never held a powerful political position in her life. No cause to change my mind. Try again.

Another issue with Angelou: as a Christian, she belongs to the mainstream religion. Ooops forgot, you don't want to discuss religion. Understandably.

In my first comment, I had cited recent research that proved that a higher % of Indian women reach the CXO levels in India than American women do in the Fortune 500 companies.

More later ....

nevermind said...

"Irrelevant..... Sen first used the "scientific" term missing women in a controversial (non peer-reviewed) magazine article, hardly a credible source of data".

Sanjay, nice try. This is a lie. And going by your track record with "statistics", I am sure it is a deliberate lie.

Sen first used the term 'missing women' in a peer-reviewed editorial in the BMJ, one of the most respected scientific medical journals in the world (read up on its ranking). Read up about its peer-review policy here It has subsequently been cited by scientists from a range of disciplines e.g. health, social science, development, gender studies and economics to name a few, in a wide variety of scientific journals, not just medical ones. The links to the research papers I have provided (from some of the finest journals in public health) demonstrate this. The concept has informed government policy in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa.

I note that you have deliberately chosen to sidestep the peer-reviewed research on the issue by authors other than Sen.

I also note that you are silent on the positions of India and the US in the Human Development Report, the Human Development Index, the Gender Parity Index and the Gender Empowerment Index.

This means one of two things:

1) You have no credible data to dispute the findings and have chosen to "avoid" the issue conveniently; OR

2) You have conceded the point that India ranks far below the US on these indices.

Now, which one will it be?

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - One "concedes" in a debate. What I have said in my post is not debatable. It is a fact of life. While you have said plenty off topic on this there is nothing in it that fundamentally proves me wrong. Clearly, the circular logic and general lack of cohesion in the points you presented did not help your case.

I find it very interesting to note that you are very prompt in responding to anything I or a few other women have had to say on this comment thread but hold your peace as far as the points nevermind (a man) makes. I think he asks completely relevant questions.

Is it okay to concede to a man but to have a woman ( and a desi at that) have the last word absolutely anathema ? I would not be surprised if that were the case - have seen plenty of that before..

sanjay said...

@nevermind:

Sanjay, nice try. This is a lie. And going by your track record with "statistics", I am sure it is a deliberate lie.

One (not all) of the reasons I did not wish to discuss with you is precisely because of the emotive language like "lie", "deliberate lie". This can very easily lead to a flame war and is very likely contrary to the Blogger/ Google Terms of Service. I suggest you stick to facts and let the facts do the talking.

Sen first used the term 'missing women' in a peer-reviewed editorial in the BMJ, one of the most respected scientific medical journals in the world (read up on its ranking).

As per my information, Sen mentioned it in the New York Review of Books: Sen, Amartya (20 December 1990). "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing". New York Review of Books http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/gender/Sen100M.html. Which year was it mentioned in the "most respected" BMJ? you neglected to mention this fact.

Read up about its peer-review policy here It has subsequently been cited by scientists from a range of disciplines e.g. health, social science, development, gender studies and economics to name a few, in a wide variety of scientific journals, not just medical ones. The links to the research papers I have provided (from some of the finest journals in public health) demonstrate this.

Irrelevant, this is not an academic forum.

The concept has informed government policy in India, China and sub-Saharan Africa.

I am not really interested in unproven theoretical concepts. Another theoretical concept of Sen's that led to an "informed" GoI policy in the 1950s-60s turned out to be a complete dud and that theory was proven false when applied in real life. Sen's theories may perhaps work in sub-Saharan Africa & other remote places but his track record in a vibrant place like India is quite abysmal.

I note that you have deliberately chosen to sidestep the peer-reviewed research on the issue by authors other than Sen.

Irrelevant, this is not an academic forum

I also note that you are silent on the positions of India and the US in the Human Development Report, the Human Development Index, the Gender Parity Index and the Gender Empowerment Index. This means one of two things:

1) You have no credible data to dispute the findings and have chosen to "avoid" the issue conveniently; OR
2) You have conceded the point that India ranks far below the US on these indices.


Thanks for the multiple guess exam questions :-) I am quite ready to concede on #2. Of course, it is another matter altogether whether these development indices themselves have any value whatsoever. I doubt it.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

I find it very interesting to note that you are very prompt in responding to anything I or a few other women have had to say on this comment thread but hold your peace as far as the points nevermind (a man) makes. I think he asks completely relevant questions. Is it okay to concede to a man but to have a woman ( and a desi at that) have the last word absolutely anathema ? I would not be surprised if that were the case - have seen plenty of that before..

I am not psychic. I had no clue, nor is it relevant, of nevermind's gender until you just revealed it publicly. I did not respond to nevermind because, it appeared to me time and again, he could not make up his mind whether to engage in a conversation or in gratuitous personal comments.

I responded to you whenever you addressed the comment to me or responded to a comment I had made. Nothing more complicated than that. As you can see, no gender-based or other conspiracy theories needed.

In any case, this injun has also engaged with the cavalry.

sanjay said...

That would be exactly the kind of desi who feels like a second class citizen in America no matter what their vintage.

We should get beyond the simplistic blame the desi approach. This is the age of the internet, of globalization, a flattening world etc. You cannot continue to privilege the American mainstream and marginalize the desi.

Why a desi feels second-class in America will have at least three components: the person him/her self, the norms/ beliefs/ practices of American society and the context.

When the power equation is added to the mix, then the balance of power tilts decisively and unambiguously towards the American mainstream. Therefore, when one is looking for a potential culprit for some people feeling distinctly second class, then this i.e. American society/ culture would be the first place to look. Not to the desi.

Heartcrossings said...

Sanjay - "Therefore, when one is looking for a potential culprit for some people feeling distinctly second class, then this i.e. American society/ culture would be the first place to look. Not to the desi."

I would agree with that if an overwhelming majority of desis in America claimed they felt second class and would return home asap.

The money is not great these days, the immigration process - the less said of it the better, employment opportunities are shrinking, cost of living is growing, the kids "feel second class" (you claim), the quality of living for a someone who can make the money in India is no better in America.

With all that, we should see desis returning home in huge droves - I don't see that happening at all. So clearly, they aren't feeling so shabbily treated here.

That leaves us with the minority who feel persecuted and second class - they need to look inward to see what about them makes their experience so different from that of their brethren who are thriving in the same environment.

sanjay said...

Heartcrossings:

I would agree with that if an overwhelming majority of desis in America claimed they felt second class and would return home asap.

First, it would be a mistake to lump the two together. Many desis want to accumulate as much wealth as they can on the following premise: take advantage of the window of opportunity (at the cost of 2nd class status) to make money in America. This window is small & can be shut anytime. However, the door of returning to India is wide open and I can go back at my leisure. At the risk of generalizing, I have to say that right from the day they land in America, most desis know that they are trading second class status for money.

Second, an accurate understanding of human behavior takes us past mere economics, deeper into human psychology. There are people who would rather live in a golden cage than live a life that is more free but less materially rewarding. This is a conundrum and is often a bone of contention between desi men and women.

The money is not great these days, the immigration process - the less said of it the better, employment opportunities are shrinking, cost of living is growing, the kids "feel second class" (you claim), the quality of living for a someone who can make the money in India is no better in America. With all that, we should see desis returning home in huge droves - I don't see that happening at all. So clearly, they aren't feeling so shabbily treated here.

The first part is accurate, the second is only partially so because it assumes that the economic gap between India and America is substantially eliminated. Moreover, this gap may be eliminated for some professions but not for others. Finally, the reality is that desis are indeed returning to India in ever larger numbers. More telling perhaps is the rising number of un-utilized H1Bs and Green Cards

That leaves us with the minority who feel persecuted and second class - they need to look inward to see what about them makes their experience so different from that of their brethren who are thriving in the same environment.

This is putting the cart before the horse. I don't think there have been any in-depth, balanced, unbiased studies of how American society marginalizes desis. As for looking "inward", this self-reflection is not just for those who feel 2nd class but also for those who believe they are "thriving". For example, many Indian Christians will have a different experience because they are already partially whitened because of overlaps with the religious/ cultural beliefs and practices of the American mainstream.

nevermind said...

"As per my information, Sen mentioned it in the New York Review of Books: Sen, Amartya (20 December 1990). "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing". New York Review of Books http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/gender/Sen100M.html. Which year was it mentioned in the "most respected" BMJ? you neglected to mention this fact"

Sanjay, nice try again. Easy isn't it, to selectively pull out one paper of five written around the same time, when your subject is a famous scientist who has written several articles on the subject? But unfortunately, your subject himself contradicts you politely.

I like that tone of righteous indignation though, when caught falsifying and misrepresenting information in public.

"One (not all) of the reasons I did not wish to discuss with you is precisely because of the emotive language.... This can very easily lead to a flame war and is very likely contrary to the Blogger/ Google Terms of Service. I suggest you stick to facts and let the facts do the talking"

A career in the theatre beckons. When not acting, you could perhaps construct straw men as props. Now that we have established your 'credibility', let's get back to letting "the facts do the talking".

"I am not really interested in unproven theoretical concepts. Another theoretical concept of Sen's that led to an "informed" GoI policy in the 1950s-60s turned out to be a complete dud and that theory was proven false when applied in real life. Sen's theories may perhaps work in sub-Saharan Africa & other remote places but his track record in a vibrant place like India is quite abysmal"

Since we are letting facts do the talking, this is not "an unproven theoretical concept". It is very much a proven scientific fact, as you can read here , here and here

Sorry if these facts hurt your sensibilities though. As for your phantom "Sen-informed GoI policy in the 50s-60s", allow me to remain silent.

"Thanks for the multiple guess exam questions :-) I am quite ready to concede on #2. Of course, it is another matter altogether whether these development indices themselves have any value whatsoever. I doubt it"

Your doubts, to put it politely, are irrelevant (since we left your credibility behind a long time ago). What is relevant is that the Gender Development Index, the Gender Empowerment Index and the Human Development Index are scientific indices used by organizations and individuals ranging from the United Nations down to the Indian and local governments/people on the ground to decide where, when and how to allocate resources and money. And that is where India and China find themselves below sub-Saharan Africa.


I also note your repeated dodging of hard facts on the pretext that "this is not an academic forum"

For someone who started with "at the local level, a survey noted the election of a million rural women and almost 23,000 urban women .... This means that 1.4 million women will occupy" and ends with the complaint that "I don't think there have been any in-depth, balanced, unbiased studies of how American society marginalizes desis"

You seem to have a rapidly volatile sense of when science and research are relevant and not relevant. Or maybe you're just tying yourself into knots for the fun of it. Many talents there, falsification, misrepresentation, self-contradiction, acting, contortion....

nevermind said...

And Sanjay, we are still waiting for the primary sources for the so called "statistics" using which you have "already shown that women reach the top levels in government and business in higher numbers, percentages, more consistently than they do in America. Moreover, in America the women who do rise to the top have to be white and /or Christian, no one else need apply. In India, women have risen more on merit"

And your comments are getting boringly repetitive. Something better than the lines of "America screwed me, I am a victim, I feel better in India so India is great" please. Yawn.

Anonymous said...

Hello Heartcrossings,

I am leaving a comment on your blog after a long time though I have been reading it regularly over the past two years. Its amusing how easily people get rattled every time "The Woman Question" is brought up in the Indian context. What I find particularly galling about the whole thing is that one only has to spend a week in India to realize that sexism and gendered ways of behavior are deeply embedded in the country's cultural, social and psychological fabric. Let me give you an example. I take public transport to work everyday in Bangalore. Typically, the front half of all BMTC buses is reserved for women. During peak hours however, its common to find men occupying these seats while women stand for the better part of their ride. Most women would rather stand than ask or request a man to get up and vacate the "Ladies seats". Men, on the other hand, are deeply resentful of the "privelege" that such reserved seats give to women. The kicker of course, is that women can't sit in the back of the bus as its considered "male territory", so can do little but stand in the aisle. Your observation about the gendered nature of public space in India prompted me to share this anecdote. Its interesting to see the sense of entitlement that the men exhibit, and the complimentary attitude towards self-denial and timidity that the women display. Thanks for writing such an interesting blog!

Preeti

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

This is a small digression from your main arguments here, but I came across this news item yesterday and thought I'll share this here. I just could not digest the fact the accused got off so easily while the victim is still figuratively dead and is only technically alive after 36 years. Its really heart breaking.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8417549.stm

Thankfully this crime today will attract capital punishment. But I would vote for this being applied in retrospect since 1947 for any accused still alive.

Heartcrossings said...

Preeti - Thanks for your comment on this post. Being in denial about what women have to go through in the public space in India because of their gender is always the easier and preferred option.

There is no problem - or it does not affect the women in my family therefore there is nothing for me to do - a lot of men adopt this position. The expectation is women will along with this fairytale and deal with stuff on their own - or better still pretend it did not happen.

To accept the truth is to also accept they are not man enough to "defend" their women - again a traditional expectation from their gender.

It would help everyone if a) women spoke out without reservation about what they experience b) men accepted it and c) the problem was treated as a social malaise than men AND women needed to solve together.

sanjay said...

@nevermind: kindly re-write your comments without the personal attacks. I may consider responding.

@Preeti: In North America, I see many men (and women too) not giving up a seat, even for a pregnant woman. This would be unthinkable in India.

Just the other day in NY, I saw an aged gentleman offering his seat to a middle aged woman. "Oh my god, do I look that bad?" as she - rather ungracefully I thought - accepted the offer. The man looked like he had been struck with a hammer. I doubt he will be offering his seat to a woman again.

Gendered space or not, some women have no clue what they want.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay - The overwhelming majority of women anywhere in the world do not want to be molested by men in public spaces. To suggest 'Gendered space or not, some women have no clue what they want.' is disingenuous to say the least in the context of what my post was about.

Preeti talks about the men's and women's only sections in Indian public transport. It is our way to give women some measure of safety from men. - that we should need such a thing is shameful. When men encroach even here, a woman's helplessness is magnified. I have traveled in those trains and buses and know exactly what it feels like.

The example you cite in NYC is so dramatically different from an Indian woman's experience in India that just that incident makes the point I am making about the huge cultural difference and why the developed world offers a much better deal for women.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

sanjay - The overwhelming majority of women anywhere in the world do not want to be molested by men in public spaces. To suggest 'Gendered space or not, some women have no clue what they want.' is disingenuous to say the least in the context of what my post was about.

I'm not sure what it is you're getting at here. How is it disingenuous?

Preeti talks about the men's and women's only sections in Indian public transport. It is our way to give women some measure of safety from men. - that we should need such a thing is shameful. When men encroach even here, a woman's helplessness is magnified. I have traveled in those trains and buses and know exactly what it feels like.

I too have traveled in those same buses and trains. Not once have I encroached on women's only sections nor have I seen others do it, certainly not to the extent being portrayed here.

In Mumbai, 5,000 + riders are packed into a 9-car rake during peak hours(as against the rated carrying capacity of 1,700). This has resulted in a Super-Dense Crush Load of 14 to 16 standing riders per square meter of floor space. Each person (usually a man) gets 0.75 sq ft of floor space. If a women's only section is created, then where exactly is the "shame" in this? I must confess to being totally perplexed.

The example you cite in NYC is so dramatically different from an Indian woman's experience in India that just that incident makes the point I am making about the huge cultural difference and why the developed world offers a much better deal for women.

Here is another example of how good a deal women are getting in the "developed" world. A man was arrested last week on the NYC subway for openly pleasuring himself while staring at the woman across from him; A sign posted prominently inside the subway warns men not to accidentally brush up against women or risk prosecution.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay - If desi men like yourself would spend a millionth of energy that you have expended here trying to provethat women live a charmed life in India, that country would be a very different place. But it is so much easier to point fingers at other countries and say "its no different in NYC". To compare a Delhi or Mumbai to NYC along any dimension is beyond laughable. Why even bother. But that is easiest to do so why bother fixing what's wrong with India. Be in denial until the day the evidence is so close to home that you cannot deny it even if you were missing all six senses.Until then gather all evidences of atrocities against women around the world and tell the women around you they are doing wonderful in India - living in heaven on earth.

sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

sanjay - If desi men like yourself would spend a millionth of energy that you have expended here trying to provethat women live a charmed life in India, that country would be a very different place.

This is not about you or me but about what is fact versus what is misrepresentation of India. In his 1990 book Imagining India, Prof. Ronald Inden explains that the West used the "other" and especially India, to define and construct itself. This process helped the West in building its physical assets as well as in developing its intellectual plane. T

This process continues unabated today and narratives like Slumdog and your post (sadly) falls in the category called Imagining India.

By contrast, what is really factual about India is something one never hears from you. Last week, the leadership of India's main opposition party was handed over to Sushma Swaraj. This means that four of the most powerful political positions in India - leader of the ruling party, leader of the opposition party, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the President of the nation - are held by women. I doubt that this has been achieved by any other nation in history.

Other facts which happened last week. The Indian government announced a reservation of 50% for the women in the Urban Local Bodies or ULBs (aka municipalities; 3255 ULBs in India). This will also apply to seats and offices reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. As of now, women account for 43.5 per cent of the urban population of India but are allocated 50% of the seats. In August, the Indian government had already approved 50% (up from 33%) reservation of seats for women in village councils.

Greatest democracy in action right under our noses.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay - Please continue do your part in advancing the India Shining narrative and ferreting out out all "slumdog" commentaries that are out there on-line (just like mine as you have pointed out) and correcting their defective thought processes. Should keep you busy for a VERY long time.

Unless you are able to disprove that I am a woman born and raised in India and have been subject to a wide assortment of eve-teasing since my teens and do not know a single Indian woman whose experience has been any different from mine (do spare us the fiction about how your wife and daughters have never been harassed ever in their whole lives in India - you don't expect a desi woman to buy that. We happen to know the score only too well), there is nothing you can do to alter my so called slumdog narrative.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Thank God for someone plucky like you providing a nonpolitical nonreligious forum.

In India sexual abuse in all forms including verbal is a given.In the needlessly glorified joint family , schools , workplaces, while walking , commuting , music classes , dance classes that every child is forcibly sent to. I am a south indian.

Even before I matured enough to know the names of body parts or that they existed for what reason I have been violently abused.NOT by strangers.

The tragedy is we accept & condone calling it our karma. Much later in my life when I confronted my mother I was speechless when she broke down & told me how her maternal grandfather routinely abused her since she was a 2 year old child. WITH her autocratic insensitive mother's knowledge & apathy. My mother died of cancer of nerve tissue. All these happened in the 1940s.

The most unkindest cut of all came from my mother's mother who was also present then with the following words:

" So what ? As if I wanted to marry your father who had neither the looks nor the qualifications of my father. Who was the most eminent doctor in the entire TamilNadu. I wanted only sons. You were such a burden . He offered to bring you up. Feel grateful for all the food clothing & shelter he gave you. With his money today my 3 sons are doing so well in America.That is your karma..."

She had another daughter ( my mother's sister) who was so mercilessly treated by the same mother ( sorry if I am confusing) because of her dark skin she committed suicde in her early twnties.

Nobody bothered except my mother who was distraught. They did elaborate rituals & that was it.The 3 male siblings ( internist billionaire in America , chartered accountant , a Phd IITian plus award winning scientist in Defense Metallurgical Research Lab of India now in America) blamed all on her karma & carried on with their lives.

In fact they ate lots of sumptuous sweets & savouries telling such a death of a young woman is very auspicious.

And we are so called orthodox brahmins. Vegetarians indeed ! I keep telling myself we are all heartless , respirating cannibals.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

@Anon,
My heart goes out to you. I know its no consolation for all the pains and still untold sufferings you have undergone.
May god give you strength and power to overcome this trauma.
Being a S.I. Brahmin myself, its gut wrenching to read of such behaviour from family members. I'm really too shocked to even believe that human beings are capable of such behaviour.
While I infer all of what you said has happened much in the past, I only pray that things are better for you now and we as a country and human beings have moved up in values and done away with such behaviour.
If instances such as the ones you describe are still happening today,its shameful! really shameful that we live in this mixed bag of a country where one side is proclaiming turn in tide while the other is still grappling with the legacy of such horrors that still continue to haunt us.

Anonymous said...

Life Refactored ,

Thanks but seriously no thanks.

" ....we as a country and human beings have moved up in values and done away with such behaviour ".

I cringe at such nonomniscient self congratulatory anointing.

India or Indians are not America ( when I say America I refer to the WHITES ( Britain , Europe, Australia New Zealand etc sans NRIs).

With proper investigating agencies , sans antedeluvian gender biases , cateism, law courts etc. I am not DEBATING.So spare me statistics and cut & paste reports/links. With money power and threats no one can muzzle Justice & get away with it.

Above all Indians lack empathy.But can breathtakingly feign llllove , compassion , piety etc.

Educational qualifications including IIT IIM or memorised Lalitha Sahasranamam , Mahishasuramardhini yadayada , circumambulations , dips in HOLY Ganges , wolfing down of Tirupathi laddoos , lavish charities as expiation , alas , cannot engender a heart or empathy.

Either you are born with it or not.Period.

I soothe myself by rererewinding & watching Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.

Life Refactored ,

When you hear of indians dying in macabre ways don't bleat innocentsaredying....God is so unkind(sic).

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - I am grateful that you were able to share what had to be a mind-numbingly painful experience.I could not agree more with your observations about Indian society.

Women have been conditioned over generations to accept abuse from men at home and outside.

Indian men will (as you can see even in this comment thread) flat out deny that abuse happens or is far more commonplace than in the developed world or offer faux sympathy at best without doing much to change anything (you cite several examples of this type in your comment).

With the later,the attitude is a mix of resignation to karma and a complete lack of empathy. Yes, there are men who will walk the talk and go the distance to help women - they feel her suffering like it were their own - but they are too few in number to cause change in the pace and volume required in India.

I believe that women should be far more vocal and forthcoming with their stories. There are things I know about my girlfriends from India about abuse by close relatives and random men in public that they would never share with men in their families - husbands, brothers,fathers etc.

Since abusive behavior by men is so pervasive, they tend to be desensitized to a great extent. Minor infractions longer appear to be "abuse" to them. Unless something really bad happens it does not quite register.Just because all women in India go through it does not make it less bad - but women seem to find consolation in shared misery. Whether or not they look upon at it as abuse, the damage continues to happen - all the time.

When all women speak up and say it like it is, it would be impossible for men to ignore what is happening to those closest to them. It is no longer someone else's karma, or some other woman's problem. Only when women come out and talk about it candidly will change happen. Thank you again for showing the courage you have in sharing.

sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

sanjay - Please continue do your part in advancing the India Shining narrative and ferreting out out all "slumdog" commentaries that are out there on-line (just like mine as you have pointed out) and correcting their defective thought processes. Should keep you busy for a VERY long time.

I do not need to advance any slogans as I am not running for office nor do I see myself in a popularity contest. My primary interest is in presenting a more balanced perspective on India rather than the hasty & unwarranted generalizations that I see in some of the recent comments. Based as they are on little more than emotive personal anecdotes.

@Anonymous:

It is not the fault in the concept/ idea/ theory of the Karmic cycle that your family has misunderstood and/ or mis-communicated karma. This philosophy is bigger than any single family, caste, state or region. If karma theory says that past actions and past lives will shape (not determine) your current life then it also says that being born as a human being is the greatest privilege of all. This is because humans alone have the ability to transcend all the fruits of their past karmas - however bad - in a single lifetime.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay - 'My primary interest is in presenting a more balanced perspective on India rather than the hasty & unwarranted generalizations that I see in some of the recent comments. Based as they are on little more than emotive personal anecdotes.'

This may come as news to you, but you do the greatest disservice to your efforts at "presenting a more balanced perspective on India" when you dismiss the reality of several million women's daily life in India as mere "emotive personal anecdotes".

Abuse small or big, one time of habitual is emotionally scarring. That this actually needs explaining to you illustrates exactly why you are simply unqualified for the task you have chosen to undertake in commenting to this post.

So great is your need to be right that you have not spared the woman who went through the absolute worst and have picked out one word from her whole comment - "Karma" twisted it entirely out of context of what she was saying to advance your case which is by the way has always been ab initio void.

I don't even want to hazard any guesses as to why that may appear to be a"balanced perspective" to you. I will leave that to the reader's imagination.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings,

This is not some flattery or mandatory thanking you. Oh God , I came across you so late in my life. Nevertheless you made me realize I am very much alive & seething with petrified RAGE.

You are one rare exception among Indians. Womenfolk I have seen in my life would eclipse Lady Macbeths.

I told my only child:

" Never ever marry an INDIAN. Better to remain celibate. If at all you find your mate , please please promise you will never bring forth a child into this world. It is because I love them too much I don't want them to be born ".

It so happened he found such a gem of a girl ( glad not an indian) who on her own expressed her fear in making babies for the same reasons.

I found your post on ' umami ' factor in one's marriage starting with " Blessed...." I forwarded that to him. This is not some tender mercy but Awesome Mercy of God.

When he was a young child I stripped myself naked , showing the only most 'worshipped' part of a woman's anatomy bu all holier than the holiest Ram and Shiv bhakthas called great indians. Told my story in sporadic bits & pieces. Plus how a child is born.

He was barely five years old then. Told me tremulously " amma , I don't ever want to be born a woman ".

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

You are overdecent & overtolerant towards this indian punkthug called 'sanjay'. They are all the same doing verbal pyrotechnics.

Indian men are putrefying Godforsaken carcasses.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

@Anon,
God bless you. I only wish you well and hope that you find means to deal with this trauma.

sanjay said...

@Anonymous:

Do not misuse the anonymity of the internet to cross the bounds of decency. By promoting hatred against Indian men, you have clearly violated Blogger/ Google terms of service. See below how Google defines Hate Speech:

Hate Speech: We want you to use Blogger to express your opinions, even very controversial ones. But, don't cross the line by publishing hate speech. By this, we mean content that promotes hate or violence towards groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity.

Note that Blogger may remove content or place a content warning page before viewing content deemed offensive, harmful, or dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Btw , in the 1940s my mother was 2 years old. Important I point this out as it is Indians' wont to alacritously bludgeon on our heads all was hunky dory... only Britain/America ruined our 'great civilization'. She died in 1994.

I receive , received worse threats from Indian hackers , 'patriotic nationalistic' indian bloggers.

Compassionate Life Refactored , take note. It is eerie as though time always stands still.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings ,

Recall the torrid story of an exceptionally brilliant and good looking girl student of DPS (in Delhi very recently) who was 'caught in the act ' (videoed on mobile circulated non stop & hungrily savoured by the mera bharath mahaan vande matharam matripitribhumi) so to speak by a richierich superbrat boy of the same school who was never ever her friend or lover to begin with.
It was only one newspaper that had come out with the unvarnished truth. The boy simply could not add her to his list of 'conquests’ ; hence hatched upon a nefarious blackmailing plot to lure her to his private bedroom studded with all gizmos.

In that charade of court hearing the boy’s retinue of relatives fawned over him bemoaning how he was denied his daily quota of pizzas etc. Money power ( son of a rich industrialist) won. All the “slimes” (news channels & papers) pilloried the girl.

That girl ’s father is a retired Army Officer ( how well we honour them (( . She had her studies abruptly discontinued, lost her only genuine boyfriend and was shunted out to some distant relative’s house in a far off country. You would know how 'karma cola ' starts fizzing then.

The popular tv channels’ female reporters with unabashed prurience continued maligning her. The matronly imperious teachers and fellow girl students had done the houdini with a could-not-care-less nonchalance .

NO WAY india will get an American Jeff Bridges ( The Contender) the truly enlightened White Man.

In hodgepodge ways by hurriedly picking up a smattering of trendy English , trendy clothes , shoddy plagiarizations of intensely thought provoking Hollywood movies , opening glitzy malls in tandem with opulent temples from America to New Zealand , supercilious preenings alternating with rehashing of past history boohooing (sic)Winston Churchill owes 13 rupees to Bangalore , crowing " indians only found water in moon " etc etc India CANNOT become an America.

Am reminded of the greedy woodcutter story. Look at the quality of people.

Anonymous said...

" Do not misuse the anonymity of the internet to cross the bounds of decency. By promoting hatred against Indian men, you have clearly..."

Your Thundering Thighness & all outraged indian Thundering Thighnesses !!

This humble dunderhead stands quailing before your blisteringblustering clout.

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - "In hodgepodge ways by hurriedly picking up a smattering of trendy English , trendy clothes , shoddy plagiarizations of intensely thought provoking Hollywood movies , opening glitzy malls in tandem with opulent temples from America to New Zealand , supercilious preenings alternating with rehashing of past history boohooing (sic)Winston Churchill owes 13 rupees to Bangalore , crowing " indians only found water in moon " etc etc India CANNOT become an America."

Your description of what modernity in India looks like is (sadly) quite accurate. Aravind Adiga in White Tiger went to some length on this topic.He describes it as "half baked". That book is worth reading only if to understand this concept. I would fail to do justice to Adiga's lucid prose and thought process if I attempted to summarize it here.

Anonymous said...

Heartcrossings,

India stands forfeited of God's Grace due to its ethical & spiritual bankruptcy. Plus the unwarranted ARROgance that can never be captured in words at every level- methe greatvedicmatriboomiramakrishnamahalakshmidescendants all lost because of BritainAmericaPakistanSaturnRahuKetuMars malevolence booohooo victim parading as mock humility.

Except Sardarjis who take all those sardarji jokes in their stride , not a single indian of any other state is capable of heartily laughing at himself. Exxxtremely vindictive , spiteful , lecherous gluttons.

Initially I used to get swayed by Pakistanterrorism bogeyman is coming to vitiate hypernoble indoooooism. Suddenly I stood frozen when I asked myself:

" Ever since you were born , has a single Muslim touched you...has Dawood Ibrahim raped you , your mother , assaulted your child..........."

Plus those NRIs luxuriating in America to New Zealand are so meanly ungrateful badmouthing the Land they reside in. Secretly hating the White woman & White man for their intrinsic Grace , beauty , aplomb , but stealing their identities so gallingly.... Salting away money to build temples , tawdry poojas....yuck. Eat eat eat aaalways eating offeringsprasadladdoos.

Why don't they reach out & give with abandon to the WHITES , the American Army...the homeless , jobless...without aiming for oneupmanship & dethroning them... we hear so many heartrending reports....

Does not the SAME Tripurasundari exist there ??? Such a patently evidently irrevocable Reality is invisible to all those hiiigggggggghhly qualified indian billionaires(( Can't they see the SAME God in their existing Churches & go pray there??

Why gobble up their land building templessss? So uncouthly pseudopious pompously haranguing :

' youknow youknow ourrr Geetha Our Ramayana only great youknowyouknow..."

Indians went apoplectic reporting " George Bush did not attend diwali blahblahhow dare....."

I was silently chuckling ebulliently telling myself " really I like Him...what a genius...to see through the goodfornothingindooooofestivals & spurn with American nonchalance....very goodverygood....

sanjay said...

@heartcrossings:

Your description of what modernity in India looks like is (sadly) quite accurate. Aravind Adiga in White Tiger went to some length on this topic.He describes it as "half baked". That book is worth reading only if to understand this concept. I would fail to do justice to Adiga's lucid prose and thought process if I attempted to summarize it here.

I believe White Tiger won some foreign neo-colonial prize, did it not? isn't Adiga the son of a doctor and the grandson of the Managing Director of Karnataka Bank? I think he hails from a wealthy family, emigrated to Australia as a teenager, majored in English Lit etc. I doubt this guy knows anything whatsoever about India. Enough said.

Btw, if your understanding of modernity is synonymous with westernisation, then all I can say is "thank God, India's "modernity" is half-baked.

Heartcrossings said...

Anon - I have to say, I love the way you speak your mind - the irreverence taking on a whole slew of holy cows :)

You mention the DPS episode and the spectacle that was made out of the girl. It is completely in line with the acceptable social norm in India of blaming the woman for everything that goes wrong with her - she asked for trouble and got what she deserved. The boy is blameless simply because he is a boy.

That Indian women don't question this "natural order" of things a lot more vociferously is what is the cruelest cut of all. They forget it could be their turn next and they would be the victim of ridicule and censure.

sanjay said...

NO WAY india will get an American Jeff Bridges ( The Contender) the truly enlightened White Man.

India is doing it in real life with four of the most powerful political positions being held by women. "Enlightened" America can only hope to do it in fictional movies.

In hodgepodge ways by hurriedly picking up a smattering of trendy English , trendy clothes , shoddy plagiarizations of intensely thought provoking Hollywood movies , opening glitzy malls in tandem with opulent temples from America to New Zealand , supercilious preenings alternating with rehashing of past history boohooing (sic)Winston Churchill owes 13 rupees to Bangalore , crowing " indians only found water in moon " etc etc India CANNOT become an America.

Indians are very creative and we make over 1000 movies per year. A very miniscule number are borrowed from Hollywood and most are utter failures at the box office anyway.

Borrowing is not unique to Bollywood as movie-producers everywhere copy from all over the world, basically anything which takes their fancy. Hollywood frequently copies from Europe or even copies themselves (a.k.a. remakes). Bollywood and Lollywood frequently copy from each other and from other countries. Sometimes, they even copy frame-to-frame and scene-to-scene. Sounds like a red herring to me.

Don't even get me started on what the West has borrowed, appropriated or stolen from India. Here is just one tiny example of money stolen from Indian farmers:

The ancestors of Senator John "Forbes" Kerry amassed a huge fortune smuggling opium from India to China during the Opium Wars. The British wanted to keep a monopoly on supplying the Chinese with opium grown in India. However, during the Opium Wars the British ships were prevented from delivering their cargoes of opium and American ship owners such as Forbes, who could sail the final miles, made huge amounts of money delivering the narco drug opium for the British.

Subsequently, Forbes family members used this ill gotten Made in India fortune to engage in other merchant banking and railroad investment projects around the world.

- Started Russell and Company, a shipping empire which was headed by Robert Bennett Forbes (Kerry's great grandfather) and was later instrumental in Yale University's development and endowment.

- After the Opium War, the Forbes family cashed out their Made in India fortune and reinvested the ill-gotten proceeds in Europe and the United States. The population growth of Chicago and the Midwest in the middle to late 19th century was due to John Murray Forbes' railroad project - The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., from Chicago west to the Pacific was built by John Murray Forbes.

- In 1879, William Forbes, son of John Murray Forbes, used the family fortune to financially back Alexander Graham Bell's telephone company, and become president of the company.

- Cameron Forbes used his wealth to become Governor General of the Philippines. His niece Ruth Forbes Paine Young tapped her Forbes family inheritance to finance the International Peace Academy. Her

- Many Forbes family members purchased estates in France and Massachusetts, and generally remain influential there, in local or national politics. John Forbes Kerry is a U.S. Senator and was a candidate for President of the U.S. and is a beneficiary of several Forbes family trusts (c. 2002)

- Kerry's first cousin and friend, Brice Lalonde, an environmentalist activist, is a French Green party politician who was a candidate for President of France in 1981 and currently mayor of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer near the Forbes family estate.

Anonymous said...

" Anon - I have to say, I love the way you speak your mind - the irreverence taking on a whole slew of holy cows :)'

Ah that is really a compliment. Actually I feel intoxicated by your unpretentious way of speaking out your mind. Plus if you compliment it would never be fake.

Thank you very much.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay "I think he hails from a wealthy family, emigrated to Australia as a teenager, majored in English Lit etc. I doubt this guy knows anything whatsoever about India. Enough said."

I have lived half of my life in a BIMARU state in India and am still in contact with childhood friends who continue to live there. Adiga gets the vibe of the place exactly right - it is almost uncanny, his characters are so realistic that they could be (for people who have lived in BIMARU-land) actually be someone we know.

Adiga gets India perfectly well - my friends who have lived or live in BIMARU land are very impressed by White Tiger for its unadorned authenticity.

sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

I have lived half of my life in a BIMARU state in India and am still in contact with childhood friends who continue to live there. Adiga gets the vibe of the place exactly right - it is almost uncanny, his characters are so realistic that they could be (for people who have lived in BIMARU-land) actually be someone we know.

This is not about you, your friends, buddies, relatives etc. Adiga's novel won the neo-colonialist Booker and that is more than enough to tell me that the reason he won is because his take on India panders to the West's fictional Imagining India paradigm. This book is comfort food, even a means of self-gratification for the West (same as Slumdog) and tells us more about the West than about India or China.

Heartcrossings said...

sanjay - Do you have any specific credentials that make your opinion on all things India so vastly superior to that of all other desis that live there ? My friends and relatives are desis and as far as I am concerned their opinions are just as good as yours.

In the context of the Adiga book, if they live in a BIMARU state even more so - they actually know the score and it turns out that they all think Adiga got it right.

sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

Adiga gets India perfectly well - my friends who have lived or live in BIMARU land are very impressed by White Tiger for its unadorned authenticity

Btw, I have absolutley no intention of reading Adiga's book but I did happen upon an excerpt posted online. Unfortunately :-(

The few paragraphs I read were so utterly fake, so bogus and unreal that it makes Avatar positively feel like a hard hitting documentary by comparison.

sanjay said...

@Heartcrossings:

sanjay - Do you have any specific credentials that make your opinion on all things India so vastly superior to that of all other desis that live there ? My friends and relatives are desis and as far as I am concerned their opinions are just as good as yours.

I agree with you that my opinion about India is only as good as anyone else's. So is Adiga's - extending your own logic. His opinion is no better, no more accurate (a good, cogent case can be made that it is actually less valid) than that of 1.2 billion other Indians.

In the context of the Adiga book, if they live in a BIMARU state even more so - they actually know the score and it turns out that they all think Adiga got it right.

They are entitled to their personal opinion, India is free country. However, their opinion is one out of 1.2 billion and gets weighted accordingly.

Anonymous said...

LIFE_REFACTORED says:


" God bless you. I only wish you well and hope that you find means to deal with this trauma.... ..

My heart goes out to you. I know its no consolation for all the pains and still untold sufferings you have undergone.
May god give you strength and power to overcome this trauma ".


It is a luxury to be understood says Emerson.

I keep going over your kind words. Even a single syllable of remorse has never come from the still surviving perpetrators. More gruesomely puzzling is they shed copious tears . Yet insisted with die hard tenacity (sic) "itisallyourkarma" .

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

@Anonymous, I have been rather ignorant about crimes of this kind in our country. It would be an understatement to say that I was shocked and disgusted when I read of your accounts!
For a long time, I could not come to terms with what I had read and I had to repeatedly tell myself that this is for real and this has happened to someone in their real life in a family very much like yours.
After reading your note, I have become an ardent believe of what @Heartcrossings says, Women should speak out and let the country know that all is not well and rosy like some of us believe it to be. Else people like me and many others will continue to live in our own Utopian world of distorted realities.
As for Karma I'm not educated enough to comment on the subject except that I understand that it applies to the perpetrators as well and their deeds will have to be borne by their offspring.
I will continue to pray for your healing.

Anonymous said...

LIFE_REFACTORED ,

That you ruminated over what I said & responded is decency of awful proportions in contemporary India.

Except for Heartcrossings ( an Indian woman with a heart sans cruel frosty apathy is rarer than the much expected Blue Moon) every other pompous higghhhhhhly qualified indian male blogger in reality savours the following alone as starters:

hatsofftoyou , whatayapost, yourockman followed by sycophantic comments. Proof enough most are putrefying vampires & ghouls.

Regarding the wantonly illunderstood & abused word karma:

My Mother did NOT ask to be raped. I did NOT either. The Bhagavad Geetha raunchy & paunchy thumpers ought to remember nowhere does SriKrishna say to Paanchaali it was her karma. He declares:

NO AMNESTY for the undeserving.Over actions everyone has freedom of choices not over consequences.

Invariably, immoral unethical people subject the victim to inquisition dwelling over salacious details & asking for proof!!

Anonymous said...

Let the onus of disproving fall on them.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

@Anonymous said..
NO AMNESTY for the undeserving.Over actions everyone has freedom of choices not over consequences.

Beautifully put, I have learned something today. Thanks.

For crimes such as this, I wish there was some sort of instant justice system!
Asking men such as these to change is like asking a gutter not to smell, they have to be given instant punishment and made an example.
Here is another deplorable case
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruchika_Girhotra_Case

Anonymous said...

" NO AMNESTY for the undeserving.Over actions everyone has freedom of choices not over consequences ".

Oh NnO That is Sri Krishna's. not mine. Thank Krishna not me!

Your futuristic abdulkalamlike dreamsweaving about futurejusticesystems makes me guffaw !

Do we have a MariyadhaiRaaman or Manuneedhichozhan ??

That is a rhetorical question. Period.

LIFE_REFACTORED said...

Okay,thanks for being the conduit.

As for justice systems, the answer to your question is perhaps we should have one ManuneedhiChozan around just to strike them the instant they commit the crime!

Anonymous said...

The following was told by a boy student of a very 'reputed' residential school in tamilnadu.

There was a Nepali girl student who committed suicide. Ofcourse , many knew a lecherous English teacher had raped her.

Yet , the management ( wellknown influential tambrams) decided to come out with a dejavu report "Nepali girl was of loose morals; so committed suicide..."

The entire faculty comprising of (sic)pious , learned , teachers of both genders went along with the management.

That boy who saw all this charade literally jumped out of the heavily fenced , guarded hostel never returning. I met him in a Temple in tamilnadu , where he told me all this.

Nobody is going to believe this , as that school is one of a kind , giving free high quality food plus enviable facilities for the students. Including day scholars.

Hence Indians glibly blame everything on her 'karma/prabdham' shrug their shoulders , circumambulate , give lavish donations to orphanages.....

Incidentally that school was praised to the skies by another revered saffron clad Hindu monk very recently. Eloquent testimony of the chimerical omniscience of sannyasis/monks/pontificators.