Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sonia....Tussi God!! And More.....

Guys.... don't say it!! I have been utterly wicked.... played truant....gone missing. C'est la vie! Not that you were absent from my thoughts. Main, non!! But my short and tres sweet trip to Paris and Montpellier left me ( oui, moi aussi!!!!!!) breathless. The adventure began at the airport itself when my bag didn't arrive. This was a disaster. It was 8a.m. and my hectic press schedule kicked in at 12.30pm. Plus, the launch of my book was the same evening. No bag. No clothes. I had nasty visions of myself looking like a character out of ' Les Miserables' , clad in rags at my own party. Okay, let's not get over-dramatic - clad in travel gear ( jeans and boots ). My husband offered to take me shopping instantly. Good of him. But.... my mean reaction was , "Oh yeah? And where would I get an antique Banarasi saree in Paris??" He did the next best thing - phoned Bharti Mongia of Air France in Mumbai. Two hours later, my bag got miraculously delivered to the hotel. Izzat bachch gayee! Saree mil gayee! Vive La Bharti!!!

You want to know about the rest of the trip.... the launch.... my speech etc.etc. right? RIGHT???? I didn't hear you......

Assuming you love me enough, and are dying to read the dirty details, I shall keep you holding your collective breath just a bit longer. A woman's gotta work when a woman's gotta work. Like right now. Besides, I am on a high.... and it has nothing to do with the champagne.

****************

This appeared on sunday in the Times of India.

I was away in not-so-distant Dubai when Sonia’s Bill was pushed through with a voice vote. I say ‘Sonia’s Bill’ because it will eventually be known as that. Had Madam not bulldozed the Women’s Reservation Bill during this dramatic session, chances are another twelve years may have passed and our daughters would have been agitating for it somewhere down the line. Mind you, I have never been pro- reservations, believing, perhaps a little too idealistically, that focusing on educating our women en masse was a smarter route to take than reserving seats for a few in Parliament. Slower, for sure. But infinitely more worthwhile, if we are talking about a level playing field. Subsidies and quotas lead to a mindset that seeks concessions and favours. I loathe the idea of handouts. Women don’t need patronage. They need opportunities. And those can only come if we empower them via education. Sorry to make this a boring, single point mantra. But one just has to travel a little outside our teeming cities to understand how desperately disenfranchised ‘other’ really women are… and how hopeless it all appears …. yes, despite the historic Bill and the magic it promises to unleash, abracadabra ishstyle.
I don’t want to ruin the party and behave like a wet blanket while the euphoria is still on. But the truth is, we still have a majority of women who don’t have the foggiest idea that their lives are about to get transformed, thanks to India’s fairy Godmother, Sonia. The intentions of Team Sonia are great. But hello! Someone obviously forgot to tell the men about this startling development.
The same day as the Bill made its uneasy passage through the Rajya Sabha, I read a story about a man in Orissa who refused to take his wife ( and the mother of five children ) back after her three day trip to Delhi, where she’d gone to receive a very special award. She is a highly successful mushroom farmer whose name was recommended by government officials for the honour which she shared with a hundred other farmers from across India.According to reports, her labourer husband doubted her character after the trip , and remains adamant about his decision not to take her back .As for the award winner, she is bewildered and apologetic, insisting she had sought her husband’s permission to go to Delhi for the ceremony. Her mushroom cultivation will have to be on hold, till the poor woman sorts out this nonsense with her obstinate husband. What sort of a message does that send out to their kids??
I was on a panel discussion at the Dubai Literature Festival last week, during which this tricky issue ( Women’s Reservation Bill) was raised by the men sharing the panel. When I spoke up about the grim, ground realities and the sorry plight of our women, author and co-panelist William Dalrymple chortled and said he was surprised to note my comment since he’d only met ‘extraordinarily ballsy’ women in India! Wow! Lucky him.But which women was he talking about? Those divinely groomed ladies dotting Delhi’s salons? Mumbai’s soignee memsaabs? Kolkata’s coiffed mashimas? Chennai’s Kanjeevaram-clad Maamis? Or Bangalore’s foxy babes?? Sure. If one restricts progress to urban women professionals, the story looks pretty awesome. Mr. Dalrymple is spot on to label this tribe and describe us ( of course, I include myself) as ‘ballsy’. So we are. So we are. But this isn’t about just us, is it, Willy? And Soniaji?? And it certainly isn’t about the path breaking M.P.s who will make up those numbers and hit that percentage in parliament as and when.We are the well- heeled, well-groomed , supremely privileged few. We’ve always had it good. When was the last time, we sought our husbands’s ‘permission’ for anything? Or went without a meal? But yes, there are those even amongst us who put up with beatings, verbal and physical abuse and a lot else. But those are the choices we make. And eventually live with. This Bill has little or no relevance to our pampered lives. Which, ironically, makes it all the more important .No more tokenism, ladies.
Soniaji was uncharacteristically candid when she asked Lalu about his wife, and pointed out to the Neanderthal man that he himself was the father of seven daughters ( an entire mithai box). Why would he of all people , oppose the Bill?? Because he is Lalu. A politician first, a husband and father next. This is what we are going to be up against, no matter whether that person is a desi politico or a celebrated British author. Mindsets do not change because of a piece of paper.
I wonder about the award-winning farmer from Orissa. What will happen to her from this point on – will she say ‘to hell with you’ to the man who is questioning her character, and go back to her mushrooms? Will her children be taken away from her? Will she be ostracized by her community… other villagers? Will she lapse into depression, stop farming and beg her husband’s forgiveness? Will a modern day version of ‘vanvaas’ and an agni pareeksha be forced on her?
Will someone please tell this woman she is supposed to be ‘ballsy’?
Has anything changed since Valmiki wrote the Ramayana??
You tell me….

20 comments:

ms said...

arrey, mz de! what the man in orissa wants, and so do the others on this planet, is to bring back the chastity belt! and no agneepariksha will work since ram, the original orissa-man, still had to banish a pregnant woman to the forest. was the gestation period diggerent then? couldn't the people calculate the months she was gravid? thank god for the DNA and paternity tests! well, you are an optimist - imagine, expecting a man to remember he is a husband and a father once he has been elected to office!

Tilottama said...

Loved this post. Very true on all points. And horrified to hear Mr. Dalrymple's blase comment. I like this man's writings a lot and thought of him as a desi. Now have serious doubts.

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Awareness is important and i.e., education.
Re.: reservation
If reservation is not important then why we have AC sleeper/General class while traveling. If no reservation then there should be no reservation everywhere. No economy class, no business class. Possible?

Pointblank said...

Whao! This is a power-packed post.U voiced my opinions regdn reservations. Reservations are meant for weaklings. By embracing reservations we are confirming our weak status. Yes, equal opportunity is the key. And educating women is a good start!

the Neeraj Norms... said...

Thoughtful post! No matter what, Women liberty and rights lie in the hands of their men!

The one whom you refer 'Soniaji' would be no one had there been Rajeev!

Pooja said...

Ma de ,I agree with you women need opportunities so that they can make use of there skills with that they need encouragement , confidence, power of choice and an environment where they can express themselves .

Shatrughan Singh said...

Today, 23rd March, is Martyrs day when Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev sacrificed their lives for the freedom of our country. Sadly, in today's time only BHAGATs we talk about are Chetan Bhagat and Sayali Bhagat. Guys, lets not forget these heros who did not care about their families and loved ones, who considered whole country as their home and died for the freedom of it.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

After a long long time I have to pay obesience to every word in this column. You said it like it needed to be said. Concisely, precisely, truthfully and with great elegance. To my mind, these few hundred words is your best writing, that I have read.

I have half a mind to mail it to that eruditely dishy Dalrymple. or perhaps some "ballsy" woman has already sent it to him.

Thank you Shobhaa from the very bottom of my heart.

Sudeep said...

Well written

Ankush Naik said...

Powerful post, Ms De. I feel People's mindset is surely changing about Woman and their pivotal role in our day to day lives. Once again, superbly written.

Geeta said...

Hi Shobha, it will be good to hear your perspective on the IPL mela as your opinion come straight from the heart!

numerounity said...

I giess the lady shud weed out the nasty husbands as she wud do in mushroom farming. no?

http://ektakhetan.blogspot.com

Rolling Stone said...

very decent post mrs. de
must say there gonna be a Renaissance for women..

manoj said...

First of all..I read your book "superstar India"..And i confess i like most of the part.Plz acccept my Congratulations for such book..Now coming to ur blog ...why do you always take those points which make your article perfect for poor naive readers..why does Lalu oppose this bill,you should touch upon that as well..If in recent times you have sit in front of an idiot box, you must have watched a tiny winy clip on how he is not against this bill per se..he just wants it to be customized for other backward and SC/ST classes and i don't think that's called being against the bill...At times amendments are more important than the law itself..I hope my point is clear to you..If I am wrong ,plz. do reply back.

Theyoginme said...

Welcome back Shobhaa.. I'm in your favorite town of Pune for a week and despite the sweltering heat its bliss. I am all for equal rights and I have been missing from India for many years so I dont know the "real situation", but do you really believe the reservation bill will fix the situation in the villages for women? I still think education is the key - reservations come back and haunt us later.

mahatru said...

Hi
G8 post...liked it.
Very true that dis whole event is gng 2 b a modern day Ramayan...i too doubt how many unprivileged women r gng 2 enter politics...
Now we can expect more of Lallu-Rabri sorts :)
But i strongly disagree wid "But those are the choices we make. And eventually live with. " no women ever wants domestic voilence...its not in their hands.

Regards
Mahatru
IPL 3 Schedule Calendar

Pullak said...

What do you think about the empowerment initiative from http://Naukriforwomen.com? - First women only career site.

Culture said...

very nice post and share very valuable information for share to this posts.
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Jocuri Arcade

Sidhusaaheb said...

Even those women who had braved laathhi-charges (baton-charges) and water-cannons or gone on hunger-strike to protest against caste-based reservations do not seem to have a problem with gender-based reservations. Perhaps they have decided that just as there can apparently be ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’, there can be ‘Good Reservation (read gender-based)’ and ‘Bad Reservation (read caste-based)’ as well.

Reflections said...

I hope u wont be too shocked when I say tht everytime I visit ur page I love u a lil more;-D

Hopped over after a long time & read the entire page in 1 sitting. Just LOVED it, this post and all the others;-D