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‘Dehati Aurat’ – who me???
Okay. So we still don’t know for sure whether or not he said it. Poor Nawaz Sharif found himself in a bit of a media mess recently when he was widely (mis) quoted on a remark that couldn’t be corroborated but was flung around by people like Narendra Modi, regardless. Frankly, it makes zero sense to me. Why would Sharif refer to Manmohan Singh as a ‘dehati aurat”? What is the implication? And hello! where is the ‘insult’ to India’s mahaan Prime Minister, assuming this remark was indeed made? Nawaz may have got his voluminous shalwars into a twist with desi presswallahs, but frankly, Modi’s OTT attempt at whipping national outrage over it, backfired pretty badly. For one, Modi’s bleeding heart, over reaction sounded insincere and theatrical. For another, all the real ‘dehati aurats’ in India were miffed. I am including myself. What the hell! Is being called ‘dehati’ a put down in the first place? Is it derogatory to refer to a man as an ‘aurat’? By displaying shock and hurt over this innocuous comment, we have once again exposed our prejudices to the world.
What is so terrible about being identified as a ‘dehati’ ? Loosely translated, it refers to someone who is from a rural background – a villager who is possibly illiterate, but is unambiguously a non-sophisticate. Dehatis form the majority in India. If someone referred to me as a ‘dehati’ , I would smile and say ‘Thank you!” Why are we so damn touchy? Rather, an honest-to-goodness ‘dehati’ than a pathetic urban wannabe. And as for the ‘aurat’ part of it – in today’s day and age, a confident man should have zero issues if someone called him a woman ( even if that someone was trying to act funny). Just for the record, a ‘dehati aurat’ in our society, is grounded, tough, practical and a survivor all the way. She has to battle tremendous odds just to hang in there, raise a family and push ahead somehow. She handles her meager resources deftly and manages to balance her precarious position in a backward, patriarchal society that gives her zero status. She cooks, cleans, slogs day and night,nurturing her family with no recognition, no rewards. Aha … but look at the upside. Unlike her city sisters, she doesn’t need to worry about her size zero frame (hers may be the result of malnutrition). Nor does she lose sleep over not possessing designer handbags and haute couture . No kitty parties for her, no front row fretting during Fashion Weeks. No weekends in Ibiza ( look what that break did to poor Katrina Kaif).No competition melt downs to deal with at the work place. No bitching to battle at society soirees…. isn’t she in a far better space?
I look at Rabri Devi’s extraordinary life and marvel at her incredible resilience. What hasn’t she gone through? She is the archetypal ‘Dehati Aurat’. Today, her husband Lalu Prasad Yadav, is in jail, while she is spiritedly rallying his supporters and putting up a feisty resistance against those who she says have framed her good husband. She has done it earlier as well – and won the admiration of those who had cruelly mocked her. Rabri Devi has no problems with her ‘dehati’ status. Nor does someone like a Mayawati. Mamata Banerjee can also be dubbed ‘dehati’ by critics, even though she holds several academic degrees. Perhaps, back in Italy, Sonia Gandhi’s countrymen also think of her as a slightly rustic person . Who knows? And who cares?
In Manmohan Singh’s place, I would not feel in the least bit slighted over the perceived taunt. A ‘Dehati Aurat’ is the backbone of India. She is Nargis Dutt playing an iconic role as ‘Mother India’. We need to acknowledge our Dehati Aurats far more than we do. If I were an influential fashion designer, I would immediately create a line inspired by this woman or launch a new label called ‘Dehati Aurat’. It would certainly be a whole lot more identifiable than the dreadfully tacky red carpet rip offs designers claim are their own creations. This is a serious Gown over Ghagra moment in our social consciousness. I am ready to start a Dehati Aurat movement that will restore the skewered balance in our madcap existence. Perhaps I should invite Nawaz Sharif to become the President of the newly formed organization?