This video has gone viral on Social Networking sites since its release last night and amidst much different reactions, some of appreciation (that is mostly from her colleagues in Bollywood) and some pessimistic views of “okay the video is great but now what?” (I can see where they are coming from given that just days ago, in true Indian Chauvinistic tradition, the country blamed Anushka Shrma for Virat Kohli’s dismal performance and eventual loss in the World Cup Semi-Final).
I want to react to this video as woman, living in the same day and age, in the same Hamara Bharat. (Read about my previous Being Female posts here and here. ) As I watched these gorgeous 99 women from all walks of life, present themselves before the camera and heard the powerful voice over by Kersi Khambatta, I was slowly yet definitely ‘blown’.
She touches on some typical issues women face in India: how we dress, what we do, who we sleep with. I think as a woman in this country, there is no escaping these three aspects of our lives being constantly judged, commented on and most annoyingly attempted to get “fixed”.
If you get raped, it is because you were dressed inappropriately. If you were treated unfairly at work and not given your due promotion, you must be grateful because you will have more time for “family life’.
If you sleep with someone, anyone, or you won’t.. it will still be judged.
And marriage, unless you marry, you float around like an yet to be validated check mark in your family tree, a black spot, a deviant. Choose to not marry, or worse get divorced and walk into murmuring rooms investigating endlessly how exactly you brought this on to yourself. Because you must have either demanded too much or none at all, asked for sex or not asked at all, you must be too quiet or too loud or too “spirited”. It must be you, it has to be you. Why else would he sleep with someone else? You must not know to “keep him”. Teri maa ne tujhe kuch sikhaya nahi? (Didn’t your mother teach you anything?)
…the bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to mine, they are ornaments. They can be replaced, my love for you can not.
And a mother, you must want to be a mother because what kind of monster does not want to have kids. You selfish barren woman. What will you do with your life without children? Who will take care of you in your old age? Vansh aage kaise badhega beta? (How will the family lineage continue?)
And your body, it is hardly ever for you. Don’t get too comfortable, you don’t live there. It is not for you. It is for passersby, each and every one of them, to look at, lech at, ogle at, stare at and make you feel as naked as the air you breathe. It is for you to hate and loathe and try to change and fail, and try again, and pleasure it and feel guilty and violate it and feel dirty and good. Dirty and Good. It is your family’s to cover and use as a safe for their honor, you take it where ever you go, even if it weighs you down, even if it strangulates you, even if you can’t breathe. You carry their honour. It is for your parents to parade to prospective grooms, selling you to the most promising buyer. It is for your husband to take you each night, with your consent or without it, it doesn’t matter, he married you, the biggest favor anyone will ever do to you. It is your children’s, their birth ground, as they lay siege over your body scarring it in ways you must feel ecstatic about.
The most powerful statement of the video is when she say “I am the universe, infinite in all directions..” And this left me feeling “infinite” till the most obvious question came back to me.
Is it really my choice?