Feminism

Feminism

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people , said someone famous. That sums up feminism better than any long winded defin...

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My pain is a democracy

My pain, so real,
in every vein of mine,
like the life blood, 
passed to me from my mother; 
is it blood, or is it brine ?

For the water of my eyes,
salty, tangy to the tongue.
These are but ruby red drops 
turned into brine.

This churning in the pitless cavern 
into which aches coil up,
then spring on me unbidden-
they don't choose the right time.

My pain is a democracy 
anarchy ruins the state of my mind.
All happiness, fleeting,
will soon take flight.


In pain, this body thrives
and makes to float away with me,
when, as a ton of iron, it drags me down 
to the bed of the sea.

Finally, I'm alive.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Crucial Fiction

You were given to me,
a plaything.
Joy untold, wafted in,
with you.
Pine scented limbs of yours,
I breathed in,
life.

Always knowing
this is not real,
watching,
biding my time.

But the gods, they play me,
the games change,
rules upturned,
new laws deployed to thwart me.
I must now forfeit
every small victory
of waning smiles.

This journey will not end
on the turning of the tide
nor will I even win
a smallest chance; a strike.

They stacked the odds
and set me up
to be crucified.
And I'm told :
you must do it
with a smile.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Nonsensical Rhyme


A woman asking for her right
not that which belongs to anyone else,
'But is rightfully mine'
She isn't to be trusted, 
and you know why?

She demands to be heard,
given what's rightfully hers?
Such audacity, 
what a perverse time,
why must we listen to her whine:
The odd case of disgruntled wife

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Roots

My heart sings,
my senses go numb
when you say my name:
Just a flick of your tongue,
I could fly on the wings of my desire
If only I hadn't grown roots in the sand

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

When Looks Do Kill

Of late, I've discovered the joys of nudity. Don't get me wrong, I don't walk the streets in the buff or even roam around my home naked. Sorry to disappoint at least some of you, but it's only within the confines of my own bedroom.
After a long day at work, in this hot and humid climate, there's no greater pleasure than to kick off your shoes, undress and take a long, cold shower. Usually that's followed by getting dressed again, but, of late, I have begun to linger. I don't immediately put my clothes on.
not only enjoy feeling cool this way, but, in this fourth decade of my life, I also feel comfortable in my skin. I am finally accepting of my body and my appearance. And this post is testimony- and millions of women will vouch for it - that it's a long, uphill battle getting here, if one does get here at all.
Time to rewind. I must've been 8 yrs old when I was first made acutely aware of how I looked. Over an argument with mom, I must've tried to give her a dirty look. With a half-indulgent, half-mocking smile which only a parent can perfect, she said, "If only you had larger eyes, you'd have killed me with that look."
I had the wind taken out of my sails. And the seed of a deep-seated awareness of my looks - or lack of them - was irreversibly implanted.
This lack of good looks was a constant refrain in my growing-up years. As I stepped into my awkward teens with the usual acute hyper-awareness of my body, some measure of faith in my looks was restored by compliments which started coming my way. In the first flush of youth everyone looks pretty, I imagine - yet this was not enough to wash away the deep-seated self-doubt.
And so it has been for me, as it is, I suppose, for most women.  And it doesn't end with the natural- born physical features one is resigned to as one's fate. It extends to the overall appearance of a woman. For instance, picking what clothes to wear isn't always about being dressed appropriately for the occasion, or present a decent front, or even look well-groomed.
A woman must conform to the expectations of femininity from her. She must work it to advance in life. Even if she gets ahead by doing what men do, she's called a bitch. If she isn't pretty, it's assumed that she won't get too far in life. If she does, she's plain lucky.
Women are almost always performing femininity. Being feminine is a state that one is not born into, rather it is acquired over the years. And there is so much that goes into building that image. It doesn't end with the looks one is born with. It is in every gesture a girl makes growing up. And it is constantly reinforced by closely policing her posture as she sits, moves, walks, places her body not just in the public space but also in the private sphere.
Marriage, which is supposed to be the “ultimate goal” of a woman's life, is also highly dependent on looks. Not only will a better-looking girl fetch a better groom but the quality of her life post-marriage is also supposed to be better as a result.
A  woman of better appearance has a head start in life. Cue the multi billion dollar industry that works to make us more presentable in every possible way, from shaping our bodies, to grooming us. And of course there are the dozens of medical interventions which have now evolved for the purpose.
Then, as if the traditional views of society which uphold these ideals of femininity were not bad enough to make us feel miserable, there's  also the bane of modern advertising which perpetuates ideals of beauty impossible to attain.
The influence of advertising is pernicious, with its deep reach into our psyche. As if looking well turned out wasn't hard enough, we now have to contend with norms of the wafer-thin body type. As for the hyper-sexualised and the “come hither” images bombarding us every waking moment, it’s as if always being ready for sex is a natural state to be in. Not only are these images fixated in the minds of men, we women internalise them too.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, which leads to, or is linked with, anorexia or bulimia and even cutting and other forms of self harm, is related to body image or how one perceives oneself, regardless of how one really looks, or appears to others. What many fail to grasp is that these disorders can be fatal. Of course men suffer from these disorders too, but the overwhelming majority are women.
Often men have told me : why bother about it, why care about what others think of you. Well, if it's the way you've been trained to think,internalizing it from the time you were a toddler,  it's what you do.
Over the years, there have been battles about this in my head. And I've lost most of them. Only of late, with detailed and in-depth discussions, and some internal growth, have I come to the conclusion that what I look like doesn't determine who I am, the person. And yes I'm unique, and attractive in my own way. My nose may not be perfect, or my forehead too broad, but it's what makes me. The person I am is identified by these and so am I.
I'm still not perfectly happy with the way I look but I've made my peace with it. We are getting along alright now, my body and I.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Swaccha Bharat for the Pure

The symbolism of the Prime Minister kicking off Swaccha Bharat cleaning drive at Valmiki Nagar, home to "safai karmacharis" or sanitation workers, most of whom belong to the lower castes is not lost on anyone. It only reinforces Hindu upper caste privilege, reminding the residents that they are fit for nothing but cleaning our filth.

Hindus, who compromise the majority of our country, are a weird people. 

One of the underlying tenets of Hinduism is the concept of purity. The caste system followed by Hindus is based on this concept. The people of higher castes are supposed to be "twice born" or have earned merit in previous births and so are deemed more pure than others. Following the same logic, the lowest castes are the most impure.

Savarnas, in effect, telling the Shudras and Dalits "You didn't do enough to earn merit points to climb the caste ladder, just too bad! Now go clean my shit (literally) or burn my dead!"

I have seen countless women suffer various forms of Obsesseive Compulsive Disorder which stems from this urge for ritual purity. (from my limited understanding. Disclosure: I'm not a trained professional in the line of psychology or psychiatry) However, it remains undiagnosed and untreated by a professional because who gets a diagnosis for just being very clean?

Also, all that touches the impure also becomes impure so it's easy to see where that leads.

The excreta of the body too is part of the impurity. So anything related to excretion is dirty, impure. It is the reason people go to the fields while constructed toilets in homes lie unused. Or that indescribable horror of humanity, the dry latrines located at the backs of homes, in which people defecate and leave their shit for others, "untouchable" people - mostly women- to carry and dispose of it. 

The dry latrines are located at the backs of homes so the women of the house don't need to venture out of the homes, keeping their "honour" intact. This false sense of honour is also why mostly  women are employed to access the dry latrines. 

These beliefs are the reason sanitation drives are failing, because If we don't try to work at the roots, of trying to change these mind sets, we will not go far.

 Any intentions of bringing about real change of a Swaccha Bharat must begin with a genuine attempt at changing the lives of Dalits who make up 95% of the sanitation workforce, in cities like Bombay, who are forced to live in filth themselves. 

At the least, basic safety practices should be undertaken while these men put their lives on the line for us. Medical cover while working, education for their children and habitable housing should be provided. Alternative sources of livelihood  should also be provided. 

Segregation of our bodies from our filth has worked to the advantage of us, the few, the privileged Savarnas. It's time to put an end to it. 

Swaccha Bharat will not be built by hashtags and photo ops alone, Mr. Prime Minister!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Soothsayer mine, my friend

You were never  mine,
you didn't  belong to me.

Yet somehow it grew in me,

this sweet, intimate fantasy-

you will be around, holder of my hand,

In every crisis, in my every need- 

soothsayer mine, my friend.


Like a voracious baby 

viciously attacks the womb,

runs it down, let's it drain,

unembarrassed, in it's single minded intake.

I've picked your brain as you held my hand,

you amazing creature of delight,

and left for you only aches, some pain.


I go back to the moment 

in which your trust, I earned.

Hanging on to your every word,

was all I had, in me, to commend :

slung myself around your neck, like a sniffly brat.

 Persistence finally  paid off 

I stepped on clouds and walked on mists :

my hand, in yours, you'd taken.



Time has passed us by

and our days are all but done.

As I stand on the edge of the cliff of time

to be hurled Into the abyss,

I count  the innumerable smiles

and nurture in my soul 

the warmth from you, to which I'd clung.


devour every memory, 

and it helps me stow away for eternity 

the way we were, the way we were never meant to be.


The countless shores we've left behind, 

and finally the tides have turned.


Never again will we be, as we were then,

my soothsayer, the laughter of my days,

My mate, my friend.




Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Needles and Pins


Needles and pins aren't quite my thing-
No, I don't need to flaunt your name on my skin.

No loud declarations of the immortality of love,
no telling when this spectacle ends in a drift.

Yes, you're etched on my tongue,
each nerve, every sinew-
throbs to your call,
my senses, every night, to your name they sing-

melodies of rapture,
a walk through the dark, doomed vales of desire,
drenched in the showers of pine scented mists.

Bodies speak unspeakable words
they drown, they float, they surge,
A language I cannot utter
a vocabulary I've never heard.

As the shore runs into the arms of the sea
and my skin hears tales of fantasy.
You, the god who answers my prayers-
I shall go to you on bended knee.

Till you evoke in me, desire
and my lust, in your heart, does spring
We can keep up this game -
call it love, or whatever you will.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Drowning

I repeat the words, 
and they come back to hound. 

They lose all sense-
meaningless words, 
unstrung from their sentences,
hang around in mid air 
like a conjuror's trick.

Hang for a while, before they sink- 
sink into the depths of my senses.
Float up again in my dreams,
when the world sleeps in peace
they wake up
wander around, unmoored,
shackles flung away-
they come unwound.

Meaningless letters,
soundless words
wordless  sounds :

they all gather around
weights compound 
pile up one on another
ricochet, rebound.

And in a final tumult 
they take me down.
Together  forever, my words and I, 
we all drown.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Rewind

All the layers of fenced out moments 

collapsed and died-
fell away like scales of lime, soaked overnight.

In a heartbeat -
was it yours, or was it mine? -
we make the trip.
That a retreat would be made,

was never considered a possibility.

I lapse back into old habits -
synchronize our schedules.
Your nap times
for some peace and quiet;

trying to reconstruct the present

from scattered pieces of me.

Keeping close watch as you hobble around
carrying your shruken self 

as if a human touch would corrode,

and words may cause the mind to implode
Leave you in a weepy, messy mode.

You hold your chafed self aloof
only I have permission to see your wounds.

As you go over and over the same events
your mind stuck in one single groove
I despair, yet I hope
this cannot be permanent,
this new self, it's not you.

We will pull up those fences,
redraw the boundaries,
mark out the territory,
and send back into oblivion
this garbled version of time.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Midnight lady

I watch her sit on a trolley,
at midnight,
limbs flung carelessly about.
She casts a non chalant glance at the approaching man,
and shrugs with her eyes.

She stretches her garish red painted lips-
the whites sparkle under the streetlight;
the smile doesn't reach her eyes.

The crowd of words out of her mouth
as if in a rush to get out 
the faux familiarity of a bargain hunter,
this deal is no idle banter.

She looks down her platform and sizes him up,
and speaks volumes with her eyes.

No gentile preenings of the housewife,
to her, the crutches of femininity have been denied
and as they've fallen by the wayside
she lives, she breathes, she thrives.

She needn't suppress a sneeze
and laughs as loudly as she pleases-
depending on none but her own
body, her limbs, her mind
she lives as she will die:
on the streets, in the public eye.

He, sitting besides me, in the car seat,
casts her way a withering glance
rolls up the glass pane
And gives me, with his eyes, a reprimand.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

My Rayless Soul

The moonlight curdles onto my eyelid,
shreds it with each sliver.
With a smile, I take each blow-
black eyes, to me, are known.

Flecks of darkness enter my soul,
and it's a beauty to behold
when all senses are blotted out
As if written over in the blackest coal

My dark lord shall enter,
only in the depths of disguise.
With all my might I try to fight
blot out all light from my mind.

It has torn me asunder,
keeping sanity at bay.
But my rayless soul is now ready
to drown out all disarray:
I surrender at your feet,
my lord, my master, my all, my prey.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Ants

Your memories, like monsoons unleashed,
the torrent that won't cease.
Once the surface is scratched
like a monster, hear it screech-
pounding through my veins.

Awakened, memory won't go back to sleep.
It rants and raves and I hear it speak-
as if a creature from the deep.

Thoughts of you crowd my mind
like a bunch of ants crawling
under my skin.
Swat away one,
another crawls by.
A never ending stream which I cannot stem
Only maybe hold at bay for a while
till I can, by myself, walk into the arms of the tide.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

On First Holding You In My Arms

From my psychedelic trance I surface,
bright fluorescent rainbow lights now receding, now in my face.
My mind bobs up, plunges down- just refuses to stay sound.

It's scary nice in the depths of fear,
this tunnel which I traverse,
exploding stars in my face-
as at the beginning of the universe.

Then I surface through the haze,
my mind in a warped bend,
where the walls and ceilings recede-
only to come slamming into my face again.

Body in ache, mind quite numb,
I trawl my eyes, bend my head  sideways : it feels like ten;
a burden I can hardly bear.

Suddenly you swim into sight,
through the ether induced haze,
flailing limbs sticking out,
attached to a tiny frame.

When I'm made to hold you,
I fret, I may not pass the test,
I worry i'll fail,
under the nurses' strict gaze.

The magical reality hits my stoned mind,
past months of incomprehension pale.
Now it's here and I can't escape-
this dazzling gift of fate.

Delirious with dread,
ecstatic and scared,
stunned, yet unfazed,
I stare at your crinkled pink face,
overwhelmed and amazed.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Fate

Second chances,
what a beautiful phrase -
pregnant with possibilities
grant of a gracious fate.

Run, run away from the past,
run from the clamour which leaves you aghast,
run - for all baggage you've shed-
but where will you hide that face ?

Abandoned loves will rise up
and claim you for their own,
lost places will haunt your dreams
and never leave you alone.

No matter how far you go,
and what streets you may roam,
fate will yet grind you to a fine dust-
before long, you will be shorn of all hope.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Burn

Like the parallel steel sheets of the vent leading to the incinerator pit,
Time hurls me.

I unfurl, sprout wings,
into its mouth I plunge.
Ashes and bones
the only residue
will remain.

For now, I soar.
Let me fly

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Shroud


Like ropes passing through my nose into my lungs,
each breath leaves me,
tying me into knots,
knobbly, convoluted.

Flashes of your presence on my tongue,
I lock them down, and stow the taste away.

Pretend not to see them,
these insidious patterns;
embedded,
carved on my skin.
They worm their way in.
hollow me out from within.

Like moss slowly encroaching,
monsooned walls of a shed,
etched permanently, on my being.
Claw as I may, with my bare nails and fingers,
I cannot dislodge your imprint.
Blood runs into rivulets of sweat,
A symphony of liquids plays.

My skin,
like a mound of earth, dug up,
with roots of grass snaking out and in,
thrown on a coffin.

A shroud, the air unfurls all around,
hangs heavy like a day of mourning.
Yet, life lingers,
time not yet for passing.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Public Spaces For All Women

In the aftermath of the alleged gang rape and murder of two Dalit girls in a village in Badaun district of Uttar Pradesh a fact that stands out is that probably for the first time the rape and murder of Dalit women received such widespread media coverage and sparked at least a modicum of outrage
                                      
         
The cases that the  media choose to highlight are generally those of rapes of or violence against middle and upper class girls and women and this is hardly surprising.Those who run the media tend to operate on the premise that their readers are "people like us". It's hardly surprising, then, that we read or hear of almost nothing which doesn't concern us.    
                                                                                         
Let's get some context here. 
The bodies of Indian women are policed closely throughout their lives; they are the receptacle of the honour   of the men of the family- in a society where lineage is traced through male descent, the male members alone matter.  The idea is that a woman or girl ( many are underage when they are married ) must remain a virgin till married to a man of the family's choice. Of course women's sexuality and family's honour are practically interchangeable. Placing 'honour' at the forefront gives credibility to the policing of women's sexuality both before marriage and afterwards.

                                                                                          
This policing is done in many ways. In the case of middle and upper class women, the creation of the "other", the supposedly predatory man prowling the streets is one such popular device. This man is always of lower caste or class or socio-economic strata or Muslim.


Note that all such planning and policing is places upper and middle class Hindu women at its centre. It is they who must be kept  safe from the "other" the predatory men.

If we were to provide easy and safe access to all citizens, to all public spaces, it would require more inputs of urban planning, better and more street lighting, better policed roads, better and more footpaths, better public transport and so on. 

Instead, under the guise of liberalization and capitalism, with the influx of international brands and the opening up of shopping malls, we are in fact cordoning off certain areas and limiting access to them. Those who can afford it, live in gated communities, in multistoried complexes, with all concievable luxuries thrown in, while those who help build these very structures are kept out. The rest of the citizenry is denied access to the "safety" of these spaces by virtue of being less privileged in every way.

In such glass enclosed, artificially aerated, and firmly sanitized spaces upper and middle class women strut about, enjoying a false sense of freedom, all made possible due to access to a certain amount of economic affluence. Here, the cordoning off cannot be more stark, nestled as these glass and concrete structures are, most often right next to bustling slums / jhuggis where the less privileged are kept at arm's length. 

And so we keep women of a certain type and class safe from 'predators', the dreaded "other".This helps to keep up appearances, the false sense that the predator is out there and by cordoning off these spaces women are kept safe. This detracts from the fact that the real VAW ( violence against women) is faced by women mostly inside their own homes, at the hands of family members or those who are well known to them, more frequently than outside it, from random men on the street.

The fact has been highlighted that the girls who were brutally murdered were out of their homes at night because of lack of toilets. Yes, their homes should have had toilets. The men who raped and killed them had easy access, but the power politics which is played over women's bodies would not have disappeared,and they would have been targeted in some other way.

The lack of access to such facilities endangers women's lives everywhere, in cities as much as in rural settings. However, the more we restrict ourselves, cede space to the perpetrators, the easier we make it for them. 

All women, of every class or strata of society should have access to public spaces and the facilities that help ensure that. We must raise our voices to demand it. Being kept protected, safe in our cocoons is not what we desire. Let's not limit the forays of our daughters to this or that area of your village or city or town. Our aim should be  complete freedom. Nothing less will do. 


Friday, 23 May 2014

Burnt

The little pieces of you
I gather
like shards of glass
which chafes my skin.
Paste them with the glue
of my tears.
Scraped off the walls of my day.

From the billowing sheets of night,
I pull out the strands
with smells of you
which I try to deny;
Weave in some of mine.

The scents of your body on my tongue
Like the wine of your praises
I'd drunk.

I scrimp and scrounge,
Scream out my lungs
But my voice bounces back
and my skin is burnt.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Codes Without Meaning

An ambulance siren screams
through the pre dawn darkness of the night,
slits the throat of silence.
Like blood, from a wound,
its wails gush out, running wild.

Like waves of the sea, astir,
weighed down by an anchor,
the quiet turns around and slumps heavy on my chest, with a thump.

Rock myself, from side to side,
Limbs flail,
But the silence has entered every tissue,
Frenzied, unrest overtaken mind.

An embedded code in every word, extracted each of its meaning.
What use are words when meaningless,
Garbled messages don't need saying.

Jumbles of letters, as they stay in my head.
Empty words empty spaces,
empty rooms, empty faces.
Devoid of all meaning.

I grasp at straws,
fistfuls of vacuum I grab,
like its a hollow I must fill.
Try to claw my way out,
whatever I may  grasp,
I cannot un-empty the dread.

No Country For Woman

Sure you've got freedom, li'l girl,
to do just as you please:
go, pluck the low hanging fruit,
stay away from higher up the tree

Don't ask for second helpings, my dear,
see, your brother needs 'em more.
for he must go out, work and earn
and you? you'll only stay home.

Remember to do the dishes and cook
and your siblings are in your care too,
forget about reading, writing and books;
now go bring water- stop giggling, will you?

No school for you, dear child,
you will soon menstruate,
there's no toilet at school;
and for you, the fields, aren't safe.

Work hard, learn what your chores,
and remember, virgin, to stay,
for when we look for a groom for you,
we won't need, much to pay.

Yes, he may be much older,
and you may be raped,
but it's all going to end well,
if you give him boys to his heart's fill.

Don't listen to those TV folks who say
the man's genes give you boy or girl,
just spreading wrong stories, they;
it's really only the mother to blame.

So if you don't give him an heir,
he may just fly into a rage-
without the cushion of dowry,
and even though you are underage;
what's a few beatings from your man?
he's your master now, and you-
yes, you are his slave.

Don't pick up fights,
or do anything to irritate
just go along
be patient and quiet,
there will be better days.

Life is tough, it's never been easy,
being born a woman,
it's part of your destiny:
to live and die under the thumb
of father, brother, husband.

The figure who holds
your fate in his hands,
he hit the jackpot-
it simply happened,
for he was born a man.




Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Song For Your Voice

Like the sounds of a thousand conch shells reverberating,
Like the touchdown of feet on dew laden grass,
Like the first song sung since the break of dawn,
or, on a harsh incendiary day,
Like the sun drawing in his talons.

When bathed in moonlight,
phosphorescent bugs flitting by,
leave little trails of fire,
studding the velveteen darkness
like jade on a rich ermine:
just such, little explosions
erupt within my core,
straining every nerve ending,
chased down my spine.

Detonations straggle,
chase after each other,
leave tiny trails of desire,
Like the softest touch
of a baby's behind.

Aware, awake,
yet partly doused,
my body and my mind-
sated, also satisfied.
Confusion and clarity,
your voice evokes,
twin strands woven together,
now ache, now delight.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Dreams

As I reach out to grasp, all I can catch are the shadows gently dying.
Open my eyes and off each one flies, dreams of tomorrow I'd been plying.

No, not you, you wouldn't understand,
these are but my own plans.
Not of conquest, nor space travel,
of simply, by myself, being.

Fritter away the seconds,
the minutes, the epochs, all turning me invisible.
You can't see that which sits stolid, unmoved,
you can't perceive beyond your senses.

How often have you said,
"Be clear in your words,
and use exact expressions,
Can't have you be vague,
Am not given to interpretation"

Salt tears sting my skin,
punch holes on my tongue,
acid churns, digests my intestines.
Yet the bare bones remain;
after all, only so much can be whittled away of a dream.

That stealthy creature who snatches my body,
invades my being.
She carries me on her wings of pain,
gossamer moulded delicately.

The shimmering webs she weaves
spins my yarns so deftly;
leaves me breathless,
clutching at my throat,
for fairness and justice.

I float, I preen, I am just me,
upon the waves tumultuous.
I live, I drown, I lay submerged,
Its my life to live- I'm living.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

My Bucket List

"Am ticking one off my bucket list. What does yours have?" I was asked this innocent question recently by a dear friend.
A friend, going to visit a place he'd long planned to see, and that's when he asked this of me.

The question got me thinking and I thought the ideas churning in my head deserved to be written down, more to sort them out for myself.

As I've grown older almost every discussion about ageing - specially while marking birthdays -  has centred around melancholy. Amazingly enough, irrespective of whether the person is in his/her 20s or 30s or older, the feeling is the same: a sense of being over-the-hill (at 20 ! and I'm in my 40s!) and at once running out of time to do the things one wishes to, at one's own pace.

Not having enough time to read or pursue other hobbies is one common refrain. Of course, we all have limited time and more importantly, for most of us who are not Ambanis, also limited resources.

Those of us who are wage slaves, well know that we have given up our claim to large chunks of our waking hours, our precious time, entire portions of our lives. We've bargained it away in return for printed paper -nothing more than a promise to pay you- money as we call it. This, in turn we exchange for a whole lot of "things".

So how goes the bargain of time for money and money for things work out : a relentless pursuit that seemingly leads nowhere? Increasingly I see, being added to the things, are experiences, yet almost all linked to the notes.Time in exchange for money which is, in turn, exchanged for experiences.

 And how does one achieve the maximum from that which one has?
Alas, that is a question I have no answer to and leave to the author of the next self help book. I'm going to talk of something else entirely.

All of these discussions kept taking me back to a favorite word of my mother's : contentment. One day last June chatting with another friend, we zeroed in on this word. How lovely it sounds and what it means to us, how much it meant to my parents generation and how little to those in today's world.

My mother would often exhort us to be happy with what we have. In the days of license raj and shortages and rationing of food (I already warned you I'm old  :-/ ) it made sense to us. We siblings would share everything offered to us. Our parents would buy a roll of cloth and my dad's and brothers' shirts as well as my frock would be made out of it. We saw nothing amiss in that. My dad with his craze to have a car of his own, did buy one, on his meagre salary but we had to scrape for months on end so he could repay the loan he took out for it.

Fast forward to the nineties, opening up markets, globalization and here we were with multiple models of not just cars but a surfiet of goodies cramming up the fast sprouting malls.It was all we could do to keep up with the pace of rapid commercialization.

Yet, in the India of today, the new generation just stepping into their youth has known no other world, save that of get-ahead-in-life, denoted in the past by the basic "roti-kapda-makaan" now replaced by so much more. To today's youth owning a laptop or a car are really no more luxuries, but almost essentials. Every middle class Indian aspires to these.

And more power to them, I say. Why not? Aspirations are great, dreams are what propel us forward. As long as we fulfil our dreams without trampling on the rights of others and subverting our own integrity,there should be no quarrel with anyone.

But I keep going back to the video of the man who wore a sanitary napkin, Arunachalam Murugunantham. Hew speaks so eloquently of what it means to have enough and to be satisfied with it. If you have a home in a city and then one more in another city, you may have one in each continent, the question  remains how much time are you going to spend in each? Where do you stop hankering for the next "it" thing? The latest, the most "happening" item of luxury which proclaims that you have "arrived"- but where exactly are you headed?

So here comes in that favorite word of mine. Contentment. To be happy in what one has. It does not mean ceasing to want or move ahead in life. Let's just say, to me moving ahead means decluttering my life of unnecessary objects, unnecessary wants and surround myself with only the essentials. Spend more time with people I love, those who matter to me.

All those trips which are meant to give us new "experiences", yes, I want those, too. But the ones I know I cherish the most will not be a view of a sunset from an exotic hill top or the skyscrapers of a glitzy city. For me those moments are the ones shared with my family, my son, listening to his plans for the future or sitting chatting with my mom, over a cup of tea, listening to her tales of times gone by.
So, increasingly, that's my bucket list. What's yours?



Saturday, 3 May 2014

Dandelion

Like a limb I can dismember,
Or take a door off its hinges,
The parts of me that are you,
I try to dismantle.

Unraveling in spools,
layers of skin,
wearing thin,
With nothing to hold it in,
like a sticker left glueless.

The parts of you that were me
crept up to my innards
unknown to me, stealthily
and now what's left in the entrails
which flaps about 
and that which slithers away.

I stare agape, confounded,
as I try to retrieve me:
 which parts are your blood
and where's my skin?

And the process begins 
of layering 
shoring up of my being
lest I collapse 
like a mountain of dandelion.

Till My Luck Runs Out

You see me walking on the street,
what do you see ?
A woman, a human, a person
who simply passes by?

No second glance from you
and I'm safe,
I hurry,
lest my luck run out and you come back
My molester, my groper, my brother,
You male citizen of this vast country of mine.

Shouldn't be out this late,
say the voices in my head,
Mom's voice reprimanding,
you should be home by now.

And that early morning run
in the park,
you sedate looking uncleji
cool as a surgically placed scalpel,
your hand slides
past my behind.

I'm too shocked to react
certain I must be mistaken,
that couldn't have been on intent ?
When next day you remove all doubt
 and sure again,we have a rerun.

The template repeats
over and over all of my life:

a twelve year old in a temple,
a youth in a bus,
shopping in a market,
walking up to college
minding my own business.

But it never lets up,
the assault on my senses,
the groping eyes,
shorn of all pretence.
the grabbing hands,
the bodies shoved
in my face.

All you brothers, lovers mine.
fathers, uncles too,
all you husbands and friends 
not to forget 
the few grandparents:

yes it's easy to pretend 
we are only meat,
but you must be human 
I know,at the core of your being.
See me as human too.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Vertigo

I take a step, I lurch forward.
I walk down the stairs
old fears crowd my mind ;
chasing away all other thoughts
 save the one:
I'll fall, I'm about to fall.

Walk along the ledge,
looking down at the traffic,
the cars rushing past.
Lights blurred, yet streets alight.

Tiny liliputian people
who seem to crawl;
pretend to go on living,
dead souls,
of dead people walking home
in a dead city,
but calls itself the city of joy.

Dare myself to take the leap,
take the ever promised fall,
a split second, a fraction,
I stand towering before the horizon;

The earth rises up to meet me,
into its stern embrace I rush,
This heady, inexplicable sensation-
this is all there is to it,
nothing can beat me in this race!


 I let go so utterly-
the pain unendurable,
the humiliation, the malady,
the unsourced melancholy
 the torment that sears through limb and nerve
and in it path dissolves all hope
all reason for existence.



Friday, 18 April 2014

Woman is Me

Don't tell me to tone down my voice,
Raise your roofs, instead, to the heavens.
My thighs aren't toned but thunderous,
they are so, I know, for a reason.
My tummy isn't flat, it bulges
From a womb that carried, expanded.

I am who I am, not tame, nor lame,
Don't condemn me,
nor do I need to be adored.
I am no goddess,nor whore,
I am just a woman,
Give me my due, leave me alone.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Silken Threads

The centre that is me
no more holds
I'm unraveling
its plain to behold.
Bit by bit,
strips of me
peel away,
A shell remains.

My feet tied
in the silken threads
of your laugh
I stumble,I fall
Headlong I plunge,
Into the bottomless well
Overtaken by my nemesis
Desire.

The well of fire consumes me,
I am overcome,
I drown in its asphyxiated embrace
Limbs flailing,
I cannot come up for air.

My surrender is complete
My pleasure deranged.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Scream

I'm small,
I don't matter.
I'm neglegible.

I am earnest,
I implore

So I'm easily ignored.

You hold views, you argue,
You analyze and deduce.
I go by gut feelings,
Is that why 

my words hold no meaning?

I'm emotional, you tell me,
while the world is full of grey.
I fail to see nuance,
when all too often 

I'm marked as prey.

You organize battles, 

You fight wars,
Arrange your cannons and
Strategize from afar.
I, meanwhile can only attempt,
the odd hit-and-run.

I'll go by my instincts,
and I'd rather shout;
you may choose
to call my views monochromatic
and loud.

Its a battle to survive
and I have nowhere to hide;
instead, i'll go down screaming.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Does a Rapist Deserve Compassion?


Imagine you are a rapist. Yes, tough even to imagine yourself as one, right? Just stay with the thought, please. Instead, let's ask what happened on your journey- what made you feel compelled to violate the dignity of another human, invade his/her bodily integrity?

Somewhere, somebody failed you: your parents, teachers or the other structures of society. Or maybe, each played a little part. Somehow, the natural emotion of empathy, the human ability to feel another's pain, was slowly killed in you.

 It did not happen overnight. The process was most likely gradual. Regardless, as an adult, you are going to be held responsible for your actions.

Let's assume the law catches up with you. You have broken the law and the rules of society. At the end of the long drawn due process you are sentenced to incarceration. This incarceration could be for many reasons. It could be punishments for your actions. Or it could be to protect the public from you. It could be meant as a deterrent for the future or it could give you an opportunity at rehabilitation. It could even be a combination of these. 

In any case your incarceration is a segregation from society
prison is punishment, a systematic deprivation of the liberty of the individual, which is otherwise guaranteed to every citizen of the nation state.

However, it is the deprivation of liberty that should be the punishment, not the nature of the regime.

In India  talk about treatment of convicted rapists has invariably been around "deterrence", "revenge" and "exemplary punishment". This has gained much more currency after the 16th  December 2012 rape case. There is almost no mention of rehabilitation. 

So is it our contention that a man who commits a crime is to be condemned for life? Is there to be no redemption for such a convict? 


Let's assume you committed a rape and now you are in prison. Given that the more-connected in India get away with crime, you are probably uneducated, or barely literate, and have seen the worst of society. And now you are sent to the place which is a crawling with the dregs of society. People who really do not have much to look forward to in life.

It is my argument that a just and humane society should expect to redeem men like you. It might sound idealistic. Especially with our mindsets today. If our institutions are supposed to be  a reflection of us, as a people, then surely our prison system is a shameful proof of our sub human instincts?

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" may be a credo we don't want to follow anymore. But we come pretty close to it with our prison conditions, don't we? 

Dehumanising conditions in our prisons are a violation of basic human rights of the convict. Yes, he had done something appalling, but he is human  and he does have rights.

Upon his release, we expect a prisoner to show compassion for others and abide by the law. Yet, if neither society, nor the law, show him any compassion ourselves, how do we expect him to reciprocate?

Unless we think that a person once convicted is to remain behind bars for the rest of his life- and that is what a life term may mean to many_ we must look for ways to enable every convict a chance at redemption. To a life after prison. He must be afforded every chance to redeem himself, not just to others, but in his own self and return as a constructive, productive member of society.
Only if we invest in sympathy for the lowliest, most craven members of our community, can we hope for it to be reciprocated.
Do we have it in ourselves to display compassion for every member of our community? Are we ready for it? 

( P.S. The whole exercise of getting you to imagine yourself as a rapist was to induce empathy, the feeling of walking in another's shoes. A basic human quality, fast receding from our common psyche.)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Older

The veins on my arms
like the cobwebs of a hundred spiders
left behind by receding time.

The wrinkles on my face:
the dunes of sand
carved out by the tides.

Moments pass, turn into eternity.
I age, turn into my mother;
pain amplifies in my limbs
then turns sublime.

The mind sharpens its claws
Blurs the lines
I'm a little girl in your presence
At others, a goddess divine.

The misery becomes companiable,
like a long lost friend,
met after a span of time.
who understands my mind.

The fag end stretches before me beckons, and I walk
homeward bound.
Memories mingle with hope.

"Over-the-hill,
past my prime" I may be told,
But the mind plays tricks.
It claims, I'll be fine,
I will trump time.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Self Loathing

Scrape off the epidermis,
peel off the layers of skin.
Expose the nerves,
each standing on edge.

Bile rising slowly
to the base of my throat
Loathing, my friend,
How we've grown close !

Whip this carcass,
till it's welted.
Raise the heat,
till it dwindles away.

Pour scalding hot oil,
into every wrinkle.
Let the flesh shrivel,
fall off, curl away,
expose the core.

Incandescent, fragile,
transluscent but visible.
Take away this soul,
let this being be tamed.

The muscles, in pain, writhe;
Sear the sinews,
Putrifying and dying away,
Maggot infested whole.

Consume myself in hate,
Loathe my very being.
From my own soul, recoil,
So I may hate you too.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Last Night


The moon in slow dance with the clouds,
the sonata that sighs through the grass.

The cry of the peacock silences
my heart
that tattoos your name into space.

The wind trills into my nerves,
one beat at a time,
my frenzied body silenced by the soothing rhythms.

On my tongue the symphony of your name.
All fades save the rhyme of you.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Words


The words that we weave,
framing into a net,
trying to pin down,
the bird of memory.
She can't be tied down,
she has grown wings,
she will fly away.

Words,
our only tools,
the blunt hammer
with which we try
to carve out  images
of that which has already flown away,
but with no chisel at hand.

Only empty space
and reams of surreal celluloid
in the head.
And an aching heart.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Breasts

A part of my body
A part of me.

Two lumps of lard,
my pound of flesh,
jutting out of my chest,
standing out,
apart from the rest.

All they have endured
over the years.
So many devices
employed,
to keep them in place.

Corsets,
push up bras,
cleavage revealers,
highlighters.

All to one end,
to hold and
to fix the gaze
of the male.

Reminded since the dawn of time,
my worth will be gauged,
by the proportions of fat to sinew,
ability to attract a mate.

To keep me safe
I must cover all of me,
Hide me from your gaze,
Limbs, hair, skin, face.

Areolas, nipples,
just as those on a man
minus the fat
and the milk,
there for a reason,
to feed little babies.

So when you look at me
why is it not I that you see
Am I nothing more
Than this part of me?

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Hide

Pour you out on paper,
the inkstains will bring,
some respite:
stormy weather,
and eventide.
Till the rising sunlight
drowns out all hope from me.
Giddy colours, abound
Where shall I hide ?

Thick with laceration,
this skin
gives me away
Does me in.

Let me revel in it,
and ride this wave
It's been long
since we lost each other,
Hold me to yourself,
and I'll be whole again.

Welcome home, my love,
my sweetheart,
my pain.

Together Again


Eyes shot through with ache,
skin that crumbles to touch.
This sense of fulsomeness,
Ah ! we're back together, again,
my pain and I !

Scrape through this layer
it runs pretty thin.
Scratch the abrasion,
not much it can hide.

Thin skin :
little leverage it provides,
for the aches seep through,
trickle over me,
like a sowly rising tide.

This intimacy we share,
not much can keep us apart-
a shallow layer keeps me sane,
till we straddle the edge, again.

Tear out this shell,
pull out the entrails;
examine closely what it hides
this strange carapace.

Like shards of sunlight
stuck into the dark,
the sunny light of smiles
embalm me,
freezes my insides.

Let me glory in the soreness,
gouge out every nerve.
Drown me and silence
my every scream for respite.

When the ache sublimes
and runs to tears;
yet there isn't enough,
Endlessly repeats my mind
"Snuff, snuff "

My pain is home again,
my best beloved is here.
and what a twosome we make,
Agony and I !






Saturday, 22 March 2014

Pebbles

Into the calmness of your presence
I drop a pebble of my glance,
or maybe a fragrance.
Something with which,
I can touch,
cause a ripple or two.
In the serenity of you.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Pleasure Delayed

I steal away these moments,
turn them into memories
stamp them with my love's eye
stored forever in me
To retrieve at leisure,
the tiny fragments of pleasure
Roll them over on the tongue
of my mind.
This pleasure to myself
denied for now,
delayed its consummation.
So it is locked away.
Relish each bite sized trip,
So you may last all eternity.

The Purge

Here we go!

The emotions hurtling
out of me.
A large slimy ball like thing
A creature, a new being.
It pours out of me,
maybe if I let it go,
of you,
I can purge me.

And there it sits
do you see it ?
I put it out there
For you to see
The strands entwined,
twirling,
entangled.
There, see !

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sometimes

Sometimes in the midst
of the bustle
of the busy day,
your memories beckon me.
I pause;
my burdens,
I lay down,
for a moment.
A glimpse of heaven,
is bestowed upon me.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Today Is My Day

I know better now,
I'm wiser.
Life tastes bitter,
sometimes.
Other times, it's nectar.
I wish I could reach out
to the young girl,
and tell her,
she, full of angst:
you will be alright,
these are but pangs
of growing; and
some self inflicted pain.
Aching,
with the yawning hole
of the lack of love,
Wanting to be assured,
that she's competent;
tell her:
yes, you are enough,
on your own, sufficient.
Extend to her a kindly hand,
so she may pick up
and choose her strands.
Weave with them,
or splice them up,
if it so pleases:
Make the patterns yours,
of that which you adore.
Help with the questions
that would  haunt:
"who am I ?"
tell the little girl
no, you're no pawn
you are who you are
of accoutrements, shorn.
Tell her :
you are what you make
of people around you -
grasp at the goodness
that comes your way.
Carve it, into yours,
whatever you take.
Forgive yourself,
the little slip ups,
the challenges passed over
for fear you wouldn't
make the cut.
In talking to my younger self.
learn from the lessons.
Take a deep breath,
enumerate:
Let go of the heartache,
mould the pain-
etch on it your name.
Hew it with your sinews,
and stake your claim.
Little girl lost isn't
your role to play.
You, woman,
are your own worth
In your own words
you can tell your tale.
Yesterday is no more,
Today is your day.

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Body Remembers

Like wave upon wave,
washing ashore,
comes heaving upon me
a floatsam of memories-
of you.
My body remembers,
each speck of your touch.
Every sinew extends
at the recall.
The coils of the serpent
of desire
sneak up,
spread out,
engulf.
This hydra headed monster,
leaps out from every pore,
licks me,
tickles me.
Thousands of moments
converge in an uproar.
That which is washed away,
I choose to forget,
is but a tiny speck.
Each touch, every fleck
of your fingers, your tongue,
has left on me,
your stamp,
manifold.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Staying Alive


What names shall I call you, my love?
By what sweet words should I pay you my homage,
you generous lord of my pleasures,
you who who put me ahead, always?

Have any new words been created,
beloved mine,
on which I can hang these feelings
and express in terms
less ordinary 
these emotions that well up
and flood my mind?

However much I try
what ever different routes
I may ply,
the journeys shared with you,
are worth the exhaustion
and the pain;
for the pleasure of you, by my side 
and only one destination:
in your arms, to die. 

The Respectable Indian Woman


Respect is a common enough word. We are told to respect our parents, teachers and elders. Children are taught to respect the law. Hopefully, even respect each other, and perhaps all sentient beings, and above all respect oneself.

 "Respectable", on the other hand is a different cup of tea. "Respectable"- a word every Indian woman grows up with, internalizes, and finally lives in the shade of, all her life. Because this is not an inherent respect afforded her for being a human, an entity capable of her own decisions, desires or even her own damnation, if she so wishes.

 It is a word that rules a woman's life. Sit this way, talk like this and dress only that way. Be seen here, don't go there. Never laugh out loud. Heck, women aren't even supposed to sneeze loudly; so what if she bursts a vein trying to stop the sneeze. Respectability has to be maintained at all costs.

Only "respectable" girls will fetch a good groom, you see. After all, that's the end result we're looking for. Marriage, which is the sole purpose of a woman's existence, and for a "good" marriage virginity is a pre requisite. The family's honour and "respect" is so vested in their women's vaginas because nothing less than a virgin will do for marriage. 

Fathers, brothers and even mothers are all designated protectors of a woman's virtue till she is married off, safely, as per family and societal norms. All hail endogamy !

God forbid a woman should go out with a guy, and horror of horrors, should they have premarital sex, what then? She's no longer "fit" for marriage and all honour, all "respect" is lost. Then the only saving grace is to kill her. That's the only option they have left, the men, the brothers, the patriarchs.

And this respect is supposed to keep you safe. If you're honourable no man will ogle you, you will not be harassed in the streets, family members will not abuse you and of course your husband will not beat you. After all, in Indian culture we "respect" our women. Or so the fable is told. Scratch the surface and you see that's patently untrue. The more patriarchal the society, the less the freedom women enjoy and the greater the violence they must bear. 

All the hullabaloo over "loose women" invading our "respectable" localities stems from this desperate drive to keep women's sexuality in check, get them married into approved homes, keep the sperms and genes within limited circulation. In so doing, patriarchy can ensure the property, its hallmark -its raison d'etre-  is passed on only to an identified, familiar seed.

The one thing patriarchy fears the most is a woman's sexuality. 
A woman who exercises control over her sexuality is to be reviled. 
The " loose woman" or the prostitute who exercises control over her body, even to an extent over her sexuality is patriarchy's worst enemy.  She must be driven from the "honourable" locaities for this very reason. 

The message to Indian women is loud and clear "stay honourable, stay safe". Stay within the bounds of patriarchy. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

departure

She sat on the bench
in the waiting room,
he, next to her
holding hands.
Her peach coloured dress
 billowing up in the breeze from the fan

Scandalous looks darted their way
in the little out of the way town
far away from the bright lights of her city

She wanted to sit closer
in his lap
or with his head in hers.

She stared at him
till her heart would brim over
and pour out her eye
every once in a while.

Then she'd look away
this way or that
at others in the room
but rush back at his face.

Trying to chisel into her memory
 every detail of his presence
even as her heart filled with ache.

The bangs falling over her eye,
moved in the breeze of the fan,
he reached out,
running his fingers through them,
pushed back the wayward hair.

She looked at him,
mournful,
exultant, smile,
holding on to the image,
the memory
the touch
capturing in her heart
to cherish it
a lifetime.


Monday, 24 February 2014

Why I Am A Feminist


The memory is crystal clear, like watching a movie in a loop, in my head. I must have been nine, visiting my grandparents in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh. The distance couldn't be further from my other home in Shillong, not just a huge physical distance, but a leap almost into a different civilization, like a time zone removed.

 It was a foggy winter evening and the festival of the new crop was being celebrated. Plates and dishes were laid out on a freshly swabbed floor and the gorgeous smell of delicacies wafted in the crisp, cool night air.

Dinner was announced and as my cousins rushed in to take their seats on the mats on the floor I was stopped in my tracks by an aunt telling me that I'd have to wait my turn once the boys and men were done eating. She couldn't help but laugh out loud at my stupidity of assuming that I was one of the boys.

Having been brought up with my two brothers, without being made aware of any major differences between us, the shock of this discovery couldn't have been ruder. I wasn't yet ten, and you can gauge the humiliation to my little self from the fact that I recall it in such detail even today. Which brings me to this word.

fem·i·nism
ˈfeməˌnizəm/
noun
  1. 1.
    the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
    synonyms:the women's movement, the feminist movement, women's liberation, female emancipation, women's rights

Why was I not equal to the boys ? Why could I not eat with the men? Admittedly, the hurt was more to my ego than any real damage. Having been born into privilege and continuing to live a life pretty much cocooned from a real struggle for existence, I am acutely aware of how blessed I am, how small my problems are.

For instance, in general, my day to day interactions with men are limited, and what little I do interact with them is dictated by the overwhelming sense of my own privilege.

Yet, these advantages end the minute I step out of home, or my workplace, into the public domain. I am up for all kinds of harassment  and it is my outlook, how well prepared I am. The other place where all niceties are abandoned and it's pretty much a free-for-all, is the virtual world.

With all the muck that gets thrown around at people, specially vocal assertive women, on social media, I should be thankful I haven't had much of it come my way.  Then again, I am no celebrity so not much attention comes my way, good or bad.

Yet, of late, I have been harangued by feminism-bashers. I've been asked to enumerate what contributions, if any, feminists have made. I've also been told that the very fact of their existence is irrelevant. All of this has prompted me to write this.

The critics of feminists are many. I think it should be heartening for us feminists that the very fact that we are being discussed so much means that we are perceived as a threat of some form.

Being criticised by the old order is nothing new, we've learnt to take it in our stride. What bothers and rankles a bit is the attack from seemingly liberal people, upholders of progressive values. Yet, as soon as we come to the part about feminism, their minds seem to shut down, close.

No doubt that feminism and its proponents come across as "loud", "crass", "aggressive", "bitchy"- all traits for which women have been condemned all through time. So we are basically being told that all feminists should be quiet,  well behaved girls. We should toe the line, follow the rules, in general, be "good girls". Well, like someone said, good girls never made history.  

Another criticism is the tag of "man-hater" attached to feminists, probably with the hope that by repeating a lie often enough, it can be made to stick.

Let me enlighten you, dear feminism-haters. Patriarchy is the system that heterosexual men put in place over the centuries, solely to be able to ensure their property was passed on to their own children. It should be a self-evident truth that while a woman is certain the child she is carrying is her's- it's inside her body a full nine months, after all- while a man may only speculate or arrive at an educated guess at best. He can never be certain.

Feminism seeks to achieve for women equal rights as men, equal work for equal pay, ensure men's equal share in housework and in general the right to basic human dignity. The right to be seen as human, as an equal to man.

The recent law against rape, which has redefined rape is suddenly "draconian" and even before a year is over since it came into force, filing of "false rape" cases has substantially gone up, we are told. Well, there is a commotion in the ranks of men- and well founded, it is. For a start, read up on some basics about the law.

For, if holding opinions which "differentiate me from a doormat" is going to bother you, I'm sorry, but the status quo is changing, the slow shift has begun taking shape. Girls, once they get to school, are already outdoing boys.

Granted that there are a few areas that women are yet to catch up in. For example, in democratic participation.
Women don't get enrolled in voters' lists, not even proportionate to the declining sex ratio as per recent  census data. But we are a little less than half of the population, and our time is about to come. As more women are getting educated, there is likely to be an increase in their participation in exercising their franchise.This can only mean that women's voices will get more of the politicians' ear than we've seen until now.

I leave you with this  lovely video in which Joss Whedon gives a delightful explanation why we cannot discard the word "feminist", not just yet.