Showing posts from 2019

Masculinity: A Poisoned Chalice?

Corporate India was first perturbed when news came in that Café Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha’s was reported missing and search operations were on to locate him. Within a day his body was found in the Nethravati river near Mangaluru and everyone’s worst fears were confirmed. It was another case of suicide since he had written a note to his associates sharing his multiple financial woes and pressures. Men are known to commit suicide when faced with financial ruin. V G Siddhartha made news in the late nineties when he started the Café Coffee Day chain of cafes. More than a decade ago I was pleasantly surprised to see that the home-grown CCD had gone global when I saw the familiar logo jostling for space with other coffee houses in Vienna. Siddhartha not only converted the family business of growing coffee on plantations to exporting beans and more, but also created a trendy coffee house culture for the youth in India. Today CCD is not just a hang-out zone, but as I have frequently

Unseen Passage promotes Less known strategy : Men need to Get Involved in Gender Equality

I was most surprised to learn that "Unseen Passage" in the grade 12 English language question paper of DPS Noida was on the need to work with men and MenEngage Delhi Symposium. Its fabulous to see this idea mainstreamed into every day spaces.  Thank you Manaswini and Rimjhim  for spotting it, and many thanks to the examiner who set this paper. I am reproducing the text -   I couldn't have said it better. The text - "Q5 Read the passage given below and answer the questions that follow: Patriarchy is the social idea that men are superior to women and should both control and dominate them. Throughout history this idea has fostered untold injustice ,unequal chances for education and work, endemic violence and suffering in most human societies .patriarchy privileges men ;it also damages them. Therefore, men have not just a duty but also a stake in fighting gender injustice. Patriarchy and gender injustice remain defining characteristics of societies around the world,

The Rage of the Bhumiputra

Today morning I was in a brief debate with some friends on the broad topic ‘Is reservation fair’? As you can well imagine it was a very charged conversation. Overall there seemed to be an agreement on educational support but complete disagreement on caste-based support. It is needless to say that the group involved in this conversation comprised completely of non-dalits. As we are in the ‘silly’ election season reservation was dismissed as a ‘political ploy’ of a particular party. Without going into the merits of the different point of view in that conversation, I feel that any discussion on reservation cannot happen without a more nuanced understanding of equality, diversity and disadvantage. Today the discussion on equality seems particularly relevant because the world over there are contests about who is the ‘bhumiputra’ or son of the soil. It is primarily about men because women often cannot claim any independent ownership of either property or even an idea. It’s all mediated t

Men must recognise their privilege not just their vulnerability

Recently, I attended two international conferences on gender and the issue of getting men and boys involved in gender equality was central to both. I have been engaged in advocating that men become more involved as equal stakeholders in promoting gender justice for the last two decades. I have also been working on getting this idea accepted among feminists in India so I should have been elated. Surprisingly I was not; instead I am a little worried. Even though profeminist men long have been involved in gender equality efforts, there is a concern among some women’s rights activists that “working with men and boys” has emerged as the “flavor of the month” and may draw both attention—and resources—away from the important task of advancing women’s empowerment. I understand their concern. When it comes to gender justice we should never suggest working with men and boys should be an alternative to working with women and girls. My concern is with an emerging narrative focusing on what s

Being Political 201.1: It is not about ‘who will screw us more’.

I was recently forwarded Rahul Ram’s song on the upcoming elections on a number of WA groups and then saw it shared on the Facebook by many friends. The audience at the  Aisi taisi Democracy  show where he sings this song is in splits at the song’s refrain ‘ fir  aaya  hai  time to choose, who will screw us more.’   I don’t know Rahul Ram personally but I know some people who claim he is their friend. I don’t know Rahul Ram’s politics but the song "Chunav ka Mahina" I think is very naïve, to say the least. The crowd that claps and laps up this song in the oft forwarded video seems to agree with Rahul Ram’s basic contention that this election is a choice between two sets of scamsters and a horde of pretenders who want to be Prime Minister. I don’t think it is so simple, at least this time. It is not a choice between the lesser of the two evils – a preening breast beating Chowkidar or an assertive Pappu who is being supported by a sister who people believe is a throwback

Becoming Political 101.1 : Let’s get ready to vote.

The election schedule has been announced. There will now be intense jostling among prospective candidates for being nominated. Shrill canvassing will begin at the grassroots. What will we, the voter do differently? Politics they say is the last resort of the scoundrel, and you and I are no scoundrels so may justifiably feel that we have little to do in the cesspool of politics. Many think NOTA is probably the best option in a field where none of the candidates or parties seem to have any redeeming feature. I too thought the same, but now I do not. Especially not this time. The least we can do is vote, but that too requires some effort and preparation as I have realised. I had an EPIC (voter) card made in 2014 and safely assumed my name would be on the electoral list. Imagine my surprise when my name did not return any data on the Goverify website! I was in a for a double whammy when I realised that my daughter’s name existed even though she was away from home for six years and ha

Gully Boy: Celebrating Subaltern Masculinities

The story of the underdog making good is a reasonably familiar trope for Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan had made the genre his own when he ruled as the ‘angry young man.’ Usually such stories also include an element of moral redemption and exploit the familiar theme of cops and robbers all the way from the sibling rivalry where Sashi Kapoor famously says ‘mere pass Ma hain’ to the more contemporary saga of the ‘Sacred Games’. The story of Gully Boy while including many elements of the familiar also provides an alternative exploration of subaltern masculinities. Dharavi provides a very realistic and human backdrop but unlike in Slumdog Millionaire it reverberates with a joie de vivre . Instead of evoking the pathos of the well-heeled viewer it indicts the wide-eyed incredulous ‘gaze’ of poverty tourism when the grandmother makes a quick 500 rupees by letting the guide bring in the white camera toting foreign tourists into her home. Guiltily I recalled my own experience entering