The good Indian girl

 

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This is a painting By Francis Newton Souza

India is ranked the worst country for women’s safety amongst G20 nations. Victim blaming remains sadly prevalent. An inadequate and largely indifferent police and justice system, strong patriarchy and all kinds of ridiculous cultures and social norms merrily co-exist.

(Before some of you cry foul, there are exceptions of course. But in large part the dismal state is true- let’s accept it).

Three young Indian feminists write a slam poem on their impressions on the restrictions, rules, and intimidations imposed on women. Scroll down to read their profiles.

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Left: Painting by Amrita Shergill Right: Painting by Raja Ravi Verma

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(Common)

Cover your cleavage,

Cover your back,

stand up straight

put your legs together

lower your eyes

oh you’ve got your period?

sit in the corner

dont touch anything meanwhile

have your limits,

don’t talk to men,

dont give lenience to men

Lenience to men??

Stand in attention

when the national anthem plays,

The army is working hard,

to keep us safe – so,

it is understandable, when they

rape and pillage,

to get out frustrations.

get married to a stranger,

yes, you have to have sex with him the same night

yes, you have to have sex with him whenever he wants

no its not marital rape

he owns you, how can it be?

career? what career?

get pregnant

raise children –

be a good indian girl

 (Greeshma Rai’s)

I am all of 5,

innocent and oh-so-mischievous

the world is my playground

waiting to be explored

i want to run i want to dance i want to explore all around

crash comes down the whip

what do you think you are doing?

where do you think you are going?

stay inside

but..

shut up. stay inside!

but what about anna?

how come he gets to do what he wants?

of course he can do what he wants to

he is a boy

you are a girl

you are supposed to stay inside and be a good indian girl

how dare you question me?

how dare you

crash comes down the whip

over and over again

till the shrieks are no longer audible

till every little bit of resistance is snuffed out of existence

all i hear is a distant voice

“dont bring shame upon the family”

“do as i tell you or ill beat you”

“beat you till you stop”

“beat you till you obey”

the rebel in me protested in silence

the rebel in a tiny me wanted to break out, run away

chase those little dreams

but life continued

a life where everything was a struggle

a struggle to free myself from invisible chains which always held me back

which bound me to be the ideal good indian daughter

stopped me from being the person i am

forced me to shut up

forced me to be a good indian girl?

a struggle

fear, lies, dread, hatred

life went on

as my body blossomed

as my mind grew by leaps and bounds

the chains grew tighter

the voices got louder

‘dont bring shame upon the family’

the 60 year old neighbour touched you down there?

didn’t i tell you not to go out?

groped? you got groped?

didn’t i tell you not to dress like that?

“this girl will bring shame upon the family”

how dare you go jogging with some guy?

how dare you?

as he slammed my head against the wall

over and over and over again

as I feel the trickle of blood on my neck

the hatred in me for this good indian girl peaks

who is this good indian girl?

wasn’t she fondled when she was 8?

wasn’t she touched and violated every other day on the roads?

wasn’t she blamed for what she had to face due to the perversions of countless men?

who is this good Indian girl?

Why am I told to be like her?

What if I don’t want to conform to this identity of a good Indian girl?

Will you beat me more?

But guess what?

You can punish me, you can beat me,

for talking to men, stepping out of home,

barring me from society, life,

you stopped me from living,

from choosing, from working,

“Shame on the family”

A burden i bear, an accidental burden,

Pushing, Clamping, Suffocating

(Tejaswini Madabhushi’s)

i’m a nice Telugu girl

i have to oil my hair everyday

i have to cover my chest,

my belly, my arms, my legs,

i cover them with my

nice telugu girl clothes

i cover them in the way i walk,

the way i slouch, the way

i avoid eye-contact.


i’m a feminist telugu woman

i don’t comb my hair –

for a whole month,

i like showing my bra,

and i don’t cover it –

when aunties in the creaking buses

tell me to cover up

bra straps- why should i hide them?

i stare back at men,

till they take their eyes away.

and the nice telugu girl,

lives with the feminist in me,

fighting for dominance,

life is simple, life is simple,

when you follow the rules,

but life is fulfilling, fulfilling,

when you break the rules.

i fight my parents everyday,

my parents fight the society

They raised both –

A nice telugu girl

and a feisty feminist.

they struggle between

Telugu + responsible parents

and

Feminist parents.

Should they be good Indian parents

As their families expect them to

Or

Should they be radical parents

As their daughter wants them to?


(Maranatha Wahlang’s)

No i don’t fit into your “India”,

I am not a good indian girl,

your definitions –

they bind, restrict, constrict,

They make me alien.

my mother’s name – it appalls you,

my inheritance – it shocks you,

my freedom – it angers you.

So when you ask me

To follow the indian culture

Be the good indian girl,

i tell you – i love variations,

i love variations in languages,

i love variations in clothing, gender,

food, eye shapes, sexuality,

variation is life, variation is growth.

Why? you ask, do you

why do you go to places

where men masturbate –

the roads, the buses, the bus stands,

the rocks in university,

Good indian girls-

they stay safe,

they wear safe,

they talk safe,

they think safe.

they wear bindis, they wear saris,

but the rest is not good enough for you.

they are patriotic in obeying –

their fathers, husbands, the government.

if my freedom doesn’t anger you,

it draws out an ugly and perverted

sense of entitlement.

but you’re a free person, Natha,

you’re not the nice Indian girl,

how can you be uncomfortable?

don’t you do this with other men anyway?

Or you think i am some wild

Innocent tribal

So you can be my benefactor.

And your sense of entitlement

Is punctured when i say “no, thank you”.

Then you say i’m brainwashed by feminism,

As if feminism uses a detergent,

Oh yes, it comes in pink (smile)

No i don’t fit into your definitions,

I will not keep quite when you

violate my body, my privacy,

my mind through emotional guilt tripping.

No i don’t fit into your “India”,

I am not a good Indian girl,

your definitions –

they bind, restrict, constrict,

They make me alien.

(Common)

So – keep your ideas,

Of indianness, of purity, of

The good Indian girl – to yourself.

And we shall carry on living,

Variating, growing,

We want life, we want variations.

We’re no good Indian girls.

We’re women – human

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Jamini Roy

Painting by Jamini Roy

 

Greeshma, Natha and Tejaswini are active members of Hyderabad for Feminism, an informal group for feminists and friends in the city of Hyderabad.

Greeshma is a feminist human rights lawyer. She was born in Mangalore, raised in Chennai (true blue Madrasi!) and presently works in Hyderabad. She has been fighting patriarchy since she remembers and believes there are many more such battles to be fought and won. Very fitting match for hyperactivity disorder.

Maranatha Grace T Wahlang (Natha) is from the Khasi hills in what is now called Meghalaya. She is a feminist and is very intrigued by the human mind in relation to language, culture and society.

Tejaswini is a Neo-Gandhian feminist activist. She works for Yugantar, an NGO in Hyderabad. She was born and raised in Hyderabad and spends her time avoiding trekking, walking and moving.

Copyright of the slam vests with the authors.

 

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