International Women’s Day.

I wrote this on 8/03/2000, when I lived in India. It was my response to the front page of The Times Of India on that day. Never published it, never showed it to anyone until today. Maybe it is a bit silly and in-your-face but some of those emotions still trouble me. The idea of freedom, a woman’s role in society, her biological and physiological functions and her struggles and acceptance of destiny continue to influence my life and the many decisions I make. Sometimes I feel very empowered and sometimes utterly helpless and weak…

Seven women achievers on the front-page today.

Health, law, education, animal and other rights.

Seven women.

Daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, friends.

So many others like them.

Some educated. Most not.

In high rises, on rail tracks,

In land reserves and brothels.

Servants, slaves, bosses.

Achievers all. Yet, stifled all.

Me, smug in my middle-class existence,

High on education, earnings and ethics, look down

Upon the veiled on.

There she is. Procrastinating, prematurely greying

And so pusillanimous.

Why can’t she stand up for herself?

I have failed the sisterhood.

Shouldn’t even consider the question.

Instead, I should ask, can she help it?

I am her too. Can I help it?

Centuries of suppression and neglect,

Of being an insignificant member of her family.

Malnourished, ill-treated, sold for prostitution,

Scraped at in the womb. Snuffing out her very existence.

Many times meted out by her own mother, grandmother,

Aunt, elder sister.

So why do I deride myself?

This is one of her own. They fail the sisterhood too.

May be.

It is vicarious power.

Can’t rule over men? Hanker after a son.

Keep him tied. Encourage him to beat or burn.

Never teach him to respect other women.

And when they have the capacity, remain selfishly indifferent.

They fail the sisterhood too.

May be not.

A daughter will have to lead the same agonising life.

Enslaved, tortured, suppressed.

Let her go before she actually exists. Before she questions

The system and is raped for doing do.

I often ask God about gender equations, hoping He will answer.

He. God is a man.

But He did / does have a mother right?

It is the men who fail their mothers.

They make the rules, set the limitations.

Whose social function is what.

Who is to wear what, who is to say what.

According to the indiatimes.com poll, figure hugging

Jeans are more provocative than sarees.

Must’ve been loads of men who logged on. Smirking.

Deciding the dress code for women.

All who have failed their mothers.

The other day a man teased me on the road.

Same as happens to so many women.

I was disgusted, then guilty.

May be it was the trousers and jacket?

Should I stop wearing long skirts with slits?

Sleeveless blouses?

Should I cover my arms and legs?

Hijaab. Barely enough to be able to see?

Oil my hair? No make-up, not even lip balm?

Look my little toe can be seen!

Eve tempted Adam!

Swathes won’t tempt him now, neither will a blunted mind.

Aaaargh!

I am asphyxiating, I am blinded, my feet swaddled.

For whom are you celebrating Women’s Day?

Who is celebrating Women’s Day?

A few shopping malls and dotcoms.

Buy gifts for the woman in your life …..today.

As if they don’t matter the rest of the time.

I DON’T WANT THIS.

I may be breaking the glass ceiling but another of

My sisters is being denied existence. One is being

Teased and raped, one is being burnt.

One more sold in the market.

I DON’T WANT THIS.

A lone day to be put on a pedestal and trampled on

On the others.

No. No tokens.

Give me the whole year. Give me my whole life.

Give me choice.

The right to education, to health,

Food, clothes, shelter, clean toilets.

Give me my right to decide.

Love, marriage, children, work.

To move freely-anytime, anywhere.

Breathe uncloistered air. Sweet, unsuppressed, uplifting air.

Let me have all that.

Let me live the way I want to-and I can give back more.

This world exists because of me.

Nature is me.

That koel on the mango tree is me.

The cool, white glow on starry nights is me.

I am warmth and compassion.

The musty fragrance of wet earth now captured and bonded

Give me back my freedom

Let me live the way I want. Let me show you how to live.

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