Women

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Book Review : She Walks, She Leads

Published November 5, 2016 by vishalvkale

SHE WALKS, SHE LEADS
WOMEN WHO INSPIRED INDIA
{Life stories of 24 women from 6 categories of life, from Business to Sports, from Entertainment to Media}

By Gunjan Jain

FIRST, THE ONLY BUT SMALL NEGATIVE
Image result for she walks she leadsThis is a book of women who inspire India : and while it is perfectly permissible as well as logical & feasible that Ex-Indians can inspire Indians; my personal opinion is that we should not highlight the success stories of people who left India behind, and took other citizenship – not when  there are innumerable stories of local successes – many superbly chronicled in this book itself. And given the quality and research of this tome which is no less that monumental, I thought lets brush the irrelevant and the negative out of the way before getting to other more relevant and positive matters. And in that, my belief is that Indra Nooyi and Mira Nair {The latter lives in the USA, though her nationality status is not clear to me} do not belong among this august list of people
This is not because of their performance – which is quite stupendous; but they have their own people who can praise them in the USA; God Bless them is all I state. I, being an Indian, find no relevance in their stories, which are more US-Based or Africa/US based. This view isn’t parochial; there may come a time in the future when these  will become relevant; but now, when our GDP is low, when female emancipation is questionable, when  we are growing, when we have serious social, economic, cultural and other problems – we need local talent to stay in India, not run away for whatever reason. And that is why we consistently need to focus on local success stories, not US ones! There can be no justification for quitting your nation; while on the one hand we have people willing to die for our country, on the other, we have people who go away… I know who I support, and who I don’t!
AND NOW… THE POSITIVES
And that is where this book has made a stupendous start;  a fantastic chronicle of success stories of Indian ladies from  various aspects of life, a cornucopia of struggle against all  odds, of living a dream, and yet balancing it with family, with social work, with studies, and all the rest of it. You should read this book for that alone – for the lasting lessons it leaves in balancing life in the modern day, of not wasting time, and utilizing not just time, but resources as well as opportunities, of taking calculated risks and of creating your own luck through sheer dint of hard work, sacrifice and deep insight borne out of reading, study, teamwork and experience!
All this, and more – you can see in the sacrifices of Sudha Murthy, whose story is a must read for all Indians in my opinion; or that of Chanda Kochhar. These are the two stories I loved reading the most; stories of true Indians, highly qualified, yet who stayed; two Indians from humble beginnings who went on to become world leaders in their respective fields, two Indian ladies who fought hard and fair, who gave a perfect family balance, and yet earned their reputations the hard way, two tough and doughty fighters… their stories give you hope for a modern India, for the way they crafted themselves, and for the way they fought and the way they made their choices – and for the tremendous value they added to our lovely country, and the way they contributed in many fields.
There were others – the story of Anu Aga will bring a cheer of admiration to your lips, of the way they {she and her family} built and then rebuilt Thermax, or the story of Naina Lal Kidwai – or best of all, the story of two Indians who have arguably done among the most for the health scene, and should be household names & inspirations : Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Swati Piramal. Of these, the most stunning story is that of Swati Piramal, business professional, Doctor – and social worker who actually campaigned door-to-door for a cause… did street plays etc for vaccinations programmes. Now that, sir, is truly inspirational, and makes for a riveting read, especially her transformation from a doctor to what she has grown into now…
The other stories are also well crafted – but these are ladies from the upper strata of society, which is why I highlighted the few above first. The others, though from moneyed families – are nonetheless impressive; my point is that I wanted to highlight in my review – that ladies from a not-so-rich background can also make it if they have the opportunity and the education; which is why I sorely missed examples from the field of eminent educationists. Being from a family where 100% of ladies are professionals, and being related to lady educationists, I am aware that such  examples exist; I sorely and deeply missed these examples… for if there is anything this book teaches us – it is the simple fact that education is the only answer, period.
Other reviews will no doubt look at the equally impressive story of Yaseen Premji, of the redoubtable Zia Mody – whose story is stunning {you have admire her guts, manna padegaa}, of PeeCee {look up the book to know that is, I shant tell you}; and especially Jyotsana Darda and her social work in particular; of Nita Ambani, of Rajashri Birla {with a touching love story to boot} and of the one and only Sania Mirza; but  a short  book review just cannot do justice to this monumental and phenomenal work of back-breaking hard work, and unstinting commitment, and I will perforce have to pick and choose.  
THE TAKEAWAY FOR US AS A SOCIETY
Having seen working women all my life; a working women does not carry either admiration, or comment, or observation from me. Just as I don’t see it as anything special if my best friend does a job, I see nothing to comment if ladies work and succeed; have seen it since the day I was born. But, and this is vital – for our society, or some segments – this is not the case. These stories tell you one thing, and one thing only : the only way out for us as a people, as a nation, for our ladies, for our GDP, for our economy – is education. There is no other solution.
With respect to ladies, once they leave the home  and the hearth {leave as in get into employment}, their horizons improve and widen, leading to learnings and automatic growth. In a couple of cases, there was a hint at international exposure leading to confidence- in my opinion, we can strike off the word “international”; what matters is exposure to the world, to situations and experiences outside the protected homestead and hearth. That is what kindles growth : be it Gentlemen, or be it ladies; whether that exposure is local or international is completely beside the point. And that is what India truly needs – for it society to accept this. All in all, an excellent book, rated 4.5 stars out of 5. The only other point I make about this book – I would have loved to read more stories of ladies from poor, and lower middle classes who made it… 
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Pink Movie – Asking The Right Questions Of The Man!

Published September 18, 2016 by vishalvkale

Image result for pink movie review


This week saw the epochal movie Pink hitting the movie halls and cineplexes, a movie that stands out as one of the most hard-hitting movies to come out from the Mumbai film industry. This is a movie that looks at deeply ingrained attitudinal problems embedded in our society, problems which have eluded quite a few reviewers on this movie; I attempt to place my viewpoint on these ignored aspects in this review. This is a movie that is, to my mind, more about Men than Women; we need to see the story from this angle and engage with the highlighted problems in a deep introspection
THE PLOT

Image result for pink movie review
The plot is simple : three ladies meet 3 or 4 boys at a rock concert, share a drink or maybe two, go to dinner, and end up getting molested. A feisty one responds, and cracks a bottle right slam-bang on the “gentleman’s” head, and the three run. So do the four “gentlemen”, but then the nightmare starts for the ladies, as the threats and the intimidation starts. They are wrongly accused by the “gentlemen”, and one of them gets arrested. In  steps a retired top lawyer to the rescue, and fights the case for the ladies.
WHAT THE MOVIE ISNT ABOUT…
The above isn’t about what ladies wear, or indeed what they should wear; it isnt about ladies drinking, about going out with boys, about saying no to the opposite sex, about not equating sharing a drink with an invitation for sex; about smiling and talking being equal to something else; it isn’t about freedom of women, or about how much freedom is too much freedom; it isn’t about the invasion of western mores into our eastern society. This is a hard-hitting expose on the Male Chauvinistic Pig, and the frankly reprehensible male dominance in Human Society in general and Indian Society in particular.
EXPOSING THE MCP…
It is a brutal expose on the Gender Equations prevalent in our society, and how lopsided they are. If it is not ok for the Girls and Ladies of your family to drink, then – as a corollary to that, it isn’t ok for the Gents to drink either. If it is not ok for the lady to have multiple partners in her lifetime as casual  or not-so-casual lovers – then it isn’t ok for the Gents either. If it is not ok for the lady to stay out late, then it isn’t ok for the Gent either. Why should things be so different for the two sexes? Why the completely variant value-judgements between males and females of the same Homo Sapiens species?
This is exposed very skillfully in the movie, in a gripping court-room drama in the second half; the first half having set up the climax in a riveting and mind-blowing series of events of shocking & jarring victimization that lay bare the other problems touched in the other reviews. But the second half strips our society bare, strips it stark naked in the blunt court room scenes that take your breath away. You get to see the Male of our Indian  society in all his resplendent nakedness and gory ugliness, and leave you feeling utterly disgusted at the prevalent chauvinistic attitudes that bedevil our society.
PLACING THE MAN ON A PEDESTAL…
Few people, in my limited reading, have touched upon this : I agree with the other points raised; namely saying no is no; that dressing is not a barometer of character and neither is drinking, that ladies should have independence; and the point on morality judgement etc. These are obviously true and spot-on; but my point, my question, goes far deeper – why do women {and men} look for approval from society? Forgot the song – Kuchh To Log Kahenge; Logon Kaa Kaam Hai Kehenaa? By doing so, you are automatically placing the man on a pedestal!
Furthermore, why do we place emphasis on purity of women – just women, and not on men? Why not place the precise same moralistic judgmental attitudes towards men as you do towards the ladies? Why has no one ever thought to ask a man if he is a virgin? Why is no one asking as how can the same attitude be seen modern, forward, rough-and-tough in males but undesirable in females? Why has no one in our entire society ever questioned the sexual need in males and their now-established penchant for prostitutes? Why has no one ever questioned the so-called tough man when he has multiple affairs, or drinks, or dresses in a forward fashion? We have never ever questioned the man – not even in our movies, and that is a fact.
THE REAL PROBLEM IS THE MAN!


The problem isn’t that we need to stand by our women; that goes without saying. The real problem is that we need to question the Men, and make it unacceptable behavior  – or rather, have the same rules apply for both the sexes. You cant have differentiation. We know we are patriarchal; we know ladies have to suffer a  lot – is that news? That is a known and established fact! High time our movies took the next step and ask some hard questions of the Man. Don’t say we need to support our women – start by saying that I need to look at the boys and men in our family, and have true equality.
It has been cruelly highlighted how Meenal had mulltuple sexual partners in her history; what about the men she slept with? Did they not have multiple sexual partners? Why has no one in our society ever questioned the man? Why is it not an equally big question for the man? Is sex just a conquest for the men, involving no love? Or is drinking a solely male priviledge? It has been forcefully highlighted about the drinking by the ladies. Werent the men also drunk? How is it ok for a man to partake in drinks but not the lady of the house? These are the questions this movie raises – and many many more…
We need to highlight the differential approach towards the two sexes far more than other aspects in my opinion; like in that sad statement “unko aukaar dikhaao” or words to that effect. The difficulty is that we are a male dominated society, and unless we both support the women as well as make it less sexy and more intolerable for the man to misbehave, change will not happen. As it stands, the feeling is that for the man, drinking & flirting and sex is ok – duly supported by our movies in sorry portrayals. If drinking, flirting is ok for the boys, then it is ok for the girls. And if it isn’t ok – then both sexes are in the wrong – and it needs to be highlighted.
Most movies show the women suffering, or fighting against all to make it; this has basis in reality. But we also need to show how the man can suffer and lose everything, how his sick behavior harms him – not just in the end, but in his daily life. Make it less sexy to be patriarchal! Instead, we see the opposite – in our love stories, in our other movies about how the man goes after the girl etc along established moral codes and norms of society.

We are the same society which calls a decent actor a chocolate boy, in another example of the stereotypes that rule our minds. These stereotypes need to be broken down; need to be addressed; the man needs to understand his failings…  and that is where Pink scores, in the Court-room where the defense Lawyer highlights these very aspects in his epochal code-book for conduct, and the six points he raises about how society views these from different parameters for the two sexes…

image source : Google search

Book Review : This Unquiet Land

Published January 2, 2016 by vishalvkale

THIS UNQUIET LAND – STORIES FROM INDIA’S FAULT LINES
BY BARKHA DUTT

THE INTRODUCTION

Image result for This Unquiet Land Barkha DuttThis Unquiet Land is a book that stands out among all the other books I have read and reviewed on my blog, numbering more than a 120 at least. This is also a book that sets a narrative of India that is at complete variance to the one which the people of India would like to read which is that of a vibrant and fast growing India, an India that is on the road to its desired goals of Economic Growth and the promise of a future pregnant with positive developments and fast rapid emancipation of problems.

This is a book that looks at the dark side, the unsavoury stories and realities of India, a side that we would much rather ignore, or a side that we would much rather leave to our fervent hope that things will get better. This is a side of India that is best represented by “out of sight, out of mind”; a side dealt with looking the other way. This book is a book that is deep and dark in its narrative and tome – yet not depressing which is quite an achievement for the author, who has successfully taken on many a dark side of India.


THE AUTHOR’s NARRATIVE, AND THE LAYOUT OF THE BOOK

The book revolves around the author’s personal experiences through her extensive touring and exposure to India during the course of her long and eventful career. She has resorted to her experiences quite extensively; which brings me to the most significant disadvantage, or negative part of the book which lessens its impact by a wide margin : the lack of a proper annotation end-notes and bibliography alongwith precise dates of events.

There is a bibliography – but when you are penning such hard-hitting content, it is better to use in-page annotations, end-of-chapter endnotes or endnotes at the end with proper numbered references littered throughout the book. I would like to point the reader to other non-fiction books reviewed on my site – examples being Parag Tope with his seminal classic Operation Red Lotus; or Narendra Singh Sarila with his explosive Partition – The Untold Story. This would have elevated this book to the level of legendary stuff.

The author writes with transparent and unreserved passion with remarkable control over her language considering her depth of passion – which makes for fast as well as  absorbing reading; she is passionate about all topics she has covered – and it shows in her writing. This is a definite plus; the problem is in the layout of the content within each chapter. She has been fair and balanced for the most part; but a proper sequencing of the narrative and the points raised would have been welcome as it would have expanded its impact. A slightly more analytical approach, without compromising on the narrative tone, and a structured approach to each point would have been welcome; that said, I like it as it is. This is just a thought that could have made it more powerful.


THE CONTENT

The content is thought-provoking, and takes on Indian Society head on and in no uncertain terms. If anyone has been spared, I cant offhand think who, or what. There is no bias that I could detect {bar one – maybe two places, where I could also be mistaken}, and certainly a thorough hammering has been dealt out to each participant in the chosen topic regardless of the side the participant is one. Be it Women, or be it Society, or be it The Middle Class, or be it Kashmir, or be it Politics – everyone has been shredded.

Before I continue – just a disagreement on Nehru & Kashmir; I thought I detected a tone of blaming Nehru; I would like to point the author as well as the reader to the books reviewed on my blog, which are all authentic evidence-based books that tell a completely different story. Links of all books mentioned at the end of this review.

·       WOMEN : This is the chapter that every man should read. A hard-hitting and brutal chapter that takes your mind into a disturbed vacuum, factual and completely true so far as I could tell. Be it our treatment of and approach to the rape issue; or be it the issue of work versus family for women – you will find it all here. My only issue relates to the question of gender roles in Indian society, as my article argues. I look forward to the author’s views on that, if possible

·       THE COST OF WAR : This is the peice de resistance of the book, a chapter on her experiences in the Kargil War. You are left with wonder as you marvel at the courage shown by her and her staff, as well as the commitment and passion. This offers a very different look at the Kargil War, from the perspective of a civilian, rather than the look given by General VP Malik in his two books reviewed earlier. {Links below}
·       TERROR IN OUR TIME : This chapter deals with a wide spectrum of terrorism – related experiences. Vast in its scope and breadth, it gives a birds eye view of the terrorism challenge faced by India, including a short precise on the maoist challenge. The one problem here is the inclusion of the sporadic incidents of Hindu extremists; while these need mentioning in a chapter on terror, I felt that they could have been reduced to a half page, or one page – rather than the 2-odd pages they got.  Am I nitpicking? Perhaps I am; but smaller focus would have been more balanced. The main problem we are facing is different

·       IN THE NAME OF GOD : I don’t write on Religion – period. This is the red line I will not cross. That said, I highly recommend this chapter – without giving my views on it, I may have liked it, I may have hated it. My views on this remain sacrosanct, and in my mind. I have a determined policy to not write anything on Religion, after my last 2 articles on this. {Links at the end}.
o   My only comment – the identification of the colonial factor as being one of the causes of the conflict we are facing {page 129} is somewhat accurate; though not completely so. The origin of this sectarianism cannot be understood unless you understand the changes that took place right from 1700AD, as I argue in my secularism series {Links below}. This is something that I still haven’t fully understood despite reading a full 28 books on this – all pedigreed, maybe more. {PS : Not all are reviewed on my blog – some will not reach my blog, as the content is either explosive or the book is too hard to review, like Jinnah or Experiments}
o   There were always 3 players – The Muslims, The Sanaatan Dharmis {Hinduism is not the name of our religion; the only name we can give it is Sanaatan Dharm} and The British. What we see today has its origins in the three societies and their delicate interplay, and is not so simplistic. For more, click links at the end.

·       KASHMIR : Read the book for this chapter alone, and with an open mind. You will be the richer for the experience. This seminal chapter is an excellent kaleidoscope of personal experiences at the tragedy that is Kashmir wedded with a short look at the history of the state during Independent India, making for enthralling reading. What is specially noteworthy is that our mistakes have been thoroughly analysed, making for a highly disturbing but thought provoking read
o   That said, this is the one chapter where I have two disagreements: Nehru – whose role has been revealed in the classic book by NS Sarila {ADC to Mountbatten} which reveals the true story basis original documents – with proof and extensive references –  from the archival records of three nations. {Link below; suffice it to state that I thank God for sending Panditji to us as an Indian}.
o   The other disagreement I have is in the detailing of the tragic stories of excesses by security forces. I don’t object to them being aired; we are a democracy – and these excesses should be aired. The problem is that in analysing the mistakes we committed, I felt that a greater sense of balance was  needed in clarifying the foreign role and the Pakistani hand, as well as the loss of life due to it, which numbers in thousands. That said, she has looked at all sides of the picture to be honest

·       OF POLITICAL DYNASTS, JUGGERNAUTS & MAVERICKS : Loved this chapter – thought provoking, disturbing, blunt and to the point, with a hard hitting look at all political options, with no one being spared –whether Congress or BJP. This is a truly great read, as we get an inside look at the entire political brouhaha of modern India, as well as some pretty direct questions and searching examinations. AAP is the only party that gets away easy…

·       A SOCIETY IN FLUX : This is the chapter I loved the best, given that I have analysed almost the same in my article {The Great Indian Middle Class – Neither Middle Nor Class}. While I look at the aspect of corruption and selfishness of the Indian, the author has taken the middle classes and upper classes apart, torn them to shred in my opinion in this chapter – which is also the darkest and most disturbing chapter in the book with the graphic descriptions and horrors. A riveting yet darkly fascinating mirror to Indian Society….
o   The stark statement of the inequities in our society, the level of deprivation and the level of deplorable ignorance shown by us, the terrifying sceptre of poverty, or the shocking and ugly pusillanimous behaviour of us Indians has been ruthlessly exposed through real life incidents that will haunt you. Read the book to feel the same level of shock and disgust I felt…

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I rate this book 4.5 stars –  am docking 0.5 stars for the reasons mentioned. It is a tour de force penned by a person with a vast experience cutting across a veritable kaleidoscope of situations – which bring a murmur of admiration to your lips at the sheer chutzpah, courage as well as her strength, given what life has exposed her to. At the end, you are left with a picture of India’s fault lines which need attending to, as well as an appreciation of the author. Could this book have been more balanced with a look at the positives? Yes – but then, it wouldn’t be a book on Indian Fault Lines-  and high time we Indians faced up to our challenges. Overall, an excellent book!

Are there disturbing elements in this book? Yes, there are. This is not your coffee table book; this is a hard look at the nation’s problems; could it be more balanced – yes; as I point out. But that does not mean we ignore it. A must read as per me…




REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS : 


Secularsim – Modern India and Pseudo Secularism {follow links for historical detailed persecpective}
In addition, there are over 26 books on Indian History reviewed on my blog; feel free to browse if interested

Changing Gender Equations In India

Published September 22, 2015 by vishalvkale

Sexual violence in India and its increasingly relevance to the public discourse, that is frankly a comparatively smaller problem in comparison to the major problem facing our society : that of Gender roles, and their redefinition in the changed world. The reality may even be that it is the percentage of reported rapes and sexual misdemeanour that are increasing. This, far from being a problem, is actually a welcome development, if that is indeed the case. It means that the stigma is receding, at it is being perceived as a plain and simple crime. This cannot be viewed in isolation, but has to be seen in the complete socio-cultural mileu, especially if we are to label an entire society.

The major aspect that needs attention, in my opinion, is the concept of Gender Roles in Indian Society, and especially how the Man {including I Me Myself} views this. The Challenges and questions being posed to the Indian Family Unit due to this need answering. Further, we need to move away from accusation and self-accusation, and blame games; this isn’t Gender Suppression, although that is also a factor in some cases, to be honest. It is just that I cannot say how prevalent Suppression is…

Suppression is when the act is one-sided. A lady once said to me categorically, “Women are also the ones responsible for it”. It was a statement that initially stunned me, but is increasingly making eminent sense. A Hindi movie from the 50s had a very interesting scene in it, when the lady defends her husband beating her by saying that he also loves her deeply {which was a fact as shown in the movie}. This is but one parameter of the problem. I have seen this quiet acceptance in many a household, and majorly in the educated classes, rarely in the lower classes.

And the solution isnt empowering women : that is an insult to women in general. The women does not need “empowerment”. That statement itself implies the inherent superiority of the male of the species. The need of the hour is education of the male mind, and engendering equality of the sexes right from childhood. That means social programmes to educate society and the parents. And, unless you understand the level of the full problem, its deep-seated nature and its genesis, all such outreach programmes are bound to be less effective. That is why understanding why this arose is so important.

Just who is the male to “give the women power”? Is he God? Or, does he own the woman? If not, how can the male give something which anyways does not belong to him in the first place? There are many, many parameters to this issue, which get lost out in the brouhaha.
People say Women should not tolerate abuse, But what about the attendant issues? Some women, just to take one tiny example, tolerate abuse for the children. What happens to them – the Women and The Children? Their lives get destroyed, that is what. That act of sacrifice makes the women far stronger than the male, and a far better human; but that comes at a high cost to the individual lady. Point is that there are a myriad set of parameters involved here, all of which need consideration. Unless all questions are answered, even a majority of women will {might} not support, and that is a sad fact.
That also indicates the solution cannot be just plain empowerment, or legal remedies etc alone. What is truly needed is a combination effort of legal remedies, laws and their implementation, social education programmes, setting exemplars of everyday women and men who have reached a balance, {not your famous women, people dont relate to famous personalities}, This involves changing mindsets, and is a very tall task
Why is this so? The answer lies in the socio-cultural constructs of our society and its historical experiences, whose current impact is a matter of studied and documented research. For example, castesim, once thought to be a core sanaatani construct, has been proven as a hard-core colonial creation in more than one solid research, one of which I have read. In it, the impact of history on the modern world and society has been effortlessly traced. I refer to Maria Misra’s Vishnu’s Crowded Temple – {Vishnu’s Crowded Temple Book Review}
Thus, if we are understand this problem, we have no choice but to go back to its genesis. Societal trends, norms and behavhiours only change over the course of generations, and if you have to alter the course of society, you perforce need to understand the history. Then and only then can a solution emerge. Then key question here is why is this so in Modern India? Since when has it become so? Why did this emerge?
If the emergence is recent in history, relatively simple steps like laws are the answer. But if the genesis lies deep in history, then there is no solution apart from a combination of laws, education and social change steps that need to be taken.

It isnt a Power issue, it isnt an issue of men wanting power over women. This is a deeply ingrained cultural attribute, whether or not you like it, or anyone else for that matter. Gender Relations and Balance is a fundamental construct of Society, more so a stratified and hierarchical society like India’s. Indian Society is at its core hierarchical, with strictly defined roles, norms, modes and behaviours and styles of conduct.
This hierarchical structure has both good and bad points, just the same as any other structure. One cannot only look at its negative ramifications and blame the entire structure for it, forgetting the other good points. Any structure will be definition have both good and bad points. This isnt Power; it is a simple case of hard-wired behavioural parameters, ingrained into collective memory over generations.
It has been said that the current dispensation is against Dignity; while I don’t deny that there may be some cases where this is true, but the questions remain. A person’s dignity is non-negotiable, granted. But how do you define dignity? Does the other person accept your definition of dignity? Your definition of freedom and independence? If not, then you are also imposing, and this cannot lead to a solution! This is a classic western concept, sorry to state; and does not apply to eastern constructs of society with its many shades, parameters and nuances. If the people themselves do not accept such imposition willingly, we are back where we started.
This is a highly subjective and relative issue, one that cannot and should not be discussed off hand without proper lines of thought. Furthermore, if the respondent does not accept the imposition, the result is a backlash. This cannot be ignored, or forgotten. Individual dignity is again a core societal construct that arises from roles, mores, morals, hierarchies and their inter-relationships nuances and other cultural parameters. Solving this complex equation will take generations, not less – as it is a painstakingly slow process that involves a variety of solutions and approaches

Add to this the purely eastern concept of Honour, and dignity takes on exceedingly complicated hues that defy definition. The interplay of these two in society determine a lot of what we see, more so in the Indian Context. And that fact of the matter is that these two are exceedingly powerful forces in Sanaatani Society – Honour, and Family.
Thus, in order that we understand this situation, we perforce have to cater to the ground reality. And Western constructs, theories, views do not apply on the Ground in India, that much is an absolute. Till lately, this was so deep-rooted that even crimes went unreported; I refer to rape and wife-beating. So strong, so hard and so deep are the bonds of honour and family that even heinous crimes went unreported.
The very fact that unreported crimes are now on the decline proves that our society is actually moving in the right direction. This is actually not a problem – honour and family are what define our uniqueness, and the two have a massive range of practical and powerful ramifications in the Modern Context. So much so, that they are actually a massive plus of our society. But each plus has some attendant weaknesses; the challenge before us is to remove the attachment of these two from crimes. And that is happening at an ever-increasing rate.
If you look at the increasing participation of ladies in the workforce, as an example, and juxtapose it with the continuing and in fact strengthening hold of honour and family in the Indian context, it can be readily seen that Indian society is changing quite rapidly , adapting itself without compromising its uniqueness, and its basic precepts.
What is happening is that increasingly, there is a subtle redefinition of constituent roles in the family unit, with the male increasingly shouldering some increased burden. I dont say that this is happening willingly in all cases – again, honour and family interplay force change on males as well, who are notoriously slow to change {genetic defect in the male? 🙂 } – but change is happening. And newer forms are emerging, adapted to the newer reality, making for a much better India.

And, speaking as a Man, what it requires is for Males to accept that the equations between the Genders are now changing; it would be better for all of us males – starting with Myself – to accept this change, and adjust, change ourselves for the benefit of the Family’; the same Family for which Women have more than frequently given their all…

Indian Culture : Being Indian, Truly Indian – An Examination

Published February 20, 2015 by vishalvkale

Being and becoming is definitely the flavor of the season… there are a few trends that are now clearly discernible in the national discourse in India along these lines: one is the yearning for a return to our culture and our roots, the second being a push to be Indian and buy Indian, a third is the rising tide that pushes a national narrative of a Hindu subjugation, and a fourth being the rising tide of Hindu sentiment for a golden Hindu period, with Hindu values, and morals. The icing on the cake is the moral brigade, and the attendant reverse, with the pillorying and vilifying reactions to this moral brigade. Intermingled among all these is the single viewpoint of contempt and disdain some educated Indians have for ancient Indian culture.

In the atmosphere of Ghar Waapsi, I noted that the true Ghar Waapsi will happen when we stop giving bribes, stop eulogizing The West etc. Similarly, in the light of the rise of the AAP, we are talking of a rising hope, which is great, and a rising euphoria, which is misplaced. In both the cases above, as well as the scenarios in the first paragraph,  we are talking about a complete change in a people being dreamt and imagined by a people who first of all only pay superficial obeisance to Indian Values,  Sanaatani Vichaardhaaraa and our culture, and have little or limited knowledge of history.  As a small example, just try and tell anyone the fact that Hinduism is a British creation; that our real religion is Sanaatan Dharm; note the aggressive reaction, and the ignorance.  

Being “Indian” in culture, in this context, is taken to mean something either completely superficial and  external, without getting to the core of the issue – by and large, equated with language, dress, and such like – things that have precisely nothing to do with culture, and are manifestly superficial; or something based on a biased, one sided and incorrect narrative of History. This article delves into the first aspect, and the historical narrative forms the 2nd part of this mini-series.

Being Indian is being taken and interpreted as a stance of morality in relations between the sexes, which is a loaded and one-sided sentiment even at the best of times, as another example. Some of the more interesting views is the political landmine of Hindi being needlessly and incorrectly termed the national language by some people. Being Indian is taken to mean eulogizing the ancient culture we had, with a more hardline stance pillorying even the Mughal and Arabic rulers of New Delhi from 1150AD onwards

These people forget that the very language they go ballistic over – Hindi – is a borrowed tongue, being born out of Arabaic, Persian, Awadhi, Braj and a couple of other dialects. 300 years ago, this language had not even been invented, and was in the process of being crafted – whereas some modern languages like Marathi had already evolved out of Maharashtri Prakrut and Apabhramsa several hundred years before this time. Yet, it is Hindi which is spoken across Northern India, not the other ancient languages. What does this tell us about our culture?

India has come under one political yoke many times in ancient days, and yet a single language did not evolve, and was never enforced. Even in Muslim central rule, when Persian was the official tongue, one single language did not evolve; the language that did evolve from this – Hindi – was more akin to Marathi and other Indian languages than to Persian and Arabic. Not only that, at no point did an indigenous arts and literature evolve around the foreign language in India. Point is the openness and non-interference in cultural affairs and the cultural tolerance even during Muslim rule!

On the topic of women, one side of the argument vociferously denounces the changes happening, while the other, quite naturally, in automatic and justified outrage, goes the other extreme! For the moral brigade : technically, you might have been right – had you decided to approach the problem as a point of education and awareness, rather than moral policing; an issue which meant that Indian Values need to be inculcated… but even there, we run into problems, as becomes evident in the next paragraph. On the other side: it is your life, your decision; I personally see no locus standi of anyone not from your respective families.

I am all for a reversal for the role of women to that in ancient India, provided it is in keeping with the genuine Indian culture, not what is normally pandered in the guise of Indian Culture. What was the role of women in those days, and in what societal context? Women have always had a position of primacy in the Indian household, society and politics – right from ancient times. Even in normal lives, women were not oppressed – yes, there were some practices which are unacceptable in the current societal context, like age of marriage – but by and large, they were relatively free.

If you say women should marry as per male family members’ wishes, fine by me. If you say open display of love is a no-no, fine by me. But… it can’t be a one-way street; you then have to re-examine the entire scenario: what was the overall attitude towards women in those days in our society? How safe were they on the streets? What was their contribution towards the economy, the society and politics? How were they treated, and how were they viewed? Were they objectified and treated as showpieces, as men are habitual of doing today, openly staring a women, treating them as objects? Was open display of love really a no-no in those days – within the then prevalent societal norms?

Women were treated with respect, given a pride of place, were safe in ancient India, and were not objectified, were actually honoured. Can we say that today? Display of affection was allowed within the norms of that society. Further, their contribution in economics, politics and society was valued. Given the nature of that society, and the role of women as home-makers, that was relevant. In the modern context, women are important contributors to economics, politics and society far in excess of ancient times.

If we then say that the old norms stay paramount, then revert them to their old roles, stop their contribution in various fields. Fine by me – but what about the damage to politics, economics, livelihoods of males working in organizations formed by women etc? You cant have your cake and eat it too! In other words, males want to benefit from female efforts from other families, while simultaneously keeping and treating them as property! They are fine if other women do it, their family should remain in their control… what If everyone thinks the same? What will be the difference between us and the Middle East in that case?

As a matter of fact,  a powerful case can be made for the fall of the Indian Political power in the medieval times as being a result of the rise in the maltreatment of two classes in our society: women, and the downtrodden. The rise of norms such as Sati, increasing obstruction of women coincided with the fall in our fortunes – this tallies with our scriptures, which specifically state that Gruhalaxmi has to be respected, else wealth flies away. We started ill-treating women, and our wealth went bye-bye! Remember, Goddess Sita opted to bury herself in Mother Earth rather than go back to Ayodhya!

Moving on, the easiest aspect to tackle in this narrative is the be-Indian-buy-Indian brigade, which has both economic and cultural aspects; the economic side of the argument has been well covered in mainstream media, and needs no repetition. The cultural side of the argument deals with a narrative of re-colonisation, and is a very popular and oft-forwarded message on Whatsapp and even Facebook, as well as blogs and digital media. This narrative actually is completely the opposite of “Indian” from an ancient perspective! Ancient and Medieval India was a trading powerhouse, with a vast and massive trade of a large number of goods with the entire world from the past 5000 years, which is a known and established fact.

We had trading outposts as far away as Central Asia, a busy land trade route as well as extensive commercial guilds that traded with other ancient cultures, as is evident from the mentions of India in other ancient literature from other cultures, as well as the interchanges with diverse visitors and invaders like the Greeks and the Huns. India flourished as it learned to trade far better than others – giving what it did best, and taking what it could not specialize in. This is essentially what Modern Economics states, and we did it 3000 and more years before the birth of Economics!

But this narrative never reaches the public, who focus only on be-Indian-buy-Indian, which is not only against all economic logic, but is also against our own culture, history and learnings from the past! Far from learning from our mistakes, as we saw in the case of language, women or in this case of trade, we are reacting in a way that holds some serious questions for us as a people and as a culture. Sad part is, there is no attempt in the mainstream to handle this logically, and without passion… the good part is, that the first stirrings of a logical debate on these matters has now started.

The point of the article is that “Being Indian” in culture is more about what you THINK, what you do and how you behave : Vedic values are more about honesty, cultural and religious tolerance, openness, free trade across political borders, equality of the sexes {viewed in the context of the respective era}, etc. It has to be viewed holistically, not piecemeal as per our convenience and vested interests. It also has to take into account our prevalent societal, socio-economic and other paradigms, and cannot be viewed in isolation. And lastly, it has to be based in light of facts, not a desired fiction or a notion or even an imagined Golden Period;



My small suggestion for what it is worth,,, can we all try and really be Indian in every sense of the term?

Women…Wives… and Men!

Published October 30, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the 14th article in the culture series

A business meeting – and a pointed comment or observation by a business person {well, ok – a man} that deserves a mention… “Men will look for 6000 – 8000 Rs Phones for their wives, but go for a 50000 value super premium for themselves”. This was a comment that left us listeners momentarily stunned, but in total agreement…. I recounted this to my wife, who also agreed wholeheartedly. 

In itself, it is a perfectly innocuous comment; a simple observation of male attitude, intermingled with the Indian reality that in most cases, the male is the earning member – and thus may {or may not} have differing needs that necessitate a higher-cost phone. The point is not whether those so-called differing needs dictate a super-premium mobile phone; the point is the expression of attitude. The point is that the male does not consider his partner in life for things that he can use.. the possibility of  both using 25000 value phones {example} does not even enter into the male mind even for a moment, by and large.   

This is not an article about female infanticide, or any of the other serious issues plaguing our society. Neither is it an article about eve-teasing or any other crime against Women. This is an article about our attitude towards Women in general, and how we treat them. Further, at no point do I attempt to make a direct link between crimes and these attitudes. I am just chronicling a series of incidents that have occurred in my life, or those which I have observed. My only objective : to make people think. That’s it. There is nothing else that can be done; 

It was just after my marriage, and I had returned to my residence. Let us leave locations aside; all of us are Indians. I was asked by someone – “How much did you get”? Me : “Nothing”. They : “Then the girl’s family was more powerful”. Me : “No”. This is the most serious of the incidents I am going to recount here. Look at this attitude-  the assumption that the boy must get something. 

Why, may I ask? If I am my parents’ child, so is she. {My wife}. If my parents love me, so do her parents love her. If  I am marrying, so is she. In point of fact, she is leaving her home and all she has known – even her name – behind; for you. For both of you, so that you can come together and build a home and a family together. So what makes the Boy’s family more  powerful, or the people in the driver’s seat? It is a joint affair.  But that is the way it is, even among the educated. 

I have heard some of the most amazing comments from even highly educated and well-heeled persons, earning in the top income brackets, voice views that have stunned me. I recall a person who I heard advising someone who had just had a massive fight with his wife – give her a slap! Several people {more than several, in point of fact} have said in my hearing – wives should be put in their places, her place is in your bed, your home, your kitchen : as though she is your property!

It is not my point that these people treat their wives badly : they dont. In the large majority of cases – like 98% {guesstimate}, the people referred above actually are very considerate with their partners, and do take care of them. Sure, they are dominating; but they are also caring. Very caring indeed. But decisions are all taken by the male, period. In fact, in some cases, they actually treat them like kids, doing every little thing so that the ladies do not have to do anything in their absence. But they dont share decision making responsibilities, by and large, basis observation. 

But the key point in all the incidents above is the attitude involved : the treatment of women as secondary to the male, as pointed out in that slap statement, or in that statement of putting wives in their places, or in the mobile phone example. You call her your wife; you call her your life partner – but do you treat her as your partner? Or do you treat her as your property, or an immature kid, or someone to be mollycoddled? 

A wife is primarily a woman; a person who has been brought up in love by a loving family. She is a human being with equal rights within your home as well as your life. But this article also isnt about you males, as the title clearly states, with the emphasis on Wives and Women clearly indicates. It is about something that needs no elaboration. That “something” is something that only women can answer. And that something is an observation by a woman, which I happen to agree with totally. It was an observation that left me stumped and without answer.. 


Women are the ones who are also responsible for this

This is an observation that is pregnant with possibilities, and dangers – but also opportunities. It calls for a more active woman, a more demanding woman- a woman who is a true equal to her husband – even though she may be only a housewife. It calls for an entire set of behaviours at have the potential to change our society for the better…

For, simple observation also tells me that even an equal partner does not mean marriages break down – having seen several genuinely equal couples. But yes, it does call for a complete crushing of the super-inflated male ego. Further, it is also a manifest fact that the woman is actually stronger, capable of an entirely different approach to problems, and has a capacity to withstand pain and pressure which the male cannot even dream of. 

Zaraa Sochiye… 

These are the vows taken by the male in a Marathi marriage ceremony : 

Saptpadi – the seven steps (taken from the internet; but from memory, these seem to be about right… )

Vows to be taken by the groom :

1. We will share the responsibilities of the house, food and finance together. May God bless us with children and may they have long lives. 

2. You are only my beloved wife. I will love you and only you. I give commitment will provide strength and courage to you, my wife, always. 

3. The third step is for the growth of prosperity and wealth, and to educate their children . 

4. In the fourth step he thanks his wife for bringing auspiciousness and sacredness in his life. 

5. In the fifth step may the Goddess Mahalaxmi (Deity of Prosperity) make us prosperous and God bless us. 

6. In the sixth step the groom promises the bride that he will fill her heart with great joy and peace, time and time again.

7. This is the last and final step. Here the groom tells his bride that as you have walked seven steps with me you have made our love and friendship firm and inseparable. Now you have become mine and I offer my total self to you. May our marriage successfully last forever.



This was thought of several thousand years ago… 

Have we evolved as males? Or have we Devolved? Hard Words… too hard perhaps… but I hope I got you to reconsider…