Into a woman’s mind

Capitalist patriarchy insists we be cheerful about Women's Day; it’s good for business, stupid. So go ahead, grab those discounts, get a cut-price facial and play the giggly little woman if you want to get ahead.

art and culture Updated: Mar 10, 2014 16:08 IST
Manjula Narayan
Manjula Narayan
Hindustan Times

The great day dawned. Women’s Day. Malls professed their love, salons offered beauty treatments at cut price, a soap brand asked women on Twitter to be dangerously subversive by playing with their hair and taking a selfie – oh the horror, gynaecologists made ready to check your plumbing for free, and random men who probably quietly beat their wives texted about the greatness of womankind. It’s enough to warm the unnecessarily ferocious cockles of a feminist heart. The Indian Goddess (IG) contemplated all this as she used two of her hands to quickly finish the household chores — the spouse is getting his mandatory 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep – and the other two to slip into her favourite woman power t-shirt before she sets off to slay the day’s Mahishasuras.

The estimable men at the street corner — who have nothing to do with the 63% increase in total crimes against women in the country — stare unblinkingly as the IG strides past. They seem keen to indicate their solidarity with the women’s struggle. At the metro station, waiting to get into the mobile zenana, the IG catches the eye of the gent who leans against the same pillar every day. He makes a kissy-fishy mouth. It’s a Women’s Day compliment in sign language, a deaf-mute-friendly version of Betty Freidan’s encouraging battle cry from 1963: ‘Women of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaner!” It isn’t clear who the deaf-mute is here but hey, don’t sweat the small stuff. Fishy face takes a position in the vestibule connecting the women’s compartment to the rest of the train and continues to send out silent waves of support for the women’s movement. It’s reassuring to be watched closely at all times; it ensures that there is always one attentive witness every time a woman blows her nose or scratches her posterior. So it’s a wrench when the Indian Goddess hops off the Metro and finds herself free of the male gaze for a few seconds. This must be how Lear felt, alone and unloved on that blasted heath, she thinks, shaken to the core as she crosses the road. A Wagon-R almost runs her over. The driver doesn’t know it is Women’s Day. Suddenly angry – it’s that powerful time of the month when the world appears unclothed in artifice – the IG bangs her palms down on the bonnet and waits until he checks the calendar, dips his head respectfully and lets her cross. See, Asaram Bapu was right – people do listen when you appeal to their better selves, their selves as brothers, sons, fathers, chauffeurs; even if many are cheerfully killing their own daughters in utero and their disobedient sisters and wives for ‘honour’. If only Damini/Braveheart had remembered to call Ram Singh et al ‘bhaiyya’ she’d have escaped with her life and Indian women across class would have continued to conform to their given roles, perhaps even happily accepted the ones right wingers, of every sort, want to thrust on them. It’s true the Indian Goddess could effortlessly do her thang in a Hindutva or an Islamist version of the Nazi idea of kinder, küche, kirche — she does so much more on any given day.

Still, it’s uncool to bring up these unsavoury subjects on a day of celebration. Capitalist patriarchy insists we be cheerful; it’s good for business, stupid. So go ahead, grab those discounts, get a cut-price facial and play the giggly little woman if you want to get ahead. The Indian Goddess is eager to be one of the crowd. Alas, the salons don’t offer discounts on French manicures for the four-handed.

Revolutions have been unleashed for less.

First Published: Mar 10, 2014 16:05 IST