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Sculpting their own sky

Places, first so intrinsically believed to be male domain, are being challenged constantly today by women, writes Vijaya Sharma.
PTI | By INDIA DIARY | Vijaya Sharma
UPDATED ON MAR 31, 2004 08:44 PM IST
Tuesday is the day for another cricket clash between India and Pak and Pakistan must be itching to get their act right this time. They will sincerely hope that it is "Going, going gone" in opposition to "Going, going, won" which was headline the day after India won what the paper turned as "The Karachi Killer".

Interesting competition newspapers have too, in their attempt to rustle up a headline that is simply the best. You take your pick: March 14, Saturday the day of the match, said: It's Showtime", said: "Green vs Blue is equal to Red Hot", gave it a cosmic twist when India won by saying: "Big Bang Beginning" and on Saturday when it was to begin, they declared it: "Saturday Fever", taking off on that classic movie from the year 1977 starring John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney, , while called the win "Run Riot in Karachi." Only avoided the blaze and blast of adjectives and gave it a most conventional headline: "India  clinches thriller against Pak" and gave more space to another story on the front page: "Mayawati rules out alliance with Congress."

A thriller it truly was but certainly not in the league of greatest one-dayers as they were too many extras from Pak, too little fire from Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar (perhaps the hype and hoopla in media bites about Shoaib led to soaring expectations), patchy fielding from India which made it less than a legendary India-Pak clash, playing as the two countries were after a gap of
15 years. One shall wait and watch if the Rawalpindi Express will turn up the heat, bowling in front of the home crowd on March 16.

The Indo-Pak series, though, is bad news for Bollywood badshahs.  Theatre's have been running empty on match days but theatre owners accept it  practically and pragmatically: "It is the India-Pak clash after all. What else can one expect," sigh owners of multiplexes.

Cricket diplomacy

Nandita Das in a scene from the movie Bawandar

Track-II diplomacy is still on, cricket style. NGOs from India and Pakistan are trying to get slum children from India and Pak get together for their own cricket clash but like the original was, this one too is beset by delays caused by visa technicalities.

The authorities want names of parents of the slum children, and this information is not available in many cases. Many little hearts have been broken but efforts are still on. Bollywood actress Nandita Das is trying to take Indian slum children to Pak now and is more than willing to have a helping hand from people who will really work to turn her efforts into a reality.

Young and talented (she has done that marvellous portrayal in


and then in


, the dusky and beautiful Nandita (daughter of famous painter and sculptor Jatin Das) stands apart from the bevy of young actresses flooding the industry. She refuses to conform to Bollywood norms, does not care much if she does not get written about in gossip columns and says: "If you want to believe that I am not being seen in films because I am not getting them, then so be it... you are welcome to believe that."

With a candour so characteristically hers, Nandita says: "I hate these media people who will just call up with a "Hi, Nandita, so what is your  favourite this and that... What are your 10 favourite things..."

These inane page three queries make little sense to her and she believes in being truly involved in what she does.

Zara hatke Bollywood stars

Deepti Naval at the Zanskar glacier

Another Bollywood star who lives life the way she likes is Deepti Naval, seen recently in an outstanding performance in Somnath's


and then

Freaky Chakra

. She recently became the first non-Tibetan Indian woman to travel the Zanskar Glacier on foot, all on her own and clicked her own pictures too, which were recently exhibited.  She is also a painter and a poet and a keen nature lover. " I should, perhaps, been a bird," she says. In freezing temperatures, she trekked alone to fulfil a passion quite in the manner of the woman duo Anne Bancroft and Liv Arnesen who, recently, succesfully trekked across Antarctica and now plan to become the first woman pair to cross the Arctic Ocean. We may have to walk across and in some places even swim across it, said Arnesen in a televsion interview. Tough task, that. But then nothing really is impossible and places, first so intrinsically believed to be male domain, because women lacked the male strength and stamina to enter them, are being challenged constantly.

Sculpting their own sky
Worldover yet, women are raped, battered, burnt as witches, a regular and frequent occurence in Nandurbur district in Maharashtra as in developed countries, too. Even in professional arenas, their hard work is rebutted by statements such as "Oh, you achieved this because you are a young woman ( a line hurled often at CNN war correspondent Anita Pratap), as if they used their sexuality to get the work done and had little brains. In buses when you travel, men consider it their prerogative to rub and feel them all over and no one raises a voice.

In a country like India where the woman is considered a shakti  and worshipped as a devi, she is equally treated as a fun object when the daily sexual harassment women face is brushed off with a facile term such as "eve-teasing", as if it was a harmless game. Noted script-writer Javed Akhtar says; "There is an urgent need to replace the term eve-teasing with a much more strong term. Eve teasing is a harmless word to describe what is a heinous crime against women and a trauma which they have to undergo each day."

Eve Ensler, author of Vagina Monologues

International Women's Day has come and gone. Eve Ensler has taken her play

Vagina Monologues

all around the globe - from Juarez to Pakistan - to give a wake-up call to women and to call out to educated men that only when they step ahead will the battering and raping of women stop. Kerala has the highest literacy rate. It also has the highest number of educated women.

But it also has the highest incidence of instances of sexual harassment of women. Women in the state hesitate to step out on their own fearing the lewd comments and physical assault they have to put up with.

Mere literacy as we all know does not translate into being educated in a holistic sense.

Will we, as a people, do something to put an end to it?

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