Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Minor Matters

Another Women's Day has come and gone with its share of surveys and soundbytes.
'Crash', a movie exploring racial tensions just had won the Oscar.
'Brokeback Mountain' has lost it out after winning all the other major awards. And right now its all poised for an Indian release.
Whats the common thread here that connects them all...
Nothing much. Just some minor matters!

35 million women are missing!!

I didn’t get the thread. I read on. According to CSI, projecting the country’s rate of growth from that of the 50’s, the figures fall short of 35 million women. Where did they end up? The statistics were pretty hazy on the issue. But there are the usual suspects.

A lethal dose of chemicals finding its way through the uterine chambers, to an unsuspecting prey, which has just mutated from being an amorphous mass to something with a sex tag.
Migratory birds – Peddlers of flesh and fun who got lost somewhere in the huge chasms of demographic borders.
Malnourished girls, wistfully eyeing the morsels of their hormone-wise better off siblings. Eyeing the extra rotis and sabzi gracing his platter and having sense enough not to comment on that.

The sound of bursting cylinders and the smell of burning linen saris have more or less subsided but the traumas and taunts live on in true Indian tradition.

35 million missing in 55 years! With the zeal of a newfound interest in numbers, I did the mathematics. Its 636363 numbers a year on an average. That’s what I call perfect symmetry. A clear pattern with ominous overtones.

When it comes to the fairer sex, pattern is always a touchstone.
There’s a pattern to their single-minded methodical pursuit of goals unlike the impulsive brilliance of the darker sex.
There’s a pattern to they way the fall in love and fall out of it.
There’s one in the way they empathise with the set characters of K-sagas in the telly world, and eventually grow out of it.
There’s even a pattern to the celebrity suicides which always turn out to be women coping with a high pressure lifestyle.

And these patterns, percentages and pie charts come into the picture when March 8th looms around the corner. When the Shobha De’s, Oprah’s and Ellen de Genre’s of the world draw sharp contrast with their tale of woes of the next door servant girl Kamala or the nameless flower-seller at the city junctions.

How relevant are these opinion pieces? Do they do justice to the role of being eye-openers or is it just clich├ęd verbosity to cover the 6”X3” column in the centre spread in the general spirit of the day?
Does it give fodder for the MCP’s to reexamine their ideologies or does it give a fillip to the bra-burners to revamp their agendas? Maybe both. Maybe none.
Some say you don’t need a single day to sing eulogies on womanhood. Some say a single day could be a start. Agree with both. Agree with none.
Bravos and claps for the hefty gift to the girl child in Budget 2006. Boos and catcalls for the still pariah figure of 33%. A pattern exists in this paradox too.

Minority matters are ubiquitous. Therefore minority MATTERS !
Be it ethnic, racial or sexual in nature.

The frontrunners in this regard were the blacks. They had a well-planned strategy, massive campaigns and charismatic leaders. The beginnings were quite modest. They pushed the envelope and outlawed the word ‘nigger’. African-American became the sanitized version. They slowly but surely defined themselves with their vigour and redefined themselves with their humour, music and dance forms. All’s not hunky-dory for them too. The Ku-Klux-Klan maybe extinct but racial tensions continue to simmer. The thermostat is in the ‘sim’ mode owing to their efforts in being part of the mainstream, in being colourful threads in the social fabric, by working hard, delivering good work and rising to the higher echelons.

The plight is sadder for the sexual minorities. Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transsexual (GLBT) community has been fighting it out for decades. For them, revealing their true selves is tantamount to being branded social outlaws in the least and being potential victims of hate crimes.
Matthew Sheppard, a 22 year old, was beaten to death for no fault of his, for the crime of possessing a genetic trait or a sexual preference, by a couple of homophobic youth. When the murderers themselves confessed that the victim had made no sexual advances at them (not that the act of murder would be condonable then) and that they had done the deed in a fit of something called ‘social justice’, there were thousands of Americans up in arms to defend their action. And the sad part of it is that the incident was not in the Victorian era but as recently as nine summers behind. Fuehrer Hitler had sent the gays along with the Jews to his death chambers. The Jews got a better deal later on. But for the gays of the world, Hitler lives on.

The gays of India have the Damocles’ sword of Section 377 hanging over their heads-a law that threatens to punish their natural instincts. The society watches on through a smoke glass and sees the stereotype of effeminate gays and dyke lesbians and then pretends not to see even that.
I’ve always believed that as long as one doesn’t encroach into the freedom of another, everyone has the right to follow their preferences and lifestyles.
I’ve got gay friends and I’ve seen their eagerness to watch a Brokeback Mountain (and unsure whether it would be a mutilated and ‘social-friendly’ version that would get screened in India). For them, the movie is tremendously important as it tells their story; as it gives creative expression to their longings. And they want the world to see it, to understand that they are no different from anyone else; in the weak hope that things may change and the world would be a bit more tolerant of them. When a community seeks redemption through a singular movie, you can perceive their plight.

These friends of mine were all set to pop beer bottles when Brokeback wins the Oscar.
I don’t know whether the beer bottles ‘crash’ed or remained unopened as the Academy settled for a dubious upset. There is no conspiracy theory here. ‘Crash’ is a classic but many say, it still falls behind Brokeback Mountain. The Academy doesn’t question its cinematic brilliance.
The reason for the upset could be the sense in giving the nod to a movie which everyone can relate to, though I’ve heard love is universal and Brokeback with its theme of unredeemed love, even more so.
Or the reason could be that Brokeback raised eyebrows by being ‘different’ and the largely conservative Academy intelligentsia thought twice about endorsing a movie which goes against American social mores. They billed the movie brilliant but when it came to awarding the movie, they couldn’t push themselves to the act. And as they didn’t want a stain on their liberal tag, they settled for a safer bet in ‘Crash’.

I saw the wistful look in the eyes of my gay friends as they smiled sheepishly; as if they didn’t expect anything better as snubbing was status quo for them. Despite that, it seemed they had silently hoped for a personal win. I made a date with myself that come March 10th, I would hold hands and give them company and cheer along as I watch their movie. Don’t need to get sentimental. The film is a classic I’ve heard.

And when I heard the news item on Tripala Kumari, an 18 year old girl who was killed for resisting the Draupadi-act, of sharing wifehood with four brothers, I realized that the plights were the same. Its just the premises that change.
Society hasn’t learnt to ‘live-and-let-live’, to respect a fellow human for what he/she is as a whole and to stop nitpicking at the oestrogen in your body, the pigment levels in your skin and the sexual trait in your genes. I dare say, much dubiously though, that times are changing and it’s high time it did.

As March 8th dawns, while the girls get busy celebrating their day, while the second citizens of the societies toil it out through another day and while the Indian gays do the last digits of their ‘Brokeback countdown’ as they call it, I, being the incorrigible flirt at heart forget the other two for the time being and wish all you beautiful ladies out there a wonderful Woman’s Day.
Let the day bring tidings of good times ahead.
After all the partying, before you wind up for the day, say a silent prayer, thanking God for creating you as the wonderful being called Woman.
And if you still feel you’ve been given a bad deal, just thank your fortune for sparing you the triple threat of being born a black lesbian!