Home > India vs US, invisible women, journalism, media misogyny, patriarchy, politics, pride, women leaders > Friday night musings and how far ahead India is sometimes – take that, Simone de Beauvoir!

Friday night musings and how far ahead India is sometimes – take that, Simone de Beauvoir!


I was watching TV last night – it’s unusual, but was a typical Friday decompression session where I don’t move my big butt for eight hours on end and get P to fetch and carry for me – and caught NDTV’s ‘Left Right & Center’, a political round table discussion mostly about the on-going elections.

First off, the oval table has four participants and one moderator – five people in all. Take a guess on the composition of the panel: FOUR women out of the five! On a f***ing political panel! I know this shouldn’t be such a big deal, I’ve grown up watching panels such as these, but after last year’s disgusting spectacle of US misogyny and lack of self-awareness or self-regulation in the Western media to their utter, complete bigotry – this was like a huge gulp of fresh air.

The moderator was a woman (in a brilliant mauve cotton sari), there was Jayanthi Natarajan representing the Congress (I), a woman from the CPI(M) and a woman journalist from Tehelka. There was also a lone guy from the BJP who was seated in a great position to create impact but ended up making some hilarious – and basic – debate missteps. Not that the others were great debaters, but they all at least succeeded in getting their points across without spewing endless non-sequitors. I re-realized how different the Indian debating style is to the antiseptic, colorless and totally fake ‘debates’ we see on TV here in the US. I suspect J.Jacques may actually be onto something here.

Anyway, back to the panel composition. Compare this with any political talk-show in the US, on television or on radio – including on NPR or Air America. Even, apparently, on the panels debating feminism, men are the majority. And you realize how remarkable this is that in India this panel was un-remarkable and why our rare inclusiveness and gender-blindness must be treasured (maybe we ought not speak too loudly about it or around it, or it’ll just go away?).

Say what you will about Barkha Dutt – her visibility and fame (infamy?) has helped carry forward the tradition of vocal and recognized women journalists, women newsreaders, women news presenters in India. Usha Alberquerque, Geethanjali Ayer, Neeti Ravindran, Minu, Komal GB Singh and all those awesome women – helped ensure India was never on the US track where a woman finally getting to read out the news from a teleprompter was a historic milestone that needed ‘achieving’.

I’m very impressed by Sajjan Lone, too, who made a brief appearance on the show. He evidently plays by the Oriental family playbook, not the more familiar Occidental one – i.e., the one with brother against brother for money, sister rivalling sister for a man’s affection, or parent vs. child for political power. Sajjan made sure to scuttle the chances of his sister Shabnam Lone, when she was running in the Kashmiri Assembly elections. But today in the show, the guy was articulate, incredibly humble and sans frands – sans pretensions. I cannot and do not agree with his policies or what he stands for, but the guy sounded like exactly the kind of politician who would not garner political victories simply because he’s too honest and openly intelligent.

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