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The hands that count the votes rule the world?

August 6, 2009 Leave a comment

This may be just a silly joke, and a statement that plays into stereotypes about India and is condescending to her audience – but it sure does warm my cockles to hear a US politician acknowledge, for once, that they may not always be the Best at Everything:

Clinton Pitches India As Model For Africa

NAIROBI (AFP)–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .[….]… was speaking to students in Kenya, where politics remain tense after a hotly disputed election triggered street violence until a power-sharing deal was reached in February 2008.

Clinton told the students that India’s billion plus people also had strong political differences.

“But they have figured out how to run an election where the results can be surprising and unpredicted but accepted,” she said at the University of Nairobi.

“I said only half-jokingly after our problems with our 2000 election, and then our 2004 elections in some of our constituencies, that we should outsource our elections to India,” she said


Categories: India vs US, politics, pride

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

April 18, 2009 Leave a comment

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.

Wonder Woman! Woot!

April 13, 2009 Leave a comment

So, on a lark, P pointed me to the Wonder Woman DVD at Blockbuster last week, and we watchd the movie today, simply because we wanted the next one in quickly. I speak for both of us when I say we LOVED, LOVED the movie.

And P is impressed by Keri Russell too – but I found her interviewing (here, go to ‘NEWS’) kind of hesitant. It’s the same irritating “oh, I know I did something that could be construed as feminist/strong, but – hahaha – hey dont hold it against me! I didn’t really *giggle* mean it, y’know!“. What’s with all these women?

On the contrary, the interview with Virginia Madsen (same location: here, go to ‘NEWS’) reads like a yummy bowl of the most wholesome wholemilk chocolate ice-cream ever. See what she has to say:

QUESTION: Did you prepare for voicing the Queen of the Amazons in any special way?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Well, I prepared this morning by writing several edicts for my son (laughs). Honestly, I love when I get to play these characters that are bigger than life. There are roles in animation that I never get to do in real life and it appeals to my ego as an actor to play the Queen of Everything (laughs) Hey, I’m honest. I admit it.

VIRGINIA MADSEN: This is a blockbuster voice cast – any thoughts on your co-stars?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Actually, Marg Helgenberger and I were waitresses in the same restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. I’m happy to say that that restaurant has since been torn down. But Marg made it out first. We both had an audition for ABC soaps different soaps, but we auditioned at the same time, and she got the part and went off to New York. Three years later, I went to L.A. So she was kind of an inspiration to me. And it makes sense that we will both be in Wonder Woman together, because we ARE Wonder Women (laughs).

QUESTION: Is there a comic book role that your inner geek covets?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Sadly, I really want to be Batman … and I just never will be (laughs). That’s the cross I bear. When I was growing up, the really, really cool super heroes were all male so I wanted to be them. I really didn’t like Batgirl. I was like, ‘No, if I’m not gonna be Batman, I’m not gonna play.’ Maybe they could write an evil female super villain who takes over Batman, and nobody knows. Then I could live my dream (laughs). I think that’s a good idea.

[all bolding mine, all symbols and punctuation mine]

I think that’s a great idea too, Madsen! And kudos for not settling for a side girl role. May “they” write greater and better women roles for women like you to play and for people like us to watch and fall in love with.

This movie may not yet pass the Ultimate Heroine Test, but we at least have one (B) of three qualifications met:

A movie with a strong leading woman character:

A) Whose sex life the audience is not made aware of, either its details or the fact of its existence.
B) Who is not, or has not, and will not be sexually assaulted during the narrative.
C) Who does not have a makeover.

And this is my live blog of the movie [Spoilers possibly ahead – but you’ll first need to make sense out of my notes, har har har]:
_____________
W.O.W. the origin story is simply F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. I’m drooling at the richness of all this. It’ll take me DAYS of reading Bullfinch to unpack all of this.

why did the GUY pilot have to go onto the island? I was hoping for the black woman ‘rook’. But yay for pilots! (After doing my first stall and my first landing and my first take off today, I feel like I’m already Amelia Earhart! :-))

ummm.. with all this discussion of what to do about the stupid pilot and the outside world – even THIS movie would fail the Bedchel test!!!

wolf whistles, ‘hot chick’ – why do the Amazons allow that? And is it really something to be brushed off?

ok, I get the silly stars and stripes – but why did Diana have to wear a bikini? Thats not even remotely like what the Amazonians were/are all wearing.

And why’s PErsephone the betrayer? Because women cannot be trusted, as always? Not good.

I liked how Diana’s mom said, because men are untrustworthy….

Great move on the Etta scene, where this colleague of Steves pretends to not be able to find her pen. But it’s WONDER WOMAN being independant – so its eas to externalize.

Aha. WW actually explains the patriarchy. 🙂 Awesome stuff.

Again, is ‘hot chick’ really something to be brushed off?

WW is a great role model too – she teaches small girls to defend themselves. Poor little girl, she doesnt know that even if she’s a zillion times better at the sword fight than the boys they wont let her play or win. Ask Hillary Clinton.

WW does NOT GET DRUNK!! WOOT!

This stupid pilot just sexualizes everything – every fight she wins. Is he trying to do a James Bond? And it’s a-okay – is he giving the audience permission to do so as well?

The street fight – wow. Simply awesome. Ten thousand leagues above the morass of the Watchmen street fight.

She pokes Deimos in the eye with a red stiletto. Umm, cute, but cliched. Anyway.

if only it was TWO girls fighting in the greek underworld, not Steve and Diana!

Is Ares is going to kill persephone? The sacrifice is like Voldemort’s attempt in the Goblet of Fire?
and Ares brought the statues to life – like in the Mummy. Which one thought of it first? Oh, maybe it was the Chinese a thousand years ago, with their Terra-cotta army….

So a simple stupid PILOT saves Wonder Woman from the talons of the eagle? AAARRGGGHHHH.This is Wybie all over again. I CANT WATCH!!!

she gives it back in the Ospedal. His first duty was not to save her, bt do her bidding. Men…………

At the footsteps of the Whitehouse, the battle begins.

Again Steve rescues her? Oh no, that was an arrow shot by *drumroll* THE AAAMAZOOONS!!!! YAY!

Oh, Ares can make Inferi…and like the Pirates in the Caribeean, they cant be killed. Every loss is doubled on the Amazonian side! Sister kills sister. Oh no. Oh no!

Ah, the inferi shake off their control with quick thinking by Artemis and Alexa. Oh good, so book knowledge is sometimes important too. Who were all those people criticizing WW for being yet another comic that glorifies violence – there’s a bone for ya!

Steve saves Atlantis….I kinda don’t mind at this point really. Wonder why :-).

Persephone ruins it for me by saying ‘we may be warriors, but we are women too – we need families and children’. What, and men don’t? It’s a false dichotomy, lady.

PERFECT – WW beat Ares with SCIENCE!! Though the fact that electricity is conducted in water should be basic…it’s surprising how less often media and fiction shows even this basic level of science. So TRIPLE YAY!

P: And she beats him fair and square. No black magic or sudden ‘out’s….

“I can lift cars, Steve – I can lift car door handles!” 🙂 oh, but she needs to apologize and keep his ego – and societal norms – in place? w.t.f.

Call if you’re going to be late, he says. Har har har .

Hey, when’s the next WW movie coming out?

In which the Sena believes itself to be an army

April 1, 2009 Leave a comment

Ram Sena, Shiv Sena, same difference. What they love to do is to attack anyone vulnerable. And of course, physically attacking women is what they live for:

Sena mob attacks Ajmal counsel

MUMBAI: In a midnight attack on Anjali Waghmare, the newly appointed defence lawyer for gunman Mohammad Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’, a Shiv Sena mob pressured her into writing a statement that she would withdraw herself from the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack case.

The group, which went to her residence at Worli here at 0015 hours on Tuesday, hurled abuses at her and made obscene gestures. The police said 12 people were booked on charges of rioting and outraging the modesty of a woman.

The party’s supremo, Bal Thackeray, even demanded that Ajmal be hanged publicly at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of the scenes of the terror strike.

I feel the same pain that these people do, and so do ~1 billion people. But the idea that I can use that pain, that anger, to deny the accused terrorist legal counsel is abhorrent, and frankly, so very counterintiutive.

The whole point of this attack that we believe this guy perpetrated, was to destory “India”, hurt our nation and make it more like Pakistan or Aghanistan or whatever his overlords believe is the best role model (no accounting for taste, really).

By hanging a human being in public or by not following proper Indian constitutional processes the Sena is themselves, voluntarily, moving our nation into Pakistan/Afghanistan/tribal/lawless land. By attacking a woman for following the law, while she’s in her house and has asked for police protection – the Sena is no different from the Taleb. By not allowing this guy what is due to him in a court of law, they’re delaying the punishment due to him and the justice that my nation can serve to a murderer – they’re delaying Dharma. By ripping clothes off women whom they believe to be indecently attired, they literally further the indecency of the womens’ attire and expose the depravity of their own souls. Their actions have no place in modern-day India, and no place in my country. And there is no place in any Sanskrit or Indian or Hindu (independent variables) literature or cultural reference where a nation that was unsafe for women was lauded for being great or well-ruled – but there are plenty of references to wonderful lands with great rulers who ensured that “even a lady peasant could take a walk at midnight, unmolested and unafraid”.

I bet they’re not even sure what kind of a Ram Rajya they want, but the fucking Sena idiots need to get a brain first.

Small thrills

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Should be ‘small joys’, but the list below sent a small thrill up my leg. I remembered the first when someone was bashing all mainstream Bollywood movies, including the ones made in the last ten years (many of which I love).

  1. Usually in any Hindi movie song, the hero plays an instrument and sings along. Magically, during the song when he gets up and walks around/jiggles/dances around a tree, the instument still keeps playing on. And he plays spectacularly well, even if every thing you’ve learnt about his history so far states he had a deprived childhood with no access to education, let alone musical training. But in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, a girl plays the guitar. And not even the heroine – this is a friend who plays the guitar, not the all-knowing all-accomplished hero.
  2. In Baabul, one of the worst movies of all time w.r.t entertainment value as well as values in entertainment [1], has a scene where Hema Malini (swoon) confronts her husband when she’s not allowed to attend her son’s funeral per Hindu (north Indian) customs. woot!
  3. Aishwarya’s million-dollar expression of unabashed lust in Jodha Akbar in that scene. I wonder if too much acting was required there, but that’s another story…
    The story itself was great in terms of class-and gender-equality, in allowing a Queen, who was pretty much her Lord’s property, to have the right of self-expression and be self-willed. Coming from a filmmaker like Gowarikar who’s made fantastic movies like Lagaan and Swades but where the women were just props, I loved him for making J-A so equal. woot!
  4. The last scene in Luck By Chance with Konkana’s character dumping Farhaan’s character – and with that, her meal ticket – since he was being self-centered.
  5. Priyanka Chopra’s character in Dostana crying – not for love, for relationships, for shame, for social approval, for fear – but for a career loss (!!) when she gets passed over for a promotion. This, when a leading lady with a career was rare in the 80’s and Madhuri’s ‘computer science student’ character in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was such big news.
  6. Konkana’s character in Amu doing the ‘search for her roots’ that’s usually the reserve of men around the world, since it is usually the man’s right and duty to carry on filial obligations and maintain/trace paternity lines.
  7. Shah Rukh and Rani’s characters together wishing for a girl child in Paheli. The movie itself was very strongly feministic, and talked about a woman’s right to choose her life partner and her destiny. It also was the rare Bollywood movie that allowed its leading characters to pick love over some random concept of family duty. And, its execution remained true to its setting and context. Excellent.
  8. Salaam Namaste: I know so many people had so many valid issues with this movie, but again, I’m grateful for small mercies. A leading lady with a career that is important to the story, earning her own money, working hard & long hours, and unconcerned about cleanliness in the house vs. her neat-freak male partner (YAAAAAYYYY!!!)
  9. Chokher Bali. The book was depressing in the extreme, and so’s the movie, because it reinforces old tropes of all women being sexual rivals of each other, no woman being worthy of your trust, widows as sexual predators, men as easy, innocent victims to manipulative women’s wiles, etc. But I liked that the movie showed a woman with a spine, even if by the end her spine, spirit and self are all crushed, even if she’s ultimately a victim of social mores and her she’s shown to have no control over her life or her destiny. Gosh, that was depressing – not sure if this still should be in this list!
  10. Dor – Both Gul Panag’s character as well as Ayesha Takia’s were feminists in their own ways. Of course, this one followed regional stereotypes, movie-making stereotypes, and may not even be a mainstream, masala Bollywood movie by most standards. And sadly, the women were strong not by themselves or ‘just because’; they were strong in their search for lost husbands or in their escape from rape, both situations that ‘allow’ for strength in women in a patriarchal context (other traditionally approved situations include saving your child from hunger/horror, fighting for your nation, nurturing your mother/family, etc.). But it was a good movie because it attempted to tell a woman’s story, at least showcase her voice. Small thrills, indeed.
  11. Aaja Nachle: the whole darn movie! The fact that Madhuri was back, and looking better and acting better and dancing better than ever. God, peeps, give this woman more movies, was positively glowing in every frame of this one. The fact that she didn’t need Akshaye to step in and help her out. The fact that she was not just a spirited fighter, she was also a master diplomat (watch the scene when she deflates the local goons gunning for her show with ‘this is so bharatiya, as opposed to a shopping mall, ji). The fact that she and her friend make up with each other (does that help the movie pass the Bedchel test?). Sadly, her counsel to Konkana when the younger girl is failing in love, to act feminine and play hard to get, was so cliched and all Rules-ey. Take it from one who did the opposite – the Rules often fail miserably, especially when your guy has a brain!
  12. Swades: The heroine does math! Long division! The numerical kind, not the family-feud variety! She does it in her head!
    And, she’s the first to declare to her boyfriend that she loves him [2]. Blub.
  13. Chak De India. Despite the fact that the film used a male authority figure and therefore reinforced traditional lines of control and leadership, despite the fact that it reinforced regional stereotypes and prejudices, despite the fact that it was marginally homophobic, despite the fact that it didn’t even examine class barriers, and despite the fact that almost all the characters save Shah Rukh’s were uni-dimensional, Chak De nevertheless was a ground-breaking movie. It showed that women could legitimately have outside interests, that women didn’t need to be either doormats or angry mis-fits, that women could play sports, that women could compete and be petty but still make up and fight/play together for the team, that women could be stunningly pretty and feminine and still be good sportspersons, that women could be conventionally ugly and ‘masculine’ and still be good sportspersons, that women could be boring-looking and still be good sportspersons, that women could legitimately express themselves with violence in public, that the various mediums of physical expression were still available to women (see this post and this one). And of course, it showed us (after Swades) that Shah Rukh Khan can actually act. Which is a feat in itself.

So, anyway, there’s my starting list. I’m sure I’ll add to this in time, too. Yay for Bollywood!

[1] sorry! 🙂

[2]Oh, and the best part – P openly gushed when her saw her do that. How I love my guy. 🙂

Anita Brookner

February 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I find myself falling in love with Anita Brookner after reading this interview of her. It’s unnerving to see how perfectly unhappy women can be, how perfectly unconventional, if they only let themselves be. It’s rare to see a woman so outside the pale of ‘normal human lifestage’, but her life and lifestyle are just a Disney cartoon version of every 80-year old woman’s.

I’m going to go buy myself one of her books now. On my new Kindle 2!!

Categories: literature, pride, sisterhood

Pride

February 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Immense, immense pride at this:

The nine are the Pakistani Muslim terrorists who went on an utterly senseless killing rampage in Mumbai on 26/11 ….are still in the morgue because the leadership of India’s Muslim community has called them by their real name – “murderers” not “martyrs” — and is refusing to allow them to be buried in the main Muslim cemetery of Mumbai, the 7.5-acre Bada Kabrastan graveyard, run by the Muslim Jama Masjid Trust.

The only effective way to stop this trend is for “the village” — the Muslim
community itself — to say “no more.” When a culture and a faith community delegitimizes this kind of behavior, openly, loudly and consistently, it is more important than metal detectors or extra police. Religion and culture are the most important sources of restraint in a society.

The fact that Indian Muslims have stood up in this way is surely due, in part, to the fact that they live in, are the product of and feel empowered by a democratic and pluralistic society. They are not intimidated by extremist religious leaders and are not afraid to speak out against religious extremism in their midst.

It is why so few, if any, Indian Muslims are known to have joined Al Qaeda. And it is why, as outrageously expensive and as uncertain the outcome, trying to build decent, pluralistic societies in places like Iraq is not as crazy as it seems. It takes a village, and without Arab-Muslim societies where the villagers feel ownership over their lives and empowered to take on their own extremists — militarily and ideologically — this trend will not go away.

Awesome. Take that, Ram Sene and all the idiots who support them. Even the minority community, the Muslims have the guts to stand up to stupidity in the name of religion. Where’s your courage?

Now if only women around the world could get the same courage up for themselves.