And we thought babies were made out of love…

Despite all our theorizing and debating, the poor continue to exist, inequality persists and the vulnerable continue to suffer due to discriminatory policies especially in areas of health, education and employment. And because the oppression and insecurity, both social and economic, are not as stark i.e. discrimination is far more refined and subtle, the identification of problem areas and realisation of a fair society becomes all the more difficult. About three weeks back, I heard of Christian orphanages being raided in the city of Hyderabad. It may have been motivated by communal politics. But I'm not here to examine those motivations or even the legal/police details or discrepancies that are involved. Neither would I question nor undermine the good faith in which these organizations work, provide shelter and care and also manage to find the children loving homes. Yes they make money and somewhere something inside twitches when one realizes that the charitable organization possibly earns a good amount of non-taxable foreign exchange when their babies find homes abroad. But " babies can't live with just love and air " . . . they need food, they need ayahs; and they also need toys. However if one goes a bit further one realizes the repercussions of such a network where charity meshes into commerce. In a society where exploitation and coercion is rampant and has weaved into every thread, we can ignore that little twitch for sometime. The end would nullify it. But we cannot turn away from the degenerative trends that it may put into action. Following this news, I read an article (HT) about a tribal woman being offered a sum of Rs. 2000 to deliver a baby which would then be taken to an orphanage by the broker. The babies of this tribe are high on demand because of their fair skin and good features. Whether or not the orphanage is aware or linked to these brokers or are even aware of them is impertinent. What is relevant is that the trend has been set and one can't ignore it. Today morning (04/06), I opened the editorial page of TOI and found an article about British girl students selling their eggs to childless parents to pay off their student loans. It is a convenient option for them and an alternative to not begin their life with a burden of 10000 pounds. They are able to sell their eggs for as much as 6000 pounds. And the price goes up if the student has a PhD; if she's a Jew or east African/Asian. Parents without children can start a family. The Woman who provides them with the option can start a new life without the burden of having to pack back a huge loan. But something inside still twitches and we must learn to ignore it. To delineate my argument: we have these two woman ... one who makes a baby and sells it so she can provide a square meal for her family ... the rest of her family. And the other who does something somewhat similar, but the coercion is not so stark. What a striking similarity between a woman of the developed world with a PhD degree and a tribal woman from Andhra Pradesh ... both experiencing the same element of duress. Our tribal woman has little choice, but maybe that is not so unfortunate because her duress is even more stark and lawmakers, if they so choose, can check it. Whereas their student who has more choices and is therefore more empowered, has little protection ... or probably she chooses not to have any. I suppose now I can once again come back to what I was saying earlier about how as we move up the ladder of development and empowerment... discrimination/coercion becomes more and more subtle. From ignoring a girl child's education to sexual harassment at office ... we are moving towards subtler forms of discrimination. But is this what my attempt is ... is this what our struggle is all about. That even though we can create choices for ourselves, the element of coercion continues and some of us are so confused about identifying them that we infact make choices that perpetuate that coercion.

I thought I had it all figured out

...I thought I had it all figured out. Maybe not at first instance, but after a few times.... The movie, Ghare-Bahire, when I first saw it as a child it left me with distinct impressions...one of great admiration for the husband's character; and the other was empathy for the female character, though I fear the empathy had more to do with the remorse that she felt at the end and little to do with the conflicts of a bold woman in a changing society. Those were the two distinct impressions. And as I grew to understand the story better, the subtle yet complex references, I learnt to appreciate it more. The many dimensions made me feel more complete. The Revolution outside and the Reform inside....juxtaposed with one another. Given that the various upheavals and conflicts of each individual; and each in their own way attempting to resolve them...left me unsettled but satisfied. Satisfied because I am always more comfortable confused than decided. Starting with the reading of English poetry, 'zenana' education and piano classes to the final step of crossing the threshold...the revolution was just as radical inside as it was outside. The fire was ignited and it would engulf all... The feeling or the realisation that as a women, you were capable of being the 'object' of 'another man's' admiration, was an overwhelming one...just as overwhelming as the slogan "Vande Mataram". Intense and gripping in their own way, the two revolutions ran parallel. Both within their capacities and in their different arenas, introduce themselves with vigour and excite you and it is only after a while that you begin to examine the two movements more rigorously. The initial excitement is fed by the intense ideological base....more vociferous in case of the revolution outside i.e. Bahire; and less so but articulate nevertheless in case of the revolution inside i. e. Ghare. However after that, one stops to rethink, question the sustainibilty of the ideology against the pragmatism of the world...the economic base in case of the Bahire; and the social base in case of the Ghare. At the end the viewer/reader has gone through the roller-coaster of ideological battles and the stillness of pragmatism in both the revolutions....and he/she is wiser... ....and I thought I had it all figured out, until I read something and decided to re-examine the Ghare of Ghare-Bahire. The reform, the revolution, the crossing over the threshold, the 'bhairer ghar'....emancipation of women. The call of the day..."the new Indian woman"....her husband's true mate, educated with an opnion of her own.  All of that and so much more.... all initiated by the 'male reformer'.....the modern, educated, secular husband. But there is another tangent to the story. I call it a tangent for the benefit of those who might conclude that I have streched this a bit too far. ....the male reformer..set in the 19th century...the Indian man, educated in Western Science...questions why his land is colonised. He then seeks the answer in theories of the west and in the process discovers this harmless equation..."advancement of society is directly related to the status of women in the society". Having understood the relationship he decides to emancipate the Indian woman, make his society a progressive one and finally achieve the greater end of freeing himself from the disgrace of colonialism. The Indian woman is the subject and her emancipation the means. She gets educated; they stop burning her with her dead husband; they even allow the young widow to remarry; and soon enough we find women working in the social sector. It was the beginning and the male reformer had waved the flag. But the woman is still the subject. Not an equal in her husband's perception even though he tries so hard to separate his love from the conditioning of existing power / gender relation..." for he had imagined many situations, even her death, but could not imagine one in which she would not be his wife ". What is even more amazing is that " project emancipation " is passed on from one patron to other. Whether or not it is a project that she understands is of least importance. The educated wife visits the bahirer ghar; there she meets the radical man who makes her the " Queen Bee ". She is flattered and excited. Yet she is naive and lost. Why ?...because she has been passed from one patron to another and they are all that she can seek when she is lost because her battle began with the help of the patron....remember the male reformer !!! The emancipation doesn't come without a price...it comes with the patronising male reformer; and the criticism and contempt of the other women of the household. As I try to comprehend the confusions of this particular female mind, I can not help but wonder if she really wanted to be eithrt the subject of a husband's experiment...a quiet, inert, loving husband; or be caught amidst the passionate tornado of a radical extremist. Did she want any of it ? Was she allowed the individualism to identify these choices, much less make them ? I wonder...as I wonder how much more there is that I still haven't figured out...