‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls — Conversation Zimbabwe

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Original post: ‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls On 6th September, StarFM’s show Pane Nyaya hosted two children who spoke about being forced into prostitution in Harare. One was 9, the other 13. The interview, painful to listen to, sat with me for hours on end. The 9 year old girl explained how […]

via ‘We had no other choice’ – rape culture & sexual exploitation of girls — Conversation Zimbabwe

When rape becomes a culture, and the female body only a tool for deriving pleasure, the matter of choice of ceases to exist. In such situation if a woman is desired by a  man, she will be made to succumb, because she does not exist as a human. She is rather only a means of gratifying sexual hunger. Thus, reducing her to the status of an inanimate object to be used and disposed as per will. Think, ponder and discuss why is it that only women are at fault. Its high time that men own up and the society paves way for gender equality.

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World Intellectual Property Rights Day: 26 April’ 2017

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Earlier this year, as part of my profile as an IBDP librarian, I thought of introducing the topic of plagiarism and academic honesty in a way that will be better understood by the students. I wanted to make an impact that would stay with them. So I thought of improvising and combined World Intellectual Property Rights Day with a talk on plagiarism.

So, on 25th April, a workshop was conducted for the IB students regarding World Intellectual Property Rights Day (26th April’2017). The aim of the workshop was to inform the students about: What is Intellectual Property? Intellectual Property Rights, Copyrights, Patent, etc. The primary aim was to inform and educate students about the need and importance of copyright, and how plagiarism relates to this. In an earlier session, the students had been briefed on the need and importance of plagiarism and referencing. Thus, the workshop on Intellectual Property was appreciated by the students since they better understood the concept of copyright in literary field and how it affects their work as well. The students could draw connections between the two topics and discussed the same.

The topic for this year was Innovation: Improving Lives (in fields of Education, Healthcare, Clean energy, Agriculture and Communication). Students prepared talks and poster on this topic and presented it before their class. The unique style of presentation and their own understanding of the topic is reflected in their works. The posters reflect their creativity as well grasp of the topic. Each poster highlights a different field where Innovation has brought about change and improved the lives affected by it.

The idea was met with huge appreciation by both students and heads of school, who found that the event was successful in reinforcing the need for academic honesty and how the rights are violated when work is plagiarized. I, on my part was thrilled to see that my efforts paid off to incorporate a topic that they are aware of (Copyright), and merge it with their own skill and work.(plagiarism and copyright).

Memory’s Daughter by Krishna Sobti

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Reading this book both angered me and yet also made me feel heart broken at the plight of women in Indian society. Not much has changed from where she started. Women then and now are treated as mere cattle with value only for the womb that bears offspring, only to be pushed back into backdrop soon after. She has no identity for herself except daughter of, wife of , or even mother of. It is only in the 2oth century that women began to think for themselves and also carve a niche for themselves. But there is not much difference in the then and now. Atrocities at women still continue irrespective of where she comes from. The female species is still eyed upon as possession to be acquired as when desired by men. If she refuses then dominance and violence is used to overpower her submission.

Sobti’s Memory’s Daughter ( Daar se bichudi) is set in rural Punjab of the early 19th century. It is the story of a young woman named Pasho. It traces her life as she is sold and bought like cattle in a charged world of war among Afghan and the Anglo-Sikh of the 19th century Punjab. The female protagonist Pasho in the first few pages seems to be cast in the stereotypical mould of ideal Indian girl; and yet at times she rises to impresses with her strong will and courage. Despite being a victim of manifold oppression, physical abuse and violence, she handles the challenges of her life successfully and overcomes all difficulties.

In the novel, Pasho displays the tendency of every village girl, devoid of education, to accept the four walls of the household as her domain. She can be viewed as an out-and-out traditional woman who is completely ignorant of her rights as a human. She has no aspirations at all, other than bearing and rearing children for the family and feels content in performing the household chores. She rightly justifies the angel-in-the-house image of woman. As an orphan she is dependent on her maternal uncle for shelter. Thus her plight  from the traditional Indian mindset is that of finding a home. Without home, she is insecure, vulnerable and thus a cause of shame to the entire family. Therefore, once she has crossed the threshold of her maternal uncles’ house, circumstances keep on tossing her from one household to another and she has absolutely no clue as to what to do under the circumstances. Which only highlights the narrow minded societal set up where women are best kept inside the four walls of their homes.  And it is this insecurity that breeds within Pasho , binding her to the  threshold of her maternal uncles’ house, which she cannot cross, in spite of incessant abuses and thrashing. Finally, when she does that after sensing a potential danger to her life, she arrives at places which she considers her home, even though she is treated as a slave and at best a tool for deriving sexual pleasures. She does not run away from these places due to her fear of lack of shelter.

The journey of Pasho is the journey of every woman who fails to recognize her worth, and only measures herself with the capacity of her womb. In fact, she is no better than a female animal, a bhogya – a thing to be enjoyed and a toy to be played with by the male. Nevertheless, Pasho also displays a  “will to live”. This is a strong desire in her and this trait of her personality renders a touch of grit and liveliness to her personality. In spite of all hardships, she never loses heart or contemplates suicide. This physical beauty imparts a sense of arrogance to her character though outwardly she appears timid. This narcissism however becomes her greatest strength as she is able to get through all critical phases her life has in store for her amidst some happy moments. Had she not been in love with the self, she would not have been able to take so much suffering. Again a fact that needs to reiterated often to women to love themselves and to be in charge of their own lives. The protagonist emerges victorious even after being repeatedly sold and purchased like a cattle, played upon like a piano and treated like a servant.It is her desire to live even against heavy odds that becomes her forte.

So the reading of the book requires one to be ready to dive deep down into the rural India that existed before partition, and to see that women were marginalized and abused at free will of men. But Pasho can be seen as a strong, gritty character who despite her traditionalism, stands tall and she does display a sense of inner strength and personal courage. She may be seen in the women we meet on the streets who have no means of education and for whom living means to be totally dependent on their menfolk. They are at the mercy of the men they are married to or born to, to be used and disposed as and when they please.

 

Sunflowers of the Dark: Krishna Sobti: translated by Pamela Manasi

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Katha has always offered a wide array of literature through translated works. I recently finished reading Krishna Sobti’s ‘Memory’s Daughter’. And the after effects are that I am drawn to books by the author. So I managed to lay my hands on another masterpiece, “Sunflowers of the Dark”. The title of the book is enigmatic, and I was hooked on to it from the first page.

The content is highly relevant even today, and all women who have ever been a victim to sexual assault or abuse would find this book liberating. The words seem to have a life of their own that create images before your eyes even as you read. That is the magic of this book.

Plot: It is the story of Ratti, a woman who was sexually abused in her teens . Her spirit continues to be tormented by demons from her past. It raises its head like the hood of a snake to spit venom on her present. She fails to establish relationship with any male  as the past grips her in cold fear whenever she tries to be physically intimate. Yet has an indomitable spirit that refuses to kneel though it weeps. She has a fire, a spirit that does not allow her to succumb or mask herself for the sake of pleasing the ego of her male friends.

The book brings to fore front many issues that assailed women before Independence. But have a look around and not much has changed for women. Ratti is a strong girl, who faces every situation head on and does not shy away from them. She asserts herself boldly and does not bow down even as a teenager when confronted. What happened to her was beyond her control; so why should she carry her dead past over her shoulders always? But the incident does leave a scar on her mind and heart, rendering her helpless against the angst she feels. There is no respite for her and adding to her woes is the mindset of the society that holds her responsible for the accident and constantly reminds her of the misfortune in the form of her schoolmates who fabricate stories about her leaving her amidst the jungle of sexist comments.

Even after years, she is unable to let of go of the incident which hampers her  relationships with men and snubs any of her attempts to realize her womanhood. She tries to consummate with her male friends but the cold grip of her past sends her freezing. Little do they understand her agony and frustrated, they name her sexually perverted and “lacking in heat”. A remark which stayed with me was “…That you have no heat. Barring that of the clothes on your body.” Just because she refuses to give in to the demands of the males she is labeled as a cold wretch-less woman. 

Her saying is unacceptable to her male friends. She refuses to  submit herself to a male who like the unidentified rapist wants to overpower her using brute force.All her male friends let her down emotionally and she is unable to connect with any to let go of herself. Her guards are always up and she refuses to accept any contact where she is not an equal. 

Sobti chose to write against the conventional social fabric of the time and has presented a woman who is in control of her sexuality and refuses to bend to the dictates of society. Ratti can be viewed an an important milestone in the journey of Indian woman
towards self-actualization. She can be called a liberated woman with a modern clear ideas about womanhood and her rights. She is economically independent, courageous and does not allow her past to bend her down. She does not let the traumatic incident crush her personality and mind.Even in the absence of emotional support Ratti successfully maintains her equilibrium. Through Ratti, Sobti shows how a woman can assert herself rather than sit on the sidelines as a marginalized victim waiting to be rescued. She is her own savior. In this sense, she rejects the idealistic, utopian solutions and adopts a practical, down-to-earth take towards the real life problems.

A must read for all women to salute to the never die spirit of all women who struggle and yet smile through their tears.

Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay(Translated by Malobika Chaudhari)

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After having finished reading Munshi Premchand’s “Nirmala”, I found myself drawn to read literature that were set in India before independence. Yes we have read much in our History books, but the real depiction of the times can be best seen in the literature where writers were bound by that shackles of the society and yet tried to break them down at the same time.

So this time I picked up “Parineeta” written by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Having seen the movie, I was keen to read the book. But at 112 pages it was a fast read. I have heard a lot about the book and was reading the book with lot of expectation. But at the risk of being rebuffed by fans of the author and the book, I have to say I was disappointed. So to all my 21st century women, if you happen to read the book, be warned that it would anger your spirits.

The storyline is nothing impressive, and I am thankful that I happened to watch the movie before the book(a rarity). If it was other way round then I would not have made it to the movie. Though one of the most revered book by Indians , I feel the popularity is a little misplaced. But then seeing that India is still in the grips of a male chauvinistic society, the book had to gain popularity.

Plot: It is the story of a 13-year-old orphan girl, Lalita, who lives under the care and shelter of her maternal uncle. She is deeply infatuated with the neighbor’s son, Shekhar who happens to be many years senior to her, around 24-25 years of age. Such is her adoration for Shekhar that she willingly succumbs to his every whim and fancy, making  herself choice-less.  Even if she desires to go for a movie with her friends , she stays back only to please Shekhar when he objects to her going out. It is a prank turned awry that is the main twist of the plot.Lalita garlands Shekhar on a certain day deemed auspicious, and she is considered betrothed to him. Being a child woman in the 1920s she begins to regard Shekhar as her husband. But Shekhar knows that his father would never accept his marriage to an orphan girl with no dowry, especially when her uncle had converted to Brahmo Samaj from Hinduisim. Here is another reflection of India which has not changed much even now. A girl without dowry is a burden upon her family since she is not considered worthy of marriage.  Lalita ‘s uncle too under pressure of having girls of marriageable age and not having economic means converts to Brahmo Samaj, to escape dowry.

The story progresses with entry of Girin, and the love triangle that ensues. Lalita grows up with the acceptance of being married to Shekhar, though he remains aloof and even proceeds to get married to another. What happens further is to be read, I would not ruin your reading. But the book left some burning thoughts in my heart and mind. Embers that refuse to be quenched.

Lalita was only 13 year old when she got married to Shekhar and which is a  common phenomenon even now in rural India. Child marriage was the norm of pre Independence India and still continues in certain parts. Thus for Lalita it came naturally to take Shekhar as a husband while playing Doll’s marriage. Lalita is not just a child but a young woman of marriageable age. The character is a representation of the ideal woman image that she and young girls were expected to emulate. So, her behavior, mannerisms, beliefs, display just the same.

But the main burning question is the gender dynamics in Parineeta, which is still in place in India even today.

Lalita, is not like a person but a piece of furniture, which is how women are still treated in India. The patriarchal set up is so strong that her uncle, Shekhar and all the other male characters in the novel mouth questions like: Where can she be put? What is to be done with her? Who will take charge of her? Who can she be married to? Which house can she be moved to next? An author of such stature to write such was a big disappointment. Females are treated as a non-entity – with no voice, opinions and choices. Her life is not hers to decide what to do with, it is decided by her father first, and then husband. She does not decide who she wants to be or not be, what she wants to do or not do, and where she wants to go or not go. She has no right over her life.

If you take a moment to look around you would see that this is the ideal form of womanhood which is placed on a pedestal. But this very image results in the killing of more than 50 million women in India – killed at every stage of life. They are looked upon as inanimate objects, depersonalized, usable, movable, and disposable objects like Sarat Chandra’s heroines.

Other questions that dig in my mind are is why girls and women adhere to this ideal woman image like it were a hypnotic conditioning? Why are females expected to be devoid of sense of self and individuality, and submit to the dictates of her male counterpart, her family, and society, serve them all diligently without questioning, and allowing them to do with her life whatever they please.The men believe that the world – including his family and the women are there to serve him and submit to his will. And this in a nutshell is Sarat Chandra’s idea of an ideal male-female relationship .

And the answer is found in what Shekhar said: Religion. In every religion in the world  the husband is put on par with god. Ancient revered scriptures teach women: they must worship their husbands like God and Master, even if he is a brute, is promiscuous, and has no redeemable qualities. He may beat you black and blue but you are expected to take it all without flinching.  So the question is:   Till when will the Indian woman bow down to their husband(human Gods) or would they have to courage to challenge their God?

Christmas fest: Symphony

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I know this is a tad too late a post for last year’s celebrations. Been engrossed in too many things and though wanted to write about the wonderful event I never managed to. Better late than never.

I celebrated Christmas fest ‘SYMPHONY’ from 19th to 23rd December’2017, along with my teammates.Several activities were planned for all the classes, SEN children and NIOS students. Separate worksheets were arranged catering to individual needs. Special worksheets were arranged for French and Spanish students as well. Students enjoyed their library classes with mazes, word searches, crosswords based on Christmas. Library was decorated with Christmas and winter symbols to ensure this festive feeling. But the showstopper happened to be the cute snowman which was made with plastic glasses( by me). The whole Library was actively engaged to make the library look more colourful and vibrant. All the decorations were made or drawn by us.

Invites were sent out one week before. Personal invites were given to all the heads. Posters were displayed inside and outside the LRC, in front of the lunch hall, MBR to make children aware about the fest.Competitions were organised for each form. Form VI took part in the Christmas card making competition (they used two colours: red & green). Form VII took part in the Christmas story writing and Form VIII enjoyed Christmas cross words. To make this even more memorable we asked everyone to ‘WISH A BOOK’ in which the users can wish a book and they will get the opportunity to be the first borrower of the same book.

Since day one there was lot of excitement around the event. Library decorations were praised by everyone. Children enjoyed several activities. Apart from regular library classes they came to solve puzzles, fun worksheets. Special thanks to Arti Vig ma’am, in collaboration with her we received wonderful Christmas cards made by our children. SEN chidren also came with Rekha Singhal ma’am and enjoyed special surprises planned only for them. Other teachers also visited LRC during the celebration. Our heartiest thanks to Archana Mishra ma’am, Bhulakshmi Malik ma’am, Komal Dhawan ma’am, Brigitte ma’am, Bhawna Ghosh ma’am, Akansha Malik ma’am for bringing their classes for the celebration and support us. Several teachers, administrative staffs, central office staffs also came to be part of the celebration. Visits by our respected heads boosted us to perform even better. We were delighted with the presence of Manika ma’am, Manisha ma’am, Madhur ma’am, Girija B. ma’am, Anjali ma’am, Shoma ma’am, Aashima ma’am, Ravinder Julka Sir, Yamini ma’am and Pooja Thakur ma’am.

All that could have been: Mahesh Bhatt, Suhrita Sengupta

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“All that could have Been” is a 142 page turner that leaves you asking for more.It does not beat round the bush and the tight plot makes it a delightful read. The book is about unrequited love. Yet at the same time it is about love that surpasses all odds and does not follow the injunctions of the world.

The book raises many questions for the discerning reader and forces you to question the norms and dictates that govern our society. He questions through the story that why women alone are tied down by traditions and customs. And the men are free from the shackles that otherwise suffocate the lives of women. It is in this very strain that the story unfolds. The novel questions the restrain society places on emotions and passions. And why passion is a taboo, a word which only creates dirty images and is treated only with sexual connotations. But for a mature person passion withholds in itself several layers of meaning and depends on the people.

Vasudha Prasad is a single mother though married she raises her son single handedly. . She keeps the memory of his father alive for him by writing notes to him and giving gifts in his name. The father in question, Hari Prasad is missing all this while. In the midst of her sheltered life enters Aarav Ruparel, a rich hotelier who has no fixed address. He has lived out of a suitcase and is amongst one of the richest men alive. Fate plays its cards, Vasudha and Aarav’s path cross and the rest that follows is not something they could predict or control.

This is a story of love and sacrifice. Its about all encompassing love that makes existence worthwhile even if lived short. Vasudha’s story tugs strongly at your heart, making you cry between your tears. The connection between Vasudha and Aarav will make you hold your breath and their love will make you feel light. A book that takes you on a ride of emotions, took a piece of me when I finished it. Left me asking for more.

Mahesh Bhatt is truly skilled in narration with never a dull moment. The story grips you from the start since you cannot predict the turn of events. Just when you think you know what will happen in the next page, your thoughts are overthrown by the author in his signature style.

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