Monday, August 29, 2011

Micheal Jackson

It doesn’t matter baby if you are black or white ….

I first heard the name ‘Micheal Jackson’ in class V. The boys in the class were discussing abt his latest concert at Mumbai, his idiosyncrasies, his terrific dance moves … all this was being discussed in highly animated voices … expressions of sth ‘near to impossible’ … I did not pay much attention to what I heard coz pop, disco, western, break dance, were alien and absolutely not of my concern… I thought I could never identify with them or may be not worth identifying …

Boys had multiple versions to explain how MJ transformed himself from black to white … according to one he had peeled off his black skin … while according to others he slept in a gas chamber … according to third version, he underwent a skin treatment … each one was striving to prove his version to be the most correct and from the most authentic source…

I thought how atrociously irrational… how can someone do this to himself? Since that moment I switched myself off to anything abt MJ …

On eve of his death in June 2010 the media was full of MJ life, dance, songs, interviews and news … just to understand the MJ ‘craze’ and the enigma around him, I randomly searched youtube … fortunately the first song I saw was the earth song, and as I was watching it I knew this was an important moment in my life… His voice, the emotions, the video, the picturization, the lyrics and overall impact of the Earth song was so electric that for next 6 months I surfed every possible sight and devoured every word written on and by him… for next 6 months I read anything and everything abt him… I got hooked to MJ… I fell in his love and I became another crazy fan of his.

The lyrics of the songs were something that appealed me the most…I think being a sociologist by profession, I could not ignore, his voice of dissent, protest and social concerns expressed through his songs. MJ had used his art to address issues like the global warming, war, racial discrimination and many others. He used his songs to convey his beliefs to his fans and very few artists are able to successfully achieve this through their arts …

MJ was always alleged of undergoing treatment to become ‘white’… so even if he has had undergone skin treatment to make himself ‘white’… if thought critically, this itself is a comment on the racial system of the USA…an black artist cannot feel comfortable in his ‘black’ skin… so much so that someone as sensitive and immensely talented as MJ had to take this drastic step.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson stated, "I have a skin disorder that destroys the pigmentation of the skin. It's something I cannot help. When people make up stories that I don't like who I am, it hurts me." (

‘The reality’ I think is irrelevant … Its doesnt matter if you are black or white... don’t want know… whatever may be the reason of his becoming ‘white’ what is important is the message he conveys through his songs… MJ’s life has always been mysterious… there has been mystery around everything about him and that’s sth make him more enigmatic … RIP MJ.. I love you and will miss you always…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

random thoughts... on dowry deaths

The other day one of my friend Anagha came home crying inconsolably .. after pacifying her for long time, all I could gather was that her sister was no more… her sister was burnt to death for a want of dowry… I went numb ..

… Media everyday is replete with news related to dowry deaths. Dowry is a sad reality of Indian society, and the cruelty with which a young bride is murdered is heart wrenching. According to the unofficial estimates put the number of deaths at 25,000 women a year, with many more left maimed and scarred as a result of attempts on their lives.

In discussions and debates on dowry deaths, the focus usually is on discriminatory attitude of in-laws, economic dependence of women, patriarchal attitude of men, and change in legal system etc. What often gets overlooked is the role of victims’ parents and her extended family.

Parents of the victims lose no time and hold in laws or husband as prime actors in their daughter’s death. In most of the cases, the in laws are guilty and they should be punished. Yet, all this cannot absolve the victim’s parents for the passive role they play in their daughter’s death.

When a woman finds herself in such a situation, she usually confides to her parents and the extended family about the mental and physical violence she is facing at her in laws home. Now, if the parents had a fair idea about their daughter’s condition why do they not act earlier? Why do they not offer her protection and the much needed emotional security? Why the girl had to go through all insult, humiliation and violence instead of seeking haven at her family residence? Is it not their responsibility to stand by the daughter? Does their responsibility end with the marriage? Are they not indirectly responsible for their daughter taking this drastic step?

In patriarchal society like India, parents often consider daughter as ‘other’s property’ and therefore a burden which must be shed off as soon as possible. Once the girl has left for ‘her’ home they consider that have fulfilled all of their responsibilities towards her. The saying in Marathi states ‘ubhi ja advi ye’ literally means that a woman enters her in laws home after marriage and comes out of it only when she dies. The society puts pressure on women by attributing their ’place’ only in husband’s home. Parents yields to social pressure and they too reinforce the same.

This perception towards daughters is not predominant only among the ‘poor’, ‘rural’, and ‘illiterate’ people, but it is very much a part of the psyche of ‘urban’, ‘educated’ and ‘well to do’ people.

So when parents come to know about their daughter suffering, they invite the daughter to stay over, counsel her but only to coax her to go back and adjust with her in laws. The daughter too leaves the home and never come back understanding completely that she can no longer can rely on her parents’ for any support. So nowhere to go, she embraces death.

Education, economic independence and imparting life skills are important for any woman to live with dignity, but what is equally important is to give a daughter emotional security that come what may, her family will stand by her. It is important to reiterate that their daughter is precious for them and they love her. If this happens, not only there will be dip in such crimes but also married women will live with dignity.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lesson Learnt at the Bali Airport ...

In November 2008, I attended a sociology conference in Indonesia. On way back, I had complete three hours to spend on the airport. So I searched for a comfortable seat and lazily occupied it. I was dog-tired and so I decided to sleep for some time. I set an alarm and tried to sleep, but sleep kept evading me. I kept feeling anxious about the luggage so I gave up the idea of sleeping.

I started passively viewing things which came in the range of my vision. My mind was unoccupied and was too tired to even register what I was observing. It was afternoon time and the airport was pretty crowded. It was full of eager children, bustling travelers, and decked up crew.

Soon later, I could see a foreign couple entering the airport. I was passively looking at them but there was something about them which grabbed my attention. I liked the way they were engrossed with each other, the way they were enjoying each other’s company and the peaceful aura around them. The girl was wearing shorts and tee shirt. She was carrying a ladies purse and a sack on her back. The man wore long jeans and tea shirt. He too was carrying a huge sack and a long jean on a hanger in his hand.

As they neared me I understood from their gestures that the guy was asking the girl to change the shorts. Suddenly they stopped, the girl gave her handpurse in his hand, she removed her shorts, and wore the long jeans the man was carrying on his hanger and they walked out as quietly as they entered.

Here was I, a 29 year old Indian lady, always fuzzy about covering ‘parts’ of the body with right type of garments, obsessive about maintaining a ‘good girl tag’. For me, the ease with which the girl had removed her shorts and changed to a long jean in front of all on the airport, and who was literally on her inner garment for few seconds, forced me to take note of this phenomenon. My eyes had grown wider and I struggled to understand and give meaning to the phenomenon that has just happened.

For me this was the most illuminating experience of my life. The ease with the girl had come to terms with sexuality and her body was noteworthy. She had accepted her body the way it is, and had overcome shame and fear associated with it. Neither the onlookers nor the couple had felt anything odd about it.

For me the lesson learnt on the Indonesian airport remains engraved in the mind.