I once met an artist in a train in Bombay. He did not call himself an artist, he thought what he does is not really art. This person has to be the most humble and down to earth person I have ever met. I am not sure what his name was, I think it was Rajan, but it could be anything. I am very bad with names. He was not from Bombay, which was evident by the fact that he started talking to a random stranger in a train. Not many people do that these days. Rajan has a unique job. He creates Ganesha idols, for about four to six months, and then he creates the mannequins used in various local stores across the state. I thought his line of work was very interesting and artistic, but he had something else to say.
Art ? Art is for the rich, what I do is half worship, and half survival.
I couldn’t really argue his point. Besides, I wanted to know more about the mannequins. Its not everyday that you meet someone who does something like that. Rajan expressed the process, and he even said that they try to make the mannequins realistic, and he personally ensures that they are dressed properly, before the delivery. What he said next was not really shocking, but surely surprising. He said that he ensures that all his mannequins are personally delivered, so that they are not manhandled by the middlemen. He did not like the idea of random people touching these mannequins inappropriately, they were his responsibility. It’s a lifeless object, and yet Rajan ensured that they were treated with dignity. When I asked him to elaborate, he said it comes from the fact that he and his team also create idols of Goddesses, for Navratri. Dignity for the female form comes naturally to all of them, but he wasn’t sure if the same thing could be said about everyone that comes in contact with these mannequins.This man was not highly educated, he wasn’t overly religious, because he never visits any of the idols that he creates for the festivals. Yet, there was such contrast in his take on the femininity, and that of so called geniuses sitting in their plush marine drive offices.
This video on portrayal of women in the entertainment industry makes you stop ignoring the obvious and think about. It’s weird how men can be extremely aggressive when defending the ‘honor’ of their sister, mother, or wife, and yet when a stranger walks by, this same aggression is displayed not in defense, but in offense. Long before we established the notions of a patriarchal society, India used to be a land run primarily by women. Somewhere down the line, the society changed, and we have retained the hypocritical notion of worshiping the divine feminine with Durga, and Kali, yet the moment we step outside the temple, the point of view of men takes a completely different direction. Where does this stark contrast trickle down from? Is it religion, state, entertainment industry,our leaders, or something else? Often this treatment of women is associated with flimsy, and ridiculous excuses. The most recent, and shocking one uttered by one Mr. Mulayam Singh.
Yes, surprising as it is, a veteran politician like Mulayam Singh slipped this one time, and uttered publicly what he would otherwise say to his personal cohorts privately. Mulayam Singh is a product of an age old tradition that has suppressed women, and has asked sacrifice from women on account of ‘boys being boys’. However, I have never understood what attacking women, sexually, or otherwise has to do with being a boy, or a man. For that matter, why is violence against anybody a measure of a man? I guess for most parts, this is the classic case of sins of fathers being visited upon the children. We think that we have moved on from an era of warlords, but we cannot let go of old habits, and still see dominance as a virtue. Let’s not completely blame the legacy though, for we have also had the glorious legacy of Khajuraho, and Harappa, where sex wasn’t a taboo, and women were ‘subjects’ of art not objects of lust. Yet, today we blame our women with the second most ridiculous excuse for animalistic behavior of men.
Mulayam Singh is not alone, and has some company with Asha Mirjei who has also jumped in to say that women who get raped deserve it. Why is it that rape and objectification of women always comes down to what they wear? When I was in school, we were taught that one should look beyond the appearances. We teach our kids to look beyond the obvious, look underneath the underneath, and yet we blame women for their appearance. So if I get it right, Indian women have to be either hidden behind a veil to protect themselves, or need to use various fairness creams to look attractive. If they are pretty, they will get violated, and if they are not, they will not be successful. Is that what we are telling young kids today who are exposed to both extremes? Talk about the extremes, the epitome of debauchery is the last excuse that I have heard is that women are responsible for what happens to them.
What is really our definition of nice? A girl that doesn’t wear make up, a girl that doesn’t want to be attractive for her own self, a girl that doesn’t get into trouble? A girl that doesn’t talk back to elders, and husbands, and sons, an lovers? Is that what we mean by nice? It’s surprising that we want to replace the live, breathing human beings with shells that are bound with servitude. Slaves that are created out of popular demand of size,color, and even the thought process. Can we then ensure that these dolls of popular goodness would be not stared at on a busy street in modern India, lets not even go to those lonely neighborhoods? In 2014, capital of the city reported 338 rape cases. As is the case with everything else in India, this figure is only indicative, and what it doesn’t say are thousands of women who are violated in every possible way across the nation.
While we talk about the statistics, people like Rajan would be busy preparing for next set of mannequins that have to be delivered. They would be wrapped up in pretty fabrics, untouched by the daunting eyes of those uncouth middlemen, and delivered as per the order to the shopkeepers, with their dignity in tact. Until of course, they are put to display in the glass in front of the store, in a confined space that has no escape route, open and vulnerable to any set of eyes.