Types of “Izzat” in Bollywood — Black and white movies to Badrinath ki Dulhaniya

Lalita Pawar, as the evil mother-in-law, has screamed, punched and kicked every Bollywood heroine in their heyday! And the heroines put up with it coz “badon ki izzat”. From then to now the Bollywoodisation of izzat has come a long way. 

Here are a few types of izzat that Bollywood movies have been peppered with in all their misogynistic glory:

  1. Badon ki izzat

The most convoluted form of badon ki izzat is the respect for the nikamma pati and the torturing in-laws. The doe-eyed heroine told anyone who cared to listen that she put up with every form of abuse because her parents taught her to respect her elders. I haven’t for the life of me been able to figure out how this education did not include self-respect. But hundreds of movies and millions of cine goers seemed to agree that this was the ultimate show of respect.

2. Ghar ki izzat

For some reason, this always meant that nobody outside the immediate family came to know about your financial predicament. It meant that you borrowed to keep up appearances, starved as you entertained guests, and beggared yourself while trying to sponsor your son’s fancy education. Then there is the the ghar ki laxmi meaning the daughter-in-law who formed a big part of the ghar ki izzat. And in such movies the bahu would end of torturing the in-laws.

Basically, among elders and the kids, whoever wielded the izzat to their advantage abused the other.

3. Desh aur samaj ki izzat

It was amazing to see a one man army demolish a ton of villains to save the desh ki izzat. Or, winning a cricket match against the goras like they did in Lagaan was enough to restore the desh ki izzat. No wonder we grew up thinking of desh ki izzat as a lost commodity to be restored with gimmicky acts and failed to learn that we need to demonstrate respect for our nation by treating our country and countrymen well. No, I am not going to launch a swachch bharat lecture but you get the drift.

4. Insufficient dowry = pink pagdi kadmon pe izzat

If the heroine’s father took off his pagdi and put it at someone’s feet, it meant total loss of respect. I have never understood what it takes to believe that you have to pay someone a huge sum of money and then beg them to take your daughter because you failed to cough up a few thousand more. And am sure that there is someone who is reading this and chuckling right now but will not even ask their parents about the “gifts” involved in their wedding.

5. And finally the lutne wali izzat 

Of course, we all know that a woman’s izzat is ALL about hymen remaining intact (not only in the movies).

This type of izzat has three variations:

i. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are rescued

Those were the days when the heroines begged to be left alone for “god’s sake” as the villain tried to rape them. Since the heroines were virtuous and pure, the hero always rescued them and protected their izzat by not revealing the identity of the villains to the police.

ii. “Mujhe bhagwan ke liye chhod do,” when you are raped

Every six year old in the country knew or maybe continues to know that the hero’s sister (read laachaar behen) would scream this dialogue, then vomit, then cry copious tears as she cradled an infant as the hero seethed impotently. If there was an andhi maa involved then the laachaar behen was married off to her rapist, often at gun point, by said hero who knew that was the only way to salvage her honour (again izzat) and that of the family’s.

iii. “Mun kala karana or naak katana” when they have sex outside marriage

When the woman has sex outside marriage, whether she gets married to the guy or not, she loses all types of izzat — from ghar ki izzat to the samaj kya kehenga to the duniawale, everybody is affected by the rupture of a tiny tissue…Uff the nose gets cut and face is blackened to cope with this trauma!

Badrinath is a movie that tries to move away from that kind of misogyny by telling the audience that guys and girls need to fight against regressive customs from dowry to honour killing. It also tries to highlight that marriage is not the ultimate milestone in a man or woman’s life. But, it loses these lofty ideals somewhere along the way. Between glorifying stalking to laughing when some villains are trying to “looto a man’s izzat”, the film reverts to gender stereotyping. Oh wait a minute, no hymen equal to no izzat maybe…Maybe that is why they think it is ok to laugh at attempted rape or believe that rape is a gender crime and heinous only when it happens to a woman!

Either way, Badrinath talks about a different type of izzat when Alia Bhat says that love is not enough when they don’t respect each other. This is a significant development in mainstream Bollywood cinema — the notion that respect is mutual and separate from the notions of izzat we have been used to!

Qtiyapaguy Arunabh Kumar — sexual harasser or not –The TVF defense: One big sweeping denial and many loopholes!!

Arunabh Kumar Qtiyapaguy

Here are the big loopholes in the Arunabh Kumar defense:

  1. Who is this woman? They (Golani, Nidhi etc.) claim such a woman did not work there. How do they know from an anonymous post, where the woman is obviously trying to conceal her identity?
  2. It did not happen to me…The “I did not face any such issues” disclaimer by Nidhi Bisht. Yes you are a woman, but not all women who worked there. So what did or did not happen to you can’t be used as a yardstick.
  3. I am a hot blooded single guy! The admission that he finds a woman sexy and tells her that off work and not at the workplace. This is a dead give away. He couldn’t out and out deny the film maker Reema Sengupta statments because she had apparently confided in others and also revealed her identity. So he responded in this way, making it sound as though sexy is a compliment and as though stating he is a “heterosexual male” covers it. News flash: Harassment begins where attention is unwanted and unappreciated.
  4. To investigate or not to investigate is that the question? The official statement that they want to bring the alleged victim to justice and the statement made by Nidhi that they take such allegations seriously is completely at odds with each other. If they have a policy, then they need to investigate. They can’t have investigated so quickly and declared her guilty and all in the same breath.
  5. This writer can predict the future! Bisso’s tweet about more such employees that are going to pop up, doesn’t aid the cause any, ‘coz employees or not more such women have popped up.
  6. Go(lani) wordplay! Schadenfreude makes for a great word of the day. But, your haters would need to really work hard to put together such a team of young women from neighbours to independent contributors to former employees…Wonder what is to hate so much? You guys were getting all the love, so this term was premature or was it prescient ‘coz you expected the backlash after the blog was out.
  7. Arunabh: Press charges or go to internal HR! If that is not a subtle threat I don’t know what is. He knows that once she quits he can’t go to HR. She claims that the legal team threatened her, if that were true she can’t press charges. Offering a neutral environment or offering to present himself to an impartial panel or something along the lines of being open to investigation while assuring complete protection would have been more sensitive than a tweet.
  8. Twitter don’t blame me no more! Lashing out at tweeple is not a defense, Arunabh. People are watching your reactions and if your fans are taking a stand against you, it is you who is digging your own grave and not the accuser.

Supposedly fiesty Kangana and millions of women find Kapil Sharma funny when he demeans men dressed as women!!

“You are so fat I want to spit at you. Yuck thoo!”

Yes, I just translated what Kapil Sharma said on his show to the fat guy dressed as a woman. This is something that millions of people watch at home with their kids and they are completely ok with it. Are these are the same people who troll Shobha De and have a problem with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s version of Padmavati?

Kangana Ranaut was laughing her lungs off as she found this “humourous”. Someone who finds Karan Johar’s brand of questioning unpalatable thought it is ok to indulge Kapil Sharma’s shenanigans.

Kapil Sharma has a lovely singing voice and can be funny apparently, but I wonder how this brand of humour goes down with parents. They watch the show with little kids and laugh and show it is ok to talk like that to girls. I see kids emulate that kind of language unabashedly because it is heartily condoned by the parents. As an adult whatever you chose to view is your call. But, when it comes to showing it to your kids, remember, that by not condemning it, you are endorsing it.

We are going to make a big fuss during International Women’s Day and applaud feminists like Kangana and get back to watching Kapil Sharma on Tele. Who are we kidding? As a nation, we have treated women like crap and with this kind of nonsense that goes on every day, we are continuing to teach our boys that women should be shamed for their appearance and teaching girls that all this should be taken in good “humour”. Yuck thoo!


Tinder Chronicles: Part 2 >> For 35+ women in India

Day 2: So I dashed off the first day’s account to YKA and they said that some parts were judgemental and condescending. So I went right back and created my account all over again.

For the uninitiated, here’s what Tinder does: It shows you a pic and a bio (that’s what they call a description) that a person has filled. Based on that, you have a choice to “like” i.e. swipe right or say “nope” i.e. swipe left. You also get to “super like” i.e. swipe up for about 3 profiles (with a free subscription). As I said earlier, it was too overwhelming to dismiss or like a profile and I sat for 5 minutes without doing anything.

There might be those who don’t judge others on Tinder based on their picture or description, but that does lead one to wonder what they might be thinking while swiping. I was genuinely bewildered by the whole judgemental bit. Then I realised that she probably hadn’t used the app.

Given the nature of the app, I wonder how un-judgemental is a person while swiping left and right…I mean you look at a pic for heaven’s sake or a coupla lines to know whether you like the person and sometimes unmatch within the first 2 minutes of talking to a person just coz you don’t hit it off right away.

The important thing here is that you can never know who liked your profile until you like them back. Then you are a “match”. Tinder shows people who you have matched with and you can then chat within the app. The moment a person unmatches you, the entire chat history vanishes unlike a WhatsApp or FB where the chat history remains even if you block the person’s number or profile.

Tinder is the much vaunted, last bastion of hope when you are trying to find people to date, but many women at my age (35+) are horribly judgemental (if you want to call it that) about “the kind of people” you would find of Tinder. This without even getting on the app. I was among those who are quick to dismiss it as a piece of fluff, a frivolity that is meant for creepy men and in turn women who like creepy men (just a thought).

So once I took the plunge, I was so surprised at the civil nature of the conversations that I promptly chronicled it.

And yes, the gender ratio being horribly skewed, many men have told me about how they swipe right for every profile. So it is surprising how they don’t put much of an effort into making their own pics or bios stand out so more women swipe right. But, as the YKA people rightly said that is just my perception 🙂 Day 2 was a revelation in profiles and bios (that is still going to be a separate listicle). But, yes the civil conversations continued. As I suspected most of them were married or separated but not legally single.

So it got me thinking how telling people not to be judgemental is a load of crap. Everyone is constantly evaluating others and trying to figure out whether or not they “match”. Given Tinder’s rep as a hook-up app, so far I was only glad that my filtration technique was somehow superior and that I did not attract any sleaze because I consciously filtered it out.

Day 3 to Day 5 pretty much continued in the same vein

Day 6 I felt I found one person who I could connect with off the app.

Day 7 I decided to delete my account and uninstall the app. Before leaving, I said bye to all the people I spoke to on Tinder.

Top of the list: Book Guy

He said Hello and Hi. I said Hola and Namaste. What followed can only be described as a series of mini trips down memory lane: recalling a much cherished character, throwing in a favourite author, it went on like that… He brought back so many memories of so many lovely books and suggested a few new ones. Reminded me of the ones I had yet to read. Then the “talk” veered to movies and songs. Just like a lovely listicle that these Web sites get right sometimes. It was a nostalgic trip to the world of dreams. Nothing about who we are or what we do. Just about the things we read, watch and listen. I thought he was like a dolphin reaching the surface every now and then before diving back. He said he was not as agile and likened himself to a whale. Little did I expect that an interesting, articulate and well read guy would be on Tinder of all places. Thanks whoever you are for making my week long sojourn such a pleasant one.

Guy 2: The “tharki buddha”

There is a gentleman I will remember with a smile forever and follow on twitter forever. For someone who tweets racy stuff and calls himself a tharki buddha, he was sweet and patient and ever so chivalrous. I will remember him for the cute giphys and the smart-alecky comebacks.

Guy 3: Sweet “Mikesh” like kid (Permanent roommates anyone?)

The one emotion that I never thought I would experience on Tinder is tenderness. There was a sweet guy who sent me flowers and said all these cheesy things and asked whether it was too corny…I am smiling as I write this and hope he finds his someone special. (I know it is not me, Don’t ask me how I know 🙂 He seemed genuine but hey I was only there for 7 days.

Guy 4: My Tinder bud 🙂

There is one guy who was my Tinder bud. I told him he was totally friendzoned and he was completely ok with it. Our first conversation was the least congenial one. I was snappy, he was irritated. He asked me whether I was this sweet all the time, I asked him whether he was this sarcy. It was a brutal conversation and after that we settled into this mode where I would talk about my Tinder experiences with him and he would be my guide. I told him that everybody wanted to know where I lived and he said it was ok to reveal the general area and nobody would stalk me unless I gave my mailing address 🙂 He is one guy I am tempted to stay in touch with off Tinder as well coz I know he is super chilled out.

One of the coolest things that happened due to Tinder is that I realised how strong my instincts are. With some people, you get that creepy vibe right off the profile pic. But all the loneliness would get to me at some point for sure. So I logged off. I wish all you Tinderites well!


Tinder Chronicles: Part I

I lasted for 5 minutes on Woo and about 15 minutes on Aisle. I always had this daunting image of Tinder — the big daddy of dating apps. I  thought it would be sleazy. I thought I wouldn’t be able to deal with it coz I am not even sure about dating. Plus I am not a texting kinda person. So I downloaded it for a lark and am trying to figure out what the big fuss is all about.

One thing is true. Everybody (most everybody) is on Tinder. It is not just this or that. Not just a dating app or a social network. Not just a place to be social or a place filled with sleaze. Whatever notions you have about Tinder will be shattered in the first 5 minutes.

You are unprepared for sleazy message on Instagram or the odd creep on twitter and on Tinder you think you know what you can expect. But, nothing, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the mass of humanity on Tinder.

Guys what are you thinking? Sticking your tongue out in a selfie is a strict no no! Please don’t hook your thumbs on your pockets. Are they your life jacket? Why oh why is your friend’s arm draped around your shoulders? Or worse, why are your friends in the frame with you? Who the hell clicks a pic with an idol in the background? So you smoke, but stuffing 3 cigarettes in your mouth naa-aah. Another big turn off — the ear hair that is threatening to stretch right out of the photo and dangle off my phone. And what do you
mean by you are are not there for hook-ups or romance or marriage? Plus , what’s with mentioning your height in your bio as 6.2 and a 1/2. You are a sapiosexual and interested in conversations — really you think no one understands this is code speak for my wife will cut off my balls if she finds me here?

This list is long but I am saving it for another time.

At first I was hesitant to swipe anywhere. Left is for Nope but be careful coz if you swipe Up it means Super Like. And the reservations about ‘hearting’ any profile pic held me immobile for the first few minutes. Then I got this message that I was super liked by someone. I had to google and figure out how to find out who super liked me. You see
Tinder doesn’t keep track of who you liked and all that. Unlike Instagram which not only shows you who liked your pic but also the posts you’ve liked, Tinder doesn’t bother with keeping count. So you are free of any and all baggage. You are truly in the moment as you
ruthlessly tap the X or heart icons. (Still not trusting my swiping  skills.)

So it turns out that you can only find out who super liked you by actually swiping through profiles till you find one with a blue bar and a blue star. So I went through the drill of hitting X and heart and finally reached the profile with the blue star and tapped heart ‘coz it was the very first Super Like. Yayyy. I was prepared for creeps and had my guard up. But, I needn’t have been worried. I had an innocuous conversation about Goa with my first Match. He promptly unmatched me after I said Good night. So far so good. Got another super like, but he seemed busy.

I realised that Tinder shows you profiles of even those who are out of the distance range that you define in your settings. And even those profiles you have marked as Nope keep reappearing in the deck. I kept shuffling the deck by changing the distance and age settings. So maybe it was because of that.

Then I started reading some blogs on the art of mastering Tinder. One of the recurring themes is not to feel guilty about swiping left or rejecting a profile based on the pic. Tinder encourages you to be exactly who you are. Sometimes in the physical world you can’t escape small talk with unsavoury characters. On Tinder you can Unmatch a person
if you don’t like the way they say Hello 🙂 Now I can understand how an entire generation, which thrives on instantly knowing whether or not they are interested in someone, does not make allowances for long term relationships to bud, let alone bloom. This is not about being old school here. Just an insight or a possible explanation on why most relationships and bonds are fleeting…It is not because of Tinder. It is in fact the other way round, Tinder thrives because that is exactly how people are or how they want to be. You realise just how importance physicality is. And no it is not about good looks or a particular type of feature set. It is about how a person strikes you as attractive or not at that very moment. Unlike the real world where you might take offense if someone you are chatting with replied after ages, on Tinder neither you nor the other person feels obliged to chat continuously. The feeling that nothing is permanent is all pervasive. Or was it just me building walls, I don’t know.

All I know is that I deleted my account after a couple of hours or so. But, I will definitely visit again. Maybe with my girl gang and laugh and poke fun and make light of it. Yes it sounds cruel but that’s not going to change, so if you are on it then you need to be made of stronger stuff 🙂 And who knows someday I might even find a Mr. Right-for-the-moment on Tinder. Tally-ho!

Why rape culture in India is as much YOUR fault as the rapist’s

This is not the first or the last time that anything other than the rapist will be held responsible for Indian women getting raped.  A swami something or the other is ‘trending’ on Facebook for mouthing asinine stuff like women are getting raped because of worshipping Shani. Yes. It is ridiculous but what is worse is armchair activists and Facebook vigilantes taking umbrage over the issue. These are the people who actually do not give a crap about rape. They are the ones (or should I say ‘you’?) who post everything from the Nirbhaya case to this Swami’s stupid comments on your page with a comment expressing disgust and shock and loathing, but will never get a grip on their own mindset.

I know so many of you who post or “share” such links and obnoxious videos and pictures with politicians and rapists talking rot and stupid photos of Deepika’s cleavage or Kate Middleton’s Marilyn moment with remarks like “wtf” and other forms of disbelief and shock and rage. The discussion is often just a momentary reaction, no deep, meaningful conversations on even exploring their own gut reaction. Because aside from the collective revulsion towards the perpetrator, what is it that you all feel exactly?

Rape is horrific because of the physically violent nature of the crime and instantly provokes a reaction. But, this is not about the nature of the crime. It is about perpetrators of crimes against women blaming the women. Have you ever blamed someone for walking the street provocatively dressed and then “asking for it”? Or, said she was asking for it when you saw a father hit his daughter? Or said that it was her fault she went to the guy’s apartment? Or, what was she thinking when she slapped her boss’s arm playfully? Or called someone a slut? Or condoned a “guy” for just being a “guy”? Or laughed when someone made an inappropriate sexually offensive remark in your presence? Or wondered how a guy like him could be with such a “behenji” type?

All these attitudes go a long way towards shaping how as a society we condone the perpetrators of the so-called softer crimes and then we are so shocked when somebody does exactly what we have been doing – blaming the victim.

Rape as a horrific outcome always gets our goat. But, we ignore the collective mindset which encourages gender discrimination and male privilege and never examine our own attitude, which endorses rape culture. How are you helping this culture thrive and creating an environment where people mouth off like this Swami? I would like each vigilante to explore the answers to a few questions:

  1. What would you do if your own cousin, aunt, sister, mom, or daughter told you they had been sexually abused?
  2. What would you do if they told you that it was x,y, or z “guy” who you know so well and would never in a million years think he could do something like that?
  3. What would you think if it was somebody in your own family who was being abusive or offensive or guilty of any other crime against women, which is not rape?

Are you going to be concerned at all? Or, is it like the dowry crime to you? Someone has to burn the bride for you to sit up and take notice? Daily verbal torture is not enough?

There are a few of us who seek to understand what we can do as a society to change. There is a simple solution:

“Be the change you want to see.”

Sit up and take note of all behavior that violates a person’s body or mind or both, instead of sitting back and getting outraged at murders and rapes. Female mutilation, rape, infanticide, foeticide and other physically violent crimes are horrific. But, the ones that don’t leave a very visible trail are scarring too.

Well, here’s a list of things you say or do, which contributes to creating a society where rapists reclaim family honour and marital rape does not have legal recognition. Before you argue about how rape is horrible and rapists are psychos and these 20 statements are innocuous and not really responsible for a heinous crime like rape, think carefully, and STFU if you have been guilty of any of these:

  1. She is such a slut, she has so many boyfriends
  2. Don’t come home late, it is dangerous.
  3. What else do you expect with the clothes she wears?
  4. Her poor husband, wonder what she feeds him after reaching home so late?
  5. I can’t believe he would hit her. She probably deserves it.
  6. How can we interfere? It is a family matter.
  7. Why are you wearing lipstick? You go to college to study or attract boys?
  8. Be a ‘good’ girl.
  9. Take a pill to postpone your periods, puja hai.
  10. It’s a little girl’s birthday, let’s buy her a Barbie, what will she do with a Lego set?
  11. Boys do so much masti. You are so lucky you have a girl.
  12. You are a brave boy na, don’t cry only little girls cry!
  13. So what if your in-laws say that? So many of your women friends get beaten or worse!
  14. She is pregnant, should we give her a promotion?
  15. How many female chess players do you know?
  16. Women’s cricket is a joke!
  17. You are a woman, you won’t understand.
  18. You are one of the boys! (And that’s supposed to be high praise!)
  19. God is a man. We refer to him as ‘he’.
  20. And the old classic: You are a girl and don’t know how to cook?

This list could go on and on. But, the point is this: crimes against women will not end till we put a stop to it collectively in our own family, in our own neighbourhood, and our offices. Stop thinking that it happens to other people. I know that in India women are supposed to put up with a lot and we do, but we need to put an end to it at some time. This is my time. Hope it is yours!

Bang Baaja Baaraat: It is not that common, it doesn’t happen to everybody and not many have heard of it!

I thought YouTube videos were it and everybody has heard of Permanent Roommates and Pitchers and Man’s World. So when Bang Baaja Baaraat opens with a couple who hooks up on Tinder, I assumed everybody has heard of Tinder.

Then I had this chat with a good friend about these Webisodes and she told me she had never heard of Tinder or Hinge or Truly Madly Deeply. I was surprised, but to be honest, they were just words to me till a few months back.

Somehow most of the men my age know of these apps, but women, especially stay-at-home moms have not even heard of theem. And my friends tell me that so many of these men are also on these apps regardless of whether they were married or single. My conversation with my friend about how many people are on dating apps, reminded me of this line from Friends where Rachel says, “Just so you know, it’s not that common, it doesn’t happen to every guy, and it is a big deal.”

When I grow up, I want to be like her!

Shooting this video for breast cancer awareness was easy because the reactions were predictable. Every guy we asked had no qualms about feeling up breasts and women were squeamish (some also acted well :-). It played out as I expected.

In college, I knew girls who used to say stuff like, “I don’t know my bra size because my mom buys my bras.” Then when they grew up they said, “I don’t know how much my wedding costs ‘coz my parents are spending for it”. All their life they continue to be unaware of their body or their financial situation or anything else of import. I have known women like that all my life. Hell, each one of us has been that woman and is one of those at times — we may be ok with examining our breast, but are scared of a what a full body test will reveal, we may know our bra size or contribute to our wedding, but are completely ignorant of our husband or dad’s income/basically just think of an example of anything that has blindsided you because it was not a girly thing to know about or not womanly thing to do.

Then there are women I look up to and admire who are seldom caught unawares because they are in the know and they can zero in on what it is important and unclutter their mind. Women like Ujwala Raje who not only fought cancer but also runs the Pink Initiative, an NGO that guides breast cancer victims and runs support groups for women them. I met Ujwala and her doctor recently for a couple of hours.

Meeting Ujwala has been an honour and a privilege. She is brimming with positivity and I am filled with a sense of wonder and hope every time I think of her. I have finally found my hero! When I grow up, I want to be like her 🙂