A Note From The Freshman Year

A note from my freshman year

Precisely a rant

In I don’t know  how many languages,

Scribbled on a handmade paper, maybe

Never to be read ever again.

Not quite sure, whether

Written for a me ‘then’ or a me ‘now’

But definitely written,

In a space that knew no lure to fall into

And no limits to halt itself to.

Three years later,

Hours and days and months, of

Becoming a thing that made itself to be seen

And those rare moments, of

Unbecoming to see itself.

All this while I never knew that I had an existence beyond myself

I had myself imprinted, reflected

And then closeted to oblivion.

But loss made me curl up myself and shrink

And love; made me reach out a little

So, there I stumble upon this relic from the past

That seemed like a fossil of myself

My truth reduced to words that were unbound of grammar,

Or bereft of language

And quite surprisingly, I did not shiver

Now that the dirt has enveloped, the corners

Curled up and the surface yellowed by age

The paper still felt so alive

So familiar

The note felt like myself, not so distant

So, as I began to read it, I

Felt very uncomfortable of the things I hide away from

Some truths too innate came

In like confessions

Whatever it was, wherever it came from

It was not a mirror to me,

It was a revelation.

A couple of reads and a mixed ride of emotions later

Silence made me travel time and let me

Come face to face with this belittled and confused self

And I couldn’t help but to embrace him

And much like yesterday, and a day before

We both smiled and cried at the same time

So, here I am

Making sense of the world that once noosed around my neck

And putting a brave smile to that love

Love that speaks my language,

Love that sings my songs

The note that I now safely put back to the closet

Is no more a discarded rant,

It’s an escape that shall take me to my roots, and

Remind me of

Where I come from.

 

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Man Music and Melancholy: A Sombred Desire Named Geeta

It was not the zamindari fervour of enclaves in Calcutta, but a humbled dwelling in Dadar, that witnessed the making of Geeta into a playback nightingale. In 1948, the cinematic establishments of Bombay breathed a cultural emancipation of its own. The stories were now unafraid to delve into shadows and the men behind the lens didn’t blink much while visioning. It was this Bombay that had presented itself to the kajal adorning eyes of young and effervescent Geeta Ghosh Roy Chowdhuri who scaled the vastness of the city with the longevity of her dreams.

The journey of Geeta’s career is perfectly dramatic in itself. It’s a reflection of an innate desire, just one, that a woman held and devoted her entire life to it. This roller-coaster journey started with just a ‘two-line’ stint for the movie ‘Bhakta Prahlad’ that proved to be enough for her unconventional style to be noticed by the music stalwart S.D. Burman. The verve of her vocals and the enigma of her experiments made Geeta a sizeable figure in the industry in early 50s. With songs such as Woh Sapne Waali Raat (Pyaar, 1950) and Aan Milo Aan Milo (Devdas, 1955) Geeta was expressing a sea of emotions that was not expected to be sunk into at her age. She had boasted of a splendour that unavoidably moved every heart it touched; a melody that was too personal to be called someone else’s.

1.0 A Voice To Unexpressed Emotions
Cinema that floated in the 50s adorned diverse narratives of reviving romanticism. Filmmakers were embarking upon a journey to find love in the Indian society and bring it out from below the quilts of moralistic obligations. Since the stories contained flavours of fantasies, the music didn’t hold back to complement the charm. The love and longing, as experienced by an independent state of mind, was imbibed in artistic creations and then presented to an audience that unknowingly witnessed the magic of their own lives.
If cinema imitated life, music led that life to celebration. As it comes to Geeta’s renditions, the definition of celebration was given a gendered twist. In Tadbir Se Bigadi Taqdeer Geeta gifted a melody to women for celebrating their playfulness; to unhesitatingly be the forbearer of a romantic involvement. On the other hand, in Hum Aap Ki Ankhon Main Geeta brazened the beauty of moonlit nights and made women believe that such pearl glistened nights are not meant for dropped eyelids of longing but for held up chin, ballroom dancing and lengthening the man’s chase with tantrums.
The era which dwelled in mysticism of ghazals and sufi music, Geeta’s space on Earth was like a concealed getaway for Indian populace across genders and age. She didn’t want to sing love, she wanted to treatise it. In Babuji Dheere Chalna, she caramelises her voice in a perplexing progression of music which subtly slips across a wise tip about love and betrayal, wrapped in flattering lyrics. It was like a spectrum of emotions that displayed its lights by passing through the prism of Geeta’s vocal sharpness. She was able to wear many hats and could easily voice the feelings of varied moods and fantasies.
The most notable display of Geeta’s vocal versatility would be her outreach to every shade of womanhood. In doing so, she did a major service to manhood as well. She was unafraid in unveiling the treasuries of female sexual desires and sang her heart out for letting these wants get the tone it deserved. In Piya Aise Jiya Main, Na Jao Saiyyan Chuda Ke Baiyan and Kaise Rokoge Aise Toofan Ko, she emboldens women desires and wanting by resorting to high pitched vocals, soothing melodies and melting metaphors. She does the same in Shola Jo Bhadke but in a more coming of age, playful and, quite literally, Hawaiian suave. Sailing across the river, she also channelled reprised shores of love; aching through the notes of unreciprocated feelings. In Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya a grieved heart sings in retrospect of the things that were loved immensely but now are nowhere to be seen. Moreover, the motherly care in Naa Yeh Chand Hoga melts every human heart to softness of the symphony. Geeta has traversed the most intimate and vulnerable sides of love as well. In Hum Aap Ki Ankhon Main she surrenders herself to that one look of her lover’s that she had urged for ages, and in Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Lagalo, an ultimate cry of trust and belief is vented out that just wants to be held close with love and nothing more.

2.0 Humanism and Realism of an Imperfect Voice

Unlike Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta’s musical credentials aren’t boastful of some seasoned training. It was her natural talent, coupled with the range of her uniqueness, which captured the fancies of many music directors. Despite her imperfections, Geeta continued to produce hit after hit. She snowballed into a songstress that almost nobody dared to reckon with. So what was the reason behind this unconventional trend of fame? Well, the answers lie in the question itself.
It was the unconventionality of Geeta’s renditions that bewitched her audience. The masses were wooed by her unmatched ability to soothe the deepest of human pains with the softness of her voice. In fact, her songs were so closely rooted to the humanness that people couldn’t help but feel themselves being swayed by this personal perspective that they thought was their own. It was this realist element in Geeta’s music that made her flow into the lives of Indian populace. Decorated with the beauty of consequential music and situational lyrics, Geeta’s songs became anthems that showcased a commoner’s dealings with concepts such as love and loss.

Geeta’s role in Hindi Cinema is translated as “disguised reality”. She, along with many of her contemporaries, walked upon a journey to make Indian cinema mirror the society it emanates from. Songs symbolized a culture of celebration, and if not surreal, they surely reminded people of the existence of a latent truth that they never cared to resort to. In one of her Bengali melodies Tumhi Je Amar she yearns to give an identity to a plethora of complexities that run inside our head during the diverse phases of love.
If not songs, singers often get straight jacketed to a generation. Their music and a sense of intelligence behind it seem to fade away with the progression of time and advancement of technology. However, very few of them are able to maintain a legacy, an impact, that persists through generations. One may also call it ‘perennial genrationalism’. The way Geeta nuanced her songs and the emotion she constructed through the intelligently assembled lyrics is something that still flows in the contemporary generation. There has been a humongous social progression in the lifestyle as well as the status of women in India. Multiple economic, political and even cinematic forces have ensured women a right to choose and express themselves in a more liberated manner. Even though it’s not ideal, it has come a long way from the time Geeta used to mike up in the studios. However, it is quite astonishing to see the situational importance remain intact across generations.
It is the context of Geeta’s songs that have resisted the winds of change for long. This speaks volumes about realism of her music style. It is that intrinsic emotional chord that is intransient for which Geeta designed most of her melodies. She gave us a voice that resonated and still continue to resonate within the frames of our heart and soul.
There are surely songs that are perfectly crafted, and then there are songs that just seem right. Geeta’s songs may not be the perfect examples of a classical music ensemble but they surely fulfilled the purpose they were made for. A critical mind would undoubtedly proclaim Lata Mangeshkar’s Lag Ja Gale as one of the best expressions of a lover’s honest yearnings. However, a heart that is actually dwelling under the spell of the given emotion, songs such as Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam by Geeta would be the only desired escape. The major reason behind this is the common human tendency to look for emotional fodder; a subject matter in which they can see their own reflection in order to understand themselves better. Or probably just in search of a relief that can be garnered from someone else’s suffering that is a result of the same malaise. It is this craving for personalization, that imperfection of Geeta’s music to. The songs are so relatable that the normative change in the circumstances does not affect the central outplay of the human emotions involved. So, no matter if it’s the 50s or the 2020, a broken heart of a common Indian girl would wail her time away while being consumed in the darkness of some of Geeta’s renditions.

3.0 A Life Lived in Ironies
Despite a career that speaks for itself, Geeta has been translated as a ‘tragedy queen’ of Indian music industry by many. History has been kind to her in many gestures but has also dived deep into her personal wreckages. One would not like to recall her forlornness to an account that primarily deals with her legacy, but if the world is anything but a perception, this involvement is artsy in its own right. The paths she traversed in her love life are quite conjectural to her professional engagements. Hence, it becomes extremely significant to look at Geeta from an objective perspective and understand her journey as dramatics of fame.
Geeta’s encounter with love was just like her encounter with music – quite cinematic. She met the love of her life, Guru Dutt, during the recording of Tadbir Se Bidgi Hui Taqdeer and the blooming chemistry between the two young and thriving visionaries became undeniable. After tying the knot in May 1953, the careers of both the artists also got wedded to a meteoroid rise in the film industry. There collaborations like Jaa Jaa Jaa Bewafa, Hoon Abhi Main Jawan and Ye Lo Main Haari Piya gifted a series of masterpieces to the Indian audiences decorated with the velvety vividness of Geeta’s vocals. Such was the popularity of the Dutts that the newly wedded Geeta Roy got immortalised in public conscience as Geeta Dutt.
Many critics say that Geeta’s sublime musical prowess was best displayed when she became ‘Mrs Geeta Dutt”. With movies such as Aar Par (1954) and Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955) the splendour of Geeta’s versatility got a contemporary context by the coming of age vision of her husband, Guru Dutt.
The destiny started to turn its face away quite early from this wedlock. The charm of Geeta Dutt that resonated within the four walls of the recording studio started to get camouflaged by the on screen effervescence of a new and young actress, Wahida Rehman. In 1956, when Wahida was casted as Guru Dutt’s new lady in the movie C.I.D, Geeta started to feel bugged by this rumoured involvement and that got reflected in her work too. In 1957, when Guru Dutt wanted to launch her wife with the movie Gauri, she chose to dump the project showing her agitation against the floating rumours.
When the liaison rushed to rough weathers and the love was clinging to a rope, a marriage that promised greatness got briefed by a tragic divorce. This downfall trajectory of her personal life, dragged along with it, a voice that dwelled in celebration. Such was the degree of grief that Geeta delved into that she became a close companion to alcoholism. Many music directors of the last 50s and early 60s started complaining about her growing unprofessionalism which was displayed in her delayed appearance on rehearsals, frequent postponements and refusing to practise or riyaz. SD Burman, one of the most loyal patrons of Geeta Dutt had accounted that watching her in studios now was such an estrangement as compared to her early days. The studio that once liberated her now began to smother her by someone’s sweet nothings.
The fading lights of Geeta’s career finally stopped to flicker in 1964 when Guru Dutt breathed his last, succumbing to his third suicide attempt. A woman left to the peril of unfathomable tragedy, Geeta suffered from severe nervous breakdown where she even refused to recognize her children. Her spirit was shattered; her passion withered away. A resplendent voice and a vivacious aura were now tailored to tragedy. Most unfortunately, unlike the films she sang for, her tragedy had no happy ending.
The climax of Geeta’s life has given her disciples some sensational observations of ironies. A woman that gave all of us a voice that healed all our pains forgot to listen to that voice herself. A woman that rendered renditions celebrating women taking control of their lives and their love was helplessly dwelling in her own unresolved maladies. And most ironically, she continued to sing songs of love and longing for an actress that allegedly was somewhat there in the theatrics of her tragedy.

4.0 What Do We Mean By Geeta Dutt?
It is unquestionable that Geeta Dutt is one of the most revered and loved singers of all time. Generations have patronized her music and related to the emotions she embarked upon to express in her songs. However, Geeta is also synonym to a life that is very important for us to understand.
Geeta Dutt, a life, is an open book to study the scourge of fame. She is a life that should never have been poignant, but it did. We can understand, to some extent, the outplay of love in a person’s life and its profound effect on her devices. We can decipher the ruthlessness of emotions and the merciless mind of fate. Geeta Dutt herself displayed a shade of humanness that quite painfully exists. The depression she succumbed to was unaffected by the ideal or somewhat normative standards of human virtues. She was expected to be strong, she was expected to still be famous, but she never ever realised those expectations. Maybe because these were the same expectations that had made her vulnerable to the devices of a man she loved more than anything in her life. Geeta wrapped her life in a song that she could not understand, but she still kept singing.
The curtailing of an act called Geeta Dutt saw a final valedictory display in a 1971 rendition – Mera Dil Jo Mera Hota (Only if this heart would have been mine)
And like the dramatics and ironies that ruled her life; the man, music and melancholy that shaped her discourses, her lost song, and the very rendition of 1971, just summed up her entire life story before the curtains were finally drawn.
In 1972, Geeta said the final goodbye. She left that music studio and the film industry with a void that can never be filled. However, the traces of her legacy and her gifts still, and would always, home the answers of unexplainable emotions of a human heart.

On Fall

Loss,
Begins from the end of my stretch
With nothing in between,
But vacuum.
If I could move, I
Would disturb my eyes
Of its peace.
If I move away, I
See the loss becoming a body
An image, that
Shall imprint itself on my memory.
And,
If I move closer, even a little
There’ll be a kiss of loss
A taste, so irresistible
That the loss becomes mine
Loss becomes love,
And there I Fall.

Unlearn

Treading upon each others’ destinies
Where have we reached
Where have we lost that language
In this translation of each other
In this union
We went on to learn ourselves
Trying to find meanings
About strings that held us together
What have we learnt,
So consumed in our meanings
That we looked over our identities
The tongues locked close, too tight
For sensing flavours glistening
On our lips, so diverse.
In this long drive of making words
The walks of innuendos
Are left somewhere unfelt.
Where have we come
What journey remains uncharted
In the seas of our eyes
Two souls one body
One body no souls.
So, I distance me from myself
Trying to unlearn,
Uncurl from this growth upon me
I stand away from myself, and you
Somewhere in the middle
Of these two bodies of mine.
Where will I go
What will I run towards
For me to become a whole again
There lies an intersection
With you.

Lest we Long

They took us by the light

The hopes’ final rites

Shone bright in the seas of our eyes

And the seas of our veins

Overflowing the course of our bodies, and

Engulfing our streets

Lest we sing the joys of love and longings

Lest we breathe beer and belongings

Don’t mistaken our words for our fate

For we sing love in remembrance

And longing, in life.

 

Embryo

Note: This poem has nothing to do with an unborn child or a mother or their relationship. Kindly comment below about your interpretation of imagery.

 

I was coiled to my content, my eyes
Shut.
There on your lap, I
Had reduced myself to your devices
And you,
Coiled to the life that held you close
Almost clutching you,
To this tryst that you never thought of
Or wanted.
I could feel myself growing, swelling
I looked just the same, but feeding
Onto what was yours at the first place.
And you,
You just let yourself change, become
The misery that you thought
Was a privilege. Was happiness.
Your heart beats to my heart
Your existence runs through my veins
I’m attached to you by a reason
That will be removed and
Thrown away.
Our connection,
Pale and lifeless.
So, who are you in all this
What makes you the thing you are
When I get fathered
By this long drawn mistake of yours
Who mothers you?
Life?
Since it has mistaken you.
So I will leech on to you until I outgrow
The strength of your patience
The space of your care
The limits of your love
I’ll be on my own to this world
I don’t know enough to despise,
Or love.
But I will not remember you anymore
Won’t understand who you were
Until you subsume yourself into me again
And rest my head for love.

A Queer Reading of the Surrogacy Bill

When I intended to write about the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, I didn’t want to reduce my reading to an objective classification of its triumphs and travails. As a student of multidisciplinary studies and as a firm believer in the philosophy of understanding law as a functional unit of diverse humanistic disciplines, I focused my attention upon the analysis of the provisions of the Bill[1]from a perspective that unconsciously plagues its relevance – Gender.

The aforementioned pending legislation prohibits homosexuals from availing the benefit of surrogacy. In addition to this, unmarried heterosexual individuals, individuals in live-in relationships, foreigners and married couple with an already living biological child are exempted from having a child through the process of surrogacy.

It is understandable that the legislative intent is to regulate the surrogacy process in India, a country which is quite infamous as a surrogacy haven. The significant focus has been put on the ban on commercial surrogacy and setting up a system that provides maximum protection to the surrogate and legal recognition to the baby. The problem, however, begins to creep in when certain classes of people get explicitly prohibited to avail the option of surrogacy without any reasonable justification for the same. The psych that goes behind such exclusionary provision is based on flawed understanding of dynamics associated with modern kinship systems and parental psychology. The same is evidently reflective in the purposeful exclusion of unmarried individuals, married couples with biological kids, and most disturbingly – homosexuals.

 

  • Legal Affirmation of Homophobic Stigmatization

The only plausible reason that becomes evident from the exclusion of homosexual couples from the Bill is the belief of the state in various prejudices associated with the community. Such a belief is dangerous for it goes on to use state machinery and legislative process to legitimize the authenticity of such prejudices. Conformists often use law as the last word on the virtues or vices of a being or an activity. They defend almost all of their arguments by seeking validation from the intent of the state’s action, an institution that has long been perceived as one enshrined with higher intellect, and shush all their oppositions by proclaiming the term ‘law of the land’. This term further snowballs the problem as the plain reading of it would imply the application of this law on every person who belongs to this land. So those who disagree with this law are either forced to follow it or are not considered as part of the ‘land’. This is a borderline issue that pulls or pushes democracy from becoming a majoritarian oligarchy. Unfortunately, in the case of rights of homosexual community, there hasn’t been any uniform and pan-India survey in recent times to affirm the majoritarian claim of anti-homosexual lobby.

There exist many prejudices and stereotypes against homosexual couples especially with reference to their association with children. One of these prejudices that play a major role in this draft legislation is the one that says homosexual parenting is dangerous. To understand this prejudice in a detailed manner we need to look at certain examples from US, for in India, the plight of homosexuals and the idea of criminality associated with it doesn’t leave much room for homosexual people to embrace their sexuality let alone ask for equal rights. US Supreme Court in the case of Boys Scouts of America v. Dale[2] upheld the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to disallow a gay man to be a scoutmaster. While the court reasoned its judgment by saying that the organization must be allowed to privately and publicly advocate its viewpoint, it is not difficult to infer that it also passed a judgment on the issue of whether gay men should have contact with children.

Another dimension of this prejudice is a belief that says that upbringing of a child by homosexual parent would lead to his/her social condemnation. The same was declared by the Supreme Court of Virginia in Bottoms v. Bottoms[3] where the court neglected the doctrine of parental autonomy and gave the custody of a boy to his grandmother instead of his living and earning mother just because the latter was an out lesbian. The court held in its judgment that –

“Living daily under conditions stemming from active lesbianism practiced in the home may impose a burden upon a child by reason of the social condemnation attached to such an arrangement, which will inevitably affect the child’s relationship with its peers and with community at large”.

This judgment is not only condemnable but also unconstitutional for it tends to restrict a person’s fundamental right on the basis of a social prejudice that has no legal, factual or scientific validation. However, the most serious apprehension associated with this judgment is the fact that homophobic tendencies in judiciary can manifest itself so strongly that judges may tend to forget their professional ethics and expected fairness in order to use their authority to legitimize their belief and convert socially scattered homophobic sentiments into institutional and stratified homophobia under the name of ‘justice’.

This idea goes further to demonize homosexuals and see them as an identity isolated from their own identity. A sexual preference is forced to engulf all other statuses, preferences, and roles and juxtaposes every relationship as a consequence or a construction of underlying homosexual needs. So a gay man or lesbian woman was seen as ‘just a man’ and ‘just a woman’ until they came forward and opened up about their sexual preferences. Suddenly, a child’s favourite uncle becomes his most dangerous predator. This leads us to the next prejudice that sees homosexuals as sexually compulsive humans. All their notions of humanity, faith, emotions and choice are camouflaged by this overriding identity because of this perceived notion that homosexuality restricts ones choice of getting sex with the desired person and that makes them desperate for anyone who is from the same sex. This notion not only grossly trivializes the concept of romance in queer life but also wrongly interprets identity. If a heterosexual man’s life is not primarily guided by his sexual identity and it doesn’t stop or restrict him for adorning multiple identities, why wouldn’t the same principle apply to a homosexual man?

In addition to this, the societal fear of a homosexual’s child becoming a homosexual is also quite unfounded. Firstly, the problem comes with the ‘fear’ itself. If, as a homosexual, I’m fighting for my rights, I would be completely okay with my child developing the same sexual preference as mine. Secondly, there has been plethora of instances where homosexual identities are adorned by people who are born in heterosexual families and vice versa. Therefore, proto-queer theorists such as Foucault might argue the significance of socialization in the development of sexual preferences, but even they won’t be able to ignore the importance of self actualization and biological reasons behind one’s sexual preference.

The discrimination displayed in this particular form has far reaching consequences to the future of homosexual identity assertion in India. We already have a section in the penal code[4] that criminalises anal penetration or sodomy; however that applies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. Now, a specific exclusion of homosexual couples from a civil provision that primarily deals with ones relationship with the institution of family and kinship, has further isolated the homosexual community from mainstream society. This form of exclusion is dangerous for it is institutionally established and can lead to systematic discrimination. The homophobic army would now validate their prejudices on the premise of higher intellect of the state and would vindicate their claims on homosexuality by quoting such discriminatory laws as example.

 

  • Conclusion

It’s evident that exclusion of homosexuals from the Act that regulates surrogacy is a way by which the state has sought to further isolate the homosexual community from normalization process with the mainstream society. While doing so, the state has sought to institutionally validate the social prejudices that exist against homosexual couples in the society. In addition to this, the state has also failed to acknowledge the sub-culture that proliferates within queer communities and the spectrum of identities, statuses and roles that they carry in their social milieu.

On these accounts, I believe that this particular exclusion is unconstitutional as it violates Article 14 of the Constitution. This provision fails to meet the dual test of fairness as the state has differentiated the homosexual couples from heterosexual couples on grounds that are not reasonable or natural but are based on the prejudices and stigma that is attached to the homosexual community by certain section of people in the society. Also, there doesn’t seem to be an objective nexus between the remedy that the Bill seeks to secure, which is a shift from commercial surrogacy to altruistic one, and the exclusion of homosexuals from the Bill. Therefore, government should reconsider the provision in an inclusive manner and in light of contemporary developments on societal dynamics instead of disempowering a community on the basis of baseless prejudices. After all, we belong to a welfare state.

 

 

[1] Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, 2014

[2] 120 S.Ct. 2449 (2000)

[3] 457 S.E. 2d at 108

[4] Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code

L.J.

Her lobes are bereft
Of the space she finds herself at
Her ears,
Enveloping the cave mouths
With her thick black hair.
Hair that mostly stay where they were set
But few strands, like her hope
Dissipating with the flowing wind.
Words never seem to amuse her
Of others or herself
There lies a spark in
That pair of black iris of her big round eyes, but
Somehow held back
By a squared up pair of glasses
There are many lives around her
One, sitting just next to her
Lives that carry her nose, or height
Or colour, but just the same
Though she still isolates herself from the lot
She still
Escapes to set glances, where
She sees no one, hears no one.
But there’s someone she clings to
Someone she finds solace into when she
Wants to be alone, but not lonely
She sets her big eyes on his face
She goes closer to him
Run her fingers against his face, slowly
To feel that gentle touch
And now,
Her thick black hair march on to engulf her cheeks
There’s no seeing of her, but
Her round black eyes staring at him
So she surrenders
Dissolving herself into him like
A setting sun into the sea
And when the time asks for him to leave
The iPhone screen says – Game Over
But there’s a box that can
Take her back to him, her escape, her old self
She sighs!
It’s goodbye to the surfer.
Her anguish,
Is now onto crushing candies.

Women-Only Liquor Shops: A Feminist Inquiry into Gender Exclusivity

Conversations are circling the national capital about the city’s first ‘women-only’ liquor shop. Established in a shopping mall at Mayur Vihar, the owners are branding it as a ‘space’ for women to buy liquor without becoming privy to verbal slurs directed at them by male buyers at other liquor shops.

The very existence of this idea points towards the existence of concerns and apprehensions that give birth to such ideas. So, when I consider the analysis of this idea important for a feminist inquiry, I cannot ignore the significance of the psychology that breeds such an idea as well as the rationality that would evaluate its consequences in a broader sense.

So, what is women exclusivity and why in the context of liquor? Another extension of this question can be the rationale behind creating such exclusivity at the first place. To answer all these questions we need to understand the concept of women exclusivity from all perspectives and try to understand it from a feminist viewpoint.

Scholars of black studies such as Jessica Mathews talked about the issue of exclusivity within the women community[1]. In her recommendations for extending the scope of ‘representation’ in Literature studies, she wanted to dismantle the exclusivity of discourses that white women have created throughout the years by focusing the subject matter on their perspective and reasoning. In order to tackle this malaise, which she referred to as ‘white woman exclusivity’, she suggested the process which now exclusively centres upon the voices of the coloured women. She believed that this ‘reverse-exclusivity’ approach would tend to keep coloured women at focal point of the study of their literary heritage, but in the longer run, it would positively contribute to the cause of inclusivity in Literature studies. So, according to the concerned scholar, discriminatory exclusivity shall be tackled with rehabilitatory or reformatory exclusivity in order to create an inclusive discipline. 

The idea proposed by Jessica Mathews might sound borderline radical. However, one cannot simply alienate it from the relevance of her cause and concern that reflects the degrees of social depravity she must have observed in her study. This stance is democratically modified by another Black Studies scholar William Ackah who goes on to say that studies about Blacks (Afro communities) must be institutionalised as a separate discipline, although, it must not be reduced to any racial exclusivity. Every person, irrespective of their race or sex, shall be exposed to Black Studies for it will open up possibilities to explore various dimensions of racial depravity and violence through diverse inter-disciplinary scopes such as gender and queer studies.

Glyn Hughes[2] in her essay[3]talks about the importance of including ‘men’ in gender studies classes for not only allowing a diverse perspective in class but also to enable the ‘female’[4]  students to test their understanding from diverse perspectives, practical applicability and possible responses. The exclusivists would challenge this by arguing that the very reason we create such exclusive forums for women to discuss their issues is to provide them a space where they are independent, comfortable and unafraid to share their views about the themes that concern them. However, this argument would again be challenged by Glyn Hughes by the assertion she makes with – ‘Moving from Women to Feminist Spaces’. Under this head she argues that such gender exclusivity would only create more problems because women issues would get more and more isolated and men would never get to acknowledge or reason with the sexism that exists in the society. She believes, that there’s no point of allowing exclusive spaces for women to discuss the themes such as feminism and gendered discrimination because it would remain in the conscious of the set of people who are at the receiving end of societal sexism and would not be able to positively bring out any change in the mentality of those who associate themselves with superior status in term of sex. This anti-exclusivity argument becomes the subject matter of my analysis. However I shall provide other works on the same theme for understanding the procedural or methodological application of this ‘positive change’ that Glyn Hughes had talked about.

Madonne Miner[5], someone I would call an anti-exclusivist, goes on to say that having men in discussions centred on women issues would make them realise how it feels like to be marginalised in discourses. They would be exposed to the depravity women face in public and educational spaces where they are discriminated against or face neglect of their opinions. Miner rationalises that since these discussions would give centre stage to women, men would get to feel the dimensions of sexual bias.

While Gayatri Spivak[6] agrees with the argument line progressed by Miner, she goes a step ahead and points out the cautious attitude we need to develop while challenging women exclusivity. Talking in the context of classrooms for gender studies, she says that minority position in such spaces for men may get aggravated to an extent that they start feeling marginalized which may lead to a kind of ‘reverse discrimination’ that can obstruct the course of affirmative action . Power relations in classrooms are apparent to a teacher but they do not get to the notice of male students for they often find themselves at hegemonic positions. Therefore, in a situation where these power relations are completely reversed, men would proclaim themselves to be ‘victimized’ or ‘hounded’ and would further develop negative sentiments towards gender activists by calling them femenazis. Glyn Hughes solves this problem by suggesting that we need to take away their marginality from them and should replace it with skills set that gradually make them aware of their privileged status.

So, its evident from the works of prominent scholars from disciplines such as Gender Studies and Black Studies that exclusivity is not a way forward for establishing equal power relations in the longer run. As we saw in the case of black studies literature, creating exclusivity would make a whole community aloof of the privileges it enjoys and the discrimination it inflicts. Applying the same principle for the undertaken study of women exclusive liquor shops, I shall argue that such exclusivity falls short of serving the purpose of feminism in the longer run.

Spaces such as these are not an act of reclaiming public spaces that most feminists and gender activists fight for. Such an establishment is just a space within an already existing space designated for women. The impact of ‘women- only’ liquor shops on the larger issue of gender equality is not momentous for it ceases to go beyond the conscience of women community itself. Men would remain aloof from the issue and would continue to occupy public spaces such as liquor shops. Receding presence of women buyers from local liquor shops would further swell the patriarchal perception that prevails in the status quo for it fails to normalise the presence of women in such shops. As we saw in the case of gender studies class, this women exclusivity needs to go for making men systematically aware of their privilege, and in this case, the redundancy of their hegemonic attitudes. It makes them aware of the fact that the power relations they had created in the institution of market and the one they continue to maintain with constant sexist intimidation and stigmatization is no longer affecting the beings on the receiving end of such sexism.

It is true that the inconvenience faced by women in such places cannot be denied or ignored. However, excluding themselves from such situations by finding recourse to exclusive zones is only making situation worse for them. They are getting further isolated from the debate of gender equality and such lures might derail their journey to find spaces for women in public life. Therefore, the choice that stands at the disposal of women is the one that offers a dichotomy between short run incentives and long run structural changes. Which ones’ to choose is entirely at their agency.

 

[1] Women of Colour and the Women’s Movement

[2] From University of California

[3] Revisiting the Men Problem in `

[4] Simon de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

[5] (1994:456)

[6] (Spivak and Rooney 1993: 19)