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  • Because, of course, you must teach us our place

    TWO WEEKENDS AGO, my cousin and I had a girls’ night out and ended up watching the late night show of Rock On. After the show ended, we hailed a cab, hopped in and sang like wannabe rock stars all the way home, between squabbling about who was the hottest man in the movie. She dropped me off with a loud “Rock on!” and a wave and rode away in the same cab toward where she lives with her husband and daughters. It was 2 am. And I came home and realized I should send up a silent prayer that I was safe. Continue reading

    Scavengers As Models: Exploitation Chic or Empowering?

    I FOUND this news story about Indian “sanitation workers” (scavengers, if we avoid the euphemism) modelling in New York pretty bizarre. I do hope you’ll read the article before proceeding to comment, but in a nutshell: 36 Indian sanitation workers were invited to a conference as part of the UN’s International Year of Sanitation. In New York, they took part in a fashion show called Mission Sanitation, walking the ramp beside professional models.

    Scavenging is deeply dehumanizing work, and an end to the profession would be truly welcome. But why modelling (not professionally, I must add, but as a novelty event)? Continue reading

    Taking the Stitches Off

    THE HIGHEST COMPLIMENT in my grandmother’s book was “What a sweet girl! She keeps her mouth stitched up.” Of course, in Bengali, this has a nicer ring to it but it essentially means a girl who keeps quiet, who is silent in the face of adversity (and torture and ill-treatment), who endures. I grew up hearing this and, of course, consequently thought of myself as a very bad girl indeed. For as a child, I was what is commonly called ‘moophat’ in Hindi, loosely meaning brash and thoughtlessly expressive. Over the years, I mellowed (—or was made to?) and recently, I have sometimes found myself unable to speak even when it is urgently, desperately required. Continue reading

    Taxing the Taxed: The Case for Differential Taxes

    WORLD OVER, tax is the highest source of government revenue. Even as the finance minister in India was raising the ceiling on taxable income for women, there was a petition in the Madras High Court questioning this. The petitioner alleged that the provision of taxing women less violates men’s constitutional right to equality. The HC, in turn, asked the Union Government to respond on why tax benefits should favour women. So why should men and women taxed differently? Continue reading

    Fearing the Life of a Housewife

    WITHIN ME lies a paradoxical divide regarding housework which I’d imagine is familiar to many. On the one hand, cooking and cleaning provide a certain busyness and peace because of a sense of creating nourishment or a tidy environment. On the other hand, there are other hazy feelings leaning towards dislike and fear of “women’s work”. So there’s a conflict between wanting to respect the traditional realm of tasks which women have been doing through the ages and wanting to break free of the shackles and spend time on other things that are (construed) as more rewarding or valuable. Continue reading

    Girl Friday at the University

    Meena Kandasamy

    She wanders like a flimsy ghost
    in the two-hundred-year-old
    university where love thrives
    in large abandoned third-floor
    classrooms, monkeys shag on
    corridors, restless gossip piles up
    like dirty dishes in the canteen,
    and young women learn some
    tough lessons.
    Continue reading

    Of Need and Exploitation: Domestic Workers in Karnataka

    ‘I BEGAN WORKING when I was ten. I used to look after a child for which I was paid ten rupees a month. Today I am almost forty and I continue to work as a domestic maid. The difference is that my bones ache and I do not have the same energy. This is what happens to most of us who do domestic work. This job has no PF or ESI or anything like that. We work at others’ houses our entire lives and are left with nothing at the end,’ Maariyamma is angry but she continues to chop the double beans with great ease. Continue reading

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