The Conquest

They tell me I can conquer the world,

Fulfil my dreams,

And satisfy all of my desires.

They tell me I can conquer the world,

Just so long as my I don’t step out of the house after 6 pm,

Wear clothes that cover me from top to toe and can in no way entice a man with even a hint of suggestion.

They tell me I can conquer the world,

Right after I’ve done my duty to my parents by getting married by 25,

And have done right by my husband by having kids when he wanted and raised them by staying back at home.

They tell me I can conquer the world,

Provided that my work doesn’t threaten my bosses, overtake my peers, or make me earn more than my partner.

They tell me I can conquer the world,

Then they clip my wings before I leave my nest, chop my legs below my knees, knock the wind out of my lungs and mount me on a wall like a hunted down quarry.


They tell me I can conquer the world.

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Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

A girl’s daily cleansing ritual.

Twice a day ’tis needed

To lather, rinse, repeat.

The first to rejuvenate in the freshness of the morning.

The latter to clean away the grime of the day.

To scrub off the leers that men through along your way.

To wash off the stench of unwanted advances.

And of jeers hidden behind subtle nuances.

To drain away the suds of patriarchy’s condescension.

A gentle foam to soothe over all scars

From breaking glass ceilings.

A circular motion to ward off memories

Of lewd gestures made by men.

It’s called a mindless pattern of repetition

Without critical thought.

But in this society’s construction

Let this age-old idiom be your protection

And never, ever should you forget

To lather, rinse, repeat.

For more poetry, click here.

For more on feminism, click here.

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Scheduling Error 

Due to a scheduling error, one of my poetry posts got messed up and might not be visible to most of you. I’m sharing the link here. I hope you enjoy reading it and give it the love and support you’ve been so kind to provide to all my other poems too. Thank you! (Please don’t let the mess-up stop you from reading it, it’s very close to my heart, so, pretty please?)

Here’s the direct link: Lather.Rinse.Repeat.

Feminism in Fiction

A few days ago, I expressed my angst and ire at the incredibly sexist portrayal of women in fairytales. They’re shown as damsels in distress without fail. One cannot even begin to imagine how detrimental such images are to the impressionable minds of young girls growing up
to believe they need to wait for someone to come rescue them. However, I also mentioned Disney Films were changing this perspective now with their recent crop of movies. Then I went on to expound upon how the character of Princess Devasena from a South Indian movie, Bahubali, was a lesson in feminism and a breath of fresh air.
Sarah, from Written Word Worlds, has very admirably made a compilation of Feminism in Fiction and I’m sharing her work here for your benefit.

Written Word Worlds

Looking back on many of the fairytales I’ve grown up reading and loving, I’ve realised that the majority of them are incredibly sexist. They seem to indicate that women are not in control of their lives or their fate and are in constant need of saving. With awareness for feminism being the most it has ever been, it’s a wonder anyone thinks that reading these archaic, misogynistic stories to children is acceptable. Not only does it teach our girls that they have to rely on a prince to save them and that they have no say in the matter, but it teaches everyone else that women are helpless victims who will never feel fulfilled in life without a husband.

Let me stop you right there, sexist society. We don’t need saving. We’re perfectly fine on our own, thank you very much. The last thing we want is you Facebook stalking…

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Oh, but she’s a woman!

“Oh, but she’s a girl.”, they said,

As she was born and didn’t wail.

“Oh, but she’s female.”, they said,

As they hired a less meritorious male in her stead.
“Oh, but she’s about to be a mother.”, they said,

As they passed her over for a promotion yet again.

“Oh, but who’ll look after the family?”, they said,

As they crushed her dreams in lieu of her husband’s.

“Oh, but who’ll carry forth the family name?”, they said,

As they made her do household chores and sent only her brother to school.

“Oh, but she’s a woman!” they exclaim,

As she changes paradigms to carve out her place.
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Neither owned nor owed

​I do not owe you my successes,

Much like my failures are my own.

I do not owe you my happiness,

Just like in sadness I am alone.

You might feel like you own me,

But my dreams never learnt to bend the knee.
My ambitions, they soar high, surely and with certainty,

Never doubted, never constrained by all your negativity.
You tell me how I will amount to only disappointments.

Yet, I’ll keep proving you wrong with all my accomplishments.
You treat me like I was born to serve, to submit and be obedient.

I’ll show you how I’m also human and, above all, resilient.
You shout that you’re a man and I should always seek your benignness,

I’ll roar that I’m a woman, and yet meet you with kindness and forgiveness.

I am fierce, I am gentle, I empower, I overthrow, I nourish, I nurture, and I can even destroy, I am a juxtaposition of paradoxes, I am woman and I’ll endure.

Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle

​I recently wrote my two cents on feminism, fairy tales and the need to move beyond to more gender neutral grounds. In the aftermath, I had a highly enlightening conversation with a friend of mine. I won’t go as far as to accept she changed my world view. However, her points were poignant and realistic. Therefore, I decided to pen them down. Below is a narrative of her words, as best recalled by me alongwith my own thoughts on it.

She says being a female is about doing what a man cannot do as much as it is about doing what he can do. Rightly so, I believe, since there is a fundamental difference in our psyche, understanding, physical and mental capabilities as honed by centuries of designated roles right down to our basal natures. So, women interpret and view things differently than men, whatever may be the reason behind this.

She says the whole problem in any age boils down to male agression. Yet, to be equal, women need not become as brutish as men. They can preserve their grace and still bring about major changes in the current world scenario.
She amplifies this point by saying being soft does not equate to being weak. The necessity of life is to be tender also.

She says the problem with the current wave of feminism is that it is making men uncomfortable and nervous. Now, here, one needs to understand that even though the whole agenda may be to make men sit up and notice women as equals, the approach, however, is still wrong. We cannot operate in vacuum. One needs to make one’s play by keeping a solid hold on reality. This reality being that men, when cornered or threatened, like any human, are prone to lash out and be defensive. Consequently, they will be less rational and receptive to the whole idea of feminism.

Regardless of how they “should” react, in a more utopian context, the reality of their reaction cannot be ignored for long. Feminists need to be sensitive to the fact that what matters is how men will react, rather than how they should.

She says men in power have already always been ruining our lives by preaching and commanding how things “should” be. Women, however, have had centuries of experience in dealing with such men and surviving. They know how men will react. They can circumvent it to create a more positive outlook. Women may or may not be smarter than men, that’s a matter of individual opinions, they do, however, have the uncanny, unwavering ability to hone in on the exact reaction which will be solicited in a man in any given scenario.

She says when you violently or suddenly change the status of men in society, i.e., if we are not gentle and gracious, in the long run, it would only produce more misogynistic bosses, more patriarchal mothers, more dominating fathers, even more homophobic population. Because this is too much too fast.

What bears testimony to the above is the fact that men don’t even stand up against their own objectification, their own abuse, their own rape. Feminists need to know what needs to be done, but also done in the right way.

Softly, gently, gracefully, forgivingly, lies the way ahead. There cannot be a war of the sexes. The consequences of that would be way too ugly to even imagine.

Society is all about power equations. To disrupt it, even if the aim is to bring about a balance, one needs to be tactful and strategic.
She ends the discourse by saying to fight, you don’t need to antagonise. Hate the sin, not the sinner. As I said before, in a previous post, we are all responsible for how men and women grow up to be. Not every individual can be blamed.

I think a small dialogue with her has mellowed down my self righteous indignation. I was previously unaware that, being a woman, I harboured an angst against the opposite sex for their sense of entitlement. I am better educated now. I hope to be able to contribute to upliftment of the society as a whole now.

So, thank you, dear friend, for taking the time to talk to me.

Funnily enough, for some reason, I can only think of the following lyrics to aptly describe how to be gracious towards the sensitivities of men while moving ahead on the right path:

“Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle

Razzle Dazzle ’em

Give ’em an act with lots of flash in it

And the reaction will be passionate

Give ’em the old hocus pocus

Bead and feather ’em

How can they see with sequins in their eyes?

What if your hinges all are rusting?

What if, in fact, you’re just disgusting?

Razzle dazzle ’em

And they’ll​ never catch wise!

Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle

Razzle dazzle ’em

Give ’em a show that’s so splendiferous

Row after row will crow vociferous

Give ’em the old flim flam flummox

Fool and fracture ’em

How can they hear the truth above the roar?

Throw ’em a fake and a finagle

They’ll never know you’re just a bagel,

Razzle dazzle ’em

And they’ll beg you for more!

Give ’em the old double whammy

Daze and dizzy ’em

Back since the days of old Methuselah

Everyone loves the big bambooz-a-ler

Give ’em the old three ring circus

Stun and stagger ’em

When you’re in trouble, go into your dance

Though you are stiffer than a girder

They’ll let you get away with murder

Razzle dazzle ’em

And you’ve got a romance.”

From Disney princesses to Devasena: Lessons in feminism

​I’m a feminist. I believe in equality of all people irrespective of their gender, colour, caste, creed or sexual orientation. This is a non exhaustive list but you get the drift. Why am I a feminist, you ask. It’s because I see women everywhere to this day working ten times harder to get even a semblance of recognition, I see them toil and sweat to break glass ceilings that don’t even exist for men, I see them being paid less than men for the same or even more amount of work, I see them being treated as less than men. This makes my blood boil, as it should make yours too.

What adds insult to injury, however, is the fact that little girls all around the world are fed dreams in the form of fairytales during their formative years. Incidentally, they’re taught to wait for their prince charmings to come to their rescue. Be it sleeping beauty or snow white awaiting true love’s kiss to make them open their eyes or be it Cinderella, finding it a more viable option to marry a man she met only once and danced with in order to escape a life of slavery at the hands of her stepmother and stepsisters. These fairytales have been immortalized in the form of  Disney  movies as well.  Ariel, a mermaid, the quintessential symbol of beauty, gave up her voice and sense of self to pine after a guy who wouldn’t even spare her a second look nor wasted a moment in feasting his eyes on the next beauty that crossed his path.

However, fortunately, winds of change are blowing now. At one hand we got to see Princess Anna being counseled by Queen Elsa as well as Kristoff that she should absolutely not marry a man she just met. Even the definition of an act of love changed from true love’s first kiss by a guy to a sacrifice made my that same Princess so save her sister. We got to see Rapunzel, not needing a prince to help her escape from a tower. No, no, she and her good ol’ trusty frying pan were enough to take out any villain. She had a dream and she chased it. She made it come true, whatever it took. We also got to see Princess Merida competing for her own self and independence against princes in a tournament rewarding her hand to the winner. No sir, no man was good enough for her. These were all very good attempts to nurture young, impressionable minds in the right direction. Way to to, Disney! I haven’t seen Moana yet but I’ve heard she’s a step further in this direction.

Finally, in 2017 came a princess in an Indian movie that broke all notions of what a princess should be like. Thereby, creating new benchmarks of what a princess should be like. I speak of Devasena from Rajamouli’s fantasy epic series titled “Bahubali”.

Devasena was a warrior skilled in various forms of fighting and had mastered a plethora of weapons. She was an archer par excellence, hailed as the best in her kingdom in fact. She wasn’t bogged down with thoughts of choosing a prince to marry and settle down with, rather, she opted to invest her time and skills in alleviating the problems faced by her subjects. She commanded respect. So much so that when she’s left alone to defend herself against an army of intruders, her calm confidence, self assurance and steady nerves showed Bahubali to not mistake her for a damsel in distress but to treat her as an equal warrior. Hence, instead of rescuing her, he taught her a new technique of shooting arrows and they, together, took down the horde of people attacking her. This is what life and companionship is, right? Tackling problems together rather than an alpha protecting its weaker counterpart who relies solely on the benevolence of the alpha.

Furthermore, when faced by a proposal sent by the queen of the biggest, most prosperous kingdom around, Devasena refused it outrightly without any fear of retribution. Queen sivagami sent her countless jewels and gold along with a marriage proposal for her son, one of the princes. Devasena sent back a rebuke stating she can’t be bought by jewels without knowing the worth of the prince, but since his virtues weren’t made known to her, she could not possibly accept the offer. Queen Sivagami had also sent the prince’s sword for Devasena to be married to, as per warrior tradition ladies could get married to a warrior’s sword symbolically. Devasena sent back her sword in response asking the Sivagami to adorn her son in all the jewels and have him marry her sword and sent back to her kingdom, she’d take good care of him. A gutsy move, some say. I say, it was a move for equality. When the prince could not be subjected to such a marriage and her response be deemed a humiliation for him, why should she have been sent such a proposal in the first place.

We see more examples of Devasena’s courage when, in Sivagami’s open court, surrounded by foreigners, far away from her own land, Devasena refused to obey the Queen’s command. She said she would not toe the line and marry a man that the Queen ordered her to without any regard for her own likes, dislikes and opinions. Her stand for what was right made Bahubali go against his own mother and people to stand up for Devasena too. It is true that “tis love, love, love alone that cause King Arthur to leave the throne”, but, it is also true that it was respect for a woman like Devasena that made Bahubali lose his throne without any regret. He’d rather be with a woman of such strength and integrity than sit on a throne.

Then again, while standing in line on a temple’s steps, Devasena saw the commander of the army touching women inappropriately without their consent. What do you think she did? Yes, she sliced off his fingers so he could never again touch a woman like that. When brought to court for this act, bound in chains, she dared to question the governing laws of the land. She stood tall in her defiance of laws that defied sense and logic.

Even twenty five years of imprisonment, torture and humiliation at the hand of her enemies could do nothing to break the spirit of the nighty Devasena. She endured. She bade her time. And she won.
I wish people will take a lesson from her character and indulge in some introspection. I wish filmmakers will dare to create more roles like her so that, for once, if real life tried to ape the reel life, some good could finally come out if it. I wish young ladies all over the world would see her and come to realise their own self worth. I wish the society would realise how to raise not only their daughters but also their sons to be able to respect females. But most of all, I wish young boys from all over the world would see her and know what a woman is. I wish they grow up to become worthy of such women. I wish they grow up to become better people. I wish they grow up to become men.

(image courtesy: protest princesses and Apekshita Solomon)