This was the year when we saw the adarshiya bharatiya nari break out of her mould, and how. No more being submissive, or bowing down to the diktats of men or society, no more feeling shy to voice their opinion, or willing to walk a step behind their husbands, no more mouthing of logic and rationality, and definitely no more of minding their Ps and Qs. And leading this revolution were women from politics and Bollywood. Sometimes, they even belonged to both professions – kyunki politician bhi kabhi abhinetri thi. This is my pick of the women I felt shook up the traditional view of what the Indian woman should say, do or think.
Leading the charge of the Born Again bharatiya nari brigade is my favourite, Madhu Kishwar. One-time cheerleader of our pujaniya pradhan mantriji. And current embodiment of the saying – Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned, and hell no rage as love to hatred turned. There is no stopping Madhu Kishwar nowadays. And I have to give it to her, that at least she isn’t blindly mouthing platitudes to Modi. She supported him vociferously in his run up to becoming Prime Minister with an umpteen part home video of her interview with him, and now that he seems to be taking various dodgy decisions, she isn’t hesitating from calling him out on it. As she tweeted – “Those who put full faith in @narendramodi have right to demand he honor his promises. We express anguish if performance doesn't match promise”. Good for her. No longer is it expected that female loyalists need to follow the male leader blindly. Have mind, will speak. It’s another matter that in an interview she gave, she claimed that someone had done black magic on Modi, and only that could explain his performance and decisions as a PM. Giving the phrase Modi Magic a whole new meaning.
Close on the heels of Madhu Kishwar is her bête noire, Smriti Irani. Smriti Irani gets the crown for pipping everyone else to the post of HRD minister. And is a success story like no other. If anyone has broken out of a stereotype it is Irani. She started off working at McDonald’s, took part in the oh-so-progressive Miss India contest and then moved on to the even-more-progressive Ekta Kapoor school of serials. Which are odes to the bharatiya bahu. And just when you thought that all she was good for was weeping buckets and crying over Mihir Virani, she became a Cabinet Minister. Obviously Yale recognized something in her when it gave her that certificate. That’s another avenue in which Irani shines – in showing us how to change her tune with aplomb and to remain unaffected by criticism. So she says whatever she wants – about her education, about the government diktats she sends out – and carries on unhindered. She is a beacon showing how every woman should know which side her bread is buttered, and make sure that whatever else she does, the buttering and butterer never suffer. Even Irani wouldn’t have guessed 10 years back, when she was showing us how to be the downtrodden Indian bahu, that one day she would be the country’s HRD Minister determining the future – bleak or otherwise – of India’s students.
Then of course are the ladies who’ve decided that even they can be tramps. Why should men have the privilege of being potty mouths? Gone are the days when female politicians didn’t abuse or say anything crass. This year, thanks to our women politicians we’ve seen that what’s good for the misogynist gander can only be bettered by the abusive goose. Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti showed her turn of phrase when she said that “Modiji ka mantra hai na hum khayenge na khane denge. Ab aapko tyah karna hai ki aap kise chunenge, aatpko chunna hai ki ramzyaado ki sarkar banegi ya haramzaadon ki sarkar banegi, ye aapko tyah karna hai”.
What could be better than calling all non-Hindus bastards? And just to prove that Niranjan wasn’t the only lady who was a tramp, Mamata di also jumped into the “how crude is too crude” fray. Didi has never been one to shy away from the domain of men, and good for her. During the days of Communist rule she jumped on the bonnets of cars and liked bringing the police and the Commies to their knees. After Trinamool MP, Srinjoy Bose’s arrest in relation to the Saradha scam, she called an unnamed rival “shaala”. Which also means brother-in-law, but not in this case.
She then followed up this purple prose with another phrase while referring to CPM approaching Modi about TMC’s involvement in the Saradha scam. Didi said “Nijera 34 bochhor khomotai chhilo. Kichhu kortey paareni. Aar jaara korchhey taader bamboo diye berachhe”. (They were in power for 34 years and could do nothing. And they are shoving the bamboo (up the rear ends) of those who are doing something.) Why should only her male colleagues like Mulayam Yadav or even a Sanjay Nirupam have the privilege of belittling their female colleagues? And added another bamboo reference for good measure at a rally for embattled colleague Madan Mitra.
This was also the year when an actress refused to be objectified by the media. Deepika Padukone leaned in on The Times Of India, when they published a picture of hers highlighting her cleavage. And explained in very clear terms that just because she was an actress and starred in item numbers, it didn’t make her fair game for their photo pointing out her “famous cleavage”. TOI’s city editor- a woman – made us realise that for every woman who stands up for her dignity, there’s another one who’ll pull her down. The less said about her justifications, the better.
We also saw female lead characters being shown enjoying pre-marital sex and not wanting to get married to the men they copulated with. And we saw mainstream actresses willing to do those roles. Whether it was Alia Bhatt in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania or Ileana Cruz in Happy Ending, the Hindi film actress was willing to portray the modern Indian woman who was perfectly satisfied with sleeping with someone they loved, without expecting a ring on their finger. No excuses were made for their sexual dalliance. A welcome change from films like Cocktail where as soon as the wild girl sleeps with the hero, she immediately becomes uber-religious and starts wearing salwar kameezes and wants to get married. And also has no career to speak of. There was also the first “real” smooch on Indian primetime television. Diandra Soares, model and Bigg Boss contestant, smooched another contestant on camera to prove that she was interested in him. Somewhere I could hear the Ram Sena’s heads bursting. Way to go for Diandra. If you like the boy, kiss him. Why wait for men to make the first move? She also explained one does not get pregnant from kissing.
There were there other women who get special mentions for proving that some people should never be encouraged to speak. Najma Heptullah, the minority affairs minister, displayed her great understanding of her portfolio when she tried to convince people that Muslims aren’t a minority. Her exact words, “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers don’t diminish.” Another icon for all women – and even men – who may have limited expertise in their profession, but have managed to get a plum position. If Najma can do it, so can you.
The other woman who should have just smiled and waved airily and not opened her mouth is our very own Basanti, Hema Malini.In her role as BJP Lok Sabha MP while visiting her constituency of Mathura, she displayed a strange viewpoint on the plight of homeless widows who had come to Vrindavan to live. Her exact words were, “If they (widows) are not from here then there is no need for them to come here from other states. There are many famous temples in Bengal and Bihar too. There are 40,000 widows in Vrindavan. I think there is no more place in the city. A large population is coming from Bengal... that’s not right. Why don’t they stay in Bengal? There are nice temples there. The same is true for those from Bihar.” That these poor women unlike her don’t have the privilege of really exercising their choice of where they’d like to live, and are hardly living off the fat of the land singing bhajans in temples, seems to have evaded her.
And finally Bachi J Karkaria who when confronted with outrage at what was perceived as rape accused Tarun Tejpal’s “rehabilitation” when he was invited to the TOI literary fest finally backed down by saying she did not want “extraneous noise” that would “distract” from the lit fest.
But at least we now know what the Indian woman should not think like. Long live the adarshiya Bharatiya nari, the adarshiya Bharatiya nari is dead.
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Updated Date: Dec 25, 2014 11:07:26 IST