How does one define “Indian Culture”? And more importantly, why is “Indian Culture” always defined in terms of what women should and should not do?
It is against “Indian Culture” for women to drink, smoke, to enter a pub, to be “caught” talking to a men, to wear anything that doesn’t cover one from head to toe (barring the six inches of midriff that a sari exposes), to talk back to one’s in-laws or one’s men-folk, to have a mind of her own, to protest against being bargained for, sold, raped, assaulted, verbally abused, harassed for dowry, be married off against her will, be groped by men on the bus who treat her like she’s public property, to be treated like a prostitute if she wears lipstick and well fitting jeans, to be a prostitute because her family sold her into it… It’s against “Indian Culture” for a woman to expect the husband to chip in with the chores even though she slogs in the office all day to earn as much or (God forbid!) more than her husband. It’s against “Indian Culture” for a woman to bear anything but a boy child. Against “Indian Culture” for a woman to even wonder, for a moment, what life would be like without the rules that constrain her. Against “Indian Culture” for a woman to even challenge why she is treated as an inferior human being just because of her gender. Against “Indian Culture” for an educated woman to question why she must “listen” to her in-laws and be led by what they say. And “Indian Culture” to believe that the purpose of her life is to serve others.
What about the men? Why is it ok for men to wear jeans and “western” clothes? For men to smoke and drink and go to pubs? If it’s against Indian Culture for a woman to ever have sex except with her husband (and to promptly get pregnant with a boy-child), who do the men get to have sex with? Each other? Oops! That’s against “Indian Culture” too. It’s acceptable for men to hit their wives, to demand dowry, to stay home unemployed, to have baby girls killed (either in the womb or otherwise) to sell their wives and daughters into prostitution, to harass in-laws, and generally act superior because they possess an extra appendage. It’s “Indian Culture” for a man to decide that he “owns” his wife and to make decisions without consulting her. It’s “Indian Culture” for a man to set his feet up and watch TV while his wife slaves in the kitchen. “Indian Culture” to assault a woman and then say, “She asked for it”.
Who defines “Indian Culture”, anyway? Where does “Indian Culture” come from? With Mohenjo Daro and Harappa? With the Aryans? With the Dravidians? With the Vedas that are now lost except for selective memory? With Kautilya who defined women and cattle as prized possessions? With men who are not man enough to accept that women are people too? Why are we defined by rules distorted over millennia? Why do we let Baba Ramdev tell us homosexuality is a disease that can be cured with yoga? Why do we let principals of schools decide that women “provoke” men and “ask” to be sexually assaulted? Why do we refuse to believe that child abuse exists? That Human Trafficking in India is close to the worst in the world? Why do we (Indian women) wrap ourselves in nine yards of silk just because we wonder what people will think if we refuse to do so?
I’m sick of people going on and on and on about “Indian Culture”. And I’m sicker still of the moderates who refuse to get a voice and do something about it. I’m sick of people who decide that they’re the keepers of the Great Indian Culture. Sometimes, I feel the Egyptians did well to abandon all of their ancient civilization except for the pyramids.