Obama on Women’s Rights

Once again I loved Obama’s speech [full text here]. I liked everything he said. I liked what he said about women’s rights too.

I know many of us are going to disapprove of his refusal to disapprove of women being made to cover their hair. But he has simply given the women the right to choose, and with that he has won over a people while still insisting that women be allowed to get out of their homes to get an education. I call that brilliant diplomacy.

You disagree?  It’s like this, we cannot not tell women to stop wearing white when their husbands die, but we can make sure they do have the financial power to buy coloured clothes and good food if they wish to.  If they have that choice then that’s a beginning!  That’s a brilliant first step. That’s what Obama has done.

I have no doubt Osama is green with envy.

Osama stands for violence and hate, and Obama stands for Polilo drops for babies.

Here’s what Obama said about women’s rights: (I have highlighted the parts I loved)

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

(APPLAUSE)

I know…

(APPLAUSE)

I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.

(APPLAUSE)

And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well- educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.

(APPLAUSE)

Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim- majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

(APPLAUSE)

An interview with a Dynasty-Fan from Uttar Pradesh.

I had been dying to know exactly what does an average voter from UP think of Rahul Gandhi, where he is supposed to have done wonders during these elections. This post is written after asking a fan all these questions on the phone. If there is a factual error it could be his misinformation or I remember incorrectly. Please point it out I will try to correct it.

The opinions are his. I may or may not agree with him.

Everybody says Rahul Gandhi is popular because he is a Gandhi and we Indians like Dynasty Rule.

So many families come and go, why has this family become so popular? They have worked for us. They are not corrupt. Rahul Gandhi is very kind and compassionate; he has love for the poor. No other neta cares for the poor.

Could he be doing all this for votes?

They all want votes but nobody went to Azhamgarh. His opponents said you can’t get votes for picking up harijan babies and he sat with them and ate food in their homes. They said he was going to go home and take a bath with this soap and that soap… Public may not say be able to say anything, but they understand everything. Which other neta cares for the poorest of the poor?  In all his speeches, he speaks for the poor.

But I have heard Congress and the Gandhis favour Muslims… something about haj subsidy etc…?

They treat everybody samaan (equal)… see …Muslims? Nobody favours them. But Congress does not have bias against anybody.

Then why do they have this reputation of having bias for Muslims?

Silence.

Is he Secular?

His grand father was Parsi; great grandfather a Kashmiri Brahmin who grew up in UP; mother Christian; father Hindu; aunt Sikh – who can be more secular than him?

What about Varun Gandhi?

He made such a speech, people understand that if tomorrow he becomes a PM ‘to ye to larai karayega’…(he will create conflicts)

Shouldn’t a leader be a good speaker?

A good speaker can do a lot of harm also, if he starts saying the wrong things. A good neta should let his actions speak. Like Advaniji said Dr M M Singh is weak, we agree he is weak, but how old is Advaniji? They must be the same age. And Dr Man Mohan Singh has done good work.

Do you think Rahul Gandhi would have made a better PM than Dr M M Singh?

He is young, he will learn first, and just like his grandmother he will go step by step. …everybody was eyeing the PM’s chair, Modi. Mayawati. But Rahul Gandhi made no such claims.

I heard people say he will take over the PM’s job in an year or so, with some excuse like say Dr Singh’s health problems or something…

He will never do that. He isn’t that kind.

It’s difficult to know a politician…

The other day his sister’s son was walking towards the road and he ran himself from the stage to pick him, he is a simple family man, he is not like these politicians.

Look at his mother! She has given him good sanskar. She could not even speak the language of this country, she learnt Hindi, she sacrificed her life for this country. Kaun karta hai!? (Who does so much good for others)… she has come to live, so far in a strange country, and she refused PM’s chair! They say such things for someone like her (in a pained voice)… what more must she do to be considered an Indian?

And Rahul Gandhi’s sanskar have been given by her, he appreciates when other netas do something good. He said Mulayam Singh Yadav had done a good thing by starting 20,000/- to be given to all girls who pass intermediate… (kanya-nidhi I think he said)…

And what about Menaka Gandhi?

She has matured now… earlier she used to get angry easily.

How did Varun Gandhi win from Pilibhit?

That was always their family’s constituency; he had to win from there…

Maybe they worked for that constituency?

For their own constituency everybody works!

What’s the magic word?

What is that one thing that can make any relationship work?

One thing that can ensure that any number of people live in peace??

Or just live together.

Or just live?

Couples. Neighbours. Colleagues. Siblings. Citizens.

Is it love?  No, because we can live peacefully with our neighbours without loving them….

I think the word is tolerance.

Tolerance means we accept that everybody is different and although we do disagree with them we accept that without resentment.

If we are tolerant we accept that even though we are vegetarian and will never cook or eat nonveg, we do not hate every non vegetarian.

If we are tolerate we understand that some people are sensitive about something we feel very strongly about, so we watch how we bring it up. (Or we just them be…).

Being tolerant would mean being openminded.

Being tolerant would mean we try not to judge.

Tolerance means No Victimless Crimes.

We live and let live.

Husbands and wives; the rich and the poor; the geeks and the uneducated; the atheists and the pious; modern and conservatives; pro-choice and pro-life; Marathis and Biharis, Dalits and Brahmins, Hindus and Muslims, Shaivites and Vaishnavites, South Indians and North Indians. Add more.

Do you agree that the only way for people to live together is by being tolerant?

Can civilization survive without tolerance? I think it can’t. And the only thing I am intolerant to is intolerance. When someone says stop being tolerant I see endless strife.

That is why I have been humming and smiling ever since the Election Results are out.

Five Reasons Why Congress Won.

Here’s an aam aadmi’s point of view.

1. Jarnail Singh

Congress realized that the aam aadmi respects accountability. When Jarnail Singh threw a shoe at P Chidambaram, instead hiding behind CBI’s clean chit, they got rid of Tytler and Sajjan.

This was BJP’s opportunity to reassure their moderate Hindu voters of their intentions of being truly secular, instead we heard about how a human rights activist had ‘cooked up macabre tales of wanton killings for the riot victims.

The contrast between the Prime Ministerial candidates of the two leading parties became difficult to ignore.

2. Mumbai Terror Attacks

The Opposition helped the Congress again.

Their blame games made Congress look good.

At the same time announcement  of awards for those they had been accusing of corruption, until a week ago made them loose credibility.

BJP also helped by offering to continue their demand for POTA. The voter knows POTA/MISA/TADA/NSA are not magical solutions against terrorism.

All this made Congress look better. They heard the anger of the people. Resignations of Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil were immediately accepted.

PM remained cool headed. He did not try to gain votes by Pak- Bashing or War Mongering. The voters saw congress looking for planned action and solutions, not a Nuclear War.

BJP’s interference in Malegaon Blasts case bothered their supporters. Voters fear all terrorism, because it is true bombs have no religion.

3. Dr M M Singh as Prime Ministerial candidate

UPA chose the right candidate for their PM. The results would have been different if Rahul Gandhi was the PM candidate. This must have disappointed the NDA.

BJP’s personal attacks might have helped the UPA too.  We do not want Prime Ministers foul mouthing senior citizens in this country. This was seen in Obama v/s McCain also. Personal attacks do not get votes.

4. BJP’s Gandhi – Varun Gandhi

The voter couldn’t understand whether BJP was Dynastic or Democratic.

5. Rahul Gandhi

Once again, Congress listened to the people of India.

The ‘prince’ decided to be a ‘soldier’. The real Indian approved of Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to get to know them better. They prefer this to some of the other ingenious methods we see being used for gaining votes.

Rahul Gandhi is popular, and it isn’t only because he is a Gandhi, (because then Varun Gandhi would have equally popular). I have heard him spoken of with fondness, but despite all the affection he is not seen as the Prime Ministerial candidate by the people, and Congress did not ignore this.

A sixth and seventh reasons added by Sraboney,

“6. Congress realized the need for allies…They realized that they had lost their sheen and their appeal and so worked towards forging friendships with other parties.Reason no.
7. Advani, Karat, Paswan and Laloo”

Read why Sm thinks BJP lost  here.

A cartoon can say it better than a thousand words, take a look here ;)

Proud to be an Indian today…

We chose Stability and Peace.

We chose Tolerance over Fundamentalism.

We shocked the smugness out of those who thought we would vote for err… manliness. We chose practical, intelligent wisdom over the iron man.

We chose Jai (Victory) over Bhay(Fear).

We chose to give a decisive mandate.

Rakesh says, “In terms of how the world sees us, they’ll read this election result favourably, concluding that generally, the Indian voter does not seem to have a religious bias.”

And that makes me so proud.

I was also proud when this powerful Democracy turned up in huge numbers in Kashmir, ignoring the boycott called by the separatist movement … A 60.5% voter turnout!

I am proud of the fact that we can vote for a Dynasty if we so choose.
And we can vote back fundamentalists, if we choose.
We can also vote out corruption when we’ve had enough.

We can surprise!! And how!!! I love it that we realise that we have it in our hands to do that!

We the aam aadmi is the King Maker! (We decided Singh is King)

We might make wrong choices, but we know that we have the power to correct ourselves.

We have problems galore, but now we know that we also have the power to choose who solves them for us.

These elections have proved once again, that slowly (very slowly) we are learning not to take our Freedom, Secularism and Democracy for granted …

Note: (Some parts taken from another post of mine, just had to share the elation I am feeling today… )

Are you watching the Election Results?

I am ;)

And I am shaking my head in disbelief! :lol:

True, these are only the early trends…

I still have hope for some relief ;)

I hope India still  Develops :lol:

And we see no power cuts  in an India Shining

I hope  Terrorism is magically controlled by macho wars

With instant beheading of all suspects

(Except the state sponsored ones)

I hope our culture is saved

And our roads are beautifully paved…

I will miss that familiar photograph

The Ads in our blogs will never be the same again :(

Some celebrations have started

With firecrackers and cheering

Did the real Indian choose peace, tolerance and progress?!!!

(Now that’s the Indian I can relate to)

What do these trends indicate?

Is it going to be Jai Ho or Bhai Ho

Or Third Front ki Vijay ho?


Do you see your favorite guys winning?

The Life And Times Of Another Indian Homemaker.

A maid of mine was very worried when she and around thirty other residents were told to vacate a plot they occupied . She spent sleepless nights; all her belongings were packed in case they had to leave. Fearing everyday would be the last day she had a home, a job and her dhobi shop.

I told her not to worry; nobody could evict her if she had her papers. Didn’t she say her mother was given the land by a visiting political leader? She told me; only ten huts were given with proper papers to ten women. Her mother was one of them. It was a small village, no electricity, far from even the outskirts of the city. That land had no value at that time.

Now, a few years ago, new construction started in that area, a residential complex, a school and some shops opened. Middle class families moved into the area. Suddenly new jobs were created for maids, dhobi, raddiwala, grocery store delivery boys, car cleaners etc. Some of the local people got sheets of tin and tarpaulin and put up shabby sheds and rented them to these workers who came from nearby villages. Where did they put up these sheds? On the same plot my maid also illegally occupied. The land did not belong to any of them! They charged extra if the tenant took an electricity connection. Where did this electric connection come from? They all had TVs!

My maid needed to stay here, because here, close to her mother, she felt safer. Her husband lay, all day, in a drunken stupor. She had found work. Her three children were going to a local school; she knew she could turn to us if she needed urgent cash. She had bought an old colour TV from an employer, a mixer grinder and an old gas stove from another. She had a ‘godrej’ cupboard to protect her belongings. (There was no way to lock the ‘house’ which was made up of some sheets of tin, tarpaulin, used car covers etc.) And I was happy hearing the progress she was making in life, all on her own. And then she made another shed – on public land, and rented it for Rs 500/- to a young boy who worked in a restaurant.

Life wasn’t easy here. Liquor became readily available. Her husband remained drunk all day. His creepy friends visited them and she worried about her young daughters. She was beaten almost every evening for little things she did wrong. When her mother tried to intervene, she was pushed and she fell so hard she cut her chin. The whole neighborhood was the same. Most of the men and young boys were addicted to alcohol and evenings were always noisy. Women screaming, children howling, men yelling, she said she wished he would die.*

“If it’s such a sad situation why don’t you just leave him?” But of course he won’t leave her. I had seen enough such cases to know leaving him was not an option. He used to follow her to make sure she was not spending the money she earned on some other man! And one evening he persuaded her to come to a pond where women washed clothes in the mornings, once there, he tried to drown her, saying he knew she had a lover.

The slum grew. She had been there for two years when the talk of encroachment and eviction started. The ten small huts had become a slum of thirty by now. She considered her options.
She could not go back to her husband’s village because her husband had got into some brawl there, in which a man had died of stabbing. She said she had paid the police in her village, Rs 5000/- (Bail? Bribe? ), she had sold everything they had, to get her husband out and brought him to this place. Now where would she go if they were evicted from here?

I had seen such things in movies and was really worried about her, although I disapproved of their encroachment and her husband’s criminal background. And then suddenly without explaining much, she took four days off to run around and ‘regularise’ her house. Some paperwork, some signatures, some bribing and her shed cum shop, now belonged to her. A local political group was helping them.

Did the people living there benefit from this move? NO. Just a few tough families, got most of the shanties registered in their own or their family members’ names. The actual slum dwellers remained tenants of some local bullies who had built these make-shift sheds and rented them to those poorer than themselves, for Rs. 500/- to 2000/- depending on electric connection and the amount of space etc. SOME comparatively RICHER locals got further RICH! Some politician got some more confirmed votes. And the poorest had to pay higher rent because now the plot legally belonged to the owner!

Nothing came to most of the people who were actually living there.

And so today there are around 350 bricks and tin houses/sheds. There are grocery shops, paan shops, biscuit and vada pau shops, a cobbler, bicycle repair shop, vegetable and fish vendors to cater to these 350 families. The area is dirty (only ten toilets for all 350 odd houses, most people prefer the road side for nature’s call), many including my maid’s husband are petty criminals, there are drunken brawls, life is noisy, violent and unsafe. She has had her hair pulled, she has scratched and been scratched, there is pushing and kicking, fights over drinking water are a matter of survival, flies and mosquitoes keep the children ill all the time. It’s unsafe for young maids to walk home late from work. One young mother was chased by a drunk when she had to take her child to the public toilet at 11 PM, luckily the child howled, and other people woke up. One young man got inside a shed when a maid’s nine year old daughter was alone at ‘home’, the child managed to scream, despite the threatening knife.

A political group has put up their board over there. They don’t care to get the place cleaned, but free liquor is distributed on all festivals. One thing I am sure of, if someone truly banned liquor here, they will get all the women’s votes.

* She will never get a role in Ekta Kapoor’s serials.

Edited to add: The above post had started as a comment to Corinne Rodrigue’s post ‘I didn’t speak up’.

On a day like today…

7 45 am

It’s the kind of day, when you want to sing, On a day like today…

It’s a lovely, lovely day. Clouds, intermittent drizzle. Light breeze, noisy birds, some car reversing, and the kids still asleep…Summer vacations mean lesser time on the blog, more time with kids. It’s the kind of day to take your car and drive with windows down. A friend needs to go to a nearby nursery, so we have all decided to join her. The truth is I need no more plants and animals…and I am determined to pick none, but I have learnt that if we add/change something in the house, I start enjoying maintaining and photographing it.

Husband hates hardware shopping. Hearing my cribs about a water–splattering kitchen faucet, and the urgent need to change it, a friend sympathetically drove us from the gym to a favourite Hard Ware Store. They didn’t have what I wanted, but they promised to get it and call me.

But my feminist mind was delighted to see the Bohri Muslim couple. All the time I thought they were Marwaris, when I had finished eulogizing the Marwari business skills, another friend who also shops from there, told me they were NOT Marwaris, but Muslims. That made me even more impressed, the woman looked confident, wore no veil, husband took her advice when I explained what I wanted. She understood and told her husband exactly what I was talking about, he nodded in agreement. I have just read/re-read three books in a row, ‘The Kite Runner’, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and ‘Not without My Daughter’ and cried through each of them. I have wondered what I would have done if I was in any of their places. Oh yes I observe how women are treated all the time. Then I thanked God I was born in India. America would not have been bad either.

Daughter wishes she was born in a country where there was no gender bias, and she prefers Europe or America (born as a citizen there). She often says she would like to join Politics so that she can really change this country.

I ask: Which politician have you seen change this country?

Daughter: So many, but only for the worse, now supposing they used their power to better the country, I will be like that.

I: Inshallah!

(‘God Willing!’, my mind is still floating sadly, without a one eyed abaya in Iran & Afghanistan)

We can’t choose the country (or for that matter, State) of our birth, but we can definitely refuse to shut our eyes. I have just read Secret, and I believe if she continues to wish this, seriously – sincerely, she will succeed. And we all need a solid goal. Like most Indian parents, I love to see ambition in my children. (Even though the goals change every week, after every new movie or book)

Son who reads only when pressed to, read ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini (Only thing that works is, “No internet until you mail me a review.”). The reviews started before the book finished: I am deeply engrossed in Betty Mehmoody’s frequent trips to look for some ingredient for some Irani recipe, and notice a shadow in the room, I look up. Son is just standing there, a sad, shocked look on his sheltered, thirteen year old face. “I can’t read this book.”

I can make out when he is holding tears.”Where have you reached?”

“How could they do this to Hassan?”

“I wish I could say, it’s just a story, but Afghanistan did go through all this. Repressed society, anarchy, Taliban…we can’t even bear to read it, they lived through this, for years…. when you were born, around 1992 to recently… It can happen to India also. Fundamentalists, Facism and religious fervour can make people mad. If you really don’t want to read it, I can tell you the ending, it’s very nice actually, and you’ll laugh aloud.”

“I will read it.”

And many more reviews with less words more a look on the face. Until late at night when he sauntered into my room, a big silly, delighted smile plastered on his face. “This is even better than ‘To kill a Mockingbird!”

That’s the kind of review I wanted.

Related Posts:

A letter to the future…

Women’s Day