The Culture Of Conservatism

The dust-up over Mr. Muthalik’s acceptance into the BJP served fresh grist into the mills of the culture-and-politics debate. With the BJP poised to make a comeback, the talk raging in clubs and canteens alike, is expectedly getting heated and will likely stay that way until May’s answer to this Umm al-electoral Maarik. After which, interest might vane awhile; but make no mistake, the argumentation has at long last found firm ground and is here to stay. For, there is a larger something at the nub of it; something that transcends politics – the recognition of the right to own and express cultural identity by Hindu Indians without being dubbed fascist or fundamentalist.

In everyday parlance, culture wars pit conservatives and liberals against each other on either side of a fence. Often, that is a doubly reinforced electric fence with poison tipped spikes for backup. Seriousness aside; try transposing common understanding of these terms to the Indian context and the cognitive dissonance becomes obvious when, suddenly, Left, Right, their Wings, Conservatives, Progressives, etc., all morph into un-unravelable skeins of woolly definition. The terms translate this way here: Indian Left is the motley bunch of usual culprits; Indian Right is Right Wing loony; Indian Liberals only get their rosettes if they belong to the upper echelons of one (just one) political party and/or circumnavigate the concentric whorls of the literary sphere and Indian Conservatives are the indescribable NOTA group. Leaving aside ‘Left’ and ‘Liberal’ which play somewhat true to righteous type; it is ‘Right’, ‘Right-Wing’ and ‘Conservative’ that consistently enmesh to belie definition.

Conservatives and Liberals split fundamentally on economics and culture. In recent years the field of Political Physiology has ensured that the divide gets more evolved company. Biology too now finds its place alongside culture and economics as a credible separator of political preference. There are defined psychological and biological explanations for behavioral differences (twin studies ascribe as much as 40% to DNA) between the two and it is possible that evolution might have selected for that variance to exist. While the arguments over economics have had their fair share of the Sun; considered debate on culture is near absent. What stands in its stead is the noise of outrage. Over freedom of speech, Khaps, marriage and family values, moral policing and patriarchy.

The more traditional socio-religious conservatism has two broad divisions – cultural conservatism and social conservatism; Right and Right-Wing respectively. While there are overlapping areas of interest;  in the Indian context the distinctions are more defined (but underreported) than the overlap which typically, is generalized and overplayed. The two preeminent issues that social conservatism in India is pre-occupied with are – freedom of expression (often demonstrated as aggressive protest over published word or art) and moral policing or vigilantism. Ugly demonstrations of muscle power are indeed more media worthy than critical thinking but, that is not the only reason social conservatism finds pre-eminence in the debate. It is also, artfully deployed as a whipping boy to muzzle conservative thought and voice. More egregious than this however, is the canard that secularism reposes safe only in the cocooned custody of Left and/or Liberal. This unfounded argument of calculated convenience is used to daub the entire mass on the other side of the fence as fascist and communal. It is more than a worrying possibility that the rise in social conservatism is a reactionary response to the relentless ridicule of Hindu customs, belief and thought.

Matters get more interesting when contemplating conservatism from a cultural context. As the term implies, culture and traditional orders of life and living inform the ideology to a great extent and, it is therefore a natural next step to ask: what is the culture in question that is in play here. In the modern context; cultural and religious identity might not be directly interchangeable. Yet, religion is a major feeder of cultural identity and group culture is often rooted in religious affiliation even if individuals are at personal liberty to transcend these definitions. Being thus identified as a prime driver of identity; the principles of Hinduism merit scrutiny. Attempts to do so have immediately raised the clamour that the sum of creeds that rest under the classified banner of Hinduism can’t be corralled similarly under the ideological. Such pronouncements are not just self-indulgent celebrations of ignorance (the subject of texts is addressed, here); they raise suspicion of ulterior motive because of the stubborn refusal to educate and engage. Here verily is a case fit for the dictum: Suppressio veri; suggestio falsi.

There is a commonly held belief that monotheistic religions that have a single codex to follow are more ‘religions’ than those that are not. This is only one perspective (a human one at that) and not a supernatural decree or diktat for how or what a religion is. Yet, that this narrow view spread and took root is hardly surprising given that it is both studied and propagated as such. The most celebratory characteristic of Hinduism is its immense and extraordinary diversity that is yet tethered firmly to a nodal commonality. Features of Hinduism that I describe here-under are not interpretations but direct transmissions of learning from texts of Hinduism and which any practitioner or seer will attest to.

  • Hinduism does not see man as separate and apart from nature and his surroundings. An equal respect for all manner of life-forms whether elemental or complex; human or animal is reiterated in every text.
  • It is not dogmatic and does not seek to be organized into a fixed creed.
  • The two fundamental and distinctive features of Hinduism are Dharma and tolerance. Dharma can be variously construed as duty, law or morality. It is best understood when described as, ‘the law that governs the conduct of man’.
  • Rather than insisting on a credo to experience God and living; Hinduism through its numerous texts directs the seeker to realize the supremacy of the Self over all else. Such thought has an immense capacity for the tolerant acceptance of all belief; even the belief of doubt. It neither preaches violent defence of its principles and/or faith nor, equally, does it believe in asserting its supremacy over other creeds as the sole and only path to Divinity. Rather than occupy itself with converting others to its point of view; it has ever been absorbed with – in the words of the great philosopher, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – ‘an eternal quest of the mind’.

With this understanding, Hindu cultural conservatism starts to morph, Maya-like, into a Liberal Humanism and the reasons for the confusion with terms becomes clear. From an evolutionary perspective, political liberalism is the new kid on the block; but it has stayed long enough to find itself a permanent seat at the political table. In a scenario where some of our political beliefs might be chromosomally entrenched; the obvious path forward is to embrace diversity rather than attempt to change it – a common characteristic that Hindu cultural conservatives share with liberals.

Hinduism preaches a conservatism for the Self and/or micro-group and a detached liberalism for the community at large. Cultural conservatives in the Hindu context are concerned with preserving this ethic and philosophy of living. As for the economics, for a country like India that has 840 million living under two dollars a day, it is naïve to envisage a development that does not include the active participation of government. Cultural conservatism would ensure the coexistence of the practiced principle of responsibility alongside the morality of a right.

Culture is a living breathing organism that directly influences and moulds the lives of millions. It is not a curio to be exhibited behind glass panes, in galleries, that seems to say: “Look and admire. But don’t touch; don’t feel; don’t practice or participate. I am not you anymore; I am the other”. Finally and perhaps most pertinent of all, culture and cognition feed into and off each other in a virtuous cycle. The effort to divide and isolate us from our own culture has predictably boomeranged and we are now faced with the problem of an unthinking and exploitable social conservatism that has found its voice on the streets.


This is a hymn from the concluding SUktham of the RigVeda which, according to the Paramacharya of Kanchi, – one of the greatest seers of Hinduism in recent times – is the prime dictum for all Hindus and one that should have greater significance than the national anthem of any country:

“May mankind be of one mind; May it have a common goal; May all hearts be united in love. And with the mind and the goal being one may all of us live in happiness”

It can be read in Sanskrit, here: “Sangacchadhvam Samvadadhvam..

Post – PostScript:

This recitation of the hymn was shared with me by Many thanks to them for the share.


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Hinduism’s Canon

It is often said of Hinduism that, unlike the Abrahamic religions, it is not a religion of the book; that it does not have a cornerstone scripture serving as congregator. More than being completely erroneous, this is an uninformed canard that implicitly suggests, Hinduism’s true place is more in line with Paganism than with any religion or creed. Books are not just the foundational bricks of Theology; they are also essential for congealing communities of belief. The unifying force of a book is integral to the survival and propagation of organized religion. Additionally and apart from that self-serving purpose; scripture illustrates the philosophy and thought of the religion which in turn, serves as a bulwark for cultural belief and evolution. That texts are important to religion is thus established. However, the notion that ritual use of a single book by all practitioners, is a necessary determinant of established religion is one that must be countered.

Hinduism does not have only one text; it has a whole canon comprising fourteen texts. But, the way in which these texts are used, in and by the faith, is very different from other religions. Hinduism is as much a creed of learning as it is of the Divine. Learning and the advancement of the intellect is deeply intertwined with the practice; deep enough to not be seen as distinct from it. ‘Pramana’ or, the ‘means to knowledge’ has three core elements – perception, inference and textual knowledge or Shabdha. The Hindu Canon is considered to be just one of the ways of realization (of self and divine). It falls under the category of Shabdha.

In Sanskrit; these texts are called Shastras or the Chaturdasha Vidya (Chaturdasha – fourteen; Vidya – learning). There are an additional four that are more akin to subject specializations; but these too are sometimes included raising the number of primary texts to eighteen. All eighteen are extant. Crowning these texts are the Vedas – the prime scripture of Hinduism. The texts are individually distinct in both content and scope and consequently, do not share the same degree of importance. At the same time, however, they also don’t submit to being categorized into a traditional hierarchy of greatest to least. On the contrary, the onus of intellectual hierarchy is on the learner/ practitioner of the faith. Hinduism’s texts recognize the spiritual and intellectual stage of development of the individual and cater to that hierarchy of personal evolution in the reader, the seeker or, believer. Like learning, Bhakthi or belief, is also understood as subjective experience and is treated accordingly. The philosophy of – to each is given a unique place and purpose and to each too, the responsibility to serve it well – is exemplified by the collected works in the Canon. Irrespective of the stage at which a text has unique appeal; not one of these texts ever becomes irrelevant. Just as cliches acquire new meaning when revisited with personal experience; similarly, each text when revisited enhances the reader with new shades and depth of meaning.

To most English readers of Hinduism the classification of these texts can be baffling. In my own experience (admittedly limited), most books do not classify or detail the texts in a simple format that facilitates both understanding and recall. This perhaps is a contributory factor for the in-vogue misrepresentations. From reading collated across numerous sources an easily comprehensible classification is detailed below that should put paid to the myth of the absent book.

It is common to divide the Chaturdasha Vidya into Shruthi and Smrithi. Shruthi (literally, that which is heard) are the older texts learnt by the oral tradition and do not have a known author. Smrithi (that which is memorized and lived by) are auxiliary texts to the Shruthi. They are explanatory decoders of the Shruthi and, unlike them, have identifiable human authors. Many learned authorities differ from this dichotomous division in that, it implies a difference between the two. In reality, the Smrithis are best described as one of many auxiliary texts that contain extensions, additions and commentaries of the Shruthi.

A more felicitous way to classify the texts and their subjects is in the manner of the branching of the tree – main trunk, limbs and branches.

The Prime Scripture: Four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, AtharvanA, SAma)

Each Veda has further divisions based on structure and function. Structurally, there are three sections – SamhitA, BrAhmanA and the AranyakA. Functionally, two – the KarmakAndA and JnanakAndA. The Samhita and the BrAhmanA together comprise the KarmakAndA. These sections concern themselves with recitations, work and worship rituals. The AranyakA along with the Upanishads are intellectual and philosophical expositions of the KarmakAndA.

The text and its divisions have been likened metaphorically to a fruit bearing tree. Wherein the trunk is the Vedas; the forked limbs – the KarmakAndA and the JnanakAndA; the branches – the Samhita; leaves – the BrAhmanAs, flowers – the AranyakAs and finally the fruit of the entire endeavour – the Upanishads.

Auxiliary subjects: The primary division called AngAs; the secondary, called UpAngAs.

The six AngAs:

  • 1. Shiksha – Phonetics
  • 2. VyAkarana – Grammar
  • 3. Chandas – Prosody
  • 4. NirUktA – Etymology
  • 5. JyotishA – Cosmology and science
  • 6. KalpA – Application manuals

The four UpAngAs

  • 1. MImAmsA – Is an exegesis of the Vedas. It’s also one of the six systems of thought or DarshanA. MimAmsA has two divisions along the lines of the Kandas of the Vedas – the Purva-mImAmsA and the Uttara-MimAmsA. The two differ from each other and from Vedanta on the role and nature of Ishvara – God.
  • 2. NyAyA – Logic or reasoning. Is also one of the six systems of thought or DarshanA
  • 3. PurAnAs – Eighteen in number. The collected chronicles and legends of history that are used to elaborate the philosophy and the teachings of the Vedas. The PurAnAs are some of the most important texts of Hinduism; both that they are beloved and are in more common use by the multitude than the other texts.
  • 3a. ItihAsA – The Epics: RAmAyanA and MahAbhArathA. The importance of these two to the Hindu Canon is so great that they have often been called the Fifth Veda
  • 4. DharmashAstrAs – are the SmrithIs. They are auxiliary texts that serve as explanatory reference, manuals and commentaries on the Shruthi. In this respect; they are very similar to KalpA and are an extension of it. Law, the conduct of rituals, personal conduct are elaborated in detail here.

Unlike the Abrahamic books, the Hindu canon does not assert an eternal and insurmountable distinction between God and man. The purpose of these texts is not directed at cementing the influence of the creed but at the intellectual and spiritual growth of the individual. When and if approached in the prescribed method of learning, the seeker is gradually steered away from belief, ritual and materialism to seek and realize the divinity within. The religion, thus, actively promotes a movement from the religious to the philosophical.

Hindu Philosophy is not an esoteric external rumination but an active process (incorporated in daily living) of contemplation, realization and renunciation. In socio-political terms, the religion steers the growth and/or shift of the individual from the practice of duties as conservative householder to those of a progressive intellectual. Once the structure for belief and thought is mastered, the believer is set free to explore his learning in pastures of his own creation, even if, that exercise leads him to denounce the very faith. There are no condemnations here of heretics, apostates and agnostics. Even the denial of faith is approached as its mere converse and is respected and welcomed as a contributory advancement of thought.

Viewed through the lens of time, it is fairly reasonable to assume that a single book of God might struggle to withstand the test of humankind’s insatiable quest for the unknown. That, it continues to thrive as the oldest living religion, perhaps suggests that the multiplicity of Hinduism’s texts is a theological example of successful evolutionary survival.

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See something; Say something

Black boots and bundled bulk in an uniform march of purposeful ugliness

Ceiling droppings of a watch as a phone. Buy ugliness big

Same black brew in same size cups. Even if avatar-ed in ten different names

Food vends pretty into spout and bowl. The ugly; battered and beaten on the floor of steel coffin boxes

A piano, a baby grand, sits in absurd splendor. In front of the yoghurt, abreast and to the right of the News

Mozart gamely drowns himself in every distraction and a train hoots and eases into track

A working animal walks by. If, maybe, he noticed too, my alien state, he doesn’t say

But I am glad he went by anyway.

And, again, the announce in collected calm: ‘See something; say something’.


Table 4’s feet pull out of Lego tower shoes.

Table 9’s perfect face in perfect disdain; betrays no strain: ‘will he give me what he must’

Table 10’s lecherous males look my way; I plump myself to meet their gaze

By the road, to Sudbury, a parallel track on another train; same destination different ends

A wind blows the snow off the trees; sweeps the branches and boughs clean

That tangled in the shriveled oak leaves will wait some more. To fall; and then, to melt

A turnstile cracks; I rise along with pounding feet. Pick my box of arranged memories

Empty spaces tactically left for new; Old snagged uglies must wait for a new dawn’s light to vaporize.


I am almost there. A couple of miles out under the fruit trees; you will see

The same blue sky and white clouds the same. From this or any distance; pine tree and steeple are but black dots in a landscape

The train hoots around the bend. The very one that is heard, if listened

Strain. To hear. To come and listen. To see and say. Something much or nothing at all

We turn the bend. Sun glare lights the grimy glass.

I noiseless draw the blinds down and in a while again, the calm announce:

‘Westboro. See something; say something’.

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Indian men; Why we love talking about you

The fracas over the recent article on Good Indian Men is telling of the form of discourse in which style often trumps substance and the thrust of the argument is quickly buried (hopefully intentionally) in verbal and print duels on turn of phrase and literary device. Anything on gender relations is bound to get heated and devolve into one such and this well intentioned, if problematic, article provided ample grist for the mill. If ‘feral’ was hash-tagged it might have trended on Twitter and, ‘undead’ and ‘muscular’, would have been fighting for second place. The thrust of the argument here was the role played by family values in fostering the mental and emotional stability of individuals. Is this something new? No. Is it wrong? No; A good amount of research backs it. Was it an attempt to balance the endless recounting of the predator Indian male? Yes. Did it succeed? Yes and no. Was caste at the core of it? Or, patriarchy? Not to the unprejudiced eye.

Where it does not succeed is the unfortunate and erroneous attempt at conflation that is the last paragraph. A couple of sentences and the argument rapidly descends into the death-trap of causality. Along the way, family values was seamlessly immingled with gender values setting the stage for the backlash. It is indeed true that Indian men have a high degree of familial commitment and responsibility and are wonderfully supportive friends. It is also true that many of our achievements have had the able and steering support of men; both elders and peers. But, it is not the lack of these generally ubiquitous family values or that of ‘nestling in family and community’ that causes or contributes to the specter of violence against women. That happens within or without familial communities and the reasons why are (as is fondly said in Medicine), multifactorial.

The livewire of gender debate routinely sparks a stack of instantaneous reactions in which, moderation is the proverbial needle. The average response on Twitter and elsewhere was negative with repetitive reference to caste and patriarchy although there was nothing in the article to suggest either. A more considered response highlighted the unproved assumptions of class and sexual violence but articulated its criticism from the tough terrain of nurture/nature and interpretations of civilization.

Viewed from any angle, civilization is indeed a process of domestication and withdrawal from nature. That is in both the environmental and behavioral sense. Adaptation, behavioral and otherwise, is our evolutionary counter to nature. The process of understanding nature cannot and should not be equated with sanction. The point is not man’s natural predisposition to sexual violence. Although it has been tried; these and other efforts have been stoutly discredited due to shoddy science. Violence and sexuality continue to be subjects of study in evolutionary psychology but, for now, the lack of evidence makes the discussion moot. On the other hand, the influence of nurture on behavior has been in continuous focus with promising results. Rape has been documented in a plethora of cultures and in other species even. What is uniquely on display in our species, is the plasticity of conscious mental process and its impact on behavioral and physical response.

Gender violence spans a wide swath of perverse behavior that range through degrees of abuse to rape and assault. The impact of nurture on the lower end of the scale is well documented and is the focus of worldwide initiatives aimed at gender parity. Attitudes that might otherwise be superior and dominant (due to any reason) can be conditioned and molded by nurture; talk of socio-cultural reasons for rape implicitly acknowledge nurture’s role and it is here, with nurture, that family values gets precedence over gender values. While the former is inculcated in children both by example and practice; the latter is given short shrift. What families must impart along with and apart from family values of support and commitment are parity values of respect, fairness and restraint, while discouraging, at the same time, entitlement and domination. Not every woman fits into the easily slottable maa, behen and beti definitions. The need of the hour is the extension of the same genteel treatment to otherness; for those who reside on the outer lines of comfort and don’t wear these familiar badges. Family values are what lead to the relative stability of marital relationships in India; but it is gender values that will leave a lasting impact on parity and equalization. The impact of nurture on physical violence and assault is less clear at the higher end of the abuse spectrum where the entanglement of causal factors is complex.

Debate on gender in India has other troubling aspects. A forced veiling of all things female in the pre-approved garb of patriarchy, domesticity and caste wins in exchange the legitimacy of the faith. But, the social order is not a Pleistocene fossil. It is dynamic and is changing across every cultural spread. Yes, the pace of change does not match our desire and its influence is not uniform. Yet, it serves our collective interests to keep it going and nudge it along. Sweeping generalizations that do not fit many realities serve the opposite purpose of hardening stances. The road to reparation is faster traversed by nurturing cooperation; not by an ever-accusatory harangue. After all, if we believe that criminals can be reformed; we can easily give our good and decent men a fighting chance with our trust.

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Universal Health Coverage (UHC)


The essays on the proposal for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India are consolidated in a pdf here.



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‘Is feeling ever wisdom’s prescience?
Through self or vicarious experience?’
“Well, a lack needs an ‘other’
To let you know you’re ‘only’ better
And that’s all that’s vicarious of sentience.”

She countered with needless sternness.
‘Well then; my sadness takes form in your furnace
Our union, you see,
Is but a notional decree;
For my happiness finds no matching purchase.’


[For my only aniyan, whose rhyming guile coaxed gloom to reconcile with smile]

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Does Feminism have a gender?

Search high and low and you will perhaps, come up with a clutch of male names who bravely call themselves feminists. This is more than a little surprising if you consider that most people agree on the fundamentals of equality, freedom and justice, for all. Our age records ‘humanist’ as a proud badge; yet, it marks a palpable hesitation with ‘feminist’. Both sexes stand together as one species under the umbrella of ‘Homo sapiens’; why then is one standing aloof and apart from what is increasingly recognized as the defining concern of the other? Which begs the question: Is feminism, female? This is not to say that no men support the cause of feminism; far from it. They exist, in individuals and in groups; but, their support has low visibility. Some have even rallied under a sub-classification: Pro-feminists. While that is heartening to know, its breaking-off from the main provokes the inevitable question – why do men need a separate definition for the same cause?

The problem might lie with the word, Feminism – an excluding and exclusive term that possessively holds woman alone in the embrace of its roots. It might also extend to disquiet with what feminism has come to represent; a reason too why many women themselves fight shy of the term. What began as equality has gradually shifted to embracing entitlement and to a more radical form that mistakes misandry for empowerment. The entry of fringe radicalizations has done undue damage to mainstream debate of the real issues by muddying common purpose. Yet, most women are uncomfortable with publicly denouncing these positions. Their hesitation makes men uncomfortable with lending full throated support on the larger issues.

The women’s rights movement started as a struggle, in the West, for equality with men in the political, social and economic sphere. As expected, the political goals were relatively easy to achieve. It was political equality that was the threatening notion of its time. Once that took root and rapidly spread, suffrage automatically followed in its contrail. The other two fronts were slow to keep pace. Rather predictably too; since change herein directly threatens the social order as it exists. Equal pay for equal work is a principle most men align with reasonably. It has not yet translated due to structural impediments created by vested interests and delays in governance reform. This should have been the focus of feminism’s next major thrust. Instead, it was side-tracked by the tumult in families wrought by the rapid devolution of the social order.

It was Carol Hanisch, a sixties-era feminist who popularized the phrase: The personal is political. While that indeed is true; its corollary is not. The political is not always personal. Not in an emotional or social sense. The political and economic facets of equality for women can deservedly target the ideal position. However, on the social and familial front, equality is a hard nut to crack. Here, the chasm splits wide open between the ideal and the actual. Change at this micro-personal level will not happen with a single tectonic shift. It has multiple interwoven interests and will necessarily be in fits and bursts with revisions and edits. Unfortunately, frustration with its tardiness has transformed feminism into activism aimed at enforcement. This is rightly interpreted by many as the long arm of the State extending into the personal spaces of relationships and families.

At the level of the family; feminism is but one cause in many and feminist is just one hat. It jostles with multiple kinships, competes for space, and is no longer an identity absolute. With this contextual shift, there are many hyphenated roads to its end-goal. Expectedly, the feminist label has split into a bewildering mélange of: liberal-feminists, conservative-feminists, cultural-feminists, eco-feminists, material-feminists, pro-feminists, etc. The cleaving is especially jagged on social issues. Irrespective of the reasons this fractured identity has fragmented the faith. No more does feminism reside in an unquestionable resplendent absolute; it now cowers in the shadows of an adjectivized state.

Indian feminism reflects the heterogeneity of its origins. Broadly it can be grouped into two categories: activism against oppression and activism for equality. This neat slotting, while diligent on paper, is confounding on the ground. Oppression of, and brute violence against, women violates the lowest bar of their fundamental rights. Curiously, it is not restricted to any one economic or educational stratum. Disagreement between the sexes on this issue is rare and is the exception to the norm. It is on the matter of social/familial/work-life equality that gender divide raises its clunky head. The easy transmutation of what is really an equality debate into one of oppression and the latter’s over-use as a convenient, brook-no-opposition, fall-back for all and any disagreement, alienates men and denies both sexes the opportunity of a more harmonious co-existence.

At this juncture, the women’s movement would do well to heed the models by which political equality gained success. Time and again, we are shown historical evidence of the patterns by which a collective end-goal was achieved. The most successful ones are homogenous in purpose, have a well-defined goal, have multiple players invested in it and importantly, have invariably had the support of breakaways from the privileged class. ‘Subordinate’ groups have easier gained a seat at the table when they’ve commissioned the active support of ‘insider breakaways’. Whether out of genuine or opportunistic belief insider involvement is critical to the process. For women; this implies the active and tacit support of men. Every familial issue – whether that is education, marriage, children, work-life balance, elder care and support – necessitates the hands-on involvement of both sexes. A cooperative approach to and with men will not only hasten the fruition of feminism’s goals; it will also ensure a stable and sustainable change in the social order. An inclusive and participatory change has a better chance with longevity than enforced and regulated change.

Equality at home is best achieved by a balance of compromises. Fathers and grandfathers (along with their women) were feminists before we were. They and many others of their ilk from even older generations made great and bold sacrifices to enable the empowering reforms of the 20th CE. Whether as proto-feminists or pro-feminists, both women and men have more control over challenges than we are willing to accept responsibility for. One way of exerting control is through a mature response, not a shrill one. Through assertion; not aggression. Our mutually cooperative response to the challenges of our times will set the agenda for the coming generations. Ideally, (having transcended these divisions) that should be to merge feminism into a more universal humanism.

I’ll conclude with a couplet which says more than all the words I’ve summoned to make my case. Written by one of Tamil’s greatest poets, a 19th-20th CE Indian Nationalist and an Ur-feminist, Shri. Subramania Bharatiar: Kangal irandinil ondrai; kuthi Kaatchi keduthidalamo? Pengal arivai valarthal; vaiyyam Pedamaiyatridum kaaneer [Would it be reasonable to destroy the vision that two eyes contribute to, by intentionally destroying the sight of one? Will the world not be a better place if we encouraged the intellectual development and progress of women?]

(Sincere apologies to Tamil readers and scholars for my weak attempt at translation)



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