पद्मावती

पुरुष की ही नज़रों का शिकार थी
तुम तब भी पद्मावती
और आज भी।

सिंदूर का ग़ुलाम किसने किया?
सौंदर्य का बखान किसने किया?
जौहर का इंतज़ाम किसने किया?
युद्ध में, जुए में, स्त्री को परिभाषित
जीतने वाला सामान किसने किया?

ना किसी मुसलमान की हवस थी
ना ही थी किसी राजपूत की हार,
तुम्हें आग में ढकेलने वाला था
पुरुष का तुम पर तुमसे ज़्यादा अधिकार।

तो जौहर में तुम्हें झोंकने वालों को आज
राजपूत और मुसलमान किसने किया?

उन्होंने जो तुम्हारे ज़िंदा जलते शरीर पर
शर्म और दर्द नहीं महसूस करते,
गर्व का महोत्सव मनाना चाहते हैं।
और जो स्त्री को आज भी
तलवार चलाना सिखाने की जगह
आग में जलाना चाहते हैं।
तुम्हारे मुंह से तो कभी सुनेंगे नहीं
कहानी तुम्हारी,
वे अपने शब्दों का
डंका बजवाना चाहते हैं।

पुरुष के ही शब्दों का शिकार थी
तुम तब भी पद्मावती
और आज भी।

Photo by Ravi Shekhar on Unsplash

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बेचारे पुरुष बड़े आहत हैं

एक स्त्री के सिंदूर पर सवाल से
बेचारे पुरुष बड़े आहत हैं।
यूं लगता है सखी कि सिंदूर में
वाकई बड़ी ताक़त है।

जादूगर का तोता है सिंदूर,
जान बसती है इसमें,
पहनने वाले की नहीं,
उसकी ज़िंदग़ी को जकड़ के रखने वाले
पुरुषों के बनाए गए समाज की।

Sanyasi

और उन समाज-निर्माताओं ने
फ़तवा दिया है,
कि सिंदूर पर सवाल किया,
तो तुम जाहिल हो।

अगर तुम्हारी शिक्षा-दीक्षा ने
तुम्हें सिंदूर पर अटका दिया है,
सवाल खड़े करने की तुम्हारी
शक्ति ख़तम कर दी है,
तो तुम्हारे चुप सयानेपन से बेहतर
मेरी सवाल पूछने वाली जहालत है।
एक स्त्री के सिंदूर पर सवाल से
बेचारे पुरुष बड़े आहत हैं।

Photo by Ashes Sitoula on Unsplash

Unity in Stupidity

Some proverbial straw broke the proverbial camel’s back today and I have to get it out of my system.

There is one thing that seems to unite people on social media across caste, creed, religion, political beliefs, social standing, educational background, and economic status. The temptation to make strawman enemy, challenge them, ask them questions,  then feel outraged or victorious that it hasn’t been answered, and pass judgment on them. This strawman enemy, at first glance, doesn’t sound like a strawman. Because their names do carry a meaning. Questions get asked to Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Atheists, Agnostics, Americans, British, Pakistanis, Indians, Liberals, Feminists, Upper-class Hindus, Sunni Muslims, rich Dalits, Men, Women, Transgenders, Homosexuals, Gay, Lesbians – you name it. And the victorious question typically takes the form of “Why is (category) X not saying thing A about the issue I?”

DogWearingSheet

“Why are high-caste Hindus not talking about beef lynchings?”

“Why are Muslims not condemning terrorism?”

“Why are feminists not saying anything about this actress misbehaving?”

“Why are liberals not decrying this incident of state oppression?”

And when they don’t get an answer or don’t get a satisfactory one, they proceed to pass on a sweeping judgment about the group (sometimes the judgment is passed beforehand, because they already know they won’t get the answer).

Bhai/Behen, exactly who are you talking about? Do you know all the Hindus, all the Muslims, all the feminists, and all the liberals? Do you know about all the different places, where all of them express things? What on earth does it mean that X is not talking about I? Who exactly is X? Are you asking that question to all the people who belong to X? Do all of them have to talk about it? Are you looking at a certain percentage? Why that percentage? How do you know whether or not that percentage has been achieved? Do they have to talk about it on the specific forum you want? In the specific way that you approve of?

Get a grip. There is no Feminists Association of India that can talk on behalf of all the feminists. Even if there is an AIMPLB, what they say is not what all Muslims think and say. There is no Liberals United issuing memberships. There is definitely no Hindus of the World Association which speaks on behalf of all Hindus.

By all means, ask questions to an organization or a group that has a responsibility or has control over resources important to the issue at hand or whose job it is to have answers and which is identifiable enough to answer it. Ask questions of National Commission of Women (disclaimer: it is NOT a feminist-representative body, just a political-bureaucratic organization). Ask AIMPLB how can it support triple talaq in this day and age. Ask Congress why it had brought 66A and despite that is pretending today to be a champion of free speech.  And ask BJP why it condones lynchings? Ask the government why people are being denied food because of Aadhaar when it was supposed to bring inclusion? Ask news channels why they didn’t cover a particular issue.

You are still not guaranteed an answer. But at least you are not being stupid by asking.

I can’t give you a strict definition of what kind of group can be asked a question, and what kind can’t be. I don’t have a strict classification in my head. If you really started making a list, there would be gray areas. But I know absolute absurdity when I see it. If you stop to think for a moment, you would know it too. Think, who you are asking the question to. Who are you passing the judgment on? If you are asking it to too broad a group with no ‘official spokesperson’, most likely you are being absurd. Most likely, it is just a few individuals you are following or connected to, that you are talking about. Then please do us all a favor and refrain from passing sweeping judgment about a group.

Of course, who am I to stop you from asking and saying whatever you want? Not only do I not have any power, I am a supporter of free speech and all. Even in principle, I can’t ask that you be stopped.  Even if I had power, I wouldn’t. So ask if you want. Your freedom of speech. I will call it ridiculous and stupid. My freedom of speech. And I might especially call you out (and not answer the question) if you direct stupid questions at feminists, liberals or agnostics (even atheists). Because I identify myself with all those labels. Then you will perhaps ask why do feminists not call me out when I ask a question to Hindus. Why only when I ask a question to liberals. Guess what? You are being absolutely absurd!

Disclaimer: This rant is about what we see on social media, where these questions and judgment keep getting absurd by the day. I am not trying to say that groups don’t have specific, identifiable majority inclinations and characteristics. Just that discussing those and understanding the nuances is beyond the ability of our social media scholars.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

दीवाली की रोशनी की मेहनत

ये तो सच है माँ
कि तुम्हारे बचपन में
दीवाली की रोशनी पर
बड़ी मेहनत लगती थी।

दिये लाते थे,
पानी में डालकर
फिर सुखाते थे,
बातियाँ बनाते थे,
तेल लगाते थे,
फिर एक-एक कर के
सारे दिये जलाते थे।

हमारा क्या?
एल ई डी की लड़ियाँ लाते हैं,
सॉकेट में लगाते हैं,
और बटन दबाते हैं।

लेकिन वो लड़ियाँ खरीदने के लिए
पार्किंग ढूँढ़ने में जो मेहनत लगती है ना
उसे कम मत आँको, माँ।

If you are a liberal, how can you be ‘intolerant’ towards me?

Being a liberal is not being stupid or mindless. Being a liberal does not mean we don’t stand up for anything. We stand up for giving space to ideas, for diversity, for freedom of expression, for the value of human life irrespective of people’s group identities.

Disagreeing is not intolerance. Liberals stand for the right to disagree, to argue their case, to bring change in the society. What is intolerance and what is not accepted by a liberal is bullying, oppressing, silencing and in the worst case killing of people and ideas. Most liberals will be particularly against a powerful entity like State (or a big corporation or a powerful person) indulging in or encouraging such oppression on people. And opposing THAT is not intolerance. It is very much being a liberal and being a human being with a spine.

I disagree with people who think there should be a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. But I don’t believe that they should be bullied, murdered or thrown out of the country for their belief. I will defend their rights to their opinion which is contrary to mine. And their right to express it. But I will not stand for it if they bully, threaten, harm or kill me or anybody else. And yes – I will also defend to the death my own right to disagree with them and express it without having to be fearful of persecution.

This in no way contradicts my liberal position.

Thank you!

Defenders of the regime these days think that they have closed the debate by asking this question to the liberals. “How can you say I am wrong if you are supposed to tolerate different ideologies?” is the question they pose in some variation or the other and think that they have illegitimized the liberals (‘libtards’ in their heads and even their speech all too often now) once and forever.

Above is an answer I wrote to one of them. If you get asked this question, and this answer helps, please feel free to copy-paste it. Just give a link back to this post so that some hate can flow towards me too and I can keep a track of just how f***ed up the world is.