Saturday, September 13, 2014

"Chain" around the neck!!!

This is an article I have been thinking of since August. A few of my Indian colleagues and I invited our non-Indian colleagues for a dinner and get together. It was a beautiful evening with good discussions, Indian food and warmth. Discussions revolved around software engineering, corporate world and IT industry to start with;  the conversations drifted slowly into culture & its impact on behaviors/preferences  and then focus turned to Indian culture - naturally so, because the hosts were Indians and the rest of them (as coaches) had to deal with a large number of Indians… how invasions impacted India, how we lost our technologies, how diverse is the culture in India in food, art forms, dressing etc.

Then came the topic of this article. Why do Indian women have "pottu" or "Bindhi". All religious and social reasons were  discussed! My colleagues from the US were eager to know the significance of the red dot on the parting of hairline (வகிடு) They  were curious to know why many Indian women have and I do not have! I explained how I do not believe in that,  how my "pottu" style does not represent my family's religious association (I am a shaivite wearing long vertical pottu like vaishnavites), how lack of the red dot does not indicate my marital status  (I am happily married and very much with my husband); the only reason I have the pottu the way I have is, I believe I look good in that style!!! The discussion went on to how many cultures had some way or the other to indicate the marital status! The topic stayed on my mind and I was thinking of this article.

The article started running in my mind even more strongly since the recent wedding I attended… My aunt was very upset with me because I removed all the jewelry including the "thali" (necklace) after the function. I always removed all the jewelry when I am at home because, for me, they are all part of my makeup. I know, many elders did not like it because they associated that with marital status… I was thinking of the impact of "looking good" or "make up" on women and the influence of society on this aspect…

Why should the society care so much about how a woman dressed up? Is it not individual's choice? It is cruel to ask someone to remove "pottu" or "thali" just because her husband died; it is equally bad to force someone to have these because the husband is alive. These are both sides of the same coin… to make women believe that they dress up only for their husbands! Even in the western culture, women are encouraged to dress up to impress men! These are all expressions of male chauvinism…

Of course women also do not feel like dressing up for various reasons! They may be too depressed to dress up, or they may have outgrown their own internal need to dress up, or they may fear unwanted attention from other men because of "looking good" or they just do not feel like it… Men also have all these variations! But except for their immediate family members, others do not seem to be bothered about this. But when it comes to women, almost the whole world seems to be interested!

What is more interesting is, many women are conditioned so much by the expectations from the society. That is one of the reasons, why women spend so much time in shopping for their outfits, getting ready etc.. If you just have to buy an attire you like, or that would make you look good as per your standards / liking, it does not take more than 10-15 minutes. But unfortunately women are so influenced by all the conditioning that goes on, they spend days in selecting an attire! Even the so called "feminists" focus so much on women's dressing than the mindset changes! More interestingly, those who dress up for themselves too get caught in this trap at times!

How do we get women out of this trap, how do we change the mindsets & culture are the strongest questions running in my mind!

I generally had at least one day gap between writing and publishing articles as it gives me room for objective review. I was reading one of the August issues of "Puthiya Thalaimurai" only yesterday because I missed reading all the  August issues due to my trip to the US. To my surprise, there was an article by Pe. Karunakaran on the same topic of "thali"! More interestingly he had written the article about the same time I was thinking of writing this article! Who is he? I am curious to know why our article topics coincide often!?  I need to understand if there is a "statistically significant" reason to believe that there is a common factor!  :-)

The next article I am thinking of is about "Responsibility" -  how each one of has a responsibility, responsibility is just not same as job description, how easy it is to teach skills but not responsibility! I started thinking about this also sometime in August. The other thoughts  criss-crossing are about diversity, organizational culture and colors, how those who teach "individuals & interactions are more important than process & tools" can get into generalization trap, impact of not walking the talk. To be precise, I am thinking of these from 13th of August after a trainer made some incorrect, inappropriate  statements about a country/ culture & lost the audience and another senior person made a nasty comment about a country & lost the respect I had for her. Let me see if he has written about any of these in August or he is going to write on this topic in September!!

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