March 14, 2006

Dyer Consequences

The school newspaper comes out every Tuesday, and prides itself on its tabloid-itude. Student union elections were held last week, and the paper carried a sarcastic report today. Many candidates had, as part of their election promises, vowed to have more drinking water facilities on campus (I know of one water fountain and I've been here six months.) So a scathing snippet in the paper said that with so many people wanting drinking water facilities, the school had decided to dig some wells and let students harvest their own drinking water from them. The text was accompanied by the picture of an Indian girl who had contested the elections.

The girl was shown standing in a well.

Now the paper routinely pisses me off with its sexism and occasional racism. But this time, it hit a very raw nerve. Any Indian looking at the picture of a woman in a well is carrying far too much historical baggage to be able to smile and turn the page. The Jalianwalah Bagh incident, for me, repeatedly evokes not just anger at the cold blooded murder that happened on one day in history, but provokes the rage at centuries of culture that consider the forceful ravishment of a woman as fate deserving of her death. Having seen Khamosh Pani at a Pakistan Society screening recently, the anger was much closer to the surface.

The woman in the well is an icon of a world engulfed in conflict where neither party values women's lives. If I write all this in a letter to the editor, it might just get read, and get published in a parody form next week. I don't expect people who refer to "sheesha bars with Arabian girls and shit" to understand my problem. I'm most welcome to carry my chipped shoulder back home where I belong, where I could be expected to jump in the well to avoid being raped tomorrow.

Well, if it's threatening to rip your soul apart, blog it. And then just hope you've got it out of your system.


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

People are stupid. We can only try to reason with the non-morons (who are very very few)

Over on, there's a somewhat confused debate about insularity and media attention. Your experience leads me to support AQC. Somewhat Gandhian, perhaps.


darkchocklit said...

When i was in Cambridge a few years ago-a car pulled up next to us on a red light. All the girls in our contingent (including me) were dressed in 'traditional attire' and were therefore ostensibly INDIANS. The car had a family of four in it-A small boy and his father in the front and a girl and her mother at the back. The little boy smiled and waved at us and the girl stuck her tongue out and yelled "Bloody Indians"!!

Acceptance and associations are still wrought with the stench of colonial excesses.

ps: i enjoy the forthrightness of ur writings. Touchwood!

harneet said...

i can probably get the indian-well association but not the indian-well hence jallianwalah bagh connection.

just that.

and yeah, i really like reading your blog.

darkchocklit said...

Would you by any chance have any readings/names of stories/narratives on foeticide, abortion and menstruation.
im making a film on women and their rt to autonomy over their bodies.... any inputs would be welcome. thx.

Ink Spill said...

Hey Darkchocklit.
Here's a nice one:
Puri, J. (1999) Woman, Body, Desire in Post-colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality. (New York: Routledge)
Also assuming you've read Greer.
Write me a mail and I'll try to send you more names.

richtofen said...

very interesting. the well and the subcontinental woman - and the jalianwallah straits. however, if i had encountered the visual you speak of, i might have missed these connotations altogether - and the slight would have little to do with testosterone-induced-numbness, or lack of analogous thinking.
i think the person/s crafting the woman and the well had little understanding of what they were getting into. they were probably driven by crass humour and dim imagination - rather than brilliant racist and sexual malice.

forgive them father...
kshama karo maa - for they are mere idiots.

not so much indian-well, hence jaliaanwallah, but more of "Rage Against the Well: Echoes and Resonances in History and Society"

Idea aaya! Food for thought. Remember the Nursery Rhyme that went:

Ding dong bell,
pussy's in the well.
Who put her in?
Little Tommy Thin.
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout.

... :-)

darkchocklit said...

Blogspot wouldnt let me comment yest.
Thanx and will mail u soon.

darkchocklit said...

blogspot woudlnt let me comment yest. but thanx and will mail ya soon