|HER WORLD||Sunday, September 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India|
I feel strongly
vs gender ratio
Spirit of enterprise
I feel strongly about...
IT is not only the ones who are all thunder and brimstone who make their point. What of the countless women who adopt different survival strategies and continue to laugh and carry on their life’s journey without making any strident pronouncements or being overtly militant. In the din of declarations of identity and self-discovery, their contributions are often glossed over.
The tag of the ever-suffering Bhartiya nari, and its attendant image of a doormat who lumps each insult and rebuke without a demur, sticks. Is there no half way between the ones who mince no words and those who suffer silently?
If you look around, you will observe how most women who negotiate their way through life and relationships with an admirable stoicism peppered with tact and gentleness often go unnoticed. The ones who speak loudly hog all the attention and the limelight while the silent ones are the quiet sentinels who carry their individual cross with grace and courage.
I remember the petite housewife who lived in the neighbourhood and the grit she showed in the manner with which she took on her alcoholic husband. She never raved or ranted to friends or checked him publicly but managed to persuade him to join a de-addiction centre by discreetly requesting his boss for intervention. "If I had reacted with retaliation or vengeance, I might not have been able to salvage my home or the impasse would have continued and my husband’s health would have suffered." Contrary to what the textbook feminists might say, real life requires mustering of more dexterity and diplomacy than one can imagine. How many times does one have to grin and bear and gloss over the unpalatable words or actions of all whom we are thrown into contact with?
A friend to whom almost everyone she knew turned for advice and solace was not an archetypical rebel. She was extremely gentle and had a soothing manner. Neither did she proclaim her courage of convictions from the rooftop, nor did she unfurl the flag of defiance and brandish it about as a marker of her identity. It was her resilience and inner strength that saw her through the troughs and peaks of life’s journey and this is what everyone admired about her. The most staunch individualist that I knew was another friend who made no fiery speeches or pronouncements. It is often the woman who has no ego hassles or does not repeatedly reiterate her resolve to "do it my way...is the only way", who looks for solutions. She alone gives herself the flexibility to navigate through relationships. The steely strength is reflected in the manner in which these women manage to achieve whatever they set out to without much fuss or ruffling feathers.
By refusing to be drawn into verbal duels and slanging matches or score debating points, a tremendous amount of energy is conserved, which can be channelled towards more positive ends. A graceful 70-year-old grandma had once commented: "Do whatever you have to do but do so without showing such terrible manners! Think independently, act firmly and decide whatever you want to do but do it without creating a shindy. You can make waves without sounding like a hailstorm."
A pretty youngster straight out of college showed admirable grit while tackling her male colleagues who heckled and taunted her to begin with. She did not cry "dam you wolves" or raise an alarm or rush to an extremely sympathetic boss who was willing to go to any length to make her feel comfortable. She handled the situation with the right dose of humour, indifference and hard work. Very soon, the same colleagues, who had been mocking at her, were full of praise for her ability to work and deal with people and not brandish the badge of gender to get even with them.
Similarly, there are many who wear their gender like a crown instead of a cross. They do not detail the woes of womanhood or play to the gallery by bringing their bedrooms into the drawingrooms. Discretion and a reluctance to bare the sacred core to all and sundry can lend a woman a dignity that will always stand her in good stead through peaks and troughs. Why must offence always be the best means of defence? The ones who placate, mend fences and adapt always seem to be overshadowed by the bold, articulate and ruthless ones. While it is the healing power of the so-called shadowy figures that sustains relationships, they are relegated to the backwaters as we acclaim and applaud the rebels without a pause.
Besides, it is often those who are mild yet flexible, with a tremendous strength of character and inner courage, who can deal with situations and people with an open-minded attitude.
Perhaps they are not bound by the idea
of freedom and so shackled by the desire to break free that they cramp
others and themselves. So those quiet, meek and mild souls may not
inherit an emancipated universe but they do give it a legacy of love,
laughter and understanding . These women may never grab headlines as
women of substance and style or be written about for being savvy ‘n’
sassy but their footnote-like existence is scripted with the
non-erasable ink of tact, gentle firmness and silent resilience.
Kick the mould of a doormat
YOU do not need to emulate weak fairy tale women to be a princess. In fact, I cannot remember a time during my childhood when I did not fantasise about being ‘Cinderella’ and actually hoping that "some day my prince would come". All I had to do was wait. But after reading this story again and again, watching the movie one too many times. I realised something—I did not want the fairy tale.
As girls, we grow up with these fantasies ingrained in our brains. Without knowing it, we are force-fed these tales of woe that teach us nothing substantial. It is also harmful to try and emulate a character that, despite what we thought, portrays a weak woman. Think about it—Cinderella carries out any task that her evil stepmother asks her to. She does not question it but, instead, relies on her own goodness to one day get herself out of the situation she finds herself in. Not only that, but she thinks that a prince—a man will somehow find her, sweep her off her feet and take her to a castle far away.
Girls, this does not happen! And even if it did would we really want it to? Granted Cinderella was lucky but how many of us can have that kind of a fairy tale ending? Not even five per cent.
Today I have come to the realisation that I do not need anyone to come and get me out of any bad situations I manage to get myself in to. I can do that myself. I am independent enough to save myself. If we sit back and wait for things to happen to us we will die waiting. You do not have to be pretty or submissive or passive in order to live that fairy tale. Our circumstances, no matter how bad they may be, shape us as people and make us better. Taking help is normal but relying on it totally can jeopardise your self-esteem and self-worth.
Have you ever:
Blamed someone else for some negative thing that has happened to you?
Made a cutting commitment that you wished you hadn't?
Rationalised that if she/he/they really love you then they should accept you?
Ever felt stuck, because you don't see how you are ever going to do what you want to do in life?
Ever asked the question: Who is in control of my life?
Got into the habit of saying ‘I am sorry’ even when there is no reason to?
Repeatedly refused to fight back when insulted or mistreated?
Tried to please others even at your own expense?
This ‘tread-on-me’ attitude is nothing says psychiatrists, but a manifestation of feelings of low self-esteem. Passivity is something we learn from childhood. If a little girl realises that by asserting herself, she will lose the approval of her parents, she will keep quiet. She learns to swallow her anger to retain parental love. The message becomes deeply ingrained: Get pushed around and keep love or stand up for your self and lose it.
Taking control of your life is simply making life choices (decisions) which is an individual’s primary responsibility. Depression is not acting (making a choice) on that part of your life that requires a decision. Think about it, isn't life all about choices? Even for those who are submissive and passive that has to be their choice. There are so many possible choices that you have to understand who you are in order to make the right choices for yourself.
We aren't taught to take care of one’s self as a priority. Being unhappy within degrades the rest of your life. If the important relationships around you are not strong and healthy, make sure you are not contributing to this downfall by not resolving important issues within yourself. Holding on to such unhealthy relationships helps no one. Life is a process of learning about yourself.
Most women are conditioned to nurture everyone else except themselves and feel guilty, if for a change they think about their own welfare. If you do not know what you want, you do not risk going after your dreams…. And you do not risk failure. Second class citizenship keeps you stuck, but it keeps you safe. Women have a real failure of rejection. They do not go around asking for pain but let themselves be pushed around hoping to be loved.
Women who have a ‘put-me-down attitude or an ‘I-deserve-it’ personality, apologise all the time. Psychologists say that such women end up doing tasks both at home and work that no one else wants to do. Moreover they often find themselves helping everyone and are angered when people do not offer to help. Their mild temperament makes them slow reactors. When faced with a hurtful remark, they do think up a perfect response, but that is usually hours later.
While attempting to practice these tips, proceed with caution. Tact and timing helps to give confidence. Start with confrontations that are relatively simple and easy to handle. When you take the first deep breath and assert your self with statements like ‘ I am too busy’, the feelings of relief and power/confidence will be so satisfying that you will not even notice the tremor in your voice. Learning about the power and the importance that a healthy self-image has on our external life, gives new meaning and value to our life—enough for us to pay more attention to our inner well-being. Stop being a doormat and start asserting yourself when required.
vs gender ratio
PUNJAB has traditionally claimed to be socio-economically among the most "progressive" states of the country. However, the figures of the Census of India 2001 reveal an abrupt change in a nearly century-old trend—a steady improvement of the gender ratio. The female-male ratio had been as low as 780 per 1000 (1911 census), but the same went on improving till 1991, reaching a high of 882. This, however, dipped sharply to 874 in the latest Census, comparing very unfavourably with the all-India figure of 933.
A better indicator of the situation is, however, the sex ratio in the age group of 0 to 6 years. This ratio was a woeful 875 in the 1991 Census, but sunk to an abysmally low level of 793 in 2001, the lowest in the country. A district level-review reveals even a more harrowing picture.
Of the ten bottom districts of the country, Punjab has seven, with Fatehgarh Sahib being the poorest performer in the country (754 per 1000). This scenario would be statistically improbable unless there is widespread prevalence of ante-natal sex testing, followed by female foeticide. Legislative measures do not seem to have deterred either prospective parents or unethical medical practitioners; on the contrary, technological advances only seem to have facilitated this practice.
Experts have emphasised the importance of improving the female literacy rate, with a view to tackling the adverse female-male ratio. Punjab's record in the field of literacy in general and female literacy in particular has been quite lacklustre. It ranks 16th in the country, with a literacy rate of 69.95 per cent. The female literacy is merely 63.55 percent and is as low as 57.91 per cent in the rural areas, which still account of nearly two-thirds of the total population. Let us see the latest district-wise position.
If the assumptions of the experts are correct, a district with a higher rate of female literacy, in general, should exhibit a better gender ratio. Contrary to expectations, however, the districts with high female literacy rates do not necessarily do so. For instance, Hoshiarpur, with the highest female literacy, 75.56 per cent, has a poorer sex ratio as compared to Moga, where the female literacy rate is merely 58.96 per cent. Conversely, Fatehgarh Sahib, has the lowest sex ratio (754), although its female literacy at 68.60 per cent is well above the state average.
Statistically, the correlation between the two figures is a mere 0.002, which implies that the two parameters are, for all intents and purposes, correlated. The higher female literacy, thus, seems to have no effect, either positive or adverse, on the gender ratio. This rudimentary piece of empirical evidence shakes the very foundations of a virtual axiom that states addressing the problem of female literacy would automatically solve the problem of the gender mismatch.
Ironically, a highly
educated female population may well increase the propensity to getting
anti-natal sex tests done. Administrators, medical fraternity,
academicians, teachers and non-government organisations (NGOs) must
join hands to formulate a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary overarching
strategy to check this malaise.
Spirit of enterprise
INDIAN women are enterprising and innovative. Given a chance they can really stand out. This is what some of them staying away from home have proved.
Reena Pushkarana, a 43-year-old India born to a Jewish mother and a Sikh father, who later converted to Judaism went to Israel 20 years ago. Having no culinary experience, this enterprising woman opened a small Indian food joint ‘Ichkdana’ in 1983 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The only Hindi word Israelis were probably familiar with was picked up from Raj Kapoor’s Shri 420. This was beginning of the journey. Her food became a sensation and within a year she opened a restaurant named Tandoori at Dezingoff Square in Tel Aviv.
Interestingly, Tandoori was set up when India and Israel were not on talking terms. In fact, the first Indian delegation, that went to Israel in 1992 after diplomatic relations were revived between the two countries, was hosted by Pushkarana’s Tandoori. Even the first peace talks between Israel and Palestine were held at Tandoori before moving to Oslo.
At present, Reena is running a chain of seven Indian restaurants, two in Jerusalem, two in Herzliah Pituach, one each in Eliat, Ramat Hachyal and Tel Aviv. Tandoori is a favourite not only among Indians but Israelis as well, particularly those who have visited India. Dignitaries and bureaucrats are regular visitors to Tandoori. Her food is also served at various official functions.
When Reena came to Israel with her family to give it a try, she fell in love with her homeland and decided to settle down here. For her success, she gives credit to her husband who manages the whole show behind the curtains. Her culinary skill combined with management experience of her husband, who served as captain in the merchant navy, has made Tandoori a success. While sailing the seas with her husband, she developed her love for food and traded recipes with the chief chef of every ship she travelled in.
Her enterprise took an amazing twist when Reena started Israel’s only Kosher Indian restaurant in Jerusalem and Tiberias. Indian cuisine often relies on blending yoghurt with chicken which is a religious taboo for non-vegetarian Jews. Dietary laws of Judaism prescribe separation of milk and meat products. Both are never mixed or even cooked together simultaneously in the kitchen. Reena, therefore developed a substitute for milk/yogurt in parev milk (made of soybean powder). Even cheese is replaced by parev milk retaining the original flavour. It is difficult even for an Indian to make out the difference in taste.
Taste of desserts like ice cream and kulfi made of parev milk is similar to the one made from cow milk. Fried cheese, one of the main constituents in gulab jamuns is also prepared out of parev milk. Israelis love gulab jamuns which they call cheese balls in honey syrup. Parev alternative created wonders and Indian food became much more popular among Israelis. Tandoori chain of Pushkaranas also served Kosher Indian meal for two years to first and business class passengers of EL AL the Israeli national airline.
Reena has picked up cooks from places like Hyatt Regency in Delhi and Taj in Bombay. There are about 100 Indians and 150 Israelis on the staff. Visiting Tandoori is an experience in itself. Visitors are welcomed by young Israeli women waitresses/female attendants wearing ethnic Indian suits with long dupattas and bindis on there foreheads. Sporting a big smile on her face, like a good host, glamorous Reena goes to each table to entertain the guests educating them about Indian food and curries, how they are being prepared and how spices are marinated.
Other than that, Reena is working with various social welfare groups. She is concerned about the Indian Jewish community in Israel which gets much less attention than do Russian and Ethiopian Jews. "I am there to help every Indian visiting Israel because I love India and Indians". Reena has earned recognition not only for her cuisine but also as a good human being and a good citizen so much so that she is time and again being persuaded to form an Indian Jewish party for elections.
Reena is currently
writing a book on Indian cookery in Hebrew. Her programme on Indian
cuisine is telecast every Tuesday on national television. Pushkarana’s
Tandoori has become a legend in Israel and visiting the place for
Indians is a must.