Boys will be
boys in taste for toys
Ear for Village
Dr T. Scarlet Epstein, an economist and anthropologist based in the U.K, recently screened excerpts from Villages Voices, a film— based on Epstein’s book by the same name, documenting rural transformation in South India since 1954—at the Vienna Institute for Development and Cooperation. Village Voices, showcases development in two villages, one irrigated and one dry, in Karnataka.
The book was first released in 1999 but the film documents changes right up to 2004. Epstein, 83, says the purpose of her 40-year research has been to find out how villagers define development.
In the film, Shoba, a wide-eyed teenager from village Wangala, talks of her dream of studying to become a High Court advocate. She wants to marry only after she has a degree in law. Epstein first visited Shoba in 1994. A decade later, when Epstein returned to Wangala, a village located ear Mysore, she found that Shoba seemed less enthusiastic about the future. She was married with a child and seemed under the thumb of her husband and in-laws. Shoba told Epstein that although India won freedom in 1947, only the men appeared to be free in the country. Shoba is a living example of how gender inequalities persist despite substantial progress in many spheres. While technological changes have benefited women, their gains are small compared to the inequalities they suffer.
In 1954, Epstein was a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester, Britain, when she was invited by Professor M.N. Srinivas, the eminent Indian social anthropologist, to investigate the impact of a large canal irrigation scheme on the socio-economic system of villagers. Epstein first visited Wangala in 1954 but in 1970, when she re-visited Wangala, which was now irrigated, she found an increase in educational facilities, leading to a great interest in family planning.
About effects of economic change on the role of women, Epstein felt that the negative valuation of women is linked to a rise in employment that does not involve agricultural activities. When occupations diversify from agriculture, more women than men are without jobs because women are traditionally hired along with their husbands to till the land. After the men leave the villages to work in towns, the wives are not given their jobs in the field.
According to Epstein, the
introduction of irrigation in Wangala allowed the
Throughout her stay in Wangala,
Epstein wore a loose bush coat over khaki trousers; kept her hair short; and
learnt the local language. "I considered
She recalls having forged close friendships with many men. The village women remained aloof and reluctant to share their knowledge with her. Epstein once asked a group of village women why they did not want to mix with her as freely as their menfolk. The most articulate of them told Epstein: "You have the body of a woman but the mind of a man and you behave like a man. You are so different from us that we feel that we have nothing in common with you. When most of us are married and have a number of children, you have no children and are without a husband. Our lives revolve around our families; you have no experience of this. Our paths do not cross and that is why we remain remote."
Epstein, only 32 at that time, was taken aback. She wondered then if her account of the village life would have been significantly different if she had concentrated onstudying women, rather than relying on men. She regretted that the economist in her had overlooked her interest in discovering more about the women in the village. From 1974 onwards, Epstein involved more women in her research. She introduced a novel research model that remains exceptionally gender-sensitive to this day.
A four-year study of the role of women in Asian rural development was started in 1973, with female Asian students from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In a village in Pakistan, where most men had migrated to West Asia, Epstein’s study shows that overnight women took on the role of decision-makers. In the absence of men, some women terminated pregnancies and decided the future of their children. But with prosperity, most rural women seem content to move into the women’s quarters of their new, more plush homes, happy to live in purdah in imitation of upper-class women.
Epstein is a pioneer in promoting a growing concern about the lopsided path often taken by rural developers. Her work points towards a more culturally sensitive development strategy. Epstein, who made the U.K her home in 1938 after fleeing the Nazi occupation of Austria, now travels across the globe sharing her unique research. — WFS
Nitasha Jaini, a painter
from the region, explores the male form in her work.
Reclaiming the woman’s body from the voyeuristic male gaze and painting the feminine form anew was the discourse of the Indian women artists who entered on the scene with a bang in the 1970s. This was the feminist phase and so the female body was born again courtesy the women’s brush.
However, for Nitasha Jaini, Ludhiana and Amritsar trained painter, who arrived on the scene in the early 1990s and the post-feminist phase, the challenge was all together different.
This ebullient artist has made a place for herself in the art corridors of Delhi, the difficult way for she had no degree from Baroda, JJ, or Santiniketan to support her cause. She had a debut exhibition in Chandigarh where she displayed her early amateurish works, which nevertheless showed promise. Looking back Nitasha says, "After my debut show, I felt that my art had to take a certain direction and to grow as an artist I had to pick an area in which I could express myself and also improve the quality of my art. So I decided to concentrate on the male form."
So she started sketching by the score the masculine form and in a way also exploring female desire. "All round women were painting women. But I felt that men had been most important to me right from my father to my husband so why shouldn’t I paint them,"says the painter. Of course, this exercise at times did earn her the nickname of ‘Peeping Jane’ but Nitasha took it in her stride and kept playing with the line till the rather firm male form became flexible. She beat a Jatin Das at his game of bending and unbending the feminine form. Nitaksha made the men bend, unbend, skip, hop, dance and surrender at ther will as she painted them on paper and canvas.
What happened on the way was
most interesting. In a way she proved to be something like her sisters of
the 1970s but only arriving at the same destination from a different route.
"For some time I enjoyed working on the beauty of the male form but
slowly images and objects associated with the male world started entering
the my art. The business suit, the briefcase, automobiles and arms and
ammunitions symbolising violence," she says. Nitahsa used male
mannequins with aplomb to carry forward the story of her art in
installations. Her medium has been gouache, oils, mixed media, installation,
slides and digital prints. She has exhibited home and abroad with success. A
major achievement has been coordinating a show of Indian and New Zealand
women artists. She lives in Gurgaon and works in her
IN today’s world though gender stereotypes are fast diminishing, but a new research has revealed that children’s taste in toys have not changed since 1950, with boys still preferring cars and girls playing with dolls.
Boys will always go for cars, robots and monsters while girls prefer fashion and fluffy toys the research commissioned by battery makers Duracell found.
A group of 900 children aged between five and 10 were interviewed and observed as part of the survey, reports the Daily Mail.
They were all given the same toys to play with but boys ranked technical car kits at the top of their list while girls plumped for an airbrush tattoo kit and furry friends.
When it came to their parents, 71 per cent of those questioned said bad weather in the UK was to blame. "However, what’s also interesting is that the favoured choices reflect the increasing influence of the latest technology, trends and fashions on children at an earlier age.
"Little girls increasingly want to be like their popstar and celebrity idols - they used to dress us as princesses but now they are more likely to dress up as Britney Spears. "And the same goes for boys, who are similarly influenced by technology and movies whether it’s Star Wars or Lord of the Rings." Flavio Palumbo from Duracell said: "Fashion and action seem to be the buzzwords this year. "Little girls want to dress up with glamour, glitter and lip- gloss and little boys want to experience action-packed adventures whether its car-racing, simulated battle or wrestling with robots."
The top five toys for boys were:
The top five toys for girls were: