Monday, December 15, 2008

The Stereotype

What exactly is a stereotype? At the risk of sounding bookish, a stereotype may be defined as a fixed or commonly held notion about an individual or a group based on an oversimplification of some observed or imagined trait of behaviour or appearance. It doesn’t always have to be a negative generalisation, for instance Indians are believed to be intelligent and hardworking; but it always commits the gross error of ignoring the very important aspect of individuality.
We all like to believe that we do not indulge in stereotyping of any sort, that we give a fair chance to all individuals and appreciate them for who they really are. But that is where we’re wrong. Everyone has not only been a victim of stereotyping, but also a party to it. The only problem is that these notions have by now come to be accepted as general facts, and thus are not recognised as the very deed we claim to not have committed.
The biggest stereotypes plaguing the Indian society are of race and gender. We’re extremely fast in protesting against any comment about being ‘coloured’. Yet we’re the biggest market for fairness creams and products. Why is it that the typical matrimonial advertisement asks for a tall, slim, fair, homely girl who is well educated and knows how to cook, irrespective of what the prospective groom looks like? Why is there such a fascination with the firangs or so called goras. Why is the term ‘gora’ even accepted by us without realising its implications?
It doesn’t come down to just black or white. We don’t blink twice before using the term ‘Chinks’ for a person ranging from any state in the north east to China or Japan. Is this not one of the worst cases of generalisations possible? Do they have no nationality, no individuality whatsoever? Isn’t anyone who’s a Muslim, suddenly being looked at with suspicion, with a slight accusation in our eyes for recent happenings? Politicians vying for increasing vote banks are certainly not helping the cause. Racism, is more inherent in our systems than most of us realise.
In the day and age of gender equality, there is still a particular role that a woman is expected to fill in the house and family. Any deviance from that can result in further stereotyping and criticism. A woman who is sexually active before marriage is still frowned upon, for a man it would be a symbol of his virility. Girls from Delhi are known to be ‘fast’, more open to experimentation and having fun. After marriage, a woman is supposed to take care of the house, cook, look after the children, multi-task; it is after all part of her job description. If a man ‘goes out of his way’ and helps out with these chores, well it is commended.
Perhaps, worse still are some of the soap operas being aired today. Rather than using their powerful influence to help in the advancement of their audience, they’re doing a very good job of reinforcing and encouraging stereotypes. The protagonist has to be the typical Indian woman, who has nothing but good in her, and will bear all evils and ill-doings simply because she is just that good, and would never disrespect her family or elders because it’s against her culture. Women stay at home, while the husbands handle their companies and work. But nothing can beat shows actually based on girls in urban settings finding it difficult to get married because they’re dark skinned.
What hope is there for a country where popular media and politics are reinforcing the very things they should be propagating against? The reason they are getting away with is the fact that all of us have come to accept these things as a part of our lives, something that is barely discernable from the ordinary, something that is expected. Perhaps we should ponder over this a bit. It isn’t after all any different from a teenager in Kentucky watching National Geographic and thinking that India is inhabited by people walking around with snakes and tigers for pets.
Think about it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Almighty Fear

Recently, due to a certain happening, I found myself drawn towards praying. I tossed and turned for a day, then decided that that this was big, big enough to actually go to the temple once and pray. So I got into bed, deciding in my mind to wake up early in the morning and visit the temple on campus.

7 am... Alarm rings

First thought in my head...temple... yet something held me back. I delayed it, snoozed the alarm innumerable times, stayed in bed, tossed and turned till I couldn’t delay it any further, when I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t actually go through with it. So I dragged myself out of bed, took a shower, woke up my friends for the morning class, and then stopped. I still couldn’t head there myself. So I dragged my friend with me. All the way till the gate of the temple.
I took off my footwear, and slowly headed inside. The silence was peaceful, yet so deafening. The emptiness seemed to bore through me. I approached the idol slowly, and stood there for a second. Then I pushed my guilt to the back of my mind, and prayed. It may have been barely a minute, but it was long enough in my head.

Then I heaved a sigh of relief, turned, and headed out of the temple, feeling better with every retreating step.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an atheist. I don’t think I’m that strong. I do pray quite sometimes. I have gone to temples with my family. But never on my own. I never felt the need to. I’m not a strong believer of religion or idols or specific Gods. And after these thoughts, going to the temple, only when I needed to, was weighing down on my conscience more than I ever thought possible.

But I still went when I was in need.

I felt....cowardly.

I was guilty as charged.

The Waning Storm

Something’s wrong, and I can’t really explain what. And that, is the problem. I’ve always been used to being one of those extremely open people, who don’t bother keeping any thoughts and feelings to themselves, who believe that talking things out, in painful details is one of the best ways of making things work and staying away from misunderstandings. And it’s worked for me till now. When thoughts crowded my head, and I didn’t want someone specific to talk to, I would just blog away to glory.

But something’s wrong.

It’s been nagging at me for quite some time now, but recently, it stared me starkly in the face, and left me with no choice but to accept it. There was an issue, a misunderstanding; I had to explain, to discuss it out. But I just couldn’t. I could not get myself to open my mouth and chatter away the usual way I would. I felt so much more peaceful in my head, closing my eyes and making it all go away, blocking out the eyes boring into me and begging for an explanation. I just felt no need to explain my thoughts, my views. You either got it yourself, or it just wasn’t that important. It’d all go away with time. All I wanted was to be left alone. Yet my brain wished that I could somehow communicate it all without really saying it out loud. I knew it was important. For once, I actually cared.

I spoke, somehow, forced myself to. Yet it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t want to. I don’t know how and when this started. Was it with the friend, who hit me with a wave of old emotions, of realisations, of chances of finding myself again? Or did it start with my inability to be able to understand my own actions and feelings, the inability to trust myself? When did I turn anti-social? Since when do I actually prefer being alone at times?

When did I stop expressing myself?

When did I stop writing?