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Chivalry should not be considered outdated, only because it can inculcate real, practical respect for women in Indian boys and men.
There are a few things we need to understand about this fundamental behaviour. Yes. It is a ‘fundamental’ behaviour. And like all other fundamental behaviours, it was also defined by men. The only difference being, they took the responsibility of practicing it. Till women started feeling otherwise. And banished it with all the other practices to make room for ‘equality’. But, chivalry was never in contest with equality, was it?
It wasn’t. It isn’t. Simply because if a man is being chivalrous, he is just being respectful.
When he is leaving a seat on a public commute for a woman (pregnant or otherwise) or for an aged person, not because it is a mandate and he has to oblige.
When he is opening the door for a lady, ushering her to the restaurant table, pouring water for her, asking her to choose from the menu, or paying the bill, not because he has to impress her.
When he is cooking for the family as his wife will be late from work, helping her do the dishes, helping her fight her battles when nobody is…because he can. Because he understands. Because this comes naturally to him. Because he is chivalrous.
And that is the minimum men are expected to do. Then why not encourage them to practice it?
Especially for Indian men, who are brought up with the head-weight that ‘men are superior to women’. They lose it at the drop of a hat. Very few Indian men consider respecting the other gender IMPORTANT. They may grow up feeling a real man, but they don’t really behave like one. Because they weren’t taught to. They were not taught not to ogle at girls, not to pass rude comments, or not behave the way its suits them – because it is disrespectful.
They lose out in the larger scheme of things. When they get exposed to the world, they falter. They don’t think when they get involved in a crime against women. They have a justified reason for that. They paint a weak picture of India when they represent the country in a global context. Where we are a representative of our culture and not an individual.
And chivalry should be a part of Indian culture. It can’t be discarded as sophisticated men’s baggage. Or Western culture that Indians should not follow. It should be a part of every man from every walk of life.
We have a long way to go. And we have to go back in time for this.
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Indian students dream of studying abroad, but these deaths and the racism we feel ask the question - are we travelling there to only lose our lives?
Trigger warning: This speaks of racism and death of Indian students, and may be triggering to survivors.
Today morning while I was on my way to the office, I was scrolling Instagram and immediately my eyes got stuck on a post having the headline, “US Policeman ran over an Indian Student in Seattle”. Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old Northeast University Graduate student from Andhra Pradesh was struck and killed in January this year by a Seattle cop, Kevin Dave, while driving 74 mph on the way to a report of an overdose call.”
Further, I read that the investigating agency while watching the body-worn camera that captured the whole incident, were laughing and joking about the death and commented that her life had “limited value”. If the deceased had been a US citizen, would they have behaved in the similar way, I feel not?
I struggled to reconcile the two aspects- the formidable talent who literally moulded kathak into its modern form and the man who took advantage of women in his charge.
Trigger Warning: This speaks of sexual abuse and grooming by someone in a position of power and may be triggering for survivors.
The noted Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj passed away two years back. His death affected me greatly because I had just become a student of kathak and the composition we were learning then was one of his. For the next couple of days, I let his baritone voice comfort me while I mourned the fact that I would never see him teach or perform live.
Then the allegations of sexual harassment started coming out, which left me stunned. There was no question of not believing the victims/ survivors. Anyone who understands how power dynamics work knows that the classical music and dance space offers immense scope for sexual abuse. As a woman and as a feminist, I offered nothing less than unconditional support to the women speaking up.
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