I love Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. You know how some mundane happenings turn into significant memories despite being totally mundane and insignificant at the time they take place. For me that’s how Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s name became a significant imprint in my mind some 20 years ago – I still remember reading for the first time, his contribution under ‘The Speaking Tree’ column in The Times of India. Then, Sadhguru wasn’t as big a name as he is now. He was known as a maverick of a spiritual guru. Nor was The Speaking Tree the book-worthy column it is now. I guess I can say that we go a long way back… of course, he doesn’t know it. 🙂 I feel that connection with him. Or is it with what he says? I don’t know. Sadhguru says an awesome amount of awesome things – I have watched and re-watched all of his videos available in the public domain. Except sometimes, when I end up questioning certain things. I notice that the last time I did this it was on the same subject. About him saying how certain occult energies around certain temples are not conducive to the presence of women – things nobody can prove; I’d just have to assume that if Sadhguru says it, it must be right. That’s when I see a milestone flashing neon: Next stop, Belief. I don’t have a problem with journeying this land. It’s just that when I’m in this territory, I bring an extra towel of kindness for comfort, a rappelling rope for a swift exit, a pocket knife of critical thinking, extra food for thought and survival as also a gift of appreciation and acceptance if my stay here is successful and I find my idol. So now, it’s about this latest blog post, ‘Mother-in-Law Demystified’, the blurb saying that ‘Sadhguru demystifies the mother-in-law, enumerating various biological and psychological factors at play’. And trust me. That’s what a lot of young women in our society want perhaps – for the mother-in-law psyche to be demystified, decoded, deconstructed… de-EVERYTHING-ed. As I read these from Sadhguru’s words… ‘Unfortunately, the same stupid problems have been going on for centuries, endlessly’ I perhaps sense the gracious and charismatic mystic’s rare but genuine flicker of frustration; I would be surprised if it weren’t coming from experience, one way or another. It begins thus: “About satisfying the mother – when you say a mother, essentially she is a woman. Then she became a mother. When you say a wife, essentially she is a woman, then she became a wife. It is a secondary role. Her basic identity is that of being a woman. The next identity is maybe a wife and the next is a mother. It comes in that order.” Yes. Woman. Biologically, that’s a concrete fact. Wife, mother, are roles, yes. Then follows an anecdote about how a man who wanted to marry a girl from work, sets a challenge for his mother by inviting three of his women colleagues home, along with ‘his girl’, and not telling her mother who that would be. When he asked his mom whether she had made her out from among their guests, she got it right because, she said, “The moment she walked in, I didn’t like her. So it must be her.” According to Sadhguru, our MILs are biologically inclined to reject any other female coming into what she sees as “her space” as that would mean she is required to “share someone who belonged to you in an unequal proportion”, and the situation is compounded by the realisation that this sharing would also be of “unequal proportions”. He elucidates, “A mother wants her son to get married and be happy. But on another level, a mother is still a woman. You have to seek permission to share something that belonged to you. That makes things a little difficult.” (I would think having a big fat Indian wedding would serve as a granting of this permission of sorts or maybe we should add this one rite too. Unlike what happens in the West, where the man seeks permission from the bride’s father. Eitherway, to require your adult child to ask your permission to live with his chosen partner beats me.) Moving on, the entire focus seems to be on biology. Everything they do in the relationship sphere boils down to that hormonal hi-and-lo of either getting pregnant or getting your period. I wonder if his explanations for what every man does as a part of being a husband, father, etc, would similarly and equally boil down to that “little man” and his wonders. If they would, I haven’t yet come across something like it. Sadhguru further explains his stress on biology in order to explain the typical MIL psyche: “It is somewhat biological because it is all a process of procreation and protection. If a woman is not possessive about what belongs to her, she would not have taken care of her children. She would have just delivered them and walked away. It is biological, and that extends itself throughout life in some way or the other. However, if one is mature and aware, one can grow out of it. Now, I understand procreation and protection. I understand that possessiveness a mother feels for her child. If she didn’t have these feelings, thanks to the overwhelming chemical soup that our bodies are, she probably wouldn’t nurture her children so well. So yes, this ‘nurturing’ or maternal instinct is purely the result of this chemical soup of our biological reality. However, nowhere does this soup indicate a bias for the male child. Why, when we speak of Mothers-In-Law, is it that it only describes those mothers who have had a male child and have trouble “sharing” him with another female? Sadhguru, are you trying to say that this is also biology? Is this a Freudian slip? Mothers are more than ready in our culture to “share” (the word may as well euphemistically include for foeticide, infanticide, dowry deaths, unhappy marriages bordering on slavery and abuse… et al) their female children. Why? Because in the end, she is a woman? Are you also saying that women have no recourse left in life but to toil their labours under the diktat of their ‘biology’?; that they remain these infantile beasts madly in love with their male children one way or another and have nothing better to do in terms of relationships other than mark their territory around their sons’ lives? Are you saying that you don’t see how our societies are centred around patriarchy, which is essentially about how our fathers, brothers, and husbands are just men? That men have always had an upper hand in this whole “business” of our society and how which gender is valued for what purpose. For now, though, I’d just be happy if you explained to me why do mothers-in-law claim their exclusive rights only to their children of a certain gender. Why don’t they have as big a problem “sharing” their daughters? I want to know if you’ll repeat one more time: Because she is a woman. This sentence throughout history has justified many a witch-hunt and inquisitions as it keeps justifying denials of democracy, right to drive, right to dress the way women want, right to education, vote, to become a political leader, CEO, and so on. I can’t un-know what you have said about women and how much they are ruled by their biology: that it is difficult for a woman to be a spiritual leader; that it is difficult for a woman to keep in step with the rhythm of the modern workplace, hinting at their monthly menstrual cycles. My two-bit: people who go out of their way to try to manipulate and control other people’s lives are sociopaths and those who employ abuse and violence to do this are psychopaths. This is neither about biology nor about gender. As for these traits in Indian parenting, a lot of this behaviour simply stems from the child’s inability to identify this abuse, due in part to being co-opted into this kind of upbringing, and their helplessness to doing something about it. Emotional blackmail is like the baby formula our kids grow up on, to face a complete diet of psychological intimidation and isolation, indoctrination, stretching to corporal punishment and serious psychological and verbal abuse in life. Truth is, yes, the same stupid problems have been going on for centuries, endlessly, but the reason for this is not ‘Because she is a woman’. For, nurturance means you contribute to the growth of physical, emotional, and social well-being of a child.Every animal lets their offspring become independent irrespective of gender; humans are no exception in this regard. And every mother tries to do this for her child in the way she knows. But, there is this thing about humans – our social concepts are centred on misogyny. Therefore, she knows very little about feeling secure, about educating herself and about self-development. Our misogyny makes us point at women even though it’s the men who are at fault. Your ‘because she is a woman’ just reminds me of how indelible this bias is.
Couldn’t help but share this lovely message that says all I need to on this day, which has sparked protests and tokenism and genuine appreciation alike… It is a bit long, however, If we must celebrate a day for women, let us celebrate freedom from stereotypes, from expectations, from idolisation, from sacrifice… STOP congratulating women for being the secret behind a successful man… START saluting them for being successful. STOP saying the mother is sacred for all the sacrifices she makes… TRY to reduce those sacrifices! STOP telling women they are beautiful! TRY telling them it’s not important to be beautiful! STOP praising her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister… CELEBRATE her as an individual, a person, independent of relationships. STOP justifying her necessity to multitask… GIVE her a chance not to! STOP these constructs which are aimed at making her strive for an impossible balance… LET her be inadequate… and HAPPY! STOP making her look at herself through a conveniently male viewpoint. LET her be imperfect, whimsical, irresponsible, boorish, lazy, fierce, opinionated, loud, flabby, ungroomed, adventurous, unpredictable, unprepared, impractical… Happy International Women’s Day y’all! Not. Finally, thank you, M! thanks for sharing this. Your friendship is etched into my heart.
I’ve been following the Stanford rape case trial sitting here in India and it’s looking great in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The outpouring of anger against Brock Turner and the judge that gave him a measly six month sentence, and that of support for the unconscious intoxicated woman indicates that wheels are turning. However, we have Brock’s dad to thank for exemplary parenting. Brock must have done him proud. Swimming smoothly on a swimming scholarship to Stanford, one of the world’s topmost colleges, Brock Turner is your classic lad with super bright future. He hails from a middle class background and loves to eat steaks. Even though he doesn’t feel like eating them now. That’s because he’s depressed about a whole case some woman made out of the 20 minutes of action he got. In 20 minutes, Brock Turner can swim Long Course i.e. 50 meters at least 5 times. With such swimming times, you end up a finalist at things like Speedo Junior National Championships. He’s also been a two-time state champion at Ohio State Championships. Evidently, the lad can score. Not only does he get on top of fellow super swimmers, admissions into stanford, and he also manages to get on top of drunk, unconscious women. He’s the exemplar. And backing him all the way is his father. Dan Turner. Another exemplar. A whole line of exemplars. Wait. And we arrive at the definition of patriarchy. These dads seem to have a code: Rape is 20 minutes of action. To rape is to get 20 minutes of action. Consent is for sissies. If a woman is drunk and ‘dances’ (strictly subjective, since coming from Brock), she wants to give you 20 minutes of action. 4. If you are getting 20 minutes of action and some idiots try to stop you from getting it, run. And then deny. Then explain how she wanted it and you gave it, you, of the big heart. All in exchange for a back rub. Also, if she tries to use that word rape, correct it and call it 20 minutes of action. It does not matter that you drink yourself silly but if something female does so, she’s doing it so as to make sure you get 20 minutes of action. She’s liable to give you 20 minutes of A and you’re liable to get 20 minutes of A. That’s all. Don’t bother to ask her. You’ll waste time that way. And that’s for sissies anyway. When she accuses you of rape, again that filthy word, bring your past record and future greatness into the conversation and project it onto the jury, the judge, and the media. After all, they owe you! Footnote: if the woman who gave you 20 minutes of A has a past record of having a great social life, sex life, boyfriends, husbands, etc, it matters. (Just like swimming times, for example). It means she wanted more and more to give you your 20 minutes of action. Finally, when you don’t enjoy eating steak anymore, it means you are upset. And you, the gem of mankind, don’t deserve that. You see, Dan Turner is a smart guy. Read between the lines and you see him trying to tell us that his son wasn’t getting 20 minutes of action; he was giving it. Exemplary sons, exemplary dads. Patriarchy explained in 4 words. Full stop. And now, Here’s a small excerpt from Stanford victim’s letter, which doesn’t challenge the central tenets of patriarchy so much as provides a strong statement for women trying to survive it. It also thanks the two men who fell off the vicious cycle of patriarchy… “Most importantly, thank you to the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet. I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story. That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget. And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.”