The Revisionist Hijabis

The critique of hijab should not require identitarian qualifications simply because it is largely worn by Muslim women of a darker disposition than Anglo-Saxon women. Irrespective of what the hijab means to individual women, and without supporting the legislative policing of women’s choices, the disingenuous discourse to render it as a cloth of both spiritual and material empowerment must be questioned—all evidence is against this revisionism.

If the hijab were not simply the product of customary objectification of women, why is it that the spiritual growth of women is so strictly connected to their temporal bodies, while that of men functions in a larger, more visible playground that extends beyond their husk? Primarily, hijab is centred around the physical appearance of a woman, considering her body a liability that could damage the spirituality of a man. It is especially here that the inequality of sexes in the traditionalist understanding of hijab is highlighted—the spirituality of women itself is built in such a way as to protect the religious self-actualisation of man. So how are women convinced of its empowering qualities, when to be empowered, one must first assume that men, by nature, and incorrigibly, are lecherous, warrant suspicion and, at their basest, all rapists? This veiling of women through hijab (or worse, the niqab) is not simply a physical covering, but a code of ethics that determines the interactions between women and women, women and men and women with the society in which they must function, though not to the full extent that men do. These limitations quite naturally prohibit women from public spaces, but especially those spaces where the private and public meet. When a hijabi participates in society as man’s equal, her hijab loses its singular reason for existence. So what, ultimately, is the purpose of wearing it?

At its essence, the hijab of traditionalists pertains to sexual modesty, and in the belief that men are less in control of theirs; hence, it is obligatory for women, we learn, to control theirs. The dichotomy of hijab for men and for women is usually best displayed at beaches where women in burkas and burkinis are seen with their husbands, who are free to saunter with their bare nipples melting in the humid heat. That visual alone, and of men’s bare heads, should clarify the purpose of the hijab. The piety of men comes from within their heads, whereas the piety of women rests on top of theirs. If it were truly a matter of spiritual growth or material equality, the rulings of hijab would be mandatory for men too. Asking women their rationale for veiling results in a trickery of discourse best avoided by asking Why don’t men wear the hijab? Hijab’s sexual nature is most evident in who, besides men, is exempt from it—prepubescent and menopausal women, those not considered in their reproductive prime. Therein lies hijab’s sexual dimension, and thus, its reduction of women into fertile vessels that require self-protection in the form of hijab and masculine protection in the form of a mahram who will enforce the rules of modesty in both public and private spaces.

In spite of the evidences of what hijab is from numerous hadeeth (the Qur’an itself does not specify in literal terms what constitutes “modesty” or “aurah”, but interpretations range from “intimate parts” to “a woman”, indicating her entire physical existence, which must be veiled.) easily available from the most popular Islamic sources, the media still entertains apologia from both Muslim hijabis and their allies, often left-leaning white women whose seal of approval has the negative effect of sealing the voices of millions of practising Muslim women, like us, who prefer to uphold an Islam where spiritual justness can only result from material equality between the sexes.

Like any “men’s interest” magazine, the Islam of conservative Muslims primarily understands women to be sexual objects that will be gazed upon by men—a gaze that, is assumed, will translate into more outwardly sinful behaviour, from flirtation to rape. This truth, which demeans men in order to oppress women, is taken at its face value. It is never the nature of the gaze or what it results in that should be corrected through spiritual growth, but the material clothing and imprisoning of women instead, which, ultimately also reduces their economic power, and thus, their political determination. This may happen domestically, where the injustices are hidden and value is harder to calculate, or it may be public spectacle.

Lastly, if modesty is from the hijab, what constitutes immodesty? If a young girl is taught that goodness and righteousness is in the veiling of her hair, and with it, her body, save hands and feet, then what lesson does she learn of women who do not adhere to such customs? Furthermore, what of the entitlement is she groomed to practice, perpetually chastising practising and lapsed Muslims who do not observe the rigid customs of hijab? The natural assumption here is that those who expose skin are in a state of sin that demands some form of repentance on the sinner’s part and a stream of sympathetic prayers on the hijabi’s. The seed of intolerance is thus sown, so what use are the merciful chants of feminine unity by progressive hijabis? One may think that critics delve much into the private affairs of women, but there are no personal decisions when those decisions are public statements on what defines a good, righteous woman. The hijab is always a political choice made for the gaze of imperfect, disobedient women who are forced to coexist in a world where their value is forever doomed between those who want to expose their nakedness or bedim their existence to the point of nonexistence. It is no surprise that, in such societies, women face harsher penalties for perceived offences, while men, preachers and clerks, are offered far more leniency and doubt, even when they clearly abuse their religious powers to exact erotic and sexual favours. No more is the idiocy of hijab more apparent than in the interminable civil war among hijabis over the extent to which hijab can be capitalised for fashion and market. The hijab is shallow piety and itself a mockery of the rich spiritual traditions left behind by 1,400 years of Islamic evolution. So we must create new traditions. We must then stop asking why women wear hijab because some stories do not deserve a discourse. Instead, let us ask women Why never the hijab?

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The Bunnies Were Capitalists

In every way, Hugh Hefner exuded a decadent perversity that was a culmination of a sexual revolution marred by the gross excesses of hypercapitalist consumerism and the rejection of God. Slightly deformed-looking, Hefner built an empire on the breasts of thousands of women and the thirst of millions of men already traumatised by their own dwindling masculinity in post-war feminist America. Outside of his mansion, Hefner’s magazine experimented with literature and raw sexuality to strip the nude female form of its taboo alongside the voices of radical writers like Hunter S. Thompson, Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov and Jean-Paul Sartre.1 Hefner simply took the very grain of a universal truth that forms the antecedent of every culture: one listens to a man, but looks at a woman. Naked was finally good outside the disconnected, stuffy and mild erotica of museums—not for the educated class to dissect with critical theory, but for the everyday man’s simple pleasures. This philosophy seldom extended to the male form. The sexual liberation of women was for the paid consumption of men only. More than a symbol of misogyny, Playboy was and continues to be, albeit in a more decrepit, lack-lustre and pitiful sense, a symbol of how capital degrades bodies.

Only recently, Playboy featured its first hijab-clad American journalist, Noor Tagouri2, and in 1971, Darine Stern,3 a black model, was plastered on its cover. A well-read cynic would not note either women as radical inclusions into the magazine’s history—with, Tagouri, Hefner’s empire was too late to recognise (or monetise) women outside the stereotypical boy-girl/black-white dichotomy that comforts popular America; with Stern, it was reintroducing a new, more desirable Hottentot Venus. Unlike black male bodies, there is no existential crisis or radicalism in adding more female colour to a man’s appetite. At its literary apotheosis, Playboy did vociferously support racial equality, birth control rights and gay rights as not just natural, but critical, to the sexual revolution.4 But even this progressivism was an endeavour borne out of the endless possibilities of creating a wealthier business. Playboy began the first woke industry, because it recognised that, apart from simply being culturally superior to old bigotries, woke sells.

In more than half a century, Playboy today is a crude caricature of its old status. But this is not about Playboy and its merits. It is not about Hefner, the man behind a historically important magazine, but Hefner, the man in the mansion. Like all Hollywood mansions, Hefner’s home is also a victim of bad architecture that desperately seeks to manifest within it a monarchical Europe, with its numerous flourishes, royal mistresses, wives and assorted whores—only Hefner did not have an authoritarian right to women, but women willingly came to him for fame, wealth and glamour that required intellectual labour limited to naming liquor and physical labour limited to performing orgies. Man or woman, only the unethical or lazy entered the mansion. With his death, we are now met with a barrage of angry articles by writers5,6,7 low on journalistic credentials and high on the reactionary exercise of historical revisionism. For Suzanne Moore, for instance, the Bunnies, willing and informal workers in Hefner’s domestic debauchery, were not exercising their agency in potentially self-destructing ways, but absolute victims of exploitation. If there is a case of exploitation to be made, it is that outside their official line of work, labour laws or a Bunny union did not protect their prostitution. We know from everyday news that wherever there is sex, there is very likely to be rape, molestation and emotional abuse. There are numerous testaments to the mansion’s perversity,8,9,10,11 but no dark side to Hefner exists, because he made the world literally pay to witness his pathetic delusions and adolescent insecurities directed toward women. (If Hefner’s friendship with Bill Cosby is a mark of his character or proof of his modus operandi, it is also one of Phylicia Rashad’s immorality.) Of Hefner or his Bunnies, nothing is surprising—the mansion is the unadulterated, airbrush-free tapestry that represents behind-the-scenes A-list Hollywood and there-to-see Z-list reality television, replete with demanding narcissists and megalomaniacs pumped up with testosterone in a perpetual performance of their assumed self-greatness.

A writer’s landscape is so toxic with political correctness that it is now polemical to state the obvious. The Bunnies bartered abuse for whatever chance of success they thought Hefner’s empire could give them. To bear carpets infested with animal excretion and penises infested with viruses is an acceptable bargain in the decrepit hellhole of Los Angeles. Many Bunnies were as greedy for glamour as men were for their vaginas. So then, is a person who sells themselves to the whims of a known degenerate a desperate worker with “limited set of choices” or simply devoid of moral fibre or perhaps a thinking brain?

Glorifying Hefner’s contribution to mass women’s movements does take feminism to the ’50s, but erasing the agency of women because they project an inconvenient truth takes feminism back to an even earlier century. For the most part, the Bunnies were idiots, products of a capitalist culture where everything can be bought and sold in pure, but ultimately nonsensical, value. Yet the critique of the commodification of sex and bodies always takes place in a vacuum that does not acknowledge larger structures of capitalism. So we are left to read rant after rant, primarily by women, about the evil of Hefner and the innocence of Bunnies. Is it innocence that makes human Barbies live in an unclean mansion passed around like a joint from one sores-infected mouth to another to finally bow in obeisance of a penis on viagral life support? Perhaps, the Bunnies are American liberal feminists’ last ditch effort to retain a narrative of absolute victimhood that is white, blonde and blue. Truly, the white woman will never cease weeping for her fragile sister. The history of women championing their agency, while admonishing other women for having the wrong kind of it is tiring. The mansion was not a state apparatus where all citizens, for their citizenship, must perform certain duties. It was a private home where private workers agreed to suck off a lech who made his oppressive rules of domesticity clear, and it gleefully functioned as one of the centres of Hollywood. Hefner did not make feminism look bad, he made women look like idiots. So it is easier to squirm our way out of accepting it by declaring all Bunnies “victims of patriarchal oppression”, because slut-shaming is rightly passé. For all the debates on nuance Western feminists prefer, this is one where they will have none of it. The reality is that the Bunnies saw more profit in their sexual humiliation than in feminism, because bodies have more value than thoughts in the American economy of culture and lifestyle.

Hefner made deviancy classy in the same way Mother Jones made genocidal fetishists dapper.11 Even horny conservatives publishers12 otherwise horrified by the spectre of pre-marital sex have come to admire Hefner.

There are few carefully constructed discourses on Hefner and his Bunnies that acknowledge the agency of the women who partake and glorify his blood-sucking empire. The rumours of his moral corruption have not been new for decades, yet women continue to enter the mansion. Perhaps it is because, like men, when women want something enough—in this case, glamour and wealth—they will not give a fuck about those who may have been raped and abused in their paths. If anything, that does not make Bunnies victims waiting for their day of empowerment, but arseholes who see a profit to be bargained. On Hefner’s part, it was sheer opportunism that allowed him to accrue wealth and pleasure; for women, it was their agency that allowed them to think this was a good idea.

 

Sim-Simply, Sir!

Simple Fellow
Nearby Locality
Simple State
879044

Hon’ble Chief Minister
Vidhana Soudha
Simple State
879043

27th September, 2017

Subject: Humble request to look into matter of simple eve-teasing case.

Respected Chief Minister

Some uncouth fellows are spinning tales of conspiracy that we are doing harassment of the young ladies in college. Sir, in my capacity as leader of the victims of Western-inspired feminazi, I am humbly writing to all concerned, it was case of simple eve-teasing only, no reason for such hooligan type of behaviour, especially from girls which is very shameful, to be honest. Many people are simply doing some rape that hon’ble judiciary has also supported after giving too many appeasement verdicts for activist agenda, so how can you say that just merely eve-teasing is punishable crime? Then whole of film industry will be in jail! Surely, it is a joke! Are we doing such disgusting thing as paedophilia which certain communities which we all know who it is are doing? It seems like there is activist agenda hidden in such protesting girls. Are they going to university for studying or shouting on road like slum dwellers? Government, with guidance from hon’ble Chief Minister, should surely block their Aadhaar and do investigation promptly at highest level. I am humbly requesting government to also provide assistance to police force who are facing defamation of extreme kind for simple controlling of female mob mentality. First of all, how girls can be molested if they are wearing sleeveless and doing smoking outside. Even in science we are seeing the fact of non-verbal communication. Secretly they are simply enjoying this attention, sir, but they are making fuss for some political gains which should be investigated. I am cent per cent sure that some anti-social elements are creating this issue by twisting the real truth which will be revealed soon. I am sensing some ultra left, Islamic fundamentalist kind of influence in the campuses which are brimming with Islamic State recruits and Maoist terrorists. Nowadays it is becoming fashionable to be such extremist in the guise of such fake noble “progressive politics”. One can see the sad changes everywhere in our prestigious institutions. It is simple eve-teasing which is becoming out-of-hand just like how sometime amma is making payasam but it becomes too much difficult because the vermicelli is slipping out of her hand. Extremist elements are taking such small matter and blowing it up for achieving their goals. There is proper way of resolving such matters, so why such girls have to come out and misbehave? Many places some crimes are simply happening, but police is now busy handling these mannerless girls who are being paid to shout such nonsense of the highest order—pure nonsense—with activist agenda. Sometimes I am seeing a lady, and I simply want to express some fun mischief like a simple eve-teasing, but now I am scared because then some other paid activist will put my photo on social media with false case of rape. Then whole communist agenda seekers who are feminist in nature will start causing disturbance, especially they are led by Ms Kavita Krishnan who is somehow arriving faster than reserve police in separatist rally of Manipur variety. Our peaceful institutions are there for respectable girls to become doctor and engineer, not for sloganeering and political agenda. True culprit is appeasement of minorities, Western culture and promotion of politics, especially left politics, into our universities. Especially it is important to look into such big Catholic institutions which are surely funded directly by Vatican. Sir, such slander and defamation is making such humble persons as myself scared to go in open. Due to such fake news, who will marry my sister? My amma is crying every day and appa’s tuberculosis is also increasing. It is becoming such hostile environment in my native place due to media that the idli batter is also not fermenting, sir. Just for case of simple eve-teasing hundreds of lives are being hurt. Gau mutra willing, if tomorrow I will be doing some simple lynchings, I am sure certain characters will be ready with cameras for biased fake news reporting! They will only click the camera button when one minority fellow’s head will be simply falling on my arival purposely. Humbly request hon’ble Chief Minister to do the needful.

Yours,
Sincerely
Simple Fellow

King Allows Madam To Drive

Progress is a carefully executed economic decision in Saudi Arabia, never a moral imperative, especially so in matters of protecting women and children’s rights. It comes at opportune moments, in desperate moments, or in moments when the sigh of an ordinary woman’s anguish causes too much economic scepticism. Since the last two-to-three decades, Saudi has singularly devoted itself to eradicating its “cockroach scourge” of immigrants. It is easily one of the most classist, xenophobic and racially charged erasures of non-Arab Asian workers from a land where its natives have provided minimal contribution in building its capitalist-theocratic structure. At the peak of this programme, it is useful to allow women to drive—it will make millions of immigrant drivers redundant and primed for forced removal from the country. Considering the sclerotic pace of moral and intellectual development in Saudi, the new driving rights for women, directly ordained by the King, are hardly a matter of celebration, but one of disappointment.

Notwithstanding how this sudden reversal of morals and Sharia is left unexplained or that the effect on a vulnerable immigrant community is left unexplored, the bar for freedom has been set so low in a country that still stones women, that the most mundane act of driving a machine is elevated to an act of revolution, one that is itself the baby of anti-immigrant feminism (Manal al-Shariff hates foreign remittances going to the third world). If this were the 18th century, I would have rejoiced. Alas! It is not. The car will simply be one more space where the state and religious polices will regulate women’s behaviour. In that campaign of regulation—or as the Saudi apparatus sells it: “moderation”—non-Arab women will be its biggest losers, if they’re still around after the anti-immigrant cleansing. We also do not know if these driving rights will be extended to allow women’s genitals to come in pressurised contact with a saddle. The Shura is still out for another month before we receive more concrete details, and another year until we start to routinely see women on the roads. For now, thousands of papers of record will give Saudi the advertisement push it sorely needs, seeing as how global, popular opinion against them has been the highest this year.

The sordidness of this farcical revolution lies in the fact that this age-old battle required a senile, unelected, cruel Wahhabi imbecile to give his express permission, which, in itself, took three Saudi kings’ wavering support to the “cause”. What a day for progress! The men have finally allowed us to drive to our kitchens. Perhaps, it is ultimately correct to support and rejoice in the gifts and loans men offer rights-deprived women. If not for freedom, then at least so our guilt is lessened when time finally bludgeons this theocracy, its men and its women in equal force.

Madam, Please Wash that Whiteface First

Priyanka Chopra must readily silence her outbreak of ‘I also suffered, okay!’ tropical disease. Her emotional saga of discrimination in an industry mostly known in the world for its many renditions of historically inaccurate period films is betrayed by her own quick success—headlining her own show in spite being a mediocre actor. In a world where feminists write heart-warming letters in defence of wife-beaters, cheaters and molesters, Chopra is proof that writer’s cannot live beyond their own genetic code. Ironically, in some absurd act of misdirected reparations, our leading lady’s formerly white protagonist had to be re-written to explain her accent. Who amongst pigmented women has had that privilege? American actresses of colour don’t often have access to this kind of work even after being in the industry for decades and being vastly more talented, yet neglected, than the most popular actor in India. Our out-of-station madam has been huffing about being rejected by directors for being “too ethnic”, when her native industry is even more allergic to anyone darker than apple pulp, and every second actor (once her, too) funds a part of her luxurious lifestyle selling bleach creams. Such decency our big girl in America has that she now ‘regrets’ advertising fairness, that too right after her break in America, while she continues to parade in whiteface in Hindi cinema. This does not make her new, it makes her one amongst many actors, from Sridevi, Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty, Rekha to Bipasa Basu, who perpetuate sexism, colourism and racism of a nepotistic and exploitative film industry in order to shop in Paris and take pictures with Bruce Springsteen. Moving from an industry where everyone looks like her—that is, brown women in whiteface—to one where she is a minority’s minority has its shocks. Yet, when was the last time ajji questioned her peers for their portrayal of those who do not look like her? Racism is shocking to Chopra, but not when her ilk have been its stubborn proponents in their mockery and dismissal of Dravidians and North-East Indians or any woman too tarnished for the silver screen. Chopra’s seniors and the directors she admires have used blackface for decades to entertain an ugly audience that now only sees cannibals, junkies, peddlers and pimps where real human lives exist. But one can fatten ones stomach by just eating the air saturated with gasps of proper Americans. So it is exceedingly enjoyable to tell tales of too much ethnicity and too little ethnicity to those who cannot mark Bombay on a map.

In Vulture, we read,

Back in India, she made her name playing controversial women, such as a model who smokes and sleeps around in 2008’s Fashion, at a time when, she says, “leading ladies were supposed to by shy and coy and never say anything and look pretty and have wind in our hair. I still love wind in my hair. I act better with it. But I really wanted to change the game a little.”

It seems that before 2008, no one on our satellite reception was smoking and sleeping. It seems this particular content-creating specimen hired by Vulture has only watched Fashion in text on Wikipedia. Chopra’s character’s low-point in this film was that she slept with a black man. What a way to change the game. Don’t do drugs, but especially don’t sleep with Africans after doing drugs.

blackface_in_india
This still is from the 1969 cabaret song Aa Jaane Jaan from the movie Inteqam. It follows the tradition of blackface in Hindi cinema, where Africans, portrayed by Indians, are shown as sexually deviant barbaric men. Often, they were used as “tribal” backup dancers to light-skinned female protagonists. Examples of these include Saath Samundar Paar from Vishwatma (1992), O Yaara Dil Lagana from Agni Sakshi (1996) and Hawa Hawai from Mr. India (1986).

Is there a reason why Indian actresses in America try to present themselves as social revolutionaries of their native village? It first began with Mallika Sherawat, as she pranced defecating on the rebellious legacy of Indian women in cinema. Now it is the trademark of every Indianwoman in New York. They pretend to do groundbreaking feminist work, as if actors before them never kissed, fucked, wore a bikini, loved an upper-caste man or questioned social dogmas on screen. Even such fateful pictures exist where our coyest madam Mumtaz “Madhubala” Jehan is being the opposite of coy. Yes, it is true that the Begam Para’s and Silk Smita’s of yesteryear occupied a different space that neither Sita nor Geeta risked a gaze at. But even the most starched lungi acknowledged their existence and the rapid blurring of boundaries that contained that space.

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Mumtaz “Madhubala” Jehan Dehlavi (1933/23–1969)

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Begum Para (1926–2008)

Not even considering the vast wealth of characters Dravidian cinema has given us, Hindi cinema did not just discover progressive female characters with the birth of popular, but ultimately lacking, actors like Chopra, Padukone and Rai, none of whom has done work so instrumental to film that they left the nation shook. To our little Porki Chops, I say, ‘Madam, for God’s sake, you pasted prosthetic eyes on your Punjabi face to play the role of a Manipuri. Let those who are not known millionaires trying to pass off as a Tibeto-Burmese tribal take the lead’.

We Must Wait for Men to Die

My nāni’s dhikr—unē chōṛiyā thō uskāch nuksān hōnāsō—was an innovation metamorphosed from years of cruelty, silence and tradition. Like all the matriarchs in my nāniyāl, she had long lived as if already in a grave—like a corpse—like how the men in our family best preferred their women. The glimpses of her radicalism I’ve come to endear are a bitterness condensed over eight decades. The defining moment of her life was the day my nānā, too old and indebted to control the dying ancestral estates, signed over all assets to her. This emasculation and acquisition of wealth was the ripest moment for my nāni to burn the reigns of the Ganjāmi family, and become its cruel and commanding head. Even today, money and freedom are tightly wound to each other in my family’s worldview—a wife without wealth can only be a man’s beggar. Once a family of patriarchs, with the ruin of our coffee estates, the loss of our ammunition business and the deaths of many indebted men, we became a family of matriarchs.

My nāni’s first lesson on independence was that freedom is a matter of waiting for all the right people to die. Nearing the end of her 70s, even her Islam evolved into the faith of a sullen cynic. Her worship always came with a caveat—the needs of your circumstances come before the morals of a storybook. In her younger days, as the young bride of a man thirty years her senior, who went by the name “Bullet”, life was a series of places in the house to cower from—like in the kitchen, watching her father-in-law trash an entire table due to a disagreement with salt. In her maternal home, women were sold to the best bidders. More than one hundred years ago, a small family from Yemen settled in the bushes of a hill in Chikkamagaluru. ‘Your daughters are beautiful and exotic. Why keep them in the jungle when you can marry them to rich coffee merchants?’ So, for decades after, most women in my nāni’s family married coffeewaaley—like my grandfather. Three daughters and 16 years later, she decided no woman in her family would marry a man married to the beans of their baghs in the longest running inbreeding project exclusively established to preserve the Ganjāmi coffee estates. Nāni, though, wanted college-educated government or privately employed workers for her daughters. For all her planning and foresight, every daughter lived a tortured marriage. It is a fate seeded in our genes—to live in ruin. When she was still unborn, her aunt was kidnapped by a rich visiting trader of jewels from the far north, where Pakistan lies today. For a short while she was mourned, mostly for the loss of a beautiful face that could have fetched a grand mehr and new inheritance. Twenty years later, she had returned, pearls sown into her skirt and the baggage of a step-son. A few years later, she returned once more, this time for good. It seems she had said to her mother, ‘My step-son married again. Like father like son. So I told him to send me back from where they had stolen me’. By the grace of Allah, we still belong to the same ethnicity that is repulsed by polygamy—and we also belong to one that will continue to be grateful for kidnappers who offer their victims a respectable life of a rich second wife. On days my nāni is particularly angry with dead men, she recollects how her mother-in-law would weep in the garden—the best in the town—for her own death, to finally escape from her tyrant husband.

This is not only my one nāni’s life. It is the life every woman in my clan, and all women who became my clan. They grew into their own after our menfolk were emasculated by their own chauvinism, wasting away at the edge of their graves, forced to iron their own shirts. This long wait for freedom at the cost of deaths and ruined youths is also why the Ganjāmi women have been pessimists. I was taught that we were all destined to live through spent dreams, abusive in-laws, codes of properness, the boundaries of rooms and tongues, female traitors and husbands still chained to their mother’s cunts. For more than hundred years, the women of my family have either suffered or given suffering to other women, and each would teach us to accept suffering as fate. The only relief was to, somehow, preserve enough wealth.

These stories of abuse are the stories we keep writing for ourselves; we have no other stories to tell, because we cannot fathom an existence outside the structure of family. Through caste and class, the violence of the Indian family is its own stone god that squats in an untouchable corner of every home—the family deity—imprisoning everything in its gaze. We call this gaze the “unspoken rules” as if enforced by an invisible, omnipotent force, when they are inherited in kind. Assigning a voice to these rules means acknowledging they come from men, and sometimes we call these men “mother” and other times “father”.

Where we come from, we are forced to live misery thrice: the first, as a daughter; the second, as a wife; and finally, as a mother… and in our family, marriage was the custom that broke every woman. Women like me do not dream of marriage because of love and films and ceremonies, but in the hopes of finding a veritable cypermethrin magic chalk to stun demanding relatives. Before marriage, there are many masters. At least after marriage, there is only one; our chances are better.

In the Ganjāmi family, like many other families, marriage is still a transaction and domestic eugenics programme. It is the primary vehicle of cultural proselytism, so flouting its rules is blasphemy, creating new ones is heresy. It is simply easier to relent than to abandon and then be abandoned. Those who demand women to fight, have never fought much themselves.

Yet, there is no greater pathology than the one that makes a woman deny her part in the ethnic project of her community—deny herself her biological destiny—to produce an inheritor. In some form or the other, women are empty vessels. When I was growing up, every woman in my family, at least once a day, wondered why she ever gave birth. My mother cried over it, her sisters have cried over it and so did my nāni.

When feminist values gradually seeped into the family, it muddied our worldview more. Feminism is a bargain for most of us—it is freedom within a limited set of choices. All spines must break one day, and the woman’s spine is moulded at the mercy of a rolling pin handed from person to person. Now this pin is smaller, but it is still there, ready for an unsolicited massage.

Until marriage is a social and economic transaction between two—or for those desperate enough, with one—sha’b, it is a business of the values of bodies. And like all bodies meant for sale, it is prepared, preened and pruned for the two rooms that will define the rest of our lives: a room to make family, and another to feed that family. In the Ganjāmi household, we lost all our estates and all our wealth, but the prestige of our history still commands a high price for our bodies. With it comes the burden of behaving our bodies for the right gaze to fall on it.

Family is toxic. It preserves itself at the cost of too many unwanted births and too many aborted freedoms of living women. There is no reformation or revolution without the destruction of family. My matriarchs could break the Ganjāmi family only so much. It lies untethered and scattered, but still they, and those who never even lived to see its wealthy, tyrannical glory days, reminisce the silver bedposts, pāndāns, mehendi, and when obedient women inherited rosewood in marriage. It is a family still bound by marriage, only marginally less hopeless ones. It is bound by birth, only now they sing We Are Two And We Shall Have Two, the anthem of our heavily discounted freedom. My whole life, I have only known exhausted women. In my lifetime, too, I expect to tire of this battle, and die bitter; but before that, I will look for a husband who can take over my fight, because I know that, one day, I will have had enough of it.

Infectious Idiocy

In India, I often don’t know where postcolonial theory ends, and where mindless nationalism begins. Such is the case with this country, that has had a long tryst with idiocy. It did not start when 31 per cent of the electorate voted for a man with hardly a speck of intellectual dust to coat his brain, but a long list of suspect achievements. It will not end once the Panchavati ceases to offer her bed to the leader of the Vedic world, so we are left to deal our dealings with this cultural complex for near-eternity.

India’s theatre of absurd is usually showcased for laughs as a stagnant puddle inhabited by a fringe—every man and woman stewing in the other’s opinion jizz. With the commencement of Modinama, liberals, true to their nature, are, once again, shocked that idiotic beliefs are not only palatable to a large section of the Bharatiya community, but still many nominal sceptics and neutrals and centrists and egalitarian critics are ready to tolerate leaders who would like to incorporate their flights of fancy into law and governance as far as they have a promising xenophobic quality. Suddenly, the ludicrous side of fascism is not a passing joke on evening news, but an institutional liability—these are our priests, clerics, politicians, public officials, MPs, MLAs, whips and spokes and, so often, our Prime Ministers. To the liberal elites, India has changed; for everyone else, it is a national denuding. For decades, and decades before that, the most underprivileged and the marginally privileged rural and tribal folk have always known the dirtiness, ineptitude and violence of their homes, because they have been its primary victims. The politicians have fed them samba during elections, and homilies after elections, whilst the bulk of policy was geared towards satiating the greed of middle-class Indians—the veritable three per cent. It was only the metropolitanite class of citizens who deluded themselves into believing they were already in India 2020—hindsight is also 20/20.

It is always preferable, even if depressing, when a nation is mercilessly stripped of its fabricated façade to be paraded naked in front of habitual disbelievers and hopeful dreamers. Donald Trump was the American elites’ comeuppance—his election laid bare the myth of the American civilisation, one that is still fattening at the cost of millions of lives and lands enslaved, raped and tortured within and outside its stolen borders. However, it also cleared another fog—no matter how stupid a man in his culture, in his intellect, in his etiquette, if he offers to check a few boxes in the manifesto of the disgruntled, while the elites, journalists, thinkers and pundits are slobbering at each other’s genitals©, the people will let themselves suffer for any semblance of radical change. Hence a man proud of his prowess in sexual molestation or one who coolly states that Karna and Lord Ganesh are examples of Vedic in vitro fertilisation and advanced cosmetic surgery, respectively.

With leaders like these, who needs godmen? Since Modi, and his brigade of cronies, servitors and quacks, our national inclination towards idiocy has been infused with bravery. Both elites and the people they deride are not afraid to be their true stupid self in public—call it the Gujartification of the subcontinent. Once upon a time, Dinanath Batra was an obscure fraud who wrote textbooks for the unfortunate children of our lone dhokla state. Now Batra’s coursework on criminal “negroes” tied like “buffaloes” and anti-white racism is an inspiration for institutions to embark on a project of decolonisation, one which includes recognising the erasure of ancient rocket scientists and nuclear physicists in school curriculum. Afraid that the law was not getting its deserved share of identitarian action, Rajasthan High Court judge Justice Sharma filed a legal directive filled with bullshit to fuel the entire state for years: peacock fornication may be a contempt of court, scientific method has been critiqued, cow urinade has been extolled as a past-life-sin-cleansing detox juice and cow horns have been recognised for their ability to harvest cosmic energy.

If not indulging in a diet of cow effluence, politicians and two-bit maharajas want Hindu women to park themselves in the family way in a census jihad that must end the reproductive terrorism of unacceptably fertile Muslim women. While our economy dwindles like sickly bougainvilleas planted under dark underbridges;  diseased countrymen defecate, birth and vomit themselves to death; the livestock economy stares at an existential abyss; we are drunk on arsenic water; the medicines we cannot afford mutate into a toxic oilio of superbugs, Muslim lynchings come with trackers for journalistic efficacy; Whatsapp rumours trigger massacres; and Dalits make an exodus leaving ghost villages for Thakurs to defile, we are consumed with identitarian politics, India’s oldest contribution to itself.

Postcolonialism feeds India’s monstrous inferiority complex, a hundun with no orifices, and full of shit and chaos. In India, like much of the global south raped by white supremacist colonisers, postcolonialism comes with a tranquilising dose of nationalism. It infects the left and liberal factions of the country, a minority that is both irrelevant to public discourse and overestimates its own progressiveness. Like a middle-aged pervert on the sidewalk, it flashes its genitals to show who is master when its own dominance is threatened by the voices it claims to protect. On the right, it breeds differently—Ramanujan’s science is the mythologised mathematics of Western civilisation, while the Vedic mathematics of rishis will manifest a high-tech Atlantis wet-dream. Decolonisation of histories and cultures and mindsets usually devolves into a rejection of all perceived “foreign” narratives. One gaze to bind them all, and culturally cleanse the rest. No one has been a victim of these critical theories—in practice—more than Muslims, deemed the bastard children of Arab and Turkic invaders. Cue the revisionism. Canonising the truest narrative of India, bereft of all identities deemed un-Dharmic, has become the death of our discourse.

Identitarian politics is not a Western tumour metastasized in the “marketplace of ideas”. The ancient caste system continues to be the longest-running identitarian project, once deeply embedded into law and governance, and still existing, with its gnarly, welmish hands clapsed around our jugulars. The barbarity, slavery and asininity of the caste system is at least a few centuries old, predating “foreign influences”. We did identitarian politics before America even woke up to the world. We did alternative facts when white supremacy was a fringe on “that side of YouTube”. Identitarian policies have governed this broken democracy, and charged its 16 Lok Sabha elections; identitarian politics severed India into twice the idiocy, then it also spontaneously aborted its idiot brother within days of his own birth; identitarian politics has left us assessing the value of a cow, and like parallel cinema, relegated the serious, materialist concerns of labour, life and luxury of the underprivileged to  a niche genre that we will occasionally acknowledge to feel better about obsessing over a mediocre actor’s dress length while posing with a fascist.

The idiocy of the hour is our fight over the beef God. In India, food has never united. Those who have eaten across the breadth of the national dastarkhān know this. There will also never be a time when food will unite us. Every mouthful of vivers is a reminder of your condition, your station, your position in the milieu of this rotten nation-state. So we must live for it, and we must die for it, while others die for other reasons. For beef, for ragi, for rice, somewhere someone, usually the poor, always the farmer, is dying because of food. The wealthier, because they are lazier, worry that our favourite restaurant in our favourite locality in our favourite city will not serve us authentic ₹2000 steak, without sauce, robbing us of conversations on how the government steals from the victimised elites, forced to share their first-world with the third-world, to fund MNREGA.

Where the meaning of development is chiselled till you are left with roads, bridges and stone dieties; where we debate the merits of gulping the urine of cows and smearing our bodies in its dung; where we assess the fertility of minority women; where we convene panels on who is rightfully Indian; where the ġairāt brigade of red beards and silver talismans strangling greasy necks reasserts its perverse ownership of women and commitment to Stone Age; where we circulate fake stories hoping someone will shed the blood that entertains us; where we read stories of cancer-ridden Biharis to say ‘So sad, please share!’; where it is economic pragmatism to viliorate living conditions; where food divides, abuses and oppresses; it is no wonder that the only thing that unites an idiot country is a synthetically seasoned, nutritionally devoid bowl of preserved ramen. Meanwhile, have you seen how the bad farmers protested? They are burning our tomatoes, they are dumping our onions and now they have spilt all our holy milk, and, it seems, sometimes they even yell, ‘Let them eat Maggi’.