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One Billion Rising!

February 20, 2013

There is this feisty girl in Trivandrum who by her own admission took turns with her father and beat up an “eve teaser” on her way back from leading a motorbike rally to mark the “One Billion Rising” day in Trivandrum. It may not exactly have been legal, but there was no malice aforethought and she might have used overwhelming force in the heat of the moment, even if unnecessarily. Well, the necessity would be a matter of opinion. The police having registered a complaint against the teaser, and having refused to entertain his complaint about the battery he suffered, he has filed a private complaint against the girl, and under court orders, the police have registered a case against her.

God’s Own Country has the infamy of having extremely woman-unfriendly streets. And more, like electricians who install spycams with radio transmitters as a free add-on while they install water heaters in their customers’ bathrooms; especially if the customers happen to be women living alone.

And there are other myths. One, that the women of Kerala have historically enjoyed better status, a say in society. The 13th century Arab traveller Ibn Batuta said they were so promiscous that the paternity of a child was ascertained by the child turning to the call of one of the possible paters at its first birthday feast. But it is not clear whether it was by choice or forced upon them. The eldest male within female lineage always controlled the family in the matrilineal system. And historians tell us that the matrilineal system itself arose only about a thousand  years ago, possibly when there were  lots of wars with the Tamil kings and menfolk were away, and died in large numbers. The only remarkable positive aspect to my mind is the sex ratio in the population. And that could easily be because more men die early in their lives from the ill-effects of chronic excessive consumption of alcohol.

The eve-teaser-bashing followed the other controversy about the ethics taught by one Dr Rejith Kumar in his “class” at the College for Women, Trivandrum. He seems to have been sponsored by the Education Department of the State government, and advised the young women that they should not jump or wear tight clothes, specifically, “jeans.” They should stay at-home modestly. While a few people in society applauded the lone girl who booed him and walked out of the assembly, a very large number of people are seen to endorse the wisdom of the Doctor’s words. They argue that one should watch the whole performance of the doctor and appreciate the value of his words. The hypocrisy of the local (male) society that wants modesty in its women while behaving in utterly disrespectful and offensive manner boggles one’s senses.

I tried to watch the available footage of the Doctor’s performance. It was amazing. He claims he has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Kerala and has therefore authority to teach biology and yes, “medical science”. He has amazing theories that there are genes that make you lie and those that make you speak the truth. But no, they are not just inherited; if you speak lies, the lie-gene gets “activated” and the truth-gene gets recessive! And so on, even touting the sensationalist “news” items that say tight clothes lead to disorders of the uterus or urino-genital system or something like that, as science.  I should consider myself to be in line for the next Nobel, at least of the Ig-Nobel variety, if I spoke out like this. To add to his achievements, he has made a study of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity and has written books that contain gems which experts say are not there in the original texts. (I also hope he was not speaking of jeans, but genes . I am not sure).

I would agree with the Doctor that it is a jungle out there, but his solution of avoidance disappoints me. His crude language to me is abhorrent. He also seems to think that men are smarter and can easily trap young maidens because they are smarter. This militates against my ideas of cerebral capacity of the sexes. While he should have the right to hold his opinions, I think the Department of Education in its campaign to empower young women should have thought twice before letting him loose, especially as it seems, according to what he says, he has been delivering thousands of these speeches. And the way the reports pour in, these speeches have not helped the streets become safer in Kerala. It could be the way we bring up our children that makes men appear smarter, in a negative way. Should there not be a campaign aimed at the male sex, young boys, to inculcate responsible behaviour, and should we not be telling young girls to react rather than advocating what in essence is passivity at best; and cringing subordination and flight, at worst? Change the world, shall we?

I do not see many people willing to strike, dance or rise here.

Tailpiece: Indeed there has been a hiatus in my posts again, but I should not have wasted my time writing this one, perhaps. But for the memory the Doctor stirred in me of a spoof in the Deevana nearly thirty-five years ago. The Deevana (English, sister publication of Deevana Tej Saptahik in Hindi), incidentally was a weak copy of Mad magazine run by I think, Viswa Bandhu Gupta (I could be wrong about the editor). That it managed to cock a snook at the dumb censors during the Emergency of 1975-77 was what endeared it to me more.

Well, there was this feature, a series of purported letters between one Thadali Ghugus and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bombay. Ghugus wants a doctorate and is willing to pay for it. So the VC patiently explains the procedure and says it is not sold for cash. Ghugus goes on describing his meetings with “Doctors” from Bombay University who maintain, for instance, that the Islets of Langerhans are near the Hebrides, etc. (Not this really, but this favourite item of trivia of quiz-masters came in handy to me as I don’t remember the exact goofy things). If they can be awarded doctorates, why not me?

The feature ended with a letter from the VC to Ghugus felicitating his appointment as the Minister for Education, adding an appeal for funds, and asking when he could schedule a special convocation for Ghugus to receive his Doctorate, honoris causa.


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  1. Induchoodan permalink

    What surprised me is the silent acceptance by the girl students of the nonsense touted out by Dr.Rejit Kumar. There is something seriously wrong with our education which makes people accept such stupidities. I do not see any great future for such a society.

  2. Balchan permalink

    100% agreement, Induchoodan. Well said, Soman

  3. Although the girls of Kerala have changed a lot (” empowered themselves” , to borrow the official jargon) compared to their previous generation, they are still way back when compared with their sister folk from metros.As a rule, they have been taught to be obedient and show class room manners.So, when a dignitary appointed by the Government (to empower them further?) stole the scene, they might have listened patiently, even if not agreeing with him.Fortunately, there was at least one girl who could detect the “blue fox” in him!

    • I am mortified to learn that this expert with his flowing white beard is all of 45 years old! And the Hindu eulogised his role in solving societal problems in 2009!

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