Friday, March 10, 2006

Women's Day ? What the heck is that ?

I was very very busy and caught up in work . But I had to make this post . Better late than never . so here goes :

What is it with us Malayalee Men and women ? A better question would be - what is it with Us and courtesy towards women ?

I am not going to put in a few facts or figures and analyze them . I am going to relate just one incident that I never expected would have happened.

My first job was with the IT wing of one of the major forces in Kerala's as well as India's Financial Market . At Ernakulam . The pay was a bit ummm low ? , but hey ! I have a job now . Being just out of college and staying jobless for around six months is something I would rather not describe here . ( Every job , however menial , and however minimal the pay be , has a value and has to be respected ) .

So getting a job had put me into a very very good mood and I had begun to look at the world with much more benevolent eyes and had recovered the capacity to find pleasure in little things of life. Well , I was in a general state of happiness (Bonhomie ? I think thats what it is called . ), even when I was most aware of my surroundings. In those days I expected the world to give back some of the goodness i may have put into it . The recepient need not be me. But it had to go around.

Well it was mid January last year and I was returning after spending two weeks away from my home ( at my beloved Thiruvananthapuram ) . I was bursting with happiness when the train trundled into the Railway station at Thampanoor and i was looking at everything with a new found love . Everything looked beautiful in the moonless , streetlight lit city . And I got a bus that would take me straight to home , contrary to my prior experiences . The time was around 9:30 and the city was deserted , the bus was filled with weary travellers , all of them men. All of the seats were filled , including the ones reserved for ladies ( there was no point in leaving those seats vacant since there were no ladies !!) I boarded the bus at East fort and the ride was good till Statue junction . When the bus stopped there , a man , his wife and three daughters got on. The men standing in the back of the bus ('ladies area') moved themselves over to the front , where they wont cause any discomfort to the ladies. Things were Ok till now. I was just another happy mallu at this point.

As soon as the bus started moving the lady ( the mother of the three ) very politely asked the men sitting in the seats reserved for ladies to kindly give up the seats so she could sit , she was tired , thanks very much . Believe me , she couldn't have been any politer . But these guys , they are probably an year or two older than me , they just turned their heads the other way.

Dudes ,isn't it common courtesy to give up ur seats to a lady , especially if she is tired and the seat you are sitting in is reserved for ladies only ? well these guys just plain ignored her.

The lady looked at her husband , and this guy just gives her a look filled with plain resignation , a "Please adjust , I am a worried man " look in his eyes.

( All this happens in a space of at the most two minutes . )

Well as I said earlier , I expect the world to give back something of the courtesy / goodness I may have shown to someone . And suddenly , unlike my poor mallu self I fill my voice with as much derision and insult as I can and asked the guys

"Naanamille , avarkku vendiyulla seatil keri irikkaanum , avar paranjittu polum eneettu kodukkaathirikkaanum ? "

( Aren't you ashamed to sit in a seat reserved for her and not moving over even after her request )

I realize at the next moment that these guys are not the sort who will sit around a table and listen to reason like men .

Of course they got up , but only to come up to me and ask me "Nee arraada chodikkan ? Ninakku chodikkaan enthaa avakaasam ? huh ? Nee araanna ninte vichaaram ?"

(Who are you to ask ? What right do you have to ask that question ? And who do you think you are ?)

Well I was plain frightened , and as one of my friends says "Pedichu kaattam ittu " . But I knew I was right so I told them that i have more right to speak than they had , on this matter . The bus conductor , the silent statue , he came over and asked me if I was so crazy as to talk and argue with these kinda dudes , and asked me to go to the front of the bus , which i do immediately . I got those dudes to give up the seats to the lady - Mission accomplished. So I escaped from the situation .

Now comes the funny part . It so happened that two people from my 'area' was on the bus , and we got down at the same stop . They came over to me and told me that what i did was very stupid. Who would argue for a woman , that too someone unknown ? That was the question they asked me. Both were pretty well educated , older than my father and I generally respected them for their plain good naturedness and outlook towards life .

Maybe it was the fact that I was fresh out of college that made me do it then . But i think that I did what I did because the people on the bus behaved in a way i didnt respect , didnt think right and I myself wouldnt have done . Its like hey I dont cheat at exams , so I hate you because you cheated at the exams .

I haven't been to big cities of India or travelled extensively or anything . I have been to Bangalore and Chennai .But I have seen women moving around freely in these places even after 7 O Clock . Girls who have been my classmates here , who now work at Chennai or Bangalore , they tell me that they would prefer a life in such places plainly because they have a far greater sense of security there than in their own hometowns back in Kerala.

Right now I am in Germany , and here , if you dont hold the door for a lady or do not give up ur seat to a lady in a crowded tram , you are looked upon with a sort of contempt..

And I met a lady who had travelled to many places in India , almost always on business . She once visted India , to spend her holidays here , in our very own kerala . She told me that Mallu men have a special skill - They can strip a lady with just their eyes alone. She thinks it must be because the men in Kerala are 'sexually oppressed ' .

I have a little sister and she is doing her plus two now. She goes to evening tuitions on most of the days . And if the tuition classes go beyond 6:30 pm , either me or my father will go to bring her back home. It irks her . She says its like we are treating her like a child . She doesnt understand .We are plain afraid to let her come back alone after 6:00 . This in the capital city of one of the most literate states in India. I am afraid , and sad .

PS : I have heard educated people proposing that some of the trees in our city be cut down to widen the roads - they dont have enought space to ride their cars. But the old hag ( "Kelavi" was the exact term they used ) teames up with some environment freaks to stop it everytime something like that is about to happen . The Old Hag they were referring to was Sugathakumaari teacher , the poetess , the lady who runs 'Abhaya' , who smiles seldome because her heart is heavy with the plight of people she sees everyday.

Dude where's my educated kerala , God's own Country ?


Mind Curry said...

great to see your post.

what you have written is so commonplace and routine in kerala that it just disappoints me. i dont know how people can be so heartless and plain cruel. no wonder anyone who has experienced what life is beyong kerala never wants to return.

i am also happy that atleast you had the mind to speak to those idiots.

i am excited to see so many people joining our blog in support and i am sure some day soon we will have a voice strong enough to make changes.

AJITH said...

This behaviour arises from our upbringing..In kerala, we build upon a perception that if a girl interacts socially with men, her character is bad..If a lady walks out in the night, people view her with suspicion..And the resultant behaviour ..

silverine said...

The place where I come from in Kerala, women have the right to their seat. But I sense a difference in Trivandrum. An incident comes to mind. Me and my friend went for another friends wedding to Tvm. Our return ticket was waitlisted. We finally managed to bribe the TT and get a second class berth but in different compartments. Till around 9 'o' clock we sat together and chatted. There were a group of mallu men in the opp berth who kept staring and sniggering at us.Finally I asked one of them if they would exchange their berth for my friends berth so that we could be together. He flatly refused and believe it or not went around telling the other men not to do the same!!! Finally an elderly lady travelling alone exchanged her seat with us. The TT said he could do nothing until we reached Coimbatore and new incumbents (read non mallus) got in.I saw a mean pettiness that is so hard to define.

quills said...

Good post and you are so right on! I have come across this situation many a time. Most people just pretend it never happened, which I think is pitiable. I am glad you stood up against this kind of treatment that is so often meted out to women in Kerala. But as you pointed out, with no support from the crowds, even educated ones, we are putting ourselves in peril by voicing our thoughts. However, I think I rather fight against injustice than sit back and ignore the problem at hand.

calvin said...

@mindcurry : Thanx again for the preview . I would try to bring in a few more people so we can do something solid .

@ajith : Right on point . But that particular behavior is now changing , albeit slowly , due to the swell in the no: of the great Middle Classes. Lets see if it reaches a healthy level where things take a good turn .

@silverine : Thats a typical mallu behavior . And there is a difference in Thiruvananthapuram ..It was best put to me by someone who works for the CPI . He said "Thiruvananthapurathu pirivinu irangiyal aadyam veettammayodu chodikkanam ..Aanungalkkuu nattellu kurachu kurava ." You know what ? He is right .

@quills : I am ashamed and sad to say that I have not stood up against these kinds of things many times in my life . I still don't know why I did it then . But nowadays whenever I encounter such situations , I either try to stay calm or if I do react , i try to be much more peaceful . You know why ? its because it seems so pointless when you know you are right and everyone looks at u with a look that sezz "poor guy ! He didnt have to do it though " when they could have pitched in on their own or at least show some support , even by nodding their heads in approval.

Babin said...

Nice post Aashik. Welcome to the club.
You've really set an admirable example. I'm sure that lady and her three daughters will surly appreciate your braveness, if not anyone else in that bus.

JamesBright said...

The reason for this kind of behaviour among the men in Kerala could be a kind of sexual suppression or oppression whatever you may call it! The men should be able to grow out of it and they should be able to accept the women as normal kind of fellow humans!
I am very glad that you have reacted in that situation!

Vinod/Kakka said...

I am from Trivandrum, my wife is from Bangalore. We tend to travel around a lot. We have a 4 month old baby. We have been travelling around with her since she was 2 months old.
Every where in the world, even in places where Indians are often looked at as inferior, my wife and child gets invited to the head of the queue for security checks, boarding etc. It happens in Bangalore also. There is one place where that never happens.

flyaway mind said...

i'm first time on your blog.. great to see you acted boldly & rose to the ocassion..we need more guys 'n gals like you!!

i have seen many of my friends braving it out in other metroes, growing confident & taking control of their lives.but they cant do it in kerala because freedom is curbed & security is unguaranteed.even my own parents want me back in kerala.but it's sad that people are forced to avoid these social evils(by going home before DARK); rather than working against it..

Anonymous said...

am an NRK(Non resident Keralite)... and my parents don't want me to settle there .... so u can iamgine.....

Santhosh said...


This happens every where in India. It just depends on the kind of people u are involved with. Frankly its not about education, its about simple social manners and respect for women that can eliminate such problems.

starry nights said...

Nice post, I think if you are taught at home to respect your mother and sisters, you will show the same respect to other women.I have taught my son that.

Anonymous said...

Aashik, that was brave and kind of you to act on behalf of the lady. I too am from Trivandrum and from experience I could say that its way to risky to fight with strangers who in this case turned down a lady's request for her seat. The reason being that there are men who would'nt dare to kill for such simple reasons. I am ashamed at how these men are. These men are a curse to the state.

Forget turning down a lady's request... I have seen how these men behaves when close proximity to a woman even in public places.

Have you heard about how AutoRick guys behave to women? I have overseen some instances. Man you have no idea. These people should be hanged.

What is about these men? Havent they seen women? Dont they have mother, sisters or wife? How would they feel if they go through the same experience? One thing I know is, these people have no respect for women.

Why does Kerala have so much of Bandh, Strikes and what not... The most literate state does not know how to behave or lacks maturity. I hate the politicians in Kerala and all those assholes working for some stupid parties ( like BJP, RSS, ABVP, and etc ) and who wills to stand for any strikes in the state. To all those morons, find a Job and live for you family. If you loose your life even a dog won't mourn. Understand that and then rot in Hell. Its because of you assholes that the state is not progressing and most of the learned people in the state has to look else to make a living.

Why is the Smart City taking too long to setup its base in Cochin? Because some morons does not like so much of credits going to the person who took the decision to bring that project to kerala. The Land issue is just a mask to get the Project Rejected.

To all the Brainless Uneducated Mornons who think like immature children, go and visit Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. See how much progress is being brought there by their govts before criticizing your own Govt for no reason. Let others live and let the State Progress. Atleas Shut up and live so that Others can progress.

Kerala needs a great deal of social education. Unless then its a nightmare for women after dark. The best way is to stay away from trouble. Use your own transportation if possible. If you do a google search on Sreedevi Jacob's report you can read a lot about what I am trying to say...

I pray that these men behave with respect to fellow human beings.

mallu girl said...

Hey there
this was indeed an excellent post! I am totally impressed that somebody finally had the nerve to write about these things! I have often wondered my self how mallu guys can be so totally rude and obnoxious! It worries me to think that someday if I had a son, he would also grow up thinking that its okay to do these kinda things..

beena said...

nice post..happy to know that still there are few people in the society to react in such a manner.may god bless you.

Anonymous said...

This is a post by mallu madama who do not have any proper upbringing,
have no knowledge about her grand parents & grand Grand parenst and born out of inter-racial/caste/regional wedloack

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