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Archive for July, 2007

[Beware! This is a long post, but I ask especially all women who pass by to read it!! And please tell me of any of your experiences, here or at lemonsunflower [at] gmail [dot] com]

Pop Quiz! The above sign would be best suited:

a. In front of a men’s restroom/sauna/locker room

b. As a barrier to allow men to move ahead in the temple for darshan (obeiyance)

c. Everywhere! Gender segregation is the key to world peace!

d. None of the above! Segregation is the obstacle to world peace!

{I hope no one actually took c and d seriously}

So I do consider myself a feminist, but I’m not the one who jumps up and picks up a bat at every sexist comment, because I understand that in reality, life is never fair and was never meant to be. And I’m equally likely to make a comment to the opposite gender, so why make a fuss about the petty things? I’m a feminist because I am aware, fully support and recognize the important needs of women, as well as the instances of clear social injustice where you do need to yell and scream and make a point in a patriarchal society. I’m a feminist because the welfare of women is important to me, because I am one, and because I will not accept any obvious, vicious discrimination of any sort.

As a child, I always enjoyed going to temples. I enjoy Hindu festivities, traditions, the various little rites and customs. We’d take off our slippers on the chaukhat (doorway) and walk in on cool ground, and it would be completely quiet within. You’d walk up to the beautiful murtis (idols) and bow, dip your finger in the tika or chandan and carefully anoint the center of your forehead. Then, if you were tall enough, you’d reach up and clang the bell, or your dad would pick you up. The sound would resonate in the silence, a beautiful sound, and you’d feel at peace. Then the best part: you’d walk out and stand in line for prasad (offering), sweet halwa or a laddoo, a piece of fruit…it always tasted best in the temple. During aarti, you’d sing together with people from all walks of life, clap your hands, and marvel at the beautiful clothes and jewellery the Gods and Goddesses were dressed up in. The festival months were even more wonderful, and exciting, and life filled the temples: everyone came, with goodwill, with happiness, with varying levels of devotion. There were lights, and bhajans (devotional songs), and a mass of colors and voices. My family weren’t ardent temple-goers. We’d go to mark birthdays, special events, report cards, a promotion or a success in the family, to pay our due devotion and show our gratitude. God was everywhere, but in the temple the presence was greater, the experience more satisfying. I always looked forward to these visits (and I’ll admit it was often for the prasad), times when my family was together, unified and happy to visit the Lord.

But the point of this post is this: I don’t recall as a child having to stand behind the boys and the men during aartis, or waiting in line behind the men to see the idols or get the prasad. I recall standing with my brother, not waiting behind him. There was never any segregation in the temples I visited, though there were always rituals or customs that discriminated against women. At that point, I never understood them, or I never noticed. When you grow up with it, its a way of life, nothing extraordinary to ponder about. But there was surely nothing that ever left a mark on me, or disturbed me enough to stay with me all these years or blemish my temple visits. I’m grateful for that.

And yet, a visit to a temple here ignited a rush of questions and emotions (mainly anger, and frustration), last weekend. I’ve been there before, and been through the process before, but accepted it every other time as a cultural custom. India is a mixture of cultures, and one cannot presume to understand the traditions of some from the west or the south if I’m from the north or the east. Often, you have to go by the when in Rome saying, and so I did every time. As fas as I was concerned, I was there to bow my head in front of God (and God alone), experience the peace and beauty of the temple and leave.

But this weekend my conscience flared up, and refused to stay down. We sat behind the men during the aarti, a large group of women who had to strain our necks to glimpse the idols. And then when it came time to “circle” and walk up the other murtis, this sign blocked our passage. Finally, they removed the sign. We walked past. I looked straight ahead and reached the end of the passage.

“You will have to stop. First let the swamiji and his disciples go by.”

He would have pushed me back, but he wasn’t allowed to touch any women in/around the temple. From the corner of my eye I saw he was merely a teenager. Dressed in a white kurta-pajama, and he had the big responsibility of holding back the crowd of women who threatened to just flood in and pollute the prayers of the “swamiji and his disciples.” My heart started thumping and immediately, my anger threatened to burst out. My eyes didn’t look in his direction at all, there was no way I was dignifying his rubbish by acknowledging it and looking in his direction. I looked straight ahead at the idol in front of me. He repeated his sentence. I didn’t budge, didn’t move back (but didn’t move forward either). I simply stared ahead. He shut up, finally, and simply stood there on guard. I considered my options.

Then I swiftly turned around and walked out.

Yup, I didn’t do anything. The righteous anger, the will to stand up, the frustration and I didn’t even squeak. I took the cowardly way out with just the one rebellious act of ignoring him a bit, which he probably didn’t even notice. I didn’t say a word out loud to express my indignation.

I wanted to say “Why? Why? Didn’t a woman give birth to your swamiji? To God himself? Doesn’t Sita stand with Rama in the idols? Radha with Krishna? Who gave you right to make us feel like second-class devotees, when the Hindu pray to both Goddesses and Gods? Why must I wait to pray? Why must I stand behind the men?” I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to question and express outloud the terrible injustice that was being done.

I walked out and all I could think of was: even a rapist, a murderer, the most dirtiest and corrupt man in the world, has the right to pray to God before I do! What justice! What a world! What customs, what traditions! This hadn’t been what I grew up, the temples we visited, had it? I had never had to feel this way as a child, among my family, and my parents tried my best to shield me on the outside. But I know this for sure: during Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, I saw all men and women stand together and pray in front God! [Note: this temple is run by Hindus from a different part of India than from where I am from. Customs change widely by area]

I don’t mention religion here. I will not say Hinduism has not discriminated against women. Hinduism and Hindus as a population have committed grave sins against all women, like EVERY other religion does. And yet, in all the years that I have lived, if there is one thing I understand and am completely sure of, is that God does not make religion. Human does. The idea of God is meant to give hope, it is an idea to have faith in when everything seems bleak. Yet the Human adds his own words and language and ideas and beliefs to the simple idea of God, until what the Human has said and done and thinks becomes indistinguishable from “God.” Humans corrupts “God.” And so, I cannot blame the faith. I can only blame those who preach their version of it and claim its truth and goodness and purity…when in reality, their version is no different from our world: corrupt, unfair, cruel, biased and dirty.

I discussed the incident with someone. Ofcourse, it was wrong, the guy’s behavior was wrong, I was told. And yet, I must understand why they do it. The reason men and women are segregated is because the mind of Man is weak, it is easily swayed, essentially filthy. And so, Woman must be away from Man during prayer to avoid temptation. And so, I said indignantly, why don’t women sit in front then, stand in front of men. Its still segregated, right?

Why not?? Because if women stands in front, the men sitting behind will stare at the women rather than pay attention to God, since men are so weak.

Does it outrage you? Regardless of your gender, do you sense the unfairness, the injustice? Even if I accept the argument based on the scientific evidence of pheromones, it is still ridiculous! Why must women suffer, if men are weak? Who decided that? Its the same argument that foolish people throw out justifying rape. “Its how she was acting/what she was wearing.” And hear, the woman’s crime is simply: being a woman.

How ludicrous. Immediately, I was reminded of Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran, a memoir written by the English professor who taught secret classes for her women students (highly recommended). Ms. Nafisi recalls how after Iran became a republic, all her female students had to wear burkhas. Not a bit of skin should be visible: only the palms if necessary, not even a bit of wrist or the nape of the neck. The women were fined or verbally/physically punished if the law was violated. And the justification provided to Ms Nafisi, can you guess? The sight of the woman’s white skin was a temptation to the men, seducing and distracting them from maintaining their pure lives.

Again, I do not believe this is Islam. I believe this is Islam from the corrupt eyes of those who changed it to meet their needs/forgive their crimes/grant them freedom and loopholes. Just like what happened to me at the temple is not Hinduism. It is Hinduism that has been conveniently manipulated and modulated and reworked to suit the needs of Men.

The thing that hurts me the most is that this happens in the place of God. Where individuals come to find solace, peace, love, warmth, understanding, gain some kind of acceptance. Women have always met with discrimination, in all walks of life, from the beginning of time. But being stopped in the house of God where I come simply as every man does, for the same reasons and in the same way, with the same devotion and the same dedication and love, is just so very degrading and painful. Its painful deep down somewhere, in my heart, in my soul, its frustrating, it causes my blood to boil and my head to spin with anger. If I had been a child, ignorant of the ways of the world, I know how I would feel: shocked, hurt, and at fault, like there was something wrong with me, something that makes me not as worthy as my brother to face God, makes me deficient in some quality in front of God. I know because even though I understand the narrow-mindedness and cruelty and corruption of the world, I still feel a little bit of that, and that makes me grateful to my parents for shielding me as a child, and scares me at the thought of raising a daughter in this world. And that makes me lash again…how dare anyone, ANYONE, make me feel this way?

And all I did was walk away. I let down all my sisters that day at the temple, by not saying a word. I stayed mute, and walked out, and I have no excuse. I apologize. It was too difficult, it was too burdensome and I knew that that day, at that temple, it would make no difference to that boy or any other man.

May God give me strength the next time I see this sign in a temple. Strength to push it over and out of my way, strength to kick any man who dares to stop me in the balls, and strength to march forward to claim my birthright.

John Mayer: Belief

Various Artists: Ishwar Allah

[This song isn’t working right…it sounds like chipmunks on this player. But you should be able to download it by rightclicking on the link and that should work fine]
{from the movie 1947 Earth by Deepa Mehta}

Ishwar Allah tere jaahaan mein nafrat kyun hain, jang hai kyun

(God, why is there hatred in your world, why is there war?)

Tera dil to itna bada hain, insaan ka dil tang hai kyon?

(Your heart is so large, why is the heart of man so narrow?)

Full lyrics and translation at: http://www.bollywhat.com/lyrics/1947_lyr.html

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I was amazed that I’ve yet to write a post on Lee Seung Yeol (also romanized, Yi Sung Yol, the Lee in Korean is pronounced as “ee,” there is no L in the hangul form: ), an amazing musician, one of my favorites, whose voice had me spell-bound from the first time I stumbled upon him on youtube, while searching for “…Ing” videos.

Gi Da Rim/기다림 (Waiting)

Credit: Fluxus Music Website, and Smarie7

I fell in love. I looked everywhere for more information, more videos, songs, anything…all in vain. He is scandalously underrated in the international korean music scene, from what I can tell. I don’t have much information about his popularity in Korea itself (I’m hoping he’s a legend there), but I was disappointed how little he’s known outside, with the burgeoning Korean pop/rock/music industry which is blossoming each day and spreading across the world. Perhaps its the younger generations who haven’t woken up to his work, or the mainstream k-pop is taking up all the waves. While groups like Loveholic are slowly making their way to the forefront and gaining widespread popularity, I guess it’ll take time before the indie scene is truly appreciated and equally well promoted worldwide, as it deserves to be (there are some amazing indie artists in Korea).

I was frustrated at first with the apparent lack of popularity. Sadly, I’ve only met a couple people who share my complete fascination with his music and his voice. I finally decided that was a good thing. This man should rightfully be known all over the world, and perhaps one day he will, but till then I’m just glad to know about his music and relish it. might never become mainstream or a big k-star (something tells me he doesn’t want that either), but I think the low-profile and mysterious quality allows him to maintain the originality of his music. And I’ve also realized that the few who do cherish him have a fine taste in music, and their appreciation is not affected by any other factor but their genuine admiration of what he brings to music, and the rock scene. And then, isn’t it said that the water from the most remote of springs is the sweetest?

I do wish I could learn more about who he is and what drives him as a musician, which is always fascinating to me. Until I can investigate it further (and perhaps a better hold on Korean and Hangul would help), I’m satisfied with understanding his music. His more popular songs are “Gi Da Rim” from the movie …Ing, “Be My Love” from the hit k-drama My Lovely Samsoon where he sang for Clazziquai, and the song on the OST of the recent k-drama Que Sera Sera–“우리는 (Urinun: Us),” which will without fail be listed on my list of lifetime favorites. His second album, In Exchange, is a wonderful collection of modern rock. Its rock with a twist of something else, an indescribable quality. I have yet to listen to the first one (haven’t been able to order it yet), but the second one has me mesmerized. I know I’m using all these big words, just trying to find more synonyms, but simple words don’t seem to do any justice.

It is his voice that I love most. It is deep, masculine, and rich with emotion. I’ve always been a fan of singers who were able to bring emotion to their voice, and does that to the extent that even though I don’t understand a lot of the lyrics, I can feel the meaning of the songs by the raw emotion in his tone. His voice is melodious, but not in the typical way. I think there would be many who’d be turned off because its not the conventional voice. It has a mellowness to it, but at the same time it conveys strong feelings, a passionate tone, perhaps a tragic one at times when the lyrics demand it. Each time I listen to a song, especially the very beginning of my favorite, Urinun, I get this strange rush. My mood can immediately change when the song comes on my ipod and I’ll be too caught up with his voice, the energy, the passion and feeling in the song to think about my own silly conflicts or worries.

is daring with his music. It traverses very different grounds. Just like indie groups like My Aunt Mary, or Loveholic, stands on his own, completely different and incomparable. The music matches his voice…sometimes conveying a desperate urgency, sometimes a mellow calm, sometimes an adventurous energy. Its definitely has the alternative rock quality, but it never gets loud or exhausting to hear, never plays havoc on your eardrums. The beats are always rhythmic, the instruments play in perfect harmony. I especially love the guitar in several of his songs (please note this is my completely amateur opinion). He has been compared to Bono by several people, but I personally dislike drawing comparisons between musicians, especially legendary musicians. The following song is from an anime OST, Wonderful Days: 비상 BiSang (Fly High).

Credit: waseline21

often crosses over into English, using phrases and words as several other Korean musicians do, but it never sounds forced in or unnatural, and is not marred by any strange accent or mispronunciation. He incorporates that cross-language style in this next song, another favorite, 기억할게 | Gieokhalke (I will Remember). The MV is really neat and very well conceptualized, and this is the first time I finally saw the man behind the voice, though still shrouded in shadows. He’s a true rockstar.

(I especially love the entrance and the final, soft, end (어디에: audhiye, which means where are you)).

Credit: Smarie7

And in this song, 시간의 끝 (Shigane kkut-Last Time), which also blows me away each time.

 But I can’t let you get away….

I could rave about for another couple pages at the least, and if you ever ask me in person I could take you song by song and tell you the little details which have led me to admire and be awed by his music. I’m not a musician, and by no means do I have any kind of professional expertise, but as a music lover (understatement), I support with complete confidence and devotion. There are musicians whom I’ll rave about initially, and then I’ll begin noticing flaws, certain inconsistencies, perhaps forced styles that take away from the true rhythm, or their music will just stop speaking to me. But from the first time I heard his music, I knew I’d always be a fan. Lovers of fine music, especially rock, deserve to hear , on an international level. I hope one day he reaches that zenith. For now I continue to hope that he’ll keep growing and developing his work, expanding his horizons and maintaining his originality, and I’ll keep being mesmerized by his voice.

[If you enjoyed the songs posted and felt a little bit of the magic, then you’ll definitely love and cherish the albums. Support this amazing musician by buying his albums here: http://global.yesasia.com/en/PrdDept.aspx/code-k/section-music/pid-1004787256/.  I’ve always had great, quick service from YesAsia.]

PS: If you’ve heard before and are already a fan, or heard him here and like what you heard, please share your thoughts! And if anyone knows more about I would be grateful if you’d share (you can email me or leave a comment)! If his work just isn’t your cup of tea, I’d be happy to hear your opinion, though I guess we’ll never be the soul sharing, music loving, bosom buddies. 😉

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I think I emailed everyone and told them the good news. If not, CALL ME 🙂

Thank you to everyone, every single one of the many people who supported me, encouraged me, believed in me, loved me, and cared for me, put up with my tantrums, my whining, my complaining, listened to me go on and on and on about depressing things, were there for me when I cried, screamed, threw fits. Ya’ll are the best, and its because of ya’ll I was able to do this. Thank you!

Muwa! Party at Olive Garden 🙂

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I hate hypocrisy. Which is why I’m amazed it took me so long to realize the discord between my recently cynical posts and the theme for my blog “I’m a believer.” After much thought (I have to keep my mind busy with SOMETHING), I realized changing the theme would be much easier than just changing myself in a day (yes, I sold out. Only because I’ve tried it and its terribly difficult to always believe). But check out the slight change (under the name of blog, btw)–that isn’t too bad is it?

So after realizing that I’ve worried several of the loving, caring people in my life with my negative posts and troubled writing (no, I have not been entertaining thoughts of running away and joining the circus), I thought it was due time for me to make a change. Actually, there are several unfinished drafts in the wordpress system attributed to sudden inspirations that I was unable to finish off because life came in and interfered. But today I’m in too much of a strange mood to attempt to complete anything. Today is, so to speak, S-Day, the pre-med equivalent of D-Day, when scores are released for you-know-what. If Voldemort himself came down, grabbed a pre-med by the nape of the neck, shook him/her crazy and threw the body across the freshly waxed floor, that would not excite as much terror in the poor tortured soul than the release of that-which-cannot-be-spoken-of. Even if you walk out of the testing room with your head in the clouds, completely confident that you aced every question on that frickin’ you-know-what, and OWNED it, by the end of the month your soul has been broken by the devil’s slave: the wait for score release. And you find yourself having nightmares, not sleeping for weeks, and walking around like a zombie, bursting into sudden sobs while running an experiment because you just KNOW a terrible two digit number will show up on your screen.

I’m not saying thats happening to me. I’m just saying thats what you-know-what does. In general. *bursts into hysterical laughter*

Anyway, then there’s the score delay. A very underhanded, mean trick played by those in power. Why on earth must an electronic system take 30+ days for score release? All my education must have failed me, because I just can’t see the reason behind it. Even today, there are vicious rumor mongers mongering around about another delay. My nerves are frazzled already. Another delay, and I think I’ll voluntarily commit myself.

Despite all the torture, I’m in a much happier mood today than the situation would warrant. Perhaps its the rain and thunder and lightning, which (no sarcasm here) always makes me feel happier. Rain is beautiful to me (see previous posts on topic, if in doubt). Even being stuck on the freeway for 30 minutes doesn’t beat my enthusiasm and excitement for a good thunderstorm. I’m not that crazy about flash floods. I’m willing away any negative repurcussions of the monsoon with positive thinking, and giving the weather some love.  🙂

Whatever the inexplicable reason for the sudden mood change (the rain, a good breakfast of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and coffee, getting a little bit of sleep last night after two torturous weeks), I’m going to take it as a good sign. Scores WILL come out today. And they WILL be good. Good enough to make me happy. And get me a celebration at Olive Garden.

Because…I’m trying to be a believer.

🙂

PS: I don’t have my music right now (at work), but I’ll still post the perfect song 😀

DEFINITELY check this out, even if this is the only song you listen to today. Its an amazing piece, from the best fusion musician–Nitin Sawhney. It completely fits this weather, and the beats and lyrics will definitely lift your spirits. I guarantee it.

NITIN SAWHNEY-RAINFALL

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