In Photos: Celebrating 25 Years Of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery

Today, 9.11.2014, Germany celebrates 25 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wish I could be there to join in the celebrations. Here is my little tribute to the Berlin Wall and it’s art and graffiti at the East Side Gallery.

291995_301349646542612_1732916317_n

294342_301349749875935_1440684966_n

297969_303615369649373_572089414_n

299135_301349549875955_940345120_n

302228_301349609875949_1238495371_n

300671_301349859875924_851817419_n (1)

302228_301349609875949_1238495371_n

304019_301349693209274_1312930447_n

305780_301349823209261_984237356_n

308270_314207915256785_1690409946_n

312265_301349886542588_546231366_n

314572_301349796542597_210179694_n

316260_303615399649370_160232983_n

317573_314207755256801_1696348764_n

320836_301349589875951_424964241_n

376594_303615352982708_2111780786_n

377180_314207788590131_831047151_n

387005_314207861923457_303153343_n

392117_303615432982700_606382719_n

392194_314207821923461_1498415301_n

392701_303615296316047_1437992206_n

DSCF0889

DSCF0887

DSCF0884

DSCF0883

DSCF0882

DSCF0878

DSCF0858

DSCF0856

DSCF0855

DSCF0854

Disclaimer: All the images belong to Japleen Pasricha. Kindly do not use without permission.

Au revoir Freedom! Hope to see you back home too..

Dear Freedom,

I’m writing this letter to you because it’s time to bid farewell now. It has been a wonderful time with you as my company and I think I owe you at least a farewell note. I hope when you read it, you are inspired to accompany me further. Right now, you are leaving me stranded. I don’t blame you, but I hope to see you again not where you are right now, but at my home, in my city and in my country.

I was away from home, in a far-off land. I roamed the streets alone with my camera and a book in my hand. I wandered day and night with no sign of fear in sight. I walked, ran and danced, without carrying a pepper spray in my hand. I wore a bikini at the beach and a coat when it was cold. The weather decided my clothes and not age-old customs or poking noses. I sat in my room and read the news back home. Their voices made my heart gloom, but I still enjoyed my foreign ride. I slowly forgot to look behind my shoulder from the corner of my eyes or to make an angry face while walking past a group of men. Not once did I feel why it is so difficult to be a woman. I went to bars and clubs for a drink or two and returned home drunk yet safe. I have waited for night buses at wee hours or early mornings. I have traveled in empty metros after a night full of fun and frolic. I had keys to my front door and could walk in and out whenever I wanted. I sat down under a tree or at a bench for hours, without encountering any weird gestures or awkward questions. Nobody asked me where I was going, with whom I was going and when will I be back. I had no one to answer except myself. I didn’t have to plan my outings before sunset or ask a trustworthy friend to drop me home. I made friends with men and women alike. I was alone with strangers at a lot of occasions without fearing the outcome. I asked for directions and help from different kinds of people. Not once did I fear that they would misdirect or misuse me. I talked with strangers on buses and trains during my various travels and shared a joke or two with them or ate lunch together. I did not avoid meeting anyone’s eyes as those eyes didn’t seek my flesh. Sometimes I felt, I’m another person living a distant dream and the things I experience don’t belong to me. It tasted bittersweet. I swam in the Mediterranean and climbed up the Alps. I did adventure sports from bungee jumping to scuba diving to sky diving. Nobody said how could a girl do this. I spent an entire night at a railway station in a country whose language I did not speak. I woke up the next morning untouched and unscathed. I did the simple act of walking back to my home at night. I felt so ecstatic while doing this. I felt as if I have some sort of power which I can finally use. I have been brought up in a relatively free-er environment than I would say my fellow citizens. But I would still never forget the time I spent with you, with zero incidences of sexual harassment or something even close to it. I used to talk of freedom well before that, but I never would’ve imagined what freedom really is if I hadn’t lived outside of my country. Even now, I sometimes cannot believe that I have lived the better part of my life in a lack of basic freedom.

I have to go now, it is my time. It will take some time getting used to do things without you, to be careful again, to not trust strangers so easily, to dress cautiously, to not wander alone, to come home before it gets dark and to many other things I’m not looking forward to. But I’m inviting you over, will you come Freedom? Will you visit me in my home? And will you stay with me forever? Will you? …

P.S. This post is in reference to my five-month research stay in Germany and to my various travels in and around Europe.

Women_freedom_by_rush2anthony

 

 

Disclaimer: This article has also been published on Women’s Web and Youth Ki Awaaz

Walking at night- a fantasy?

Before I start with my own story, I would first like to marvel at this very simple yet powerful and effective comic strip. This comic strip is a part of Sinfest, a web comic written and drawn by American comic strip artist Tatsuya Ishida (a pseudonym, I guess). He’s an invisible web comic artist and one of the interesting things you can see as he matured is that he’s gone from drawing pimp ninjas and geisha sluts to developing a very feminist sensibility. I have posted, liked, circulated his comic strips on social media and on my page on feminism, but this by far has been my favourite. Four pictures and three lines: that’s what it takes to speak a million words, words which are so strong that they pierce you from within. It is like he has hit not one but many bull’s eyes with one single dart. It is a shame for this world in this century that walking at night is a feminist utopia fantasy story.

Now let’s get back to my own fantasy story…

The other day I was coming back home after having dinner with a couple of friends. (A note to those who don’t know: I am an Indian woman who is currently living in Munich, Germany). It was about 11 pm, not very late and I was peacefully walking back home without carrying a pepper spray or any kind of weapon to defend myself. The act was very simple I had dinner with some friends, after biding them farewell, I took the underground and from my station I walked till my home. When home, I changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep. Now you may ask what is so special about this simple act of going home after an evening engagement that I had to write an entire blog post about it.

While I was still doing this simple act, i.e.,  walking back home (I know I am stressing on it and it looks repetitive, but it is important to mention the act) I realised how this simple act was unimaginable for me a couple of months back while I was still in India, how I always needed the company of a trusted male friend who owned a car and about whom I was very sure that he would drop me home safely. I remembered how for many many women this is still a utopia, a fantasy and they might not be able to do this simple act their entire lives. They will go to their graves without taking a walk at night.

Living in Germany since the past four months this act had become a part of my daily routine, my life where I would walk back everyday in the evening either after university or from other prior engagements. I got so used to it that I didn’t realise that it is something special that I should treasure because it is a privilege that I am receiving right now from this country.

And then the hard reality hit me. I am going back to India in a month’s time. I am going back home after five months. I will meet my family, see my friends and loved ones. But was I happy? Yes and No. I was dreading this moment and now it is slowly coming to me. I would never be able to do this simple act of walking back home at night again. I would again require my trusted male friends who would drop me home safely. I would never again be able to smell the night’s air or watch the moon walking quietly behind me.

All this happened while I was still walking and by the time I reached my home and unlocked the door, I was sad, very sad. Only the thought that this is soon coming to an end, that I will have to bid farewell to this freedom spoiled my joyful happy meeting friends night and made me cry, cry not just for myself. not just for my own freedom, but for every woman who lives shackled and oppressed. I was sad and depressed till sleep took a better hold of me. That night I quietly went into my room, changed, brushed my teeth and went to sleep.

The “Dark is Beautiful Campaign”. Why I think the name is unfit.

I recently stumbled upon this page and blog.

disbheader900px

Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign that seeks to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin colour bias as well as to celebrate the beauty and diversity of all skin tones.

Nandita Das, an Indian actress is also involved with this campaign and is doing her part in full stride. I really appreciate her efforts because there are only a few Indian actresses who actually care about what they are portraying on-screen and what kind of message and impact it has on the audience.

My post is not against the campaign as this one which criticises it. My only objection is to the name of the campaign and the not the campaign itself. Though I fully comprehend the idea behind the campaign “Dark is beautiful. Beauty beyond colour”, the name still cringes me. There are a few points that I think are quite not right about the name and which give a false impression of the campaign.

1. Dark. So now instead of saying that white/fair is beautiful, we are saying that dark is beautiful. Are we forgetting that we are a diverse country and across the length and breath of this country not all women are actually dark or brown. The moment we say dark is beautiful we are already segregating some women, though a small number but still. Then we aren’t doing anything better than those fairness products’ advertisements because we are excluding a lot of women and now giving an opposite image of beauty by saying that if one has to be beautiful one needs to be dark. Next we know there would be darkness products and people running for saunas and sun tans.

2. Also, it is catering to the western image of brown/bronze skin which is considered beautiful. I find it very silly that we Indians are crazy about white skin and they about brown skin. Why is the grass always greener on the other side? Living in Germany since the past couple of months, I get to hear this at least twice a week that I have such beautiful skin and that they would like to have my tan. Everyday I see people spending hours in the sauna or just sun-bathing to get a tan. It is a very weird feeling to stand in the centre and see how both the halves of this world want to look like each other.

3. My third point is the one which I find most disturbing. And that is the word beautiful or beauty. Why are we still stuck with this word when referring to women? Do women have to be always beautiful? Can’t they be not beautiful just be like they are, or even ugly? Why is it so hard to accept? Why does the whole notion of beauty revolves around women which in turn leads to objectification of women and/or oversexualization of female body parts. Why do we even have to define beauty? The notion of beauty has already brainwashed enough women all over the world. Are we cutting short the value of women on the basis of how beautiful they are? This adjective has been used with regard to women ever since the turn of time and it is high time now that we look beyond these materials which in the long run won’t bring us any good.

So a name which conveys the idea of being comfortable in one’s own skin, regardless if one is white, fair, wheatish, yellow, brown, black, etc, would seem more appropriate. Colour should not play a role and thus not be mentioned.

What is it like to taste a “foreign” freedom..

“Foreign” Freedom. What is that? Why do I call it “foreign”?

I have been living in Germany since the past two months now. This is not my first stay abroad. Before this I have lived in Germany twice in 2009 for almost an year and then for a month in Bangkok in 2011. I tasted this “foreign” freedom for the first time in 2009 when I was in Berlin. That feeling that you can actually take a walk at any time of the day and no body isn’t even going to look at you, let alone eve-tease you or sexually harass you elated me. I could do whatever I want and wear what I felt like. I didn’t have to worry about my security or ask any one to drop me home safely as it got late. I was independent in the true sense of the word.

But, this post is not about how much I enjoyed my foreign stays and how I would rather stay in Germany than India. It is actually the opposite. Many have asked me why I don’t want to stay in Germany. Some say I’m a fool not to use this opportunity to flee from that pathetic land. True I love my life here, but it somehow just doesn’t feel right, it is bitter-sweet. It is like you’re in Disneyland with your most favourite toy, but deep down inside you know it, that you don’t own that toy, that it doesn’t belong to you. That you don’t feel at home here. And that is why I call this freedom “foreign”. Not because I experienced it in foreign countries, but because I don’t identify myself with this freedom. I don’t want to travel 9000 kilometres to freely take a walk at night. I want to do it right here in my own land, my own home town, the place where I grew up and the place I identify myself with.

I know many people (which includes women as well as men) migrate to other countries to flee from oppression they experience in their own. But I don’t see it as a solution. Yes, it is a individual-based solution, but not a mass-based. It is the same logic as behind Brain- Drain. You get a job, you fly abroad, you become a NRI and then whine about how shitty your country is and how well you are doing here. I don’t want to be the kind of woman who writes about women’s issues from her Mac sitting in a cosy Café and enjoying the weather. I would rather do that in my own land and see to it that every woman can do that irrespective of where they are, be it the West or the East.

I don’t want to run away or avoid this situation, I want to change it. Many of you might view this as being patriotic or revolutionary. I’m none of that. I just want to live my life and do what I want to do. Some people call that rebellion, especially if you are a woman.

I won’t hide. I will seek. I will seek the change, the freedom, the fight.

I am not giving up, I have just started fighting and I will fight till the very end.

colorful change 1 copy