Friday, February 15, 2013

Dancing, For This and a Billion More Risings

“Good girls don’t dance in the middle of a road,” a wise elderly relative told me as I was pulled away from the tiny circle in which my cousins and I were dancing.

It was my brother’s wedding procession, called baraat. Bands, that specialise in music for this kind of a procession, were playing one peppy Bollywood favourite after another. I was the only girl dancing with the boys. My sister and other female cousins were conscious and a little concerned about their sarees. As for me, I had made my mother put extra pins in my saree so that I could dance freely.

The freedom was short lived. I had to fall in line with my sisters, bear disapproving looks from the elders and watch the boys have all the fun.

(Image via

My wise elderly relative would have had a shock of his life if he had been here yesterday (February 14, 2013). Right in the center of Bangalore city, where dancing is banned,  women were dancing, celebrating, rejoicing. They were rising, with a billion others all over the world, for a fearless future. There’s no way anyone was going  to pull me out this time.

Some of us there knew each other, some of us will never know each other. But we danced together. Thrusting, pouting, winking, encouraging, coordinating with each other, liberating each other.

There were men too. Some were rising and some were just curious bystanders. My friend came up with the brilliant idea of distributing pamphlets to the curious bystanders. We hope atleast some of them read why so many men and women were dancing, painting and singing, in this grand carnival against gender violence.

It was an inspiring moment. Irrespective of gender, people were out in the streets against rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, gender insensitivity, female infanticide and other such social evils.

The fearlessness was contagious. So was the feeling of liberation and empowerment. Each one of us were so different, yet we were there because we’ve all been ill-treated, disrespected or violated because some people think that’s the treatment a woman asks for every time she defies the boundaries imposed on her.

Why was I there?

When activism is your job, words like rising and people and movement start becoming redundant. Yet they are your dream. To see billions of people rising for one cause, starting a movement? Oh yes!

Not participating in one of  these weighs heavily on your conscious. If you have been calling yourself a feminist even before you understood what it meant, then not attending is not an option.

I enjoy certain privileges today because women fought for equality in the late 18 century. My pay is the same as my male colleagues. No one can stop me from casting a vote, or expressing an opinion on the basis of my gender. I live an independent life on my terms and take most of my decisions on my own.

Yet, society does not miss an opportunity to oppress me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been touched or seen inappropriately. I have faced abuse. I’ve been judged for not following rules a woman should follow. And this is the story of so many women all over the world.

I don’t have children yet, but I have two adorable nieces and I want to give them the privilege of being fearless. I don’t want them to feel the need to carry a pepper spray or a weapon with them. They should not restrict their dreams because of a gender stereotype. They should have more choices than I have, more freedom than I have. That’s why I was rising.

I was rising for my mother and grandmother, for my nieces, my sister, for cousins and friends, women and girls I know and I don’t know. I was rising so that men and social systems that ill-treat women know that they are in minority. I was rising so that, next time a young girl wants to dance her heart out in the middle of a road, she can do so without being told it’s inappropriate.  

I will continue to rise till stigma that haunts women across the globe is wiped out. I will rise till the choice, opinion and rights of every woman has the strength of a billion. And I know, each time I rise I will have a billion rising with me.

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