My Humiliation…Or Was It?

This actually is a Facebook post inspired by the saddening news of the demise of one of my favourite women leaders – the chief minister of Tamil Nadu (I live in Chennai its capital) on 5th Dec 16 at 1130 pm…more on her in the New York Times article in the link below:

This para (FB post) below by a senior journalist/author, the one I’m married to, on Ms Jayalalitha,  is what actually prompted what I have to say below that:

Bishwanath Ghosh

She exuded grace and charm and at the same time was the ‘iron lady’ who brooked no criticism. She was sophistication personified and at the same time was the darling of the masses. Sometimes a goddess with a blinding halo, sometimes a goddess with feet of clay — but always dignified in both avatars. An astute politician, an able administrator. She was well-read and equally fluent in Tamil, English and Hindi. And above all, she fought her way up in a male-chauvinist society and in male-dominated fields to eventually find men prostrating in front of her. Jayalalithaa was larger than life. Tamil Nadu will never see another leader like her. I personally find it difficult to believe that she is no more. But then, we all must die someday — and when death comes knocking at your door, it does not care how politically powerful or how poverty stricken you are. #Jayalalithaa

Part 2: Dated 6th Dec, 2016.

How and why Madam Jayalalitha became my role model. Reference post by Mr Ghosh:
Sharing this post here (below) of over two years back. The incident that I recounted vividly – wherein I’d felt deeply humiliated then, took place at MCC – Madras Christian College.

Yes it is the very same – where the universe conspired to allow me to read my poetry to a full house, comprising the entire English Literature department just 2 days back, as part of the international poetry festival (ref my previous posts on it). This is after the deluge last year, had swapped my opportunity to read my poetry at Women’s Christian College (WCC) for MCC (it is co-educational) this year.
How can I even begin to define the deep sense of satisfaction I felt, when after the reading – at the staff room, I reminded the Head of Department(HOD), though he might have had nothing to do with the silly coffee incident of 2 years ago, that I was ‘the wife’ who had come to inaugurate the Lit fest. He looked at me quizzically as recognition dawned. This, after he had flung several well intentioned difficult questions at the other senior poet Bina Sarkar and me at the auditorium. All of which I took the mike and answered, even as Bina graciously allowed me to – much to his satisfaction and visible agreement by way of approving nods. He was standing at the back of the auditorium,
at the centre, behind all the students.
Just like Madam Jayalalitha, it was my deep desire to earn respect at the very place I had been insulted and discriminated.
An elderly poets coordinator on the way back home from MCC said to me – “Shuvashree why do you mention your husband’s name in situations where it’s your proficiency that matters and not his name.”
“After two decades in the corporate world I’m not suffering from an identity crisis” I crisply replied, “so what if the world is hell bent on robbing it!”
How would she (yes it was a woman) know it was the look of recognition I received for being “me” from the HOD after being “the wife” that would boost my self esteem boundlessly, in gearing me for the steep climb ahead in life.

Part 1: 5th August, 2014.

Am I Overreacting??? — Very recently, I found myself in the august company of very senior academicians, invited to coffee over a journalistic and literary discussion, at a plush office, along with husband. It was the college Principal’s office. I was ‘the wife’ of the chief guest – author, City Editor, the Hindu, who was inaugurating the annual literature festival of the college, the 5 other people in the room all male, excluding husband, were the hosts. I opted to be rather quiet, not in way of intimidation as I seldom am, but by sheer cognisance that I was there only in the capacity of ‘the wife’ and no more. Even when quizzed on my own writing, all I would divulge with a dismissive air was that it was ‘fiction.’ So what was to follow in spite of my most humble demeanour was astonishing to say the least.
After we were served snacks and cold beverages, there was a last round of coffee. The bearer, came and placed the cup on a saucer along with a spoon and napkin, on the centre table right in front of me, after which he was about to serve the others all 5 men. But by way of muttered commands by the hosts, he was asked to pick up the cup and place it in front of husband. Only after which, I was served, followed by the rest of the men. Now, it’s not that I wish to supersede husband’s importance in the world at large or to prove myself ‘a mere woman’ as superior, but I felt rather belittled. I was as it is acting as dumb as I possibly could, but this callous doing, which I would personally not subject even my chauffeur or maid to, had I been dining with them, reminded me rudely of the chauvinistic society we live in and it is so acceptable to all. Am I the only one then, who is overreacting to things like this?

Why I write about such issues at the cost of inviting mockery/ridicule, is not to vent my personal unrest, but because I strongly feel – someone’s got to raise their voice and the younger generations must learn that inequality, discrimination, biases are just not acceptable. I have realized this through years of training/coaching young people…they need a voice to follow.

This in the link below is one of the many poems I read at the Madras Christian College:

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