The Many Ills of India Inc

This is not a short story! No hay cuento!

I had this desperate urge to write a short story this week. I even brokered a deal with you, my dear reader – that shafts of fiction will radiate from my (not so puissant) pen this time. If only this were a grammar school, I could have blamed it all on my pet: I wrote a story, but the dog ate it. But, this is not school & I don’t have a dog. So, I’m laying it all on the paper boy. Yes, I was so prostrated with grief that I couldn’t bring myself to write a story.

What monkey-business did the paper boy indulge in, you ask. Well, he launched his projectile in a trajectory that ended with a dull “plop” on my nose. He timed it to the exact second of my opening the door, Your Honor. It set my already askew spectacles askewer & out slithered the “Job Opportunities” section. When I quickly skimmed thru that, it so outraged me that I had to read it fully in my toilet. The listings were that crappy.

I’m considered more bellicose than the norm, but this is uncalled for. My ire is always on tap. It doesn’t wait for a cue from the Media: “Ooh, there’s so much media coverage & frenzy about this issue. Now, let me get totally pissed about it for like, 3 days!” I get all het up, because India is the “Land of Probable Causes”.

Before you could say “Equal Employment Opportunity”, I could have shown you 5 Job Listings that specified the Age Limit of the applicant. “Are you a mid-level Engineer? Is your age a Prime Number between 25 and 35?”. “Looking for a Plant Manager below 40 years!” Jesus Christ. What’s this – a Job Listing or a Dating Site? Many people put up with this balderdash & supply their Date of Birth in their resume in India.

If you think its perfectly legitimate for all/most employers to screen people based on their age – say after me: “Age Discrimination is Evil & Stupid”. Filtering by age has nothing to do with performance. It has everything to do with “Ye Olde Fashioned Mentality”, where your boss is always older than you. Well, times have changed. And unless you are Rip Van Winkle, you know that these days performance matters more than length of tenure.

Before you could say “Women’s Emancipation”, I could have shown you the Job Listing from Finolex Pipes (“The Hindu” Jan 9th 2008 “Opportunities” – Page 7). “Ideal Candidate for a Finance Director! He will be a Chartered Accountant! He will have 20 years of experience! He, He, He!” Remind me never to buy their blasted pipes – They are probably as clogged & constipated as them. I felt indescribably depressed. Faintly, I heard my neighbor screaming at her child to get ready for school. Clearly, I could hear the child setup an inhuman squeal of protest.

Though the Listing didn’t expressly prohibit women from applying, my neck prickled with its subliminal message. Women don’t really become accountants, right? Even if they do, they won’t have 20 years of experience – Ha, Ha! And in the off-chance that there is such a mythical creature – We really can’t hire her as a Director, right? Her place is in the kitchen – Right? Wrong on all counts, you antediluvian dingbat. Women walk on space, run their countries and act as able stewards of their companies. They are as good and as bad as men.

Yes, discrimination against women in the work-place has come down. But like an ugly stain of red wine on white lace, its difficult to remove. If you are the kind that argues that “He” is a general purpose term & can be used in the place of “She” – Congratulations, you’ve been brain-washed to become Gender Insensitive. Civilized people use the neutral “S/He” – Anything less is highly disrespectful to women. Only Neanderthals & Male Chauvinists think women are a subset of men. You see, we are not the floating rib of Adam. If you are a woman & you think I’m over-reacting: God help us. Where’s Gloria Steinem when you need her?

Implied or otherwise, discrimination is dumb. Why would you meaninglessly restrict your pool of eligible candidates? It can land you & your company in a legal tangle in the developed countries. Unfortunately, human rights boarded a plane to India, but the flight was canceled due to inclement weather.

I wish enough Indians would take their cudgels to this, this blot, discrimination. But that’s when pigs fly. When all hell freezes over. Till then, we’ll be spewing brim-stone at the Australian Cricket Team. They, like, insulted our boys Down Under – Didn’t they?


  1. Quote

    Karthick & Priya,

    Regarding shankara mutt, it is already abused, and covered in your accusations.. 🙂 .. my question is that when the same situation happens in two organisations, why target only one.

    I just asked that pope question, only to highlight this point.

    Its very easy to say, “We should see ourself first, before we point fingers at others”.

    My intention is not to point fingers at others. But, when you compare US and india on Women’s statistics, as priya had done, certainly i have a reason in showcasing the other side also. In this case, arent you indirectly defending US and western nations, and in turn project them as role model?

    As i said earlier, let us not take all those questions as counter questions.. Rather, i would like to place those question to understand, “Why so much of crimes take place and so much racial abuse, inspite of first class education, and a matured society as projected by everyone?”

    Am i reasonable enough to place such question?

  2. Quote

    Sukumar & Priya,

    I dont say, everything is fine in india. I am stating for the third time in our discussion so far, that what priya had said in this post is entirely true.

    My contend is that this cannot be generalised as a whole, and project as if this situation persists everywhere. Particularly in India, since the culture changes with every 50KM, there are numerous practices, social order, that there will be always ups and downs through out the country. By raising this basic rights question, ignoring all these aspects, i feel, we are deviating from the ultimate purpose..

    For what are we striving to uphold women’s rights? And who had defined all these women’s rights, and for what set of people are these defined? What are the social and cultural implications?

    For example, i heard, that in spain, a woman can roam naked in public places. (I may be wrong).
    And also, any one have sex at any place in their society. Even in the road side. That’s the basic right given to all their citizens. (i heard it through my friend, who went there for an onsite. Please excuse me, if i am wrong here)

    So, what if the same spanish woman, asserts her right in other european nations, like Italy, or in Vatican. Or, lets say in New York.

    Ofcourse, there are always some basic universal rights, which should upholded for all women. But, the purpose of all these are for the welfare and happiness of the women. And this is largely tied to one’s culture and community.

    I feel, the baseline of our thinking is entirely varied. (probably at 180 degree.. and may be because of the environment we are brought up.)

    I am really feeling to be odd man out here, and i dont know, if i am causing you all any inconvenience frustration, with my questions.

  3. Quote

    And generally speaking, if we believe, in certain values, we are free to follow ourselves. But, what i found in Priya’s post is that she has fixed certain sets of values which she believed, and in turn, applied herself for the whole nation, and then blamed them for not coming up to her values.

    Isnt it an intellectual superiority? In what way are we authorised to prescribe values for the society?

    For example, my sister got married two months before, and now she chose being a housewife today. But, in priya’s point of view, my sister is not aware of her rights. ie, priya is prescribing some values in which she believe, and in turn impose it on my sister. And the next level, she accuses and blames her.

    Lets say, priya is right to some extent. My sister could have sacrificed some of her aspirations for the welfare of her family. But, dont she have the right to do so? What’s wrong in her, preferring family welfare over her individual rights?

    Long back, i read an article in a tamil newspaper supplement (dinamani).. one author quoted, that sudha murthy was so ridiculed by most of the feminist, for taking the decision to look after the family…

    Cant people take decisions on their own, even if it means sacrificing their personal preferences.

    In UK, there are lot of newspapers, which criticise indian women, for preferring family welfare than their individual rights..

    Suppose, after my marriage, if my wife, decides to look after family, its our rights to take such decision.. The concerned persons has to decide on that, and not the media or some third persons..

  4. Quote

    I just have a small request.. Dont categorise me, as though i am whitewashing everything. There are lot of crimes, that has to be fought outrightly.. eveteasing, violence on women, discrimination as priya had stated in this post, etc ..

    There is no doubt in that.. but, treating everything as discriminatory, or assuming that if a women does not confirm to our values, then she is suffering, is entirely wrong.

    We have to see not on individual rights, but on the welfare of women.. If the individual rights brings so much trouble to a women, then she can better leave it ..

  5. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 18, 2008, 10:04 am:

    Senthil – You never give up, do you? You get an “A” grade for effort.

    Sadly, you don’t seem to read any of our responses properly. Either that, or you are – as I’ve mentioned before – twisting what I said. And that’s becoming tiresome. You are asking the same questions again & again. Your strategy seems to be – tire the opponent out when there’s a paucity of points on your side.

    Particularly about the pope. The same is NOT happening in both the organizations. There is WAY TOO MUCH DISCRIMINATION in India. You can face it or duck under the table. You seem to be ducking under the table!

    You can ask any number of questions about the developed nations. But – the western nations seem to be doing a better job than us when it comes to discrimination. For some strange reason, you have a tough time digesting that & appreciating them for that. While at the same time, you want us to turn the other way when there are problems in India. Work thru these double standards of yours.

    You are ok with India being imperfect, but US should be? That’s like embracing a “D” student, while questioning an “A” student for not getting an “A+”.

    Why is discrimination such a hard concept for you to understand? Repeat after me: The opposite of discrimination is “equality”. Take the case of a woman who wants to go around naked. If the country permits a man to go around naked, women can expect the same right. You should learn how to stop judging the morals of people.

    What happiness is, is not defined by the community. Its defined by the individual. Some people are conservative & hence go with what the social norms are. Others use their own ethical compass. That’s what you are failing to understand. Completely.

    You are the one saying – without data – that 99% of women want to follow their husbands around. I disagree until you show me proof. If your sister knows all her options & chooses to be a home-maker, that’s fine. Problem is – and I’m repeating myself & Sukumar again – most women don’t know they can choose.

    You are the one prescribing a certain dose for people! And I’m quoting you here: “We have to see not on individual rights, but on the welfare of women.. If the individual rights brings so much trouble to a women, then she can better leave it “. That you accuse me of dictating terms to everyone would be laughable, if it were not so aggravating. Look at yourself & what you are saying. Don’t cotradict yourself so much.

    You are scared of individual rights. Who are you to decide what “welfare” for women is? That’s a definition that each person has to make for himself/herself. Its that simple. All I want is for people to take informed decisions.

  6. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 18, 2008, 10:06 am:

    Senthil – And 1 more thing. Quoting you here: “We have to see not on individual rights, but on the welfare of women.. If the individual rights brings so much trouble to a women, then she can better leave it “. You think you need to decide what women should & shouldn’t better leave. That’s the essence of males wanting to dominate.

    What about men? Let’s take away their rights also. At least then, it would be a totalitarian setup, but at least all human beings will be equal.

  7. Quote

    This discussion has been so heated I was reluctant to get in. But I just want to add one point. Tell me what is the difference between fasting and starving. When you have a choice of eating and you choose not to, then you can call it fasting. It is considered a very good discipline. However when you don’t have food to eat you cannot pass it of as fasting, right. The right term you use in this case is starving. The key difference here is ‘choice’. People criticizing Sudha Murthy is complete rubbish. She was an educated and empowered women who made an informed choice. So does your sister have every right to choose. Whereas if you don’t give women that choice, you don’t educate them, you don’t give them the same opportunities for success, you don’t empower them and then say it is their choice, how fair is that.

    You can only claim that women are choosing family over career if you give them equal opportunities and they still do it. Do you think majority of women in India have that freedom of choice?

  8. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 18, 2008, 10:27 am:

    Archana – Bravo! Brilliant. Well Said. I couldn’t have put it better than this. That’s the crux of the whole issue.

  9. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 18, 2008, 11:02 am:

    I am responding to your comment

    Yes, the political situation is nasty but it is not equally nasty to men and women. It doesn’t let non-politically-connected women to rise up, so it is discriminatory.

    Who is to blame for this situation? Very simple, it is all of us Indian people. All i am looking for is for us all to accept that there are problems, and feel responsible for the situation we are in, and take steps to correct the situation. Instead, whenever someone points out a problem about India, we do one of the following:

    1. Oh the media is biased, they only show negative things about India.

    2. Oh Indian women are weaker, they need our protection, these western-educated people don’t understand our glorious Indian culture that has been around for 1,973 million years (quoted from this website which claims to be the protector of vedic culture The fact that human beings have been around only for the past 100-150,000 years is lost on them!

    3. Yeah there are problems. So what? Discrimination, rape, violence everything exists in the West also. So why are you all pointing your fingers at India alone. Why don’t you spend your time attacking the USA and other western nations?

    In your comments, i see these 3 basic responses repeating themselves.

    As an Indian, i am comfortable to state that India has problems, and that I am also responsible for these problems probably indirectly as an Indian and I also think I can help take some corrective actions, in however small a manner it may be.

    The question is are you?

    You ask somewhere above, who defines these rights etc.? I found it necessary to point to you the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the entire United Nations (which includes India) have agreed upon.

    It is at this page

    Please read this carefully and figure out for yourself, whether all Indians of all castes, all genders, all sexual orientations, all ages have these rights?

    So this human rights issue is not a biased-media’s creation but a universal truth.

  10. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 18, 2008, 12:36 pm:

    Sukumar – Beautifully articulated response.

    What amazes me is this. Senthil is choking so much on gender discrimination. Imagine what his reaction would be to Ageism & Sexual Orientation sensitivity. He has adroitly avoided answering my questions on that so far.

  11. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said January 18, 2008, 4:02 pm:

    I feel sad that I didn’t check your post earlier. Wow! so many sparks flying and I didn’t put my 2 cents in 🙂

    All kidding aside, here are my thoughts!

    I have many weak points and one of the key one is poor introspection. The way I read this, Senthil is suggesting that my brothers and sisters unite and be the king in his nation.

    Priya’s original post wasn’t comparing India to any other nation. It was asking for introspection and was asking for change from serious discrimination and lack of understanding of what discrimination is.

    Senthil’s response seem to suggest “we would ask the women colleagues to leave earlier, in most of the times.. its not about discrimination.. its one form of goodwill and care, that a male colleague shows towards women” – really senthil! Wow! Have you given that same care and goodwill to other male colleagues? How would we feel if women want to provide that care and goodwill to men and ask us to go home early and protect ourselves? BTW, when we get home, we better get that food ready and fresh for the whole family, huh!

    As society, discrimination is prevalent everywhere. Does that mean we should stop working on improving the situation? Heck No! It’s easy to say, I won’t improve because it’s flawed everywhere and there’s no point talking about it. If that were the case, we would still be showing some of that “goodwill and care” to slaves and they would be really happy being a slave.

    First step in introspection (as a nation) – don’t assume everything you are doing is right! That would be self serving. First step in changing things – don’t look to see if other’s are changing or how worse/screwed up others are. If we do, there will be no change.

    It’s easy for men to say that women’s place is at home and they like it there. Look! they are really happy! 🙂 I am sometimes reminded by my wife when I offer an opinion on something feminine – “No uterus, no opinion”. I think we should follow that approach when it comes to making decisions on/for women.

    Priya’s post stopped me in my tracks and made me really think about what are the things that I am doing today that are discriminating and what can I do to change it. From that perspective, hats off to her. Senthil’s response made me realize how uphill a task we have at hand.

  12. Quote

    Thanks Priya.

  13. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 19, 2008, 11:24 am:

    Sreedhar – Thanks for your comment.

    I agree with you completely. Any social setup where the “role” of a person is fixed, where people don’t have the freedom to decide what they should become, a setup where changes can’t be made – that’s nothing but a stagnant pool of water. No point in squawking that its actually a pool of attar of roses, bottle & try to sell it in Paris – then blame the US for poor sales.

    Truth sets us free. Then, we can all try to solve the problem.

  14. Quote

    Archana’s reply is most convincing to me. I agree to the core.

    Sukumar.. your reply made me realise the faults in my argument.. Thanks for your patient explanation..

    Sridhar.. no women has asked me to go earlier 🙂 .. although hilarious & a gentle mock at me, i enjoyed your comment.. btw, i wont make yours an uphill task.. (although a bit late, i am quick to understand you 🙂 )

    Priya.. sorry for bothering you.. ( for tiring you 🙂 ) .. (Ageism & gender preference…… its plain that it exists all over .. no ambiguity on that ) ..

    If any one is surprised on my sudden change, the credit goes to archana, sukumar & sridhar.. (just plain analysis of the issue without mixing emotions… )

  15. Quote

    A a cynical and humorous rant. Someone who probably shares the same agony that I do when people fail to see the widespread discrimination. Priya, totally agree! Something that is commonly ignored is the role of the family in encouraging a more pluralistic view towards gender equality. There are many practices at home where seeds of such discrimination and incorrect view points are engendered. Not much importance is given to them and yet, they go a long way in forming a boys views vis-a-vis himself amidst girls, as well as that of a girl. Grassroot causes are almost always ignored.

    Why does a 40 year old think he is superior to any woman he comes across merely by virtue of his being a man? Because his mom probably didn’t whack him enough 😉

  16. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 24, 2008, 4:09 am:

    Sriram – Thanks for your comment.

    Excellent point on the role of the family. This is how arcane views are impressed firmly in the minds of the next generation. I remember a boy once telling me – “You are just a girl. Why do you want to be an Engineer?”. Happily for me, his mom whupped his ass for saying that.

    My post is a rant, perhaps – but its not cynical. A cynic is someone who’s needlessly & habitually negative. I’m not a cynic. I’m someone who’s exposing the negatives that are already there. I’m ready to highlight positives wherever they are.

  17. Quote

    Wow.. Great discussion.

    It is sort of enlightenment to me. I have been biased. I believe that lot of women have taken discrimination for granted. They have to be explained what their rights are. Lot of men’s mindset has to change. Thanks Priya for bringing it up. Archana drove the point home superbly. Thanks Sukumar for pointing me to the Universal Declaration of human rights.

    Great blog.. The discussion that ensues after every post is superb. Knowledge is indeed scrupmtious.. 🙂

  18. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 24, 2008, 8:00 am:

    Ananth – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, you are right. Some of the worst things women have to endure are from other women. That’s what is so sad.

    I also thought Archana’s distinction between fasting & starvation was superb. She has clearly given this a lot of thought.

  19. Quote


    I am not sure, how archana’s interpretation fits in to discrimination concept..

    (Before proceeding, i want to make it clear, i am just expressing my interpretation.. neither defending nor opposing any ideas.)

    Fasting is voluntary — no problem and no ambiguity..

    Starving??? When i starve out of poverty, am i discriminated?

    Discrimination is when some person or group of persons forces one in to starvation preferring others..

    Most of Indian Women suffered – There is no doubt.. Most women suffered..

    Most of Indian women discriminated — ????

    Who discriminates? (the answer society is too generalied.. may be helpful for our satisfaction, but wont help in finding a solution)

    Let me look in to some data..

    Till 1980’s, most of marriages in India are arranged. Most women are married before 18 years.
    And most of the marriages happen b/w relatives. ie, most women married to their own relatives or to some known person within the same village or from some nearby villages.

    I dont have any statistics on this. But, i just came to the above conclusion through based on following inference.

    By 1980’s 80% of India was rural.. Only Primary education was available to the common people. Not much engg colleges, or other degree colleges. (No. of Engg college bursted when i finished my schooling.. For my previous batch, not much college was available.. ie, if passed out of my schooling, 1 year before, i would not have got my seat)

    So, most probably, that the traditional village situation preserved and hence the above situation could be correct.

    By traditional village situation means, the girl married to a boy, takes over the family duties of the boy’s family.

    In Tamilnadu, the societal setup was like this.. the daughter is to acquire movable properties, and the son immovable property. When the marriage was fixed, since the girl goes to another family, the parents provided the girl with golds & ornaments and certain amount of money, to compensate for giving away her right to her brothers.
    In my family, my mother was given some 30 pounds of gold, and certain amount of cash for marriage. Same for my mother’s sister. Few years back, they voluntarily gave away their right to their only brother.

    This was the arrangement in most of the cases.
    There is one more thing. The son of a family has to look after his sister through out the life. So every year, he has to shell away certain amount of his wealth to his sisters equally.
    And till now, my father visits his sister’s family, during every pongal, and gives some money. (on those days, it was paddy, with some money)

    (It may resemble “Kilakku seemai” film.. but its the situation in rural sides)

    I dont know how its in other communities.. particularly in brahminical sets.. ( I heard, that in brahminical families, the girl’s family has to bear most of the burden.. few months back, a brahmin neighbour got married… he said, the girls family will arrange everything and he has to just go for “Thaali kattu”..)..

    priya could shed some light on this..

    So, when current opportunities are not available, and people just followed tradition, i feel, it may not be right to conclude that all were discriminated..

    Probably, women at cities may have faced such atrocities, or discrimination, or all sufferings.. but cities constituted minuscule population of india few decades back..

    I am concluding anything here.. but just sharing what i interpreted..

  20. Quote

    Let’s consider the past few years.. More number of colleges, schools are opened. Law and order improved… There was social stability. there was education, and awareness happening..

    and as a result, many of the women took up higher studies, went to jobs, acquired various positions.. It all happened because of the aware of their parents, and because, their parents also supported and encouraged them..

    Till today, whether boy or girl, they have to depend on their parents till they finish college education and that too get a job.. In such case, the entire credit should go to previous generation fathers and mothers. Only because of their support, most of the women are able to improve.

    Instead of viewing it as hero villain concept, we should view it as a development with everyone’s participation..

    Just to give a comparative study from my own relative circle.. My mother’s sister had 3 daughters.. And today, all three completed Engineering.
    Can we see it as “They achieved this against all odds” ? Certainly no.. they could achieve only with support of their parents, and to some extent from the society.. Infact, their parents were in heavy debt, when they finished schooling, and opted for engineering.. Since all those who lend money were relatives, they did not make it an issue as it destabilise their family.. My father is one in those who lend considerable money a decade back.

    And all this happened because, there were overall improvement, like more engineering colleges, awareness, and particularly more opportunities that are available..

    Suppose, let us assume, there were not much colleges around.. These three daughters would have been married to some family after finishing schooling.. This is what happened with my mother & her sister..

  21. Quote

    So, what would we call a society, which embraces changes, and adjusts itself when getting awareness.

    What would we call the society, which came forward to send their womenfolks to colleges, and allowed them to work, when there were conducible environment?

    Is it not a strength of our society, which has progressed when given an opportunity.

    Most of the women in our company came from the society, which we are criticising much.. and they all came, out of the support of the society, and NOT due to some illusionary down the earth saviour, whom we are think had released all these women from the clutches.

    That’s why i am insisting on correct attitude towards our society..

    If we say, our society was ignorant, its cent percent true..

    If we say, our society was backward, i could accept it to some extent..

    But, its really depressing, if we fit everything of ours in to discriminitory concept..

    Instead of cursing ourselves, let’s appreciate our strength..

    There is lot of hope.. A society, which has progressed so much, withing few years of opening up the opporunities, will definitely progress in future.. No society is 100% perfect.. so imperfection is not our curse.. rather its natural phenomenon..

    we are imperfect, and we have lot of drawbacks.. But, equally important is, that we have progressed so much.. and equally important is out of our own self, and not from some third party..

  22. Quote
    Saraswathi said January 24, 2008, 1:31 pm:

    Very relevant post Priya! A couple of years back my dad wanted to shift jobs but he was rejected at some interviews owing to his age. Infact my dad is twice as productive as me or my brother(who are in our 20’s) and he was 45+ when he applied for those positions. This was just a personal incident. There could be so many more cases of age discrimination like this.

    Discrimination against women is a totally different story about which as you pointed out we can write pages. Any kind of discrimination based on gender, age, marital status or religion/race is definitely BAD.

    Good food for thought.

    I don’t know if this link is totally related to the post but here was a talk by writer Isabelle Allende where she talks of feminism, passion and women. I love the concluding lines of her speech where she says even the most poorest of men has someone to abuse and that is a “woman”

  23. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 24, 2008, 10:44 pm:

    Saraswathi – Thanks for your comment.

    What happened to your dad is just too bad. He won’t just be more productive – he’ll also be more knowledgeable, more effective (not just efficient). Such ageism is considerably less in the developed nations.

    Thanks for sending me Allende’s link. What we need in India are strong leaders to front the feminism movement. Sure, there were women leaders soon after independence, but we need some more now to unite all women.

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