Breathing in turmoil
Women in Kashmir relocate their role amidst daily predicaments
FREEZE FRAME BY SYEDA AFSHANA
Hermione Granger, Harry Potter’s daring and dedicated companion in his battle against evil is not simply an average 11 year old girl. She is a bright student at Hogwarts School, besides a modern manifestation of an ancient archetype, embodied by Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and war. Harry Potter seeks Hermione’s help in his fight with his rival, the evil wizard Lord Voldemort. The whole story has a counsel. Trailing Hermione’s way, women can learn to interlace vigor and vulnerability, intellect and imagination, and draw in compassion and clemency into the male domain. Which is what so many women can hardly do even if they carry on against all odds, especially in a conflict torn area.
The hardships of equally fearless but even more audacious women who have been battling against real life drama would tax even British writer JK Rowling’s prolific imagination. She cannot put them up in history as ‘anecdotal evidence’ for her view of the world because it would be naïve for her to visualize a woman sitting on a roadside protesting the arrest of her son or husband. Or wailing over his baffling disappearance. That she can be a young widow struggling for some loaves of bread, holding up a deportment of self-respect close to her wounds is something fiction-sellers don’t typically make out. When woes plague her, intellect no longer pacifies. Big talks, high ideals, tall values: everything boils down to mere continued existence, and that too for little accessions.
The scene of a woman walking through desolate fields with a water pitcher or stack of firewood over her head and nozzle of gun overseeing her from the bunker at the hilltop—it surely symbolizes nerve. But at what kind of a cost? It is harrowing insecurity. It is suffering uncertainty.
The man at duty stopping her vehicle, getting her down, frisking all her belongings, questioning her credentials—her identity is lost in the humiliating crossfire. Many historical factoids can be cited, but they are just window-dressing People only write about gallantry but she glugs it down practically. And she is quite oblivious of it.
From illiterate rustic to qualified urbanite, her rank is alike. Her plight is identical. She is no exceptional entity barring her knack to contain all predicaments. She has faced the storm in various parts of world, she tastes it in Kashmir. The continuum of violence is equally distressing and alarming.
What happened in neighboring Afghanistan makes a strangely interesting story. Before the skirmishing that has rocked the area for the last so many decades, women played an essential role in Afghan society, accounting for 70 per cent of the country’s teachers, 50 per cent of its civil servants and 40 per cent of its doctors (Arianna Huffington’s columns: Arianna Online). For the situation prevailing, Taliban are barely to be blamed knowing what happened in the early 90’s with Burhanuddin Rabbani clinging to power. During his four years as president of Afghanistan from 1992 until 1996, the forces used systematic rape, abduction, enslavement and murder to effect the complete and utter humiliation of Afghan women. Surprisingly, the crime against women dwindled during Taliban regime!
Back home, things might not seem that appalling. But with likes of Shopian tragedy in the backyard, things aren’t even un-ghastly. Instances of atrocities, dishonor and ignominy are concrete truths. The level of discomfort and distress woman here is experiencing, is sickening. The two decade turmoil has brought her on the front line of clash. Over these years, a kind of support system has been created naturally, where old problems are analyzed in new ways, new possibilities have opened up, and individual change has got transformed into a collective change.
There has been a change in her self-image, as well. She is perhaps liberated from her existing perception of herself as a ‘weak’ and ‘limited’ being. She has realized that no amount of external interventions, whether in the form of resource access or economic power, will enable her to challenge the existing power equations in society.
Woman of Kashmir has started to analyze and critique independently. She has exercised an ‘informed choice’ within a diminishing framework of options available. Within the menu of known or experienced possibilities of previous years of tumult, she has discovered a new leeway or option to express herself. Her ability to assert, speaking out and acting on oppressive practices and injustices have burst in the street, too. Perhaps the agony and affliction she borne out as a central member of society, has made her move in the centre stage of political arena.
Needless to say, evil is hard to defeat, even in the magical realm of Hogwarts. It would have been imprudent for Harry Potter to enter the deadly dungeon without Hermione and her vast knowledge by his side. Likewise, it would be silly to move forward in the crusade against disgrace, and the hard work of rebuilding certain values, if more than half of the population of world is not allowed to join this fray and live a dignified life, especially in any turbulent territory.
(The author teaches at Media Education Research Centre, MERC, Kashmir University.)
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Nov 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 6 Nov 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 7 Nov 2010 00:00:00 IST
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