‘…That night too, Rudra came home and cajoled me by saying, “Good girl, unwind a little, don’t keep yourself so stiff, soften your body a little,” and entered the path he had opened up. In that dark room, made darker by my shut eyes, when I was openly bearing the agony Rudra inflicted on my body, bearing the pain – suddenly like lightning a sharp pleasure spread through my body from head to toe. With the shock of that bolt of lightning I dug the ten nails of my hands into Rudra’s back. I gasped for breath. Panting, I asked “What happened!”
Rudra did not tell me what happened. Murmuring endearments like dear precious jewel he collapsed on top of me. That night, not once, but several times he brought me to orgasm. With this pleasure the nerves of agony gradually grew inert and inactive. I continued to moan, but this time with pleasure. I was now experiencing the pinnacle of pleasure.
At one point while I was still moaning, I noticed that Rudra was no longer beside me. He had not been there by my side for quite a while.
“Where are you?”
In the darkness a single point of red fire glowed. The fire was moving.
“Aren’t you going to sleep?”
The red glow went out, the cigarette smoking was over, yet Rudra did not return to bed. My unruly, obsessive body wanted him intimately close, I kept one of my hands on his pillow, wanting to hold him in my arms when he returned, and sleep for the rest of the night, imbibing the scents of his body. I called again, “Where have you gone!”
There was a smell of anti-septic Dettol in the room.
“What’s wrong, what is this Dettol smell!”
“I am applying Dettol,” came Rudra’s voice out of the darkness.
“Why, what happened?”
“I have an itch.”
“Do you have to apply Dettol for that?”
“I am applying an ointment as well.”
“I don’t know.”
“Switch on the light, will you? Let me see where you are itching, and what ointment you are applying.”
Rudra switched on the light and saying, “Coming”, took the ointment and went off to the toilet. Under the lights I tidied my dishevelled sari, and sat waiting. When Rudra came, I examined his hands and legs and; there were no signs of scabies.
“Where are you itching?”
Without replying Rudra switched the light off, and lay down. Lying next to him, I placed a hand on his chest and said, “I can’t find any scabies.”
“It is in that area.”
“That area, which area?”
“On the penis.”
“On the penis.”
“Why are you applying Dettol?”
“It will help.”
“Has any Doctor told you so?”
“Who gave you the ointment? Some Doctor?”
“No. I bought it myself.”
“Will this ointment work?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then why are you applying it? Permethrin cream has to be applied for scabies. Is it itching a lot?”
“Yes, it is. Even a boil has appeared.”
“Not so small.”
“It shouldn’t be big. Why should it grow big?”
In my enthusiasm as a doctor, I sat up, switched on the lights and said, “Let me see what kind it is!”
Rudra kept lowering his lungi. The hair on his body grew gradually denser as they moved downwards, till they reached the cold sexual organ. At the base of the genitals was a red flower. No one had laid out my bridal chamber, on this my first night, with flowers. No roses, no marigolds, no hibiscus or jasmine. This flower on Rudra’s manhood had bedecked my first bridal bed of flowers. Yet, I had seen many penises like this one. This ulcer on the penis was a very familiar one. At the hospital, in the venereal diseases out-patients department, the male patients lowered their lungis and showed ulcers exactly like this one. These ulcers were identified by the Doctor’s dealing with sexually transmitted diseases or venereal diseases as Syphilis chancre, and were the chancres we had seen many times from a safe distance. Although Rudra’s ulcer looked like a Syphilis chancre, one ulcer could surely resemble another one! There must be many harmless ulcers, which looked like other ugly ulcers. There must be, my heart said, there was.
“When did this appear?”
“Just ten or twelve days ago.”
“Does it bleed?”
Whatever other disease Rudra may have contracted, there was no reason for him to be afflicted by Syphilis! I thought of all the other diseases it could be. Was this Eczema or psoriasis? Or maybe it was Penile penile papules! Or reiter’s syndrome! Or even pemphigus !
“Do you have any pain?”
Rudra shook his head. “No.”
This denial destroyed the possibility of all the other diseases. The Syphilitic ulcer also caused no pain.
“Doesn’t it pain even a little?”
Rudra was thinking. Think Rudra, think some more, if you just think a little more you will surely realize that it did pain.
But Rudra again shook his head. “No.”
“Have you slept on any stranger’s dirty bed? Or used anyone’s towel?”
He again shook his head. “No.”
A writer called Razia Begum had spent three months at a tea-garden in Sylhet for writing a novel about the tea-garden workers. Was it possible that Rudra had visited a brothel for writing poetry or a novel, and had used something there, like a towel? Had touched something in a toilet, and from these places the Syphilis virus, treponema pallidum, had travelled to his hands. Although I knew Syphilis did not spread like that I still asked, just in case it had! By chance if the virus had entered through some gap or hole!
“Have you been to prostitutes for some reason? For the purposes of your writings or something?”
“Why, no I haven’t!”
I was looking for other reasons, reasons for ulcers that looked like this. Searching. Searching. This was Rudra’s first intercourse with someone, just like mine. That is how it was supposed to be. That was what love was all about. One saved oneself, for the person one loved. I stared at Rudra’s ulcer. Then how come this ulcer! This ulcer did not look like any other! Even if it was Harpes Simplex or genital warts, these too were sexually transmitted diseases! Suppose this was Syphilis, from where did it enter into Rudra’s body if he had never been to a brothel! I was absorbed in deep thought. I touched the ulcer, and examined it from the left and right side. I looked at the form and shape of the ulcer. I looked at its color.
It looked exactly like a Syphilitic ulcer. My eyes confirmed it, but my mind couldn’t. But there was no reason to contract Syphilis. Then, how could it be that! A crease appeared between my eyebrows.
“Have you had any relationship with a girl?”
“What nonsense are you talking?”
Rudra pulled up his lungi. His ulcer got covered.
“Go to sleep, will you. It is very late.”
It may have been late, but my sleep had vanished. I was anxious to know the cause of this ulcer. Without any intercourse why should such an ulcer have appeared!
“Have you shown it your father?”
“You have it for over two weeks. Why haven’t you shown it to a Doctor?
“If you apply ointments without a test, the ulcer will not heal.”
Rudra kept scratching his beard. He did this when he was very worried about something.
I abruptly said, “Do you know these ulcers appear if you have relations with prostitutes? You couldn’t possibly have gone to a prostitute!” I asked.
“No.” Rudra’s voice was icy.
“You really haven’t been? This is the first time you have ever had intercourse isn’t it with me?”
Rudra’s face suddenly changed. His two black brows joined together. As though somewhere inside his body there was some agony. He looked at my eyes for a long time. Even though I tried, I was unable to read the language of his eyes.
For a long time the two of us sat silently. Suddenly Rudra said, “Actually you know, I have been to the area.”
The red-light areas.”
“You have? Why?”
“For the same reason other people go.”
Rudra said nothing. Was my head throbbing? Did a tightness suddenly hurtle into my chest,making it difficult for me to breathe? My subsequent words were spoken much more slowly than before. The voice was breaking, trembling.
“Have you slept with a prostitute?”
He did not say anything. His eyes had turned stony.
“Speak, why aren’t you saying something? Speak.”
My eyes were full of anxiety. Say ‘No’, say ‘No’ Rudra. Please say ‘No’. In the hope of hearing the one word ‘No’, I sat waiting, like one bewitched.
“Yes,” said Rudra.
“What, you had sexual relations?”
I couldn’t recognize my own voice, as if it wasn’t mine at all, but someone else’s. As if a button had been pressed on a machine, and the machine was speaking.
The light was on in the room, yet darkness was deepening before my eyes. I was unable to breathe. For a long time I couldn’t breathe at all. Was this a patient suffering from venereal disease before me, or was it Rudra! My lover, my husband! I couldn’t believe this was Rudra. I couldn’t believe he was someone I had passionately loved for years, and fought against my whole family to be with him.
“When did you go?”
“Just two weeks ago.”
“Have you been just once?”
“You have never been before?”
“Your ulcer is two weeks old!”
“The ulcer couldn’t have appeared the very day you had intercourse. It takes sometime to form. Try and recall if you have been more than once.”
Staring at my eyes without blinking for a long time, he said slowly, “I have.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I didn’t want to believe that I was not the first woman in Rudra’s life! For a long time I sat benumbed.
“You never told me about all this.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Rudra heaved a deep sigh. Staring at the white wall, looking at what only he knew, he did not reply.
“The red light area, right? Where is that?”
“Where is Banishanta?”
“In this port.”
“Why do you go? Don’t you love me?”
“I do love you.”
“If you do, how did you sleep with anyone else? You lied to me all these days. You told me you had not touched anyone but me ever. Do you know, I can’t believe any of this?”
I found it painful to believe that Rudra had slept with another woman … the way he had slept with me. That he had kissed someone else in the same way as he had kissed my face and breasts. It was painful to believe that Rudra had entered anyone else as deeply as he had me. I felt as though my boat had sunk in mid-ocean. I too was sinking, as far as the eye could see there was no one, nothing at all. I was alone, I was drowning. My sky had fallen apart, my world had disintegrated and scattered to bits. The bits were now rolling into the bottom of the sea. In the boundless, billowy sea there was not even a dry piece of straw. I was drowning. It was as if I was not myself, I was someone else. I felt sorry for that someone else. The pain circulated in my nervous system and finally descended to my chest. It was as though all the rocks in the world were pressing down on my chest. I did not have the ability to utter a single word. Losing all my senses I wept copiously, through the night. The pillow, sari and bed sheets got soaked with my tears. I clung to Rudra’s hands and feet and cried, “Please tell me you are not speaking the truth. Tell me, you have not been to anyone else. You have not slept with anyone else. Please.”
Rudra’s silence was like that of a stone. With a pale face he watched me crying through the night.
He watched me crying in the morning, afternoon and evening. He watched me crying the whole day going without any food or bath. He himself ate and bathed. He spent the day like any other day. I wanted to sleep. To forget everything and sleep. But sleep would not come. When I asked for sleeping tablets, Rudra fetched two strips of sedatives from his father’s chambers. He had searched and found two strips, and those two strips he had given me. From the twenty tablets in the two strips, I was to take only one. I was to take one, so that I could take a tablet daily and sleep for the next twenty days. But hidden from Rudra, I swallowed all the twenty tablets at one go, that very day, that very evening, “I will go far away, but not let you forget me” was not the tune playing within me. I really wanted to go far away, wanted Rudra to forget me, never to remember that anyone by my name had been part of his life. I didn’t feel as though I could have borne my own existence any longer, or that my life had any value left any more. I didn’t think I could live a minute more with these intolerable pains and unbearable insults. Just when I was rushing towards this longed-for death, someone grabbed me from behind and stopped me. When I was brought back from that path, I found a hard pipe in my nose and beside me was standing Rudra’s Doctor father. The poison was taken out of my body, but from my mind not a drop of poison came out, my heart was dying. Before my eyes my heart moaned in its death-throes. I spent the whole night sleeplessly with my dead heart lying next to me.
I was 20, a medical student. My husband gave me a wedding gift in our first night together, that was Syphilis. Yes, he infected me with his disease.’
Islamic scholars in today’s world are not as cruel as Allah. Allah permits men to beat up women. But these scholars try their best to save Allah by saying that Allah does not mean it. What does He mean? Scholars say, He means men should beat up their wives with ‘kindness and respect’. Wow, it would definitely get UN’s approval.
Kill me but kill me softly baby!
They’re our ancestors. Men, women and children had fireside dinner and chat 300,000 years ago. Women were not asked to sit in separate places. I do not think women were forced to eat less or leftovers.
After 300,000 years, in the 21st century, women are secluded in many parts of the world only because they are women. Not only that, they are forced to eat leftovers and they obviously suffer from malnutrition. Some evolutionary biologists may find logic behind it. I do not find any fucking logic to oppress half of the world’s human population. Sometimes civilization is used to destroy equality.
I’m a feminist because the world I live in isn’t.
I’m a feminist because I feel fully human, just as human as anyone else, including any male person, but the world is not arranged as if women were as human as men.
The local portion of the world I live in is much better in that regard than most of the rest of it, but I take myself to live in the whole world, not just my portion of it. The more you take a global view of now women are seen and treated, the less sanguine you can be about things not being so bad in your neighborhood.
In Afghanistan, girls get acid thrown in their faces for going to school. In the Dominican Republic a 16-year-old girl who had acute leukemia was refused chemotherapy because she was 9 weeks pregnant. Doctors took 20 days to argue about whether or not they could legally treat her – and then she died. In Iran 36 universities have announced that 77 BA and BSc courses will be closed to women for the next academic year. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops expects all Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions even to save the life of the pregnant woman (which would be a violation of federal law).
One could go on listing examples, personal and societal, forever. I don’t see how anyone could be anything but a feminist, in the light of all that. Women are treated as property, tools, livestock, sex toys, baby factories, slaves – as anything but fully human beings like other human beings.
The situation has improved enormously in the developed world, especially in the last few decades, but it’s far from perfect. Barely hidden contempt and even hatred is all too common.
It would be nice to live in a world where there was no need to be a feminist because women were never seen or treated as inferior and subordinate, but that world is not this one.
Dear Saudi Women,
When I first heard of Saudi Arabia’s plan to build women-only cities, I got so angry that I shouted, ‘What the fuck! you wanna build a women-only city, like a black-only ghetto? You force women to wear burqa, they have no face, no identity, no rights! Now you wanna dump them? You have been apartheiding women big time! Fuck you, Saudi Arabia, go build your ass-only city!’
I am not angry anymore. I have been thinking a lot about women-only city. I have also been thinking of your country and your religion. They both hate you, they treat you like a piece of shit. You should know that burqa-only city is regressive, women-only city is double regressive. If you allow a pinch of humiliation, you will ultimately allow tons of humiliations! You know that you can’t say, NO. You already prove that you are not able to change anti-women system you are living under. You got support from all over the world, but you could not go out in public without burqa, you could not drive your car on your Driving Day campaign. You are afraid of being flogged. You failed to challenge an oppressive regime. You are now going to get a women-only city, you will then get a women-only land. They have created a prison for you. The prison is getting larger and larger. But dear sisters, think positive. More than 100 years ago, a Muslim woman called Begum Rokeya dreamed of a women’s land. Please read an excerpt from her classic ‘Sultana's Dream’.
When walking I found to my surprise that it was a fine morning. The town was fully awake and the streets alive with bustling crowds. I was feeling very shy, thinking I was walking in the street in broad daylight, but there was not a single man visible.
Some of the passers-by made jokes at me. Though I could not understand their language, yet I felt sure they were joking. I asked my friend, “What do they say?”
“The women say that you look very mannish.”
“Mannish?” said I, “What do they mean by that?”
“They mean that you are shy and timid like men.”
“Shy and timid like men?” It was really a joke. I became very nervous, when I found that my companion was not Sister Sara, but a stranger. Oh, what a fool had I been to mistake this lady for my dear old friend, Sister Sara.
She felt my fingers tremble in her hand, as we were walking hand in hand.
“What is the matter, dear?” she said affectionately. “I feel somewhat awkward,” I said in a rather apologizing tone, “as being a veiled woman I am not accustomed to walking abut unveiled.”
“You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.”
By and by I was enjoying the scenery. Really it was very grand. I mistook a patch of green grass for a velvet cushion. Feeling as if I were walking on a soft carpet, I looked down and found the path covered with moss and flowers.
“How nice it is,” said I.
I became very curious to know where the men were. I met more than a hundred women while walking there, but not a single man.
“Where are the men?” I asked her.
“In their proper places, where they ought to be.”
“Let me know what you mean by ‘their proper places’.”
“O, I see my mistake, you cannot know our customs, as you were never here before. We shut our men indoors.”
“Just as we are kept in the zenana?”
“How funny,” I burst into a laugh. Sister Sara laughed too.
“But dear Sultana, how unfair it is to shut in the harmless women and let loose the men.”
“Why? It is not safe for us to come out of the zenana, as we are naturally weak.”
“Yes, it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace.”
“Of course not.”
“Suppose, some lunatics escape from the asylum and begin to do all sorts of mischief to men, horses and other creatures; in that case what will your countrymen do?”
“They will try to capture them and put them back into their asylum.”
“Thank you! And you do not think it wise to keep sane people inside an asylum and let loose the insane?”
“Of course not!” said I laughing lightly.
“As a matter of fact, in your country this very thing is done! Men, who do or at least are capable of doing no end of mischief, are let loose and the innocent women, shut up in the zenana! How can you trust those untrained men out of doors?”
“We have no hand or voice in the management of our social affairs. In India man is lord and master, he has taken to himself all powers and privileges and shut up the women in the zenana.”
“Why do you allow yourselves to be shut up?”
“Because it cannot be helped as they as stronger than women.”
“A lion is stronger than a man, but it does not enable him to dominate the human race. You have neglected the duty you owe to yourselves and you have lost your natural rights by shutting your eyes to your own interests.”
“But my dear sister Sara, if we do everything by ourselves, what will the men do then?”
“They should not do anything, excuse me; they are fit for nothing. Only catch them and put them into the zenana.”
“But would it be very easy to catch and put them inside the four walls?” said I. “And even if this were done, would all their business, political and commercial – also go with them into the zenana?”
Sister Sara made no reply. She only smiled sweetly. Perhaps she thought it useless to argue with one who was no better than a frog in a well.
We talked on various subjects, and I learned that they were not subject to any kind of epidemic disease, nor did they suffer from mosquito bites as we do. I was very much astonished to hear that in Ladyland no one died in youth except by rare accident.
“Your achievements are very wonderful indeed! But tell me, how you managed to put the men of your country into the zenana. Did you entrap them first?”
“It is not likely that they would surrender their free and open air life of their own accord and confine themselves within the four walls of the zenana! They must have been overpowered.”
“Yes, they have been!”
“By whom? By some lady warriors, I suppose?”
“No, not by arms.”
“Yes, it cannot be so. Men’s arms are stronger than women’s. Then?”
“Even their brains are bigger and heavier than women’s. Are they not?”
“Yes, but what of that? An elephant also has got a bigger and heavier brain than a man has. Yet man can enchain elephants and employ them, according to their own wishes.
Saudi women! You have been forced to live in mobile prisons for fucking 1400 years. You have now no options left. You have to make a land for women where you will not be prisoners, you will enjoy your complete freedom. You are unable to make small changes. Why don’t you get ready to make a big change? You probably do not like reforms, you want a revolution. If you want to survive, you have to occupy the land, and you have to make ‘Sultana’s Dream’ come true. Use your brains and lock those insane sons of bitches up.
Sisterhood is forever.
The reason I am a feminist is really quite simple: I am a feminist because I am a Humanist and a socialist. I am a Humanist and a Socialist because I am a human being and I have a single guiding principle which, like a coin, has two sides:
No one is endowed with the right to assign status on another at birth. No one has the right to restrict the right of another to make their own choices and to take their own decisions in life. If anyone claims for themselves that right, then, with equal ease, I claim the right to remove it from them.
In the words of John Donne (slightly modified)
No person is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each person’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
To me, Women’s liberation was always a part of people’s liberation and liberation is about freedom to choose. Socialism can never be achieved whilst half the population remain subjugated, restricted, repressed and dependent on the other half.
How pathetic, how utterly shameful for one half of humanity to try to maintain their privileges with bans and proscriptions on the other half. How pathetic for men to use their physical strength, not to liberate women but to maintain their subjugation.
To me, feminism is not about what women should do but about what they have the right to choose to do. If they choose to be miners or lumberjacks, doctors or architects, lawyers, barristers, engineers, emptiers of rubbish bins, fire-fighters or soldiers, they should be free to make that choice. If they chose to be full-time mothers they should be free to make that choice too but they should also be free to expect their partners to take on that role if that’s the right choice for them both.
People liberation cannot be achieved by assigning stereotypical roles and expecting people to fit themselves into those stereotypes. People liberation is about choosing the role you want for yourself in consultation as an equal with others involved in and affected by that choice.
It would be easy to blame religions for the institutionalised misogyny women have suffered for centuries. Though they are undoubtedly now complicit in it’s retention in many parts of the world, and especially in the more fundamentalist area where women are required to cover themselves or take the blame for men seeing them as mere sex objects, and even for ‘loosing control’ and raping or sexually assaulting them (what a grotesquely pathetic abdication of personal responsibility that is!), I’m not convinced religions cause misogyny. I think religions are, at least partly, the product of misogyny. It is surely no coincidence that gods are overwhelmingly seen as male and that the Abrahamic religions have a god which closely resembles a despotic Bronze Age tribal chief.
When the origin myths were being invented and written down, and the early laws were being codified, the people who wrote them were almost certainly high-caste males from already misogynistic cultures and women had already been relegated to chattel status. Even the creation myth of Adam and Eve results in Eve being told her role, and that of all women henceforth, was to satisfy the desires of man with “… and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16).
Of course a misogynistic male god would put men in charge with the right to rule over women and to have them merely for his convenience. What could be more natural and ‘right’ than that? In the blog The Evolution Of God I have shown how I think religions could well have evolved out of the pre-human or proto-human social structure with an alpha male leader. It could have been from this evolved dominance and the assumed right to have first access to the females and to control their sexual activity, that both male dominance and an obsessive interest in the sexual activity of others may have developed and entered the human meme-pool. Having invented gods and religion we then handed over responsibility for our moral development to the high priests of these gods, as I argued in Religion: An Abdication Of Moral Responsibility.
But, however it evolved, there is no excuse for it now. We are a very different species to that evolving millions of years ago on the plains of East Africa and we have a very different culture now to that of Bronze Age nomadic goat-herders. We have no use for many of the memes they generated or many of the rules they codified.
It used to be said of Britain that 17% of the people controlled 94% of the wealth. We have a long way still to go to rectify that obscene statistic. The women of the world are said to do 90% of the work but to control only 10% of the wealth. That is an even more obscene statistic which no civilised society or fair-minded person should tolerate.
We are free now, to paraphrase Richard Dawkin’s, to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of unthinking replicators in our meme pool. We no longer need to check with sanctimonious moralising high priests and wizards in silly dresses whose living depends on maintaining the status quo and who consult their books of magic words and miraculously come up with the answer which always suits them and those they serve.
We are free now to ask if it is right or wrong that half of humanity should still be a lesser people; a subject people subject to the whim and fancy of the other half and to always be at their disposal. And women are free now to decide whether they will continue to accept this abrogation of power and authority or whether they will deny men this right and take their own lives back under their own control and assert the simple slogan:
“No man is better than me because I am part of humanity. Until I am free, humanity will not be.”
A Kurdish or Iranian girl was stoned to death for falling in love with someone who doesn’t belong to the same sect.
A girl was whipped in Sudan for wearing trousers.
A 17-year-old girl was flogged in Pakistan.
A 17-year-old girl was molested in India.
Girls around the world get molested, harassed, raped, gang-raped, trafficked, tortured, flogged, murdered everyday. Their only crime is they are girls. Shame on men!