Gold-Digger Is An Anti-Woman Term.

For most of history men have married for political alliance, status, inheritance and dowry, but when women go out looking for rich husbands they are called gold-diggers. As a society, why can’t we stand a woman who wants to be rich?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

I am always early. I have such a strong fear of being tardy that I am often the first person to arrive anywhere and waiting for others to arrive is just a regular part of my life. I was thirty-minutes early to our first date but it was okay because we were meeting at a place I frequented back then and I knew everyone in the market. I was sitting on the parapet in front of the coffee shop with my Vidhanshi. Vidhanshi was a little girl, she couldn’t have been older than eleven. She was always in the market. By our current social norms she would be qualified as a beggar, (I don’t know how else to put it even though that term in itself feels diminutive), I would call her a little con woman (and with the utmost respect too).

She was a well-spoken, neatly-dressed and imaginative young girl. She would often go from person-to-person in the various outdoor cafes and tell them stories about her life. Everyone loved seeing her. The stories were always made up and changed almost hourly. She never asked for money directly but she always added a pitiful aspect to her mostly colourful tales that would compel you to give her money. With each upcoming festival, she changed her religious orientation so she could maximally exploit the festive sentiment. That day it was 4-days before Eid, and she told me a long story about how much fun she had had on Eid the previous year and she couldn’t that year because her father had not brought any meat. I always gave her money, despite her blatant lies, and maybe because of them, the way I saw it, I was rewarding her storytelling. She seemed like a modern day rhapsode and I loved it.

My ex didn’t love it as much. Each time he would meet here there, he would screw up his nose and call her a gold-digger. Then he would launch into a tirade about women who just wanted men for money. It always bothered me to hear him say the term “gold-digger” but I could never articulate why. As a person I have always tended to financial self-sufficiency and independence but that doesn’t mean I harbour any judgement for women who don’t and when I put it like that, most people don’t. When they call the same women “gold-digger” though, it comes with judgement. I didn’t realise what my problem with the term was until very early into the lockdown when suddenly faced with the prospect of not getting on a bus, train or plane, or having to be in college, I turned to a vlogger by the name of Anna Bey. Anna Bey and I are not on the same page in many ways, she believes in something she calls traditional feminism and a lot of her life is about elegant appearances and classy handbags, but I respect Anna Bey because she wants what she wants (which is a rich husband and an elegant lifestyle), and she says it. I also respect her because she was the reason I understood why the term gold-digger is anti-woman.

By her rationale, women in the modern age, are expected to be masters of everything: work, education, household, childcare and appearance, and this is true, while the right to have a career is most important to me, I cannot discount the fact that most of the men in our society haven’t gotten to the point where they step up in the household or parenting as equal partners and most of all those responsibilities fall to women. Just look at how we as a society reacted to Virat Kohli’s decision to take paternity leave. In this environment, she says, it is only fair that a woman seek a man who can provide for her well enough that she can outsource some of these jobs especially since the man doesn’t want to contribute to them and women get paid less anyway. I don’t think she is wrong. I think her math adds up well and while personally I have no interest in the money of any man (or woman) who isn’t my boss, I don’t see why I couldn’t marry for it if I wanted to.

Besides, it’s not something men haven’t done for centuries. Kings married more often for political alliance and monetary benefit than anything. Ancient England had marriages performed for entailment which disallowed unmarried women from inheriting property. Men in India have married for dowry for as long as I know and even though we say we have come a long way, we haven’t. We just call dowry “shagun” now and that way it’s not a social evil, it’s auspicious. There is no pejorative term for these men though. No, when a man does it, it is just the way of the world. It’s also okay if a woman has it done for her. For instance, in arranged marriages in India, there are many points of evaluation but the one that matters most: How much money does the guy make? We say we want to marry “by caste” and yes that is serious to a lot of people, but add enough money to the equation, and it suddenly starts to matter less. I can guarantee that no process of arranged marriage ends with a female software engineer married to a male watchman of the same caste. So it’s okay when your parents do it. When your parents “look for a guy” for you, and evaluate his financial prospects then it’s about “security” for their daughter, but if a girl goes out herself looking for a rich guy, she’s a gold-digger.

If a woman isn’t “allowed” to work after marriage, that’s just her “new” family looking out for her and providing for her, but if a woman doesn’t want to work because she married a guy who can support them on one salary, then she’s immoral because clearly all she ever wanted was to find a rich guy so she could “sit at home”. Which brings me to an important point, we wouldn’t consider women “gold-diggers” if we were actually able to value what they bring to a relationship and the world as homemakers. Let’s get something clear, being unemployed is not what makes a homemaker (and of course, it is also annoying that it is an unpaid role that always falls to women but that’s neither here nor there). In reality, the concern, organisational skills, time management, physical labour, economic skills and compassion that go into keeping a home are a tall order. Most of us only struggle at keeping a home. I can buy a nice lamp every now and then, but if someone shows up unannanounced at my place, they will not be able to find me amid the laundry and clutter and moutains of sheets and books, and when they do find me, I will probably hope they will be kind enough to make me dinner, and also my family. That would never happen to my mother. Every damn person is constantly tended to, even when they are not there in her house and somehow even when she is not there in her house. That’s work. That’s not a hobby. Not “just what someone does because they don’t have a job”. If you hired someone to do exactly everything we just expect from “homemakers” you would be paying them a sizable amount of money (if domestic labour wasn’t notoriously underpaid because, you guessed it, it’s “women’s work”). So if in exchange for all this work, a woman wants to find a husband who can compensate her, I don’t think that’s wrong.

And I know what the argument here is: It may not be wrong, but it’s cold, how can you have a relationship like that? How can love be based on something as cold as money?

First of all, marriage has little to do with love as it exists in our world, but even if that wasn’t the case, almost all relationships maintain in some form a record of the “give-and-take”. Emotionally, this is a terrible idea, but we already have relationships based on reciprocity of task and emotional labour. For a want to seek a man who has money and be unable to love one who doesn’t, is the same as a man wanting a girl who is thin and being unable to love or marry one who isn’t. If that isn’t cold, this isn’t cold. Besides, men don’t want women who make more money than them. I’ve been with a lot of men and not only were most of them threatened by my ambition and salary, the social environment was also threatened and offended on their behalf. I refuse to view my income as supplementary and so do many other women but in the marital sphere that means we have to marry men who make more than us but at the same time if we seek out men who make more than us, then there is something wrong with us morally. Hell even if we seek it out at our jobs it is looked upon with disdain. We condemn it so vehemently, that my ex it was okay to call an 11-year old girl a gold-digger even as he lived on my money.

Society pushes women to turn marriages into retirement plans, but if a woman has wish to see it that way herself, we line up to abuse her. I don’t think our problem is with women who want money as much as it is with women who exercise choice without social shame. No one would have a problem Vidhanshi if she was a dirt-faced street child with a bowl (and you should have a problem with that on many levels), but because she combs her hair and spins her tales to evoke emotions in people, she’s condemnable. She’s an 11-year old con woman.

Womanhood at 15 v/s Womanhood at 25

The nature of womanhood changes over the course of the years. I certainly don’t have the excitable hopes or resilient bones I did ten years ago. How do ideas of womanhood change over the course of ten years?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

On Periods

At 15: “I don’t know what everyone is always complaining about, it’s only three days and it doesn’t even hurt that much.”

At 25: “If a woman commits murder while on her period, there should be some kind of reduced sentence or pardon policy.”

On My Mother

At 15: “She really needs to calm down.”

At 25: “How has she survived so many years of homemaking and cleaning and marriage and children and dogs and social work without taking to a full time career of alcoholism? Is she magic or something? Is there a secret drug you only get if you become a mother? Can I pretend to be a mother to get it? It better not be cocaine.”

On Hair Removal

At 15: “There is no way I’ll be doing this forever, I will figure out a way to do this that doesn’t feel like butchery. I will. I’m smarter than the whole world.”

At 25: “Maybe I’ll try that magic powder, maybe it’ll kill me and I won’t have to do this anymore. I’m stupid as hell.”

On The Pay Gap

At 15: “No way this is real, people are just being crazy and misunderstanding. It doesn’t even make sense to pay two people different amounts for the same job.”

At 25: “If I only use my last name and communicate only through e-mails, could I negotiate my fee before they figure out I’m a woman? I guess I could bind my chest and grow a beard if they want to take a face-to-face meeting. This is hopeless.”

On Making Money

At 15: “Why do people work for such low wages even after spending years getting educated? I won’t do it.”

At 25: “If they offer me two cans on beans for one story I should probably take it, it’s higher than the industry average. Plus I can have two whole dinners this week.”

On Writing

At 15: “This is fun.”

At 25: “This is literally my only marketable skill.”

On Job Skills

At 15: “I speak well, I write well, I’m smart, I’m learning to code…”

At 25: “Can provide in depth analysis of every Harry Potter book from a political perspective. Really good at insulting people. Terrible at working in a group. Can go a full 16-hours without coffee.”

On Achievement

At 15: “I’ve already won the academic excellence award and the debating trophy but I still have so much left to win.”

At 25: “I didn’t break the yolk on the last egg I fried. And i didn’t even cry when I had to start over on the panel I spent a week putting together. Who’s a champion that’s even wearing pants today?”

On Children

At 15: “That’s what I am, right?”

At 25: “That’s..what I am still, right? No? Please. Pleeeeeeese. I eat candy and forget to brush my teeth all the time?”

On Cleanliness

At 15: “I don’t know what mom is always complaining about, it seems to happen itself. My room has literally never been messy.”

At 25: “I’m living in a mountain of trash and my cat has built herself a fort somewhere in there. I wonder if I could join her and wish the mess away?”

On Recreation

At 15: “I guess I’ll go meet some friends at the café or ride my bike with them.”

At 25: “I don’t want to go out. I’ll watch South Park and have a glass of wine. Now if only my boyfriend had a party to go to…”

On Sex

At 15: “This is fun. What could ever go wrong with something so awesome?”

At 25: “Sweetheart? I think I have a yeast infection from all that massage fun. Why would anyone ever have sex?

Should The INA Be Allowed To Punish Women For Kissing?

The Indian Naval Academy deemed a woman unworthy of retention after she was found with a male cadet in her room. The man was handed out minor punishment and is being retained for service. It is no secret that women pay a higher price for exercising control of their bodies, but should anyone be punished for a kiss? Should sexual morality be part of the rules of any institution?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

Earlier this year a female trainee officer cadet was relegated for “indulging in physical intimacy” with another cadet at the Indian Naval Academy (INA) in Ezhimala, Kerala. While the male cadet was handed out minor punishment, the woman was deemed unworthy of retention in the naval service and was withdrawn from the academy. She has approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) alleging that she was discriminated against. On the face of it, it seems clear that this is about sexism and the moral policing of women, and it is, but there is a deeper cultural element at play here. At the outset of this investigation the counsel for the female officer had alleged that even in the last female cadets were dealt with more harshly than men when in similarly placed situations.

The male was not awarded any punishment while the women were awarded 21 restrictions,” the counsel said.

That a culture of sexism and gender-based discrimination exists within the ranks of the armed forces is clear to everyone except the powers-that-be who spend so much time denying it they cannot see it even when it is right under their own nose. I have been living amongst army officers and soldiers for almost three years and I’ve lived with an army officer for almost six, and I have no trouble believing that the armed forces would willfully discriminate against a woman and be oblivious to it. The first time I attended a social event with members of the army, they were all standing there discussing a female commandant at one of their units in less than flattering terms. When I asked them whether it really seemed okay to discuss a woman like that, at least two of them claimed that it was “stupid” to put a woman in-charge of so many men and that she was bound to fail at doing the job. This notion of what they call “lady boss” is not limited to those two men, and I have over the years met many women whose success in the army is met with judgement and criticism based on gender. I have met strong, qualified women who can run hospitals and organise units even as they are still judged for leaning on their husbands for help with childcare or not marrying.

Even Bipin Rawat has publically made the claim that “women have no place in the army” and cited the fact that women will require private changing spaces lest they incite the men to explain why women cannot be inducted into the infantry. In the meanwhile there are various fountains in every cantonment that they do have funds to build. However in the current political environment being even mildly critical of the army, or reporting your own experiences, leads to the ire of the public and the administration. A martyr’s daughter cannot claim to be a pacifist without being accused of being pro-Pakistan. Gunjan Sharma cannot be represented as someone who faced discrimination in the army because it wounds the national pride of our country. Women cannot claim that they face gender-based discrimination without being accused of making everything about gender. I cannot speak in critical terms about real things that happen around me because that makes me anti-national even as real-life army officers can accuse me in a room full of people of “selling my soul” for being a journalist. A culture of silence is instituted against social ills within the army and hidden under traditions that are dressed up as respect for women and that is why when a woman in a naval institute is kicked out for kissing a boy, we believe there must be more to the story because the Indian Navy wouldn’t do something like that. They call all women ma’am! They respect women!

But do they?

An important question about this affair aside from the fact that it is neither normal nor “discipline” to punish consenting adults for kissing one another, is how it was discovered that this woman had been kissing a man in her private living space. A man went into her room in the wee hours of the morning, how would anyone know that unless they breached the boundaries of her private space without consent, were watching her specifically or they received a complaint from another cadet? To find them kissing someone would have had to breach the privacy of a woman’s living space, a thing that the army claims to take very seriously about breaching, and “catch them in the act”. While this case pertains specifically to the Indian Navy, this culture of policing women’s bodies and what we do with them extends to almost all institutions. Women’s hostels have stricter curfews and no hostels allow fraternisation with the other sex. Landlords all across the country prefer male tenants and feel comfortable prescribing rules to female tenants about visitors. I have personally been asked to vacate two separate houses because I invited men into a space that I paid for on time each month. Even employees of large tech companies like Infosys who live on campus are not allowed in each other’s living spaces, and while this may not be a written rule, it is widely followed.

Society as a whole, army included, has a lot invested in preserving a so-called modesty of women and let’s just say it, keeping unmarried people from having sex. It is important, however to ask, is it really discipline to keep people from engaging in sexual activity and/or falling in love (which often includes a physical component)? Discipline is about adherence to a structure and routine that brings out the most efficient parts of our personalities. Discipline is about nurturing ones intelligence in a way that productivity becomes second nature. Discipline is about learning a chain of command and being about to use it for effective communication. This is not about discipline, this is about morality. I cannot imagine what duty they were shirking at 2 AM when they were kissing and if it is the fact that they were supposed to be asleep and weren’t then I think the INA will have to expel almost the entirety of their current batch. This is not about following rules, it is about unfair rules. This is about the inane belief that giving freedom to the youth means they will just have sex all the time which is crazy because we have way too many deadlines, submissions and sadly, backaches to actually do that. It’s about the moral view of sex wherein it should not be required for purposes other than procreation and anyone who does it, especially a woman, is of poor character. It’s about the social structure that operates as if adults should have to take permission to exert control over their own bodies.

Of course, saying anything on this subject will be met with resistance. Afterall this is an affront on a combination of the most flammable ingredients: The Indian Armed Forces and the bulwark that is Indian Culture. Indian girls don’t kiss boys! They have to be punished and must pay with their dreams for exercising that kind of freeness with their lips.

And the boys?

Well, boys will be boys.

Guidelines for Modern Dating.

Dating isn’t quite what it used to be. Read our hilarious guide to help you transition to modern dating. Warning: Follow at your own risk.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

Enjoy our guide to modern dating elucidated in the following rules and clauses:

The Houdini Rule

Immediately after you meet a person you like and take her/his phone number, you must disappear. Don’t add them anywhere. There is no 3-day rule per se, there’s a Houdini rule. This person must believe you have inexplicably vanished and s/he must go through the five stages of grief with the assumption that you are dead before you finally ask her/him out. And when you do ask them out, pretend you forgot their name and that’s why you couldn’t find their facebook.

The Routine

The old dating routine went: meet, call, first date, first kiss, second date, third date, sex.

The new dating routine goes: meet (but like digitally), sext, dick pic, boob pic, first Netflix and chill evening (read: sex, but like whatever you think sex is, none of the PiV shit)

Goals

The goal of modern dating is to find a sustainable fwb. Boy/Girlfriends are an outdated and archaic concept.This must be taught to your children early as well. Of course at their age the benefit is more likely to be cookies and video games but they need to know there’s no need to feel obligated to one person’s cookies.

Safety

Always check the person you meet out online, you never know what kind of creep or freak you may meet in the streets.

Decode Their Words

I’m not seeing anyone right now.
Means: I have five FWBs but my parents think I’m single.

I really want to focus on my career.
Means: I just got tinder/Grindr and i want to see how that goes before I make any decisions.

I’m not on Facebook.
Means: My boyfriend is in half my pictures on Facebook.

I’ve never dated online before.
Means: I only use the internet to get sex, and that is what you will be remembered as, as well.

That’s weird, I didn’t get your message.
Means: In this moment, I hate technological advancement for making it so hard to shun you and i wish I didn’t have to tell you this transparent lie.

Meeting The Parents

The economy is bad, you may end up meeting the parents way before you are ready or the relationship warrants it. The status of parents has been downgraded to the status of roommates in terms of modern dating, please proceed accordingly.

You Safe Space

It is generally okay to invite a new partner home but it is advisable to wait at least eight dates to friend them on Facebook. I shit you not, there is a study.

Currently Hot Professions/Jobs

  • Street artist/barista.
  • Digital Marketing (for the ones who like the ambitious types).
  • Instagram account-haver.
  • Owner of ironic hipster cafe (for the ones who like the successful types and deconstructed everything.)
  • Gym trainer (probably teaches a class called “Bust and booty knockout aerobics”)

Photographs

Don’t put your face in with a picture of your breasts/penis. Pixels are forever.

Golden Words of Modern Dating

Don’t touch anything, until you have enthusiastic consent. Don’t even hold hands. If you can, make each other sign something.

Why Are Women So Reluctant To Say It Was Rape?

We hear about rape constantly but there is little understanding as to what rape actually constitutes or entails for the many different kinds of victims that exist. While rape laws have changed over the years, the implication of the laws on society remains the similar. This is how socio-legal rape culture erases victims.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

I had just broken up with my partner after eight years of dysfunction, and though the relationship was not a happy or even safe environment, it was still difficult to get used to not having him in my daily life. I imagine it was difficult for him too, which is why the day after we separated, I still took his calls. I was doing a story in a town close to my parents’ home and had decided to visit them for the weekend when he started to beg to see me one last time. He said he would even drive down to where I was just to do it. I didn’t want to but I hate watching anyone beg so I told him to come. He brought hazelnut chocolate and a bagful of empty promises. I told him my mind was made up and when he tried kiss me, I pulled away and told him I wasn’t comfortable with him touching me anymore. He kept saying he just wanted to feel close to me and before I knew it he was on top of me, holding me down. I felt violated. I can still taste the hazelnut and bile mixing together in my throat. I told him repeatedly to stop but he didn’t. He just kept saying he needed to be close to me while I couldn’t fathom a distance that would be far enough for me to run.

For many years I couldn’t describe that experience as rape even though I woke up with sweats, I couldn’t eat anymore and my anxiety was almost constant. I experienced a deep alienation from my body on a level so visceral, I often felt like I wasn’t there at all. I realise now my understanding of rape was influenced by the law and social environment surrounding rape at the time, and I felt like I couldn’t call it rape because I had already been in a sexual relationship with this man. Even though I categorically said no many times that time, it still felt like I couldn’t complain about just one more time with the same man. A part of this goes back to the history and evolution of rape law in India.

Rape as criminal offence was first added to the penal code in 1860 and its definition has remained largely unchanged from then. Rape is legally defined as sexual intercourse without consent, but this definition does not exist in an unconditional vacuum. Sexual intercourse necessarily involved a penis, though. That being said, there have been many developments surrounding rape law. The first thing I ever learnt about rape was from an article about the custodial rape in Mathura in 1972 where the supreme court acquitted multiple policemen for the rape of an Adivasi girl on the basis that she was “already habituated to sex” and that “there were no physical markers of force” strongly indicating that the sexual encounter was peaceful. The article also pointed out other gaps in the law that deal with sexual violence, gaps such as the lack of the definition of the word “modesty” when it came to the outrage of the modesty of a woman. The same gap allowed many child-rapists to walk free because a judge once ruled that a child was incapable of modesty, and therefore said modesty couldn’t be violated. In 1972 there was a shift in rape laws after the widespread protests over the Mathura case and then another shift in 2013 with the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act on the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Mehra commitee after the Nirbhaya gangrape in 2012. These laws focused on expanding the nature of crimes committed against women to include stalking, intention to disrobe etc and it increased the punishment for various extant offences.

It did not, however, change two things. The first is of legal importance and it has to do with the evidence-based evaluation of the victim. Victims in India are expected to show physical signs of rape to have a chance of being believed not only by the people around them, but also for a successful conviction. There is no mandatory psychological evaluation of a victim conducted during the physical examination that is conducted after the complaint is filed. Sumit Chander, a high court lawyer, once explained to me that while it is possible to file for rape on the basis of psychological damage with no physical signs of damage, it is highly unlikely such a case would lead to conviction, and in any case we wouldn’t know, because no such case has ever been filed. If one is unable to display physical signs of abuse, or god-forbid a woman sleep them off, judges in India have no problem ruling that there was no rape on the basis of the imagined morality of an Indian woman who would never sleep right after being raped. Not only does this stipulation insinuate that a woman is only “really” raped if she is brutalized, it also insinuates that the law expects all women to be virgins when raped. Psychologically-speaking, just because a man is raping you doesn’t mean he is leaving signs of violence in your vagina and as far as the law is concerned semen can be left there consensually in the absence of signs of violence. Biological responses are reflexive in many ways and obviously a woman who had been “habituated to sex” will have different reflexes, does that mean she is incapable of being raped? A woman has to make sure that her vagina is physically displaying resistance and as a result sustaining damage for the law to acknowledge the sex might not have been consensual. It’s just funny that the only time I am allowed to be incharge of my biology is when I am being raped (but I also have a strange sense of humour, it could just be sad).

The second thing that did not change after the massive overhaul of rape laws in 2013 was rape culture. Rape culture is legally propelled but socially engrained, and while we can change laws in a decisive manner, we cannot shift culture at will. It’s a slow burn and it brings with it counter-cultural movements (looking at you, MRAs) that actively resist and keep down emerging causes. We resist change as individuals as much as we resist change socially because change requires actually watching for how your ideologies play out into action on a constant basis and modifying them. It’s not a thing that happens when you are drinking chai on top of a mountain you just flew a 1000 kms to climb in search of peace. Things changed in society after Nirbhaya. A lot of women became more comfortable talking about sexual violence more openly and that’s what happens. When you see legal change in favour of something a community has suffered for silently for generations, you start to feel like you should speak so that you can help instill further change.

Women spoke. People got tired of women speaking really fast. Obviously with the creation of this space for speech, there were more stories and cases of rape being shared and reported than ever, the more stories that were told, the more we started to feel like that was all anyone wanted to talk about anymore. At the heart of all of us there is a tiny Trump complaining about Covid, Covid, Covid being the only thing we are hearing, and that’s horrifying. We are not allowed to be tired of hearing about the ills of a society when we form a part of it, that’s not what civic duty is about and since we’re so nationalistic these days perhaps it would be worth trying to uphold the actual symbol that makes us a nation (no, not Ayodhya), the constitution. This resistance to believing women when they tell stories of rape is partly because of how the law has taught us to view rape but it’s also because we have been socially taught to evaluate the woman making the allegation before considering the allegation itself.

Over the course of my life I have heard many reasons why people don’t believe women who make complaints from educated, uneducated, employed, young and older people alike. A woman once said she didn’t believe a student’s complaint because “she was always hanging out with boys”. The law itself doesn’t believe that any married woman can be raped. We automatically believe a woman who was living with her rapist less because, she was already living with him, how can we give her the right to not want sex when she doesn’t want it? I’ve heard people say things like women shouldn’t turn everything into rape just because they broke up with someone. They say that women think everything is rape these days. They minimise everyday sexism and sexual harassment as that’s just life. And some just outrightly deny rape culture and say women should just be taught better morals, and much to my horror, these people are often elected officials. In this environment, the social and legal feedback that is sent to women, makes then question their own validity as victims of rape.

The law puts you under the spotlight and examines your vagina for your truth. Society casts aspersions on your character. Yet as a victim you often cannot even forgive yourself, you wonder whether what actually happened to you really happened to you. Ultimately the law only deals with the aftermath, and society is not quite the village it takes, but the person who has to deal with rape, is ultimately the individual.

I couldn’t say I was raped in that instance with my former patner. I just couldn’t because everything around me said that I wasn’t. However my mind, it said something different. The effects of sexual trauma reignite previous sexual trauma, impact sexuality and also have the potential to trigger depression, anxiety, self-loathing and suicidal tendencies. Most rape victim’s I know, don’t qualify as such as far as the law or society goes, but we qualify in the impact it has had on our minds. We handled it. That’s apparently just what women do. We handle our pain and accept that someone will still call us the weaker sex. We’re expected to be raped but never call it that. We’re expected to swim the ocean of pain that accompanies that but never ask to be recognised lest rape become too repetitive a reference. I said no, and I am given to understand that consent is the definitive deciding factor when it comes to rape, but I am living proof that it isn’t.

I’m expected to look at the changing law and celebrate, but I still can’t eat hazelnuts, and I really used to like hazelnuts.

I Have A Stepchild and It’s Really Okay.

The Indian ideal of sanctity holds the traditional family unit above all else in society, but the truth is that there are thousands of step-parents around the country who take the same roles and responsibilities in the lives of their step-children as traditional parents. As one of these parents I find the social and legal aspects of stepparenting are much harder to navigate than the emotional.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.

It was an outdoor event in January and no amount of whiskey coursing through my veins could do anything to dissipate the cold. At the far end of the garden I saw a group of familiar women sitting around a fire, I made my way over and asked to join them. They were discussing the various challenges of parenting, and for a while I listened quietly as they listed the emotional, physical and financial issues that surround parenting.

“It’s true,” I said finally, “As much research as one does, you cannot anticipate the extent of responsibility that parenting involves until you are one.”

An acquaintance who knew me more by reputation than conversation looked at me and began to speak.

“How does it matter to you?” She said, “At most you only have to teach him, it’s not like he is your child or your responsibility.”

I decided whiskey was probably a better defence against the cold when the fire came with a pile of ice and left the conversation. However that conversation wasn’t the first (or last, really) time someone felt the need to hurtfully exclude someone else from the covenant of motherhood. I am sure she felt, like many other people I have encountered do, that I am not a “real” mother because I didn’t give birth to the child I parent. The child I parent is my 10-year old stepson. My partner had him with his first wife. I didn’t give birth to him, I didn’t change his diapers, I didn’t drop him off on his first day of kindergarten. I didn’t even know him them. I first met him two-days after he turned eight and twenty-days before I turned twenty-seven. He also moved in with us that day after my partner got permanent custody of his child and his mother got visitation rights. That’s how real-life when it is governed by real Indian law works. It’s not an illegitimate child your husband brings home unannounced whom you start to love the first time he falls sick and no one gives a fuck about the paperwork or where the mother is like they show in the movies.

In reality, divorce is gnarly, custodial law in India is primitive at best and its execution into real life is a hotbed for confusion that can only be tackled by a judge you will never get to see. Parenting, however, is the same thing no matter the configuration by which you become the caretaker of a child. Like a “real” mother, I was pretty unprepared for what taking care of a child would entail. I got his room ready in anticipation for his arrival. I bought him some clothes I wasn’t sure he would fit in and I hoped for the best. It never occurred to me to see the child of my partner as a liability and while raising a child wasn’t ever part of my plans, I learnt from loving my partner that the guilt of feeling like you have abandoned your child because you couldn’t make it work with his mother is something that eats at you constantly. When that parent finds out that they can actually have their child in their life, their joy is so profound that it is impossible to see that child as a liability to your relationship. Which is not to say I was not scared, I was terrified. Until then my lifestyle had not really been conducive to children. I travelled for work a lot, cursed a lot, didn’t own a television and thought of coffee as the most important thing the world. I wasn’t sure I could be a good influence on a child or even a consistent one. While most of the people in my life expressed faith in my abilities to nurture and that sounds very nice and idyllic, I also had to ask myself some questions that you aren’t allowed to discuss out loud.

I had to ask myself: Will I feel too old too soon? Will I have the same relationship with my partner? Will we ever have the time to be just free and without responsibility? How much is this going to cost me? Will I be compromising on having my own children if financially it is always only viable to have one? How much of my lifestyle should I change for a child that.. isn’t even mine?

These questions are real and uncomfortable. They are also questions that someone in this position should ask and answer. Some of them might sound cold and unlike the image we build of a mother. They aren’t necessarily gracious and sometimes overly pragmatic, but they are important questions to ask. I decided that if I was going to live with a child, I was going to be there to really take care of him. I couldn’t say for sure whether we would grow to love each other, but I could say that I would provide for him at par with his father and as any adult caretaker of a child should. Was I trying to gain the role of his mother? Not really, I don’t particularly covet other people’s things, and I don’t think of people in terms of possession. I never needed the child to be mine to care for him. I never needed a title. Those things don’t matter to me. I decided right then that I didn’t even need reciprocity to continue doing my duty towards the child that would be in my care, even if I loved him and he never grew to love me back, I was determined to allow him that freedom.

Of course, emotionally speaking, it didn’t turn out as dire as any of that. We grew to have a great relationship with each other that developed on its own. Somewhere between enforcing bedtimes, teaching subtraction twelve-times and playing with the cats, we grew to love each other. We started doing our own thing. We started going to lunch together on Saturdays and sharing stories of mischief. It was a deeply emotional experience to open myself up to a child and I imagine equally emotionally fraught for the child to do that for me, but it was also wonderful to learn to connect with a child. It was wonderful to learn to open myself up to a relationship that changed so much about my life. With that alone in mind, it doesn’t matter whether I am mother-enough, the essence of love in any form is the experience of it, and not what you call it.

However, legally and socially speaking, there is a lot wrong in India with how we treat a step-mother. Perhaps part of it is how staunchly we as a country protect the traditional family unit and its sanctity, and the entire situation of stepparenting inherently means that the traditional unit broke down somewhere. Believing that a loving stepparent could exist flies in the face of the reasoning that marriage itself should be preserved for the sake of the children. A modern agreement in terms of parenting where even three or four parties exist in the role of parent is possible, if the parties involved co-operate with one another, but for society to concede this is possible and often even healthier for the child it would also have to admit that marriages end sometimes, and it’s okay. Since we stand firmly against this idea, people like my acquaintance at the cold party, feel comfortable openly attacking people who take non-traditional parental roles. It is because it cannot be imagined that such a situation could actually be normalised enough to create healthy well-adjusted children instead of what we expect from “broken homes”.

However in reality I could argue that I take as much responsibility with regard to the child as any “real” parent does. Emotional connection is one thing, but real-life adult responsibility is a tangible measure of good parenting. In that, I cannot say I have ever failed. I provide for the child just like a parent. I feed him and wash his clothes. I talk to him about his feelings and fears. I teach him math, help him with projects and scold him when he lies. I arrange my life around his schedule and plan my trips in accordance with his school year. I pay his school fees and buy his sweaters. I take him to the doctor and repair all the raquets he breaks. I experience the same emotional processes associated with being a parent as my husband. I feel sad when he lies to me. I feel worried when he seems emotionally or physically unhealthy. I feel guilty when I think I am neglecting him for work. I feel excited when I see something I know he will like. However all of that has less bearing because I haven’t been close to the threat of episiotomy.

And that does matter.

It matters because even as the face of traditional familial structure changes in India, in our heads and in our laws, stepmothers continue to be evil. We continue to have no rights or claims to the child. Even though we are given the responsibility of doing just us much for a child under threat of similar consequence to the child, we are expected to just accept any and all social or legal treatment meted out to us, because after all, they are not our children. We just help raise them. Why should that mean anything?

Read more of my coverage on stepparenting for The Quint.

What Pick-Up Artists Have Taught Me About Getting Women.

Based on years of reading pick-up guides all over the internet and in men’s magazines, I feel ready to write my own pick-up guide.

Warning: Heavy sarcasm ahead.

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

My Own Very Brilliant Pick Up Guide.

Being able to pick up chicks is considered a necessary skill. It is important for men and women to have sex to propagate the species but mostly this skill is necessary because without it you, as a man, will have no confidence. However if you are a successful musician, a sportsperson or just goddamn rich you need not possess any skills. Some things money can’t buy but women aren’t one of those things. And quite obviously the hotter the woman, the richer you have to be to afford her. That’s just common sense.

There are different levels of proficiency that you can attain at picking up women.

One might think that a human being is a newbie at dating only during teenage but one is wrong, you can be fifty and still be a newbie if you don’t have the skills to get a dozen phone numbers a week with at least 50% of the women attached to the phone numbers willing to fuck you. Newbies can advance to expert level within a week with proper training. However if you are wealthy, you are never a newbie.

The best time for picking chicks up is during the day because there is almost no competition.

We all know that (straight) women are constantly desperate for male attention since we are almost always at the mercy of our baser instincts and the need to be fertilized and I am sure as women we all know that the worst part of the workday is that all the men in the building are too busy doing their big boy jobs to give us attention. I know for a fact that any man who threw me a bone between 8 AM and 7 PM while I alternatingly play tetris on my computer and paint my nails at my desk will be riding me like a chestnut mare that evening.

It’s okay to suck at picking up women but it is not okay to stop practicing.

It is advisable to try to pick up at least several women a day. Women love unsolicited male attention especially in spaces where they have their guards’ up, like the parking lot of a club or out in the streets, which is why the sample for you to practice on is enormous. Obviously it doesn’t matter whether you are genuinely interested in this woman; you will count any woman who returns your advances as a win and any rejections as practice. It’s all about the math when you’re learning. It helps not to think of women as people.

A man who does well with women establishes touch early on.

There should be touch throughout your interaction because she needs to know that she craves your brand of disinterested statistic-chasing masculinity. Pick up subtle cues like looking in your direction, touching her face, playing with her hair and know that this means that she is inviting you to touch her. You don’t actually have to hear her say the words, just put your hands on her with the confidence that you already own her.

Remember the golden rules of picking up women:

  • Always lift with your legs.
  • It doesn’t matter how you look, only how she looks.

Remember that all women want from men is approval.

(Just look at the father-daughter relationships in porn if you want proof)

Being someone who withholds that approval immediately makes you a more desirable mate. Make negative comments about her appearance and get her begging for your validation. She is nothing without your approval.

You will have to practice on less attractive chicks…

…(henceforth referred to as undesirables) to slowly ease yourself into self-confidence. If you need a quick win to boost your confidence before a big boy meeting or just in general in life try women that display one or maybe two (at the most) of the following features:

  • Cellulite
  • Pimples
  • Weird boobs
  • Unusually large foreheads
  • Feminism
  • Broad feet
  • Unshaven Legs (commonly confused with “feminist”)
  • Arm fat
  • Sweat
  • Wearing sweats
  • Short eyelashes
  • Long earlobes
    All these features are indicative of a desperate need for any male attention.

Some men will dislike you but remember…

Any guy who tells you that you are being disrespectful, is annoyed because your pick-up needs are holding up a line, says anything negative about you is JEALOUS. Pay no heed to this type of sub-man and do your alpha thang with pride.

Remember that no girl can resist a confident man.

It’s all about hormones and women are designed (in the vagina) to respond to a confident man. Confidence is the key to everything. You must not ask for things, you must demand them. You must not ask permission, you must take it. You are a god and will get things (ie; women) because you are entitled to them. Do not show weakness or self-doubt. It doesn’t matter what you are feeling inside, slap on some anti-perspirant and channel your inner Adonis. Women want a man with steel balls. They still want to live in caves and gather berries.

You must not waste too much time on a girl.

Develop a test that will tell you within fifteen minutes whether she is worth your penis-time. There is nothing a woman can tell you that you can’t learn in fifteen minutes from her body language. Don’t waste your time on undesirables, or words.

For closing, some quick helpful guidelines:

  • Practice every day. Aim at approaching a 1000 women per year.
  • The average success rate (ie; successful intercourse with a woman) is 3% for people who are on top of their game, don’t worry so much if it seems like women are slapping you or reporting you to the police everywhere you go.
  • Don’t walk too fast. Confident men don’t walk fast, they strut their stuff. Confident men aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. Trains wait for them.
  • Lesbians are a myth, just try harder. Never give up.
  • Be a little mysterious. If a girl shows that she is interested, show her that you have other options and don’t be too eager to respond. Women are stupid and can be baited like monkeys.
  • Don’t talk too fast. Confident men talk s-l-o-w-l-y. Also women are slow at processing.
  • Be confident.
  • Approach women at 45 degree angle so that they see you not looking at them. Every man who is disinterested is a dream man.
  • Don’t smile too much, might make it seem like you care.
  • Women are attracted to shiny things so when in doubt put on a silver shirt.

Before I leave you, here is the most important rule of all:

Condoms and lawyers are your best friends. Don’t cheap out on either.

Do Feminists Hate Men?

Feminists are often accused of hating men. We are accused of blaming everything that is wrong in our lives on men. The word feminist is almost synonymous to misandry yet I have never felt the temptation to hate men. Do feminists really hate men or could this women’s movement really be about…women?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

I don’t hate men.

I hate being accosted in the streets and being felt up by strangers because they saw something they wanted to touch and just went for it. I hate being the subject of the masturbatory fantasies that are screamed at me everywhere I go.

I don’t hate men.

I hate being raped and then told it was my fault because I was out at night. I was drunk. I was in a bad neighborhood. I was wearing a tiny skirt. I was alone. I dared to challenge a publicly acceptable notion of womanhood.

I don’t hate men.

I hate being told what I mean. I hate being told what I feel. I hate being told to live by the rules of people who don’t know anything about me. I hate having the newspaper explained to me like I haven’t actually written parts of it before.

I don’t hate men.

I hate that I can’t have a smoke in my own yard without twenty people stopping to gawk or admonish. I hate that I can’t do my stretches at the park because some idiot believes that his desire to tell me he would stretch me out real good exceeds my right to space and safety, and my desire for peace and quiet.

I don’t hate men.

I hate that I have to be Madonna or whore. Why can’t I be Spongebob or President? I hate that if I fail to uphold every bastion of “womanhood” I drop from one to the other. Why can’t I just be a person? Make mistakes? Laugh? Smile? Cry? Fuck? Dance a little?

I don’t hate men.

I hate that I can’t leave the house without actively worrying about leers and attacks. I hate that I think about the possibility of being raped every single time I leave the house.

I don’t hate men.

I hate that I am scared. I hate that I constantly feel like if I were out and in trouble, I’d stand alone. I hate that the people I would fight for are often the ones creating a hostile environment for me, and turning a blind eye to situations that compel their humanity.

I don’t hate men.

I hate being paid less than a man for doing the exact same job. I hate that my employers worry that I will be useless if I get married or have children. I hate that I have to battle with notions of being too “emotional” and prone to erratic behavior when I’m just trying to do my job. I hate that people worry about having to work with women. Even women.

I don’t hate men.

I hate that I feel like we’ve completely detached from the concept of problem-solving and are only focused on a war against each other. A war that I would fight in, even while believing that it won’t fix anything. I hate this environment of hatred where discourse is dead and where truth has no meaning. Nor does humanity, or common sense.

I don’t hate men.

I hate that my body is everyone’s business. I hate that I can’t say abortion without someone cocking up an eyebrow or worse, calling me a murderer. I hate that pepper-spray is an essential handbag item. I hate that period blood is blue on television, it’s blood, it’s not blue no matter how strong your claim to royalty. I hate that girls in schools are encouraged not to take carpentry or coding class. I hate that rapists get off on technicalities and biases. I hate that there is an environment where going to the police after you are raped is not a natural decision. I hate that I can’t just hang out on the streets. I hate that someone could beat me and then tell me they love me, and I should compromise with them for the health of the marriage. I hate that I have to design my outfits so as not to offend the people by my skin.

I don’t hate men.

I’m a feminist.

I resist the patriarchy and its impact.

No, that doesn’t fucking mean I hate men. It doesn’t mean men don’t get raped or aren’t harrassed. It doesn’t mean women can’t be part of the problem when it comes to keeping women down. It doesn’t mean i think women are superior. It doesn’t mean the issues of men or chickens or pedestrians don’t matter. It doesn’t mean I want to eradicate men. It doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian. It doesn’t mean I hate pink. I am a feminist and all that means is that I need the madness of inequality to stop. It means I am part of a movement for women. It means I am not here for the systemic oppression of women. If you’re part of it, I see you as the problem and that has nothing to do with your gender.

I still don’t hate you.

But just because I won’t hate you, doesn’t mean I won’t fight you for justice or equality if you’re the one standing in the way.

And it’s not because you’re a man.

It’s because I am a feminist.

Why I Got Married Even Though I Hated The Idea.

From a very young age most of us are given to understand that we will have to marry someday, whether it is for love or because of the social norms that surround marriage. When the threat of forced cultural integration sent me running from marriage, I realised the rights afforded to non-marital love were not at par with the rights of the married. A central government guideline governing my partner’s job mandated our marriage, but should that be allowed to happen?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia

The first time I got engaged, no one asked me. My partner and I had been together for many years at that point, but I was very young and also I had no intention of ever marrying him (or maybe anyone). We had a relationship that was separate from our lives back home, we lived separately and did our own thing. However, we had been together long enough that we introduced our mothers, and left them alone to have a cup of coffee. When we came back, my mother took me aside in a panic and asked me if I had insinuated to my boyfriend that I was ready to get married. Given my extremely vocal anti-marriage stance, I knew for a fact that I had done the opposite. It wasn’t until then that I started to see that my partner and his family’s “tolerance” of my wild and independent ways was the leave I was given until we were married. Being 23, over-worked and completely overwhelmed, I let this play out for a couple of months.

Around me people discussed my marital future, my mother told me to leave the country so I could delay getting married for a few years (god bless her), my boyfriend pretended to me that nothing in my life was changing even as he suddenly tried to take me to dinner-parties with his married friends (since I was younger than him, he had many) and pick out compulsory jewellery. I kept saying, to no one in particular, that I didn’t want to do any of this and I didn’t want any jewellery put on me. I didn’t want to do anything except work and then smoke a cigarette while I sipped coffee on my balcony at the end of the day. It felt like no one was listening. They were telling me to just wear a suit or leave the country and work elsewhere as they packed fruits in a basket with glitter on it. Every morning I woke up with the queasy feeling of betrayal in my stomach but I wasn’t sure who had betrayed me.

I realised it was me.

As I sat beside my sisters in an ugly room that had been painted green and lit with flourescent lighting, dressed in a red suit that I had been forced to have fun buying, while three generations of my family stood before me in every shade of pink that the human eye is able to perceive exchanging gifts of fruit, gold and wine with my boyfriend’s family, I felt the most visceral urge to start chewing my arm. It was the most traumatic moment of my life (and when you rack ’em all up and measure, it’s a fair fight). I realised I had let my fantasy life play out into reality. On some level I must have always known that relationship was a fantasy. It was a terrible relationship in all the ways, but I hadn’t realised it was also an impractical relationship. He did not go with my real life. With me, between us, he was a suitable match for me, but out in the world our conception of love and togetherness were so different. His made my eyes bleed and smelled like aarti, mine just consisted of rain. The cultural reality of a person has the potential to not matter in a relationship, but not if one party sees this cultural integration as mandatory for the success of the relationship.

Culture, or the shorthand we use for a combination of socioeconomic status, religion and lifestyle, play a large role in real-life, adult dating in India. The men we can marry are not the same as the men we can take home after 10 PM. We have to convince our families to accept cultural differences, and sometimes that leads to loss of life. If we do convince them, we have to either adjust to the culture of another person or convince them to adopt ours, but for me, this wasn’t an option. I am thoroughly uncultural and extremely proud of it. In a marriage, it shouldn’t be a big deal that I won’t attire myself in suhagan-wear on the correct occasion or that I won’t run around a fire or stand before a priest to seal the deal. It shouldn’t matter that Diwali to me is just a day I can’t breathe. It shouldn’t matter that I don’t intend to change how or where I live after I marry. I don’t intend to change my name or title. It shouldn’t matter that I don’t intend to buy new plates to signify my status as married. It shouldn’t matter that I don’t intend to suddenly stop using the pile of clothes on my floor as a closet. It shouldn’t matter but it does. Cultural integration is integral to most marital relationships. I didn’t realise that until I took my fellow street-performer into a green-room to prepare for a show that absolutely could not go on.

I had to end the relationship (for many reasons). Even that was a bigger deal to people than it was to me, I thought I had just broken up with a guy I once loved, but the questioning was so dire, it was as if I had taken his spleen with me. Since we had sat together in a room where gold had been exchanged, it was more serious. It was a permanent mark on our records, and I didn’t even know it. After that I was pretty sure I was never heading in the direction of marriage again. Not because I have a fear of deep commitment, no, I have a deep fear of being asked to wear ironed clothes and there’s a lot of ironing involved in weddings. I decided to date for the goal of love and love alone.

Four years after that, I got married.

Now if you are expecting a fairy tale, this would be the point to stop reading. I did not change my mind about marriage, I still believe in many ways it is used as a method to enslave women. I do not believe it is necessarily a celebration of love as much as a restrictive social force. Love is its own celebration.

Why did I marry, then?

I was forced. I was not forced by my parents or my family, though they were pleased that I did get married. I was not forced by the social environment that cannot stand a woman past a certain age who hasn’t even had a socially-sanctioned pregnancy scare. I was not forced by my partner whom I love deeply. No, I was forced by a strange guideline applicable to central government employees.

Let me explain.

About six years ago I met a man who is employed by the Indian Army. We had one of those instant connections in a profound moment that you know, even as it happens, is changing you forever. As love goes, it was top-notch. We are equally uncultural, thoroughly compatible and extremely likely to laugh at the same things. It was wonderful. It still is wonderful. However because he is an employee of the central government and I was not his wife, when we wanted to move in together, we couldn’t move into his house because I wasn’t allowed to live there. At the time this was not a problem, we were in a big enough city and we just rented a house of our own. We rented a house in the civilian part of town and lived happily in it for a long time. Of course there were parts of his social life I was excluded from because socially speaking, communities like the Indian Army don’t recognise relationships that are not cemented by blood or legalese, but it didn’t matter, we had a life together.

However, the nature of his job is that every few years he has to go recreate his life elsewhere and as that day drew closer and closer we realised we were cornered. He was destined to be posted to a location where he wasn’t allowed to live in a civilian area (hello, J&K) if that even existed, and as his girlfriend I couldn’t live with him in the government housing where he was mandated to live. At this point I had to make the decision to either live separately and have one of those long-distance forever relationships or get married so we could continue to be together. Fortunately my job allowed for much more flexibility than the norms of marriage in India do and we decided that if the right to be live in the same physical space has to be bought with marriage, we would do it. It means nothing to me to be married except the fact that an actual policy-based mandate existed to force me into it.

In India we refuse to recognise the sanctity of relationships that are not marriage. For the many years that we lived together we had the life any couple would. We had the same bed, friends, pets and finances but when it came down to it, we had to get married to continue enjoying the apparent privilege of cohabitation. Love is not enough in our country and when it isn’t social or culture forces in the shape of your neighbour forcing you to do it, it’s the rulebook of your partner’s job. The truth is that I hate being married, not because I don’t love the relationship between my partner and me, but that relationship never changed. What changed was our socio-legal status and I didn’t ask for that, it was forced on me, because we refuse to see love in any format except marriage.

Love is not marriage.

Love should be afforded the same rights as marriage.

How Nikita Tomar’s Murder is Being Used to Fuel The Wrong Fire.

As a country we have a curious tendency to distract from all crime against women by turning it into a minefield to further our communal or political agendas. The same factions of the misogynistic patriarchy that led to Nikita Tomar’s death are out fighting love jihad in her name on the streets, but are women getting any safer?

Written by Aarushi Ahluwalia.

On October 26, Nikita Tomar, a 21-year old B.Com student from Ballabhgarh, Haryana, was shot dead in front of her college. The alleged shooter, a man by the name of Tauseef, was also accused of stalking her and is now in custody along with his accomplice. A day after Nikita’s murder a Mahapanchayat was called in Ballabgarh where it was vowed that Nikita would be last of the women in Haryana to suffer this way. As the case developed it was discovered that Tauseef had been harassing Nikita for a long time, even attempting to kidnap her before, and had made multiple proposals of marriage to her, all of which she had turned down. Allegations of love-jihad began to be heard more clearly than anything else and as almost a direct result of the Mahapanchayat, violence was stoked in Haryana. Thirty-two people have been arrested over the violence while the Faridabad police works on arresting more.

That’s the news story.

The news story is accurate. It does give you facts. A girl was shot by a stalker using a homemade gun. He is Muslim, she was Hindu. He had attempted to marry her before and had been turned down. He killed her outside her college. Mahapanchayat happened. People violently protested love jihad in the name of a dead-girl.

“Love jihad.”

The first time I heard this term was in early 2014, I was working my first job as a journalist in a beautiful office where the coffee cost more than my shoes, there was a discussion about this idea and everyone around me seemed to condemn it as a conspiracy theory. I had no idea what it meant so I looked it up. Love jihad is a theory that young Muslim men all over the country feign love to Hindu women with the goal of marrying them to convert them to Islam so that eventually the population of muslims grows bigger than the population of Hindus and they..take over the country? It makes much less sense the more math you do. However in our current political environment where communal riots are blamed on students instead of right-wing leaders who provide the batons, love jihad is the perfect scare-strategy to stoke divisiveness. It’s the perfect rallying point. The perfect political strategy to get people angry enough to demand “change” without calculating what really needs to be changed. It’s the perfect method to distract from something extremely important —

These people who scream and riot in the streets in the name of Nikita Tomar are the same people who make up the misogynistic social environment that allows for women like Nikita to be murdered in broad daylight because they said no to a man.

Harayana is a curious place. It’s culturally rich and interesting and also sad with its skewed sex-ratio and rapey rights of passage coupled with caste-based disparity and social structure. It makes for a difficult, unsafe and constrictive social environment for a lot of women. I attended my first Mahapanchayat there in 2014 as well. At some point in the event, a sarpanch (or panch), took me aside and asked me to come “do shooting” in their village.

“But come alone,” he said putting his hand on my shoulder, “Don’t bring your crew and all along.”

I was creeped out as fuck. Over the years I did a lot more work in Haryana, and in that I saw a lot more of the state than I would have in the normal course of my life. The women lived strange lives here, with one of them, no more than 20-years old, chiding me for wasting my time talking about rape as if that didn’t happen to everyone. Another one saying that it’s just important to ensure it doesn’t happen to you before marriage. The receptionist a local, bucolic hotel once told me to change my clothes before I stepped out. A farmer tending cows once yelled at me for leaving my husband and kids at home and being out doing this nonsense instead (and I wasn’t even married then, he couldn’t even fathom this). A 15-year old boy once said I didn’t know how to show respect to men. A man hanging out of a bus, in Faridabad, no less, offered to make me the “next Nirbhaya”. So forgive me if I don’t spend all my time worrying about the 14% Muslim population taking over the 80% Hindu population by playing love games.

And yes, yes, you may ask why I wouldn’t report any of those instances and the dozen others I can list offhand.

Why?

Well, Nikita Tomar and her family reported her stalker and what exactly was the benefit of that?

As of this morning we have three states in India that are mulling a law tackling love-jihad as if women are only killed by their Muslim stalkers. As if the same members of the Mahapanchayat that cry for the life of Nikita, wouldn’t have ordered her killing in the name of honour if she had expressed interest in a Muslim man. The truth, and the real issue here, is that women are killed in India by their stalkers and jilted lovers regardless of religion. Women are killed in India for exercising their right to consent. Women are killed in India for not having a suitable “lifestyle”. Women are killed in India for exercising choice. We kill our women and then use their coffins as the soap-boxes from which we further our political agendas. For once it would be refreshing to see the angry men do the math and realise they are the problem.

That is the issue we fail to tackle each time we get embroiled in caste, religion, politics and morality. Those things are important but not when you constantly tackle them in the name of another issue that needs urgent attention. Nikita’s family complained about this man, instead of doing anything or advising the family get an injunction order against the boy (which is what you get against stalkers in India instead of restraining orders), no one did anything. He attempted to kidnap her before and his family begged them to let it go and promised it would never happen again. A man attempted to kidnap a woman and all it took to get her to silence was an apology. The crime of Love jihad begets death but the crime of repeated violation of a woman can be handled with a fervent apology. A woman had to spend years watching her back and feeling unsafe, but no one did anything. No one had a problem with it until she died. No one wanted to do battle for her until she was dead and then what we did was battle against a conspiracy theory.

While the reality of women in India is that you could realistically die for it anywhere and for any reason.

We kill our women.

Then we pretend it’s only the Muslims doing it so we can justify killing them too. Now you have two bodies, while the misogynistic patriarchy lives on. Loud and proud. I’m sure I’ll see them on Twitter in like an hour crying about how the corpse of press freedom is dead now that their spokesperson is in jail.