Excerpt | A Room of One’s Own

In mid-May, I started pursuing a 6-week course on edX titled ‘Gender and Intersectionality’, offered by the University of Iceland and GEST (Gender Equality Studies and Training Programme under the auspices of UNESCO). It’s going well so far—I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989 and has proven to be incredibly crucial in understanding the ways in which gender intersects with other realities/identities of class, race, religion, disability, nationalism etc., all of which affect one’s experience of being female in different ways. Simply put, analyzing gender without taking these aspects into consideration—early waves of feminism, for example, focused solely on the lives of middle and upper middle class white women, dubbed ‘white feminism’—merely leads to women from other marginalized communities remaining on the fringes.

Virginia Woolf’s work, of course, features in the course’s reading list, alongside other prominent feminist thinkers including bell hooks, Alice Walker, Rita Mae Brown, Betty Friedan, and others. Here is a striking excerpt from her essay, ‘A Room of One’s Own‘:

“..Here I would stop, but the pressure of convention decrees that every speech must end with a peroration. And a peroration addressed to women should have, you would agree, something particularly exalting and ennobling about it. I should implore you to remember your responsibilities, to be higher, more spiritual; I should remind you how much it depends upon you, and what an influence you can exert upon the future. But those exhortations can, safely, I think, be left to the other sex, who will put them, and indeed have put them, with far greater eloquence than I can compass. When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people, I would say, if I knew how to make it sound exalted. Think of things in themselves.

Continue reading “Excerpt | A Room of One’s Own”

Colonialism, War and Exile: The Little-Known History of Indians in Myanmar

This is an excerpt from my piece that was originally published on Atlas Obscura on March 12th.

On a bright morning in August, 1965, a young man named Gurumurthy ushered his parents and sisters out of their home in the Burmese capital of Rangoon. They shut the wooden gate behind them, glanced at the stark-white façade of their house for a final time, and began to carry their modest belongings to the nearby port.

Continue reading “Colonialism, War and Exile: The Little-Known History of Indians in Myanmar”

Women Lead Struggle to Preserve Indian Democracy in Face of Rising Hindu Nationalism

This article was originally published on Waging Nonviolence.

After the Indian government’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, people across India answered a nationwide call for protests issued by left-wing parties on Aug. 7. Article 370 had provided the state with considerable autonomy and was one of the conditions for its accession to the Indian union in 1947.

Shabnam Hashmi, social activist and co-founder of the non-governmental organization Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, or ANHAD, livestreamed the protests from New Delhi.

She panned her camera to show protesters restricted by barricades at Jantar Mantar, a site where regular protests occur in the capital. “As you can see, the space — which has already been confined so much for protests — even in that area we are not being allowed to enter,” she commented. “This is the state of Indian democracy now.” Continue reading “Women Lead Struggle to Preserve Indian Democracy in Face of Rising Hindu Nationalism”

Dispatches: Who Makes the Clothes on Our Backs?

In 2010, I travelled to Bangladesh with the rest of my graduate school cohort to study various developmental approaches implemented in the country. Bangladesh, in many ways, is a prime example of the success that locally pioneered methods of just and sustainable development can achieve. And yet, this development is accompanied by its own set of problems, particularly with regard to the country’s massive garment industry.

Bangladesh is the world’s second largest exporter of readymade apparel, second only to China. Garments constitute 80% of the nation’s earnings from exports, and in 2018, Bangladesh exported clothing worth over $32 billion, mainly to Europe and the United States. Continue reading “Dispatches: Who Makes the Clothes on Our Backs?”

On Fashion & Feminism

An excerpt from my piece titled ‘The Economics of Fashion and Feminism’ that appeared in the pilot issue of MUJER!, a bilingual feminist fashion magazine.

Our obsession with female beauty – with rearing, celebrating, enhancing, preserving and recapturing it – has inevitably led to the beauty industry being valued at billions of dollars. Contrastingly, the idea of embracing our natural beauty, evidenced by initiatives such as the Dove Real Beauty campaign, and the clever marketing of products using feminist ideals – a concept aptly named ‘femvertising’ – have opened up further avenues for profit. But why bottle and sell confidence to adolescent girls and women when we could be raising self-assured girls who know better than to tie their worth to their appearance? Continue reading “On Fashion & Feminism”