Monday, August 20, 2007

Girl Power

At the age of 11, I remember feeling terribly discriminated against because our school had just announced NCC training, after school hours, for boys, but not for girls. Our Principal had an open-door policy and some of us marched right in that door and requested that NCC training be opened to girls as well. She inspected our outraged faces and said with a weary smile, 'We had tried it some years back, but none of the girls could stay back. Their parents wouldn't allow them.' After some begging and demanding, she told us, 'If you can get 20 girls to sign up who will stay after school for the training, we'll open it to the girls as well. Otherwise it's not worth hiring a coach.'

And so began a small attempt which rubbed our noses in the rock-bottom dirt of our feminist aspirations to equality. I think we could muster up some 7 names. This was Delhi in 1989, and a well-known school where children of broad-minded, educated parents were known to be enrolled. And in a batch of some 120 students (of which perhaps 55 were girls) we could not find 20 girls who had permission to stay on after school. Occasional staying back for extra classes, for play practice, or music lessons was still ok. But year-long after-school training, twice a week, and that too for sports, was too much. The boys could manage buses or bicycles or even walk home, but not the girls, and few parents had the time to pick us up at an odd hour from school. One could of course blame the lack of safety for girls, the irregularity of public transport, etc. Perhaps the girls themselves were not keen enough on NCC to fight their parents for it.

So ended my NCC dream. I found solace playing volleyball and basketball, but every Tuesday and Thursday when the boys showed up in their NCC uniform, I felt really jealous. Even today, when a girl says she was an NCC cadet in school, I think back to my first brush with inequality in this world.

All these emotions came to the fore as I watched Chak de India on Saturday. A predictable storyline, with an actor who is known to play himself rather than the character, and no leading ladies, no glamourous faces, passable music---we decided to go because someone else bought the tickets and just told us to show up.

And I am so glad I went! I think the movie really got going for me when, in a fit of frustration, the girls start bashing up the eve-teasers. Those men represent everything they have been trying to fight all their lives, and that one whistle and lewd comment is the last straw. From the delicate-built to the solidly-constructed, all the women, as one, just give it to the men idly lounging around McDonalds. Perhaps the carnage gets a bit much by the end of it, but I doubt any woman who has ever been whistled at or cheaply propositioned while minding her own business on the street has not entertained visions of committing violence, the emasculating kind even! And that made me sit up and watch with glee as these girls worked as a team to systematically decimate the enemy! The song in the background, aggressively announcing "hockey doongi main rakh ke" was superbly placed.

The movie was all about teamwork, country before self, team before individual player, and anyone who has played a team sport would find echoes of himself/herself in the conflicts, the rivalries, the one-upmanship, and the poisonous taste of defeat that comes sometimes before the delicious pleasure of victory. SRK's character did not go on and on about the unfair way he was treated. One could see he was haunted by it. But there were no wordy monologues to rub in an already known fact.

As a coach, he was a clever, clever man. I began to respect his tactics as I watched them unfold. I just wish that, at the nail-biting climax of the final game, that moment of telepathy between him and the Captain hadn't occurred. She should have had that debate in her own head and made that decision, to add credence to her role. She didn't mobilise her players or sense the little friction going on in her team the way a captain ought to. Also, a little more celebration that showed the coach with the team in a huddle was sorely missed at the end of it all. He seemed to be spent at having redeemed himself. But these are small flaws in a movie that is all about being strong and doing your best.

The maid took the day off today and I picked up the broom in a fit of housecleaning. I found the Chak De album on the Internet, and the songs seemed more magical somehow now that I had the story in my head and the sense of triumph that came with it. Baadal pe paaon hain filled the room as I played a swift game of hockey, manouevring the dust in our house towards the bin with my broom. And I felt good!


iz said...

hehehe. Love the idea of jhadoo hockey. must try it sometime.

Vinny said...

Hey, good post.
Yes, Chakde was definitely one of the better films this year. And the issues the girls faced were totally identifiable. Good observation on your side about the captain's non-recognition of the friction in her team.
It's sad you didn't get to join the NCC. A lazy bum like me enjoyed its activities for two years. That I didn't pursue it after my 12th is totally my fault.

G said...

aaaah i haven't seen it yet!! i shouldn't have read this!! btw, on the prev. post - the slightly crazed woman might be india personified :)

Tharini said...

interesting the way you connected a story and a movie review, with some music insights also into a single account...enjoyed it exceedingly.

Pragyan said...

Lovely post..girl-inequality is sad! It's so rampant.Remember watching Udaan TV serial as a kid..that was so inspiring. Girls these days have the saas-bahu serial for inspiration :( wonder if it is having a negative impact on an entire generation of girls!

Anamika said...

IZ: Come to Bombay, and we'll have a match :)

Vin: You were in the NCC? Wow. Am sure you weren't THAT lazy. Even I didn't pursue my sports after 12th. College, again, had no girls volleyball team. I had a college friend who was even part of the Republic Day parade as the NCC. I was sooo jealous.

G: I haven't given away any of the story!

Tharini: Thanks. I guess whn you can connect a life story with a movie, that's when the movie can affect you.

Pragyan: True. I remember watching Udaan too. Though I think our youngsters are guided more by Channel V and Page 3 than by the saas-bahus. What say?

Sandeepa said...

Dekhte hobey mone hochche..kotto din movie dekhi na...

eve's lungs said...

Chak de was very good and my ma in law punched the air with a yes ! when the girls beat up the guys . Yes that was some vicarious satisfaction-and some inspiration!