I recently read an interesting article in India Abroad about the documentary called The World Before Her by Canadian-Indian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja; I’m not sure if everyone can access the India Abroad article for free, so here’s a related article from The Indian Express.
The documentary juxtaposes Indian beauty pageants with a fundamentalist Hindu camp for females called Durga Vahini (the Army of Durga), which not only arms females with right-wing beliefs but also encourages militant activism. Not sure about the extent to which the group has been involved with miscellaneous riots or the Gujarat violence in 2002, but they have gotten significant attention from the media in the past and have certainly built a reputation since the group’s establishment in 1991. What seems to get them going? Non-Hindus and any threat to tradition. They’re related issues in some ways, but more on that later, maybe. In line with SabaDabaDoooo’s most recent post, I’d like to focus on the ladies and maybe provide some food for thought.
According to the India Abroad article, when one of the women in the beauty pageant was questioned about how she would handle the situation of having a gay son, her thoughts were not as progressive or open-minded as one would perhaps assume for a woman who might be liberal enough to stand clad in a bikini, possibly against her parents’ wishes. If not her parents, then still society. Recently, there was a push for cheerleaders in India to go traditional–stop hiring foreigners and let local women to participate…in saris! I thought this was pretty cool, actually. But I’m sure more passionate proponents included people like those of the Durga Vahini.
I need to get my hands on this documentary and I hope you do too. It will be interesting to see how two opposing female forces function in the motherland. A right-wing Hindu female group set on “preserving modesty” and staying traditional. And a group of girls who are straying from more conservative social norms, at least at face value. Which is something that really irks me, actually…
I find it abhorrent that the youth in urban India often have little to take in the process of “Westernization” outside of pre-marital sex, clubbing, and dressing more scandalously. Growing up in America, I’ve picked up on a lot of great things that I may not have if I grew up elsewhere. My education in this country has helped me develop an appreciation for a well-rounded platter of knowledge from numerous disciplines, it has helped me critically analyze any and every thought that comes my way (whether through the media or from a textbook), it has nurtured my imagination and creativity. Living here has shown me the value of diversity–of thought, of experience, of culture. Of course, India is a good place to learn that, but I really feel like that’s on the agenda of our education system. Anyway, I’ve diverged from the topic at hand. Hopefully I’ll get to watching the documentary soon and you will too. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post to share my thoughts. Here’s another article if you need more convincing. Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her. Watch it with me!