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December 13, 2017
New Delhi: The opposite of violence is not just non-violence but love. “What is the big deal about being non-violent? For me, the opposite of non-violence is love.”
Re-defining the concept of non-violence at an event to mark Gandhi Jayanti Day, renowned feminist, poet and author Kamla Bhasin rued that fact that society today was in love with power – whether it is the power of patriarchy, the power of husbands or the power of rich wives. “We must stop thinking about this love for power and concentrate on the power of love.” She exhorted.
The origin of non-violence is our language which often ignores half of the population- namely women, she observes. “We talk of chairmen and batsmen and when we refer to farmers it is always using the pronoun ‘he’.”
Words like ‘swami’ to describe one’s husband perpetuates the gender disparity as it implies lord and master. Similarly, the practice of ‘kanyadaan’ or giving away the daughter after marriage is illegal as under the Indian constitution a father cannot give away his daughter as ‘daan’ (gift) since she is not a thing or possession, adds Bhasin who is best known for her work on the NGO ‘Sangat”’,a south Asian Network of feminists and for her poem “Kyunki main Ladki hoon, mujhe padhna hai.’ (Because I am a girl, I want to study.)
Giving various instances of gender inequality, Bhasin says females are denied access to many services like education and health. “Our religion forbids us to enter temples when we are menstruating. Show me one holy man who has been born without our menstrual blood!” she states emphatically.
Also gracing the occasion was Ani Choying Drolma, a Nepalese Buddhist nun and singer, renowned the world over for her numerous humanitarian efforts including the education of young girls, care of the elderly and providing medical services for the underprivileged and dispossessed.
Ani entered monastic life as a means of escape from her physically abusive father and she was accepted into the Nagi Gompa nunnery at the age of 13. “As a child I was always angry. At home, I was expected to do the household chores and cook while my brothers did nothing. I was also expected to take care of them at school and if I made mistakes my parents were quicker to beat me”, she narrates. Such incidents increased her inner rage which often found an outlet in fights that she would initiate with other boys.
Ani’s anger did not subside even after she became a nun. “I shaved off my hair, but I could not shed my anger.” It took years of meditation and a patient resident chant master who taught her the music that she performs worldwide to support her various causes.
With time, the anger subsided but the question of gender inequalities still persisted. “There is a saying –‘Instead of cursing the darkness, why not light the candle yourself?’ I realized then that if you indulge in the blame-game you don’t get anything constructive done.”
One of Ani’s earliest achievements is the creation of the ‘Arya Tara’ school which opened in 2000. The school aims to equip nuns with the abilities and skills necessary to serve their communities in a humanitarian capacity.
Whether it is in her welfare activities or in her personal capacity, Ani has striven to bridge the gaping gender divide. “I drive my own car. If monks can drive, then why not nuns?” she reasons. “I like the feeling of the steering wheel between my fingers and the realization that I get to choose the direction in which to go. Even today, I have not hired a driver but prefer to do my own driving.”
The event was organized by the NGO ‘Humans for Humanity’, founded by Anurag Chauhan, a young graduate in social work from Amity University. The organisation trains interns from 16 countries besides youth from Delhi, Dehradun Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh on issues like sanitation and hygiene and promotion of Indian culture and heritage.
Welcoming the guests earlier, Chauhan, who has received many awards for his social work, recalled Gandhiji’s words- ‘Be the change you want to see’ and called for transparency in addressing the issue of violence against women.