Miracle, Bird or Golden Handiwork…

Bird from Bhopal

You may be wondering what may have inspired my using a line from Yeat’s ‘Byzantium’ as a title for my post. Quite simply, it was a bird- a metal bird. The one pictured in the photograph above. I recently purchased this board from the Tribal Museum at Bhopal (a fantastic museum that you should definitely visit).

I was quite charmed by the metallic bells that the bird has on itself.

Metallic Bird and Bells

I was also fascinated by it’s tail- those swirling whorls can keep your attention for quite sometime.


I originally intended just posting these images and stopping my post but today has been a day of random musings.

What triggered my thoughts was this article I read about a company in the UAE starting the world’s first all women airline. That’s fantastic isn’t it? I mean we’ve all had almost every airline in the world operating an all-woman crew on Women’s Day or something but all-women all the time should be amazing!

Except there’s a catch- the airline will cater only to women clients. In the article it says that the company is looking to raise the profile of women and also cater to conservative families in the region.

My first experience at anything close to this was when I landed by myself at Dubai airport in early 2013. When waiting at the taxi rank I was quickly signalled to get into a different line where in a few minutes I got into a pink taxi- this was a taxi with a woman driver which ferried only women passengers. I didn’t really think much about it at that time.

A couple of years later with crimes against women being on the rise in the country (India) or at least the number of women who came forward to report crimes being on the increase, a number of cities saw the equivalent of pink taxi services cropping up. Taxis driven by women for women so women could feel safe. I don’t know how these services have been faring but it seemed like a good concept.

I have, during my college days, travelled in the suburban trains in Chennai where you had separate compartments marked out for women. You had the general compartments as well where women could travel with men but you would normally never find women in there unless somebody was at risk of missing the train and just got into the first compartment possible. They would of course disembark at the next stop and get into the ladies compartment- a veritable beehive of activity- with women vendors selling anything from vegetables to jewellery and the women passengers themselves doing everything from dozing to prepping for the next meal.

Anyway it’s definitely true that women feel safer and comfortable travelling with other women than in mixed environments- in this part of the world.

But thinking of the flip side- this kind of segregation just plays into existing serious stereotypes. Let’s assume a scenario where there are an ample number of women only taxis and then a girl takes a regular cab and something happens to her- people will be quick to jump at her- who asked her to travel in a regular taxi? This is in the same vein as who asked her to go out so late? who asked to wear that dress? etc etc., Ultimately it’s what she does that is the problem and never that of the other side’s.

So even an all women airline for women only would only go in the same direction. Women who stay in their boxes are good- anybody who challenges it is asking for it.

The problem as we all know is deep rooted- so deep that nobody knows where the roots spring from. What should be challenged is actually the perception that women need to be segregated from men- that they are the cause of the problem. Instead they should be considered equal to men- equal in their capacities to live, work, think and enjoy themselves. This is not going to come out of cloistering ourselves in women only zones. It is always easier for human beings to discriminate what they do not understand.

I know, I know- all this is easier said than done and primary concern should always be survival and security but I sometimes wonder if there is ever a way out.

Gilded Bird in a cage

8 Comments Add yours

  1. nivs24 says:

    At one end, this seems empowering women. it gives us opportunities for employment and gives us relief to feel safe. But at the other, you are right in the fact that it reinforces the segregation and stereotype. Guess, this is like a catch-22.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      exactly- the opportunities and employment for women are a great plus but we’re just driving ourselves deeper into a box!

  2. Anabel Marsh says:

    Bravo! (I’m afraid I don’t know the answer either, but I agree with your sentiments.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you Anabel- there are no simple quick solutions I guess!

  3. Lata Sunil says:

    I had the similar feeling of fanning more stereotypes with pink taxis and even autos in Mumbai. Why to highlight with color? They could just have the same color and it shouldnt matter if its a woman driver or man. That would make me feel safer. Imagine being in a pink auto surrounded by all yellow autos. Scary.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I would be scared! The stereotypes have to stop!

  4. Nirmala says:

    True. We have to really ponder on these issues. Especially even solutions that seem to favour women may have deeper issues!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      That’s right. Something that seems great at first may have a negative impact in the longer run.

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