On 22 January, on the day of Saraswati Puja, two girls were photographed buying alcohol from a wine shop in Assam. The photograph not only went viral on social media, but also became subject to a news on a popular news channel, News Live, attracting unwanted attention and creating a hullabaloo among the self-professed guardians of Assamese national culture. Assam has been a regular witness of such events. For example, questions regarding women’s entry to Satras and Naamghars [places of Hindu-Vaishnavite religious worship] bring into light the question of ‘preserving’ national culture which subsequently lead to a question on the patriarchal nature of nationalism. This article is an immediate expression of the writer’s angst against the overall situation wherein nationalist patriarchy constructs masculinity and femininity, oppresses women, establishes male dominance in the public sphere and the need to break those chains that maintain such a situation.
Women should drink – not in hiding, but in front of everyone, so that everyone can see them. Sometimes they should drink till they throw up. Sometimes they should drink till they embrace the ground beneath. It requires courage, lots of courage, to throw up or fall down drunk in public. As of now, it is only men who have that courage. Women do not have that much courage – they cannot take that much risk, they cannot be that much damn-care, they cannot be that much devoid of responsibility. Women have been handicapped by the burden of maintaining our national culture. Therefore, women drinking and getting drunk mean death of our national culture. And therefore, women should drink. Unless there is an environment where women could fall down drunk in public without worries – whatever happens till then on other fronts, it cannot be said that women’s exploitation and repression are over.
But merely drinking will not suffice. Whichever kind of work women are told not to do or that they cannot do, they should do all of those. They should plough; they should drive trucks or buses; repair cars; do the works of electricians, carpenters, masons; butcher pigs; take contracts; bully others. Everything that comes into view when one looks around a city (for example, huge buildings, vast roads, parks, malls, cars) has almost no direct contribution by women in their construction. I think that if I were a woman, it would have been the main reason of my dejection and indignation. Men take the risks and responsibility for the outside world. Women can enter only some selected places there, in predetermined capacities. That is why men can subjugate women. To overthrow the dominance of men, women will have to overtake the outside world – they will have to take risks and responsibility. ‘Ladies first’ simply does not make anything happen. Therefore, women should also learn how to subjugate men. They should play cards, gamble, come back home late at night. They should piss in the open. Whether in villages or in cities, women have to move about everywhere in search of a place to urinate. But men have no such tension – they just need to look around and unzip. It is a burning example of women’s repression. The day women would piss in the open, men’s special right (to urinate openly) would be nailed to its coffin. Women tear each other’s hair apart, they slap men. These are womanly activities; that is why men do not care. Women should learn how to punch, how to kick. A punch targets the body, but a slap targets self-esteem. A punch hurts the body, but a slap hurts the ego. Women can slap men and hurt their ego, but it will not suffice. They will have to be able to pummel men with punches. Women will have to be able to kick out those men who abuse their wives after drinking or those saffron monkeys looking for ‘love jihads’.
Women should go wherever they are told not to go or prohibited to go. It is good if they are allowed entrance to religious places. Even during menstruation, women should enter religious places. Women should uninhibitedly enter all such places that prohibit their entry. There are many places in cities, towns and villages where there are unwritten rules that prohibit women’s entry. They should go into all such places. If there is a roof that says women’s entry is prohibited, they should immediately enter there. If there is a pole that says women cannot climb, they should immediately climb that. If there are unwritten rules in universities and colleges that women cannot wear certain clothes, they should immediately break those rules. The national culture that is lying underneath petticoats should be urgently kicked out today.[Translated from Assamese by Biswajit Bora]