Tuesday, May 10, 2005

40 days: Flight or fight

Jo, or Joanna, flies off tomorrow.. and it'll be kinda sad to see her go. She's the most insecure and paranoid 45-year-old I've met wtih a loving husband and three kids. It's so odd... to have a mother ask me "Jess do you think what i'm wearing is alright?" I think she finds it strange too.

Actually her exact were, "God, I can't believe I'm learning social manners from someone younger than me."

Actually, I just told her how to lie to get out of a social appointment. So technically, I taught her to be rude. But hey it's not my fault if she can't say no.

And she's so horribly polite. She has the patience of a watermelon. Her answer to "How are you" isn't "I'm fine, thanks." It's "Oh I'm quite fine today, thank you. And how are you today?" Apparently a shorter version would be misconstrued as being rude in Bolton. But she's such a sweetheart, and her self-defacing sense of humour.. although completely uncalled for, is so hilarious.

But i'm happy that she's leaving, because she misses her girls so much I don't think she could stand it for another day longer. She talks about them so much I feel as I know them personally. It's really nice to see some old-fashioned sense of mothering.

Shall go buy DVDs of the Office in honour of Jo's depature!


Women's Rights. Those two words really don't mean anything to me, in fact if anything I get bored and try to stay away. It has always been so horribly cliche and always about the same issues that I wanted no part in it.

Which is an irony, since I myself have been griping about being treated condescendingly. I suppose the behavoiur wasn't extreme enough to prompt me into any form of action or resistance.

When I read the news, I'm interested in what's going on in Europe or the US, or maybe political stuff between China and Japan and all that. It just feels like those are the important things that I need to know to keep abreast of things.

But there are so many other stuff I skim across, like calls for various rights in the Indian subcontinental countries and other Asian countries. All those stories about child labour, rise of religious fundamentalism, squabbling political parties and all that... I never really could be bothered to read the whole article.

Which is precisely the mindset that I'm not supposed to have. I don't know if i've mentioned it before, but one of the first things that confused me before I came here was the fact that Drik refers to Bangladesh as being part of the Majority World. Photographers from the Majority World. News from the Majority World.

It was really confusing and mentally unsettling, because let's face it, I always thought the Majority World was the one that I read about more in the papers - and Bangladesh most certainly is not part of that.

Reading the history of Drik, I was faced with a very real example of how the cliche issues of media coverage translated into very real effects on the ground.

In 1994, before the emails and internet came, Drik had a primitive email system using one single telephone line. This was by far the best (and maybe only) way that news from Dhaka could be transmitted to other countries.

In a raid on a University campus by the police, disaster and further bloodshed was averted because the news was sent out within two hours - resulting in pleas from other governments to halt any further violence.

It never quite hit me that the company i'm working for now made it possible for that to happen. It's a huge thing.. and you don't get to be part of huge things in Singapore.

And so anyway, I feel like I've digressed. But the whole new persepective of "what is news" and what is the Majority World makes me feel obliged to rethink the whole thing about Women's Rights.

It's so easy for me to ignore because I don't feel like I need anymore rights. i'm going back Singapore soon what. And yeah you can argue that things aren't exactly equal in Singapore, but it's all about perspective isn't it? A woman not earning as much as a man versus a woman not allowed to work.

And i think i've said this before too, but I see so much strength in the eyes of women here. I can say for SURE that the women of this country are more capable than its men. The men are such louts, hanging around drinking their tea and smoking, oogling at women going by, noisy and obnoxious. The women walk past you quickly, silently, heads bowed to look at their feet. They know where they're going, you never see them hanging around, they're always doing something.

Of course I paint a stereotyped picture, but it doesn't change the facts.

And anyhow, these women here have enough things on their plate to worry about to be concerned with Women's Rights. There are lobby groups and activists, but just like politics and Singaporeans you know? - we got better things to worry about

I'm just rambling on. Doing a essay on Tasmina Nazrin. Who had thousands of men protesting in the streets of Dhaka to demand her death because she demanded equal rights. With a religious death sentence on her, she can't come back to her home country.

And so, if a well-off doctor do not have the liberty to talk about such matters - what about the woman on the street bringing her son home from school? Imagine the 10 fold pressure she would feel to keep her mouth shut.

I guess it's such a gigantic and immense task that it's so much easier to flip the page.. i feel tired reading about inequality and everything.

But... if Shahidul hadn't started the email system - just one bloody telephone line - in spite of the censorship and governmental paranoia after the coup;... imagine all the things this country wouldn't have today.

Singapore made me lazy. I never had to fight for anything.

"I don't believe in God, ... The religion mongers segregate women from the human race, I too am divided, I too am defrauded of my human rights..." (those are national Bangla colours)