She lay curled on her bed,
Wrapped in her teddy bear blanket, now threadbare.
Tears streaming down her cheeks, choking.
Her fist a ball in her mouth.
Tormented by the prospects of her future.
She did not want to marry a doctor,
She wanted to study, to be a fighter pilot,
To fly the sky in search of her soul.
She did not want the burden of docility,
The demur demeanor were her loathing,
The nosepin, red dot, thick kajal around her eyes,
She did not want to be her mother.
She dreamed of a wearing a pant, with its perfectly ironed crease,
A shirt tight against her breast,
Stripes on her shoulders,
She was meant to ravage the man’s world.
This article is written by Sapna Shahani
Lillian D’Costa, 32, left the idyllic village of Saligao in North Goa where she had spent her childhood years, and moved to Bangalore, in neighbouring Karnataka five years ago. “I had reached a point where I wasn’t growing any more and realised I needed a change,” she recalls. “I’m sure that Goa offers a better quality of life than many other states, but that’s if you’re economically well-placed. If you’re young and need opportunities for growth, Goa does not work.”
Ashwina Souza, 23, left her family in the Southern Goan town of Vasco last year to pursue a Ph.D in Industrial Psychology in Mumbai. “My seniors told me that the faculty here in Goa was not as good as in Mumbai. Besides, in a place like Mumbai, there are so many industries and they need people like us. Among my circle of friends, many have left Goa – perhaps six or eight out of 10.”
Two voices of young women professionals from a state that has recorded the highest per capita income among all Indian states in a 2009-10, according to the central statistical office. However, a study by the Labour Bureau of the Ministry of Labour and Employment also reveals that Goa has the highest unemployment rate in the country. What’s worse, according to another study conducted by Goa’s Ministry of Labour in 2009, only one-fourth of those employed in the state are women.
These figures imply that not only is Goa’s wealth not distributed equally across all sections of society, its working women are clearly marginal players in the state’s economy. Unless efforts are made to reverse this trend, Goa stands to lose young talent, with many youngsters like Lillian and Ashwina being forced to leave home for educational and employment opportunities in other states. Indeed, they are left with little choice, given the rising inflation and high cost of living in Goa.
Perhaps in response to the impending crisis, Goa recently became the first state in India to announce a dole for jobless youth. But such political gestures are merely symbolic. There still isn’t much public discussion about creating jobs for the state’s 80,000 people registered with the Employment Exchange. The Goa Chamber of Commerce carries a telling piece of information on its website: “Roughly about 15,000 graduates come out of Goan colleges every year. The government on its own will not be in a position to provide employment to these youth…”
There is widespread consensus in Goa that higher education in the state does not prepare graduates for real jobs. While the state has focused on primary education – ranking 11th among all Indian states in terms of performance – higher education appears to have stagnated. Public perception is that it is best to earn one’s degree or post-graduate qualification outside the state if one can afford to do so.
Says Aldina Gomes, a lecturer at Carmel College for Women in Nuvem, “As a professor, I’m a little against how academics is handled here. Everyone has to study humanities but they don’t really have a connection to the subject. They won’t pursue humanities as a career but will end up doing something completely different… There is a clear lack of vocational guidance for students as well as career opportunities. There should be many more entrance exams, job-specific courses and certificates that can get you jobs.”
Of course, women students are full of expectations. Take Zaheera Vaz, 20, who is about to start her Master’s degree course in Political Science at Goa University. She is keen to have extra-curricular activities that could help her develop her analytical skills. Nashoma De Jesus, 22, who is currently finishing her Master’s degree in International Studies at Goa University, would like more field experience. “The education system is too theoretical. We need more exposure while we’re studying. Internships should be mandatory,” she argues.
But this would require more investment in higher education, as Sabina Martins, a prominent women’s rights activist and school teacher with a Ph.D in chemistry, points out. “I did my research in carbon, which can be prepared from coconut shells. I thought since Goa has so many coconut shells and carbon is in high demand, being used for water purification and in so many other applications, it should be easy to make carbon this way. I went to see the only plant that does this in Goa and it was run by someone from outside the state. Planning here is devoid of research,” she says.
Those who don’t leave the state and are lucky enough to find jobs after they graduate, get measly salaries, sometimes as low as Rs 4,000 (US41=Rs 44) a month. Aglin Barretto, 23, has a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology and works in two schools as a counsellor. Her salary? Just Rs 5,000 per month.
Both opportunities and salaries are lower in Goa than elsewhere and that is a source of angst for young women like Skitter Faia, 32, who works in a PR firm in state capital Panaji. “I hear a lot of people talking about job security and I think that means a government job where you can work or not work and still take a salary home,” observes Skitter. Others feel that appreciation and promotions don’t easily come the way of women employees. Clara Rodrigues, 24, a journalist based in Saligao, rues the fact that the glass ceiling obstructs many ambitions women may harbour, “We need opportunities to grow vertically in the organisation.”
But this does not mean that women have stopped dreaming of personal growth and freedom. Interestingly, one of the reasons why many young women here prefer to migrate out of the state is to free themselves from the diktat of conservative families and the norms that mark rural life. D’Costa says, “As a single woman living outside the state, you don’t have to rush home. Or face judgmental people in the village who are always assessing you. Or hear that your phone isn’t accessible. These are constraints I experience every time I return to Goa.”
Despite the stereotypes fostered by the coastal tourist belt, life in Goa’s hinterland is fairly restrictive for young women and the general outlook is narrow. Ashwina shares a personal anecdote, “Once in college, a teacher asked us why we wanted to go to college. Students gave all sorts of answers. Some argued that it was their ticket to leave home; others said it was their certificate for marriage; still others just wanted to ‘pass time’, while a few talked of how it was the best way to make friends. Only three of us – out of a class of 60 – said they were in college to pursue a career.”
She and others like her want the state to be more pro-active about broadening professional vistas. Not only would this bring economic benefits to the state, it would mean more women in the workplace, they argue. For instance, they point out, that Goa – with its educated population – is eminently suited to emerge as an IT hub, yet little is being done to achieve this.
Says D’Costa, “The government wants to invite only ‘clean’ industries to the state. With its good roads, broadband connectively and relatively cheaper land, it could easily attract the IT industry. IT companies are moving out of Bangalore to places like Chennai and Vellore, but why aren’t they coming to Goa? Bangalore was once known as a retiree’s city, but now it has reinvented itself as a world city. Why can’t Goa make the same transition?”
If Goa has to keep pace with the hopes and expectations of women like D’Costa, it would need to do much more to expand employment opportunities for young professionals.
Published in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, 30th April 2011
Should women be allowed to play a greater role in the Indian defenses, this is a debate that keeps cropping up time and again. More than once I have seen some women screaming on national television on how the defenses are bias and are keeping women out of frontal roles, such as combat. The most recent case in point being that Indian women were not allowed to become fighter pilots. This, when all other countries including China, allowed women, screamed the women defense!.
The defenses headed by men also put up a stiff resistance citing research about how women just aren’t meant for the role, and for once in my life, I kind of agreed with them. But of course if you know me, you would know that it definitely could not be for the same reason, and yes, you would be right. The fighting machine in this world, and that includes the cannon fodder, is just not the creation of women. Women are inherently creators not destroyers and so I honestly think that if women rule this world, there would have been smaller armies, smaller defense budgets and as a result less fighting. In a world of conflict created by men why in the world should women participate?, should the want to participate, why in the world should they protest for not being allowed to participate?
If the Indian defenses or any other defenses for that matter want to keep women out, they are doing women a favour we should be grateful for. Women especially the upper middle class ones, who have access to all the TV channels and self appoint themselves ‘speakers’ on behalf of other women, often drape themselves in the deceptive garb of feminism and enlightenment and fight for equal opportunity with out the intelligence to note, who it is that they are fighting with. How many of these women have sent their children to the defenses without a heavy heart is yet to be seen, but more important for these women to discern is, what it is that one is fighting for. What good has any defense force done so far. An overwhelming majority of the time, a country’s defense forces are used against their own people, why would we as women want to perpetuate this violence. So Hail to the Indian defense forces and please keep the women out.
I lean my tired weight against the seat of a crowded bus and watch. Lap crossed, a plastic bag full of Jasmine buds, a roll of thread, one bud to the left, another to the right, the thread wrapped around them once, then a quick knot. Another bud to the right, one to the left, the thread wrapped round again, a quick knot. Every few flowers a couple of green leaves are added, then a couple of tiny orange flowers. I don’t know what they are called here in Bangalore, in Goa they are called Aboli. They are the state flower of Goa. There are two kinds of Aboli, the sadi or simple ones, these are a lighter shade of orange, and they bloom. The Ratan Aboli is a darker shade of orange, and they remain buds. While the Sadi Aboli is common because they grow easily and proliferate fast, the Ratan Aboli is difficult to grow and those who have a few plants don’t easily share a cutting.
Back in Goa women no longer ware flowers as widely as they do here in South India. In Bangalore, it’s not uncommon to see women sitting at a little foldable table with long yards of flowers curled in a heap. Jasmines are most commonly worn, besides these there are the chrysanthemums in yellow, pink and purple, and another light pink flower that grows as a large bud. These women before me had no time to waste, an hour ride in the bus gave them time to put together a real long garland and probably spare them more time with the family. For the sale of flowers begins early, as women head to work, they would buy themselves a bit of the garland.
There are 4 types of Jasmines that I have seen, they’ve all white though, and all give off this excellent fragrance. One is the many petaled flower, I’ve seen these only in Goa and even there I don’t think they are made into garlands and sold. The second are the buds, the thin, long, narrow buds; these are commonly worn in Goa. This Jasmine plant is a creeper and so a wooden 4 poster is created so it is free to run.
The Jasmines commonly worn in B’lore are a mix of these two. A tiny plump white bud that when it blooms is a multi petal flower. Another type of Jasmines that I have seen growing in gardens but not really sold is a real tiny bud of Jasmine. It would be a real arduous task to make these into garlands, but women do wear them and when they bloom they are a thick white garland. They give off a really strong fragrance, and the only way one could get to wear one is if ones mother in law or mother, after her busy day, went out into the garden and collected these tiny buds, weak eyes and dexterous fingers would then spent hours making them into a garland. Wouldn’t that make these Jasmines the most perfumed gift of love?
I remember a friend from Kerala telling me about the export of these beautiful scented flowers. It seems his family had a couple of acres of Jasmine and the whole family would have to wake up at 3 O’Clock every morning to pluck flowers before they bloom. They would wear tiny headlights and rush out into the garden. By 5 O’Clock the flowers would have to be rushed to the airport, where they were sold, packed, passed through security and on a flight to the Gulf. I’m not sure what they were used for there, whether they were worn as garlands like in India or used to make perfumes and Ithar.
Come the first rains and most people in Goa would begin the process of plucking off the leaves of their Jasmine plants, making them bold and as the plant burst into leaves along came the buds. We believed that this way the plant gave more flowers. We had a Jasmine plant at home and what glee it gave me to could the buds as the sprung forth.
Until recently, wearing flowers were an integral part of a women’s head gear. Few would leave their home without a flower in their head, much of that is still seen in Karnataka, even Bangalore. Flowers were such an important part of a woman’s dressing in Goa that they even made flowers of gold. If you attend a Hindu wedding in Goa, you will still see women wearing these gold garlands around their coiffed hair.
However unlike in the South, flower selling is no longer a profession that can bring you a steady income in Goa. If you go to the market, the women who sell flowers are elder, and need to earn their own keep; they grow a few plants and every other day make a few garlands and bring them to the market. Why did women in Goa move away from wearing flowers?
It’s the fag end of summer in Goa. The beads of sweat roll down the back and sting the eyes, most people can be found spending their spare moments in their veranda, waiting for the tiny whiffs of breeze that may or may not come by. Most school children are savoring their last few days of holidays. Collecting mangoes from the neighbours yard, helping their parents clean up the garden, stack in the firewood and heading to the village spring for a therapeutic bath.
Most homes are entertaining guests, relatives who have come back to relaxed Goa, for a few days off the treadmill in the city. But this year, the gossip has not been just about the grand old aunties at church, the weddings attended on the weekend or the price of mangoes and salt fish. It is also about a serial killer who over a 15 odd years has confessed to killing 15 women!
The modus operandi. A supposedly unassuming Mahandand Naik from Shiroda befriended women in their 20s and 30s, pretended he was in love with them, after a while suggested he would introduce them to his parents, and on the appointed day asked them to come finely dressed, then waylaid them, strangulated them, often with their own dupatta, robbed them of their jewellery and then dumped their bodied.
The modus operandi seemed to be the same every time, the bodies dumped in rivers, or hung, often the victim was stripped. The police identified some bodies, were unable to unidentify others, and didn’t even manage to find other bodies, as they lay buried in secluded places.
Fifteen women and the number may grow as more confessions tumble out. More and more families that have had their daughters and sisters missing are coming forth to revive old complaints. Some families hoped against hope that their daughter had eloped with her boyfriend and living happily, have now been proved wrong.
The police had closed numerous cases of these women as cases of unnatural death are now reopening them. And while this drama unfolds, not unlike the movie “Perfume: the story of a murder” most people in Goa, who live a relatively sheltered life are obviously shocked and stunned.
Following this case from 500 kilometers, so many questions and issues come to my mind.
Women in Goa even though relatively well educated compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country are still naïve to their safety and can fall prey to murders like Mahandand Naik.
These women were emotionally vulnerable, unmarried, with a desire to love and be loved, and a wicked mind like that of this serial killer was able to identify and take advantage of their vulnerability.
The killer although displaying an unassuming simplicity about him was cold and calculating. Remorseless in implementing a well practiced plan, which refined itself further with each murder.
Could a man have perfected his art so well that he could go undetected for a decade and a half, or did his family fail to ask him and themselves some crucial questions? To what extent did they collude with the serial killer who lived among them?
The families of these women victims did not pursue the search for their daughters and sisters to the legal end. Perhaps the victims came from poor families and the family could not afford the time or monetary resources to pursue the cases.
The police, with all the public resources at their disposal kept doing a shoddy job of investigation. Probably ignoring evidence in their desire to close the case. Perhaps unqualified and so unable to recognize evidence. Perhaps lazy and unmotivated to pursue cases. In their incompetence, the Goa Police have become inadvertent colluders with the serial killer
Do the gruesome murders of fifteen women tell us something about the ‘value of life’ in Goa, does it tell us something about the ‘value of life of women in Goa’.
Do these murders tell us something about the ‘collective conscience’ of a society, that failed to raise an eyebrow about the murders (just like they fail to raise their eyebrows for so many other things) in the state, relegating these victims the place of a number in the statistics for the year.
Or am I reading too much into this whole incident.
Would it be better for all of us to dismiss it as a one off, so we can all go back to our lives and bring closure to the incidents? Or should we as a society spend a few minutes, maybe a few hours grieving the loss of fifteen women and an eroded social conscience.
I am still trying to come up with a response, as my intellect and my emotions tussle to explain the murder of fifteen women, full of potential.
Happy Women’s Day?….. I beg your pardon
Its 8th March, International Women’s Day
But she doesn’t know it.
She wakes up at 6.00 a.m,
like she has for the last 12 years,
her mental clock and love for her family helps her up.
she fills the rice into the cooker, chops up the vegetables
in the yellow light of the bulb.
The chickens in their coop stir, at the first break of light.
the brass pot rolls down on the squeaky pulley
up will come the sweet fresh water
that will quench her family’s thirst
help cook her food
wash the utensils.
it is this well water that keeps her garden green.
Her girls wake up, and help her cook.
soon they will be around the square table, at breakfast
then rushing to school.
they as students,
she as teacher.
She will sing and prance her students through their rhymes,
she will yell,
to hold the attention of four year olds, a few minutes longer.
she will kiss and hug a child that just tripped over,
reprimand the bully.
she will smile and greet parents,
encourage and guide them.
then head home, in the baking heat of the noon sun.
She will come home to heat the food,
her family will be home soon,
they will sit down to lunch, around the square table.
she will listen to the grumbles of her children,
about their favourite food not being at the table.
they will ask for more food,
she will interrupt her lunch to get it.
she will listen to the rants of her husband,
all the time, silently chewing on her own.
As she opens the back door,
Brownie their pet dog wags her tail,
delighted, to see her and knowing lunch is at hand.
the chickens rush towards her
she throws them a fist full of rice the children wasted.
the chickens will reward her with eggs,
when the eggs are plenty, she sells them to supplement her family income.
Her extended family fed, she lays down for a brief afternoon nap,
but not without a quick read of the papers.
the opposition protests in Delhi,
they will not let an Italian women become the Prime Minister of this country,
a 19 year old maid has been raped by a masked man,
an unidentified corpse of a women is found floating on the river, the police think it could be suicide.
a day old baby girl has been abandoned in the forest, near the States largest medical college.
she dozes off.
At 4.00 p.m its time to wash the clothes she had soaked earlier.
she has a machine, but prefers the physical labour of scrubbing them by hand
she likes the physical exercise,
it ensures the clothes are clean, the way she likes them.
At 5.00 p.m her daughters will come for tea and biscuits.
after a warm cup of tea, she will sweep the garden,
it is full of dry leaves,
the place will be a mess if it rains before she has cleaned the place.
the soggy leaves will breed mosquitoes.
she lights the little piles of brown
the orange flames lick the leaves, the smoke rises, white
God will soon send her parched land rain.
Its getting to be dusk,
she calls home the chickens,
catches and cages them,
secures the bolt.
Sets up the fire and places a large vessel of water on it,
it will soon be time for bath.
she calls out to her daughters,
its already dark and time for bath.
she never has time to sit with their lessons
but they manage somehow.
She begins preparing dinner,
the girls are hungry.
soon it will be 8 and her husband will be back,
soon after, his nightly rant will begin,
they will eat,
often in silence,
edge away, as the rants continue.
The radio jockey on FM will wish all a ‘Happy Women’s Day’
and play songs by women singers.
she will say her prayers and lay back in her bed.
She needs to rest,
soon it will be 6 a.m
and the dawn of another day.
7th March 09