October 3rd, 2011
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How do I keep up the fighting spirit? It is my Kerala blood

mrinalini sarabhai, mallika sarabhai and her doughter

How can we change mans thinking?

First start with yourself the change should begin from you. The change must first happen within you. How many of you are mothers. Are you bringing up your sons and daughters differently? That’s where the change starts. My daughter will not take an ounce of nonsense from anyone. All my son’s girlfriends tell me wow! We haven’t met  a man like this! He doesn’t expect us to do anything for him! He does everything on his own. Be it folding his clothes, cooking, ironing or washing just like my daughter he will do everything on his own.….. this is considered unmanly by many but I have done my bit by bringing both up equally. This is called bringing up son’s to be a gentlemen.

You do your bit. If every woman would do her bit then we would have a very different society very soon. The point is that even feminists when it comes to their own daughters and daughters- in -law, they treat them differently. Why is that?

Is feminism anti- male?

feminism feminism and racism in livesNo absolutely not. Feminism has nothing to do with men. Feminism is about women measuring themselves up to the best in them. It has nothing to do with men and that is why men are so upset. Men would love to make this into a race. Hell no!! You are sadly mistaken! if you think this is a race. We are telling men to advance forward and to grow to any height. Let them prosper to their heart’s desire. Its just that our path of growth need not be similar to theirs. We will climb up but our path need not be the same as theirs nor do we want to follow the path they draw for us. Our destination, our journey and path is totally different.

I take it as an insult if someone says she wear’s the pants in the family. I don’t want to wear the pants I want to wear my sari and lehenga and still be good or better. What does wearing pants have to do with feminism? People take it as a compliment when someone says you are like a man. For example Indira Gandhi was very proud when she was told you are the only man in the cabinet. It was meant to be a compliment but according to me its an insult.

The difference between Western Feminism and Indian Feminism is that we have the most feminine goddesses destroying evil. Durga or Kali never pretended to be a man. They didn’t change into a dhothi. Draupathi is the epitome of the 21st century. She was married to five men and she could say, ‘I love you but you are all weak idiots. Just because I am in love with you it doesn’t mean I am going to put up with your nonsense.’

When we forget that is when we lose ourselves. One problem with our women politicians is that the moment they get power, they forget what feminine leadership is. The difference between masculine leadership and feminine leadership is that masculine leadership is a non –zero sum game i.e: if I win you lose. For example, if corporate gets richer then others get poorer. If industry wins then environment loses.

Feminine leadership is not a non zero sum game. It means if I lose u lose and if I win you also win. Everyone needs to win together. Look at the way the world is right now it’s because we have only followed masculine leadership. We need leadership where everyone wins. Where everyone is taken along.

Look at Mayawati, Indira Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj and Jayalalithaa. They became more aggressive than men. It is because they think that’s the only way you can hold onto power. We need to change that very paradigm. What is the use of this power if power means destroying the weak? That is not what we are interested in. If a higher GDP is equal to destroying the very rivers that we drink from and the very earth we eat from, then this GDP is of no significance.

Instead of a win–lose option there is a win-win option and that has to be our choice. We talk about sustainability. What is sustainability? It is where everyone wins. There is no other future for humanity. Sustainability comes from nature and nature is feminine.

When did you develop an identity or unique individuality for yourself as a liberated woman? 

mallika and mrinalini sarabhaiThis happened very early and very easily. There was never gender or religious differences in our home. Later I went to a school founded by Madame Montessori that was run by my aunt. There every boy and girl was taught dancing as well as carpentry and football and sewing.

Liberated women and the fighting tradition have been existing in my family for more that 3 – 4 generations. I have grown up listening to very fascinating stories. My Valiyamma(mother’s elder sister) was put under house arrest by Pandit Nehru for 14 years for she wanted Sheik Abdulla to be Chief Minister of Kashmir.

My great Aunt Anasuya Sarabhai ran away on the first day of her marriage because she decided that, it was not the life she wanted to settle down for. She went to London and came back three years later and started the first textile trade Union of India and  fought against the president of the mill owners who happened to be her own brother. They would live in the same house but they protested against each other but this did not reduce their respect for each other. Mahathma Gandhi was called to settle the issue between them. The trade union demanded a one paise hike in wages and the mill owners were not consenting. Gandhiji settled the issue for ½ paise in 1918.

Both my grandmothers went to jail during the freedom struggle and gave birth to their children in jail. These were the stories I was brought up on. Another important factor was that since the age of three I had an equal voice in the decision pertaining to the family be it painting the house or the model of a car. This taught me to think independently and to have a very clear mind as to the rationale behind each and every decision that I took.

All this equality and development of self molded myself. What I would like to tell the youth is that you may not be able to change your parents but you can be different parents.

How did your father’s death affect you?vikram-sarabhai

My father’s death traumatized me. I felt the mantle of looking after the family fell upon my shoulders even though I had an elder brother. Somewhere I felt I was the stronger one. I miss papa terribly. When papa died my brother was stuck in America and he couldn’t come down because of a thunder storm and I lit my father’s funeral pyre. It was such a normal thing for us. Though what i did was discussed widely outside the family. In fact most of the religious heads wrote to me and said that, ‘I had brought Hinduism back to its purity’. It seems it was never meant to be the son. It could be anyone close to the deceased.

Do you think your father would have preferred you to follow his footsteps and become a scientist?

Both my father and mother were not merely dancers or scientists. They were people who worked for the development of this country. They had a vision for the nation. I am working for a just and humane society. I am working for the future of this nation. If papa is up there he would be saying that he did right by his children.

And the battle continues………..

10 Responses to “ How do I keep up the fighting spirit? It is my Kerala blood ”

  1. jyothi

    Though I am not in consonance with some of Mallikas views. Its a good indepth article written with elan and a great writing style.

  2. kumaraguruparan R

    Women empowerment is the essence of this article. Communal amity is the need of the hour. Mallika’s unrelenting fighting spirit reminds me of Poet; Freedom fighter Subramania Bharati’s visualization of an ideal woman.The role of cultural activists is much more than the laymen’s…Kudos to Mallika.

  3. Sanoob

    Looks good… well compiled article….must say. I guess using “protest” instead of “fight” would have been more appropriate. Regards.

  4. admin

    Thanks Sanoob…. the words are not mine. It is her own words….. and i didn’t feel it appropriate to tamper with that…..

  5. uma

    Dynamic,powerful,brave,smart and talented.I esp liked her views about feminism not being anti men and role of mothers in molding their children and women politicians getting aggressive.Subramanya Bharadhiyars vision of ‘Pudumai Penn’ Iis definitely ‘Mallika Sarabhai’.You
    have put it all together so nicely.Great job!!!!.

  6. admin

    Thank you so much Uma…. hope we will be able to render more articles that shall capture your interest

  7. Anil Angre

    The 2011 Noble Peace Prize has spoken very loudly in recognition of the importance of women’s role in society and the peace process. There are millions more who also fight alone and silently . Your article will no doubt strike a chord with many as did the Noble prize ( though I do not agree with some of Mallika’s views), Well done editor

  8. Harindranath Ravunny

    Mallika Sarabhai is well-known as a dancer, choreographer, publisher, writer, actor, social activist … … . Your interaction with the this celebrity helped her communicate with us boldly and effectively. Thank you Niranjally Varma for your splendid work!

  9. Kalyani

    The questions are well chosen to get Mallika Sarabhai to speak about the aspects of the subject relevant to Kerala.The women of Kerala need to hear these views which were superbly elicited by Niranjali Varma.

  10. lakshman varma

    what this woman talks about Modi is utter non sense; i have heard quite the opposite about him, from very neutral people.


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