Kalki Koechlin’s wonderful performance at the India Today conclave on International Women’s day, where she talks about the repression of women and cites examples from history. Check out this breathtaking performance. You can also read the transcript below the video.
Here’s the transcript:
In the beginning God made man.
God made man in his own image.
And then that’s was it. ‘Man’kind, hu’man’ity, wo’man’.
Man, man, man.
What chance in Hell did we ever have?
We were sidelined from the Big Bang.
You remember Draupadi?
Draupadi married off to all five Pandavas.
She garlanded only Arjun
But they told her you got to marry all of us.
Five husbands! That can’t be fun.
God know I have enough trouble with one.
Or what about Eve and the apple?
Blaming one woman for all mankind’s evil?
Soorya and Kunti,
The Virgin Mary
Do you know Gaia?
The Goddess Mother Earth
She’s the one we all trample on.
And remember Aphrodite
Goddess of love and beauty
Lest we forget, she was also
The patron of prostituting.
She was less known
Raped by Hades
She became Queen of the underworld,
Not even goddesses were left alone.
You might not know A’isha,
She was one of the wives of Prophet Mohammad
She challenged a Califh for power
It created quite a ruckus,
It led to war in fact,
All because of one woman’s fuss,
And so was born the tradition Islamic
That women should not engage in anything politic.
But of course they did,
Thank god they did.
Women have their ways,
As somebody once put it.
The Queen of Sheba, Empress Theodora, Rabia al’ Basra,
Cleopatra, The Victorian Era, The Mona Lisa
The Suffragettes, Marilyn Monroe, The sixties and burning bras,
The unpopular Thatcher and our own Indira
Et cetra et cetra and now here we are.
Here we are,
We’ve survived this far,
Thanks to seduction, perhaps some manipulation,
But mostly thanks to Mother Nature and ovulation.
Now look at all the queens and goddesses of history,
No prince came to the rescue,
No king ever went down on one knee,
No deity was even that trustworthy,
Yet all we’ve be told since we were three,
Are fairytales, adverts, and pretty stories,
Telling us to pray, hope,
And wait to be saved.
Here we are today.
Here we are,
On International Women’s Day,
With some minor disappointments,
And a few little things to say.
The woman in red,
The girl in pink,
The widow in white,
The Burqa in black,
The colour of lipstick,
Viva Glam, Lady Danger, Fresh brew, Faux, Frenzy, Hot Gossip and Sweetie.
Ramblin, Siss, CrÃ¨me cup, Paramount and Modesty
Fetish, Spice it up, Naked Paris, Honey love and Odyssey.
Apply, line, smack, seal, pout,
And you’re ready to go out.
Sometimes I just want an oversized T shirt, boxer shorts, unkempt hair and unibrows.
I want armpit hair long enough to plait,
I want a clean face without a trace of make up
I want to look the way I do when I wake up.
I want to scratch my head,
Dig my nose,
Lick my fingers,
Stretch my legs
And spread my toes.
I want to smile with my gums showing,
Bare my teeth and
Contort my pretty face into wrinkles.
I want my crow’s feet to look sexy,
Or my salt and pepper hair,
Or my sun burnt skin,
I want to be George Clooney basically,
But with breasts and a muffin.
Keep it down.
Stuff it up, bottle it in, switch it off,
Cross your legs, wear a bra,
Sit straight and smile sweetly for the camera.
I went to a party,
I went to a party where
I was looking for something real.
Glittering, flashing lights,
Sparkling clean glasses with something bubbly and expensive inside,
Stuck on smiles of painted lips and gorgeous, skinny, beautiful ladies all around,
I craved a touch, a caress,
But my senses were intimidated by cloned perfection.
I thought I could hear muffled wailing,
I thought I could hear the buzz of millions, screaming out their instructions,
Sit down, stand up, stay,
This way, that way, go away
I can’t breathe, I’m choking.
This room is filled with smoke
From regrets and weak, nicely packaged cigarettes.
This room is filled with luxury and fame
And false dreams.
This room is full of fat sharks
With sharp teeth
Sliding through delicate skin
Like a hot knife through butter.
God I’m so hungry.
There’s nothing to eat.
No food except some frozen bits of fish
On a silver platter
I eat one. I’m still hungry.
I eat another and I’m stared at by the waiter.
No matter. I take the whole platter
Totter off to my little corner
Next to an old and and eat from my platter.
I’m stared at by the latter.
No matter. I continue to eat from my platter.
I wipe clean the crumbs from my platter.
I lick clean the whole platter.
What? What are you looking at?
Stop. Stop looking at me like that.
What? I was hungry.
Haven’t you ever seen somebody eat before.
Stop it. Seriously, stop staring at me.
Hey, I’m talking to you,
Are you deaf?
Stop staring at me!
Stop it. You’ll drive me crazy!
Oh god, I’m dizzy.
It’s that bubbly stuff they gave me
This is one hell of a party.
I have to leave.
I’m spinning and bumping into people and furniture,
I’m spinning and bumping into everything.
Bumping into shiny lies, through living ghosts,
Ramming right into anger,
Into wastefulness, nothingness,
Bad times, endless sleepless nights,
Half dead daylights,
Violent bumps from losing loved ones,
Losing, just losing.
I’m craving, I’m starving,
For something real,
Fragile, imperfect and free.
I am starving
To be me.
What am I complaining about?
What right do I have to complain?
I have money, friends and fame.
I’m not fifteen and married,
I’m not a little girl who’s been lied to that she’s a woman,
Who’s been told not to question
A stranger who shares her bed,
I’m not a little girl who’s been
Raped before she’s been kissed,
Who’s been made mother
Before she’s had time to play,
Does she even ask to be free?
Does she dream?
When her husband enters her
Is it Shah Rukh Khan she tries to see?
Does she feel sexy?
I don’t think so.
This is her job,
Twenty four hours,
Seven days a week,
Just get through each day.
Do you think she cares freedom, rights, about politics or religion,
She cares about food
And what her neighbors say.
Politics and religion are for the luckier,
And in our country,
Politics and religion are enviable careers.
So your religion tells you to cover up,
Your religion tells you to shave your head,
Your religion tells you to be meek,
Keep your eyes lowered,
Keep having children,
Or keep your mouth closed.
What if your religion told you to hate the other,
What if your religion told you to burn alive on a funeralpyre,
What if your religion told you to do whatever you felt like,
Spit, scream, gossip, fight, lose control, make noise, pollute,
Marry a child, perform an honour killing,
Rape, torture, discriminate,
Keep breaking the law,
Keep locked up,
Keep under control.
Does God have a say in your religion?
Has God become a politician?
Dear powerful men,
I know you care about women.
I know you care about her.
I know you want her to feel like a princess,
I know you want to put her up on a pedestal,
Make her a goddess,
And give her a special day
International women’s day.
You want to carry her so she can’t walk,
Hold her, so she can’t be free,
Tell her, so she can’t know any differently.
No. That’s not how works equality.
It’s hard work
To change a nation’s mentality
It’s hard work to go unnoticed,
Change the roots and the minds
Of a people who have been too long deprived
Of education and basic rights
Who are steering towards intolerance and misanthropy
Because of shameless inequality.
In all this will you give me the power?
Will you let me stand in your place?
Will you let me laugh in your face.
Will you stop staring, judging and accusing me
Or will you arrest me for blasphemy?
Label me as sexy, slutty, lose or crazy?
Call me Basanti, Pinky, Sweetie and whistle at me?
And wait a minute!
Wait a minute!
Not just dear men,
Will you stop gawking at me?
Will you stop telling me to shut up?
Will you, at least, stand up for me?
Enough of a woman who has become viscous from her environment.
Enough of a woman who has to become a man to compete.
Who has to weaken where she is strong and strengthen where she is weak.
Enough of a woman that has to make space for child and lover,
That has to occupy what space is left over,
Enough of uninformed teenage girls
Bleeding after losing their virginity and keeping silent after,
Enough of having to deal all alone with the morning after,
Enough of the disposed foetus,
Enough of the unwanted daughter.
Enough of girls in fairy dresses,
With bulimia and major complexes,
Enough of parents in denial, gender gaps and dividing sexes.
We are all tired.
We’re tired of waxing, manicuring, excercising,
Aborting, procreating, trimming, posing,
Smiling, threading,shopping, fucking, water-bursting,
The pill, make up, high heels, stainless steels, tampons, covering up,
Nurturing, caring and crying.
Sometimes I just want to breathe,
Sometimes it’s hard to even just breathe.
Like when a man is pounding incessantly on top of you in a daily routine,
It’s hard to breathe
When he turns away to sleep
Leaving you completely I satisfied sexually,
It’s hard to breathe
When your clothes are too tight,
The underwire of your bra is poking into your ribs,
It’s too hot to be wearing all this,
And it’s hard to breathe
When you want to stop being stared at but everyone always is.
The watchman, the rickshaw wallah, your neighbour’shusband,
They’re all watching your chest heave,
Everytime you breathe.
Sometimes, as a woman, you feel guilty to just breathe.
Of course we are going to be hysterical
Of course we are going to scream,
Of course we’re going to be unreasonable.
You think it’s reasonable to restrain somebody’s breathing?
Hello. Namaste. Salaam.
I am a Hindu a Muslim a Christian a Buddhist and an atheist.
I am twenty, thirty, forty and fifty.
I am single, married, divorced and half the country.
I am a mother, a daughter, a wife and a prostitute.
I am a stereotype, a trophy and a prisoner or patriarchy.
I am a woman in Indian society and I am not yet free.
But forget about all that for a moment and just look at me.
Look beyond my body, really look at me.
I am not a hardcore feminist to be very honest.
I am not a rebel as some would like to believe.
I am not even such an impressive celebrity,
I am not always made up and dressed up perfectly.
And my therapist assures me that I’m not crazy.
So look beyond all that. Look at me.
Look at what you’re seeing.
You’re seeing another human being.
You’re seeing another you in me,
And really there is no difference between you and me.
That’s all we need to grow up understanding,
To make ours a better society.