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Essays From 2017 Every Desi Woman Needs To Read

Make yourself a cup of chai and enjoy these funny, poignant, empowering, and sometimes straight-up terrifying reads.

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1. Ladies, The Fear Of “Ending Up Alone” Is A Silly Reason To Marry In Your Twenties

Excerpt: "I’m sure there are plenty more women like me whose ambitions and interests keep them occupied and happy. So why the hell aren’t we growing up with stories of amazing unmarried men and women who’ve lived perfectly satisfied lives following their dreams and not platinum wedding bands? Why does everybody make marriage sound like the end of all unhappiness?"Written by Rukun Kaul.
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

Excerpt: "I’m sure there are plenty more women like me whose ambitions and interests keep them occupied and happy. So why the hell aren’t we growing up with stories of amazing unmarried men and women who’ve lived perfectly satisfied lives following their dreams and not platinum wedding bands? Why does everybody make marriage sound like the end of all unhappiness?"

Written by Rukun Kaul.

2. The Selfless Indian Woman Is Tired, Angry And Wants You To Do Your Own Damn Work

Excerpt: "When I tell older people 'I don’t want to get married right now,” or “I’m not planning on having children,' they look at me in complete disbelief. I try to explain my reasoning, but they cut me off with 'That’s selfish. Don’t you think your parents want to see their grandchildren?'Selfish. It’s a word that is weaponised against Indian women in a variety of ways; a word that I instinctively flinch from."Written by Priya Alika Elias.
Tim Lane / Getty / BuzzFeed

Excerpt: "When I tell older people 'I don’t want to get married right now,” or “I’m not planning on having children,' they look at me in complete disbelief. I try to explain my reasoning, but they cut me off with 'That’s selfish. Don’t you think your parents want to see their grandchildren?'

Selfish. It’s a word that is weaponised against Indian women in a variety of ways; a word that I instinctively flinch from."

Written by Priya Alika Elias.

3. Rishi Kapoor: The Casteist, Khandaani, Besharam Boy Of Bollywood

Excerpt: "Rishi Kapoor couldn’t stand me, a girl with “fighting against caste” in her bio and Ambedkar in her cover photo, pointing out how unmeritorious him and his khandaan have actually been.Because his khandaani privilege, held up by the false and fragile narrative of merit that he keeps pushing in his tweets, is what made him an erstwhile king of the orthodox village called Bollywood."Written by Shivani Channan.
Twitter

Excerpt: "Rishi Kapoor couldn’t stand me, a girl with “fighting against caste” in her bio and Ambedkar in her cover photo, pointing out how unmeritorious him and his khandaan have actually been.

Because his khandaani privilege, held up by the false and fragile narrative of merit that he keeps pushing in his tweets, is what made him an erstwhile king of the orthodox village called Bollywood."

Written by Shivani Channan.

4. Indian Parents Aren't Raising Their Sons Right, And It's Endangering India's Women

Excerpt: "It could be, if Indian boys were raised with even half as much deliberation as daughters in India are subject to. Half as much instruction, restriction, caution. But the freedoms in an Indian boy’s upbringing are absolute. Since sexual assault isn’t seriously considered a daily threat to boys, it isn’t even brought up."Written by Rega Jha.
Str / AFP / Getty Images

Excerpt: "It could be, if Indian boys were raised with even half as much deliberation as daughters in India are subject to. Half as much instruction, restriction, caution. But the freedoms in an Indian boy’s upbringing are absolute. Since sexual assault isn’t seriously considered a daily threat to boys, it isn’t even brought up."

Written by Rega Jha.

5. 'Why D You Let Him Shoot That?': An Indian Woman's Story Of 'Revenge Porn'

Excerpt: "‘Just keep quiet, and don’t react. Look at this.’ Putting her phone on mute, Sulakshana opened a WhatsApp video sent by their colleague, Shashank.Aradhana froze when she saw it. She hoped it was some kind of spam, but as she watched further, her heart sank. She nearly threw up at the sight of her naked body. ‘I thought I would die in that moment,’ she recalls."Written by Neha Dixit.
Wikimedia Commons

Excerpt: "‘Just keep quiet, and don’t react. Look at this.’ Putting her phone on mute, Sulakshana opened a WhatsApp video sent by their colleague, Shashank.

Aradhana froze when she saw it. She hoped it was some kind of spam, but as she watched further, her heart sank. She nearly threw up at the sight of her naked body. ‘I thought I would die in that moment,’ she recalls."

Written by Neha Dixit.

6. Why Ambedkar Matters To The Women’s Rights Movement

Excerpt: "There is hardly any acknowledgement of the debt every citizen of this country—regardless of caste, gender, religion—owes him for enshrining equality as a fundamental right.This is a disservice not only to Ambedkar but to the fundamental precepts of the feminist movement, an important part of which is to acknowledge and celebrate contribution—intellectual and otherwise—of those who don’t figure in the mainstream hero pantheon. And Ambedkar’s contribution towards securing the position of disadvantaged sections is significant. This includes not just lower caste men and women, but also upper caste women."Written by Pradnya Waghule.
Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Excerpt: "There is hardly any acknowledgement of the debt every citizen of this country—regardless of caste, gender, religion—owes him for enshrining equality as a fundamental right.

This is a disservice not only to Ambedkar but to the fundamental precepts of the feminist movement, an important part of which is to acknowledge and celebrate contribution—intellectual and otherwise—of those who don’t figure in the mainstream hero pantheon. And Ambedkar’s contribution towards securing the position of disadvantaged sections is significant. This includes not just lower caste men and women, but also upper caste women."

Written by Pradnya Waghule.

7. Cat Person And The Complexity of Consent

Excerpt: "How often does it happen that the seemingly gentle and harmless men end up violating us? The pressure to give consent makes consent null and void, but unless that is communicated, does it matter? Does consent require verbal communication? If we can’t communicate our discomfort, can we really say Me Too? Is discomfort something that can be communicated through body language? Is every no a resounding no?"Written by Manjiri Indurkar.
R.K. Films Ltd.

Excerpt: "How often does it happen that the seemingly gentle and harmless men end up violating us? The pressure to give consent makes consent null and void, but unless that is communicated, does it matter? Does consent require verbal communication? If we can’t communicate our discomfort, can we really say Me Too? Is discomfort something that can be communicated through body language? Is every no a resounding no?"

Written by Manjiri Indurkar.

8. Indian Campuses Through The Eyes Of An Ambedkarite Student

Excerpt: "Gender discrimination in academia is a much-debated topic. Many parallel feminist spaces have been created here. But these spaces are established within existing power structures and do not reflect the concerns of women who are at the margins here. The caste-blindness of these spaces makes them futile for Bahujan women who struggle at the intersections of caste-gender. When Savitrimaai and Fatima Sheikh struggle to find a place in the feminist circles of India’s best women colleges, I fear how I will be able to find space as a woman, a Dalit-Ambedkarite woman."Written by Tejaswini Tabhane.
Wikimedia Commons

Excerpt: "Gender discrimination in academia is a much-debated topic. Many parallel feminist spaces have been created here. But these spaces are established within existing power structures and do not reflect the concerns of women who are at the margins here. The caste-blindness of these spaces makes them futile for Bahujan women who struggle at the intersections of caste-gender. When Savitrimaai and Fatima Sheikh struggle to find a place in the feminist circles of India’s best women colleges, I fear how I will be able to find space as a woman, a Dalit-Ambedkarite woman."

Written by Tejaswini Tabhane.

9. The Gentleman's Game Vs. The Women Who Love It

Excerpt: "During my brief stint for an ABP show on the T20 World Cup, not only was I told that I shouldn’t be on a cricket show but also that I’d have nothing to contribute to it.A crew member, on seeing me spill out cricket terminology, told me to 'calm my tits'. 'Aap toh bas glam factor ho,' he explained."Written by Priya Malik.
Ritam Banerjee / IPL 2010 / Getty Images

Excerpt: "During my brief stint for an ABP show on the T20 World Cup, not only was I told that I shouldn’t be on a cricket show but also that I’d have nothing to contribute to it.

A crew member, on seeing me spill out cricket terminology, told me to 'calm my tits'. 'Aap toh bas glam factor ho,' he explained."

Written by Priya Malik.

10. What Falling In Love As a Fat Girl Taught Me

Excerpt: "There’s only so far you can get with a sucked-in stomach when it comes to sex. At some point, a girl needs to take a breath. I also was seeing naked bodies for the first time; not just his, but also my own. In a way, it was the perfect time to be introduced to my naked body, because I got to experience it from the lens of love and desire instead of self-hate and insecurity."Written by Sangeeta.
Yash Raj Films

Excerpt: "There’s only so far you can get with a sucked-in stomach when it comes to sex. At some point, a girl needs to take a breath. I also was seeing naked bodies for the first time; not just his, but also my own. In a way, it was the perfect time to be introduced to my naked body, because I got to experience it from the lens of love and desire instead of self-hate and insecurity."

Written by Sangeeta.

11. Dear Indian Doctors, I'm An Unmarried Woman And My Sexual Health Matters Too

Excerpt: "Indian doctors are typically very reluctant to operate on the uterus of an 'unmarried woman' (read: a woman who has not had children yet) — even if the surgery would greatly improve her life — because it may jeopardise her ability to get pregnant. Indian doctors would much rather protect my perceived virginity and my ability to produce children, over my health."Written by Sheena Raza Faisal.
Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

Excerpt: "Indian doctors are typically very reluctant to operate on the uterus of an 'unmarried woman' (read: a woman who has not had children yet) — even if the surgery would greatly improve her life — because it may jeopardise her ability to get pregnant. Indian doctors would much rather protect my perceived virginity and my ability to produce children, over my health."

Written by Sheena Raza Faisal.

12. Why Should Marriage For Women With Disabilities Be Such A Burden?

Excerpt: There are cases where parents of disabled women explicitly don’t want disabled men as their daughters’ partners. Reasons vary from the concern of managing on their own to simply wanting “better”. How then will there ever be a chance for them to find their partners?Written by Payal Kapoor.
Viacom 18 Motion Pictures

Excerpt: There are cases where parents of disabled women explicitly don’t want disabled men as their daughters’ partners. Reasons vary from the concern of managing on their own to simply wanting “better”. How then will there ever be a chance for them to find their partners?

Written by Payal Kapoor.

13. I'm An Educated Trans Woman In Pakistan Who Struggles To Find Work — Here's My Story

Excerpt: "When I moved to Karachi to look for a career, I had high expectations. Everyone wants to move to Karachi and live the city life. I did too. I quickly found out that my hopes were misplaced. Not being able to find a job, I had to resort to dancing and begging."Written by Rifee Khan.
Rifee Khan / Dawn

Excerpt: "When I moved to Karachi to look for a career, I had high expectations. Everyone wants to move to Karachi and live the city life. I did too. I quickly found out that my hopes were misplaced. Not being able to find a job, I had to resort to dancing and begging."

Written by Rifee Khan.

14. Dear Bahujan Students, You Are Not Alone In This Agrahara

Excerpt: "If I start talking about how marginalized students find prestigious universities like Delhi University equal to Agraharas, you will assume me to be another Dalit from “reserved category” who is most certainly “non-meritorious”. But believe me, I am not ashamed of my identity. My only purpose in writing this piece is to address my fellow Dalit Bahujan Adivasi students struggling in these university spaces and tell them loud and clear that they are not alone in their fight."Written by Tejaswini Tabhane.
Manan Vatsyayana / AFP / Getty Images

Excerpt: "If I start talking about how marginalized students find prestigious universities like Delhi University equal to Agraharas, you will assume me to be another Dalit from “reserved category” who is most certainly “non-meritorious”. But believe me, I am not ashamed of my identity. My only purpose in writing this piece is to address my fellow Dalit Bahujan Adivasi students struggling in these university spaces and tell them loud and clear that they are not alone in their fight."

Written by Tejaswini Tabhane.

15. I'm Queer And I Couldn't Care Less About Section 377

Excerpt: "Intersectionality is a very important thing, and to reiterate, I do not support the retention of an archaic law that regulates what anyone does in the bedroom. But the current discourse on Section 377 and how it affects the queer community as a whole seems to do nothing aside from silence the voices of women and trans people without doing a damn thing for us."Written by Meena Karthika.
Manan Vatsyayana / AFP / Getty Images

Excerpt: "Intersectionality is a very important thing, and to reiterate, I do not support the retention of an archaic law that regulates what anyone does in the bedroom. But the current discourse on Section 377 and how it affects the queer community as a whole seems to do nothing aside from silence the voices of women and trans people without doing a damn thing for us."

Written by Meena Karthika.

16. Why Don’t Brown Women Deserve Love Onscreen?

Excerpt: "To hear many of my brown girlfriends tell it, dating a South Asian man comes with cultural baggage—like being tied to a patriarchal set of rules that keep you firmly mired in specific, oppressive gender roles. When South Asian men date white women, some cite 'genuine attraction,' yes, but many say they’re 'just not attracted to brown women.'"Written by Nadya Agrawal.
Oh Brudder Productions

Excerpt: "To hear many of my brown girlfriends tell it, dating a South Asian man comes with cultural baggage—like being tied to a patriarchal set of rules that keep you firmly mired in specific, oppressive gender roles. When South Asian men date white women, some cite 'genuine attraction,' yes, but many say they’re 'just not attracted to brown women.'"

Written by Nadya Agrawal.

17. For Women In Pakistan, Even The Act Of Smoking In Public Is Not Without Fear And Anxiety

Excerpt: "Always an older, often fatherly man. Straight from the throng, a determined passerby who knows nothing about me interrupts his synchronised strides to inform me of my very serious transgression: I am a girl and I am smoking.He isn’t concerned for my lungs. “It doesn’t look good, a respectable girl like you smoking.” What has health got to do with anything? It is my image he is worried about and is adamant to protect."Written by Fida Anar.
Imaan Sheikh

Excerpt: "Always an older, often fatherly man. Straight from the throng, a determined passerby who knows nothing about me interrupts his synchronised strides to inform me of my very serious transgression: I am a girl and I am smoking.

He isn’t concerned for my lungs. “It doesn’t look good, a respectable girl like you smoking.” What has health got to do with anything? It is my image he is worried about and is adamant to protect."

Written by Fida Anar.

18. On Translating the Stories Yet Unwritten: A Dalit Perspective from India

Excerpt: I am from India. I am a Dalit. Most of my friends in the United States do not know what that means. Most of my friends in India—a long list of friends that has been steadily depleted over the past three or four years—know the word but refuse to acknowledge its meaning or the centuries of discrimination that turns subtle and invisible once a family rises to an acceptable level of affluence and cultural mobility but never completely goes away. I write tonight about my stories and my language but also about my life as a Dalit woman, for none of my contexts will ever be complete without that.Written by Mimi Mondal.
Mimi Mondal / Via patreon.com

Excerpt: I am from India. I am a Dalit. Most of my friends in the United States do not know what that means. Most of my friends in India—a long list of friends that has been steadily depleted over the past three or four years—know the word but refuse to acknowledge its meaning or the centuries of discrimination that turns subtle and invisible once a family rises to an acceptable level of affluence and cultural mobility but never completely goes away. I write tonight about my stories and my language but also about my life as a Dalit woman, for none of my contexts will ever be complete without that.

Written by Mimi Mondal.

19. Leave Her Clit Alone

Excerpt: "The fight against FGM is real and it is led by mainly women, but for change to take place at a pace that it should, men need to join the movement. Whether they choose to drop their guard or practice discretion is their prerogative. But they need to distinguish torture from tradition, and the first step is, saying no to khatna."Written by Humaira Ansari.
Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Excerpt: "The fight against FGM is real and it is led by mainly women, but for change to take place at a pace that it should, men need to join the movement. Whether they choose to drop their guard or practice discretion is their prerogative. But they need to distinguish torture from tradition, and the first step is, saying no to khatna."

Written by Humaira Ansari.

20. It's Time We Stopped Linking Abortion To The Bad Sex Ratio

Excerpt: "Both men and women have sex but only women run the risk of getting pregnant if contraception is not known about, not available, not used, or if the sex is forced upon them. In an environment when girls in India are still subjected to child marriages, incidence of rape and violence is high, marital rape is not recognised, contraceptives are sometimes not available or can fail, women simply must have an option to not continue growing a pregnancy in their bodies which would harm them physically, mentally, socially, economically."Written by Dr. Suchitra Dalvie.
Imaan Sheikh

Excerpt: "Both men and women have sex but only women run the risk of getting pregnant if contraception is not known about, not available, not used, or if the sex is forced upon them. In an environment when girls in India are still subjected to child marriages, incidence of rape and violence is high, marital rape is not recognised, contraceptives are sometimes not available or can fail, women simply must have an option to not continue growing a pregnancy in their bodies which would harm them physically, mentally, socially, economically."

Written by Dr. Suchitra Dalvie.

21. Hey, Indian Women: We're Policed Enough By Others, Let's Stop Doing It To Ourselves

Excerpt: "Yup, women encourage and support each other. And yes, we march against injustice and oppression. Indeed, we raise our voices when it’s necessary. Of course we do, and thank god we do. But prolonged conditioning is a funny thing. It has a way of seeping in and hiding in dark corners inside you, sitting there for so long that it becomes part of the furniture."Written by Swati Daftuar.
Money Sharma / AFP / Getty Images

Excerpt: "Yup, women encourage and support each other. And yes, we march against injustice and oppression. Indeed, we raise our voices when it’s necessary. Of course we do, and thank god we do. But prolonged conditioning is a funny thing. It has a way of seeping in and hiding in dark corners inside you, sitting there for so long that it becomes part of the furniture."

Written by Swati Daftuar.

22. If We Bring Our Loneliness To The Internet, What Do We Take Away?

Excerpt: "I was texting a close friend (who I made online, btw), telling her I was almost grateful for my illness, because otherwise I’d have to actually meet Twitter folks and be the world’s biggest IRL disappointment. I was half-joking, but in the throes of severe illness, the awning gap between my online and offline selves had begun to terrify me."Written by Richa Kaul Padte.
Imaan Sheikh

Excerpt: "I was texting a close friend (who I made online, btw), telling her I was almost grateful for my illness, because otherwise I’d have to actually meet Twitter folks and be the world’s biggest IRL disappointment. I was half-joking, but in the throes of severe illness, the awning gap between my online and offline selves had begun to terrify me."

Written by Richa Kaul Padte.

23. At Home In My Panties

Excerpt: "Like my space, I don’t need my body to be pretty or decorative unless I’m feeling it. Let it be draped over furniture and floors, fluid, skin and bone and bulges. Let the follicles and the unpainted toenails be visible. Let there be space for us, to show as much or as little as we want."Written by Tia Basu.
CC0 Public Domain / Via publicdomainpictures.net

Excerpt: "Like my space, I don’t need my body to be pretty or decorative unless I’m feeling it. Let it be draped over furniture and floors, fluid, skin and bone and bulges. Let the follicles and the unpainted toenails be visible. Let there be space for us, to show as much or as little as we want."

Written by Tia Basu.

24. When Mothers Attack: A Survivor’s Tale

Excerpt: "The thing no one tells single girls living on their own is that life’s biggest nightmare will be having your mother as a temporary guest in the house. The road to experiencing the unfettered joy of not having to worry about food on your plate, or waking up early to open the door for the maid with your mother around is fraught with insurmountable challenges, and numerous life-threatening lessons in patience. Suddenly the roles have been reversed, and you have unwillingly become a participant in a reality show version of your life titled So You Think You Can Adult?"Written by Poulomi Das.
Yash Raj Films

Excerpt: "The thing no one tells single girls living on their own is that life’s biggest nightmare will be having your mother as a temporary guest in the house. The road to experiencing the unfettered joy of not having to worry about food on your plate, or waking up early to open the door for the maid with your mother around is fraught with insurmountable challenges, and numerous life-threatening lessons in patience. Suddenly the roles have been reversed, and you have unwillingly become a participant in a reality show version of your life titled So You Think You Can Adult?"

Written by Poulomi Das.

25. India Has a Problem With Revering Mythical Women

Excerpt: At a time in India where secularism has become congruent to only a selective acceptance of religious identities, and gender equality has become synonymous with women taking pride in proscribed stereotypes from a patriarchal gaze, the events associated with a movie [Padmavati] speaks volumes of the lows of intolerance.Written by Priyanka Borpujari.
commons.wikimedia.org

Excerpt: At a time in India where secularism has become congruent to only a selective acceptance of religious identities, and gender equality has become synonymous with women taking pride in proscribed stereotypes from a patriarchal gaze, the events associated with a movie [Padmavati] speaks volumes of the lows of intolerance.

Written by Priyanka Borpujari.

26. In Defence Of “Back-Answering”

Rebecca Hendin / BuzzFeed

Excerpt: "We censor our thoughts, words, and ambitions. We train ourselves to listen and obey, because after years of conditioning, our family’s approval seems indispensable. Any step taken without it feels like gross disrespect.

“Respect” for “family values” (and a taught aversion to questioning what either of those things means) is what’s kept my aunt in a marriage where she’s beaten regularly. It’s what made my cousin surrender her ATM cards to her husband, never asserting her own right over her own income."

Written by Mitali Agrawal.