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Byron Shire
October 28, 2021

Run Pussy Run – survival skills for India’s women

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Harsha Prabhu

It was Thursday evening and we were headed for a club called antiSocial, in the suburb of Khar in Mumbai, to check out a new band from Pune, called Run Pussy Run.

The rains had finally called it a day. The roads were choked with Ganapati processions all heading for  the immersion of the idols at Juhu beach. Loudspeakers blared, drummers went for it, people danced in the street and threw red colour. The air was thick with dust particles and petrol fumes and the stench of rotting garbage and the traffic moved very sluggishly, if it moved at all, for long stretches of the road.

What with the incessant rain and flooding, we were suffering from cabin fever. What with all the grim news from everywhere – including babies dying in hospitals for lack of oxygen – we needed a break. We went to check out this band on a mere whim. Their video clips on You Tube sounded interesting. And the band did not disappoint.

Jazzy, freaky, folky

Run Pussy Run play an eclectic mix of tunes on the jazzy, freaky, folky side of the street. Funky female voices over a layer of guitars, atmospheric violin, percussive keys and pounding drums. One song had what sounded like a disembodied guitar insinuating itself through it, like a ghost from an electronica experiment. Another was in a cycle of seven beats, popular with Indian folk and gypsy songs. Another had a rhythm and blues feel. Fronted by the two Gowris, Gowri Jayakumar on vocals and guitar and Gowri Ranjit on vocals and keys, Run Pussy Run also featured Jose Neil Gomes on guitar and violin, Vaibhav Jaiswal on drums and Azan Sherif on bass.

In their recently released You Tube clip, Roaches, which they previewed on the night, they sang about a ’make-believe-fantasy called my home’. What is this home? Giant cockroaches have inherited the earth, a post-apocalyptic vision of garish neon skyscrapers, gargoyles, a Raja Ravi Varmaesque winking giantess, a pop Taj Mahal with its dome prized open and minarets askew, and, somewhere in the mix, a Steve Jobs figure(head).  In other words, the cultural detritus of a hyper urban dystopia. Like Mumbai today.

‘Roaches roaches creeping into my sleep, Fearing fearing fear conditioned in too deep,’ sang the two Gowris.

Run Pussy Run. Photo Harsha Prabhu
Run Pussy Run. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Gender time bomb

While it would be facile to reduce a song, a singer or a concert to the glib syllogisms of pop sociology, Run Pussy Run’s artistic personae and lyrics do suggest that such a reading would not be completely out of place. And, looking at what’s going down, it’s a reading that strikes a certain resonance. ‘I’m just waiting around to be born again,’ sings Gowrie Jayakumar, on a song called Inertia Kills.

India’s inertia over the dire situation of women does kill. Decades of preferencing males to females has created a gender time bomb. It’s a bomb that’s already exploded – the fallout is there for all to see.

The Indian penchant for using technology – in the form of neo-natal scans to determine the gender of the foetus and the aborting of female foetuses – has led to female foeticide on a grand scale. It’s also skewered the male-female sex ratio, in ‘favour’ of males.

In some places, e.g. Mahesana, in Gujarat, it’s  762 females per 1,000 males. In Agra, in UP, it’s 772 to 1000. (Business Standard). Both are Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-controlled states.

The ‘best’ sex ratio is in Kerala, which boasts a surfeit of females, at 1084 females to 1000 males. Read what you will into this statistic, but Kerala happens to be a Communist-ruled state.

Hyper-masculine politics

It would be wrong to blame the BJP for what has been a demographic disaster long in the making.

But the BJP  – and Hindu conservative attitudes to women that the BJP and their leaders extoll – have not helped. And India’s large pool of disaffected men without women have been a happy hunting ground for the BJP’s brand of hyper-masculine politics.  Hyper-masculinity is also a breeding ground for fascism.

All of which is bad news for India’s women. From the unabashed parade of politicians – including Indian PM Modi – consorting with rapist ‘godmen’ and using them to win elections, to the Indian government arguing in the Supreme Court that banning martial rape would destabilise the institution of marriage; from the VC of Bananas Hindu University saying, ‘girls who study in the night are immoral,’ to Indian courts interfering in the private lives of adult females, treating them as minors  – the message for Indian women is that they are collectively under the Hindutva scanner and they had better behave, or else…

Then there’s the fact that menstruation and female sexuality is a taboo subject in the world’s second most populous country. On Monday, a 12 year old schoolgirl committed suicide in Tamil Nadu, allegedly after being shamed by her teacher for getting a period.

Thus we have shame as a time-tested method of controlling women; and a culture of rape as a way of keeping women firmly in place. Women activists on social media frequently get threatened with rape by Hindutva trolls.

And it’s not just Hindutvadis; conservative Muslim organisations – mostly staffed with men – are not happy about Muslim women challenging antiquated and sexist divorce practices like Triple Talaq.

Indeed, India is a not-so-hidden crime scene, with Indian womanhood providing the body.

Misogynistic culture

Run Pussy Run is the name of a band. It could well be a desperate strategy to help women survive India’s increasingly misogynistic culture. Run, if you can, from your attackers, is prudent advice. Except for the fact that India’s women have nowhere to run.

They will have to turn and face the enemy – their men, their mothers-in-law, their hide-bound society that ostensibly venerates them as mothers, sisters, wives and daughters but, in the same breadth, wants to tie them down, rape and even kill them.

And they will question the credentials of their political masters who claim to represent them.  As one wag said on Facebook: a woman who votes for the BJP is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders.

Run Pussy Run – and the thousands of passionate female voices raised against the patriarchy – are not chicken. They are cats on the prowl.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. Misleading article, it is written to further polarize Indian women. Wow, their men and mothers-in-law are enemies, you are doing too good to spread hatred in a society where I doubt if there is any love still pumping in the hearts of people, but people like you are brutally selfish for nailing in that last nail to the coffin of vaishnava culture. Well done!

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