Clients, Escorts & All: How You Behave When No One is Watching Defines Your Character

birds-symbolism

The increasing apathy towards others makes it apparent that there is a war against love and belonging in society. Disunity is being promoted on a grande scale in subtle ways — for what purpose? Disunity, destroying bonds, destroying love — they all serve the purpose of making us mindless drones, consuming endlessly. I try hard to not let this realization harden me, though it is a battle at times. I am aware that goodness still prevails in humanity. I’ve witness many people become jaded by the rampant trends of shallowness, but I remind them that wholesome goodness still remains in the margins. Like anything of true beauty, goodness is often a hidden gem and not apparent so easily.

It is said that the true mark of a person’s character is how they treat others. For me, I further evaluate ones goodness based on how they treat the most vulnerable people outside the public eye. Prostitutes get to see a spectrum of empathy and apathy in humanity in ways that, perhaps, the average woman does not see. We see how men behave when they are outside the surveillance of society -when they are anonymous.

Sadly, a lot of ‘nice’ people in public can be the exact opposite behind closed doors — especially when their identity is anonymous and they are situated in a setting where they cannot be touched by the law. A client, for instance, may behave very differently with a prostitute than with others in a public setting. He may disregard common decency and respect when dealing with prostitutes, because he knows he will face no backlash since his identity isn’t being exposed. Thus, it is often behind closed doors where ones’ true colors are exposed. All prostitutes have their own share of experiencing such a soulless character. Indeed, not all clients fit into this heartless persona. Thankfully, almost all of my clients personally are decent men. Indeed, a client who treats prostitutes with respect, kindness, and dignity is a wholesome being — such a persons kindness is genuine when they behave morally outside the public gaze.

What is worrisome is that the complete disregard of a woman’s soul and emotional well-being (a women’s mind and soul completely divorced from her body) is increasingly becoming MORE common in society — and not just towards sex workers. When apathy becomes the norm, how are people to trust others? When hatred and exploitation of certain peoples becomes the norm, how can there be hope?

There is hope, of course. Goodness still exists in a rampantly shallow society, though in the minority. And indeed, hard hearts can be softened..

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Baran (2001)

For this post, I want to analyze and recommend a film that is dear to my heart, a film that inspires the softening of the heart. A very simple, yet deeply meaningful film by the talented Iranian director Majid Majidi, titled Baran. Though the film Baran has nothing to do with prostitution, it is a film that has brought me to tears in relation to my work as a prostitute. But beyond that, the film Baran has immensely valuable lessons of humanity that have become so foreign to many of us.

The story in Baran is situated in modern day Iran, in the context of neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan. Millions of Afghan refugees fled to Iran in recent decades to flee war, and what emerged were profound xenophobic views towards Afghans living in Iran. The xenophobic attitudes of Iranian society towards Afghans is common place, comparable to the bigoted American view of illegal Mexican immigrants, or bigoted Gulf Arabs attitudes towards their migrant workers. In Baran, the reality of Afghans in Iran is depicted by illustrating how they work in slave-like jobs, were severely underpaid compared to Iranian or Turkish workers, and had limited-to-zero access to government social welfare provisions.

What is compelling about this film is it addresses the topic of basic humanity: genuine love (which is selfless) and belonging, and most importantly, it addresses the societal conflict that PREVENTS genuine forms of love and belonging from taking place. Indeed, there are endless forces within modern society that attempt to seal our hearts and replace love with synthetic versions (or hate). One might ask: Why are certain vulnerable groups treated with such hostility and degradation? How does one become a apathetic person who commits injustice to the vulnerable?

Baran teaches the viewer that a hateful, apathetic person is often the product of the their respective societal norms. In other words, if one lives in a society that embraces hateful attitudes towards a certain group and constantly spews propaganda to continuously demonize them, then inevitably the majority of the populace will internalize this societal norm. In the case of Baran, the main character Lateef, a Turkish migrant worker (viewed as more ‘dignified than being a ‘lowly’ Afghan worker) epitomizes a young mind who has internalized the prevalent xenophobic attitude towards Afghans. He behaves incredibly cruel towards the Afghan characters in the film, initially. His hate is based off not his own observation and experience, but rather through xenophobic societal norms. Lateefs’ cruelty is far more grave given that the Afghan workers, in particular, had no social or legal protection in Iran. Thus, cruelty towards marginalized groups, generally, face no repercussions or backlash. Moreover, when someone internalizes xenophobic attitudes, their cruelty is perceived as nonproblematic and in some cases, justified.

Change is Possible – A Hard Heart can be Softened

What strikes me is the climax in this film, which occurs when the initially cruel character, Lateef, has an epiphany — a life changing realization. Lateef realizes he has made a grave immoral mistake by abusing and neglecting the vulnerable. He is filled with remorse. I view Lateefs’ epiphany and realization of his faults as his mark into manhood/adulthood — he, initially, had zero care or empathy for others. He was hot-headed and careless, thus demonstrating his immaturity and lack of empathy. Empathy is a quality that marks one into maturity — a child does not know empathy. For instance, a baby or child cries out to its Mother when it needs something. A child does not yet have the capacity to be considerate of the Mother’s well-being. But as adults, one of the most noble traits to acquire that breaks one away from childhood is empathy. Empathy requires the realization that ones own actions affect others. Lateef came to this realization when he was faced with the ugliness of his own behavior towards the voiceless Afghan workers, which haunted him. And how did he come to this conclusion?

Lateef went upon his own journey of realization by going outside his own circle to observe the life of downtrodden people — namely, the despised Afghan refugees working in Tehran. He was brought to tears by witnessing the the hardships faced by the Afghans (poverty, hopelessness, humiliation, loneliness). By witnessing the hardships they faced, Lateef realizes how blind he was to the xenophobia towards Afghans in Iranian society. Essentially, the lesson learnt here is this: it is easy to condemn, exploit and dismiss people or groups when you have not known them personally or have experienced life from their perspective.

Finally, the most serene aspect of this film, which usually brings me to tears is how Lateef seeks to redeem his morality by giving up his own comfort (he gives his entire years worth of salary and life savings to the vulnerable Afghans). Lateef is irreversibly changed by this epiphany into a wholesome, responsible and moral young man. Lateef, himself, is relatively poor, but considers his plight as an impoverished Turkish migrant worker as a paradise compared to the plight of Afghans. So, thus, he gives up everything he has, his money and even sells his own identity card — a card that will disrupt his own well-being if he is without it. Lateef hopes that by giving aid he will redeem not only his past immorality, but he is also performing his moral responsibility as a man towards the female protagonist, Baran. What is compelling is that not a single soul knows about Lateefs’  act of generosity — he sought no reward, no recognition, no recompense for giving his lifes’ savings away to the vulnerable. What is this gesture other than the expression of utmost selfless love? Finally, at the end of the film, the expression of content that Lateef expresses with his smile is the epitome of true love. I urge you to watch this gem of a film and witness the very subtle messages of humility yourself. SubhanAllah

My heart melts while viewing this film for the immense morality it portrays, which is something so rare and beautiful –something so deeply lacking in today’s modern society — selfless love. How many of us can say we love without expectation? How many of us can say we give altruistically towards others, anonymously perhaps, without any expectation? Indeed these are questions I have to ponder and understand myself. How many clients are kind and respectful to prostitutes without putting her comfort in jeopardy? How many clients can retain kindness to a prostitute despite not getting what they had hoped for? It is indeed a mark of strength and courage to retain selflessness in today’s world. Even if we desire to love others selflessly, it is immensely difficult in a climate that tells us to focus on inflating our own egos. But I still have hope– I still believe, and have seen at times, that there are beautiful souls among us. The degree of humanity expressed in the film Baran is something one can only dream of. I suppose I, personally, still have a child-like desire to be loved by another truly selflessly — we yearn for this feeling that we had as children (to be loved selflessly by our Mothers and Fathers, if we were blessed to have them both or at all). Indeed some people were not blessed to experience the selfless love of parents, so I hope that those people, in particular, are blessed with the most sincere love from others.


To readers, keep your hearts soft — Don’t feel down if you cannot attain the love/gratitude that you desire for yourself. Sometimes, one must forget about themselves and spread love for those who are lacking the most love in society today.

It is my hope that this post beckons one to ask themselves: How do you treat others when no one else is watching?

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Filed under Facts About the Sex Industry, The Escorting Business

Dear Silent Soul

exploitation

It is late at night, and I am awake, wondering about you.

Yes, me — the one you think of as perhaps belonging to the privileged and educated class. It is true that I can dress up and act as if I belong to their world, but I apologize for the deception. One can say I originated from your world, the working class. Though, I dare not disrespect you and say I can compare our plights. I, after all, can buy myself into another class, even though I don’t really belong. You, however, have no opportunity to move up the social ladder. Though I blend into their world, that does not make me a better being at all. It is pompous for me to express this, but let me admit, you haven’t left my mind.

Who asks about you? Who gives you hope? Who tells you to keep striving in a cruel world? Who tells you there is something to look forward too? Who prays for you? Who rewards you for hard work? Who tries to understand you when you lose hope and no longer want to put on a crooked smile?

You stand among many. Maybe, at times, you feel like a statistic rather than a human being. Maybe, perhaps, nobody has ever noticed you as a soul, a soul with dreams (broken or still in-tact).

If our paths cross, even for a brief moment,  I will feel honored to know you. And if given such an honor, I desire to know about your life and dreams. I think of you as a human soul, not just another exploited body that toils under the intense heat of this earth.

It is my sincere apology if ever I acted as they did to you. You may have cleaned after me, greeted me, ……..stood for hours on patrol for me, ruined your body and stifled your innocence…. all this you did, for people who appear like me. You simply exist to give ease to people with privileged — and somehow I found myself in that privileged class, as an outsider. My public persona, however, is only a mask — I learnt only to appear like them (the privileged) as a tactic of survival. Once again, I am sorry for the deception.

And what a world we live in! Why is it you are not thanked and celebrated? Why is the most ugly and immoral people are told to us to be beautiful and wise whilst you are silenced?

Yes, ignorant people judge you in shallow ways. They makes jokes and dehumanize you and say you talk  ‘unsophisticated’ or ‘smell’ or you dress tacky. Even the seemingly nice ones discriminate in subtle ways–such as acknowledging you, but deep down considering you inferior. Such minds are elite conformists, who lack empathy. They don’t see why you couldn’t afford their fancy education, nor understand why you cannot afford to dress as a pompous elite prat. Trust me, you are not missing out from the artificial lives they live. I have seen it: there is no soul, the big ‘promise’ they exude is pure deception.

Let them have the world, the duniya. Thats all they have. Their money, so-called ‘beauty’, and prestige cannot buy true love or genuine human bonds, nor does their material existence make them more desirable to our Maker.
Yes, many people in our debauched world are obsessed over and celebrate the so-called ‘amazing’ people (you know, those rich ‘beautiful’ pompous elite who are apparently examples of lovely beings). I am not interested at all to see the lives of the privileged– how utterly mediocre and predictable they are–they all desperately want to be heard and seen. It is the silence that captivates me, it is the things that society tells us to shun that I want to know.

I embrace you (the silenced souls), I celebrate you. But forget about me and my concern, I am nobody. It is our Creator who places you higher than those upper crust villains. Who am I to tell you this? It is I, perhaps, that should learn from you. It is I that needs to be silent and listen to you. Stop me at anytime.  Who am I to explain your plight? Teach me.

Tell me yours dreams. I will listen. Believe me, I wish I could begin to understand your isolation, your exploitation, your voiceless existence and how you silently blend into a background that ignores you. Tell me the most intense or mundane thing, and let it be appreciated. I just only hope I can understand, even though there are billions of dreams/stories/thoughts that have been bottled up. Someone, somewhere, is listening.

 

**

The House Keeper

I came back to my hotel early to rest for a few hours. Upon entering my room, the housekeeping maid was in the midst of tidying my room. I sat on my bed and rested while a male maid was tidying my room. He was a small, older man with brown skin and a cheerful face. I asked him if he had restocked the water bottles in the room, as I was thirsty from just coming out of the humidity from outside. He quickly went and got me multiple bottles of water, and then asked me, “Where are you from Ma’am?”

I explained to him my mixed origins, which then I turned the question to him, knowing he was from a similar region as my Mother’s origins. We were both Muslims, also. I quickly made a mental note of his scenario without him telling me: he was a migrant worker and this underpaid job was the best he could find, tragically — he also likely left his entire family in order to find whatever work he could. My observation was almost accurate, until I asked him “Do you miss your family back home?” He then told me, ” I don’t have much family left back home.” Then upon further discovery, I learnt that he had never married at all, nor had children. And given his cultural origins, I was shocked. “Why not?” I asked, very immaturely. He then said: “I am poor. I have nothing. I am old now. Nobody wants someone like me.”  I instantly refuted this statement and said, “No, don’t say that. That is not true, there is somebody for everyone. Insha’allah, you will find someone one day.” But then he said to me, “Ma’am, you are rich, you don’t understand.” I almost wanted to explain to him that I have not always been  ‘rich’ or that I am not rich back in my home country. But then I realized my privilege at that moment — even though I am a prostitute, I bought my way out of a lower economic class. Given the reality that I was staying at a luxury hotel, I could not insult him by comparing my plight to his. He acknowledged me kindly and then went back to his work. As soon as he left, I felt tears brimming in my eyes. I could not forget his words, nor his situation. Perhaps his imaan (faith) was so strong that he accepted the lonely reality of his life? Perhaps he accepted that he was basically going to do slave labour for the rest of this life? Or did he accept it? Was the kindness and cheerful expression that he exuded masking a deep sadness? Or did he find some way to cope with this reality? These questions boggled my mind. He was such a nice person — yet he considered himself unworthy for love and marriage — why is he not ‘worth’ anything in today’s society? Why are the good souls left dejected and silenced?

My mind reassured itself when thinking of him, and the numerous others I met in a similar situation: “A man, alone, is the neighbour of God” — a Persian Proverb

They might be maids, labourers, sex workers or sex slaves, cleaners, doormen, and many more —never forget to acknowledge those who are unappreciated in today’s world. Never lose touch with the earth, stay humble.

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The Conflict: Falling in Love with A Prostitute/Escort – Part 1

drenched rose

As if love isn’t already complicated among ‘normal’ individuals, but how immensely complicated is LOVE with a prostitute. Love with a woman who shares her body to numerous others.

There is a theme of responses on my blog: a man loves a woman who sells her body and he seeks advice. My blog consists of numerous comments by men who have expressed a deep conflict in reconciling their love/emotions with a sex worker. The responses range from wholesome male lovers of prostitutes, whom express deep concern and understanding about the well-being of their lady-love, and then there are others, whom express hostility towards women-of-the-night.

Why does this conflict of love with a prostitute exist? Why are men writing to my blog with confusion, burning hearts, and pain from their experience of loving a prostitute? Why can’t a prostitute simply quit her work if she truly loves another? Can it really be love if she is still sleeping with other men? How can intimacy between a prostitute and her lover be special if she is sharing her body with other men? I attempt to answer such questions on my blog, given that other wholesome outlets are scarcely available.

In Love with a Sex Worker? A Word of Caution When Seeking Advice from Outsiders and others who claim to know:

Not all women who sell themselves are the same. Yes, there are similarities in certain aspects, but also great diversity in our personalities, lifestyles and upbringings. Therefore, one must be cautious when seeking advice from outsiders who tend to premise their arguments on the notion that all prostitutes have the same motivations, values and lifestyles –such sterotypes are invalid. Seeking any wholesome advice on being in love with a prostitute is very much prone to bias from outsiders who have little-to-zero personal experience with such women (outsiders who’s perspectives are shaped heavily by stereotypes)– It is important to remember that just because someone knows/visits prostitutes does NOT mean they got personal with them.There are so many disgusting attitudes that exist in forums and other internet sites about prostitutes in general, which is the result of a over centuries worth of discourses aimed at reducing prostitutes into degraded stereotypes. It is very easy to dismiss a prostitute as being “soulless,” “selfish,” “lazy,” and “having no dignity” if her behaviour is upsetting to someone. This mentality is not only erroneous, but lacks any sense of empathy or broader understandings. One commenter (“Mike”) on the blog epitomizes this hateful mentality. He commented in response to a paragraph I wrote:

“An escort is no different than any other human being. Yes, her lifestyle is different, but she/he is deserving of love, acknowledgement and care just as anyone else. Sadly, society still holds this view that such non-conforming groups are un-deserving of basic human dignity. Such cruel view needs to be challenged.” – Sahar

“Mike’s” Response:

I have to completely disagree with this view; and I say this as a hobbyist who has dated a Korean prostitute in Los Angeles. The only reason why I dated her was because I was led to believe she was going to quit her line of work and to be fair I promised to quit hobbying. I was genuine and she was filled with lies.

Yes, people are deserving of love…all people who choose to be in a monogamous relationship. The reality with most women who sell their bodies is this–they are very selfish, self-centered and jealous. It is okay for them to sell their bodies 8-10 clients a day but when her boyfriend needs a release and goes to another provider (because the gf/escort won’t see him at her work place) she gets very upset. Talk about a double standard.

Personally speaking, if an escort truly loves someone, she would understand her line if work would be very difficult for a man to deal with. Knowing this, true love would lead her away from her kine of work. It’s called compromise and respect. But it appears escorts simply want everything their own way and want a man to love them in the same fashion a man would love a genuinely kind and respectable woman who isn’t a prostitute. That is very very very…unreasonable in my opinion.

What I found amusing, during a heated argument I told her she is a deceitful, compulsive lying, trash of a person. A whore. A prostitute.

“I can’t believe that is how you think of me!” She exclaimed. Well, what am I to think of her? Classy, elegant, trustworthy, respectful? ?? She screws over a thousand men a year for money when most other women make something of themselves by working hard, going to school etc… she made a deal with the devil and when she is old and grey on her death bed…that is when it will finally hit her–OMG, I will die as a whore.”

What is apparent from Mike’s response is his complete lack of understanding why the lady continued to sell herself, why she couldn’t just quit so easily, why she is hesitant to give up her independence, and moreover, why she doesn’t resort to working for a 70-90% reduced income at a ‘normal’ job. How does Mike rationalize this? He just reduces her to a whore, in a derogatory, stereotypical sense. Yep, according to him, that explains everything. There are many Mikes in this world, both men and women. That’s what happens when a population is constantly bombarded with hateful propaganda towards a certain group, they internalize it. Such tactics are no different than the internalized racism that is prevalent in the world today. It is the laziest form of incorrect reasoning, but what can one expect? We are not all given the liberty of pondering about the wider implications of the human experience. I thought it might be worthy to share my response to the “hobbyist” aka Mike:

My Response:

“One reason I wrote this blog was to complicate terms and concepts that are prevalent in society about escorts/prostitutes, such as labelling them as: selfish, lazy, whores (in the derogatory sense), etc. I wanted to show how and why these attitudes exist, and how they are constructed by whom and for what purpose. And yet your comment, which is not surprising, fails to grasp any of what I’ve tried to convey.

First off, since you subscribe yourself as a’hobbyist’ I am quite sure your mentality of escorts is quite disheartening. Your comment is indicative that you are one of those people who fail to ‘read between the lines.’ You’ve taken your own experience of ‘not getting your way’ with a woman whom happens to be a sex worker, and then you make the hasty generalization that most escorts are “selfish, self-centered and jealous.” And from your experience, there is not one ounce of trying to understand the underlying issues, nor the underlying meanings of her actions, perhaps.

From what you have written, it is clear that you have accepted the so-called ‘moral’ social norms within society, and thus you have ZERO comprehension of how societal norms are socially constructed (often to serve political agendas). So, let’s take a look at the typical norms that you have clearly internalized (ie: accepted as ‘righteous’ without any critical analysis). Firstly, according to you, women whom have sex with multiple men are somehow terrible ‘immoral’ people. Secondly, according to you, women whom are sex workers are apparently undeserving of love/commitment if they cannot quit their job. With your logic, you fail to realize that most women do not actively ‘choose’ this lifestyle, but rather were ‘pushed’ into it for economic factors. As hard as it is to understand, yes, a prostitute can be loyal to a man she loves whilst seeing other clients — you clearly cannot understand this. But let’s imagine if a prostitute did, in fact, enjoy some of her clients or perhaps she does NOT want to be monogamous — is she suddenly a terrible immoral person? Clearly, a woman’s sexuality that’s not ‘controlled’ is very threatening to you (which again, is not surprising, because that’s what our current society tells us).

I’m glad this Korean woman is not with you, because she deserves a man who has a better understanding of the things she keeps silent. You are quite naïve to think a prostituted woman can simply just leave her work for love or that leaving her work is a requirement for love. There are lovers of prostitutes who understand the emotional conflict that prostitutes face. These decent men are patient, compassionate and understanding. Rather than reduce her to being lazy, selfish, or a ‘whore,’ decent men actually try to understand sex workers and are willing to take on an unconventional relationship for the sake of love. Yes, it can seem that many prostitutes are simply living for themselves, and thus one gets the impression that they are ‘selfish’ or perhaps ‘lazy’ because they don’t want to conform to the capitalist work ethic. But there are so many complicated factors of WHY women are doing this, WHY they cannot quit so easily, WHY they feel its better to stay in the industry and be independent, WHY women are stigmatized for living alternative lifestyles, etc. I am glad that woman left you, because clearly she deserves a man who loves her and can stay loyal to her whilst understanding that leaving her job is not so easy.”

exotic-courtesan-painting

Breaking the Stereotypes:

In this post, I do not mean to imply that all escorts are decent beings. Indeed there are escorts who happen to be, perhaps, selfish and heartless, but that is NOT solely because she happens to sell herself. I’ve witnessed in other internet discussions where sometimes prostitutes, themselves, aid stereotypes such as “prostitutes are always acting” or “they are masters at faking love and emotions.” Other ideas one commonly hears is that “a prostitute will have sex with anyone for money”– a notion exists that we all apparently have NO standards when it comes to making money. These stereotypes irritate me since I am a prostitute and those ideas do not represent me at all. As mentioned previously, I never fake love or even fake orgasms. Again, not all escorts are working within the same dynamics or have the same motivations. For instance, an escort who has a pimp and has a very hardened outlook on clients will have a very different persona/lifestyle than an escort, like myself, who works part-time and doesn’t view all clients as one monolith. Even within each dynamic, diversity will exist. One must remember that good and bad exists in all walks of life. For those in love with sex workers, one should view their lover as a human first — sex work does shape one, but does not make one any less good or evil.

We’ve all been in one of those situations where someone makes a casual remark about how “you can’t trust whores” or they will rationalize a woman’s behavior by simply stating “Well, she’s a whore, what can you expect.” As I have tried to illustrate in this post, this logic is flawed and dehumanizing. I wonder how people would feel when they realize how many everyday prostitutes (who did not actively choose to be in the sex industry) are living very private lives, are only having sex for love or money (survival), and still retain common decency.

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My apologies that this post did not give much advice for those in love or having feelings for a working lady, but I recommend browsing the comments in my blog where I answer such questions. Below is recent advice I gave to a gentleman who asked how he can better understand his lady love:

“Be strong and expect hurdles [in the relationship] — it is normal. She will likely have a hard time changing her lifestyle, and it may take time. Give her time. Be patient. Be realistic. And be supportive. Ask her clearly what she wants. If there is mutual love between yourself and her, then don’t listen to the negative perspective of outsiders (whom clearly don’t understand that prostitutes are human like everyone else).”

Here is great link that gives wholesome advice for men who are in a relationship/in love with a prostitute. Here is the link Below:

How to Date a Sex Worker

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For my readers: What has your experience been?

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Filed under "High-class" prostitution, Relationships

Why Seek The World?

hands

This world of palaces, thrones, and crowns.

This world of societies that resent humanity,

This world of those hungry for [material] wealth,

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

 

Each body is injured, each soul is thirsty,

With confused eyes and hearts full of sorrow,

Is this the world or the dominion of senselessness?

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

In this world where a person’s being is only a toy,

It is an establishment that worships death

Where it costs less to die than to breathe,

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

 

Here youth wanders in hopelessness,

Young bodies are decorated and sold in the market,

Where love is treated as a product to trade,

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

This world, where human life is nothing,

Where loyalty is nothing, where friendship is nothing,

Where love has no meaning at all,

What is this world, even if I get it?

 

Burn this world, set it on fire!

Move this world away from me!

The world is yours, you take care of it.

What is this world to me, even if I can have it?

____

Yeh Duniya Agar Mil bhi Jaaye to Kya Hain? (Pyaasa, 1957)

————–

Subhanallah, what a beautiful, yet tragic Urdu poem from the 1957 classic Pyaasa. It is worthy to share this ghazal in time where ‘success’ is equated to fulfilling or striving for worldly pleasures. But what happens when one attains all the so-called worldly ‘pleasures’? You gained the world, but at what cost? Does the heart feel full? How many lives were slaughtered or degraded in the process of obtaining “success” and “happiness”?

I’ve met many great souls who are tormented, silently. They were, at some point during their lives, duped into believing that they weren’t ‘successful’ enough because they weren’t attaining enough worldly ‘pleasures.’ Or, perhaps, like myself, they obtained the so-called ‘good life’ and realized it meant nothing. My desire to ‘gain the world’ has lessened. It is my hope that myself and others can gain the strength to resist the deceptively-charming-in-your-face forces that are rampant in society. Life has so much beauty to offer that isn’t always visible to the human eye. After all, what significance is the world in a superficial sense? What significance is a body with no spiritual depth? It is only the soul that is immortal.

I actually feel great sadness when I realize many people are still chasing the worldly ‘pleasures’ to the extent that they become apathetic and soulless. People are seduced by this false notion that ‘gaining the world’ makes a worthy life. Such a predisposition suggests that a life without glamour, superficial beauty, money and power is unworthy. Again, does money, prestige and power make the heart feel full? Or does one even have a heart once they’ve slowly bartered off their soul for their ego?  The world (duniya) is only temporary —  Life becomes meaningful when one focuses on enriching their soul, not their ego. 

Duniya

 

 

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A History of Courtesans In South Asia — How Colonialism lead to the Degradation of the Lives of Prostitutes

 Ghazala-Javed

Ghazala Javed, popular Pashto singer killed in 2012 by her ex-husband

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I recently submitted an essay about the history of Courtesans in South Asia. It’s quite lengthy, but I thought it would be of interest to those interested in how notions of gender and sexuality changed dramatically with regards to modernity. Here is a brief summary of some key issues:

1. Notions of gender and sexuality in Non-Western parts of the world were quite relaxed and fluid compared to today’s context. 

2. Colonialism projected European discourses of gender and sexuality onto the world and posited prude Victorian morality as ‘superior.’ These discourses were adopted and internalized by many leaders of the non-West. 

3. To understand the ‘strict’ norms of sexuality in certain parts of the non-West today, one must look at how colonialism changed former notions of gender and sexuality. 

My own interest in this topic was sparked by common stereotypes that I hear about men from South Asia or Islamic parts of the world. More often than once, I encounter white-European clients whom are often quite shocked when I tell them that my lovers of the past and present have been Muslim men — they become more shocked when I tell them that I prefer men from my own culture, or similar backgrounds. The common thing I hear is, “But don’t Muslim, or brown men, treat their women terribly? I usually giggle slightly and say something along the lines of, “My dear, that’s not true. There are good and bad in all people” And then, if they are interested to hear, I give them a little history about how the Western media is obsessed with portraying the non-West (namely Muslim-majority countries) as oppressive, especially towards women. It is an unfortunate reality that many people have accepted incorrect discourses (constructed stereotypes) towards certain cultures, which has inspired myself and many others to challenge this narrative.

I started my essay by talking about the 2012 murder of a popular Pashto singer, Ghazala Javed, and how her death can easily fall into the widespread “Oppressive Brown/Muslim Man” narrative. Ghazala was killed by her ex-husband, allegedly on the grounds that her career as a mujra, a combination of both singing and dancing, was considered morally shameful for a woman. Yet contrary to popular Western narratives, female entertainers like Ghazala Javed, historically more broadly known as courtesans, were once held with cultural significance and social esteem in many parts of South Asia. Ghazala Javed was of Pashtun descent, an ethnic group in Pakistan and Afghanistan, more recently known for their affiliation with the Taliban. Pashtuns, in particular, are often stereotyped for their rigid control over women, which became more pronounced with their association with Taliban fundamentalism.

The media’s portrayal of certain Islamic/South Asian cultures as cesspools of male violence against women is an ongoing trend, a continuation of Orientalism. In 1978, professor Edward Said wrote Orientalism, in which he argues how knowledge of the non-Western world, the Orient, was imagined through a Western lens. Western writings about the Orient, which Said called Orientalism, were presented as objective knowledge — meaning, they were presented as factual. In reality, however, European Orientalist writings about the Orient were shaped by dominant European ideologies, such as social Darwinism. In Orientalist writings, cultures of the non-West were viewed as static, or unchanging, and essentialist, meaning peoples of the non-West were all essentially the same. The framework of Orientalism helps to show how dominant Western stereotypes about women in South Asia do not depict the reality necessarily. Many stereotypes today about the non-West stem from colonialism, which portrayed peoples of the non-West as ‘inferior’ and thereby valourizing the West as ‘superior.’ Such stereotypes had a powerful effect, and manifested in various forms of colonial rule. In essence, colonialism irreversibly changed the roles of men and women in colonized parts of the world. It is particularly interesting to note how colonialism changed notions of gender and sexuality in colonized parts of the world. For this post, I will focus on how colonialism degraded the status of the esteemed courtesan. 

Tawaif

courtesan-palace

Depiction of Courtesans relaxing in the kotha

South Asian Courtesans Before British Colonial Rule

Prior to high noon of British colonialism, courtesans were esteemed in the sense that they were able to attain wealth, exercise power and hold status in society independently of male control. The memoir of the Lucknow courtesan Umrao Jaan, provides one insight into the life of courtesan before and after the establishment of the British Raj in 1858. Historian Veena Talwar-Oldenburg attributes how Umrao Jaan’s elevated lifestyle coincides with testimonies of other courtesans of the early colonial period. As Talwar notes, courtesans constituted a matriarchy, where they were able to run their lives, thereby subverting patriarchal norms that existed outside the kotha. The kotha, or female apartments, were spaces where females held authority, where they could exercise their agency over men, such as clients, musicians, male servants, etc. Many courtesans were highly skilled in Urdu and Persian literature, kathak dancing, singing and various other arts. In many parts of precolonial India, the arts of the courtesan were highly praised and patronized by the wider society. For instance, a courtesan was not only courted by men, but courtesans were also summoned by women to perform at weddings, ceremonies, etc. From these snap-shots, it seems courtesans were not simply sexual objects with no significance, but were instead valourized as artists, offering an amalgam of entertainments beyond just sex. The historical role of these women is in stark contrast with their fate after colonial rule and independence.

courtesan

From 1858 onwards, British colonial rule fundamentally changed the social fabric of South Asian society. Many British narratives expressed the urgency to bring ‘civilization’ to uplift Indians from their alleged primitiveness. The very idea of ‘civilizations’ stems from social Darwinist theory, in which cultures were ranked on an evolutionary scale. In this European ideology, Europeans were ranked at the top as racially ‘superior’ whilst peoples of non-West were considered primitive, backwards, inferior, uncivilized. The British often posited their ‘superior’ treatment of women as a justification for their superiority. In British colonial India, the British expressed ‘humanitarian’ agendas to ‘uplift’ Indian women from ‘barbaric’ cultural practices, such as child marriage, polygyny, and the esteemed courtesan tradition. If these practices were deemed ‘inferior’ then it indirectly was juxtaposing the British Victorian womanhood as ideal. Such colonial discourses were influential in the 19th century, because the British had the imperial power to assert their dominance on a global scale. Said’s framework of Orientalism, however, shows another dimension to British narratives of ‘protecting the brown woman.’ Many European discourses were strategic in denouncing cultures of the non-West, as stereotypes were powerful ideological tools to maintain imperial interests. In other words, in order to gain support for imperial exploitation of the South Asia, the British had to portray their missions as ‘humanitarian’– to bring ‘civilization’ to people of the non-West. While social Darwinist ideology is dismissed as pseudo-science today, it is important to note how influential such stereotypes would become when pertaining to gender. In the mid-19th century onwards, Indian male nationalists, fearing to fall behind on the so-called evolutionary scale, were keen to show that their women were ‘civilized’ along British ideals of womanhood. The ‘ideal’ Indian woman became redefined along the lines of Victorian morality — she was now domestic, chaste, and hailed as the ‘Goddess’ of the house. This new ‘ideal’ woman was in conflict with former notions of gender, especially for the courtesan, whose livelihood gradually became constructed as ‘immoral.’

courtesan-languishing

Oil Painting Depiction of an Elegantly Attired Courtesan

This new ‘ideal’ woman, projected by British colonial discourses, became internalized and promoted by Indian male nationalists from the 19th century onwards. These new gender ideals also became institutionalized, and resultantly had dire implications for courtesans. One major blow to courtesan tradition was the 1864 Contagious Diseases Act, a British law that mandated state regulation and control over the bodies of courtesans, subjecting them to mandatory testing, thereby reducing their agency and reducing them to what the British envisaged as a common prostitute. The 1864 Contagious Diseases Acts were propagated to protect women from sexual diseases, but it also indirectly functioned to stigmatize ‘unregulated’ sex as ‘unhygienic,’ thus giving prostitutes a stigma of being ‘dirty.’ In 1892, the Anti Nautch Movement was another aim to stop the courtesan traditional, and had wide support by both the British and educated Hindu elite who collaborated with the British. In 1893, in The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood, a British missionary named Mrs. Marcus B. Fuller dedicated an entire chapter to denounce the ‘nautch’ tradition and endorse the Anti-Nautch Movement. In her words, she described nautch girls (courtesans) as “rich, beautiful and very attractive, besides being witty and pleasant in conversation; and they are the only women that move freely.” Ironically, this description she gives of courtesans is what she considers immoral, or “disgraceful” and overall, a danger to social harmony. It was during the late 19th century when prostitutes became posited as ‘The Great Social Evil’ by European missionaries and moralists. Clearly, Mrs. Fuller was an advocate of colonial ideals of ‘ideal’ womanhood. Interestingly, she posits the clients, or patrons, of courtesans, as victims of the courtesan’s seductive power and thereby men are “wasting” their money on these women. Mrs. Fuller’s account was not out of the ordinary, as even British men related to her view. In 1851, the infamous British explorer Richard Burton wrote about courtesans whom thrived in Sindh, and like Mrs. Fuller, he seemed quite displeased at the social esteem given to these women. Accounts like Burton and Fuller echo the prevailing Victorian discourse of gender and sexuality that ‘ideal’ women should be chaste, domestic. Indian male nationalists, keen to prove they were ‘civilized,’ often supported campaigns against courtesans too. In effect, laws and campaigns to regulate women’s bodies gradually lead to the degradation of South Asian courtesans. Despite crackdowns, however, the courtesan culture continued to exist, yet now marginal, criminalized and stigmatized due to new colonial realities.

European critiques of South Asian culture were not without protest. In fact, many nationalists saw reviving their cultural traditions as a form of anti-colonial protest. While the courtesan represented elements of traditional culture in South Asian society, revivalists, however, seldom embraced the once noble courtesan tradition. One would assume being anti-colonial would mean rejecting the colonial gender discourses that were projected onto South Asia, yet ironically anti-colonial discourses were often propagated by Western-educated Indian elite, who’s views were heavily fused with European ideologies. Hindu revivalists, for instance, often wanted to revert back to an imagined ‘pure’ ancient Hindu past, and European notions of what it meant to be ‘pure’ heavily influenced their modern interpretations of ‘purity.’ Because the recent courtesan tradition was associated with elite Islamic culture, Hindu revivalists often discredited acts from the Islamic period as not part of the ‘pure’ Hindu past. Even Mahatma Gandhi adopted this flaw; he was determined in his anti-colonial stance, yet was not keen on the courtesan tradition. Tula and Pande explain this irony, “nationalists saw them [courtesans] embodying everything that a modern, educated Hindu woman would not do.” Rather ironic, yet many nationalists and their supporters, including women, adhered to new discourses of ‘ideal’ womanhood. These attitudes continued into the post-1947 contexts of independent India and Pakistan, and thus the modern nation-state is not without its colonial legacies. As historian Shahnaz Khan notes in “Zina and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women,” women became, “the biological and cultural reproducers of the nation. As such, their sexuality is a valuable resource that is utilized to service their families and the nation” In other words, Khan highlights how gender control became vital to the nation-state, as it’s instrumentally used to retain hegemonic power. Therefore, any potential support for the courtesan tradition would be undermined because it poses a challenge to the prevalent and internalized discourses of ‘ideal’ womanhood. In any case, women who continued to entertain or sell themselves did not have much of a voice, but instead those in power were deciding their fates. The practice of silencing a group, and stereotyping them was, however, a strategic practice from colonialism onwards.

Pashtun tribal 19th Century

Pashtun Tribals in the 19th century

            The colonial discourses on the Pashtun people provide an interesting insight as they were often stereotyped as the most culturally ruthless groups in South Asia. In many contemporary and colonial Western accounts, their violent ‘nature’ was often described in essentialist ways. For instance, R. E. Newman’s Pathan Tribal Patterns describes how Pashtun culture follows a strict adherence to a code of honor, or Pakhtunwali. In reference to them, he notes, “The tribal people are most renowned for their physical acts of violence.” Newman also notes how women are tied to the code of honor, where “zan, zar, and zamin (woman, gold, and land)” are part of a man’s honor. In Newman’s view, it’s as if the Pashtun ‘code of honor’ remains static, ahistorical. Recent scholarship, however, has shown how and why such stereotypes came about.  In The Pathan Unarmed, Mukilika Bannerjee makes used of Said’s Orientalism to explain how the British colonial discourses were influential in demonizing the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and colonial India. In 1840, British attempts to conquer Kabul were defeated by the Pashtuns, and thus arose British discourses vilifying Pashtun people. In other words, the British, with their imperial arrogance, had to show ‘face’ by showing that they were only defeated because the Pashtuns were culturally ‘barbaric, brutal, violent,’ etc. This does not mean the Pashtun were actually hostile people, yet the British constructed them in negatives ways to uphold British status-quo. Unfortunately, these stereotypes were widely disseminated. Popular literature, such as Rudyard Kiplings Kim, for instance, echoed this stereotype of the ‘fierce’ Pashtun tribal man. These stereotypes of Pashtuns continue today and were reinforced in new ways with the Talibanization of North-West Frontier provinces after 9/11.

Unlike today, Pashtun notions of honor were different when considering they were once able to accommodate and even valourize the existence of courtesans. Therefore, notions of honor that remain today cannot be considered culturally ahistorical. As historian A.T. Fildis notes, “honour is a relative term and can be defined and redefined in various socio-economic and cultural contexts with different attributes and its sources and meanings varying from culture to culture.” In “Dancing Girls of Swat Valley,” Shaheen Buneri compares the historical esteem of courtesans in Swat, Pakistan to their position today, where such women are held with contempt by the public society.  Buneri interviews a woman named Nagina, a modern mujra, who states “We don’t have any respect in society (…) Generally we are not considered morally good people.” The fact that modern ‘dancing girls’ do not have any social respect is quite puzzling, given courtesans of Swat, in particular, once were held with high regard. Before the inception of Pakistan, the region of Swat was a princely state, ruled by a Wali. Under the Wali of Swat, the arts of the courtesan were patronized and embraced, and even one Wali is said to have married a courtesan. Even the writings of colonial moralist Mrs. Fuller, despite condemning courtesans, noted that courtesans of the North-West Frontier provinces were “treated with as much courtesy as if she were a princess descended from a distinguished royal line.” Like other parts of India, courtesans in Swat were subject to the same gradual degradation that came with colonial influence. Like Indian male nationalists, Pashtun men also became courted by the allure of nationalism, with its European ideological underpinnings, between 1930 and 1947. And of course, women came to be redefined by nationalists as the bearers of culture and nation. Thus, new notions of womanhood also shifted Pashtun notions of honor with regards to new realities.

pakeeza-tawaif

Bollywood’s adaptation of a life of a courtesan in “Pakeezah,” starring the lovely Meena Kumari. A courtesan could seduce and mesmerize her audience whilst fully dressed, and therefore was not an insignificant object.

From Artist to Object

            In Pakistan, as with India, the former tawaif (courtesan) tradition gradually died out in terms of its traditional function within society. It transformed into a degraded state of commercial sex work, with some women also providing imitations of the courtesan tradition by way of singing and dancing along with selling sex. In “Performance, Status and Hybridity in a Pakistani Red-Light District: The Cultural Production of the Courtesan,” Louise Brown provides an ethnographic account of more recent sex-work in the once thriving kotha district of Heera Mandi in Lahore. Brown’s research shows how realities in independent Pakistan, where prostitution was made illegal in 1960, shapes the lives of the women who continue to live and work in Heera Mandi. Brown notes that some of these women do attain wealth and prestige for short periods in their youth, yet wider social attitudes towards these women remain hostile. Thus, even if a courtesan is desired or gains wealth, it remains in secret and as Brown notes, “it is highly unlikely to be translated into power and status outside the brothel quarter.” Unlike the past, Brown also notes how most clients of today’s courtesans do not have an appreciation for the traditional arts of the courtesan, which coincides with Buneri’s interview with Nagina, a mujra who claims her clients are “more interested in my body rather than in my art.” It’s clear that modern courtesans are in a degraded state, which is an implication of colonialism and aftermath. What is more unfortunate is the overwhelming majority of women in Heera Mandi, according to Brown, were selling their services to overcome economic hardships. Buneri’s research also highlights how many Pashtun women from Swat, due to the poverty after the Taliban insurgency after 9/11, fled to Peshawar where many had to sell their bodies along with singing and dancing to survive. The popular Pashto singer Ghazala Javed, also from Swat, moved to Peshawar and is said to have resorted to singing and dancing to escape poverty. The current unfortunate realities of courtesans and sex-workers stem from the colonial period and the resulting powers that intensified the role of the ‘ideal’ woman within society.

Iqbal Hussain Painting Mujra Tawaif

Poverty & Despair: Iqbal Hussain Painting of Heera Mandi prostitutes in their ‘down-time.’ Iqbal Hussain is a famous painter known for his ‘un-glamorous’ portrayals of modern, impoverished prostitutes in Heera Mandi. Interestingly, he is the son of a former courtesan from Heera Mandi in Lahore.

The Impact of Fundamentalism on Gender and Sexuality

Like the Hindu-fundamentalist revivalism that started in the nationalist period in India, post-independent Pakistani leaders also had their own Islamist fundamentalist agendas.* In 1979, General Zia al-Haq implemented Zina Laws, aiming to criminalize any sexual acts outside of marriage. As Shahnaz Khan notes in “Zina and the moral regulation of Pakistani women,” Zina laws were part of the 1979 Hadood Ordinances, which was General Zia al-Haq’s “first step in his Islamization policies.” As Khan notes, Zina laws were intended to create a ‘moral’ and just society in Pakistan, yet her and others have argued that it was a process of the state aiming to regulate the bodies of women. In other words, Islamic fundamentalism has nothing to do with the true ideals of Islam as a religion — it is important to note the difference, since fundamentalist agendas re-interpret religion for political motives. With regards to sex-workers in Pakistan, the Zina Laws were not entirely enforced, yet it compelled sex workers to be more discreet, made them vulnerable to criminalization and overall, further discredited their livelihoods. After September 11th 2011, when the U.S. launched war on the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Taliban fled to the Swat Valley region of Pakistan. In Swat, the Taliban were extreme towards women, in that women were not allowed to go to school or work. These measures were the Taliban’s interpretation of a ‘pure’ Islamic society. Yet again, Taliban fundamentalism is a political movement that has nothing to do with essences of Islam. For courtesans in Swat, the Taliban insurgency is said to have drastically disrupted their roles, as “women and villagers affiliated with the arts” were first targeted and banned. Given that Islamic fundamentalism was widespread, it would indeed influence social attitudes. One can speculate that Ghazala Javed’s ex-husband, her murderer, internalized fundamentalist rhetoric, and likely saw her career as a singer and dancer as ‘un-Islamic.’ Yet how can female entertainers be considered ‘un-Islamic’ if they once were tolerated in pre-colonial Islamic societies? The Taliban, therefore, like other fundamentalists, are painting their discourses with colonial gender ideologies. Moreover, when fundamentalists condemn courtesans or other female performers, they fail to note how many of these women are resorting to this work out of economic hardship. Shahnaz Khan notes how poverty plays a role in contemporary Pakistani society: “Families with little means to cope with increasingly inflation and chronic unemployment often find that their daughter’s sexuality is a valuable asset.” Islamic fundamentalism, like Hindu fundamentalism, is a consequence of European colonialism and has been intensified by new post-colonial global realities. The implications are that women, today, are left in a vulnerable position, as there seems to be no fight against discourses of using women as cultural markers. With regards to Pakistani women, Tahmina Rashid depicts their murky position within society: “In Pakistan, the female body has been politicized to such an extent that it functions as a battleground for ideological, philosophical, and religious debates and agendas between pseudo-modernist military regimes and traditionalist mullahs.”

The 2012 murder of Ghazala Javed highlights how certain women are in South Asia are caught in the deadly rift between new state regulations and fundamentalist agendas, both implications from colonialism. The media propagates the vulnerability of South Asian women as a cultural problem, yet media representations ignore historical and socio-economic aspects that have made the conditions for violence against women to occur. Without historical analysis, then Ghazala Javed’s murder will be considered just another ‘honor killing’ that’s typical of South Asian/Islamic cultures. When the problematic notion of ‘honor killing’ is accepted, then it takes away from the fact that European colonialism and it’s legacy caused social disruption to such an extent that it played a defining role in establishing the conditions for violence against women today. Cultural essentialist notions on the oppression of women indirectly, as Eva Reimer notes, posits the West as a role model for better treatment of women, thereby ignoring how Western women too are subjected to oppression within the nation-state setting. It’s clear that Orientalist stereotypes still holds sway and continues to valourize the West as the ‘ideal’ to aspire too. The fact that contemporary courtesans today, seen as ‘dishonorable,’ were once the most esteemed of women in many parts of precolonial South Asia makes cultural essentialist narratives invalid. Therefore, it is the onset of colonial discourses that disrupted former notions of gender and lead to the problems today. And unfortunately, the colonial ‘legacies’ of gender are still yet to be untangled. Yet at least with more understanding of how gender is constructed, shaped, changed and remade, then individuals can be more accepting of those who do not fit with the current ‘ideal.’ Perhaps Ghazala Javed would still be alive if her ex-husband and her community were aware of how notions of gender and sexuality were once embracing of women in her position, rather than see them as women ‘with no honor.’

*Note: The term ‘Islamist’ is used to refer to fundamentalists, which are political movements that uses the rhetoric of reviving an imagined ‘pure’ past. The violent and oppressive aims of certain Islamist movements have nothing to with the religion of Islam. A great quote from the film Water (2005) captures fundamentalists of any kind, “Disguised as religion, it’s just about money.”

Bibliography

Banerjee, Mukulika. The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the North West Frontier. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Brown, Louise. “Performance, Status and Hybridity in a Pakistani Red-Light District: The Cultural Production of the Courtesan.” Sexualities 10, no. 4 (2007): 409-423.

Buneri, Shaheen. “Dancing Girls of the Swat Valley.” World Policy Journal 28, no. 3 (2011): 73-81.

Burton, Richard. Sindh and the Races that inhabit the Indus Valley. New York: Oxford University Press, 1851.

Fildis, A. T. “The Historical Roots and Occurrence of Honour-Related Violence in Non-Muslim and Muslim Societies.” Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World 11 (2013): 1-15.

Forbes, Geraldine. Women in Modern India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Foucault, Michel. A History of Sexuality, vol. 1, 1978.

Fuller, Mrs. Marcus B. The Wrongs of Indian Womanhood. New York: Young People’s Missionary Movement, 1900.

Khan, Shahnaz. “Zina” and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women.” Feminist Review, no 75 (2003): 75-100.

Kumar, Deepa & Stabile, Carol A. “Unveiling imperialism: media, gender and the war on Afghanistan.” Media, Culture & Society 27 (2005): 765-778.

Massad, Joseph. Desiring Arabs. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007.

Newman, R. E. Pathan Tribal Patterns. New Delhi: The Caxton Press, 1965.

Pande, Rekha., & Tula, Meenal. “Re-Inscribing the Indian Courtesan: A Genealogical Approach.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 15, no. 1 (2014): 67-82.

Rashid, Tahmina. “Militarized Masculinities, Female Bodies, and ‘Security Discourse’ in Post-9/11 Pakistan.” Strategic Analysis 33, no. 4 (2009): 566-578.

Reimers, Eva. “Representations of an Honor Killing.” Feminist Media Studies 7, no. 3 (2007): 239-255.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. London: Penguin Books Ltd, 1995.

Sarkar, Sumit & Sarkar, Tanika., eds.  Women and Social Reform in Modern India. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Talwar, Veena. “Lifestyle as resistance: the case of the courtesan of Lucknow, India.” Feminist Studies 16, no. 2 (1990): 259-287.

 

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An Honorable Love

I honored the memories by enduring the pain,

I did not numb, I did not run away, I just lived and accepted the torment.

My silence was my honor.

You, however, honored it by drowning yourself in alcohol.

In this new far away place,

Without heart, you perform your 5 daily prayers.

And this is how you show your honor,

Desperate to boost your ego, your faltering sense of ‘pride,’

By buying women, using them to quench your hunger, and discarding them once you’ve eaten their souls.

Oh, an honorable lover indeed.

Foolishly, I once considered our seperation akin to tales of the Great Lovers.

Only to realize, I was the only one mourning.

Oh, what wasted tears.

To realize all that flattery was really a slow, indirect rape.

Cunning foxes always use their charm,

To use others to please their own selfish desires.

Does a fox ever repent for the blood that remains on his teeth?

I will burn, I will accept the humiliation and embrace it,

For pain is ultimately strength, and I fear no longer to endure it.

Unlike you, who fears a drop of despair.

The laws of physics now apply:

“What goes up must come down,”

you have fallen from the pedestal.

And thus, no longer worthy of honor.

-Myself

———————-

fragrant garden

The following poem was written by a man, in praise of the scent of his lover:

A Woman’s Scent

That night when my mother
took me to her breasts
I knew woman had a scent
quite different from man’s…

Tonight you still remind me of
my mother’s old fragrance
though you too have your different scent –
a scent entirely your own!

In summer, an aroma of apple juice
envelopes your breasts. In monsoon,
the wet fragrance of wild forest flowers
in your hair. And in the winter,
your arms smacking of honeyed milk
and your lovely feet of jasmines. In spring,
this strong odour of musk in your loins,
and in your navel that faint lavender!

In different seasons, you smell differently.
In different places, you smell differently.

But when I smell you entirely at once,
my love,
your scent becomes
an undefinable something!

-Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan

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Sheherazade Becomes Marginal in a Society that Embraces Apathy

Image

When you live in a society where shallowness is embraced, there will be a mass following of people who imitate shallowness.

You see, the elite can only thrive with a mass following, by creating a mass appeal, popularity.

The merciless thrive by exploiting the basic human desires, and brand their strategies with the facade of “love” or “humanity.”

This shallowness is a form of turbulence — keeping us distracted, distancing us from Light.

Light can seem invisible with turbulent vision; yet the wise know Light continues to radiate in full spectra in undetected forms.

The wise know to be wary of “charming” promises, as Plato says “Things are not what they appear.”

It is only those placed in liminal states who are able to contrast between discourses.

But you see, our state of being is not a static entity. Circumstances can harden us, circumstances can soften us —

Can one be so optimistic these days?

Something new is occurring in human history, with humans being hardened into objects, irreversibly.

Resistance is strategically kept powerless and marginal.

If only Foucault was alive to see his biopolitics now.

The once optimistic feeling of softening the soul is being negated in a new social transformation who’s future is unknown.

Long ago, Sheherazade softened the heart of King Shariyar. But this was a time when the art of wisdom was embraced by the ruling elite.

Once, people were aware of the dehumanization resulting from objectification.

An objectified human becomes inanimate, lacking substance — yet this obsolescence is embraced!

Now, increasingly, the art of wisdom is silenced, and instead ‘information’ prevails.

Modern education is information, not knowledge — and the marginal are drowning.

A life of simulated shallowness, avarice and merciless individualism is propagated as “the promise” and masks the greedy profit that lies underneath

I have softened the hearts of many men. Though, I am limited in the abundance of human drones.

A drone is taught to valorise surfaces only, like the body; it cannot detect the emotional depth of the soul.

How foolish of me to consider myself a Sheherazade in a society that is morally bankrupt!

You see, in a world where shallowness prevails, the shallow ideals will be rewarded.

Oh, the days when I was an object, I only attracted objects!

Oh, I am fully aware, that if I transformed myself into a walking simulation of stupidity (a shapely ass and big pair of tits as my sole identity), then I will reign popularity.

But you see, now, I refuse to be an inanimate object.

How could anyone be an object once they’ve reached their soul?

I speak in a language that cannot be comprehended so easily,

it will only resonate by those immersed in Love.

My silence speaks this language.

My God, I am so thankful You reign in my heart, radiating Your Beauty

The burning of my heart keeps me from solidifying into a cold, hardened object. I’m melting in Your bliss.

Love will shine, it radiates in all forms to those whose surfaces are still permeable.

-Myself

*The tale of Scheherazade is symbolic in showcasing that wisdom is what makes a human worthy of being. Scheherazade changed King Shahriyar’s murderous vengence towards women, and inevitably softened his heart. How? She used her wisdom, her knowledge — she was not simply an object. The symbolism has relevance to today’s context: When a human is simply an object, devoid of inner depth, they become perceived as insignificant, disposable as an inanimate object. Sadly, it has become a trend in modern societies for people to identify in objectifying manners, thereby neglecting the ripening of their inner beings. This trend is a reflection of the ‘popular’ social values that are advertised by all forms of media/social media. 

___________

set free

“They have taken us prisoners,

They’ve locked us up.

But that’s nothing…

The worst

is when people –knowingly or not —

carry prison inside themselves”

-Nizam Hikmet

(trans. Sisir Kumar Das 378)

___________

Do Panjereh

(…)

always been a distance

between your hands and mine.

always with this bitterness

our days and nights have passed.

 *

there is not a very long distance between us, but

(even this short distance) seems so far.

the only connection between you and me

is the kind caressing hands of wind.

*

we are forced to stay captive.

we will stay captive as long as we live.

for us the only way to freedom is death.

as soon as we are set free, we will die.

*

Oh, I wish this wall would fall down

so that you and me will die together

and in another world

we will be able to hold hands, be together.

may be in that other world,

the pain of shunning and hatred wont exists in hearts.

(may be in that new world) between their windows

wont be any barrier of walls.

-Googoosh

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