Wake up and smell the vagina

Overheard at a party recently. A drunken gent talking to an attractive woman, who seems to be in her mid-thirties.

“Kya yaar, where-where you keep going to protest and what-what you keep on posting on social media nowadays? Be careful! You will get into trouble.”

The woman tells her boozy well-wisher that he should not worry about her and that she is perfectly at peace with what she is doing.

But he is far from convinced.

“My dear, I worry about you. Why do you want to be at cross-purposes with the powers-that-be?”

She tells him that she finds she can no longer keep her frustrations with what is happening in the country to herself, and adds, with an ironic eye roll, that maybe she is just having a mid-life crisis.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

“Arrey!”He stares at her, shocked, then offers what (to him) is clearly extremely obvious advice: “If you are having a mid-life crisis then just do some ‘adultery-shadultery’, na! Why are you protesting?”

That is a question more and more women are being asked this month. From the girls in Jamia to the old ladies reciting shayari at Shaheen Bagh, to JNU president Aishe Ghosh, wearing her injuries like a badge of honour, to Deepika Padukone, so somber and black-clad and incredibly beautiful as she stood side-by-side with peacefully protesting students at JNU, to the students of Jyoti Nivas (Girls) College in Bengaluru who stood up to BJP workers. The surprise, the disapproval and the entitlement is clear in the manner in which they address the women.

“Heroines should stay in Mumbai and dance,” said a BJP MLA from Madhya Pradesh of Deepika’s JNU visit, clearly having forgotten the fact that Smriti Irani, Hema Malini and Kirron Kher are MPs from his party. Or, maybe this is his real grudge—that heroines are trickling out of Mumbai and grabbing positions meant only to go to ‘real’politicians. Who knows?

“This is nothing to do with you or your principal. We have spoken directly to the owners of your college. You focus on your studies, please. It is none of your business,” said a bunch of BJP workers to students from Jyoti Nivas college who protested against a pro-Citizenship Amendment Act banner that the men had displayed prominently across the main gate of their campus. The streets are no place for women. They do not understand politics. Why are they talking so loudly? Why have they left their homes and hearths? Why are they here at all?

Perhaps the most worrying are the women of Shaheen Bagh, who even brought in the New Year sipping tea and singing songs of protest and the national anthem at their protest site. They have inspired similar sit-ins in Gaya in Bihar and Park Circus in Kolkata. Female bonding—that powerful, dangerous thing—is rippling out and flexing its muscles all over the country. It is a heady time to be a woman with passion and an opinion in India today. Far more heady than ‘adultery-shadultery’ certainly.

Over in the weird, weird west, Gwyneth Paltrow, who, for all her projected ditziness, possesses a large amount of entrepreneurial canniness, has perhaps felt these cosmic vibrations, and been moved to launch a scented candle called ‘This Smells Like My Vagina.’ It claims to be made with “geranium, citrusy bergamot and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with damask rose and ambrette seed”, and possesses “a funny, gorgeous, sexy and beautifully unexpected scent”. It is priced at $75, and looks like it will burn for approximately three hours.

The candle has sold out already. Gwyneth, yet again, seems to have cashed in on the mood of the times. Clearly, it is time for people to wake up and smell the vagina.