by Roli Mahajan
India is synonymous with Bollywood. Love or hate it, Bollywood dominates Indian lives. I love songs, mediocre films and the tinsel town. A couple of years ago, a mediocre film—I don’t even remember the name of the film, now! It was that mediocre—hit the cinema halls. I didn’t see the film but the songs were all over the radio. And if the commercial radio stations decide that you need to like a song, they play it so many times a day that you inevitably memorise the song better than your textbooks.
“DK BOSE” one of such songs stuck to my head. When asked to sing a song at a college farewell party, it rolled off my tongue. I don’t have a great voice but who cares, right? I sang on, expecting everyone to join me.
Silence prevailed. It was not of the good kind as I could hear some guys sniggering a little. I had goofed, but how?
Puzzled and upset, I left the party almost immediately. I called my friend, an expert in pop culture and all things related to sex. This call soon became a conference call with three friends.
“Wow Roli, why would you do something without thinking?” She scolded.
“But it was just a song?” I said.
“Ok, let us not get into why this song might not have been the best choice! Roli, say the words out loud in the reverse order.” Someone else said.
And I did. Hearing my blank utterance of the word, I could feel their frustration.
“Aww innocent girl…” My third friend pitched said, her words almost hugging me through the computer.
Bho – comes from the word “Bhu” in Hindi, meaning mother earth, representing fertile or simply put vagina. “Sadi” means rotten and “ke” means born of. Therefore, the words “DK BOSE” when spoken aloud many times and quickly will start sounding like the abuse “bhosdike”. That would mean a person, specifically a man, born from a rotten or disfigured vagina.
Like any other abuses, it is capable of shifting meanings depending on whose mouth utters it. People who use abuses have probably forgotten their exact meaning. In this case, it could mean that a mother has had so many partners that by the time you were born, the vagina was disfigured. I do not like to use abuses so I was a little taken aback.
The discussion then took a more serious route. Everyone who knew something about abuses started pointing out how abuses were always directed at women. One of my more knowledgeable friends said that he had never heard of a penis being abused. So much so that the Hindus in India actually worship a symbol of divine generative energy or Lord Shiva. He was talking about the lingam that one finds in temples. A lingam is a phallic object and if observed properly, you could see how it represents a penis.
He then told us about the connection between sex and religion. In ancient times, when kings built separate temples, it had an innermost room—or the sanctum—with the lingam or deity in it. Only the king could enter the room. He would visit this room to speak with his creators.
Just close your eyes and imagine: a dark room with no artifice but a lingam in the middle. In other words, the womb (dark room) signifying everything female with the lingam (signifying the male energy) inside coming together to form the child, us, humans. I mean the mother and father as one with each other, while the child (or the king in this case) in conversation with them, almost as one with them while they are synergising through the act of sex or maybe being male and female at the same time.
Honestly, I had never thought of a temple in that way. I was freaking out a bit and wondering what would the Hindu right-wingers say about this? The amazing thing for me was that the VAGINA was missing. A womb signifies a mother but a VAGINA signifies sensuality, is that why a mother is respectful while ‘just a woman’? How does a woman respected for motherhood also become a subject of abuse? How does the vagina, that path through which birth—which is so respected by many—become a throne hurled at the woman at the slightest provocation?
I made my excuses, got off the call and spent a lot of time thinking.
From that day, I watched my use of language closer. Was my friend right about this? I realised that all abuses (at least in hindi) had a female twist. To truly abuse a woman, abuse her honour; drag her reproductive organs and stomp on them in public. She will hardly fight back.
This also amazes me. Everyone, male or female, came by a woman, by the organs that you abuse. You will love a woman (physically or non-physically) yet you will use her as the underlying dirty context of an abuse? You have a daughter. You have sisters. You have a wife. So, it is a case of pointing one finger while four fingers are pointed back to you.
I don’t think that anyone uses the word “vagina” in India on a daily basis. Many of those who use it, use it only to abuse. Women usually use it to prove points in a man’s world and definitely, only after seeing its usage in the ‘western world’. I think, vagina does signify sexuality and a woman’s right to enjoy sex. It sadly, also means that most men, as well as their fathers, have a problem with a woman having sex or even worse, enjoying it.
These issues are all important. One major one bothers me: I still don’t know the hindi translation of vagina. Do you know it? I hope that someday when I find it, I can use it to represent something optimistic, positive and MINE!
– Roli currently freelances as a photographer and journalist in India. She has previously contributed features, blog posts, reviews and articles on a wide range of subjects like climate change, women/youth issues, corruption, travel, art and culture for various print and online media outlets including Thomson Reuter’s TrustLaw and AlertNet, the student’s edition of The Hindu, UNEarth, Down to Earth, Go Now, Mail Today and Love Matters.
She has pursued two masters degrees, in Mass Communication and Journalism and in International Relations. She has recently acquired a diploma in photojournalism from Ateneo de Manila.