Book Review: Women of India

Women of India is a photo book by award winning photo journalist Mukul Roy from Chicago, USA. Portraits of women in the luminescent hues of subdued shades and shadows. The book directs our gaze at women who remain involved in their daily lives, unassuming about their appearance in photographs in the book. It is nearly half a century of painstaking documentation.

The vignettes are histories of ourselves, narratives about ourselves and our past, loans from our memories to make sense of the anticipation of our future.

Caste stratification in India is just an extension of patriarchy in the name of a metaphysical ethics of religion. How the stratification works within caste and most of all the privileged position boys have, in the rituals and practices and the secondary role played by women, the  stigmatism related to the non-male physiology, and the absence of women priests in temples. 

And so we need supermen and heroes in our narrative, movies about caste emancipation, when the entire mythology is rigged without a way to see beyond it.

Patrilocality, Endogamy and the commodification of the mitochondrial DNA entrenches patriarchy as the fundamental cultural gaze. 

In evolutionary biology, females are accorded the more important role by the genes of all animals, including humans. Only in human society, the male is able to set up a panopticon to regulate female behaviour, indeed reproduction and desire itself.  The female travels to the groom’s village in patrilocal societies and where the caste system is entrenched endogamy is the norm, women are married in the boundary of the caste, the mitochondrial DNA (inherited DNA from the mother) are sent to a male within the caste.

When we are empowered by technology but crippled by race, religion and class – the very divisions that have made humans – inhuman. The contours of politics are drawn by identity, class, and religion, it’s who you think you are that makes you support a particular idea and not a ideology or vision of happiness and well being for all.

Wrap this with the patriarchy of theistic religion, and we find how phallic and masculine – gendering and stereotyping of our progeny is. Theistic religion is the root of patriarchy and social stratification, not just class and capital. Genetics proves that Religion was invented to make the female human to be in ownership of the male.

Mukul Roy’s photography looks at women as they appear in various corners of India, a vast archival documentation of the life of women in the sub-continent, as unfiltered and without the glaring spotlight chimera of television. Her perspective liberates the gaze from the masculine stare of traditional ways of looking. The medium of light and it’s shades make the visuals really eye-catching.

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