The Feminine Code- Change Starts From Within.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we dedicate a whole month to women who are choosing to change themselves one step at a time. We are going to- ‘Be the change we wish to see in the world’. So here we go forming our own set of rules. For me the first one that encompasses all others-

Be Kinder To Your Own Kind- I would want to start by being nicer to other women.

For my views on the female code read the last paragraph of this post -





At home in Ballimaran.

At home in Ballimaran.


I never enjoy getting on a plane. If I can, I always prefer driving, to my chosen destination. But driving to Kashmir during the floods was not an option. It was on my flight back to Delhi from Srinagar on the 14th of September, last year that I met her. Arshi was a bubbly, seventeen year old, Dilli 6 ki ladki, who spoke nineteen to a dozen-about the floods and about herself. Being the youngest of six siblings, she knew how to hold my attention. I soon became ‘aapi’ and of course, I was totally enamoured by her charm. After all, she loved Ghalib, too. 

Recently, I caught up with my little spitfire at her home in Chandni Chowk and strolled through Old Delhi. Here, are excerpts from the conversation.

Do you feel pressurized to wear a hijab?

No! It’s my wish.

When you step out of Chandni Chowk, do you ever find people staring at you?

Yes, but it doesn’t make me a difference.

What do wish for young Muslim girls, such as yourself?

First, we should be independent. We should be allowed to speak our minds, freely not only at home but outside, as well.

Do you consider yourself to be independent?

Yes! I do. Mein kissi ke dabaav mein nahin aati. I move freely. I do what pleases me but I try to be good.

Can you tell me about your experience during the floods in Kashmir?

I was really excited to visit Kashmir. There was a family wedding in Srinagar and my sister and I reached there on the 1st of September. The wedding got over on the 4th of September and on the 5th the area, Batmaloo started submerging in water. We were evacuated from smaller houses and moved to taller buildings.  It was very difficult to get through the night. There was no electricity and it was really cold. Hum bahut pareshaan the lekin, Allah se dua karte rahein. Then Allah helped us and after a few days we returned home.

Did the neighbours help?

Yes, the roofs were connected with planks, so first we shifted to a neighbours house and then as the water receded we moved back to our relatives. When it had receded to our waist level, we walked through it and caught a flight back to Delhi.

What do you like to do?

Mein speech me sabse aage hun. I participate in a lot of debates and competitions. I have many participation certificates and have won many prizes. I love to dance and my teachers love me because I am freedom.

Plus, you love reciting poetry. Do you want to recite something?

Yes! I love poetry. Hame kyaa maloom tha zindagi itni anmol he dosto. Kafan odh kar dekha to nafrat karne wale bhi ro rahe the.














A little while ago, I contemplated discontinuing the monologue section of this blog. Actually, it’s not really a section yet- it will eventually become one. I was in process of forming it, therefore, none of those posts were being shared on other platforms. But I chickened out…just for a little while. It’s easier talking about this, that and the other: rather than what one is or probably feels in the present moment. I’m unusually frail and hypersensitive these days.
One would have made a great case study for Walter Cannon. Bypassing my rational mind, with my impulses quickened  and going into Fight or Flight Mode is a usual occurrence. But that can not remain my modus operandi. It’s eventually, going to become counterproductive. Didion said that writing is an ‘aggressive, hostile act’. How can one surpass the chance to impose oneself?
 This one goes out to the people who are kind enough to search for this blog, to read my personal thoughts. The things I couldn’t understand myself, I tried to explain to others! So I guess, it’s no longer just about the city I live in and the people I meet. It’s slowly becoming about my gypsy soul, the ‘Being’ in transit. Thank you I’m flattered.


“Dekha hua sa kuch hai,
Socha hua sa kuch
Har waqt uljha hua sa
Mere saath  hai kuch.
Hota hai yun bhi raasta
Khulta nahi kahin,
Jangal sa phail jaata hai
Khoya hua sa kuch.
Sahil ki geeli ret par
Bachchon ke khel sa
Har lamha mujh mein banta
Bikharta hua sa kuch.
Fursat ne aaj ghar ko sajaya
Kuch is tarah,
Har shay mein muskurata hai
Rota hua sa kuch.
Dhundli si ek yaad kisi
Qabr ka diya,
Aur mere aas paas
Chamakta hua sa kuch.
Kabhie kabhie yun bhi
Apne jee ko bahlaaya hai,
Jin bantoon ko khudd nahin samjhe
Auro ko samjhaya hai.”-Nida Fazli


“Zindagii jehad mein hai sabr ke qaabuu mein nahiin
nabz-e-hastii kaa lahuu kaamptii aansuu mein nahii
Urne khulne mein hai nakhat kham-e-gesu mein nahiin
Jannat aik aur hai jo mard ke pahluu mein nahiin
Uskii aazaad ravish par bhii machalnaa hai tujhe
Uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe
Goshey goshey mein sulagtii hai chitaa tere liye
Farz kaa bhes badaltii hai qazaa tere liye
Qahar hai terii har narm adaa tere liye
Zahar hii zahar hai duniyaa kii havaa tere liye
Rut badal daal agar phuulnaa phalnaa hai tujhe
Uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe
Qadr ab tak terii tarriikh ne jaanii hii nahiin
Tujh mein shole bhii hain bas ashkfishaanii hii nahiin
Tu haqiiqat bhii hai dilchasp kahaanii hii nahiin
Terii hastii bhii hai ik chiiz javaanii hii nahiin
Apnii tarrikh kaa unvaan badalnaa hai tujhe
Uth merii jaan mere saath hii chalnaa hai tujhe” Kaifi Azmi.


In Response

Last year I received a mail from Iona, asking about my views on feminism. At that time, I sent her a response and contemplated publishing the letter on this platform. But since I was busy fighting my own demons, it got delayed.

My parents never had a traditional marriage. Since my mother has Bipolar Disorder, the roles that they played were quite unlike the classic man-woman roles. My Dad was the caretaker, whereas, my Mom is unlike most women you’ll meet. She is the centre of the household. I tread on matters of mental health, marriage, right/wrong rather carefully, since I have seen a lot of grey areas. As a human being, my personal beliefs disallow me to label myself. The world at large does that enough. I am not and will never be a feminist. Just like I will never be a good girl, a smart girl, a polite girl or an activist. If I had to label myself, I would call myself a ‘wanderer’ or a ‘seeker’- someone who looks for.

But since I was asked about my views, here they are-

“I am an odd person to ask about contemporary feminist views. Considering I’m a 35 year old photographer who travels to Rajasthan and Kashmir by road. At times unaccompanied, at times with a house help or an assistant…unlike most women I feel safe driving around in the middle of the day or night. This or when I say I’m not the bra burning type, infuriates all the lovely ladies who I bump into at Jantar Mantar or even artists who have been working for the cause for decades.

According to them I come from a privileged background, I only travel in my SUV; I never use public transport and therefore, in conclusion I’ve never been harassed by a man or I’m unaware of what most women go through! Now, that is a little bit unfair.

I’m well aware of the patriarchal system and especially amongst the class of society I belong to. Hailing from a Sikh business class family where the boy is the sole heir to the family business and the ancestral property, the reason I will inherit anything is because of the untimely demise of my younger brother. Most of my sisters won’t. So patriarchy I understand, through and through.

You ask for my views: therefore, I blabber… indulge me. I can’t quote Simone de Beauvior. Not because I can’t; it ain’t rocket science but because I don’t like to. She writes about the double and deceptive visage of women in the chapter, ‘The Myth of Woman in Five Authors’ in the Second Sex –‘’She incarnates all moral values, from good to evil, and their opposites; she is the substance of action and whatever is an obstacle to it, she is man’s grasp on the world and his frustration: as such she is the source and origin of all man’s reflection on his existence and of whatever expression he is able to give to it; and yet she works to divert him from himself, to make him sink down in silence and in death. She is servant and companion, but he expects her also to be his audience and critic and to confirm him his sense of being: but she opposes him with her indifference, even with her mockery and laughter.’’ So on and so forth; I can pull out my copy of the book, write down a couple of interesting lines and sound like the real deal! A true feminist but I’m not one.

As for the case of feminism in India, there are some feminists I’ve met who I admire. There’s Sheba Chhachhi who can be considered the ‘true feminist artist/photographer’ and Deepti Sharma from Saheli who is staunch supporter of repealing AFSPA and is part of the group, ‘Voices against 377’. Why I mention  these two is because these two veterans have been working quietly for the cause, without judging what others do.

But on the same topic, I have to agree with an essay written by Madhu Kishwar, about the initial phases of the feminist movement in India, which I find is still relevant.’’ In India new opportunities were made available for a small group of western educated women who gravitated towards feminism. Being absorbed in international feminist circles brought upward mobility, in jobs and careers and international conferences and study programmes. This access to jobs, consultancies and grants especially in universities and from international aid organization came relatively easy to those calling themselves feminists as compared to those unversed in feminist rhetoric. This was contrary to the experiences of the western feminists who had to struggle hard to find acceptance in their professions.”

I’m not playing the Devil’s advocate and stating that we don’t require feminism. Nor that women are safe in India or we don’t have to worry about inheritance issues or female infanticide, the economic/ sociological/ psychological issues faced by women. But the feminist movement largely disillusions me. I recently went for a protest against the rape of two Dalit women and the gathering was miniscule. There are some highly publicized events and issues where everyone turns up and some things it seems don’t count. They say it has nothing to do with class! Then there is the way in which we as artists are supposed to portray the issues…the Muslim woman is a clear example. Why am I supposed to portray every Muslim woman, with or without a veil as a totally subservient creature, just to be termed a feminist?

My ‘privileged’ existence and my sexual preference (I’m straight), discount me from ever being taken seriously in certain circles. But since I’m not looking for funding, I don’t care. A 100 pieces of me is my way of taking the time to understand the issues of each individual woman I meet, her thoughts, her life and what she wants from it. Not my label of who she is or what she ought to be!

As for how never having been harassed by a man, there are many instances. I am after all an unmarried woman, who does exactly what she pleases. So I get my share of harassment and my share of flak. Plus, each time I travel to a place alone, it’s automatically assumed it’s for a man. But the one thing that will remain imprinted on my mind was a remark that was made by a ‘progressive’ friend, ’ that’s why you’re not married because you’re bossy!’

Men will never be considered too assertive but a woman who means business is considered bossy and then her personal life, marital status etc can be dragged into any conversation. But these are issues that persist everywhere. After all we are under the male gaze.”

Since, we have opened the Pandora’s box, let’s see what I think, now. As usual I have more questions than answers.

In my adolescence, I believed that if I ever did get married, I would never take on my husband’s surname. In my case it would have been taking on, since, I thought that using my father’s name was also a label and that took away my personal identity. I have considered following the Sikh tradition of using the surname ‘Kaur’, but my religious identity is as questionable as the rest of my identity. The cover of my first book, Being- has just my signature on it. My signature till date consists only of my first name. I now call myself ‘Saadiya Kochar’,  due to an attachment to my sibling. But there has been another change in thought, over the years. I wonder if my sense of who I am is really attached to a name?

A lack of a lucid reply. Let’s retrace my steps. This is what I wrote on Fb on the 30th of December 2012.

“We go out and protest for the rights of a girl we didn’t know. Outraged, as we should be! Yet we never stand up for the rights of the women we know. Why don’t sons whack their fathers when they beat up their mothers? Why don’t brothers share their ancestral properties with their sisters? How does a father watch a man emotionally abuse his daughter? Why don’t the women of a household ever standup for any injustices inflicted upon the other female members? Why do we say it’s wrong but ACT like it’s all right? When we can watch it happen to the women we love… this was a girl we didn’t even know! We should demonstrate for Damini. But what happens to those rape cases that go unreported every few hours? Women are abused everyday and we watch it every single day! We women should first teach our sons, brothers and spouses something only then will the society change. That is demonstration!”
I  envy people who can ride the same train of thought. I change my mind at least twice a day, so holding on to a thought from 2012 is too difficult for me. As I read this another question pops up. If every one is going to change the society and the people around them, when are we going to change ourselves?
My entire life, most of my interactions have been with men.  Teachers, mentors, bosses, assistants I have been surrounded by the male species. Though, I went to a convent school, I kept to myself and the few female friends I made, were also like me, always surrounded by male relatives. Though my work has been about the female energy, my personal life has been a far cry from it. But suddenly, there has been an influx of women in my life and I have started to understand many things about my own kind.
Men have an unspoken understanding, the bro-code as they call it. Women have no set of rules to deal with other women. We are the first ones to pull a woman down. A guy will think twice before saying something unsavory, women can say and do anything to each other. Last year I joined an office, where all the women claimed to be feminists but I never heard them say one nice thing about each other. I realized that as long we are fighting for the victims we all stand together. But when it comes to dealing with someone from our class, who directly affects our lives, the rules change.
The only way we are going to change society, is by changing ourselves. The first step is to make your own set of female rules. I have started to make mine.
Let your work be about celebrating the female energy. Stand up for the women you know, not just the women you don’t. Promote the female voice. Don’t try to alter other women to your standard, live and let be.  Increase your interaction with women, even if it’s uncomfortable. Never go after another woman’s man. The mother-in-law is not a monster. Try thinking one good thing about a woman you don’t like. Let your female relatives/friends know you’re always on their side.  Put your money where mouth is and always stand up for yourself.
This is why I can never be a feminist, I’m fighting the wrong person- Myself!





I started this project thinking it would be about my interactions with people and about the city I live in. For each month I have a backup interview ready, waiting to be published. People I’ve interviewed, are wondering why I am not publishing anything new. Honestly, my attention dwindles as usual.

There’s a diary I found a few months ago, from when I was in the seventh grade, that has sparked this series of monologues. It’s a diary of a twelve year old contemplating suicide. I know, it’s the most politically incorrect thing to talk about, unless you’re advocating against it. Now, you may wonder why at such a young age thoughts like these pop up in a person’s mind. There are plenty of reasons for it but that’s a conversation for another day. People have all these archives, that show them in their best light. Someday, that would be a part of mine.

But the retrieval of that diary has lead to many revelations. Ya, ya, I know, I’m having too many of those, these days. It seems like I’ve got stuck at a particular age and have not grown beyond it. I feel as if this 35 year old body is just a disguise, I’ve put on and despite my varied experiences, I have the maturity of an imbecile. But there’s another thing that worries me, incessantly. Why are we supposed to go through our lives pretending to be perfect, normal, regular or what have you? If I call a project a 100 pieces of me, what are the pieces that I am going to put on display?

I don’t really have the appropriate answer to that question, yet. But there’s something that gnaws at me. Each time I’m having a conversation with a person it runs the predictable course. Nobody really wants to show you their scars, their broken pieces, their not so perfect lives, their not so perfect thoughts. Nobody wants to say ‘no I’m not an expert on life’ nor on myself! Nobody really says, ‘I’m so confused my head hurts’ or ‘my heart aches’ or ‘I messed up’ or ‘I want you to see the worst version of me.’

I  wonder how I’m going to take this forward. For the longest time I thought not many people read my personal posts. I never share them on other platforms and I don’t allow followers on this particular one. But I underestimate the general curiosity about me. If I carry on, I have to be prepared for all kinds of personal attacks-a dissection of everything I am. To do a project on a person, place or thing is so much easier than on your own thoughts and on your own self. I don’t know if I’ll be able to muster up the courage to talk about my less than perfect existence.


It’s a usual Sunday morning. Dad’s sitting with his hair untied and beard open- sipping a screwdriver and arguing with a carpenter. I’m sitting there fiddling with my phone. Of course the conversation takes the usual turn. “Tum meri beti ko nahin jaante, insaan ko chaar hisse me kar deti he. Log apne beto se daraate hein, hum apni beti se.”  The poor chap looks at me, I smile sheepishly and they’ve come to a logical conclusion.

I am the bad cop- the watchdog of the house. It’s one of my most cherished roles.  It isn’t really a traditional role but then it isn’t really a traditional family. Unlike, most family setups where the woman plays the role of the homemaker/caretaker, the roles and rules of my family are a little bit different. For the longest time, I defined it as a dysfunctional setup, till I grew up and realized-all families are dysfunctional and everyone is a bit crazy. Some just mask it better than others.

I’ve been asked to write about my experiences. The trouble with that is sometimes the written word can be considered accusatory, sometimes disrespectful and in my case most often romanticised. Since there’s no absolute truth, my truth and view of reality is highly questionable, just like everyone’s. Plus, I’m a little bit like my Dad- we throw our shit right in your face and say deal with it. Most people can be quite flabbergasted by such candor. But what the heck? I’ve always been the bad guy- so I think I’ll continue ranting.

It’s been an interesting weekend. I’m not talking about the India Art Fair, though meeting Satish Gujral, certainly was a pleasure. A boy I once knew is engaged to be married and  the ex is taking his model-girlfriend, everywhere I wasn’t allowed to go. Though none of these events are new or surprising seeing posts and photographs on Fb, have lead to a personal revelation. Suddenly, I’ve been able to walk into Room 2 of the ‘Johari House’ and Alas! I’ve been able to look at the ‘Blind Spot’ quadrant. I am the ‘free bird’, I was emphatically told I was. Most people have a notion of the kind of person they should end up with and I was the aberration. Like Ayn Rand said, ”you can avoid reality but you can’t avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” The reality is I never did fit the mould. Though, it all saddens me a bit, I feel relieved as I ‘Like’ everything. After all, what is meant for us can’t be taken away and what is not can’t be held onto. It’s time to accept and let it all, go.

It is 2015, the start of a Brand New Year. Life seems like the Landmark Forum Mantra,’empty and meaningless’, with nothing familiar in sight. But I’m starting to feel hopeful in this state. The  sobbing has reduced and though I feel afraid all the time, I think the meltdown is officially over.  For now I just have travel on my mind and this-”Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with them.” Or maybe some women are just meant to run with wolves, who knows? We’ll see.