Friday, September 15, 2006

Friday Thoughts…Blondes.. Muslim Women With Hijabs and Jewish Orthodox Women.

I am writing this up while sitting at the train station lobby waiting for my train. Sitting across from this blonde. She is clad in ankle high leather shoes, tight fitting blue jeans with a full sleeved floral top. Legs crossed she has sort of a vacuous far away look. Is that a blonde thing?

She of course has perfect features, straight hair falling across shoulders along her long neck and large eyes as she cranes to look towards the train arrival info. She has lovely eyes too. And no I am not gawking. I am typing away and I have to look slightly above the top of the laptop to see her. You look yet you don't look.

I can see the slightest smile as she watches a baby crying and being bottle fed. Oh waiit she actually smiled.. a perfect smile and teeth. She has a chain around her neck with a pendant around it. Err.. ring finger is occupied, rust colored nailpolish goes well with the top. She has her shades in her ring hand playing with them as she now talks to the baby’s mom. She has one of those garment bags... the color matches the floral prints on her long sleeved top. She has a clear unblemished complexion. She must be in her late 30s early 40s, takes good care of herself. Nice top I noticed the neck just low enough to hint at the swell of her breasts. Hey..I am a guy I have a built in radar for this stuff.

She has a strangely hideous (to me and am no connoisseur) golden jacket with patterns on a red background. Did our eyes meet? Yes, but it’s the kind that happens when your gaze sweeps across an area. She reminds me of someone and I can't quite place her. She just left for her train, that’s one heavy bag. I could tell she had trouble carrying it, her gait altered by the load on her right side.. to be probably never seen again. *sigh*

I love observing people, the way they dress, carry themselves, their body language, what they read, what they carry. Something I do when I am too tired or spaced out and don’t want to read. It’s just my mind working on a different plane and in a strange way the banal happenings at a train station waiting area can be soothing. I wrote the above without edits except for spell checks. Maybe her initial look was one that a lot of us wear when we are in public spaces alone? She did have a charming smile, but watching a baby would do that to a lot us no?

On the train now. ...

Also saw this woman, probably a woman of the Muslim faith, she was wearing one of those things that they wear that covers their head and hair. This one rested on her shoulders. She had a full sleeved shirt on and a skirt that went right to her ankles. I had a flash of thoughts that a lot of us have when we might see some one following a dress code dictated by religion.

But is also brought to my mind something that I heard on NPR on Thursday, when viewers wrote in their responses to NPR programs. I remember this one, it was from a Muslim woman who wears something similar, she is an American. I recall Robert Siegel say in his lovely voice “This gentleman walked up to her and said.. You are in America now, you are free, you don’t have to wear that!”.

As I walked down the stairs I thought about it, and what came to my mind was the two orthodox Jewish women that I work with. They wear a wig (they are married), are dressed in long skirts and full sleeved shirts/tops. They are very observant and conservative. They are great to work with and nice folks. Some info about Jewish customs here.

I was wondering if anyone would ever walk up to them and say that they were in America and did not need to dress that way, they could choose to do what they wanted?

I am guessing not. Do you see the juxtaposition of these two?

They may not be perfect test cases, but are nonetheless interesting. One is perceived as being oppressed and under the hegemony of conservative religion, while the other is not. But you could make the same argument for the Jewish women too right? It’s just a matter of perception or maybe of how some of us given the terrible state of our media see only stereotypes. Perhaps the gentleman who talked to the Muslim woman who wrote to NPR was well meaning, but shouldn’t he have considered at least the possibility that how the woman dresses was a matter of choice and nothing to do with oppression? And not all Muslim women dress that way either.

I asked myself this questions as well. Personally I would rather not have religion dictate how women should dress or behave and that applies to the women I referred to here. I also think most religions treat men and women with different standards which smacks of hypocrisy. But I also want to see it thru the frame of history, culture, tradition. The America I believe in and grew up knowing, is about tolerance, respect and freedom of religion and also freedom from it. I know we seem to be moving away from it under this administration and I hope for our sake and the world’s it changes for the better.

Part of being able to deal successfully with the world around us or understand it better comes from being able to have an open mind and to ask questions, not just of those around us but also of ourselves. There may not always be answers or absolutes but then it is not always about answers, maybe it is just about understanding the world and each other a little better.

I segued from a blonde to a hijab clad woman and Jewish women and customs. Oy!

Enjoy your weekend folks.. later…


chandni said...

I can only smile in response to this post..

damn cute :)

Tamanna said...

Interesting post. I love people watching and I do that often while on the train and at the airports [my one place I would love to work]. I like your observations about the different women we do come across. And yes, I have also caught my myself questioning a friend's decision to wear a Hijab. And I think it was because the don't bothered me more. But it is her choice and I am proud of her for making such a strong decision.

Ash said...

Interesting post, yes.
Have a great weekend!

Shitrint said...

nice descriptions abt the women!!
especially while reading the blondes descriptions i felt like i was reading some novel or short story!

hehe yeah guys notice stuff abt women and sure they do hav an in-built radar!! go ahead, its ok not to explain why u notice stuff u do. its a lotta fun listening to guys take on things that they observe!
enjoy ur weekend too!

Aditi said...

Well I knew a friend in college who wore a hijaab, by choice, when she was old enough to enter college. While I thought it was a brave decision (I mean just to have to wear full sleeves in summer makes it a brave decision for me) but I have also seen children who wear a hijaab and that makes me frown a bit.
I guess you are right, another religion in its orthodoxy wouldnt be frowned upon, but to me imposing something like this on a child is wrong, no matter what the religion

Ameet said...

It's interesting that orthodox Muslim & Jewish traditions are so similar. Since both originated in roughly the same area, it seems like another instance of religion appropriating cultural traditions.

Sanjay said...

@Chandni.. Thanks

@Tamanna.. Thanks. It's your frnd'c choice to make and you are right in respecting that.

@Ash thanks.

@Shitrint. Thanks.

@Aditi. I agree with you about children wearing Hijab.

@Ameet.. You make a good point. Thanks

Keshi said...

Jay great post as usual.

lol ur a guy so u wud look at women on the train. There r so many men on the train observing me...I so know they r!

**You are in America now, you are free, you don’t have to wear that!”.

It's such a genuine statement. It's true cos she chose America as her home, so why feel so enslaved by a dress-code? I respect all faiths but I dun u'stand how some muslims go live in Western countries and criticise the Westerners' ways when they themselves dun change their ways.

Having said that d u rem my veil post and how much controversy it created? I lost 2 muslim friends due to that post. Thats another reason I cant u'stand muslims. They dun even wanna talk openly w.o taking things personally!


Sanjay said...

@Keshi.. Thanks.

I respect all faiths but I dun u'stand how some muslims go live in Western countries and criticise the Westerners' ways when they themselves dun change their ways.

I agree. I think things are a little better in the US with respect to that cos of our immigrant history. Also in the US it is a lot easier to integrate oneself, also there are plenty of opportunities and a chance to move up in life.

I remember your veil post now that you mention it. I am sorry that you lost friends cos of that.

Later. :)

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I love people watching too :)
I have to say that the one thing that annoys me the most is how the men impose religion/custom on their wives. But, they don't care to follow the rules. It just seems so unfair. I work with a muslim couple like that, the wife is always in a hijab and is covered from head to toe. The husband, does everything his faith tells him not to. Seems so unfair.

Anonymous said...

Blogger will not let me sign in to post a comment, hence the anonymous post above (and here).
- Piki

Sanjay said...

@Piki.. Sorry about your blogger problems. Maybe you want to switch to blogged beta?

I agree with the hypocrisy that you talk about. Sadly it's just a tool to treat women differently.

M (tread softly upon) said...

I heard that same program on NPR :) And I had such misconceptions about why Muslim womean wear the hijab. Sometimes I thank my stars for NPR. Wouldn't know how I'd make the long long drive every day otherwise.
The people (woman) watching was very nicely described. I could almost see this woman.

Sanjay said...

@M.. Thanks. I listen to the BBC on my early morning drive and NPR on the way back. I agree I have no idea what I would do without these 2.
Although I have to say I am disappointed with some aspects of NPR like I am with most of the spineless media in the US.

ishita said...

i do the same @ observing ppl :)...

ummm...ok i had a sense of deja vu @ tuk me back to keshi's post and all the controversy it created etc etc...phew!

said it then and will say it again, if women want to follow religious tradition of their own free will...fine...but i do feel that many (if not all) such traditions are sexist...and if given a choice I don't quite understand why women would choose to follow...but then that's just my opinion...and before some weird ppl bombard me with hate mails (yes that happened when i left a comment on keshi's post!), lemme say I mean this for all religions!

*sigh* i did a post explaining my comment..wld u believe that?! This is the link ""

:)...oh yes...u mentioned your father was in the railways? well so was mine:)...m a rly kid:) too!!!

Sanjay said...

ummm...ok i had a sense of deja vu @ hijaab...

I recalled that post once Keshi referenced it. I agree with you that people should be free to practice their religion/customs as they see fit, without imposing them on others.
Change within a religion to move away from egrigious or discriminatory practices should also be encouraged both from within and without, but mostly from within.
Again that is just an opinion and there is every which way to debate this.
I am sorry you had to deal with all that hate mail. I also read your post in response to the comment and that was a great rebuttal.
You are a rly kid too eh? sweet!

Jessica said...

You have an interesting bunch of topics on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Well done, my friend, well done!


Keshi said...

I agree with Ish. It is sexist no matter what and I know that MOST muslim women I know wear it cos they HAVE TO.

**I am sorry that you lost friends cos of that.

Jay but Im not sorry at all :) They chose to dump me cos of expressing my honest thughts...then it's their bloody loss.


Sanjay said...

@ Jessica Thanks!

@Mona.. Thank you :)

@Keshi.. You are right it is their loss.

MellowDrama said...

Hmm you have a valid point. Come to think of it, would you say that to a Mormon visiting New York? Lol...hey have you read LOST CONTINENT - Bill Bryson...just started it - observations on Small Town America, darned funny, think you will like it.
Btw watching people is nice but it gives me the heebie jeebies to think someone is observing me. Unless he is cute:)