Indo-Turkish Dialogue: Historical, Social and Cultural Perspectives is an international conference organized by the Centre for Study of Foreign Languages (University of Hyderabad), Indialogue Foundation Hyderabad and Mevlana University in collaboration with Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi. The conference, scheduled for 16th and 17th October, is currently underway.
Prof. Rekha Pande presented on the topic Royal bonds – Turkish Women at Home in the Palaces of Hyderabad. Prof. Pande spoke of the manner in which history has been written – a patriarchal construct where “his story” finds place but “her story” in conspicuous in its absence. Writings on women are far and few in between. Histories deem war, commerce, diplomacy and politics important as these are the subjects that men consider important. Women’s roles in agriculture, animal husbandry, and a plethora of topics that are considered unimportant by patriarchy are left out, leaving but a faint picture of women over the ages.
Women are represented in relation to men. The concepts of Compensatory History and Contributory History were discussed. In the former, literature is created to compensate for the lack of any material, and the latter records the contributions of women are evaluated and judged fit to mention by men.
Having established the lack of literature to work on a subject regarding the history of women, Prof. Pande explained that she used some paintings, personal artifacts of the people concerned and what little material she could find to conduct her research. The professor sought to explain the influence of Turkish women on Hyderabad through the lives of Princess Durru Shehvar and Princess Niloufer, Turkish women who married Hyderabad’s royalty. Princess Durru was a fiercely independent woman who spoke out against the pardah system, promoted the need to educate women and believed that women must be able to work and fend for themselves. She established schools and hospitals, and subverted the system of women being confined to their homes.
Pre-19th century, there was little public participation by women. Among the elite, “respected women” were those who confined themselves to their homes, and those who participated in public life among the elite were largely considered unrespectable. These “unrespectable women” included courtesans, tawaifs, annas and mamas. There existed a Dafter-e-Arbab Nishat (Department of Pleasure) which regulated the lives of these women. A large number of tawaifs were from Turkey.
Princess Niloufer was renowned for her beauty and her French-designed saris. She too established institutions for the welfare of the people and her public life had an impact on the attitudes of the people in the city.
Another speaker shared the stage with Prof. Pande – Paridhi Singh is a student of Jindal Global Law School, and her personal experiences as an exchange student and researcher in Turkey and Russia aided her talk on economic progress through youth empowerment and exchange.
Furnishing listeners with some data and insight on the youth of India and Turkey, Paridhi Singh made a strong argument in favour of encouraging youth exchange programs between countries. She spoke about how policies concerning youth encouraged or inhibited growth and development. She pointed out that Turkey was among the few governments to actually include input from youth in the formation of its youth policy. 8,000 – 10,000 students were interviewed in the making of its youth policy, instead of following the top-down approach typically adopted by governments across the world. She also spoke of the constitutional provisions that India and Turkey have for their youth. In India, policies like Right to Education, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and Right to Employment safeguard the interest of youth. She also spoke of Turkey’s constitutional provision to safe guard its youth from hazardous habits, and the protection of their physical and psychological needs.
Paridhi Singh spoke of the manner in which countries can foster good will and forge friendship by allowing youth exchange programs centered on education, professional practices and culture. She pointed out that without the restrictions that shackle diplomats and governments in their communications, the youth of two countries can be made sensitive to each other’s lives and needs through interpersonal interactions. Breaking stereotypes, bridging information gaps and the creation of a powerful, proactive and united young generation are possible via these exchange programs. A feeling of shared responsibility is engendered when one feels the need to stand up for the people one has come to regard as friends, she pointed out.
-Harika Vankadara, MA-Communication