Saturday, 21 March 2015

Taking the time

Dear readers, 

I am sorry I haven't updated my blog in a long time. Procrastination being my middle name  life always got in the way! But here I am, with a new short story I wrote a few months ago in India. Let me know what you think and I promise to keep writing more (posting it is another thing) :P


Taking the time...

     “Chalo, let’s go for a walk” says the grandfather to his little grandson. He takes him by the hand and off they go exploring…A new building is being built on this huge street. The building is called Fergusson College. "May be you’ll study here one day”, says ajoba to Mahesh. But the 5 year old is more interested in picking out flowers! He follows a bee that is hovering over the pretty purple blooms . The bee sits on a flower. Mahesh is mesmerised by its colours and the buzzing sound it makes. He stretches his finger out to touch it!  “Don’t touch it, yells ajoba!”. One smack with newspaper in his hand and the bee falls dead to the ground. 
          Mahesh is awoken by the sound of a nurse who dashes into the room. "Wake up kaka! Your daughter just messaged - You have a healthy baby grandson!" Mahesh rubs the sleep out of his eyes and sits up. He looks at the yellow walls around him. The strong smell of phenol fills his nostrils, a sharp reminder of his present abode - Astitva, an old age home. 

He is filled with happiness. He has a grandson. He wishes he could go see his daughter, hug her and tell her that he is proud of her. Sometimes when somethings are not said or done at the right time they assume such heavy proportions that it becomes more and more difficult to say them. So difficult, that sometimes they remain unsaid. 
His eyes are filled with tears as he looks down at his legs. They lie there limp reminding him of the fateful day in the cold mountains of Kanchanjunga, the single bullet in his left knee that ended life as he knew it. 

He was filled with so much anger . His daughter 15 years old when he came back home, a paralysed man. He was never really around to see her turn into a beautiful young woman. Always away at some corner of the country, protecting borders, from an imagined enemy. He came home only three times in 10 years. And every time for a very short time. 

Leela, would look at him with timid eyes from behind the dining table. Too afraid to run up to her daddy and hug him. She had asked her mother once why he was so strict.

 “He is an army man Leela, he is used to being tough. But he loves you, you know that!”

She had thought about this on many nights, as she lay in her bed wondering - would it be any different if she was a boy? May be then she could one day be in the army and make her father proud. She knew that the army was his life. Every time he left she would cry for a week, she never knew why. She would see her friend’s fathers dropping them to school and saying goodbye with a hug, sometimes she would imagine that her dad did the same. 

        Old age had gotten the better of his already poor memory. He remembered bits of the past now that came and went like ripples in a pond. He remembered how angry he was after he came back home. The constant frustration and pain. He wanted to be there for his country! Especially when they were fighting such an important war! He heard news about his battalion braving it at Kargil. Many of his friends had died. He felt so helpless. His wife kept urging him to talk to her about it. But what could he say to her? He had been injured in times of peace, in a trivial tiff with a colleague! He was no war hero! 

Years passed by, the pain went away but the anger remained.He hated this dependency on his wife. He hated the look of the stub which served as a daily reminder of this dependency. The doctors kept encouraging him to try walking again, he could use a prosthetic limb, but what was the point! It was not like he could go back onto the field! 
He would just sit in his room and reminisce about the old days. Would his life be any better if he had not been injured? He would probably be dead by now. What was the point of war anyway? He had fought a few wars himself. He had put himself in the line of fire. He had killed one too many ‘enemies'. What good had come out of that? Here the country was, at war once again. Bathing in the blood of young men to satisfy the egos of the nation states. His hands were stained with the blood of so many men. Men who were somebody’s husbands, somebody’s fathers. He had deprived his own daughter of a father’s love. He hardly knew her. The nation was his only love and now forced to take the time, he had begun to wonder if it was worth it? 


          After her mother passed away Leela tried for one whole year to take care of her father. He had closed himself into a shell. He refused to let her in. The wall that had always been there, seemed to have hardened. So when her admission letter from the School of Beaux Arts came along, she moved to France .There was no point in her staying around here anymore. 

Years passed by and Leela made a life of her own. She became a renowned artist whose work was appreciated all over the world. She married her college sweetheart and now they even had their first baby! She was finally happy, but this happiness seemed tainted. She wished her parents were here with her. How she missed her mother! Oh! She would have been so thrilled! 

But what about her father. He had diligently called and congratulated her on the day Aditya was born. It had been so formal and awkward. But what did he feel? Was he happy? Would she ever know? She sighed and dismissed these thoughts. Today was an important day and she wasn’t going to let herself get distracted. It was Aditya’s first day of school already! How time flies by! It seemed just like yesterday that he was a tiny helpless baby cooing in her arms and now he was already 5!

              One day he came back from school and asked “is my grandfather dead?' She was surprised at his question and asked him why he thought so. "Myra said, she cannot see her grandpa anymore because he is dead. I have never seen mine. Is he dead as well?”

Leela’s heart sank! How could she explain to her son why he had never seen his ajoba, even though he was still alive. The boy’s questioning eyes broke her heart. She decided that may be it was time for another try. Aditya deserved to know his grandfather. Would his grandfather want to know him, she did not know, but it was worth a try. 
           “Chalo, let’s go for a walk” says the little boy to his grandfather. He takes him by the hand and they start walking slowly along the footpath. Mahesh looks around the street, it has changed so much, but so has his life. 

He thinks back to the day when he woke up to a knock on his door. There she was, with her son, his grandson! The boy ran up to him and whole heartedly hugged him. This was the moment when life as he knew it has changed. Sometimes when somethings are not said or done at the right time they assume such heavy proportions that it becomes more and more difficult to say them. So difficult, that sometimes they remain unsaid. But, this one gesture by this innocent child made it possible. A volcano of emotions erupted inside his soul that stirred his whole being. He looked into his daughters eyes and saw that something had changed in her as well. 

Over the next few months, as the wounds of the past slowly began to heal and he began to walk again.He was filled with a revived rigour for life. He has had a reason to put on that prosthetic limb and give life a second chance. 

I see him now. Here he is with his gorgeous miracle worker. Sighing with happiness he waits patiently while Aditya admires the myriad colours of nail polish at one of the street shops. When satisfied Aditya comes over and holds his ajoba’s hand. And they continue their stroll. Taking the time  to explore the many things that this new street has to offer...

Friday, 13 September 2013

Harmless leching?

  The four accused in the Nirbahaya case have been granted the death sentence. Most of the people are rejoicing - Justice done at last. And it is true that justice has been done to the young woman whose life was cut short abruptly.
But what about all the other young women who may or may not have been 'raped'? Has anything changed to make life safer for them? What has changed for the millions of women around our country who live in the constant fear of being raped or attacked? What about the women who are insecure in their places of work, education or even homes?

We talk about changing the world, we talk about changing mindsets, we talk about raising better sons. But what to do about the sons that have already been raised? We talk about problematizing issues - do not look at unrequited only in the context of woman's right to say no, look at why she says no. See how different class, caste intersections and hierarchies put people in constantly changing paradigms of power. All this is important and necessary but what to do now??
How to deal with the practical lived realities of our daily lives?

For instance, there is a group of guys in the building where my classes take place, that have been 'staring' creepily at the girls of my class. At first each of us thought we were the lone target of these uncomfortable glances, but upon sharing experiences we found out that in fact most of us were being troubled by these stares. This group of men lurk around in the corridors of the building. Walk up and down outside our classroom looking inside through the windows, they stand at the corners and stare into the classrooms leching at us one by one. They follow us when we go to the washroom and when we go to the water cooler.
Every time we walk into that building we have to keep our guard on and wonder what is going to happen today?

What to do in such a situation? Some people think we should confront these men, some are of the opinion that we should just stare back at them. But how to get the message across without threatening their sense of masculinity? Masculinity, especially in the context of a group can be a very complex issue. At once, the group strengthens 'collective masculinity' but at the same time makes 'individual masculinity' very fragile, which when threatened can take on more aggressive forms. For instance, if a guy is alone and he is humiliated by a girl who he has been acting smart with, he may back off easily, but if he is in a group, his ego, his sense of masculinity gets a double blow and in this case, it becomes a question of gaining ones lost ego back, which can be done by punishing the perpetrator of the threat.

Thus, this is a delicate issue. Bringing an authority like a teacher into the picture can mend matters or make matters worse. Unpredictability shrouds the whole situation. And the Police? What do you tell them, please do something about these men who are staring at us? I have noticed that many times, people brush off the so called 'stares'. They aren't taken seriously - come on they say, how many times do you get leched at everyday, if you start taking all of them seriously you would end up traumatized? Hell, most of the times, some people even tell you to stop reading into 'curious stares' as leching.
But I know what I am talking about and I am sure at least a million other women would know what I am talking about. How do brush of that intuition, the dirty feeling of being violated by somebody's eyes? And what do you do if the person continues to indulge in this seemingly 'harmless' activity everyday!

What is the solution here? Do you stop going out? Do you cover yourself from head to toe? Do you confront the person, or do you ignore till something 'serious' happens? Why is that despite so many instances of threat to women and children, we are not taking preventive measures seriously! Why do we have to wait for 'something to happen'? Why do we have to live in fear?

What can be done? Any answers society?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Earthlings - Do we deserve to be called that?

Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of their own race when there is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. 
Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. 
Similarly speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species.
- Earthlings, 2006.

  What is it that gives the human species the power to rule over this planet? If we look closely, on the grounds of sheer strength, human beings are almost powerless! We do not run as fast as the cheetah, we do not have teeth like a tiger, we cannot roar like a lion nor can we fly like the eagle! So, logically we ought not to be on top of the food chain, and yet, we are.
Some say, it is our intelligence that sustains us. Yet others say we owe it to our adaptability skills, the fact that we have been able to survive everywhere on this planet. Some even give thanks to the ovulation cycle of the human female, that gives humans 12 chances to reproduce every year,a privilege most animals do not have. Irrespective of the reason why, we humans believe that we are a superior species and our arrogance reflects this.

  Power is not good or bad, it is neutral. The person in charge of the power is the one who decides which way it goes. Power is misused when those at the powerful end of the spectrum treat the ones at the other end as mere objects.  The human species uses this power not only to exploit its own but also other species. Ironically, we call the other species 'animals'.
Why is it that we feel the need to exploit, torture and kill other Earthlings? It is probably the same reason that the first world exploits the third world - they are poorer and thus, their lives are cheaper. We think it is our right to use others for our benefit, no matter what they go through. In a crazy capitalist world where commodity and cash flows determine the quality of life, the value of this same life is lost. As long as I am looking fine, as long as I am making profits, as long as I am teasing my taste buds, as long as I am entertained... who cares if another sentient being is in pain, being brutally tortured, living in the worst possible conditions or freaking dying! Who cares?

  We must stop being so insensitive. So arrogant. So disgusting.
These so called animals, have feelings. They feel compassion, loneliness and fear. They feel pain. They are not different from us. They do not have insensitive nerve endings. The brutal ways in which we kill them are ways in which no being deserves to be treated. We close our eyes to the cruelty that goes on in the world and feel that it doesn't exist or even if it does, its not that bad. Animals we eat, they are killed quickly, they don't know what is happening, at least they had a good life before dying(in the rare cases of biologically produced meat)! All of that is bullshit. Only rationalizations to make ourselves feel better. Everyone needs to see how this killing is done. How their food gets on the table, the way it does. How their fur coats are made and how their leather goods become so good!

  You may say that you do not want to traumatize yourself, that u can't take such 'heavy stuff', that you don't want to spoil your dinner! Do you realize that it was a million times more traumatic and 'heavy' for the poor animal who had no idea that he was going to be your freaking dinner!!  Some say ignorance is bliss, and it may be so, but it doesn't make reality go away. This is the least you can do for that poor animal that was killed to appease your 'need for protein'!

We have to stop! If for no other reason, then for ourselves! We have to remember that we share the Earth with other species. We are not the only ones alive. Everything is connected. This neo-holocaust that we have inflicted upon other species is leading to the downfall of the planet as a whole and that includes us!
It may already be too late to change but if even a few of us do change, it will save not just our life but the lives of millions of other creatures that inhabit the Earth.

Perhaps it is time to rethink our barbaric ways, and try to be a little more... whats the word? oh yes.'Human'.

P.S.: Here is the link the documentary that inspired this piece, Earthlings documentary, 2006.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Let's Kill the Rapists. But is it enough?

The headlines for today : Another brave girl dies.
I hope the girl's soul rests in peace, she went through a fate worse than hell, in the past few days. Living this life of pain and endless suffering would not be worth it. My heart goes out to her and her family. It is a cross they have to bear for the rest of their lives, for no fault of theirs.

Countless "protest marches" all over the country. The country mourns. People yelling slogans, lighting candles, politicians shedding fake tears, news channel crews going around asking people what do you want?

I have a problem. A problem with the freaking hypocrisy of it all.

Where have all of you been when countless women get tortured, raped and killed and it is merely termed as dalit atrocity. Where have you been when children as young as three and four get trafficked and sold. And raped over and over and over again. Where have you been when women, young and old are pushed into prostitution and forced by disgusting men who do what they please just because they have 'paid' for sex.

  Why do we need a certain class of society to get hurt before we react? We are creating a pattern here, every year something happens, hordes of people get out on the street, protest, yell vague slogans, light a candle and 20 days later we have moved on. In the end it is the family of the victim who is left with a big gaping hole that they will never ever be able to fill.
Today news channels are all over this story next week they will move on to something else. Oh and the politicians! A certain Mrs Gandhi makes a comment saying "I can understand sentiments because I am a mother." Isn't being human enough to understand sentiments! And where are her motherly feelings when young girls are murdered for dowry, for not being able to give birth to a son, for not obeying rules, when young girls are abused by their own fathers! A news channel said that Jaya Bachan was 'visibly' moved by what happened, when she looked like she was simply enacting a scene from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham!! Stop with the nonsensical drama!

If you really want to do something, move! Make stricter laws, they are necessary even though Strict laws will not deter all rapists, as I am sure they will come up with methods to get around the law. Now instead of only raping they will rape and kill and make sure that all evidence is properly wiped out!Make them anyway because impunity fuels crime. Bring out more fast track courts, make sure that the ones that are already present are functional. But it is still not enough. What we need is a change in mindset. Carry out mass sensitization programs, everywhere in the country. In offices, colleges, industrial units,rickshaw stands! Begin with crowds as young as school children.Teach children the importance of respect. Condition them to be equal human beings. Have talks that lead to consciousness raising, that make us human beings, so that we cannot ignore someone lying on the street in a battered condition. Have aid groups that women can contact in times of need, without the fear of being ridiculed or dismissed. Increase the visibility of such groups that already exist! The whole patriarchal set up has to change. It's a mammoth task. In the meanwhile teach girls to defend themselves.Now you may say, Of course one girl cannot defend herself against 6 crazy monsters, but the situation we are in today, even if a girl can defend herself against one monster it will give her a longer life.

A rape is rape. It is a disgusting, heinous crime against humanity. It is not a sexual act, it is not an act of aggression  It is a clear signal sent out by patriarchy. A siren meant to keep women in their place. There is a century of conditioning that goes into making a society believe that it must control its women. That women have to be kept in their place, taught a lesson. You can yell hoarse saying we want justice but no true justice is going to come about unless there is a change in the mindset. Unless there is a change in the conditioning. Patriarchy has a context to it. It is not something that comes about one fine day when six men decide to go mutilate and kill a girl. It is important that we understand this context.

Why do I get a feeling that half the people out there protesting on the streets have no idea what they want. We want justice? What justice and for whom? Meted out by whom? We live in a society strictly governed by laws made by men for the benefit of men. These men who are conditioned in a patriarchy to think in a certain way will make the laws... when we get past this stage, if we ever do, another group of men trained in the same way are meant to execute the laws! How is it ever going to work? How can we ever cure the disease if  we only tackle the symptoms? And here by men I don't mean "male members" there are endless number of women who are conditioned in the same way, who believe that women get raped because they "asked for it".
So we can yell slogans all we want, light candles and march but nothing is going to change till there is a deeper questioning. All this makes us feel like we are part if something bigger, we feel like we have done something, which I agree is better than doing nothing, but is it enough? How many of us are going to change our new years plans? In two days we will welcome the new year, and soon this girl, this incident will be "something that happened last year." The only lives ruined will be that of her family and friends, they will have to live the reality of their lives while we will go on with the reality of ours.

All I am saying is that next time before you you light a candle in her memory, just take a moment and think Is this enough?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Time to show some real woman power!!

 One may think that we live in a world where men and women are equal! Gender inequality? Oh u must be talking about the ancient times! We today are living in the 21st century - an equal, brilliant, accommodative, all accepting progressive society!  Alas! One is wrong!
 We as a collective society have numerous ideas that have been engraved into our mindsets that prevent us from easily accepting even a survivor of rape, once we know the truth of her horrific nightmarish life. Instead of sympathising with her and patting her on her back for being so brave and having the courage to start anew, we push away, wrong her, thinking ‘oh it must have been her fault’! Why? Why are we so immature and close minded as a society! Why is everything always a woman’s fault? If she is raped, that’s because she must have provoked him, or she was wearing provocative clothing not because he is just a disgusting animal who is blinded in the quest for ascertaining his power over another human being! Yes power. Rape my friends is not a sexual act. It is an act of power, one that is done to keep the girl ‘in her place’, to show her that if he wants he can render her powerless and helpless and tear her apart, just because he wants to and she cannot do anything about it! If he cheats on her it must be because she can’t take care of him not because he was a filthy dog who couldn’t keep his member in his pants! A woman is blamed even when she can’t give her family ‘a son’, for crying out loud, when anyone who has read a science textbook in class 6 can tell that in truth it is men who are responsible for the chromosome that determines the sex of the child!  Now u may argue, that most people who blame women haven’t read this text book, but again you are wrong! Even Highly educated people living  hollow lives in palatial mansions are still the ones to blame their daughters in law for the absence of a grandson! Why is it about a grandson anyway! A child is a child! A bundle of happiness and joy! But no! We want a boy!
Why? Why are we so mean to women, I say ‘we’ here because we women are not less! We judge other women, call them names. When any of the above happens, we are the first ones to pass careless comments like, ‘if u wear clothes like that, that’s what happens ’ or ‘ maybe she could not keep him happy, if u know what I mean * wink* ’. We don’t wince once before calling other women sluts or bitches! Then who on earth gave us the authority to label men as the bad guys!
In order for this world to become a better, safer place for ourselves, for our sisters and our daughters, we have to change the way we think! We women have to make an effort to replace the archetype that is engraved on our collective psyche with a positive one! Next time you look at another woman and you are about to pass a comment about her clothes, her hair or anything about her stop yourself right there and think again! What right do you have to say that about her? Everyone has a story, everyone has their own reasons to do what they do and live the way they live and wear what they wear! And even if they don’t, they have a right to that! If you can’t say something nice, you’d rather not say anything at all! You may notice that when you start to look at the good things in another person you start to appreciate yourself as well! All your ‘blemishes’ and ‘cellulite’ and other insecurities disappear! Cause only someone who is utterly insecure about themselves can say something mean and judgemental about someone else.  Start looking at the brighter side of their story and see how your story gets better as well. Only when we do this can we proudly strive to change the mentality of our fathers, brothers, boyfriends and husbands! We have to respect ourselves first before we expect these men to respect us.
Some of u may think but what difference will it make if one woman changes her attitude, but hell yes! If one woman can start a world then she can very well change it! 

Sunday, 3 June 2012


Imagine a world where a young woman can walk down a street without being stared at.
Imagine a world where she can wear what she wants and go wherever she pleases.
Imagine a world where other women respect her choice of clothing and don't call her a 'slut' just because she is flaunting some cleavage.
Imagine a world where men from all strata of society behave like human being and not like animals with uncontrollable urges.
Imagine a world where when a person is raped, exploited or abused it is looked at as a heinous crime by the perpetrator and not as the victim's fault coz they 'asked for it'. 
Imagine a world where no one is raped exploited or abused.
Imagine a world where men understand a woman's right to express herself freely in speech, actions and clothing.
Imagine a world where a woman understands her right to express herself freely in speech, actions and clothing.
Imagine a world where all children have the right to a childhood.
Imagine a world where everyone is equal.
                        You may say I'm a dreamer, but am not the only one.
                                    I hope someday u'll join us, and the world will live as one...

Eliminate Inequality not women


Don't go out alone at night
That encourages men
Don't go out alone  at any time
Any situation encourages some men.
Don't stay at home
Intruders and relatives both can rape.
Don't go out without clothes
That encourages men. 
Don't go with clothes
Any clothes encourage some men.
Avoid childhood
Some rapists are turned on by little girls.
Avoid old age
Some rapists prefer aged women.
Don't have father, grandfather, uncle or brother...
These are all relatives that most often rape young women.
Don't have neighbours
These often rape.
Don't marry
Rape is legal within marriage
To be quite sure
Don't exist! 

( Insaaf Poster Magazine, Vikas Adnyan Kendra, Mumbai, 1998)