Choices


“You know how sometimes you tell yourself that you have a choice, but really you don’t have a choice? Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean they apply to you.”
― Rick Yancey, The 5th  Wave 

I titled this ‘Choices’ for the lack of any other title. These are just reflections of the last seven plus years that I spent rediscovering myself. This is purely subjective piece of writing. A large percentage of women, even in India, may take completely different steps and bring a change in their sordid lives irrespective of age but some of us are unable to. Mostly because of our own inner fears. Most of the times these fears are  based on aspects outside our control and sometimes they are just baseless but still take a grip on our psyche.

I have always been a drifter and always been ridiculed for it. Sometimes it hurt me deeply and at other times I didn’t care. As a young girl I would often dream of travelling to all the places I saw in National Geographic Magazine and the other books I read. I would dream up places too. Beyond stars and galaxies, beyond the known and unknown. The consistent aspect of each dream was a house. A small yet comfortable house which I would turn into a home. A home where I wanted to be in but never was in reality. I would include a husband/partner/lover as the other resident and yes, there were children too. It all depended on how lonesome or solitary I felt. There would always be a nice kitchen soaked in the warmth of winter sunlight but coolly shaded in summers. There would always be a small garden attached to it. There would be books, music, food, laughter and most importantly love. Other things changed time to time. At that time I never thought of living alone. I was too lonely already to long for more seclusion. Later of course things changed.

At that time not many people asked me what I would want to become when I grow up and I felt grateful for that but when someone did I said, “I want to become a nun or I want to become a trapeze artist.” Fascinated as I was by the world of circus artists. It was a fantasy I wanted to escape into. Of course all that changed once sense prevailed but the drifting continued and all I needed to do in the  future was find a haven away from the chaos.

During the middle school years every time when I  returned to an empty house, with the house key dangling around my neck in a black thread, return to cold meals and silence, I would cringe and envy the kids who had someone waiting for them at home, mostly their mothers. Of course, we were raised differently and there were no gender assigned roles in our house but I was young and grappling with many issues. I think I even cringed at being alone with my dad for various reasons. It was at this time the feeling of living alone began to grow. The dreams remained the same but there were no companions, no family. Perhaps a few friends who would visit but not cling. I was increasingly becoming weary of people around me. It was a complex situation where I wanted the company and yet needed my quiet space.  We didn’t go out for movies or attended family weddings/functions. Hardly anyone visited our house but we did sometimes go to my maternal grandmother’s house in Pune. Another place that I was very fond of for many reasons and yet carried a lingering fear in my heart about it. Someday I will write openly about it.

There were times I enjoyed the peace and solitude of being alone at home. It was a good change from the tensed, argumentative, stifled time when others were around. In some part of my heart I reminded myself again and again that I did not have a ‘normal’ home environment and vowed to give that to myself and family when I grew up.  It did not happen that’s another story though I did leave my job before I got married in hope to make my marital home the haven I had always dreamed of. The lingering thought of having a working mother and my constant loneliness as a young girl made me believe that only stay at home moms could provide the secure and loving home a child needed.

In my circumstances it wasn’t a good choice to be a dependent. Financial independence could have saved me a lot of hurt and humiliation. It could have changed the course of my life but then there are a lot of other factors that contribute to the kind of turns life takes. One can go on about the ‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘would be’.

When I look back I see my life divided into slots of  about twenty years each. I am in the third phase now. Two major life changing decisions came at the age of 24 and 44  I got married at 24 and left my marital home at 44. The reason behind both was similar and yet different in some ways. I have written about both in other posts.

Seven years on from the second decision I find myself at the threshold again. Still not able to find a closure. Sometimes I feel I am a rider inside the motordrome or a silodrome with no safety harnesses. I guess the universe took my fascination of circus acts a bit too seriously and put me on this eternal side-show in his carnival called Life.

It is very easy to judge people for the choices they make. I think the only person who can judge is the choice maker. Only he/she can weigh the pros and cons of the action taken. Most of the time the decisions seem correct at the time they are taken and it is only later when we look back we see the hollowness of the choices made. Sometimes we can start afresh and at other times we can’t, no matter how much we wish.

The last seven years revealed some very poignant things.

It is very important to be financially independent from an early stage in your life. It helps build confidence and gives you power to control your life to a large extent. You may question my statement and tell me stories of happy stay at home wives and I do agree that if your partner/husband is caring and respects your decision to follow your dreams even if it is to keep home then it is worth every bit but that is not always the case. I saw the dream shatter and the lack of financial support left me nowhere. As the years passed I found it extremely difficult to acquire the job that would suit my ‘outdated’ academic or professional qualifications.

Also that ‘academic intelligence’ or even life skills sometimes do not guarantee real world success or employment especially if you over 45+ woman and looking for a career.  It is a personal experience about which I will sometime write in detail.

The second phase of my life was a struggle to  cope with a non supportive/cooperative marital family, raising children and trying very hard, against all odds, to make that house a home. It did not work. So, I put aside the idea of  living my dreams and put all my strength to see that my boys get what I did not. It was a choice I made. I was weak, emotionally and mentally. The strength to rebel came very late and with tremendous consequences.

The idea of love is very rosy but be very assertive about your self-respect and dignity. Do not ever allow the other person to take hold on you in any way just because you are in love. If there is no mutual affection and respect in a relationship then it would never thrive. Everything else fades away with time. Adjusting, compromising with yourself on various grounds in hope of a blissful haven is foolish. Unconditional love is a silly thought. There is no such thing. Every act of love seeks something in return and if one doesn’t love oneself one can’t expect love from others. Again, something I knew but never practiced. What you give to others is never enough and is often thrown back at you as an object that supposedly smothered them. Never give away all of yourself to anyone. Never.

I also feel that heartbreak is often good for you because you know exactly what you do not wish in your life.  Mistakes / failures are always very good teachers. Each failure, each rejection is a stepping stone to something positive so instead of crying over them it is always better to move forward and be grateful for the things that broke you so that you could collect yourself and walk much stronger and experienced. They teach you lessons that you need to learn, strengthening and resurrecting you in the process. It makes you reach inside and know yourself better.

No school or college can teach you what life does. Be attentive to it. The beauty of the human life lies in its fragility so don’t give it up or give it away. It is the real strength and power of being human to accept your brokenness, to put it all back together. To fill the cracks with gold of love and move on. Cracks are the wounds indicating you have suffered and have overcome that suffering. Something like Kintsugi . 

I spent years carrying the hurt in my heart and then one day I just let it go. It made all the difference within though the daily struggle to assert myself and live continues. Insecurity and discontent robs you of your peace and your health.There is nothing like travelling light and finding joy in small things rather than moaning over the past and the negative. Unfortunately financial instability or lack of money and a basic comfortable life in a space of your own can pull you back in that muck time after time.  The reason I suffer even now, even after knowing all this. It’s tiresome being a fighter all life long.

I’m essentially a very trusting person but the events of last few years have made me tougher. I am not cynical but careful than before. People who claimed to be well wishers back stabbed in such a way that I began to question the very essence of any relationship. It broke me but then I emerged wiser. Now there are a selective few I trust and the others need to prove their worth.

Each person and the environment in which he/she lives is different but one thing that runs through every situation is unless the men in your life (father/brother/husband/partner/lover/ son..) are enlightened enough to see you as a human being with a mind of her own who has goals and desires you will always be subjugated and remain unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself and others. To stop that you need to be strong and vocal about what you want from life and take full responsibility for your actions. I realized this very late in life. Many things were out of my control and irreversible by then. Never make this mistake of handing the pen in someone else’s hand. Write your own story.

I told someone to stay single and pursue the goals she had set for herself unless the partner is supportive of her blossoming. Not many agreed but darlings this is the only way to happiness. I support people who not to have children and also who decide to have them/adopt them or just sponsor a child. It is a choice they make. Why should one judge? We are very judgmental lot especially when it comes to the choices women make.

Patriarchy sees red when women make choices and that is one of the reasons why many of us have stilled voices. Also, our society is obsessed with marriage. It is time to look beyond pushing kids to settle down and have babies.

Women are “natural givers”, this is a concept taught by the patriarchal society. A woman has to think of others before she thinks about herself. ( If at all she dares to think.) We are made to believe that our very existence is for others. A girl is conditioned to this thought since childhood and the society frowns if she resists making her feel guilty and most of the give up her dreams. In each role she plays her glory is in sacrifice.

“Selfish” became my middle name the moment I decided to break those barriers. People often say women don’t want to break out of patriarchal mindset as they love to play victims or as an excuse for their life state or unwillingness to be decisive and take the hard path. Though I do agree that many of the women do that but it’s also true in many cases the lack of support system and financial instability can also hinder their movement towards a path they want to walk on. The hard path is harder than you think. At different social levels the choices differ and so does the ability to break free. Especially in the case of middle class, which has also now got segmented, women find it much difficult to step out. It’s easier said than done.

I think it is very essential to know and realize your worth not just as a woman but as a human being. As an individual.

Another thing that life revealed in last few years is, if you are in an abusive or an unsatisfactory marriage then take a stand as early as possible. If you delay then it would be very difficult at later stages. Not all natal homes are supportive and not every woman will find a steady income to support herself or children ( if there are any). Early decision also gives you enough time to make a fresh start if you need to look for a job to support yourself.  I spent twenty plus years in hope that things will improve but they did not. Don’t believe in the misconception that once you have children things will change for good or improve. No, they don’t and then children suffer too.

People often ask me, ‘ why did you take it for so long?” They say among themselves,”How could an educated woman with liberal thinking do this to herself?”

In our country unless you have a back up or a support system worked out it is lethal to step out and fight for your rights. If you think your natal home is where you’ll find solace, think again. It is very frustrating for many. I know because I am living it.

I had spent two major phases of my life struggling with myself trying to find who I am and where I am headed. Oscillating between what I was and what I had become.

In solitary hours I would stare at the walls on the house of bricks that held me captive because I let it. Slowly I felt my energy depleting at all levels. Though I kept myself involved with children and work at home there was something that was so unfulfilling that it began to gnaw at me.  I did things to distract myself from the mess I was in and found ways to keep myself and boys as much out of it as possible especially in the first half of the marriage. My natal family knew of all that was happening but as they say, if you do not help yourself no one else does. No support came from there to give me courage to break the destructive cycle. I talked, wrote long letters ( boys think that may have been a stepping stone to my blogging  at later stage) but never found a solution or a helping hand.

I also believed that time will heal things and a change will happen. Time doesn’t heal. Don’t believe it all you have been told. Time simply crushes you, chains you, makes you its slave and whiplash you to obey its commands. The answers, the healing comes from either within or from elsewhere. Time just watches the drama and laughs at our misery . Time is the devil to whom we have sold our souls. It is the master, we mere slaves. Only an inner uprising can bring the change. Only that can create true love, true courage, true self.

Abuse ( mental/emotional/physical), is difficult to explain. Many women find is hard to break the cycle of pain and either reach out for help pr move out. They resign to their fates, a guilt, a painful silence that penetrates their bones and makes its home there. The fear, the insecurity, the distrust cripples them. It is very disturbing and depressing. In my case it showed very clearly in physical symptoms. I became a hypochondriac to a very large extent.

Friends were helpless too even if they understood the situation. Suddenly I realized I was alone in this battle. There are many well-meaning people who understand your struggle and encourage you to ” stay brave” but the intention of wishing well does not help. Action does. Not many stand up for you and actually help. The boys were growing up fast and the clock ticking. I had to take a step or fall forever in the quicksand that was sucking me in.

I realized that the only person you can change is yourself. People do what they want to do despite you telling them otherwise. I used to get affected by the undesired outcome, still do at times, but ultimately I found that getting affected by the result harms me more than anyone else involved and that made the difference. It is better to let go and leave people to their views and doings rather than fret about something not in your control. (Still learning)

Someone I admire told me about the universal law of attraction and the role of destiny. I do believe in universal energies but unless one resolves things within the universe does not help. Unless you try to do something to bring the change in your life no one else will do it for you. People can be very comforting and good listeners but no one likes all day whining especially when that is all you do.

I turned 50 last October. Completing 3/4 of the expected average human lifespan and I am worried. Worried about future.  It terrifies me to see that I have neither the security nor the funds for my old age. So, what did I do all these years, let’s say from age 21 to 49 (the working years)? Nothing for myself except a three four years of work from home job given to me by a “friend” as a “do a good deed” pack. I earned some money and experience no doubt but I lost a lot on personal front and then the job itself. As the person said himself,” No good deed goes unpunished”. Not his quote but Oscar Wilde’s. My punishment was to be thrown out of work when I needed it most. It was a crucial time for me and a few more years would have seen me through a lot of troubles. This is when I realized that once you taste freedom life is never the same again. Also, that without enough money for everyday sustenance every notion of freedom and living a life one dreams of falls flat on the face. When someone knows that you are looking for safe refuge more than anything else and at any cost they get you to do stuff they want. I will tell you this very important story one day soon.

Dependence is imprisonment and even though I know it I have very few choices. The ‘hard path’ that people tell me to take is all fine and dandy but my inner fears and physical, emotional health doesn’t allow me to cross the line once more at this stage of life. Now, in this third and perhaps the last phase of my life, I am again at crossroads. The choices are clear and very few unless a miracle happens. I do believe in them by the way. 🙂 You tend to believe in everything when all else fails.

A few of those choices will mean giving up on all that I worked on in last few years. Giving up on my ideals, my beliefs and to start afresh is scaring the wits out of me. I have to make a choice soon even if it means a complete turn around or shedding my skin once again to begin from the first step however hard and painful it may be.

Someone asked me why I decided to play the role of a homemaker when I was ‘educated’ and ‘talented’? Why didn’t I take up a profession, become a ‘working woman‘?

The answer is, every woman is a working woman. As for professional life or being a career woman, It was a choice I made and thought it to be correct at that time. I never imagined things would turn out the way they did.  I never imagined that the ‘home’ that I always dreamed about can only become a reality only IF I earn.

Sadly, everything hinges on money.  I have seen even the supposedly closest people turn away the moment they realize you have nothing much to give in terms of money.

This post is just a rambling to help me and maybe others to decide what course to take to make life worthy. I am seeking answers everyday as I battle with my fears. Will the patriarchy win? Will I eventually find my space? Will I find the closure? I tell myself I have been there before. Fought the war, for myself. Won it too. I keep the faith in the choice I have made now. Though I know the stanch feminists will disagree with it but then again I know what’s best for me in this difficult time. I have to correct certain things. I have to make peace with myself. I have to resurrect a bond I cherish. I have to end the search for a home for good. I have to find that space where I can make the choices without a finger pressing my jugular.

My heart is full but my mind tells me not to give up after coming so far. I have battled fears, depression, physical health issues, heartbreak, regressive mindsets, constant bullying, physical abuse and more at other levels. Still battling many of these. Being home bound for years has made turned me into a nervous, jittery person. I feel scared to take on the world as I did so naturally earlier. It has made me shrink into a non believer in myself. Crowded places make me uneasy, going in empty elevators, public transport scares me. I am not the person who didn’t give a hoot to troubles. BUT, I’m slowly changing that. It is a painful task but I am ready to bring myself back into the game.  I have constantly repaired myself and moved on with courage. I have a feeling now is the time to take that final call. Changing old patterns takes an effort and that effort needs immense strength to carry forward but I am not a quitter. I may give in many times but I won’t give up.

“Don’t ever think of me as “easy” “provocative” . I may speak my mind openly and seem to you like a “non typical Indian woman” but then you don’t know Indian women. It is time you changed your perception. I have scars from touching certain people in my life .. and
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran

The Things That Make Me Different Are The Things That Make Me


Thank you for recognizing that 

 You are precious.

together forever

So am I

˙·٠•●♥♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥♥ Happy Woman’s Day ˙·٠•●♥♥Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ♥♥

Quote- A.A.Milne

Here is a song I love. 

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me

(Lyrics)

On Being A Woman – Year End Post


It has been over a month now since I wrote anything here. I am not really in right frame of mind. Anger and pain has made me numb. Excuse me for this rambling and just ignore the errors for now.

kuch alfaz ab bhi seene me hain uljhe

kuch girahen abhi bhi khulni hain baki

hain sawal kuch jinke dhoondhne hain jawab

hain jawab jinhe ab bhi hai sawalon ki latash

Sometimes I feel my life is like an exquisitely embroidered shawl. Richly embroidered in vibrant hues which people see and appreciate but it is I who feels the inconvenient knots and tangled threads of its inside.  When anyone says “I understand how you feel” I say “No you don’t”, you possibly can’t imagine how tough it is to be a woman in this country, to struggle each day, to fight for survival. To live here is an act of bravery and then you see what ultimately happens to the brave hearts who dare to dream of living a life on their terms. What are these terms? you will ask.

 

The terms are – Dignity, honor , equality in all spheres of life, a right to LIVE as a fellow human being.

 

” Ha!, you say, don’t talk about these philosophical  terms that feminists quote. You have all that you need –  security, food, shelter, money, a husband to” look after” you, what else do you want? What is this about dignity and crap? Your dignity is within the four walls of this house. It is in your hand to preserve and protect it. Don’t listen to these so-called “committed/progressive women” these “feminists from women’s Organisations” they will try to lead you astray, they will break your home and fill your head with shitty ideas that will only take wrong decisions.  Dress”modestly” . It is because of these “dented, painted disco going women” that all these cases of rape and molestation happen.Stay within your boundaries, follow traditions and norms set by society for their women, know your duties and follow the moral code. If you do all this then only you can give good values to your children. God has been kind to you and given you two boys. Thank God for not burdening you with a daughter. Don’t talk to the neighbors, make only a few friends (although we don’t see the need of it) and mind you they should not be men. You are a married woman and your commitment is only towards your husband, children and in-laws. Your parents? Their son will look after them, it is his job not yours. Now you are part of this family and nothing else matters. Remember that silence and patience, tolerance and abiding to the wishes of your husband is the utmost priority in your life even above your own self for that self is also now His and not yours anymore.

Do you get what I am saying ?”

 

“Well,  yes I do see it. I followed it like an idiot for a major part of my life and screwed it. Now I intend to trash your “Codes for an Indian Woman” and chart my path make my own rules, take my own decisions, Live My Life.”

 

“What? Then you are not a good wife, daughter, DIL, and mother, you are not even a good woman. See, this is what happens when women are let loose. When they gain access to public spaces and get exposed to things like Internet. This is what corrupted you. Now your head is filled with all those lofty notions of independent living and all the crap about women’s rights. Mark my words, you will suffer, realize your mistake within no time and come back on your knees.”

 

***

“If that is what you think, Shame On You.  I do not wish to be labelled as a “Good woman” by Your Standards. I will sell myself if I have to and live under the open sky if push comes to shove but I will not give in now and will not come back to this prison with invisible bars and barbed web of rules designed to keep me in hold all through my life, that’s a promise.”

2011 saw emergence of a new Me.

Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.

 

Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism and  lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks them. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” . 
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of the times camouflaged as “love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail, and marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity & herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO.
 Trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
Two years have passed since I cut those silken chains and  moved out to rediscover myself as a woman , as a person, as a human being. I had to pay the price. I had to leave my boys behind.
“What kind of mother is she? So insensitive and unconcerned, so selfish.”  I still hear it but in hushed voices.
Emergence of new woman who can defy everything that binds her and yet be happy is a painful, uphill task.
Today when I sit and look back I know I was privileged. I had friends who stood by me like a rock, I had patronage to be economically independent in some way after a gap of 22 years. I had a family to go back to though it was a halfhearted acceptance.
It is easy to say what took you so long? It is easy to say ” Hang in there, everything will be fine”, it is easy to sympathize but it takes immense courage to hold the hand of someone who is defying and rebelling against the system. I was privileged in more than one ways to have people with such strength.
I owe it to them as much as I owe it to myself .
 If anyone thinks it is selfish to think about oneself, to dream, to have desires then so be it.
I am selfish. I can’t deny the love I am supposed to give myself. It would be utterly dishonest to do so and if I am dishonest to myself how will I ever be honest to others?
I believed and hoped my boys understood. They stood by me.
They did not have a choice.
They said nothing.
It is tough to be separated in such manner. The guilt ate into the fiber of my being  day and night. It still does. But I had to make a choice – To live or to exist. I chose the first.
I have a lot to thank for, lot of people to offer my gratitude for helping me be myself but the battle is not won yet. Even after two years I   have one foot in the past and one in present. Sometimes I see myself at the periphery of a void at others I feel absolutely thrilled by what I have achieved in last one year. I have been able to break many mental barriers. It has been a productive year in many ways but still something is amiss. I have not been able to completely shake off the layers that hide the real me stirring and quivering underneath in want of  release. A lot remains entangled and knotted not just due to the rotten system we are part of but also because of my own failing to regain the confidence and courage. I am still a sucker of emotions, still vulnerable to the core, still seeking approval when I shouldn’t.
I took the step in direction of change but it seems like a move from a smaller prison to a larger one. A little more space to breathe and move about but still confined. It makes me question my decision. I lose my footing and begin to slip back. It scares me to venture into a society where every moment women are violated, sometimes so brutally.
Physical rape is just one aspect of VAW, the society we live in and are part of strips the female of their species  of a dignified life from the time she is conceived. Some live through the horror of it till they cough last and some are spared that trauma by getting  murdered in the womb itself.  There is only a small percentage that breathes the free air and lives as desire.
As we step into another year my thoughts are with all the women who are facing a challenge to free themselves of the chains that bind them, who are daring to break the silence despite of the risks involved, who are struggling to make a place for themselves  within the culture of violent subjugation and male dominated power structure around which everything revolves and in which women die many times over every day. Most of the times unheard, unsung. There voices stilled. I am thinking about the lack of a support system for those who have the spark to stand up for their rights and fight against the system.
I am not just thinking of women’s rights and gender violence but also about  gay rights, racism, casteism and coexistence which doesn’t exist in our society. I am thinking of equal opportunities, paid employment for women ( just 14.5 %paid employment as compared to men speaks volumes about the structure of our society. 2 million women lost their jobs in last five years), basic education,  basic hygiene and medical facilities. I am thinking of children and the crimes against them. Earlier too there have been catalyst who have shown harsh light on the stinking rotten interiors of our society. Earlier too there have been movements against every damn issue which is shoved under the carpet, How many more ? ? How many wake up calls, How many lives cut short before the change finally occurs?
Will there ever be one single day when a woman will feel safe in this country and breathe easy? When her security and self-respect will not be ground to dust? Will we ever be rid of our sexist culture? Unfortunately when I ask these questions the city that comes to mind is the city in which I have lived for more than forty years – the national capital Delhi.  Not a single moment of my life I have felt secure here. Fear has been a constant companion since I began to move out in public spaces. Fear of those so-called “protectors”. It started when I joined school and continues till now.
As I write this last post of this year I am wondering what lies ahead for the women of India, for me as an individual.  I know it will take a lot of effort and time to completely overhaul the mindset of people to bring some much-needed positive changes but I can begin with myself and my life. It is a rough path that I have chosen but am not giving up. Ever.
Here are two brilliant articles for you to read and ponder upon as I take your leave.
He says among other things,” Men abuse women in every society, but few males do it with as much impunity, violence and regularity as the Indian male.”
(TRUST ME IT IS TRUE)
And
The problem is us  by zigzactly
I have not been regular with my posts but I know you will understand. In a struggle to find my footing I have to sometimes give priority to other important issues that I am dealing with. Thank you for supporting me in all good and bad times and for encouraging me by reading and commenting. I appreciate it very much.
Do something constructive in the coming year.
Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.
You can view all the Previous Entries about being a woman and other social issues HERE 

Satyamev Jayate – Are you ready to do your bit?


It takes a special kind of moral courage and commitment to self and society to address issues that have been pushed under the carpet for so long. Issues that are associated with our everyday lives and yet we have an ostrich like attitude towards them.

Female feoticide/infanticide ( do read the link Unnatural selection published in The Caravan magazine), new-born girls dumped into bins to die ( womb to bin )  all crimes against women, child abuse (including CSA), child labor, child marriages, beggar mafia, gay rights, honor killings and mining and wood smugglers nexus, Deforestation, e-waste, elephant and tiger poaching, farmer’s suicides and many more such burning issues need total involvement of masses, stringent laws and punishments, and most of all strong administration.

Isn’t it sad that it takes a Reality Show on National TV hosted by a film actor to awaken the masses and bring their attention to what’s happening right under their noses?

Didn’t we all know that female foeticide exists in our society and needs to be abolished. If we decided not to wake up to the grim reality will this celebrity reality show really do anything ? If it does then it would be a miracle.

Sad, that despite the regulations, campaigns, awareness programs, sting operations, newspaper reports, blogs, media coverage the truth is that the evils have managed to dig their claws deeper into the core of society and government is feeding the monsters.

Amir’s effort is credible, there is no doubt about it but the questions which bother me are  –

Will it also become a twelve day wonder like all other reality shows?

Will it just keep gathering accolades week after week?

Will people just sit down in the comforts of their homes on Sunday mornings and watch the show, listen to the stories,  write/ talk / tweet about how “brilliant” it was, how much they “enjoyed and liked” watching it( I was appalled to see wall post of some people on Facebook saying how much they “enjoyed” the program and congratulating Amir and other panelists).

Did they miss out the silent tears and agony that had now dried up in the eyes of those who have suffered?

Was it all just a staged event for them?

Did they miss the point somewhere?  I hope Not.

I hope this doesn’t become a routine where an issue is brought up every week , raises the TRP, trends on twitter and other social media networks and dies a silent death.

This needs to go beyond. The social change, the mindset change needs to be bigger than this.

I sincerely pray that the fight against issue of female foeticide or sex selection  does not get limited to sending SMS to Rajasthan Govt. or signing a petition. It needs to get more real than this reality show. It needs to cover the entire nation.

Another thing that makes me ponder is- what next ? What are the options, what actions need to be taken, what is an average person literate or illiterate (for education has nothing to do with this inner awakening) going to do in this direction?

The issues have been raised, the horrifying painful truth brought out once again from under the carpet, Govt. agencies, Doctors, medical practitioners’ nexus exposed , Now What?

Will some one wake up and take an oath to eradicate this evil from the root at least by doing his/her bit ?

Anyone?

The website of Satyamev Jayate  , the Facebook page  , the twitter handle  , the You Tube channel  , will they just provide praise and links and act as promotional sites to increase rating OR offer solutions, knowledge, support systems ? Will it be the nucleus to the Sunday program  where   people get involved and work in the direction of bringing the much required change?

If Not, then all the effort will be  a lost cause. People will choke over their morning coffee watching the show like benumbed spectators like we have been doing since centuries. Aware but always in denial. Telling ourselves that somehow it doesn’t matter to us.

Let this not be just an “exquisite piece of TV journalism” .

Let it be the spark to ignite the flame in every heart to abolish each social evil.  To change the narrow mindset, to fight against controlling, insecure, prejudiced deep patriarchal attitudes that are entrenched in our society’s collective psyche  resulting in skewed sex ratios,  lack of brides in some states, men are forced into bachelorhood due to lack of brides,  thriving racket of trafficking of women where they are sold and resold ( remember baby falak’s story )  and any related crime against women.

Sex-selective abortion statistics are mind numbing (Thirty million girl-children killed in the womb in the past six decades).

Simple language, no screaming to bring some pressing issues to the fore, important points explained for the benefit of those who may not know the facts, the inter- relation of some other crimes which are born under the wings of this one , the positive stories of those brave people who not only fought against the evil and emerged victories but made decided to share it with millions of viewers , to give them courage and reason to step forward and shed fear. The change brought by Deputy Commissioner Kishan Kumar of NawaShahr where the sex ration is equal . ( 1000 girls per 1000 boys)  was an exemplary story. Exemplary for everyone; masses , officials, government. Y chromosomes of a male are responsible for the gender of the baby. An important fact which should be brought into focus more strongly.

The show presenters  took care to cover all aspects  but there needs to be a constant engaging,  proper interaction  with the masses, follow-up to show what efforts were taken on that particular issue.  I hope it  helps in sensitizing Indians about so many issues that they would generally ignore and provoke them into some sort of positive action.

Amir says,” “I want to be part of this silent campaign in a very dignified way without hurting any body’s ego.”

When issues like these are raised, when dying fires are stirred, when centuries old norms are questioned, when nexuses and mafias exposed , not one but many egos will be hurt.  Are we ready to push through all this and  join our voices with his?  Will it create That impact in the hearts of its viewers?

The choice is ours.

Speak up, Fight,  or Suffer.

So,

Are you ready to do your bit with or without Amir? 

The quality of mercy…


“It was never going to be an ordinary day. Ordinary days do not exist in the lives of those living in conflict zones marred by war and if you are a woman belonging to a certain ethnic group then life’s ordinariness lies in it’s not being ordinary. “

She suddenly leaped out of the chair and began to pace.

“We can do it some other day if you wish”, I said.

She waved her hand, poured herself some water and settled again. That is when I noticed the two missing fingers on her right hand.  A chill went up my spine as I imagined the kind of atrocities she must have faced.

A lifetime of internal dialogue and struggle was clearly visible on her face. Her deep-set eyes were pools of pain and suffering that she had endured all her life and especially in the last few months. I had thought her to be middle-aged on their first meeting. She certainly didn’t look in her mid thirties.

I was filled with a certain respect for this woman who had transcendent her fear to bare her soul despite the trauma it would cause her to open the wounds which were finally beginning to heal.

“The separatist struggle had taken a toll on all of us. I was just one of the many women who were maimed, raped, killed, tortured or dumped in jails to face the atrocities by the authorities there. We lived in perpetual fear all the time yet convincing ourselves that these things will never happen to any of us. That we will survive but today out of the five people who were rounded up that day only I am left to tell the story.

“Have you ever seen a body of someone you love split in half and the heart exposed to splatters of blood, smoke, gunfire, bomb and grenade blasts?  Seen your best friend brutally molested, beaten and left naked on the streets to die? Seen the fear, hurt, humiliation and pain in the eyes of a five-year old boy watching her mother in that state?

I have. I saw it all that day as I stood rooted to the ground on that chilly winter morning.  Rape in a war is not merely a matter of chance; it is rather a question of power and control. My friend suffered because she belonged to a certain ethnic group. Her rape humiliated the entire community. It was masterminded to totally encapsulate the defeat of men of that community in protecting their women, to humiliate, degrade and terrify them. It is good she died or else she would have been rendered invisible by her own people, left to fend for herself, suffering from one mental disease or the other like so many other women there. Each woman there suffers from anxiety and unrest. Just that, the degree of suffering varies.”

Caught in a maelström of emotions she closed her eyes. I could see her hands trembling as they clutched the bars of the rocking chair on which she was half-reclining.

“I watched in horror knowing it was my turn once they were done with others. Everything fails when you are faced with terror. All my education, training in sports, presence of mind evaporated in thin air.  I felt as if I was carved in stone but something kept telling me to fight till the end, to take that chance. I didn’t want to die like an animal if I could prevent it.”

The evening sun was peeping through the huge trees and the cool breeze made the curtains shadow dance on the floor. She watched them intently for some time.

I decided to record the rest of the conversation on tape and took my seat on a sofa in front of her. She looked up and I felt a slight smile at the corner of her mouth but the gash on her cheek made it impossible to judge that correctly.

As if she read my thoughts and ran her fingers over it.

“The scars inside are deeper than the ones on my body. The wounds are still in process of healing. I put up a fight when they tried to get their filthy hands on me. When a man turns into an animal there is no limit to what he will do. May they be forgiven for what they have perpetrated, she mumbled softly.

“They were four of them. Severely beaten, I drifted between life and death but could make out that I was tossed into a vehicle and taken away. I remember a voice hissing in my ears. “We like to play with our pray before the kill the thrilling the chase and hunt, the better it is. The sound of their laughter still echoes through my mind.”

She winced and began to rock the chair. I looked around for help, suddenly scared for her. She had been in medical supervision since past few months and wasn’t stable enough to cope with the world outside. The doctor observing from the corner of the room nodded at me to relax. The attendant brought a tray with coffee and biscuits. I poured a cup for her. “Lots of milk and sugar” She said without opening her eyes.

“I like it that way. It helps me cull the deep black darkness inside me.”

Then she opened her quiet eyes and looked at me. “They should have sent someone seasoned. You are still too raw to brave such experiences”.

I fumbled with some words in support of myself but failed. She kept looking at me.

“We seem to be of same age though I am sure you thought me to be twice yours”, this time she did smile and I realized how beautiful she was, radiant even in her fragile state.

I mustered a smile and offered her some cookies. She carefully selected one with sprinkled sugar and began to nibble it.

“I have lost the count of how many times and by how many people I was raped and beaten. They broke my fingers and gave me wounds with a dagger one of them had, kicked and shoved the butt of the riffle in my abdomen. For hours I lay naked, body, mind and soul in that small room while they drank. My body was just a sack of pain and bruises but still I kept thinking of a plan to escape. It is strange that they did not kill me or broke my legs or hit me on the head. I never lost consciousness once though pain made me delirious. It was unimaginable to think I could escape alive from them.

The chill of the night made my body stiff like a log. I did not feel parched or hungry even after twenty hours of starvation. In fact I did not feel anything.

Sleep took over as I stared blankly into nothingness that filled the dark room.

When I opened my eyes I was in a hospital in the city. They said I had slept for more than two days. My wounds were stitched and dressed but my body still felt like a log and even the slightest movement shot a streak of pain through it.

I tried to find out how I managed to get out alive from the clutches of those beasts but got no replies. I guess it is better this way, maybe for someone who must have dared to save me, for I had no strength left to carry on. I do say a silent prayer for that person for giving me another chance to live.”

My heart warmed at the words. . On the way back from the village where I was sent to investigate the killings, miles away where the woods began, I had found her huddled like a bundle among the trees. I had stopped my jeep and along with a friend managed to rescue her to the city hospital and then to this private one, away from the turbulent environment.

Of course, no one told her anything. They weren’t supposed to.

I realized that she had dozed off in the meanwhile. The half eaten cookie rested nestled in the fold of her gown. I walked over and placed it in the plate. The doctor told me to withdraw.

She needed rest and most of all peace.

What happened in the last few hours and how she managed to reach the road remains a mystery but it would certainly have taken immense courage to escape alive. All her people were dead. Village burned to ashes. Curfew imposed in the area.

All that remained was the mist that slowly enveloped the small mountain village like a shroud.

Silently I closed the door and look a last look at her through the glass window. She was a survivor, a brave one and she had a beautiful smile of a child.

The curtains of the large window swayed to the night breeze while the crescent moon kept a watch on her as sleep caressed and healed her ravaged being.

In the still moonlit night I too said a silent prayer for the woman who braved it to live a life she held too precious to give up even in such dire circumstance.

There was a new life waiting to blossom buried under the heavy layers of snow. Soon the spring would come.

Hundreds of women like her go through similar or more horrifying experiences each day and succumb to the fate, unnoticed, uncared between the conflicts of power and rule. Human life is ravaged and torn to shreds at the altar of political tug of war and dies in oblivion. The universe watches quiescent.

It wasn’t an ordinary day for me and  henceforth no other day would ever be ordinary.

This post is part of the contest It was never going to be an ordinary day.. on WriteUpCafe.com

Get Up Stand Up Stand Up For Your Right


Don’t give up the fight. Life is Your Right 

RECOGNIZE your inner strength, BELIEVE in yourself, Be Ready to SHED what is not YOU,  if you feel you are being caged ESCAPE  from the tiniest crack you find,  FIGHT for your Dignity and Worth.

Be True to self,  Be selfish Love Yourself  First, Break Away, Cut the cord that strangles you. Bend the Rules.  

Never let anyone write your story. Never hand over the pen to them.

Never feel guilty of  doing what your heart feel right. Never complain. Never explain.

There are no excuses to let yourself be treated like shit.

Never compromise yourself .

Never be bullied into silence. Don’t be a victim.

Never lose your true self  under the deluge of  masks society offers you to wear.

Society has never been kind to women who stand up and speak their mind, make your choice. Be free or be damned.

Freedom to be oneself  comes with a price , sometimes a huge one, Pay the Price or let others pay the price of  trying to cage your spirit.

Nothing is more important than your dignity.

HAVE COURAGE  to Chat Your Path. Never resign to your fate. 

Stand alone, it better  than being lost in a crowd. 

Never submit to the will of others.

Walk out of relationships that smother You. Dare to break away. Be at loggerhead with the society. It is not a cakewalk but it is worth every moment. Subjugated life is devoid of any soul.

Have the moral courage to Defy what in Unjust. Don’t be a performer.

Never let your bodies to be outraged. Never let yourself become an object.

Draw a line and stop the “little adjustment” from becoming a big compromise.  If it takes the monstrous shape it just engulfs before you know it.

Don’t wait for change to happen.  Make your move. It is never too late.

Stop living in your fears.

Think for yourself, never go in with conformity and herd mentality.

Recognize Abuse , for it is often camouflaged as love, betterment, moral duty, guilt, emotional blackmail.

Speak up. Silence only helps it breed and dig its claws deeper into your being.

It is better to raise your voice against unjust than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as old newspapers.

Be financially independent.

Be fearlessly yourself

Sometimes  it takes more than just courage and will to do what is “right”. Look within and you will know your reason to do it.

 Someone said to me , ”  It is all there for you to get, the only thing is How badly you want it.”   You can’t imagine how true it is. It gave direction to my life.

Courageous Risks are life giving  – Take Risks

I DID 

“My priorities are sorted out. I have moved on” , I said.

“Moved on ?”  “True moving on is to bring the past to a closure. It is done and over “

“True that ”  I said.  “So be it.”

It was last year this date that I made the life changing decisions.

This year this day  I am  That I am  and nothing else matters.

I am grateful to my friends, fellow bloggers, readers, and each person who believed in me and stood by me, some visible some invisible.

My boys are my strength and it fills me with tremendous pride and love for these young adults for understanding  my decision despite of the physical distance it created.  Thank you for  being my children and for loving me for what I am.

We all have a spark within but to turn it into a flame  one needs a breath of life –  ♥ レo√乇

Remember 

There is nothing more gratifying than being oneself. 

If it hurts it is not love #Violence Against Women Awareness Month #October


She was 23 when she married for “love”. As a girl she felt the lack of  “warmth” even though she wasn’t stereotyped for being born a girl. Caged and distraught by the environment she wanted an escape . Unfortunately that escape to freedom chained her for good, emotional and mental abuse, marital rape, seclusion from social life to an extent, discontent due to financial dependence, emotional blackmail, continuous verbal and emotional onslaught by in-laws and no support from her husband became a way of life with her. For years she “ADJUSTED ” and tried to ” mend the relationships” that actually had lost meaning. It weighed heavily on her mind and reflected in her deteriorating health until one day  she decided to break the shackles and face the consequences .

She knew that however life may treat her it wont be as bad as before. It was time to change, the path she carved for herself was rough but her spirit could not endure more indignity. This is the true story of Tara (name changed). One can ask hundreds of questions about WHY it took her so many years to take that much-needed step especially when she was aware of her rights and educated ( not just literate) . I guess sometimes there are no answers.

One may say , what crap, it is just a question of how badly you want your freedom and dignified life .  Sometimes it is easier said than done. Sometimes it takes more than just courage and will to do what is “right” .

Emotional abuse starts from the time you sense the first sign of contempt, rejection.It starts as birth and continues at every step where ever a girl is restricted, curbed, violated in any form, undermined, ridiculed or is wrapped in the blanket of ( “social sanctions/ moral norms/ duties/codes).

It starts when she is assigned to play roles that of a daughter, sister, wife , mother DIL and much more.

It starts when her own identity is pushed way back and get buried under the “socially accepted” way of life.When Her voice is muted.

In many cases of DV centuries of conditioning, controlling, traumatizes and intimidates the victim and the lack of support system forces her to either isolate herself into acceptance or drives her to take her life.

The deep-rooted sense of “guilt” of being born as a girl, of being “a burden” weighs heavily on her psyche and is continuously nurtured by the society saturated by Misogyny. Violated for “being born ” starts the emotional abuse.

October is VAWAmonth and let me share the  #VAWMonth and #VAWAM you can aslo add your voice HERE  and Here 

Emotional Abuse and marital rape are often not discussed and are pushed under the carpet.Despite the unwillingness to recognise marital rape as a crime, the fact remains that it is prevalent throughout society. Women’s bodies are outraged, regardless of their educational qualifications, class or status.  Even after the outcry and awareness of laws women seldom shed the inhibition and lodge a complaint or simply walk out of such abusive relationship. This is because cultures worldwide discourage their women from openly discussing sexual matters, let alone within marriage. Most women don’t even think of rape by their husbands as marital rape. Sex is considered obligatory and taboo. The bitter medicine called ” being a good wife ” is pushed down the throat of women, the code of conduct set by society;  to serve and never to “wash dirty linen” in public ; forces them to endure the pain, mental/emotional trauma,  sexual dysfunction, physical injuries and much more. { LINK }

It is a myth that only uneducated or rural women are the victims of abuse. I agree that many women are raising a voice against DV and talking that bold and much-needed step to walk out of such abusive marriages but still a lot more is needed to be done. I feel that forcing a girl to marry someone against her wishes or under the pretext of ” we know what’s good for our daughter ”  is also a form of abuse and should be stopped.

What has changed for Indian woman as she enters the second decade of the 21st century ? Violence against women is still widespread and is increasing day by day.

Do women lose human rights after marriage ?

If rape is a crime then why marital rape is still not considered as crime under IPC?

Is it not discriminatory to call an act “an offence”  merely because of the difference in person committing the act?

What is the justification of differentiating between women who are wives and other women as far as the offense of rape and violence goes ?

The 172nd Law Commission report had made the following recommendations for substantial change in the law with regard to rape.

  1. ‘Rape’ should be replaced by the term ‘sexual assault’.
  2. ‘Sexual intercourse as contained in section 375 of IPC should include all forms of penetration such as penile/vaginal, penile/oral, finger/vaginal, finger/anal and object/vaginal.
  3. In the light of Sakshi v. Union of India and Others [2004 (5) SCC 518], ‘sexual assault on any part of the body should be construed as rape.
  4. Rape laws should be made gender neutral as custodial rape of young boys has been neglected by law.
  5. A new offence, namely section 376E with the title ‘unlawful sexual conduct’ should be created.
  6. Section 509 of the IPC was also sought to be amended, providing higher punishment where the offence set out in the said section is committed with sexual intent.
  7. Marital rape: explanation (2) of section 375 of IPC should be deleted. Forced sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife should be treated equally as an offence just as any physical violence by a husband against the wife is treated as an offence. On the same reasoning, section 376 A was to be deleted.
  8. Under the Indian Evidence Act (IEA), when alleged that a victim consented to the sexual act and it is denied, the court shall presume it to be so.
We are still waiting for the change.
I often read this reports and wonder that in a country like ours where minds are governed by skewed traditions, orthodox norms etc, does having a legal provision really help?
The refusal to acknowledge of the extent of violence women suffer within their homes, or the insurmountable hurdles they face when they try to use laws that contradict each other, their implementation and their inefficiency  is something on needs to think about .
There are trillions of reports, articles, cases that one can quote but  an average Indian woman’s story of abuse (Physical/metal/ emotional) continues and those who step out (with exception of few ) find themselves hanging in an abyss due to lack of proper support system.
Tara took some bold steps.
She refused to have any physical relationship with her husband without HER consent.
She refused to be treated like a slave or a property though it stirred a hornets nest in her marital home and created further discord.
She made it clear that she would not be party to any forced ” duty/ order that she is “expected to do / obey” as a DIL / Wife .
She realized that she had not only lost her voice but also her self-esteem and confidence in self. Born in an open-minded, educated family she had never heard or seen such stone age behavior and after giving her best to them and shedding her skin to “Adopt” their ways , she could not bend any further. The man she married in the name of ” love ” gave her wounds which scaled her soul. Being tied to the Apron strings of his mom He could never stand up for her. The  time had come to decided whether to break or to stand up straight and walk out with what ever was remaining. She decided to do the second.
The first reaction she got was ” why after so many years ? It took you more than 20 years to realize that you were being reduced to dust  and you can’t take it ? Well, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE.
After earnest attempts to ” make things work” ( a Utopian dream) , She decided to Give Up and Not Give in . She left.
She is termed as deserter having no respect for “social moral values”. Mental and Emotional violence can extend beyond the  abused when abusers accuse family of girl of”ruining her marriage n keeping her “against” social norms. Her family is labelled as ” conspirators to her foolishness” and looked down upon by in-laws for ” supporting her when her ideal place is in her husband’s home “no matter what” .  Her husband feels she has abandoned her children for some vague notion of ” dignity” fueled by feminists and friends.
The in-laws  feel that if “her wings were chopped timely” she would not have “dared to do” such an outrageous thing but for the sake of society and their heartbroken son  they would shut their mouth and abide by her wishes IF she returns “Home” . Husband agrees.
They feel her it is improper and shameful to act in this fashion. A woman needs to learn to keep everything inside her and “adjust” no questions asked.
She should serve her husband and look after “HIS parents ( not hers of course ) for it is her duty to do so.
Social seclusion is essential because too much mingling with ” advanced women/men”  poisons the mind as in her case.
To keep a woman from going ” astray ‘  she needs to be broken financially so No Job and No Friends esp Males.
Rules, traditions, customs , sanctions , code of conduct , religion , rituals are to be followed without a word.
Mother in law IS  Law .
She has no other identity than her husband so she should be  gracious and be condescending.
All this and more applies because this is not America , this is India and this is in our culture so abide by it.
  TARA Disagreed. 
She was fortunate to have a supporting family and friends who were ready to help But how many women have this considerate,caring system to help them fight the injustice ?
Many women are not living their dreams because they are living their fears.
Isolation, restriction, guilt, humiliation, denial, continuous controlling and criticism, lack of empathy, love, companionship, shattering of a dream of ” a life long relationship based on mutual respect” breaks the victim. Emotional, mental tortured is hard to explain due to lack of  ” solid evidence” .
Emotional Abuse comes silently most of d times camouflaged as “love,betterment,moral duty,guilt,emo.blackmail,marital rape. Silence helps it breed and dig its claws deeper.
In our country ‘thinking’ for oneself is not encouraged. It’s always conformity&herd mentality. The  moment a woman begins to voice her thoughts she is condemned, ridiculed & told to shut up. If she rebels , her condition is even worse.
Does that mean we keep suffering ?
NO, trust me it is better to raise your voice and make your life worthy than suffer and reinforce the fact that women can be used as objects and treated like an old newspaper.
This is not an essay on Domestic violence it is cry of a muted heart which has found its voice .
Related posts : 

Walk the talk : Crumbling relationships, Social networking, Eve teasing and other things


His silence conveyed that something was majorly wrong. I was in no mood to have a heavy conversation. The rain drops were still shimmering on the freshly washed leaves and the eastern sky was seeped in a rosy hue.

It was becoming uncomfortable.

“Alright , what’s eating you?”

“I could have fucking strangled him with my bare hands If Only I could know him. I had a fair idea but that hand had no face. ”

” Huh?” I was instantly reminded of a post on eve teasing by Ideasmithy called The faceless hand in the crowd.   Had he read it too?

I waited for him to go on. The park was empty so we decided to walk the talk in the serene evening.

He narrated how a hand appeared in a crowded metro and began to grope, touching , pressing his female companion’s body. No , she wasn’t “dressed provocatively” and did not do anything to “entice”  the pervert.

I listened with contemplation.

“Why are some Indian men such perverts?”

“Good Question but it is not just Indian men. Maybe the number of sexual abuse / street harassment or eve teasing  are more here but the situation is as bad as anywhere in the world I guess.

I too have experienced it many times and trust me it doesn’t end on the streets and it isn’t just about physical touch. I have seen the lust in the eyes, in the gestures , in the comments and much more. However I may be dressed I am conscious of those stares, I am conscious of the hidden agendas and the underlying meaning in their conversations or offhand remarks.

Are you aware that it’s not limited to real world , that sexual harassment is rampant on internet and by unsolicited phone calls? Have you heard of Sexting ? ” I asked

“Yes, irrespective of age, from school girls to elder women, some men are relentless. All they see are breasts. Filthy animals, they strip you naked with their fucking eyes.” He fumed.

“Ah! Don’t insult the animals my boy.”

I remembered how one day the autowala kept staring at me from the rear view mirror and deliberately applying the brakes and entering pot holes and puddles on the road.  He kept turning back and staring with a twisted smile on his face. As I sat stone faced not really ready to take up the issue with him on a lonely long road.

“accidental touching/ rubbing/ pushing ” is a common thing which women experience all the time in public transport , crowded streets/ markets etc.

Do we ask for it ? Is it what we wear creates the sudden sexual urge in those men?

What utter crap.”

He told me how he had seen a gang of boys whistle and pass  lewd remarks at a mom and daughter duo on a busy market lane in Patel Nagar. They were “modestly” dressed and were walking back home from school. The girl must have been 10.

“Unfortunately eve teasing has become such a universal phenomenon that we don’t even regard it as an issue. It is crazy to think that women are always at a wrong place, wrong time, in wrong clothes and in wrong company and they initiate sexual crimes ” He said reflectively. I agreed.

To think that a doctor can dare to touch and feel your private parts in the pretext of examining is unimaginable but it happened on protesting he simply expressed that ” a little ‘ fun here and there is good for healthy mind, body and soul” Bloody sucker . I wanted to smash his balls then and there but somehow managed to get out of the freaking clinic unable to collect my disoriented thoughts and shocked to core. I wonder how he runs his practice and was I  the only one to be sexually targeted. I know of a case at Spinal Injury Hospital where a pregnant lady was abused by the doctor in the same manner. Too scared and ashamed she just decided to forget the ugly incident.

It was getting late so we left the park .

” Is it because of crumbling relationships that people indulge in revealing their dark secrets to strangers on social networking sites?” He asked matter-of-factly.

I was taken aback by this sudden change of topic. It’s true that social networking sites have become a comfort zone for people troubled in their relationships and life in general. chatting , talking to unknown faces behind the screen maybe helps in some way to lighten the heart but then there are incidents where this so-called ” sharing and bonding with virtual friends” leads to ugly consequences, harassment and blackmailing. I have been there seen it happening to some people I know.

I told him we will talk about it some other day but he was not giving up. He had seen me struggling to keep at bay the advances of those “available” men who went by the display picture and wanted to be “Frands” thinking that every woman is easy and on a lookout. They take the networking  for dating sites and endlessly keep pushing till you want to hit them hard. A writer who found me among common friends requested to be added. After sometime he pinged on chat and asked for an evening out with him because he liked my name and found me intriguing . When I refused point-blank he stated that its good to” explore and discover each other”. I found it disgusting that a person of his caliber could stoop to such level.

We were nearing home and the young man was still in a reflective mood. “The whole scenario sucks. Be it home, workplace, streets, malls, markets, public transport, net women are not safe anywhere damn it.” He shook his ahead. I was glad he was awakening to the basic core issues that were eating up the society. I had seen him tackle some with great effectiveness. It made me feel good.

“Men too suffer ” He said .

“Yes, especially those who tag along in life holding the pallu of their mom’s sari. Those adult babies who can not think, act without permission and support of their mommy dearest.” I  said with bile rising in my throat.  “Let’s drop it. Some other day maybe.”

“Umm, No, I meant this abuse stuff. men too suffer at times but they suffer in silence. Maybe that is one reason the social networking sites become their ground to find comfort and solace.” ” I am not saying that justifies for what some creeps do but all men aren’t bad after all.”

I laughed. “Spoken like a man”  I said. “Well, you do want to protect your tribe.”

“Naah, I know each of us is targeted due to some assholes who nothing but burden on this earth. and it agitates me”.

I felt for him. He was struggling with a lot of issues. “It is sometimes not about gender, it is about mind-set and power. It is about how open we are. Being modern is not just copying West, it is about  being fearlessly yourself , it is about looking at things from a larger perspective and mainly looking within.”

“We will continue to talk more about it. I think this walk the talk idea is good.” .

He smiled. “I guess so. I hope the solutions to these things were as easy as talking about them. We talk a lot. ”

Profound.

I knew he had a lot to talk about . So did I. I  have seethed about various issues lately. From bomb blasts and our precariously hanging lives, sexuality, LGTB, relationships, this ridiculous obsession with body image and “beauty”, the moral dilemma and much more.

We were still hanging out in the parking lot when he suddenly caught hold of my hand and said, “let’s go have an ice cream”. I love this kid. 🙂

“Two things I want to know by the way” He said concentrating on the small round pebble he had turned into a football.

One –

‘Why didn’t you teach a lesson of a life time to that motherfucking doctor? and

Two –

Is having a close friend of opposite sex after marriage  such a turn off  especially when this institution of marriage sucks( I agree to this but then can one generalize this) ? Is it infidelity to open up to someone other than your legal partner( don’t know if I liked this term but it tickled me no doubt)?  Why is it that a relationship crumbles so easily and two people who swore love a few years ago can’t bear the sight of each other now and for good reasons”

Those were two too many questions.

“We will talk about it”, I said.

Sleep did not come easy to both of us that night. The questions burned like embers.

One thing was clear. In days to come we were going to have a lot of walk the talk sessions. Sometimes it is better this way.

Girlhood Dreams Or Nightmares ?- In Conversation


She is fifteen years of age. A Muslim by birth and a “girl” by accident of birth. Youngest daughter among ten siblings , she had four younger brothers and three elder married sisters. One sister died when she fell from the terrace.

Nabila’s  (name changed) story is not just hers but  reflection of many who are caught between the life of their dreams and the bitter reality life has put them in. Forced to work as domestic help the girl never went to school. The harsh conditions and subjugation at home has made her bitter about her community, gender and society at large.

She does have a mind of her own but that is not enough for her to stand up against the  discrimination inflicted against her.

” I am beaten up for the slightest mistakes while my brothers get away with whatever they do. My married sisters are like furniture at home , they have legs but they can’t dare step out of the house on their own. Elder brother, eldest among the  siblings, decided not to step away from the family after marriage  and is frowned upon and called “joru ka gulam“. He hardly visits us. ” She was in a mood to rant and I probed her by some questions to hear her inner voice.

“Are you ill-treated because of your gender ?”

“Yes, My brothers get the best of food. I cook all meals and work in the house and in three houses here. I am beaten up if I protest. I am the last to eat. When I ask for some pieces of mutton etc. I am abused and told to eat whatever is given as boys need more nutrition and energy. Don’t I need it ?” She looked at me.

“Of course, you do and it is very wrong on their part to do this.”

” I am told not to dress up nicely, apply bindi or henna or any make up. The Hindu girls do it and no one stops them. How am I different?”

“You are not different it is just the attitude of your parents even Hindu girls are treated like you in many houses.It is because you are a girl that you go through this.” I had no other explanation coming to my mind at that moment.
‘” It is about religion too”, she insisted. I did not want to go there and put ideas in her head to voice at home and get beaten again. I had to tread softly.

“Have you ever asked your parents about it ” , I asked.

“Yes, they say I am a Muslim and I must follow rules. I don’t like being a Muslim. The Hindu girls are not treated so badly as us. In just one or two years I will get married and then all will end. ” Her face clouded with the very thought. All men are rascals. My father drinks and both parents hit me with whatever comes in their hands. ( I saw the wounds on her arms the day she was hit by brick by her mother. The reason –  she forgot to put salt in vegetable because of her attention was diverted towards TV serial.) No one loves me. Parents love two of my sisters and the middle one is neglected too. She is beaten up by her in-laws and hardly comes here.”

“Why is that ? Your parents should intervene.” I asked.

“I don’t know. She is nice but has T.B.” she said matter-of- factly.

” I wanted to study in madarsa but wasn’t allowed. A tutor was assigned to teach me Urdu so I could read Quran. I won’t be able to get married if I can’t read Quran. He used to hit me a lot and told abba I was useless in learning and slow. I had just begun to understand but he was paid off and told not to come. In the village I am supposed to lie about my education and say that I study. I got fed up and told my jija ( Brother in law) the truth and was beaten up and kept hungry for two days by my parents.”

I made sure she colored the drawing books and wrote her name and numbers etc taught her to greet in English ( it was her ardent wish to learn the right phrases and how /when to use what ). I noticed that she used a lot of English words correctly even though the pronunciation may not be correct at times.

I also found she was having a lot of difficulty in learning as she was past the age for the basics and was too distracted.

Her dreamy eyes glued to TV she kept asking questions about the latest Bollywood gossip and what attracted her most were the advertising.

She was dissatisfied with the shape of her nose and knew it could be retouched by some procedure. I was aghast.

“Who told you that?”

” I heard somewhere. Priety Zinta got it done.”

“Arrrrrrg , I said ” do not get carried away by all this, it is just an eye wash I tried to explained. She was surprised but not convinced. Lured by the beauty products and the screen Gods and Goddesses she wanted to  change everything about her from clothes, hair color and length to features. The only thing that made her glad was her fair skin. I made sure to educate her on how the advts. are air brushed and natural beauty is what matters , that too inner beauty. The talk was lost on her. With one sentence she silenced me.

” All that is alright but it is my outer beauty which will get me a loving husband and good home. My sisters are not that fortunate but they are good home makers. See how unhappy they are. ” Looks Matter”. That ended the matter. A devout follower of her screen  idols she went back to her dream land.

I tried to persuade her to learn to write more but she didst want to do it at the cost of leaving a movie or a serial  mid way. I told ma she could be a great film critic and columnist if she knew how to write.

With a sigh I went back to my work but she was wired and switched off the TV.

“We will do to the temple and do Puja one day.” She suddenly became animated and I realized what a brilliant smile she had. I smiled.

“Why would we do that? I don’t believe in God.” I wanted to get  reaction from her.

” Why don’t you believe in God? Your Gods are so colorful and plenty. Choose any one you like. It is fun to visit temples. you get Prasad and the atmosphere is so lively and the pujas are so creative.” She went on with various descriptions and incidents while I searched for something to burst the bubble.
“Our Allah lives in a book. At least your Gods are real . You know how they look and there are female Gods too.” She stressed on this a lot.
“We have a male God that too formless.” She very strongly showed the disapproval.

I laughed and told her all these Gods were creations of our imagination and none is real.

She refused to believe. “You can not imagine and create, there has to be someone , some model, you see”, she explained.

“I don’t get jobs because of my religion. My sister had to change her name to Hindu one to work in the houses as domestic help. People think we are trouble makers. Very few treat us nicely.”

I saw her point. I had a domestic help who called herself Seema. Her real name was Najma. She faced the same problem. People are prejudiced against Muslims. A sorry state of affairs but it is true in many fields. I knew a couple who refused a PG accommodation to a Muslim student just because of her religion. People do not rent out places to Muslim tenants at many places.

I told her my reason for being non religious. Told her about the ugliness of ritualistic religion and how God has just become a mode to spread hatred and how religion has become a puppet in the hands of few.

She nodded her head in agreement and quoted something she had heard on TV about Hindu Muslim clashes and about terrorist attacks.

“All Muslims are not terrorists” she said looking straight into my eyes.

“Agree with you completely” , I replied. “Terrorists ,fanatics can be in any religion even Hindus are utter fanatics.”

Confused about t he identity of “her” non visible God and “our” unreal Gods she concluded that a God who creates disparity, division, discrimination and much more. I explained that some self-centered men with an agenda of their own use religion as a tool to do all that she is talking about and people blindly follow because of fear and ignorance. The problem is bigger than what she is facing and seeing around her.

To Nabila all that mattered was the unjust behavior of her parents and the close-knit community she was part of. I watched the girl fidget with her duppatta with down cast eyes full of sorrow, pain and deprivation.

“You get such nice clothes to wear and the bangles, ear-rings etc. ” “Your father does stitch nice fashionable stuff for you. ” I wanted to get away from the topic of religion.

“I pay for my clothes. It all comes from my salary. Only during festivals or marriages etc. my father spends.  I give all my earnings to mother but now I have learned to keep some for myself and buy things I like. She beats me at times but abba says it is her money at least she is not asking us for it. Mother is the root of all evil”, she said with anger in her voice.

Who told them to have ten children? Their first-born was a boy then could have stopped after next child who was a girl. Why brings so many mouths to feed? She is fat and useless. Only sells roasted corns and hits me. Always irritated about something or other. She is greedy too. ”

I agreed as I had once spoken to the mother at length and knew exactly what Nabila was referring too.

It was a difficult life she was living. Precariously suspended between her girlhood dreams and reality. Dreams which will make her a misfit in her community due to many reasons including the socio-economic ones.

Exposure to electronic and print media ( she is supposed to look up the newspapers( Hindi and English ) everyday even if she can not read) is making her aware , discussions with people like me make her think again about what  has been instilled into her.  I wonder if her dreams will prove to be nightmares for her as she grows up. I have watched her trying to copy the hair style or pull her dress off shoulder when no one is looking . Many times she has asked me questions about various cosmetics, clothes. Questions about the page 3 pictures in newspaper, smoking ,drinking by women and sometimes about the various places around the world whose names she has gathered from somewhere or the other. It is beyond her imagination to measure distances between places. To her the world consists of her village and a few more places in and around that  and distance is what lies between the village and Delhi which is her home now.

Working at different places has opened some windows of her mind and it scares me to think what may be the result of it. I already see a rebel in her. A spark which may either make or break her. Naive and happy-go-lucky girl of fifteen she is maturing quickly for her age ( physically and emotionally). She is aware of her fair skin and good looks, aware of her body and the exposure to TV is doing no good to her. She is exploring life outside of her cramped living. Her aspirations to be like her favorite heroines or the girls whom she sees in advt. is taking a grip on her psyche and do her more harm than good. I feel for her and try to educate her as much as I can so that she doesn’t get waylaid.

A fear always looms large in my mind. What will be her fate eventually? Will she keep turning under layers and layers of social norms, customs, rituals, duties, obligations, adjustments ? Will she find strength to at least break  some of this chains and make a place for herself?  What is the future of this girl who has dared to dream?

It was time for her to go home.

I watched her as she brushed her hair, washed her face and gathered her things.

” Do you sometimes feel it would have been better if you were a boy?” I asked

She looked at her shimmering bangles, her new salwar kammez and henna on her hands.  Caressing her freshly brushed hair she said ,” I don’t think so. I love to dress up.Though by birth and by religion I am cursed. ”

The lift doors opened and she was gone before I could say anything.

Quiet Flows The Ganges: Will Nigamanand’s Sacrifice Go Waste ?


The environment activist brave enough to stand up against the corrupt administration and the stone quarrying and mining nexus died an unsung death while the media and politicians drooled over a ‘high flying’ Baba Ramdev.

Swami Nigamananda, 34, had been fasting for 115 days in Haridwar. On April 27, Nigamanand’s  health started deteriorating and the authorities admitted him at the district hospital. He went into coma and had to be admitted in a very critical condition to the Jolly Grant Hospital in Dehradun on April 27, 2011. Since then he lay there unnoticed by media, authorities and rest of the nation. The case of his death in under investigation as traces of  high toxins were found in his blood.

Was he murdered by the land mafia?

Why didn’t the “saviors of Hinduism”, the state government , the center and  NGO’s do anything to support his cause while he was alive?

While political parties trade charges over the sear’s death  it has exposed the sensitive issue of  destruction of the fragile ecology of Ganga. A river which is not only considered Holy but also nourishes the areas where it quietly flows mourning its brave  crusader’s death. Nigamanand was a member of Matri Sadan  which  has struggled to save Ganga from illegal mining for the past 12 years. Swami Nigamanand  had earlier done fast from Jan 20, 2008 till April 1, 2008 after which Stone mining was banned but soon after some months it started again and then another activist Dayanand did 30 days fast in March 2009 to shun the illegal mining  from February 19 this year. Matri Sadan never gave up its struggle. Another member, Dayanand started his Satyagrah from 15th October 2009 which lasted for 163 days.

The official website of Matri sadan tells how for the last ten years  Himalayan Stone Crusher has indulged in extensive rampant stone quarrying and sand  mining in full co-operation with the administration. The river bed is plundered by cranes and trucks as government issues permits and the mafia digs deeper and deeper into areas which are restricted for mining all along the 80-km Ganga stretch from Muni ki Reti to Rishikesh in Tehri district and further up to Laksar town in Haridwar. There was hardly any official supervision. This kind of destruction leads to flooding . Due to the illegal blockades and obstructions my the mining mafia the river has shifted its original course by 500meters and can spell havoc for the flora and fauna in the areas nearby and for the people who stay there. Thousands of acres of agricultural land has been rendered barren.

It is not just the area near Haridwar but also in areas near Roorkee  where the river beds have developed crevices as deep as 40 feet, polluted water and depletion in fish catch  is visible here. Forest reserve like Rajaji National park is also bearing the burnt of mining posing a threat to the local ecology. The center and the state allots millions of rupees for saving  the Ganges but nothing effective emerges out of that. It is ironical that the state is losing crores of rupees due to illegal mining and yet it continues to thrive under the very nose of the district administration.

Nigamanand’s death raises yet another very grave question about the illegal mining of river beds across the nation and the nexus between the administration and the mining mafia. It is the same nexus which is involved in deforesting the forests and many such issues.  Gavel and sand is needed to meet the growing demand of raw material by the contractors for booming construction business and  riverbeds are the source for that. Supreme court and the district courts  have issued order to prevent illegal mining and they have been openly flaunted all along. These miners are mostly  influential people with a political clout and plunder the river openly. The result is nothing but suicidal.

Indiscriminate mining is posing a great thread to the river ecology across the country. Many of us can not foresee how this lack of governance and unchecked mining will affect us in future.This mindless, unrestrained and unregulated activity is posing threats of widespread depletion of water resources which will ultimately lead to unavoidable food shortages and hardships for the people. Unscrupulous contractors and corrupt government officials  are more than willing to ravage all the major rivers across the country. They are merrily excavating sand from the rivers generally disregarding all environmental regulations.

Country’s precious natural resources are being purloined in a big way, its forests are being clean-felled, land degraded and its rivers threatened with extinction and yet no one is taking strict measures. In a country where the media houses, government agencies, politicians everyone is solely focused on their own personal agenda who cares if an environmental activist dies  fighting for a cause ?

Why aren’t there strict measures to erase this nexus from the roots ?

What is the solution then ?

Will the battle started by Nigamanand slowly fade to the last page of the newspaper  and will the investigation of his death end the Arushi way?

Will the nation wake up and realize that  Nigamanand died for a serious cause and he was not a mass entertainer like Ramdev ?

Whysuch low priority given to the Ganga  matter where black money issue steals all the attention ?

Isn’t it worth pondering that no one had heard of Swami Nigamanand until today until the  news surfaced that he had died following a four-month fast against illegal mining on the banks of the Ganga?

We know that the state government and the officials lend a helping hand for the loot ? Why isn’t it checked  ?

Why  isn’t there an environmental clearance before any such permits are issued ?

Will Nigamanand’s sacrifice go waste or will it change the fate of Ganga  and maybe all the other rivers of our country ?

Do leave your views. 

(Images from Matri Sadan blog  and downtoearth.org.in , facts from web)