Friday, December 21, 2012

Of Rape and other fears

The whole country is thinking of rape now. Since Sunday, rape is on their mind. “The Delhi incident” I have heard it being referred to in more formal situation and in male-female interaction, skillfully avoiding the word ‘Rape.’ Men and women bother all over the country are horrified. Facebook statuses are showcasing the shock, the anger and the helplessness. Denizens are asking for death penalties and public hangings and such (I saw a couple of pictures of something horrible happening in Lebanon and shuddered!!)

Having had this fear of rape since I was a child of 4 or 5 (I was a precocious kid) I have some very precise thoughts on this. And I know I can’t be alone in this. I am sure all women in the country if not the world have had and continue to have feelings like this. And it’s just not fear; things come to pass - a grope, a slap on the ass, an elbow in the chest and the like and believe it or not once a kiss on the knee. It all was horrible. It didn’t affect me physically, at least not beyond a few moments, but the feeling of invasion of space remains, mostly forever. The fear of rape changes a woman’s quality of life. I have never taken a walk alone or sat alone or stood alone in public without being guarded, stoic, making no eye-contact. Alone, (and sometimes with my sister and other girl friends) I have never let that guard down. I am always careful with my interaction with strange men. I trust no one. After the knee kissing incident, I don’t behave very well with anyone. Sometimes I am extra aggressive if I feel that someone is coming into my private space. I am very mean. And friends (guys) wonder and ask why I am so confrontational and mean and aggressive. I don’t know what to tell them. All of that comes from being cold and being possessive of my personal space.

Most men (and some women and society in general) don’t understand a very simple thing. When a girl is harassed or eve-teased, the men in her life feel really bad. The first reaction is probably, “If I were there, I would have hit/hurt/killed him.” The second reaction, “Why were you there?” Why were you walking alone in the night? Why were you walking near a slum area? Why did you take that auto? Why did you take that route? I have been asked these questions some time or the other. I have fought and reclaimed my right to do what I want. Even at the risk of extreme harm, I will not let anyone take over my independence.

More thoughts on this coming up soon…

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Silken wisps of whisper
Tumble down the memory tunnel
Scrapbooks of bygone fly open
And I hurriedly sweep up those dust bunnies 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


They had all been inside the room for about an hour now. Their conical lamp stood lit in the corner diffusing its red light leaving most of the room in shadows. Dinner for five it was supposed to be, but the festivities hadn’t begun yet. The fifth guest hadn’t arrived yet.  The four inside were playing 29. They were playing 29 but their ears pricked up for any sound of the arrival of Sal. Pitter-patter of the footsteps of a dog out on the metallic steps outside result in a collective jerk and lurching towards the door. Everyone was waiting desperately for Sal. They could hear Mr. Mallik, the owner of the flat next door paced up and down the corridor. Sal hadn’t arrived yet.

The evening was balmy. Sweat dropped down Sal’s arm. He was walking up and down the road. The road leading to his safe haven was lit with flickering street lights. Neighbourhood dogs recognized Sal and howled and skipped in his way. Sal staggered towards the door on top of the metallic stairs. The day in office had been long and tiring. The boss was mad, the pretty receptionist pregnant, the egg noodles he had had for lunch had been extra salty. Sal walked up the steep slope to the house, suddenly feeling thirsty. There will be water and more at the house, but the road has started looking steeper and tougher to walk on. Sal took a deep breath and ran up the last few steps.

Sal stood in front of the door. He fumbled in his pocket. He opened the door and entered the flat. “Am Home!” He shouted. Everything looked exactly the same. The kitchen was immaculate. The fridge stocked with beer and cucumber-spinach juice. He poured himself a glass of beer and searched for the remote of the A.C.

Sal entered the living space with the remote in one hand and a glass in the other. But he didn't need the remote. The living room was chilled with the A.C on at full blast. Sal looked around the room. The lamp was switched on. The cards lay littered on the carpet. The glass dropped from his hands. And he ran out of the house. The dogs had been waiting for him. They ran on with him. “It was an accident! I did not kill them!” he screamed as he ran.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

After the Storm - A very short story

She waited. 2 minutes only. Then she walked out of the door holding her orange tote bag in her arms, leaving it all behind. The wooden window cracked and blood and gore oozed out. But she didn’t see. She didn’t look at it. She didn’t turn back. The pollen grains in the air teased her nostrils and her eyes watered. She blinked and crossed the road. That thing followed her till the checkered fence and couldn’t take a step more. Not step, not step. It. That thing wooshed. That thing couldn’t woosh ahead anymore. It stayed shushed at the lamp post. The solar panel of the government issued lamp post hissed at the empty street. She took the last lone rickshaw, sat on it, “Chalo.” The lamp post burst out and the glass shattered on the wet tar. The last shards tried to reach the rickshaw, as it rolled away downstreet.

The downward slope helped the haggard old rickshaw puller speed on empty streets. She adjusted and shifted her old bag on her lap. Her precious cargo. The railway crossing was open. The ancient, rotten wood and stone fixture was blinking its genial green light. Old Ramji and she raced on un-bothered by potholes. The old tamarind tree at the end of the town shimmied and swayed back and forth. That thing back at the ancient house she left behind howled and cried. The old kite that had been stuck outside the window for months now shook free and floated on behind old Ramji’s rickshaw. The level crossing lifted up just in time to catch the kite and destroy it for the second time in its life. She opened her umbrella and held it over herself and the thin almost skeletal rickshaw puller. The precious cargo shifted inside the bag. The skies which had held its breath till they reached bridge over the river at the end of the town let go with all its might.

The thing. That thing whined and stomped, back in the house. But she was miles away now, tucked in her own bed. The rain plundered on outside. Old Ramji sat huddled in the shaded verandah over a cup of hot masala tea. He would spend the night in. indoors. Safe from the rain. Safe from that thing.

The old faded orange tote lay discarded at the bottom of the bed. Her precious cargo now cuddled in her arms. “Oh! The horror the horror!” She crooned to the orange tabby she just stole from her ex-boyfriend, “He kept you on dry food, baby. That thing!” as she deleted the Ex’s texts (He is my cat!!) from her cell phone.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Fuck your sensibilities, bitch!

Censorship in the name of saving our sensibilities is an old ruse we Indians use to stop anyone whose views are different from our own. Forever the ostrich, we feel that if we can’t see the objectionable views, they don’t exist in the minds, hearts or art of others. M.F. Hussain, Salman Rushdie, and Tasleema Nasreen all know how it feels to be censured, exiled, banned, threatened to shut down, or even threatened to kill in the name of protecting the public’s ‘sensibilities’

The internet is a wonderful way to come together to share views. It is a wonderful way to learn what the other is thinking, even if we find it slightly jarring or distasteful. The beauty of Facebook is that you create your own content. If your friends are all dog lovers, your Facebook content is going to be a lot about dogs. On the other hand, if you and your friends are racist bigots, most of the post will be about related content – and you will not disapprove.

We are not in Communist China, but a democratic India and it seems neither feasible nor fair to pre-screen data – for one man’s poison is another man’s daily dose of humour. Pre-screening all data seems not only impossible but also violating an individual’s right to expressing their thoughts.

Google India, which along with 20 websites is facing criminal case for allegedly hosting objectionable material, on Monday told the Delhi High Court that blocking them was not an option as a democratic India does not have a “totalitarian” regime like China. Trying to turn India into anything like China is not only a bad idea which might affect the voters’ mind in the next polls but also against our right to freedom of speech.

“Unity in Diversity” cannot just be a token phrase but the feeling should seep into the everyday fabric of the Indian. To keep India the way it is and then move forward without diminishing our diversity, we need to keep moral censorship at an arm’s length. We should toughen up and accept that we live in a varied, dichotomous society where every member has their own wonderfully individualistic views on politics, religion, art and life in general. This heterogeneity should be encouraged as this is what holds us together.

We don’t need a moral watchdog to save our sensibilities. We should instead self-censor if the need be and remove unwanted content from our Facebook accounts by ‘removing’ it or ‘blocking’ it and even Reporting Abuse - Pornography, hate speech, threats, graphic violence, bullying, and spam are not allowed on Facebook.  We can report abuse and keep off unwanted content even off our T.V screens; even on our Google search pages we can tighten filters if the need be. The bottom-line is that we the general public have to take a stand and keep the politicians from taking a decision on what we want to watch or say or do.