THANK GOD FOR THE BAN!

Thank God for the Streisand effect, i watched the documentary ‘India’s daughter’. Watched it and made it a point to download it so that i can help others to see what i saw in the documentary.

Yes, it was a horrific and disgusting sight to see our stinking society stripped naked in front of my eyes, frame by frame. Yet, it was unsettling to see Mukesh Singh, the ‘educated’ lawyers and Jyoti singh’s parents co-exist in the same society. I don’t know whose society this is. Apparently society is made of people-people like you and me, and I refuse to believe that after all these years and years of cultured civilization, this is what we came up with. THIS?

I don’t care if the documentary was made to garner TRP, or to shame India on an international platform or any such alleged reasons, but I am so glad that this documentary was made. Mukesh Singh may not be a hero or a celebrity who deserves to be heard but he did tell us certain things which need immediate attention:

  1. Mukesh Singh told us rape is not about sex. It is about anger and frustrations. It is about power play in patriarchal conditioning that gives men the apparent right to show women their place.
  2. Mukesh Singh told us that he shares his view points with many uncles and aunties who we grow up listening to. These uncles and aunties are not bad human-beings, mind you and they have been equally shattered by the 16/12 incident but they don’t know that they share something very common with the rapists. They must know that. Now. Before it’s too late, because this is where the ‘rape’ mentality breeds. Not biology, not dress code, not surroundings.
  3. Mukesh Singh made us realise hard that education doesn’t mean just holding a fancy degree. You can be a lawyer or a school dropout, but if you think rape is justified in any form, you are not educated. This society is in dire need of ‘educated’ beings not degree holders. I repeat, educated beings.
  4. Mukesh Singh pointed out the stark difference between him and Jyoti Singh’s family, despite having almost similar financial background. He showed us that all we need is change in mentality and education in its true sense to prevent rape.
  5. Mukesh Singh showed us the dangerous edge of society we are hanging on to where his circle of people considers lip to lip kiss ‘inappropriate’ but raping an immoral girl justified. Please note that these are the people that make up the society too and these are the people that also consume ‘Item girl’ entertainment. These are also the people that make up more than 70% of our population.

“India’s Daughter” urges us to look at ourselves in a new light and build a society based on a civilization that takes pride in Sita and Draupadi. It pleads us to stop faking how women are worshipped in our country. It nibbles our brain to talk, criticize and analyse why rape happens and condemn the mindset of many mukesh singhs in India. We are doing much to empower women but we need to empower men too to bring in the equality that we dream of. Because the empowerment that we think men are privileged with is pointless as long as such mindset exist in the society. Rape is not a gendered issue. It is a social issue. We can’t blame the men for rape nor can we blame the women. We need to blame all of us who are contributing towards building a messed up society, brick by brick, consciously or subconsciously.

But instead of doing all that, we took the easier route. We chose to ban the documentary and shut everyone up.

P.S: I am more than glad that the documentary is banned. Now more and more people are making a beeline to youtube to watch it. As i said, thank god for Streisand effect.

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The story of stories

When I decided to move a little farther from my office, the time consuming traffic, the three modes of commute and a pair of tired eyes dwindled in my mind. I was apprehensive but I did eventually move. And, boy, am I glad I did it!

It takes me around one hour from my office to my home, the entire journey being traversed via a bus, a metro and an auto. I leave my office with an exhausted mind and body. But as soon as I sit in the bus, the wheels begin to spin and my story starts. The story that accumulates thousand others, pouring a piece of their souls into mine.

The vadapau wala’s artistic dash in the way he smashes the potatoes and pours the imli paani in the puri, the happy families under the bridge, the corporate honcho’s headrest in the windshield of his Mercedes car, the old man with “Love all religion” message in the traffic signal, the crass adult film posters adorning the side walls, the random talks with an auto driver about talking parrots, the glittering lights embellishing the lokhandwala lane gradually impregnate my story and by the time I am in the elevator of my building, my story turns into a behemoth figure, waiting to break through the shackles of my mind and lie down in my notebook. And it does, yawning and curled inside the warm pages, only to grow a little bigger the next day.

Sometimes, my story comes out of the pages and takes a pleasant stroll – in the curl of my lips when I am sipping a glass of juice in solitude, in the corner of my reminiscent eyes when I am looking at someone, in the tip of my tongue when I am conversing with my folks and in the nib of my pen when I am jotting down something.

One day, I was sitting in the girl’s compartment in the metro when a young mother came in with her little son tagging along. The kid sat next to me. Soon curiosity hit him.

“Mamma, why are no boys here?”

“Son, this side is only for girls and that side is for boys”

The kid looked around horrified to suddenly realize that he is the only boy amidst so many girls. His cheeks turned red.

“Mamma, I don’t want to be here. I want to go that side”

“It’s ok kid. This side is for kids too”

“Mamma, I am not a kid. I am a boy. I will stand with the boys”

And off he went to the other side where he “belonged” reaffirming his gender.

The other day, near my building, I saw a group of kids announcing who they are ‘pakkhi’ with and who they are ‘kacchi ‘with. From the midst of these banters, a little girl came forward and said in a condescending tone,” this is not good. You all are fighting every two seconds. You should really learn to let go of your ego, then only we can play”. Yes, a tiny girl talks about ego hassles! She promptly invades my story and claims her place in my conscience. And then there are occasional characters like an 80 year old white bearded poet talking about his love for Urdu poetry and constant call on his mobile phone by someone asking about his whereabouts or a bespectacled scientist from Nigeria who believes Sridevi is the most beautiful woman on this earth that dot my pages here and there.

It’s strange how some people and some moments become metaphors of so many epiphanies in your life. These may sound like mundane ramblings for I am not a raconteur. But in these 60 minutes, I live a different world everyday that forms confetti of several anecdotes in my mind and pulls a string in my heart, of which the music lingers. It’s like every time I look back my journey, I realize that I have changed so much bit by bit that I am no longer the person that I was an hour ago.

No matter the heavy monsoon, no matter the potholes, no matter the chaotic traffic. All I care about are the stories within. The longer the better.

CALL ME ‘CHINKY’ PLEASE

Call me Chinky, call me fat-lipped, call me elephant- eared.

Call me too fat, call me too thin, call me black, white, yellow, purple.

Throw at me all the racial ‘slurs’ that your tongue is capable of. Frankly speaking, I should not give two hoots about it because my looks are not my doing. But then I have been conditioned to feel grateful for any compliment received. Even if it may not be for something that I have not contributed to.

So when you slap those remarks at me, I accept them graciously, paint them on my face, bow down my head and say Thank You. Thank you for telling me I look like my parents, my community and my people. Thank you for reaffirming my pride in the way I look. Thank you for reminding me that my ethnicity runs in my genes. And thanks to you, i do wear it on my sleeve. Because for me my features, my colour are the inheritance from my ancestors. And nothing could be a bigger compliment to me than you telling me I belong to my people; my beautiful race that I am so proud of.

Eh! Did you mean to offend me by telling me where I come from?

Just so you know I am extremely proud of my background, thank you very much. So you can put your make believe ‘superiority assertion’ to rest now.

Sigh!

I pity you for constantly insulting yourself when you thought you abused me by calling me names. I pity you for offending your upbringing that never allowed you to comprehend that my eyes, my lips and my hips do not define me (though i wish they did because i am so proud of them), the upbringing that blinded you to not see my beautiful soul but my exterior. While I humbly bow my head and say thank you for showering me with compliments (in disguise) day in and day out and wish hard that I had something to do with it, I can’t help but feel sorry for your tiny little head that is empty, the eyes that are blind, and a heart that is ugly (now THAT IS what is called ugly).

You are missing out on so much my friend. So much.

When you are 24 and still not found your calling!!

 One question that I have found myself contemplating all my life (especially in the last two three years) is “What is my dream? What is it that I want to be when I grow up?” Well, I am 24 years old now but the question mark about my dream still remains.

Just like I have evolved to be who I am today, my dreams and aspirations have evolved too. There was a time when I would confidently smile (with the front teeth gone) and reply to any good-willed uncle’s same-old-query “what is your dream to become when you grow up?” and say,”I  want to be a teacher !”. My wanting to become a teacher had its own reasons which stemmed from what I call the theory of kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi. At that tender age of mine, I would see all my teachers as the ‘monsters-in-laws’ who would torture me with their homework assignments. And like all daughters-in-laws who secretly wait for their turn to continue the same legacy with their would-be daughters-in-laws, I too built up a desire to become a teacher just for the sake of continuing the legacy of throwing chalks at some unruly student. Well, correcting their homeworks which most of the time included circling innocent spelling errors with a red pen and ending with a sophisticated sign seemed to me a bonus that I could not give away. Soon, the fire within my little heart extinguished and I realized being teacher means to study really hard. The thought itself shooed away my dream in a few days.

Gradually, my dream paved its way to the desire to become Miss India. Oh that crown! That silver diamond-studded crown was just irresistible for me. All I wanted to do was to put that crown on my head and blow flying kisses to the audience.  In fact I had practiced that move almost n times in front of the mirror to hone it to perfection. But then reality check slapped me back on my face. I was too short for the crown and my dream too big for me.

Then a phase came in my life when I wanted to become something that nobody has ever heard of. Teachers and Miss Indias were just too common and suddenly too boring for my ambitious mind. I wanted to take Frost’s road that is not taken (no I didn’t know who Robert Frost was  that time). That time, my understanding of being different and uncommon was something that no one has heard of and my understanding of “no one has heard of” was something that was difficult to pronounce or spell. More my tongue twisted telling about my dream more I felt better about myself and my career choice. So, I chose to be a Lepidopterist-one who studies butterflies. See what I mean. The word sounded so heavy and thus very appropriate for me. By the way, I heard about the term in Tinkle Digest. Yes, I was still in my Tinkle reading days.

Times flew by and butterflies were nothing more than colorful insects to romanticize and write poetry about. Those days a few doctor TV soaps had come up. They made those white lab coats look like one of the best fashionable professional attire one could wear. And above all, I fell for the lead actors too and suddenly I wanted to become a doctor. So that I could wear that lab coat, fall in love with and in the arms of some handsome surgeon and oh well, save some lives too. Yet, it was impossible because my biology was as bad as the plots of those serials. Hence, that dream too shattered into pieces.

Today is the era of inspirational movies. With movies like 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, Udaan becoming blockbusters, everyone chants the mantra “Follow your passion, and success will come by”. The “dreams” got new words- “passion”, “calling”, etc.  These movies encourage people’s passion to wake up from their slumber, or rise from the ashes and take the form of a giant phoenix. There are also people that came across here and there who would invent their own passion just to get rid of what they are studying. Hah! Creative. Isn’t it?

 And, here I am, still chased hard by the question “What is it that I dream to be when I grow up?” but this time with a little modification- “Have you finally discovered your dream(or passion or calling)?”  As for me, I am still dreaming…… in the hope of shooting the right bird.

 

 P.S: i wrote it when i was 22. Nothing changed much except the number!

 

Why not a housewife?

On a recent talk show on TV, i was amused to discern a tinge of smirk in the host’s laughter, when his guest, a top heroine of bollywood very graciously bestowed the label of housewife to an upcoming leading actress. I was equally amused to see the ever prying media plunging into this very fresh fodder of gossip– “Aaha! Another cat fight in the show business!” – the kind of news they vouch for their bread & butter. The industry supposedly was having a field day at the cost of the gossip so much so that it invariably made its way to the covers of various film magazines. Now that was something that did not amuse me at all. In fact, if i may say, i was mildly disturbed with way the “news” was being moulded.

I have grown up in a family where i have seen my mother building a lovely home out of a brick mortar house. The walls and the furniture bear my mother’s warm touch. The blooming flowers in my garden smell the sweat of my mother’s blood. The “bari” in our backyard is deliciously rich with green vegetables under my mother’s strict yet loving supervision. My mother thinks she is not a great cook, yet not a single day pass when our dining table is not a palette of healthy and tasty meal. Seasonal haak, khar, tita karela, chicken, fish or egg . Low salt for dad, less oil for my sister, more spice for me. She took care of our taste buds as if her stomach depended on our food intake more than hers.

When i look back at my childhood, i see the memories inevitably sprinkled by my mother’s silhouette cascading somewhere in the background. If i reminisce about our Sunday mornings, i remember how we would wake up with the hummings of Rabindra sangeet, Bhupen Hazarika, Lata Mangeshkar, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Bryan Adams, Pink Floyd, Beetles, Don Williams, etc while our mom would be dusting the drawing room, the guest room and then the bedroom, and the numerous bookshelves adorning our walls. I wonder if our summers would have been the same if we were not welcomed with cold mango shake or Lime juice at the door when we would come back from school, sunbaked. I wonder if our evenings would have been the same if our drawing room did not echo “Jyoti Prasad agarwala’s bhoot puwali, if the floors did not thump with the little feets dancing on the beats of khul or if the beautiful chaos of kids’ laughter did not seep into the evening silence. I wonder if I would be standing on my own feet today with head held high if not for the values induced onto me by my mother – a housewife.

My mother left her job of a teacher to take care of us – 3 equally little babies. But then, a job seldom has anything to do with being a housewife. For, my mother was a housewife even when she was a teacher, even when she was not married. She took care of her ailing father, she bought the first set of furniture for her home from her first salary, she stuffed old blankets beneath outgrown sador to make sofa set in her humble drawing room. She taught ABCD to her brother’s daughters and weaved gamusas in the “taat shal”. And all this, while she was working as a teacher as well as an actor in a local theatre group that she led on her own. She had a job, but she was still a housewife. Wasn’t she?

This is why i was amused to see the smirk tinged laughter of the host when his guest called her competitor housewife. I just wished that the now married heroine should have known that a housewife can neither be a career choice nor an ambition. You are not paid for nurturing your own home nor do you “aspire” to become a housewife. I believe if i am a woman, i am a housewife by default. It is in my prerogative to take care of the home i belong to because by now i have soaked myself wet in the pride and glory of a woman’s ability of multitasking – of counting figures and caring for family, of handling accounts to monthly budgets, of following boss’s orders to earning Mother-in-law’s brownie points. Yes we do it all and we do it with the smile intact on our face. Yet, we stay at bay from being called a housewife. Why?

At the cost of irking maybe some of the readers, I refuse to accept “housewife” as a pejorative remark nor will I take being called one as finger pointing towards my credibility to “do” something more substantial. As if i am called a housewife because “i am good for nothing”.  As if it has to be a “catfight” or a verbal spat for an actress to call the other a housewife. Hello, isn’t housewife a compliment??

Since the time my mind had been stirred by the absurd “housewife” remarks, for the longest time i took solace in the fact that the problem lies with the term “housewife” that alludes a sense of slavery. Indeed, being called a housewife is derogatory to a woman’s sensibility. Maybe that is why the term “homemaker” made its grand entry into the picture to appropriately define the role of a housewife – one who makes a home and not who marries a house. But soon enough, i kept bumping into the prefix “just a” whenever the term homemaker was used.

–          So, what does your mother do?

–          Oh! She is just a homemaker.

–          Is your mother working?

–          Nah! She is just a homemaker.

And the bubble burst. Just a homemaker? Really? We don’t say just an engineer, just a writer or just a doctor. Do we? Then, why just a homemaker? I am afraid but i will tell you why. Because in reality, the term homemaker was not produced to “appropriate” the meaning of a housewife, but to pacify the sulking feminists. Homemaker is maybe a euphemism for housewife. Because, even if we keep changing the term from housewife to homemaker to something more befitting, the role will still remain the same. Because, as bitter as it may sound, the truth is that we never really had a problem with the term but the role – the role of cooking, cleaning and caring. A role that we think is mundane. Homemaker or a housewife, it doesn’t matter until the baggage of “good for nothing” is carried along with. Until the eyebrows are raised on being called a housewife.

Being a humanist (because i consider the feminists  humanist) and a daughter of a housewife (like so many others), i take the onus upon me to condemn anyone, any snide remark, or smirk tinged laughter that attempts to belittle the true essence of nurturing a home (which by the way is the most toughest thing to do). I condemn anyone whose ignorant mind thinks that an ambitious or a working woman is not a housewife, stripping off her the credit of running her own home and i condemn those who think that all that a housewife does is sit on the couch watching TV and peeling potatoes. Because if i don’t, i would be disrespecting my mother who, sitting thousand miles away from me, is figuring out which colour curtain would look good with the new furniture or my physics lecturer aunt who just came back from university and is headed off to the kitchen to prepare the meal of the day. Because if i don’t condemn, i will let down my own conscience.

 

P.S: Please suggest me a better headline.

 

The story of a writer

It’s been a month since I have opened my notebook to write something but have ended up writing absolutely nothing. Staring on an empty and unfilled set of lines is as scary for a writer as an empty refrigerator would be for a foodie. It would be too much of a robust claim on my part to say that I am a writer since I have just a few published writings to my credit. However I have been battling the fear of staring an empty blank page for the past one month and the anxiety I have been reciprocated with is a really nerve-wrecking one.

There is a perennial tug-of-war going on inside my mind where one end is ready to take the plunge into the empty pages whereas the other end is pulling it back. It is my mind I suppose, that is holding me back from writing.  My mind is just so cluttered that it is getting more and more difficult to structuralize the things inside, so that I can give it a concrete form and put it on paper. The overdose is nauseating my mind. My mind is fickle. It thinks a lot and it thinks on a lot of things at a single span of time. The things residing inside my mind are like sand dunes. Each time I try to reach them, they are blown away by the wind. Or they are like those little butterflies. Each time I try to catch them, they fly into the oblivion. It’s like I am in a forever pursuit of something that will trigger me to write. And that “something” is still incomprehensible.

Why do people write? What is it that makes a person isolate from the world outside shutting themselves up in a closed space? Why a writer like Paulo Coelho was admitted to a mental institution because of his “exaggerated” introversion and his obsession with breaking away from traditional path? In fact Paulo Coelho became a writer because with utmost research he found out that writers “always wears glasses and never combs his hair” and has a “duty and an obligation never to be understood by his own generation.” His books like “the alchemist”, “Like the flowing river” are maybe the products of his fixation with exploration of life that made him a writer. What moved Robin Sharma to go on a life-changing spree for the common entrepreneurs? Is it altruism or is it more than that?  There can be so many reasons explaining why someone writes. Some write for passion, some do it as leisure. For some, writing is a creative luxury, for some it is their bread and butter.

Writers are supposedly introvert human-beings. They talk less because they talk to their mind all the time. As Stephen king says, “Writing is like hypnosis” which is true because when you write, your mind and soul merges as one. You are not aware of your surroundings or even your own being. Great writers may go to a stage of transcendence and seldom knows what they are writing till it is done. That is the magic of writing. But the irony is, how much ever a writer is isolated inside his own world; his life is an open book. There are only a few writers who have an absolutely straight life without any knots and twists. A scandalous life is an absolute necessity for them. They don’t take the road that is already taken. They don’t abide by what the society vouches for. They fall in love incessantly and fall out of it crushed. They see a story in everything and their hands itch every minute to put everything down on paper. If not the notebook, their mind is already a wide canvas dotted with various stories.

As for me, I am just a miniscule part of these writers’ lives. I am just a reader in awe of their writings, and whose life may have been affected a little by their writings. I don’t aspire to be a writer. I believe aspiration relegates the whole notion of writing to a great ambition. Writing can never be an ambition because writing never gives a sense of achievement or satisfaction. Every page you complete writing gives you a sense of incompleteness and you continue writing more. It is like a river flow that does not stop. A dynamic process.

My life had always been an average one. No extraordinary strokes have painted my life. I had a happy childhood, normal teenage years and an equally usual adulthood. Never bullied by anyone, never had a tormented love affair, never been an academic failure nor I had to fend for everyday livings. Yet, there is something inside me that tells me to write. The urge that I have is not explainable but I think I write to express myself or should I put it as to let out my thoughts and feelings. I am not good with communicating thoughts verbally. Words fail to come to my lips spontaneously even when they are all ready to come out from my mind. Thus I take solace in my little notebook, who like a loyal friend listens to what I have to say. Yes. That’s what it is. I don’t write; I talk to my notebook. Over time, we have developed an unexplained relationship that even I am not able to bring myself to understand. I have grown with my writings, not just in terms of my vocabulary, sense of grammar, techniques but also with my thoughts and perceptions. With my maturity, my notebook has matured too. It is no longer nonchalant about things going around the world. It shudders when “Nirbhaya” dies and cries out with happiness when Mary Kom wins a bronze in Olympic. It dreads with the fear of future and yet sometimes smiles back to the nostalgic years left behind. My notebook has become a reflection of me; with each page unveiling different facets of my life. It is smeared with different inks of my experiences-some trivial and some substantial but all of them close to my heart.

But for the past one month, my notebook has become silent. I have exhausted myself trying to look for myself in those blank pages. My mind has become silent. I have become silent. And this silence is hammering my ears more than the loudest of rock band can ever do. The newspaper, the television, the internet, the peers around, the assignments and tests- everything has got a story to tell. And as my mind takes it all, somewhere its own story is being vanished into nothing – just a few figments of left over thoughts. And while I am writing this, my mind wanders off yet again.

when she became a mother

She stood there speechless.She did not care she was losing out on time. Even so, when for her, those 40 seconds are her crucial moments- moment to earn her bread of the day. Yet, she remained oblivious of the cars honking.Ignoring the fact that she has to go to the next car,knock the next window shield, beg for the nth time for few coins before the RED becomes  GREEN, she stood there looking at me with utmost gratuity.Her lips slightly curved upwards, telling a mixed tale of happiness and sadness at the same time.Happy because what she is feeling right now, she is feeling for the first time and sad because she knows the feeling is ephemeral. Holding her “6 months old payal” on her waist, she refused to budge from where she stood. She wanted to soak herself wet in the warmth that she was receiving, probably for the first time.She wanted to inject all the love, kindness onto her sinew, veins, and heart. Wish, she could frame the moment, freeze it till she died. The glint in her eyes was enough to tell that she was grateful. Grateful to the young girl from the other side of the windowshield, who reached out to her baby, touched her baby’s naked,tear-dried cheeks,held her little fingers and played with her curls. She was grateful to her for giving her this moment, that may not earn her the bread but the dignity-the dignity of a being a mother to a beautiful child.That day, a mother experienced the joy of being told how wonderful and lovely her child was.That day, somebody was interested to know her baby’s name and how old she was. That day somebody did not hurl a few coins to her just for the sake of good riddance but talked to her. She did not care about the world. She did not care about the lost opportunity of earning a few more coins from a few more cars in the next 15 seconds. The indifferent faces, the hurriedly closed windowshields, the “saab’s” stare on her semi-clad body, nothing bothered her. She just stood there still, sinking in the love,the joy, the kindness showered on her baby. Because she was her baby’s mother and the baby was hers.