Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Of Being a Woman in Delhi

Today when I opened the newspapers warmed by my morning cup of tea, I was shocked to read the headlines that were gawking into my hapless eyes. Another rape in the city had happened and this time the baneful brutality is a chapter unheard in the history of mankind . Six men had stripped, raped and barbarized a young girl with an iron rod with such inhuman brutality that has managed to shock and dismay one and all who got to know if it. Her only mistake, she did not yield to the 8 pm law that a Gurgaon commissioner had once issued when a woman's modesty was outraged in that part of the NCR. And yes this time around, she was not alone on the streets of Delhi, she was with a man who could do nothing to save her and was not spared himself. 
I wish this is the last of the incidents we will ever get to hear, but no there is much more in the offing until we raise our voices and try to make the spaces safer for own selves. Rapes are a history that keep repeating itself over and over again in a state which has a woman CM, who is busy calculating the amount of money needed by an average Indian family to survive, six hundred as per her ignorant apathy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Bankster by Ravi Subramanian

Title - The Bankster
Author - Ravi Subramanian
Publisher - Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd.
Pages - 364
Price - 250 INR
ISBN - 978-81-291-2048-9

This seemed more like a nefarious nexus between the banking official and a gangster with lies, deceit and treachery making you flip through the pages without boredom haggling your senses.

It all begins in Angola, and keeps shuttling in space between Kerala, Venice and Mumbai, sometimes making you wonder if its three stories or just one and the introduction of the protagonist after about 160 pages was later than anticipated, even though it was heroic. Karan's character was feebly identified and involved with the story and until he solves the mystery, I really never knew that he was the protagonist. Rather than telling the story through tens of characters, Karan's tale could have been told in details and the story developed around his character. And the villain could not be loathed at, considering the confusing characterization he was given.

Perhaps, this can make for a wonderful Bollywood script for sure for sometimes I thought, that the next minute will read into a song and dance and I'll see the characters dancing around in the rain. The plot is engaging and fast paced with the too many characters making you confused often, only if you don't read the book with a hawk's eye. The characterization is not as vividly described as the places. Often I felt that I was reading a travelogue instead of a financial crime thriller. But not for long!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Of Weddings and not Marriages

It's that time of the year again, when the stars say a prayer for the sun and all of them stand to salute the marriages that might perhaps, have been made in heaven. Weddings in India are more of a social hogwash and less of a marriage, which has made it a Page 3 affair and a stage for Katrina to gyrate on. Of course if Shahrukh is available, after making up with the friends he turned to foes, it surely will be all over the Delhi Times Page 3 the next day. 

And before I talk of the fairy tale wedding I happened to attend a few days ago, let me tell you of something ridiculous that took place recently. A stranger I had barely spoken to, for a few times over the google talk messenger during my tryst as an editor, sent me her wedding invitation. I really didn't know how to take it? As a personalized invitation or as the ceremonious celebration of a phase in life, that after countless fake relationship statuses on facebook is finally becoming a reality! What was worrisome was the reply, which was obviously a no, for traveling to the southern tip of India for a stranger's wedding did not sound like a great idea! Often I had heard this about girls going to get wedded. A few days before their wedding they start flying high in air without wings. This just holds true for this lady! The stakes attached to getting wedded and being wedded are too high for Indian girls,which just blinds them to commit such brainless bloopers and sadly one can't blame them!

Before I got this bolt from the blue I happened to attend a  Baniya wedding, one that was a chapter straight from the fairy tales. The invitation in itself was a  seductive snare of ladoos, dry fruits and chocolates with an endless queues of cards choking inside a wooden box gilded in  gold, which had given me an inkling about how they would dress up both the brides. Oh yes it was the rarest of rare weddings, twins getting married to twins, so both the sets of sisters and brothers also became each other's in-laws after the event. What managed to arrest my attention was the farmhouse they had booked for the wedding.

The land was spread in  acres, with a giant gold stage and three more that looked like its babies. Along both sides, were these endless enclosures, again all set in gold laying down a food festival for the guests in attendance. I saw CCD, Dominos, Haldirams and almost every other food outlet I had ever eaten at, gripping the gastronomic gullibility of the guests. People could be seen enjoying the food fare while music was being played into the balmy brightness of the night, all set for an extravaganza. With all the gold glaring into my eyes, I was fearing visual impairment for even the dancers on the stage were all dressed in gold and painted in gold. I could neither see SRK, nor Katrina but for some reason this was one of the most exuberant of weddings I had seen in my lifetime. While the women in the vicinity could be seen getting crushed under the bulky Benarasi sarees and lehangas, and throttled by the yellow metal in various shapes and sizes, I was there dressed like a school girl in pink and black checks and blue denims, watching the visual vitality on display. The exchanging of garlands was another treat to watch, for the fear of falling down from the towering platform could be seen clearly etched on their faces stealing the joy of garlanding each other. So also, the hosts for the night had left very little imagination at our behest since their commentary reminded me of a confused plot between a Cinderella story and the famous Ram-Sita wedding. While watching the melodrama unfold a few things crossed my mind.

Why are the Indian weddings more of a social flimflam and less of a personalized plan aimed at celebrating the coming together of two souls? A thousand and more guests at such events have left me wondering as to what sort of an event are they rooting for? Flashing of flamboyance or calling for a ceremony that will be commemorated as memories in the family album. Rather than spending lakhs and lakhs of rupees on one ceremony, can't we call for simpler sophisticated weddings with the money we otherwise intend to waste going to a charity. The idea of feeding a thousand or more guests who can afford three or more square meals a day is stranger than a lie, for many lakhs are dying without food everyday. The thought of feeding a stomach that is already filled doesn't go well with me. 
Many parents of girl children in India do no have reasonable resources to organize a simple wedding ceremony for their daughters, can't all this money that is being burned in the name of traditions be given to them.   

The big fat Indian wedding is a national obsession which might in the years to come, even start attracting tourists during the wedding season as they famously call it, for such is its shameless splendor. Being less of a memory for those celebrating it, and more of a social hogwash.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Delhi's Poem

Your streets enamelled ebon
go red and green
when life begins,
a merry-go-round
of moored matins graying
for grace, they vandalised your belly
raising brick buildings
on your brown skin,
stealing your vermilion to paint
the lips of a keep,
fireballs were fanned in your alleys
when frost blinded the
eyes of a masquerade
appeals fight for an answer
being smothered in signatures
and stuffed into sacks.

Today after ten years
my skirt has grown longer
when my bruises
healed with the hooch of heresy
I've seen your fight with time
and thank myself for
having read from your books.

First published in Writing Disorder published here and the First Prize Winner of the Wordweaver contest 2012.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"He was just a Pawn"

With the passage of time, he realized his mistake and that is why before the execution these were his words
“Allah kasam, dobara aisi galti nahin karunga.”

Alas, he never got another chance to heal his broken arm. Ajmal AmirKasab the lone surviving terrorist of the 26/11 attacks was hanged in a secret mission called "Operation X" on November 21st at 7:30 am, five days before the fourth anniversary of the mishap.  When the news flashed on the idiot boxes it was a bolt from the blue for most Indians! While most Indians thought that justice was done, there were these very few who were trying to shun the celebratory voices and not make hay.
Kasab was the only terrorist caught alive all thanks to the brave sub-inspector and retired army man Tukarama Omble whose heroics brought to light Pakistan's state sponsored terrorist activities. Had Kasab not been caught alive, we would have always stayed in the dark about the whereabouts of the machines of mayhem, who descended on the face of Mumbai four years ago to kill and wound without a stutter.

Three days after being caught, he confessed to his crime with Pakistan disowning him and refusing to recognize him as their citizen, of course later things took a turn. As per the Indian laws, an individual caught in an act of crime is innocent until not proven guilty by the courts of law, with the right to fight the case. 
His trail began with 312 counts which were dropped to 86, all of which he denied. Later in June 2009, he pleaded guilty to all the charges framed against him. When the Supreme court of the country refused to grant him mercy, he knocked at the doors of the President. He was disheartened with the verdict that the President had to give.  In a secret operation which even the Prime minister and leader of Congress weren't aware of, except of course the President who turned down the clemency petition and the Home minister and a few officials of the state and law, he was put to death.  A major calculation was needed to avoid an IC 814 like situation and maybe that is why everything was carried out secretively. A group of soldiers hand picked from the Indo-Tibetan Border police force escorted him from Mumbai's Arthur Road jail to Yerwada at 1.30 am on November 20th, after which the secret "Operation X.X" would have been executed. I also heard in the news reports that the mobile phones of the officials employed for the act were confiscated and were returned only after hanging and burial were successfully carried out. 
Had the operation not been kept under wraps, maybe it could have incited violence at the borders and in many sensitive areas and only if Kasab's bosses wanted to rescue him, something like IC 814 could have been anticipated. I applaud the clandestine closeness with which the authorities handled it and so also their sensibility to have informed Pakistan who sheepishly accepted the news without sparking any controversies about it in the news rooms. We prevented another mishap rather than trying to cure it by not making it public. But yes please do not for the Almighty's sake compare his hanging with that of Bhagat Singh and Rajguru. Do not try to be the blind leading the blind by drawing parallels between the two, for many Congress and Gandhi lovers were heard saying so.

Facebook and twitter went mad expressing joy and relief, to introspection and cursing  after his hanging.

A few tweets that went online after his hanging read like this

"Dear #Kasab, those aren't virgins. And you're not in heaven. Sincerely, etc," tweeted Sonia Faleiro, an author from Mumbai.

"Millions of Kasabs will be born if we do not stop brainwashing our innocent children with religion," tweeted Bangaldeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

"One day supply of unlimited free Kingfisher beer to all Indians on account of #kasab's death," tweeted liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

"Of all the reports/opinions on Kasab's hanging I came across on the Internet, this one seemed the most apt - Ajmal Kasab's hanging: death of an ignorant foot soldier," Yashodeep Sengupta, a journalist from Kolkata, wrote on Facebook.

"Ajmal Kasab hanged on Nov 21st. Winter session of parliament begins on Nov 22nd," Praful Bhat, a media professional from Mumbai, wrote on Facebook.

"Ponty, Thackeray and Kasab. This month make sure you avoid drunken driving, or riding without helmet or even walking on the pavement. You sure want to avoid this list!" wrote Bilal Zaidi, a journalist from New Delhi, on Facebook.

"Never hated someone so much in my life..ROT IN HELL KASAB!" wrote Mumbai's Pankaj Gupta on his Facebook wall.

In another post, he wrote: "Pranab Da...dil khush kar diya aapne!"

"No RIP Kasab. I hope the bastard rots in hell," tweeted Tunku Varadrajan, Newsweek magazine's India editor.

Sharath Shetty from Mumbai wrote on his Facebook: "The expensive Terrorist Kasab is Hanged Today !!!!! at last."

"Believes that the death penalty is justified in the 'rarest of rare' cases, as in the case of Kasab. While as a society we can be satisfied at Kasab finally got his comeuppance, this is but a small step, in the big battle ahead.

Let alone the challenge of bringing the perpetrators, handlers and masterminds to book in Pakistan, can we say that we are safer or more secure today from these acts than we were 4 years ago ? Are our seas safer ? .....And as a civilised society, it isn't right to celebrate anyone's death. Even if an execution is justified," wrote Rukmani Vishwanath of Delhi on Facebook.

He was a brain washed pawn who  was introduced to Let by his own father as confessed by him, on news clippings, for the money he got from joining the Jihad wars would have rid them off their abject poverty . He was one of the many thousands of Kasabs waiting to cross the border or lurking around in our neighbourhood to play the tunes of death. He was called Qaidi number C-7096 and was the first foreigner to be hanged.

On second thoughts Rinzu says,

I was four years younger then,  and much more sheepish when I saw the terrorists dance of death on the television. For the next four days I was unable to sleep, clutching on to the other pillow on my bed and sometimes even burying my face inside it,  I wondered why did it have to happen? 
Four years later, on 21st November 2012, when Kasab's hanging was declared as the "Breaking news" there was a spring in my step. I felt the devil got his due and for most part of the day like many Indians who had even burst crackers to celebrate his execution, I was feeling exuberant. 
But in some part of Pakistan, a mother would be mourning the death of her young son. A sibling will always pray for their brother's soul to rest and a father might be feeling sorrowful at the price his son had to pay for their poverty.
When I googled his name what sent a chilling shock down my spine was his age which was almost as my brother's. As mom said, a cute looking boy almost,  of my brother's age did not deserve such an end. 
For once even he thought that he'll never commit the mistake again. But that next time never came. Let's not mourn his death but let's not party either. 

There are hundreds and thousands of Kasabs being made everyday, all because they could not answer the calls of poverty! Let's invest our energies in winning the war over poverty and illiteracy and not cussing and celebrating the death of a pawn of terrorism.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alienate (Sequel to I, the Mailbox)

A wooden casing
with a wrecked window
wails in front of the house
Two one one,
is the number
in intricate inscription
with black paint
the sun may have shone on its forehead
last summer when the daughter's
stipend application
gave birth to an answer,
its womb weaned in willow
since then, waits for
her blue inked letter
or a congratulatory message
to an invitation accepted,
she ached for alienation
just like the old mail box
whose name no one remembers
since the e-mail fluttered to fame.

First published in the Best of Poetry 2012 by C.E Lukather.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pro-life or pro-choice?

Savita Halanappavar’s words before dying were "I am neither catholic nor Irish". With these words, her heartbeat stopped. 

And why did it happen?  Her seventeen week foetus had suffered a miscarriage, but then none of the doctors who examined her were willing to terminate the pregnancy, because she was in a catholic country and as per the catholic church's rules on abortion, a foetus cannot be terminated until the heart beat doesn't stop. Savita was neither catholic nor Irish and nor could the foetus be saved. Then why did the doctors show poor judgement and behave like coy cats fearful of the abortion laws of the Catholic church? 

For in 1992, the Supreme Court of Ireland had ruled in the favour of terminating a pregnancy if it was a threat to the mother's life. The ruling was not implemented by the subsequent governments in the Irish republic due to which the hands of the medical personnel were tied. And none supposedly wanted to go against the law and end the pregnancy to lose their jobs. She writhed in pain for four days, but by the time the foetal heart beat stopped and its remains were surgically removed septicemia had poisoned her blood and rendered her organs useless.

She breathed her last on October 28th, triggering a debate between pro-life and pro-choice.

While in another world, Todd Akin and the Republicans left no stone unturned to define the different kinds of rape and get slapped by a loss that most women had foreseen in the United States. While the first lady,  assured the women during the Democratic National convention that her husband trusted women and the choices they had to make for their bodies.

These are two instances from the recent past, that made the lives of women a matter of political proposition. The state in both these cases was toying around with the reproductive rights of women.

Pregnancy affects the life of the mother and not the father, in-laws or the state. Then why does the state try to have say in the personal decisions of a couple or the mother? Personal pleasures can never be deemed as a political manifesto and the state must make all efforts to make its stand clear on laws affecting human lives. In the case of Savita, the doctors were forgetting the Hippocratic oath to hide behind religious laws that were never reviewed by the state in an act of inhuman carelessness.

The debate on pro-life and pro-choice is separated by a thin line. While the church is trying to kill many birds with one stone, taking a stand on contraception, abortion, career oriented women, divorce and same sex marriages, it also not giving the devil its due. The priests embroiled in child abuse cases are still walking free, so also the nuns in many parts of the world coming out strongly against it. A wave of feminism has taken over the nuns with many openly coming in support of the misuse of the "pro life" theory that the church is thrusting on its women and also trying to pin the dirty linen of the priests for public display.

In this tug of war many women like Savita are becoming scapegoats of a law that was passed to keep a check on sexual promiscuity that the modern woman is following as a thumb rule to be free of obligations and family. While in the west and in modern India, many women are retorting to abortion to kill an unborn foetus that was an outcome of their misadventures, and more of the women who do not want to have a family are getting their fetuses terminated.  There is another universe, where a Savita becomes a victim of the cruelty of fate, only because pro-life and pro-choice are misunderstood matters largely governed by governments waiting to amass votes. Why should uterus be a point of political debate when pregnancy is the decision of the mother and not the state?

In this case, the child was dead whether or not the abortion had taken place, and if not for the mindless law makers, reviewing their policies on the health of women in their states the mother's life could have been saved had the abortion been done sooner than it was. The ban on abortion, therefore took a life, had the doctors not been victims of misjudgment. Two lives were lost when one was surely for keeps. How does that make the ban pro-life? 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

50 Different Types of Facebook Users

Facebook was one of the best inventions of this century and Mark Zuckerberg needs to be thanked a million  times for huddling and holding the world together. While it has turned out to be a morning manner for some and an inevitable evening activity for many, turning down the TRP's of many eight pm teleserials, this platform of social networking has brought a lot of undiscovered personality traits in us. I made a closer call and saw this

There are 50 different kinds of facebook users as per my observations

1) The one who befriends you with 125 mutual friends in the list, but still doesn't know you and will never talk to you.
2) The one who still plays Farmville and are constantly sending you invitations for Farmville 2.
3) The one who plays all the games that uses facebook as a platform and floods your inbox with their invitations.
4) The one who adds every person who sends a friend request to them.
5) The best friends who blow kisses and keep sending hugs many times in a day on each other's walls.
6) The one who pokes everyone on their list.
7) The one who is always logged out of chat.
8) The one who changes their profile picture everyday.
9) The one who changes their profile picture every week.
10) The one who never sets their own picture as the profile photo. 
11) The one who will never change their profile picture.
12) The alarms clocks who have made it a deed to wish everyone "Good Morning" and "Good night" ever day.
13) The one who updates everything on their walls by using facebook mobile, just to show how busy they are to ever use a laptop.
14) The compulsive liker.
15) The person who wishes "Happy birthday" to everyone, every day on their list, not missing out on a single day unless of course they are chronically ill.
16) The obsessed commentor.
17) The one who tags you in bad pictures, not of your interest and only their interest.
18) The one who untags themselves from every picture, they ever were tagged in.
19) The one who writes notes everyday, and tags all their friends to it.
20) The one who has 50 photo albums consisting of pictures that aren't theirs.
21) The person who puts quotes as status updates everyday.
22) The deeply depressed facebook user who updates their status with sad song lyrics often.
23) The silent watcher who rarely likes, comments or posts anything.
24) The philosopher whose status updates are as vague as they can get, with  squarely senseless replies to them.
25) The social activist raring to change the world.
26) The ones who post updates and posts on their wall, not for others to see but for themselves to read and watch, much like a bookmark.
27)  The facebook "friend" who takes up fights publicly, knowingly or unknowingly.
28) The person who always requests you to "like" their status updates.
29) The "eternal" brag box who has boasted about all their achievements in life, right from their grade twelve percentile to their intelligence quotient.
30) The "Page 3" facebook user who invites you to every event that will be held under the sun.
31) The person who gets annoyed when someone unfriends them.
32) The married couple who shares a joint facebook account with a joint name such as "Maria and Thomas Anthony" always leaving their friends in a fix as to who did it, when someone posts something on the wall.
33) The grandma who just learnt to use the Internet and doesn't know the difference between status updates and comments.
34) The couple who fights and makes up to often switch between their relationships statuses. 
35) The ones who can't keep their personal lives under wraps.
36) The sports commentators who appear on facebook during an India-Pakistan or India-Australia match and floods your wall with live commentary. 
37) The chronic liker who likes your status updates and posts everyday and sometimes minutes after being posted on your wall.
38) The one who has owed fanship to every page ever created on facebook.
39) The shameless advertisers of their blog and websites.
40) The user who just had a baby and is keen on exposing the life of the child to the world.
41) The one who adds the prefix Dr. to their profile name just to hoot the trumpets about their achievements in life.
42) The user who always posts help columns or "DIY" columns that holds their interest.
43) The one who updates their status every two or three hours with nothing interesting to share, except for cribbing or cussing.
44) The addict.
45) The addict who tries to act as if they do not care two hoots about the existence of facebook.
46) The advise seeker who can never make up their mind about anything in life 
47) The one who can't post a status update in the first time, and needs to redo it always.
48) The user who is obsessed with the facebook maps and is always updating their latest location on it.
49) An eight year old who lied about their age to make a profile, or an eight year old's mom who has made a profile for them so that they can gift it to them on their eighteenth birthday.
50) The one who doesn't have a facebook profile.

I fall into more than one of these categories and this was a post I did for harmless fun. Do not lynch me after reading this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Irony of Traditions!

It's that time of the year again.  Dasara also known as Navaratri, as in the first nine days the Divine Mother Goddess Durga is worshipped and invoked in different manifestations of her Shakti. The 10th day is in honor of Durga Devi.  The basic purpose behind this festival is to worship feminine principle of the Universe in the form of the divine mother to remind the teachings of the Taitareeya Upanishad, "Matru Devo Bhava."  Essence of the navaratri celebration at social level is to remind; respect all the women, who are the guardians of the family, culture, and national integrity, to take lead in times of crisis to guide the humanity towards the path of social justice, righteousness, equality, love, and divinity.

If we look at the figures of sex ratio in India, according to the 2011 Census, the number of girls stands at 940 which is a marginal increase from 933 in 2001. Not surprisingly, Haryana has the lowest sex ratio among the states while Kerala remains at the top with the highest sex ratio. In the national capital Delhi, the statistics stand at 821 girls against 1000 boys in 2001 compared to 866 in 2011. 

According to the statistics, nearly 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in the country over the past two decades. Of the 12 million girls born in India, one million do not see their first birthdays. 

What sort of a celebration is this when the femininity is devotedly doted upon while on every second street corner a woman is mauled. Sometimes as a foetus, for having had the XX combination of chromosomes and many times as a woman who is nothing more than a huma who is supposed to confine herself in the cage of clothing she wears. As a foetus,  her father and her grand parents had already been damned with the thought of  doling up dowry for her sometime in the future. Dowry being the bride price the parents of a woman pay to buy her conjugal rights into a household, with not much exceptions to say a no to it. If she manages to see the light of the day, she is not sent to schools, is made to milk buffaloes, cook and clean while her brother is sent to study and given good clothes to wear. And forcibly married to a guy, eons elder to her while she rents out her womb with the dowry to bring out a male heir for her husband's family. She isn't asked to voice her opinion about whether she wants to marry and bear kids, these are her duties towards a sexist society that considers womanhood synonymous to a womb. This way she becomes the symbol of family honour, dare she doesn't offer herself for this role, she isn't allowed to live. This is the story of the villages, where a woman is the emblem of social and religious biases. If we hop on to the cities it is no better. Foetuses are thrown into dustbins or fed to dogs for a little over two thousand rupees that the doctor charges, after having been killed in posh localities, where boys are still preferred over girls as a status symbol and the legal heir to the property and family business. Again, if she lives, she is sent to school without any signs of discrimination, until the roles of home making don't give her a call which is supposedly not taught to her brother. She  has to dress down to save her soul and isn't not allowed to go to parties and pubs for she may be punished in the name of morality. After she marries, she is burnt with the explosion of a cylinder,  for she did not bring the cash and kind that her husbands family had anticipated for.

While she is out on the streets, she is raped by a thousand men with two thousand eyes yearning to get a glimpse of her cleavage or her legs. Men are waiting on the streets, to lift women for no reasons or chase a woman to give her a heart attack in triplicates, so that from the very next day, she can be this coy cat who is dropped to work or college by her dad or brother. I have for so many times, dreaded doing the rounds of the Rajiv Chowk metro station or travelling by buses for the fear of being groped by men, for its an ill wind that blows in the life of us women, that has done us no good. Even then it is a hapless habit when it comes to travelling everyday for work or college. If a woman gets raped in this part of the world, the fear of societal stigma keeps her from even reporting the matter to the police. They say shamelessly that she deserved it, never letting conviction be confirmed in most cases of sexual harassment, molestation or rape, each a mutated manifestation of how patriarchal and pervert this male dominated society is. 

Rather than empowering the woman and giving her a reason to celebrate her femininity, the society has made her weak and always runs to cover her up. She needs her father as a daughter, a husband as a wife and when he bids farewell to the world her sons as a mother. Again I wonder,  how will the calculations be considered if she has no sons? 
The sleeping dogs start lying when talks of equality get a voice owing to the media and social networking, while she is expected to accept a seat in the buses or metro, for that they say is her right. A separate coach for women in the metro or the reservation in the Parliament or for that matter the ladies queues in government offices has only added fuel to the fire. These have only made her weaker not sponsoring the cause for which she has been fighting for long. Equality! 
Ironically, travelling in a compartment full of women or seeing a man vacate his seat for me doesn't make me felicitate freedom, that supposedly the government thinks is enabling empowerment to the fairer sex.

When Shakti is being glorified in gold, in pooja pandals all over the country, a female foetus is thrown in the bin for dogs to devour while in another part of the country a girl from a poor family is being sold for a little over ten thousand rupees to a rich farmer in Haryana so that she can be a breeding machine for his babies and a sex object with which the man can play.  

In a country where femininity is being plundered, looted and even traded for a few thousand rupees, is this vain inglorious deification of goddesses so necessary, just to tout for traditions? Shouldn't we tirelessly toil to first make the open spaces safer for women, before trying to glorify goddesses of stone and gold? Hasn't hypocrisy being written in bold letters all over the walls of homes, that testify of Shakti but, are killing their girls and women to root for misinformed misogyny! And do you think the goddesses will be pleased any day, if only what is happening continues, to never see light at the end of the tunnel?  

Monday, October 22, 2012


A funnel of face wash
and bisected bottles
of balms and butter.
Within crabbed cellophane
and an old book, half read
torn into tales.
Between those lies a protocol
unfinished and undone
and theories of velocity
in motion not gaining momentum
What a mess, life has become
a rigid ritual put down as a pact on paper
between thousand threads
trailing along time and the Almighty
We are nothing more than
those containers and cartons,
waiting to be cast away like clutter
into a casket christened in our name.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Long live the Facebook Restrict List

With changing times facebook has become an essential entity of our lives. No matter whatever we do, and however we try to keep away from it, it comes back much like a lost puppy that never got lost. What has eternally been enticing about facebook is the "Restrict List". I think I am one of the those users of facebook who will forever be thankful to Zuckerberg for inventing the Restrict List.

What is funniest, is when cousins meet and ask me "Do you use facebook?"

Pat comes the reply with a  yes after a Manmohan Singh styled "lip pursing act" which doesn't manage to attract eye balls popping into a space I am wishing to defend like a watch dog. Slowly but surely I send them a friend request to not hurt the sentiments of a family that had for long been a species of siblings sharing blood and allergies, not to forget the frailty of forgetfulness that was a game nature has played on them.

Again a "no" will usually be a lie I won't be able to pull off well! I know I can't give Mulayam Singh Yadav a run for his money anytime in this life!

Then for a while, I keep a watch on when they will accept the request for that will be the fateful day when your world will come crashing down and your image will take a toss. Any new friend request I send to my relatives is often a victim of a "high blood pressure" syndrome that can make the BP apparatus burst, in all those moments of animated anxiety. And once I know they are in my boat, I immediately take action, and put them in the "Restrict list"! A doing that has been happening since long and for which I have often felt guileless, as guilty as a married man sneaking to watch Fashion TV in the middle of the night!

Now for people who do not know what a restrict list is, let me tell you it is the option that appears in front of you when you click the Privacy settings, then select "Manage blocking"  and finally tap on the Add friends to your restricted list. This way you stay in the good books of many of the people you cannot afford to give a cold shoulder to! For they stay in your facebook friend list while you continue your nasty nagging on the social networking scene and on blogger, not hurting their old world opinions.

As a girl, one has to take care of so much, especially to not irk the millions of people around you, and these people called relatives! The very first of clans who can get "judgmental" about anything under the sun that girls like me do! Thank God for the restrict list! It is the perfect place to stash away these kind, who can only frown and complain about the modern mannerisms that Indian girls have adapted themselves to, without batting an eyelid, without worrying about how the moral police will treat them?
My restricted list consists of relatives, cousins, people from the church, who have lost hopes of ever turning me into a homely marriage material and not to forget the patriarchal church fathers who might discover about my evil feminist enterprises and may someday report it to the higher authorities in the family, I  mean my parents.

Oh yes I am a bitch and plan to stay so, meanwhile as an Indian girl the thoughtless Indian theories need to be taken care of! While they have been thrashed into the Restrict list, the nose pokers and mindless moralists I enjoy my cup of coffee and continue with feminist activism on my blog and facebook, uninterpreted and fearlessly.

On second thoughts, Rinzu says,

Long live the Restrict list. It is the best feature of the place called facebook we all so wondrously wait to loiter in.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

That Someone's Bride

She has preserved those
pencil portraits
and stencil symptoms
a mosaic of saris
dabbed in charcoal clouds
jagged joints and
anaemic asthma,
to memories that
are tinctured tints
all are the blueprints
of the butter burned
on her skin.

She remembers the day
the sun rose
from behind the silken shade
in their bedroom
to the hour she became
a rag doll ranted with ravage
she couldn't say a no
for the practice and the prize
as she removed her relics
from the room.

The sky aged and
the wind chimes walloped
at the window
when he wrote his name
on her agile arm
with crayons chalked
by his canvas.

She saw it all till
she couldn't swallow
her sweat,
today the copper he gave
her has melted
and so has the promise
a scraping with a scissor
and a welted womb
sometimes reminds her
of the times she was
someone's bride.

First published in the inaugural issue of the Kalyani magazine available here .

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

English Vinglish---The Story of a Simple Indian Woman

After having taken a hiatus of four years from visiting the movie theater, this Monday I happened to step into one. The reason was strongly feminist and very personal as well. A movie revolving around the life of a woman was my object of interest with the trailers packing a punch for strong feminists like me. Sridevi being the second reason. This time though there was no comedy or dance to sweep you away. All that she displayed was poise and grace, stepping into the shoes of a typical  Indian woman  who was under-educated but wise.

The movie is about a middle age Maharashtrian housewife who lives with her husband, mother in law and kids in some part of Pune. She was not convent educated unlike her daughter who is studying in class seventh, which doesn't allow her to speak in the Queen's language. Even though she has a rare talent of making ladoos and is a small time entrepreneur. Both her weak English and her flair for making ladoos aren't a hit with her family. The director tellingly proves through many sequences that English is the status symbol of modern day India, and an individual's inability to converse in it can be a social embarrassment for the family.

Fate takes a different turn, when one day her sister calls her inviting her to the United States to help with her elder daughter's wedding. It happens to be a blessing in disguise when one day while out on an expedition of the city, she happens to see a notice which claims to make you affluent in spoken English in 45 days. She remembers the telephone number printed on the notice and from there begins the journey that changes her life for good.
She finds a group of friends who bond over harmless racist jokes and the language English. There are no borders in the language class and  a sensible Shashi to save the souls of the students there. She also tried to enlighten the common Indian viewer on the insensitivity towards homosexuality in a scene where her friends make fun of the homosexual teacher's heart break and she gives wisdom on why the heart doesn't understand the sex of the partner when in love.Therefore as the heterosexuals even homosexuals have the same kind of feelings when it comes to the matters of the heart.

Shashi finds a very special friend  in Laurent, the french chef who makes her believe in herself  unlike her husband who is ashamed of her wife's culinary skills and often arrogantly advises her to give away making ladoos. They both live and learn and talk their hearts out. In one of the conversations, where in Sridevi calls cooking as the duty for the women and an art for men, the director has tried to display the odds existing in the world. Both Shashi and Laurent share a common passion in cooking and have reverence for each other as opposed to Shashi's family who always belittle her for the abilities and inabilities she has. I particularly loved the scene where in Laurent admires her beauty and she runs for cover, only because she had forgotten what it is to be admired. Such was their chemistry, that they do need languages to pour their hearts out.

What I disliked the most was the portrayal of Shashi as a typical Indian woman who is rolled into her responsibilities of being a wife, daughter and mother. Why did she have to give up on her English classes when her son hurts his foot? Why couldn't the father take care of the child and let the woman discover herself as she exercises her right to education. Like the Karan Johar romance, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, I would have loved it if Shashi could have gone to Laurent, a man who honestly respected her unlike her husband of many years.

So also, she looks gorgeous in the saris she sports and has definitely made a comeback for the intelligent Bollywood lovers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Spare A Thought For Those Who Brought You Up

Indian sons, and their wives, aren't treating their aged parents well. A study on abuse of India's elderly, conducted across 20 cities and involving over 5,500 older people, has found that almost 1 in 3 (32%) have faced abuse. The son has been found to be the primary abuser in 56% of cases, followed by the daughter-in-law in 23% cases in a survey conducted by the Hep age India.

While these might be the revelations made by a study, I am reminded of the many cases of the brutal battering that elderly were meted out by their sons. The most inhuman case I ever heard of made a son, who was the legal heir to the property, put his surviving mother in the dog's kennel where she was served food and made to live in forcible fear. 

A woman in India has rights and privileges as a human as long as her husband is alive, since the identity of a woman is recognized with a husband and with the married status. In most cases since a wife is younger than the husband and since women have been known to live longer as per this survey that says that at the age of 80 years and above, 71 per cent of women and only 29 per cent of men have lost their spouse, older people, in this case women end up being alone in their twilight years.

This is because social biases do not allow remarriages and seeking refuge in old care homes, owing to the gender discrimination that Indian women are meted out and the dirty tricks Indian culture keeps playing to mull the ideologies of womanhood. Again for all the sacrifices they make as young women, with many retorting to live as "stay at home" moms, career planning is ignored or put on the back burner which adversely affects financial planning and too much dependency on the husband.

If the husband passes away earlier than the wife, which happens in most cases owing to the higher life expectancy of Indian women, the mother is left in the lurch. And a feud for the family property erupts with the mother complying to the son's demands in most cases, making her a dependent on the son and daughter in law. In most Indian homes, daughters are absolved of all rights in her birth home, the day she gets married and dowry is given to her, which in most cases is seen as her share of the paternal property. In this case, daughters are asked to stay away from their birth homes and consider the conjugal households as the place where their due of the decision making should come into play.

Now to throw some light on what the legality says. Daughters have the same rights and responsibilities as sons and no human force (In this case the brother and his wife!) can hinder them from exercising a liberty the law has allowed.
The day daughters will share the onus of taking care of the parents, they won't be seen as burdens. So also the division of property as son's share and dowry for the daughter can be arrested to allow equitable splitting of rights and duties. Under such circumstances daughters won't be seen as a liability and social evils like female foeticide, female infanticide and dowry deaths would be forgotten fables. 

Somewhere down the line, Indian parents rely too much on sons when it comes to emotional, mental and financial security in the old age. Sadly, this is where the equation has gone wrong. Every adult should plan wisely for the old age with the expectation of living with the son not playing a part while they chart out their retirement. Retirement can be the best time of the life with a bit of saving for the rainy day. 

Even as home makers, women can put aside a small amount of money every month for the future or can invest in pension schemes which won't make them very reliant on their husband's share of the property. There are also investment options that makes the "spouse" a beneficiary in case of a mishap, even those can be put to good use. 
So also, both women and men must learn to live without their spouses in case of an eventuality in the future with the decision making about property left at the will of the surviving partner.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

Title: The Krishna Key
Author: Ashwin Sanghi
Price: 250
Publishers: Westland

Ravi Mohan Saini: An intelligent and well informed professor of history teaching at St. Stephens college, Delhi.
Priya: Saini's doctoral student.
Radhika Singh: A tough police officer, a woman who can give many men a run for their money when it comes to solving criminal cases.
Sunil Garg: Director of CBI
Taarak Vakil: An innocent rich boy victimized to kill.
Sanjay Ratnani: Priya's father and India's top criminal lawyer
Sir Khan: The don in the den.

The book begins with a mysterious murder and a History professor being framed. The murderer kills in the name of God and to be able to stop him and not let himself be wiped out, the professor along with his doctoral student set out on exposing the ancient secret of the human avatar of Krishna which is the key to unearthing the mystery behind the murders. I liked the way in which he has drawn parallels to the mythological characters and crafted a plot that is not rushing, yet very engrossing. One can say, the book is the Indian take on the Da Vinci Code, again with Hinduism playing its role to not hurt the Indian sentiments. It is less furious than the Da Vinci Code in its flow and the twists and turns in the story keep you hooked to the hatch.
What I particularly liked was the way in which  excerpts from the Mahabharata kept appearing to tell of a tale that was a fable for me till now. So also, it tells us of many strange secrets from the Indian history with realistic roles of civilizations and kings, that the history books did not delegate in detail.

The book also gives a discourse on what is good and what is bad and the importance of making the right choices in life. The comparisons between the characters and the mythological personalities make the story all the more a catch.  And without any advisory authority tells us of  how the wicked ways only lead to destruction and nothing else.

The book is a peerless pick for people who are interested in spine chilling thrillers or those who have an eye for history and mythology. Infact anyone who doesn't know the story of Mahabharata can pick it up for a peek.

A few of the flaws in the book I particularly like to point are these.
1) The usage of the word "barked" is sometimes irrelevant in telling us of the characters and what they wanted to say.
2) The author talks of a Smith and Wesson! What is Smith and Wesson for the average Indian reader? No clarifications on that.
3) On Page 245, the usage of "Dot on time for her" doesn't make sense.
4) On page 253, the usage of an extra "out" in the line fitted out with the latest audio and video equipment did not make sense.
5) On page 284, the Don smiled a smile of satisfaction. Is smiling a smile of satisfaction the correct usage?
6) On page 301, Radhika was wrongfully referred to as Priya in the last paragraph on the page.

Then there were many other places where a "would" was replaced by a "will" and present perfect became the past tense in a blink of an eye. These tiny trivialities could have been done away with, to give the readers a better piece of literature.

The book scores 3/5 points on the exhaustive exploration done to provide a whooper of a plot, and 2 points go away for the grammar errors and spelling mistakes and the giving away on the identity of the character Radhika on page 301.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Tension is the one factor that is eating up our brains and reflectively reminds me of the stubborn stains that our dirty clothes usually have at the end of a tiring day. With them being left at the mercy of the maid or the washing machine, the dirt is dusted off the fabric and our clothes come back to their old self. We may happen to wear the same dress on another day, and it may again get shamed on the seams by some other kind of a stain.

Life seems to be following the same crooked cycle of happenings. The mind sometimes, soaks up too much of tensions and worries and in a mortal moment of human fallacy blurts out on the world around you. People then may seemingly consider you an angry snob snorted in pride and might also want to break off all ties with you because of the mishap.
I belong to a class of people who can't take hypocrisy with a pinch of salt and have often landed in the most questionable of situations when it came to my closest friends and family. I have thanked my stars many times over and over again for not letting any of those beautiful relationships from being severed because of my loved ones bearing witness to my tales of tension. I've always let stress shamelessly soak into my grey cells and wasn't doing much to scrub them off, distorting my image in front of the world.
The realization of how much damage I was causing my mind pensively plagued with problems, came to me on a Wednesday evening, when the maid went absconding. And I was supposed to wash a shirt of mine seared in brown coffee stains and mottled by dirt. The sight of the shirt was giving me a heart attack in triplicates but for the meeting on the next day this piece of clothing would make for a perfect costume. To make it wearable I had to let a miracle happen much like the genie coming out of the bottle and making magic in the blink of an eye. The washing machine could not have done the trick since the shirt was spoiled in five or six places requiring a through rinsing and rubbing. While soaking my shirt in the detergent and the oxygen bleach and soaping in to sluice the stains, I saw the water getting coloured in brownish black hues and the piece of clothing that I achingly admired coming back to its old world charm.

Having witnessed this chemical reaction, my thoughts took for a flight of fancy. I started visualizing my mind as a piece of fabric forged by anxiety, concern and a host of other kinds of distressing emotions. Or a spider weaving a web around itself erringly trying to twist the threads.
Doesn't our mind go through the same kind of phenomenon when we bring home varied versions of misery and misgiving.? And in letting it grow in us like the weeds that deserve to be plucked and plundered, we harm ourselves to be handicapped. Much like a piece of cloth that can be scrubbed off the silly stains tarnishing its beauty, we all can relax and take out more time for our sweet selves scouring off the worrisome woes that can harm us and our loved ones.

Some people like me have often been misunderstood because of these trials and tribulations I housed in myself and unknowingly becoming a victim of controversy. Not recalling those incidents I decided to move forward in life, for sometimes I felt that those hurtful hours of discord were also a doing of the other person and I couldn't at all times hold myself guilty. But to beat tension and trauma I started following these simple tips incorporating them into my everyday life.

1) I started smiling more often and even when I did not want to paste that grin on my face, this diplomatic dame in me took over and made me whimper. Somewhere down the line, even a fake smile did me no harm and people started considering me as a person with a positive attitude. Surely, I begin my day with a smile and that has added oodles of confidence to my personality.

2) My skin specialist told me on one of my visits to her, that often when we are cloistered in confusing conflicts of mind, our breathing becomes shallow restricting the flow of oxygen needed for circulation. I have instilled breathing exercises in my daily regime of workout and walks which has done me a lot of good.

3) The best form of exercise for me is thirty minutes of walk down the lanes of our colony. Watching children play in the neighborhood parks and seeing older people plagiarizing my actions has been a wonderful sighting. I often watch birds and try discovering rarer plants along the pathway while I walk, painting pleasing pictures into the rainbow of my mind.

4)Music has been the food for my soul and no matter how tired I am, it is a doing everyday and one that happens without failure. Listening to my favourite old Bollywood classics and western music has managed to mute much of the malaise in me.

5) Having something to hope for can motivate you and help you stay focused. That kind of an activity ranges from working on my poetry manuscript to submitting to poetry journals and even participating in the Indiblogger contests. All these are activities I eagerly look forward to each and everyday of my life.

6) Do indulge in your favourite food once in a while. The thought of a binge to feed your senses and stomach can be a blissful blessing one can anticipate in the day or during the week. If stress is giving you a tough time you may also go for Ginseng.It has the ability to improve blood circulation to reduce the effects of stress, improve mental clarity and support the functions of the nervous system.

7) Going for occasional breaks and involving myself in hobbies and especially in shopping and poetry has worked as a purgative for my otherwise, stressed mind.

8) I try to not concern myself with the trivialities of life and the way people judge me. Always remember, anyone or anything troubling you is not entirely your cause of concern. Just like a clap that is always the doing of two hands, such is an argument. Do not try to interfere in others matters until they ask you to do so while always lending your shoulder for a person in need. Don't overdo an act of kindness and do not try to act like the Messiah. If something has gone wrong in the past and you have not been able to straighten it, leave it like that and move forward in life while holding your neck high.

These are few of the stress busters that have made life easier for me. That one incident of sweating it out in the bathroom to clean my shirt taught me a very important lesson in life. The lesson to "Soak No More in Tensions".