Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Private India-Book Review


 
















Title: Private India Series : Other Private Offices
Author:  Ashwin Sanghi and James Patterson
Pages: 384 Paperback (Indian Subcontinent Edition)Release date : Aug 28th 2014Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Century


This is the third time I am reading a mythological thriller by Ashwin Sanghi. I had great expectations from this book since I was looking forward to a racy mysterious thriller. Much like Rozabal Line and Krishna Key this book was a disappointment, with neither the plot or characters staying back with me. The beauty of an interesting book is that you would want to read it over and over again, but this one is not even a one time read.
I was confused by the main plot and the sub plots thrown around it carelessly. The one that emerges towards the end like a rude shock was the biggest turn off in the book. Since I have not read any of the previous books in the series, this book started off as a riddle. And sadly I could do nothing to unravel the pathetically disinteresting plot in the book. Sanghi did his best to stick to what he does the best, writing a mythological thriller, but he failed from the starters. This book was aimed for an international audience and the author wanted to make a foray into the american thriller market. That's why the mythological elements were explained which read like definitions in the course book. Sanghi did his best to make this a mythological thriller by carefully putting the mythological research to use, but alas this time he has failed to create a magic moment. While in Rozabal Line and Krishna Key, the mythological twists and turns narrate the story. But the murders do not take the story forward this time. Infact it bores you. A few cliches that made me sleepy were a bomb attack plan on the financial capital of India, mad killings that leave the cops bewildered and the portrayal of politicians as puppets or friends of the rich and the famous. The helplessness shown by the police also adds to the boring storyline.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My First Experience of Sexual Harassment in a Public place

The bus that day, was swarming with people like honey bees huddled in a hive. My brother was accompanying me and we had to reach home on time. Else maybe we could have waited for the next bus to ferry us to our destination. He took the ticket while I was managing to breathe through the reeking sweat stinking humans all around me. Ok this was how we traveled in Delhi around five years ago. Things have gone for a transformation with the air-conditioned metro coaches and buses.
I somehow had to place myself in the front of the bus and was choking with the clutching and clamping. In the Delhi buses, men do not behave most of the times and the mannered ones are those who enter from the rear door and occupy the back seats.
There was needless pushing and pulling, and I felt that had the people behaved in a more disciplined way the ceaseless congestion could have been avoided. Now why I remember this journey is because of a pot-bellied man who was standing behind me, and all throughout the cruise, I could have only remembered him groping my body. He was foundling the lower half of me while trying to squeeze the upper half with his hands.  It was an unnecessary act of gluttony I had been subjected to and had I not gathered all my force to push him back and shout at the top of my voice, he would have raped me surely. This being one of the first incidents that taught me the importance of retaliation. It also made me a fan of cabs and rickshaws, and until the metro wasn’t introduced in Delhi, public transport was a no-no, come what may.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Why is the sexual objectification of men disturbing and not equality of any kind?

It is amusing when the world around me talks of Bollywood objectifying women, by making its women actors expose their midriffs, cleavages and legs, and much more of course. Bollywood atleast for the most movie goers, makes that moolah by putting women on display. Most women actors, as opposed to the era of seventies and eighties are objects put on the screen, to be devoured by the eyes and the senses of a sexually repressed clan of men. Sometimes you can find them groping and feeling innocent women while everyone is busy getting on with the business of life.
And many times, you can find them ogle and cat call at women on the streets, which is a form of everyday street sexual harassment women like me face in this part of the planet. For this breed of sexually "bottled up" men, Bollywood and advertisers have come up with innovative ways to sell their products to them. 
This is common for each one of us. Seeing the Kareenas and Katrinas gyrate to the gullibility of obscene lyrics and show skin. Most movie makers in bollywood add an item song, to sell their movies and sadly the new crop of female actors, for a few crores do not mind reducing themselves to an eye candy to please the heterosexual male viewer.
Yesterday was another experience. While walking into the MGF Metropolitan mall, Gurgaon yesterday, I was rudely shocked to see an almost nude cutout of a man, in a checked pair of shorts adorning the advertising board. Usually, what I see are blonde models selling a brand of fragrance or a shy Indian model modeling for an Indian brand of clothing. This ad left me flabbergasted. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is urinating in public an Indian man's birthright?

While the poor creatures of the weaker sex in the country, need to hunt down a washroom or a public paid "sauchalaya" or try and figure out the location of the nearest Mc Donald's or CCD, the men of our country, well many of them can be seen relieving themselves in full public view. I had grown up to believe that it was due to lesser number of cleaner and usable toilets in the country, which is more or less a fact. As if it was the most coveted of birth rights they were bestowed with. Sadly, the licence to commit such a crime, was born out of the fact that in a country where more than half of the population doesn't have proper toilet facilities at home, this carte blanche freedom is just fuel to that fire. And mind you, one will never see women urinating in the public, it is just the men who were given these exclusive rights. Look it is easy, just unzip, bare your privies and unload the bladder. 
The first and the foremost reason for this menace is the cultural conditioning which allows the man to do anything in public. Men can get away with anything while a woman is a private being. She would never dare to even think of it in her wildest dreams. That is why we women either run to find a Mc Donalds or CCD and its cleaner restroom or in the worst possible scenario, hold our breath and use one of the paid "sulabh sauchalaya" most of which isn't properly maintained and cleaned. Many Indian women dread to have water, if they are out on long road trips. The reason: patriarchal apathy, which doesn't allow us to walk out of the boundaries of our modesty, while for men these rules don't make a difference.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Indecent Proposal

A young executive was nervously biting her nails, the creases on her forehead looked like those on a crumpled cotton cloth, trailing around her temple. She was wearing black formals with stilettos that stood an inch above the earth. In her right hand she held a green office file with a note attached on the top, slid under a plastic name badge. She was squatted on the sofa with her legs in a ninety degree angle to the tiled flooring, while her back was away from the rest of the sofa. She was positioned as if she was raring to jump off the couch and dart into the Manager's cabin like a zebra.

"Anna Mathew" shouted the PR executive daintily dressed in a chiffon saree.
"Yes madam, it's me" she replied
She stood up with a jerk much like a camel cobbling up a sea of dust. She paused to breathe for a minute and then slowly and steadily with the grace of a tortoise walked into the Manager's room. She was tensed, down to her last taut muscle and it took her sometime to seat herself. The room was a rectangular one or a square it seems, with Venetian blinds veiling the windows on either sides. The furniture was futuristic, with a sleek desk and chairs of black and white colour standing on either sides.  The end of the room was accommodating another table stacked with files and folders of various colours. She took a while to look through the room until a throaty voice yelled at her.

"Anna, are you here? Annaaaaaa"
"Yes sir, yes of course" she replied.
"Masters in Business Administration with two years of experience in media affairs, interesting!"
"Yes sir."
"Then why did you leave you previous job?", came an enquiry.
"I had to leave the city because my dad was getting transferred."
"Alright and who all is there in your family?"
"Dad and me, mom passed away when I was seven."
she declared sorrowfully. "Oh! I am sorry, so you are a self made girl?"
"Not really sir, my dad played a great role in bringing me up."
"Admire your dad to have brought you up single handedly."
"Yes that is why I left my earlier job to accompany him to this city.."
 "Oh! I see,that is great."
"This job will be of a great help to stay back and be doing that." she muttered gulping her saliva.
 "Have you arranged public meetings before and handled media houses?" he asked.
"Yes sir,the firm I worked in was small but exactly did all this."
 "What are your expectations from us?"
 "Anything that you think I deserve."
"Alright. We will get back to you soon Ms.Anna.Thank you."


 With the usual exchange of polite pleasantries she waded out of the room. The simper on the manager's face told the story, even then it was too early to declare herself as the winner.

 The very next day was a tough one. It was the day of the week when she did laundry. As she was separating her coloured clothes from her dad's stripes and checks, and pinning them on the line neatly,her phone rang. She quickly collected the orange bucket and all the cloth pins and darted into the verandah of the house with the swiftness of a kangaroo. Hurling the can of cloth pins into the bucket she charged into her room. Quickly she tried to dry her hands by wiping them on the t-shirt and picked the phone. It took a moment for her to gather the air in her lungs which by now were heaving heavily after the marathon run from the backyard.

 "Hello, Ms.Mathews,this is Ravi Saxena from Zoom News channel."
"Hhhello sir" after a long deep pause she replied.
"Are you alright? You don't sound good."
 "Of course sir I was in the backyard and had to come rushing to attend to you."
"Ah! Alright. This was to tell you that you've got the job. You can join from monday."
 "Ttthank you so much sir. Cannot tell you how relieved I am to have got this job." she swirled in excitement.
"Meet you on Monday then. You have to report to me at 9 am."
"Yes sir I'll surely be there at sharp 9'o clock."
 Her joy knew no bounds and she broke into a jig after the conversation. She called her dad and gave him the news immediately, even though that meant he had to walk out of an important meeting on the pretext of taking his daily dose of medicine. In the evening both of them dined at their favourite restaurant. She counted the days from that Wednesday for a Monday to arrive.

 Dressed in her favourite green salwar kameez and with a prayer on her lips, she entered the main glossy gate of the office. As she tiptoed into Mr.Saxena's cabin she could feel her heart thumping inside her,  like a drum being tapped violently at a rock concert. She got in and seated herself on one of the black and white chairs positioned opposite Mr.Saxena's tall table. He came a few minutes later and greeted her with a formal handshake and a grin that was less polite than fishy.

 "Sorry Anna it took me sometime. I was in the washroom."
 " Oh that's alright sir."
 "So you'll work under me and report to me directly. Also if you don't mind you would assist me as my secretary until the interview for a new one happens.''
 "Yes sir. As per your wish. Thank you for considering me for this job. I needed it badly."
 "Of course you were my first and only choice for this post. You are educated,young,qualified and most of all beautiful" he announced with a wimp.
Somehow the last adjective he uttered made her smell a dead rat. To clarify she asked with the innocence of a four year old child.
 "Sorry sir. I didn't get you.''
 As she blurted those sentences Saxena got up from his chair and went to the door,firmly giving instructions to the office boy wandering at the end of the corridor to not let anyone in, for the next half an hour. He pretended to the office staff loitering around, that he had to give a briefing to her about her responsibilities and didn't want anyone to interfere or bother. He shut the door behind her and locked it with a clink.
As he came back to his chair his sardonic sneer had widened as if someone had pulled his lips apart to fasten it tightly around his ears.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Losses

I miss love like the deserts miss the rain. And August is my favourite month in the year that had willed love in my name, once upon a time. Those were the days when social networking was setting foot in India. The days when people of my age burned their money by logging onto Orkut, and getting smitten by the experience of checking out people of the opposite sex.

It was the year 2008, and I was into my first year of masters. I had taken an inkling for poetry considering the fears and tears I had fought for many light years. He had left on a September afternoon selling me sorrow I was trying to barter with poetry. We were old friends who met at the bible school. I remembered his name and the one incident that told me of his dauntlessness. His father had passed away a few days ago and instead of mourning he decided to attend the bible school as we all were supposed to do every year, as young teenagers with parents rigged by religion. I was awed by the grit of this fourteen year old boy who had just lost his father and wasn’t willing to let that truth cow him down.

In my masters days, I was this boring book worm that wiggled through pages and had no hobbies to save my soul. I preferred to sleep when I had nothing else to do otherwise, Orkut would do the trick of keeping me busy, in the absence of boyfriends and even girlfriends.
Hi. Are you the same Amit whose father was in the Indian Air force in the  late nineties and who lived along the streets of the St.Mary’s cathedral, Bandra? 
Apologies if you are the wrong person.
Regards
Rachel.
 One such Wednesday evening, was the day marked for our meeting. I happened to come across his profile through a common friend and everything else is history. It boasted of an Amit Tharakan with the location pointing towards Kochi. I had my dreadful doubts about this being the same Amit I used to hate as a teenager. With fingers that were fearfully tap dancing I typed him an e-mail.
 I waited for his reply repining heavily for my impatience. A week later there came an e-mail and a yes to begin with. Indeed, he was the same confused porcupine head I had admired all these years although I was an unknown stranger to him. Alas, he couldn't recall a single day from those times, and it seemed that I had already spoilt the broth.
Contrary to my perceptions, he started e-mailing me twice a week and used to call me as and when time permitted him. As earth was revolving around the sun, our lives were also heading for a change. Our constant conversations transformed into endless discourses and if not for work and college we could have ended up setting a world record for the longest conversation held between two individuals on the phone.
On the first of January the next year, he proposed without a face to face communion. In a thoughtless moment of time, I retorted with a yes. What followed was a romance straight out of the books of a Shakespearean saga. He came to Delhi in February the following year, and without second thoughts about the world, we took to loving each other. His visits would take us to movies, retail therapy and even book hunting to libraries. Life was a poem that was watching its way to the aisle. His May day calling on my birthday brought us closer. We had taken to walking hand in hand while kissing at places where a thousand heads would turn to catch a glimpse of us. It seemed we had known each other for ages and our coming together was a plan God had inked in our lives.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sita's Curse by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

Title: Sita’s Curse
Author: Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
Genre: Feminist Erotic Literature
ISBN: 9789350097809
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: INR 350





Picture Credit: http://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/a-womans desire/article5706149.ece



Indian women don't talk of sex. Except in their bedrooms. And with their husbands, and sometimes with their girlfriends. To write a piece of erotica in this part of the planet, needs nerves of steel. Sreemoyee tried to liberate the Indian woman from these shackles imposed on her body, by patriarchy. She has used sex as an instrument to expose the religious and social hypocrisy and questioned the Indian arranged marriages by vividly wording the insatiable desires that were never fulfilled in the protagonist's marriage to Mohan. 
Meera, is in tune with her sensuality and the pristine pleasures the body seeks, right from the time she hits adolescence. She sets out on a journey to find a conduit for these carnal cravings. Her first encounters with her twin brother are venerated in poetic language, most of which didn't go down too well with me. All throughout the story, Kartik her brother is shown as that first person who gave wings to her desires and as her most trusted confidante, but what is disappointing is his portrayal as an empty suit, who is made to die too soon. What also left me flabbergasted was her encounter with Binal that made me wonder. Was Meera a nymphomaniac? And which way was her swing? This rendezvous leaves the reader with a distaste in the mouth.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

22nd September 2013/ AIIMS metro station #Vote4Children

It was lazy evening in September. I had boarded the metro from DU North campus to AIIMS. I was tired and my legs were breaking into pieces. I was hurrying up to be at home. The music had filled my ears and I wasn't bothered about the humdrum of events around me. I slowly paced up the elevator and was taking the dirty streets lining the Vardhaman Mahavir college. As I was treading down, I saw a crowd of people. I was expecting an accident there and hurried up to check. 
What I saw after that left me scared witless. A man in his middle age, was slapping a young boy who may have been not more than 11 or 12. The boy I believe was the employee at this man's tea stall. He was dressed in a torn shirt and pants and  very shabby slippers.
What amused me the most was that everyone was watching the show with no one offering a hand of help to the boy. The blows got nastier with the passage of time. And the police people deployed at the other end of the road, were also only by-standers. Sadly for quite sometime, even I was murmuring under my breath, a quiet prayer for the young boy. I was alone and had no one to support, and even if I would have jumped into the scene, I was sure that no one would have braced themselves up to me. All the boy did was cry with folded hands.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Kya Dilli Kya Lahore- Movie Review

This isn't your commercial pot boiler of a film, that speaks of our barbed borders. It doesn't have a heroine running around the trees with a hero (playing an army man), both of who are eagerly waiting to hear the wedding bells ring. It doesn't have tanks treading around the war paths, or bombs creating a light and sound effect that will bombard your ears with a real time feel of the war rigged borders.


It is a simple story that is told by four characters. The story opens with a thirsty Vishwajeet Pradhan, a pakistani officer begging for a little water and a visibly shaken Vijay Raaz helping him with his bottle of water. As he is forced to hop over the border in search of a file, he comes face to face, with the realities of life. Across the other end, he meets a timid cook, Manu Rishi who is holed in a log cabin, as the other members of his team have been shot dead. All he has for company is a radio, that is dispelling his fears by playing him spirited messages, and a rifle and few bullets, and of course potatoes and wheat for the bloated belly.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dirt

The railings are the black gallows
that bind me like a prisoner,
I look for the stars
wrote tales about our love
on the skin of the sky.
Once on this dust
I wanted to walk free
with you, melting
in my shadows
once I wanted to
give a name to this land
call it home


Friday, April 25, 2014

Veil

She shelters it under
a shield, that they call
a veil or a wrap
a shroud to silence an eclipse
or her act of apology
for being Eve's daughter
she has no excuse to dump
the drape, sun shade for some
refuge for others,
she swears by that
piece of cloth
to avert the mimicry
of misunderstood metaphors,

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thoughts on Patrilineal Virilocality

A very good friend of mine got married in her early twenties. Her marriage was being forced down her throat, since her mother was retiring and her father wanted to relocate. Although she had no qualms about a quick marriage and that too a forced one.
The first guy she met got along well with her. He was into hotel management and was working in a reputed hotel in Delhi. They both began dating each other until he lost his job. She had started liking him by then but in an Indian arranged marriage, expressing a desire to marry a jobless guy is like throwing the axe on your foot. Even then she was hoping against hope, that he would find a new job and they would end up together someday.
Because she had started planning a future with him. The guy got a job and actually a very good one. But to take it up he had to relocate to Malaysia.
My friend despite bowing to the decisions taken by her father for her marriage, always chose to stand up for her rights. She loved her job and didn't want to leave it. She also always wanted to be in Delhi, since her brother and his family were settled here. And she wanted to stay close to her natal household.
While the guy she was pursuing wanted to be an NRI at any cost. She tried her best to convince him so that he would settle for another job in Delhi. But he didn't budge.
She bowed to the pressure exerted by her family and settled for another guy brought up and settled in Delhi.
This guy was an old acquaintance. What amused me was the quick rebuttal of her earlier decision, since as a person who had closely known her mind, the other guy had made her heart his home.
Even then she decided to marry this other guy and not move out of Delhi. The only assurance in favor of this decision was that she wanted someone's shoulders to cry on, if something ever went amiss.
She wanted to be spared of the dilemma of making new friends and being a foreigner in an alien land.
Despite she settling for a quick arranged marriage I admire her for having not fallen into the trap of "virilocality".
Recently I saw an advertisement in which the intimate conversations of a couple going to get married are being aired.
One of most interesting aspects of the conversation was the guy telling the girl about her re-location to his place of residence. And the girl nodding her head and saying a "yes" with no signs of protest.
That is what most Indian brides have been doing and will continue to do. Virilocality has been etched in the aggressive Indian patriarchal family system.
In an interview held recently for Springer, I was asked the very irritating question pointing towards the change of residence after marriage. After looking at my cv and date of birth they may have expected me to be getting married quickly to avoid a "late marriage" and to not lose out on the good guys. 
I replied with an affirmative 'no' since marriage is nowhere in my mind. And I wonder why aren't men asked such questions that belong to the stone age?

Amusingly, the interview was for their mumbai location which doesn't house my parents. Then how on earth did they get the idea of me changing places after marriage, if at all. And the possibility that I would find a guy living in mumbai itself was ruled out out-rightly.


When I am told to marry an NRI to brighten my career prospects in research, I only have one question to ask  such people. Why can't I move out to a foreign country on my own? Why am I expected to marry and why is a husband expected to be the "passport" for a foreign country? A career counselor I had consulted six months ago, told me that this was the preferred choice of most Indian women, when it came to going abroad and finding a job or going for a higher degree.

The Nairs and Menons of Kerala practised the matriarchal 'tharavad' system until it was abolished recently. In which the woman stayed at her natal household even after marriage, and the husband stayed back at his place with his sister, if he had any. If he didn't have a female sibling he was expected to move in to the wife's place. Her children stayed in their mother's natal home which was also their home. The woman's brother in this case was the custodian of the woman's wealth and for such people a family meant 'sister and her children'. Although this system didn't project the rights of the Nair woman, since she was pitted as the sister of the Nair man, this didn't fan the fantasies of regressive patriarchy that expected the woman to leave her parents and home and make another person's house her abode.
What finds favor with women like me is the "neolocal residence" in which both the husband and wife stay in a place away from the natal households of both. This type of post-martial residence is widely practised in the west.
For my sisters, who think that there isn't a choice beyond virilocality, think again. Maybe we can start aping the west with this, now that we have started following them in everything we do.

Indian marriages are themselves a very violent institution that is gendered to the core and expects the woman to re-shape her life and choices. Patrilineal virilocality adds fuel to this fire, which is an important aspect that most women aiming for equal rights with men, tend to ignore, but must not overlook.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Say it with Style

I have always been a plain Jane and I have always believed that I don't owe prettiness to anyone. That might have been one of the reasons why my dressing style was never sassy. Many of my friends complained about me dressing down to look older than my age. But then in my skin, I didn't mind being the un-stylish and ugly science researcher. Whose preferred to sweat it out at the laboratory rather than spending a fortune at the stores. Another reason could be that I defied male attention to be on the safer side. 
Wisdom dawned on me on an evening at a coffee store when I happened to meet an old acquaintance who had got divorced in the near past. And surprisingly rather than raking over the coals of a fire that had burnt her, she was dressed to kill. And that made me wonder, if I was loosing out on something in life. Colours and patterns that could add a dash of spice to your life, was the thing I was wanting.
I decided to head straight to the mall and set a forest fire to my wallet. That big hole all the shopping would leave in my pocket didn't seem to itch. 
For a woman on the wrong side of twenties, as they say, style had to sensible and at the same time chic. I invested in a lot of dresses and colourful kurtis. I decided to also give up on the old boring checks and stripes I had and went in for two classy business suits for presentations. Despite this u-turn in my taste and touch of perceiving fashion, I still stay away from saris and ghagra cholis and all such dresses that can make you trip and fall. Having welcomed a riot of colours in my wardrobe set in motion my journey of style.
My style is still very sober and intelligent. Although the arrival of colours has livened up the chest of costumes. I prefer dresses and tops in blended colours to black and white shirts now. My shoes still don't rest very high from the earth. Not more than half an inch of heels for me. I love flats and especially gladiator sandles.
Now what needs shingling are my bangs. 2014 might have arrived to decide how I must wear my hair to not look boring. Let's see what I discover in this journey of style this year.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Relationship tips for a believer in Gender Equality

Relationships are the best teachers. Only if you are willing to learn.
People come and go and they leave you with lessons. A relationship heading south and finally becoming history is a tough task master.
It bends and breaks you, until giving up on it is the last resort. Even then we are left with a thousand questions when a loved one bids farewell.
Why did it have to end? Who's mistake is it? Who tried to sweeten the pot filled with venom?
Such questions plague our mind for quite a while. We either take the high road and call it quits amicably. Or we draw some bad blood and stage a drama to get them back.
My last break up was in September. The second relationship I ever had in life ended much like the first one. It struck like lightening, the truth. Since it didn't take him more than three weeks to take a decision about us. When he took a decision the "us" parted ways as "I" and "him". Though we didn't date each other since the two countries we lived in, didn't give us many opportune moments to meet, I remember him for always admiring me for being a self respecting woman. And I hallucinated, building my castle of dreams with his half baked words.
I do not hold him responsible for going away and taking a decision that didn't have me. I also do not want to point fingers at myself for not dancing to his tunes.
When it ended, of course I was left gaping in the sky. The reasons may have been varied, many of which won't even make sense. It took me one and half months to bounce back.

And that was the time when contemplation told me of a lot of things.
For a self respecting woman who calls herself a feminist loudly and clearly, relationships aren't a piece of cake. And then in aggressively patriarchal societies like India, it is not child's play, to find a beau.
What can a woman like you and me, possibly expect ourselves to be, when we look for our other half. I thought I'll write down those pointers somewhere and this is what made sense to me.

1) Never give up on your basic principles in life. Even if that means, sharing the housework or cooking, stick to it. Life shouldn't change for a woman because she got married.
2) If you do not want to change your surname, just hang on to that decision. It isn't a legal necessity as many perceive it to be. Talk it out, your decision to keep your paternal surname much like your brother. If you do not want to hyphenate it, please do not.
And if you want to change to a new surname, please go ahead. It is your name, after all.
3) Keep your job and do not under any circumstances, try to give it up, because you are expected to do so for the husband's career. Earning your own money is the first sign of liberation for many women. And having your own money will be your only umbrella on a rainy day.
4) A joint account sounds like a very romantic idea. But your own money must be handled by you. Maintain a separate account other than your salary account, and put up a bit as an investment. Invest in a savings account, or shares or mutual funds. Or if you plan to buy a house along with him, get the papers written in your name making you an equal owner of the property. If something goes amiss, you will have proofs to tell him about your share in the investment.
5) If you have decided to move on with him to his place of work,  or to his birth place, along with his parents. Make sure that you have a few friends to lean on to. Friends you know from college or school or workplace. Friends who know you more than knowing him.
Yes, it is a very mushy idea to call his friends yours, but if your ship starts sinking, no one but your own friends would be there to help you. It may not be a very great idea to expect his friends to understand your side of the story.
Re-locating to a new place that is new for you as well as him, is the best idea for women like us.
6) Have a kid only if you want to. You didn't come on earth to birth babies. If you do not need them, announce your decision to him, before you enter into a marriage.
7) Do not let your mother-in-law be the decider of your destiny. Hold the strings of your life in your own hands. Everything from managing your finances to the decision of having kids, to the smallest of decisions should be yours and his. Do not let any member of the family like your mother-in-law or sister-in-law pull the strings for you.
8) Always have time for a hobby and if possible indulge in an activity that interests both of you. A friend of mine was recently showing me the pictures of her kitchen garden. I was happy to learn that her husband was contributing equally to the cause of bringing up a garden.
9) Keep in touch with your family. Talk to them whenever you can, and if possible everyday. Also, stay in touch with your siblings. Living in the same city as them would be of great advantage. Else atleast make sure, to not let the chords of your relationship be broken.
10) Place yourselves before anyone. Remember, if you can't love yourself, you may never be able to love anyone else. Aim for a relationship that doesn't put you at a lower pedestal. 
In case, of abuse of any kind, try to talk to him and if that doesn't work after a warning or two, just walk out. Nothing is more important than your or your self-esteem. Being a woman shouldn't take away the sense of importance from you.


Yes, relationships are tough and we all learn a lot from them. Getting the permutations and combinations right, isn't always that easy. But that doesn't mean that you have to adjust more and fall on your knees to make it work, because you happen to be a woman and a wife. 
A fallen relationship should teach you to rise and not fall deeper into it. The trick is to move on, and look for a self-respecting human who exactly knows what it is to respect another individual.
Relationships complete an individual. We must strive to look for a person, who will be our best companion for life, and a relationship that is an equal partnership. It is the boat of life, that needs two people to oar at the either sides to keep the balance.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Quoting a Real life Acid Attack Victim

Today was a tiring and dusty day. Despite this the day was a learning lesson. I boarded the metro train from Vishwavidyalaya that was to terminate at the Huda City centre. Since the train flags off from there, there is no dearth of seats and I lazily happened to find one. After about three stations, two girls got in. One may have been in her early twenties. The other one sat a seat away from me due to which I didn't bother to look at her. A little later as I opened my eyes from a forced slumber, I could see the women seated in front staring tirelessly at a person seated on my seat. Initially I didn't care two hoots about it but later when I saw at the glass enclosure opposite me, I saw a partially disfigured face. I was taken aback. When I peeped with the left corner of my eye, as intently as a detective, I saw a woman with a half burnt face. The skin on the left side of her face seemed to have melted to acid. A few fingers from her left hand were also missing. My sixth sense told me that she may have been an acid attack victim. As soon as the aunty in black saree got off, I decided to have a word with her. And skid to the seat next to her. She was aghast because she was expecting her friend to sit on the vacant seat. I apologized while trying to wear an innocent expression. I asked for two minutes of her time to which she didn't refuse. Below is a written transcript of our translated conversation where in I use the initials 'R' for myself and 'H' to address her.

R: "Will you permit me to write your story?"
H: "Are you a story writer? Why do you want to make me famous?"
R: "No I am a blogger and a not so famous story writer and poet." H: "What do you want to know?"
R:"Your story if you want to tell me"
H: "I am an acid attack victim as you are seeing. My ex-boyfriend attacked me when I decided to not put up with his obssesiveness. Rest is history. My parents tried to get me treated but this is the best Indian doctors offered me. I want to go abroad for re-constructive surgery and I am saving up for it." R: "I see that you are wearing a very pretty top. Suits you well."
H: "Thank you. Yes I don't like to hide my scars."
R: "Yes I see that and I am inspired by your guts. What drives you?"
H: "Life. It goes on."


I was jaw dropped at her words of wisdom, my eyes popped out in amazement. That is when a lady's voice interrupted us reminding her of the next station they had to get down at. We parted with a polite farewell. As she was getting down she thanked me for trying to know her story. As I saw her melt in the crowd, I pondered at the lovely lesson those three words she uttered in the end, taught me. Indeed, life goes on!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Parsimony

Famished farms
crack open to bury
the bodies of feeble cattle
water won't soak
the homes of earthworms
this summer
only tears till them
gaping at a blue sky
cleaved by chopper chants
from where you watch,
writing it off as 
forged fiction.

When refugees flee
from homes
sleeping on streets with unknown names
your flesh memorizes
the velvet touch of blankets
you bought on your
last Swiss trip.

When girls get punished 
for owning frail bodies
tattooed in fear
your daughters take vows
borrowed from ancient acronyms,
their dowry comes from
chewing into the bellies
of the bloated.

Where bodies get burnt
in lands bruised by barbed borders
you are ferried in bullet proof cars
tinted by shame.

When onions and tomatoes
melt in dark dungeons
your mouth ajar in gluttony
feed from silver plates
stripped off melting bones.

When you throw tantrums
and sell slogans 
for fatter paychecks
the construction worker
bows his head
to his master
wearing a bead of sweat.

You and the hundred tongues
in which you beg for votes
doesn't tempt the seeker,
your pot of lies is full
and it will drown you
the day the poor voter
signs a decree
that will break the legs of the throne
you have been coveting
to trade for a mouthful of black lies.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Family Grave

Peas of the same pod
leaves of the same branch
yet brothers mock at each other
with closed fists,
and cockeyed curses
sister-in-laws re-write
rule books, sometimes
careful conversations
show the writing on the  wall
ambitious agendas aim to augur peace
others are two edged-swords.


Female foeticide in India and the PCPNDT act

Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal diagnostic test act is a federal legislation enacted by the Parliament of India to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India.
It also banned pre-natal sex determination before and after conception, that was employed to detect genetic abnormalities or chromosomal abnormalities or metabolic disorders or congenital malformations or sex linked disorders.

Pre-Natal Diagnostic techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse act) 1994 (PNDT) was amended in 2003 to Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection act) PCPNDT to improve the regulation of technology employed in sex selection. 


It is estimated that more than 10 million female foetuses have been illegally aborted in India. Researchers for the Lancetjournal based in Canada and India stated that 500,000 girls were have gone missing through every year through the annual sex-selective abortions. 


It is a notorious problem in Gujarat and the North Indian states, which according to census data have an alarmingly low ratio of female children. Certain castes regularly practiced female infanticide and later female foeticide. The castes with a much lower proportion of female children to male children included Lewa patidars and the Rajputs in Gujarat; Jats, rajputs, Khutris and royal Brahmins in undivided Punjab, Rajputs and Gujars in the Uttar Pradesh.
The Act though strongly put on paper, is no good in acting as a deterrent. The problem has a cultural connection with the dowry system, which is ingrained in the Indian culture, existing as "bride wealth" or "gifts". It had been prohibited under the Dowry prohibition act since 1961, but all thanks to the myopia in the society, it continues to thrive. 

A very famous case from urban India that shook the country was that of Mitu Khurana who was tricked into sex determination by her doctor husband. Her in-laws then wiled her into having eggs, which she was allergic to, thereby she was hospitalized. They then forced her to abort the twin girls she was carrying. It was shocking to hear about the officials callousness who advised her to abort the twin girls and give them a son, so that her life and youth aren't wasted. 


In 1992, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen estimated that 37 million women had already ‘gone missing’ in India till 1986. Contrast that with the total number of ongoing cases under PCPNDT in the country (till September 2011) — a mere 1,040. No wonder that 28 of the 35 States and Union Territories have 0 convictions (till September 2011). Even the ones that secured convictions stand dismaly at: Chandigarh – 1, Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat – 4 each, Maharashtra – 18, Punjab – 23, Haryana – 29.

India’s child sex ratio (0-6 years) has declined from 945 in 1991 to 927 in 2001 and now to the lowest since independence: 914 females per 1,000 males in 2011. But the total number of ultrasound machines seized/sealed (till September 2011) stands at just 869. The individual figures for states are more disturbing. Not a single ultrasound machine has been sealed or seized in Delhi, one of three worst states (other two being Punjab and Haryana) in the 2011 Census, with a child sex ratio of 866 girls per 1,000 boys in 2011. Why does sex determination still thrive?


Dr. Sabu George one of the people who filed the pil because of which the PCPNDT was passed says that since it is a profitable deal for a doctor, therefore they propagate it. The client in most cases makes an individual choice or budges to the family pressure, because of which such cases go unreported and there is no conviction. According to a doctor from Mumbai, the greed factor is so ravenous that they forget the Hippocratic oath they take and forget the nobility of the profession they are in. Depending on demand, an ultra sound test can be charged somewhere between 1,500-10,000 which otherwise has a meagre cost of Rs.400.
The second issue is the lack of administrative and judicial accountability. Since the concerned officials never turn up on a call, the cases get lost and with no one to question, the issue gets brushed under the carpet.

District officials also have a hand, in the laxity in implementing the PNDT act. Ignorance and lack of awareness in maintaining unregistered machines had led to the eruption of the menace. Most often authorities let them off for a fine, which propagates the menace.

Close monitoring of the sale of second-hand or re-assembled machines and banning of portable ultrasounds will come into force soon.

India’s prime minister acknowledges gendercide as a national shame, however, the police and judiciaries do not implement the law because they belong to the same school of thought. Authorities often let the unlawful parents and doctors off with little or no punishment which doesn't curb the menace. Often, when the mothers disobey the husband’s family decision to abort the female foetus and bring it to the light of the authorities, the suits are ignored or given a light sentence. The mother is targeted for bearing girls and disobeying the family’s decision to do away with the girl child. She may even lose her job, be exposed to constant death threats, and may be victimized by the long and tiring judicial process thereafter . In many places in India, women who give birth to girls are prone to violence. Even if she is able to bring the baby girls into the world, their birth goes unreported and in many cases they are also  murdered.


It is amusing to note that despite having made rapid advancements in technology, the society is lurking in the darkness of a ancient age, that can't see its women eye to eye. 
With the tens of corruption cases against the UPA, this one also adds up. In having added the fuel to the fire that has been burning the society, lack of conviction and the indifference to an evil spreading its paws. It only shows the shortsightedness of the government and how its unethical practices have exploited the helplessness of thousands of female foetuses that may haven't seen the light of the day, violating a woman's right to live.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Not needing the Male privilege

In places like India, male privilege is a necessity for survival. Since patriarchy is ingrained in the traditions and customs most of which are the burdens borne by women. What is amusing is the way the women follow the patriarchal traditions and customs in the name of 'choices' and give more fodder for patriarchy to grow.
A startling example of male privilege as observed on my facebook wall is a trend of status updates that I have observed when a female friend gets married. The first thing she does is to either switch to her husband's surname as it happens in much of India or take up his first name as is the norm in a few South Indian societies. And update her user name on facebook.
Interestingly, I have always itched to ask them as to how does that make sense? Is it a public display of affection or a sign of bowing to the privilege that a husband's surname or first name gets her in the society. Again many women may want to dismiss my school of thought and label it as a choice.
But, my question here is how many men have hyphenated their surnames or taken up the wife's surname, to part with the identity that his father gave him at birth.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

June

June is a damned month
I dread its arrival
on all of those days
the heat melts the creases on my forehead
I developed while hallucinating about you,
my stretch marks of love
with the will of a steaming iron.
Sweltering sun swallows
the luscious moons
laid on a platter
half or full,
the diamonds of the night
I wear carefully 
on my fingertips
and make music 
on a night consumed by 
the somber silence of longing.


Haiku 6

first day of autumn
under the cherry tree
trampled leaf

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ignorance

Ignorance is a human trait. As a human cannot be aware of everything in this world. The stupidity lies in not knowing  everything in the world, it is in the unwillingness to not open the closed doors of your mind.
And for a patriarchal society like ours, one can only imagine the kind of damage that ignorance might have done. Patriarchy has been dragged on foot because as a society we have done nothing to bring a change. We haven't even taken the first step by accepting the fact that we as a society haven't grown with the times.
Customs like dowry continue to thrive in the guise of the practice of giving 'gifts' or 'equal share in property'. Sadly no one has thrown a book at the perpetrators of such social crimes.
Ignorance is something of this kind, where to acquire conjugal rights a woman has to carry wealth in cash and kind. The sad story is that such practices still find a place in the society, because of our callousness. To make allowances for such illicit practices in the name of traditionality, tells us how much we should change. And for the starters, accept the fact that ignorance still breeds practices like dowry.
Informed opinion isn't knowing about everything in the world, it is about knowing the things you are expected to.

The recent example of ignorance are the ill-informed Indian voters who remind me of the story of Pied Piper and the rats. Most voters do not know their candidates well and are falling into the trap of populist promises or the prominent names who have given a face to the 2014 general elections.
The greatest example of ignorance is the Indian voter re-electing Congress to power and them, licking clean every bone and sinew of the poor tax paying voter. What needs to be seen on May 16th is how will the voters turn the tables for themselves?

Haiku 5

blue skies
on the cliff
tumble down

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Giving Women's Empowerment a vote in the 2014 Elections

The country has started to vote, since yesterday. While I was watching news in the afternoon, a news piece informed me that a whooping 86% voters in Tripura decided to wear the voter's ink and a staggering 76% in the state of Assam. This displays the will of the voter to bring in a change.
Since the election dates have been announced, every political party is seen endorsing different schools of thought, most of which lay stress on development and women's empowerment. Isn't it funny and strange that a country that has 49% women voters is still struggling to promise safety to its women?
In the ten years of the UPA rule, the condition of women has only deteriorated and that shows their seriousness to the cause. And Rahul Gandhi in his first ever TV interview laid tall claims of how they had made the women of the country fearless by bringing in gender equal changes. After the Nirbhaya incident shook the country and the world, UPA did have a chance to mend it ways. It had a golden opportunity to get up from a deep slumber of more than eight years, when the crimes against women only kept doubling, and they were sleeping over it. 


Haiku 3

orange clouds
in the horizon
Sunday morning

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Finding the voices of LGBT community

I was watching a malayalam movie day before yesterday. For the starters, what amused me the most, was that this movie was the story of a gay and his friends. In India such movies don't come into existance everyday.
The thrills and chills that the movie was sending down my spine, astonished me. It was the story of three friends who were police officers. The sudden death of one of the friends turns the tables for the other two friends. One of them, whose sexuality is kept under the wraps is handed over the reigns of the investigation.
The movie's ending left a distaste in my mouth. The guy who was gay, was the mastermind behind the murder. Because the dead friend had found the secrets behind the sexuality of the 'killer' friend. To not let that secret spill over, and to save his job, a law maker is shown to be a law breaker.
Such movies stain the social fabric. For not every gay is a criminal. And, not everyone wants to stay silent about their sexuality. We have slapped the ugliest of stereotypes on gays and in a time when they are wrestling a thousand demons, the curse called 'Section 377' made a comeback. To threaten the security of an LGBT person, because as per this medevial law, no two consenting adults belonging to the same sex, can indulge in sexual intercourse. This can put them at par with criminals and get them behind bars.
The section was declared unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court in 2009. The Supreme Court of India overturned the judgement in December 2013, giving the powers to repeal the law, to the Parliament.
It came as a rude shock for the ruling UPA government, with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi appealing to the parliament, to discuss the issue. But the UPA did nothing to discuss this matter in the last parliamentary session, where they were seen bull-dozing bills as pre-poll giveaways.
The re-criminalizing of Section 377 was applauded by the moral mentors of the society, especially the religious leaders who decided to get preachy and preposterous.
Many quoted the religious scriptures to sound supportive of an archaic law, that the Queen's people left behind.
Many celebrities came in support of the LGBT community and strong protests have been launched against it, since then.
Human Rights Watch groups challenge the ruling saying that it is making the prevention of HIV/AIDS an uphill task, while putting high risk groups like transsexuals in trouble.
Why I became a gay rights supporter is an episode in life, that was nothing less than a milestone.

One of my best friends is a gay who was the first person to enlighten me about the archaic Section 377. Many people like him couldn't even mourn the untimely death of his partner, all thanks to the homophobic ignorance his mother practised. What startled me the most,was the emotional upheaveal he experienced which I believe never existed for a gay couple. Before that incident, I always used to think that gay partners only understood lust. And it was embarrasing for me to come to terms with the short sightedness I possessed. He has been dating an American since the past four years. But I had seen it all, the mourning of that loss and his struggle to let go.
The other people from the LGBT community who ravished my old school of thought was Srilakshmi, a transgender, whom I happened to meet at a book reading event. Her heart wrenching tale cringed tearing down those old notions about hijras or transsexuals.
Before having met her, I was scared of them, but thereby my eyes opened.
Ruchika (name changed) is a lesbian who met me in a party organized by my best friend Rohan (name changed). Since it was his birthday party, only his closest friends had been invited. As a straight person, I felt out of place in the midst of gays, bi-sexuals and lesbians, but trust me no one tried to grope me or molest me or gave me a wrong signal. The lesbians in the party made it a point to hang out with each other thereby making me feel comfortable.
Going to that party made me realize that 'consent' is sought in the gay community much like it happens in the heterosexual community, and abuse is a notorious reality only in gays with a criminal mind.
Standing up for gay rights is as important a necessity as standing up for our own rights. If the UPA government was serious about upholding the gay rights, then they would have surely passed an ordinance against Section 377 or atleast bothered to instigate a discussion.
Parties like AAP have welcomed dialogues with the LGBT community, but what needs to be seen is are they really serious about doing away with Sec 377.
Let us therefore, not just vote for development but also human rights in the upcoming elections.
Choices don't make a criminal out of a person, and homosexuality is a natural trait and not a disease, unlike what ignorant people like Baba Ramdev had to preach.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 2 104° C

This dark room is a blanket
underneath which I croutch,
fingers of fire descend
gives me the gift of languages,
sneeze and sniff
whiff and wheeze
pant and pour
tears boil
from coal rimmed eyes.
The burning bone
is an indelible stench
Therapy chokes the meek
medicines are weak
flames rise and fall like the
ebb and flow of a tyrannous tide.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Cliche

Cliche is what writers should stay away from. It is like that low grade fever that hangs on to the soles of your feet. Writers are thinkers, is what the world says. I chose to agree as well as disagree. Writers start writing for varied reasons. It could be a heartbreak or a missing conversation or a lost part of you that you try to resurrect in your words.
But, whatever it is, if you don't have your style and your language has loose frayed edges. The reader may dismiss it. In the earliest days of having started to pen a verse, my sonnet teacher always told me, to do something that will glue the reader's eyes on to the page.
After many years, I realize what she meant, although I can't still write a sonnet without feeling doubtful about the meter and rhyme.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hijra

I don't have mounds of flesh
that I thrust proudly
like an army officer,
I don't see men
calculating the ratio of my hip size
and comparing it to my waist,
no one with his X-ray xenophobia determines
the circumference of my buttocks
or validates the volume of my lips.



Books

For an award winning recluse like me, books have always been my best friends. During the times when candid conversations were out of question, these non-living objects have lent me ears. When I am not breaking my head over an experiment, you can find my nose buried inside a book,  basking in the glory of its companionship.
A book is a tiny non-living object that always has a room for me, in its hearth. Its pages, have taken me far and wide to places I may never see. Books have told me the stories of people whom I have admired since childhood, and have wanted to emulate. They give me a peek into their lives, their triumphant moments and those of despair that bogged them down. I have always been a fan of biographies, autobiographies and crime thrillers. Stories of people who have changed the course of the world give you eyes,for a vision, for your own future. Gloria Steinham and Nivedita Menon made me mull over the inequality we face in the world, as women.