Random musings of a wandering soul

Archive for the ‘social issues’ Category

The Lone Cry

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Stories from BLF 2017 – 1 

The sessions sounded more political than literary this year. The topics had been discussed threadbare on TV, in print, on social media and of course, gatherings in the friends circles as well. But hearing it straight from the stallion’s mouths would be something else, I thought. The final session as usual, was the most sought after. R. Jagannathan, Makarand Paranjpe, Suketu Mehta, Manu Joseph, Sagarika Ghose and the Kanhaiah Kumar. Moderator Harish Bijoor set the tone and Prof. Paranjpe started in his erudite style.

There was only one tone to the whole festival until then, that of right bashing. The alternate voice had been missing, and I was eagerly waiting for the next person’s views, not because I endorsed his beliefs. I was sure an entirely different vie would definitely come from the Chief Editor of a right wing publication. He started in an even voice and took up the current hot topic, of whether to stand up or not. What he said was what many of us thought as well, isn’t this the same judge that endorsed this imposition last year? How can they change their opinion so fast and to an entirely opposite view?

Then came the punchline,
“Considering that it’s an all men bench, they don’t even have the excuse of the mood swings of PMS.”

The whole audience, well almost the whole audience, laughed. Including women. No one thought this was out of place. A so called thought leader, openly making fun of something so personally feminine.

Don’t you have mood swings on those days, one might ask. Don’t you get cranky, another might. Oh yes sir, I do. I feel tired, so much so that I don’t even have the energy to get up from my bed, cranky, ready to fight, snarling at everyone in sight, and maybe even pick up a fight or two. And I know it is getting worse as years go by.

But sir, it is never an excuse. No sir, never. It is a reality. For millions of women, some of whom you would know and many you would not. It is a stark reality, over which we have no control, none whatsoever. We can only wish we had. But. It is never an excuse, at least for the sensible ones I know. We drag ourselves up, maybe pop a pill or two and go about as if nothing is wrong, even when everything is. Literally. We might make some mistakes, make an error of judgement or two. But sir, we own it. It is never an excuse. No, sir.

I was immediately reminded of the previous day’s discussion on trolling. From personal experience, both Nidhi Razdan and Sindhu S (from Asianet who was mercilessly trolled for her so called remarks against Durga) had mentioned something in common – the blatant sexism and misogyny of the right wing trolls. Of the viciousness of it all, of the sheer crassness of their thoughts. Well, the apples do not fall far from the tree, I guess. I’ve always believed the culture of an individual is decided mostly by her parents and of an organization by its leaders. And I realized my belief hasn’t let me down.

What worries me most is the total acceptance of something so sexist. It is so ingrained in men and women in equal measure that no one sees anything amiss, not even those among us who go through it month after month, year after year.

The laughter died down. And something escaped my lips. Some might call it booing. It was spontaneous, a war cry that came right from depths. Of my heart and soul.

And I was alone. Frighteningly so.

(image courtesy – images.fineartamerica.com)

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Unmyth

Unmyth
———–

Anointed, adjudged
From the time thoughts were born
Determined, Invincible
Protector, Nurturer
Strong

And so we did
Showed a face
With no tears
Nor a grimace
Pained?
Oh, but we’re used to it
Betrayed?
But that’s life
Tired?
There’s so much more to do
Attacked?
Ssshhh…lest more followed
Defeated?
Not us, never.

And we marched on
Screaming silently
Crying without tears
Holding everything in
Smiling in a straight line
Hearts wrenching inside
For we are the strong ones
The indomitables

Eyes moulded into steel
Souls into iron
Calluses fed our hands
Lead seeped into our feet
Before we knew
It was all a myth
Wrought to keep us chained
The strong woman
Who takes in all
Without even a whimper

But you know what?
Wars are not for us,
We don’t want to win
We just need to breathe
Unanoint, let us be
Real, Unmyth.

Frightening Silence, Rays of Hope

London to Brighton Veteran Car RunThe  voices that shouted out from the roof tops have fallen eerily silent, the drums that were beaten to death gone into hiding. The tears that flowed relentlessly have dried up and life goes on. Like the perpetrators, the terms also seem to  change according to class , from brutal rape to sexual assault to molestation to error in judgement and finally simmering itself down to a consensual act.

Mr. Tajpal has been  beaten to death and risen to glory by his foes and friends and I do not want go into the details here. The girl’s letter had enough gore in there. Facts and counter facts take their turn, trying to get print and virtual space. My worry is a little more fundamental. Here you have a so called intellectual, a purported crusader against injustice, who will go to any lengths to bring out the real story, and he is caught with his tail or whatever else down, in a crime that is too shameless to even speak about. What makes him so brazen? And what does the incident and the subsequent hue and cry, or rather the lack of it, tell of us as a society?

A few months ago, we had ‘the other’ Murthy facing the firing squad for the second known time. These men are no novices and folly of youth is no umbrella under which they can take cover. Both are stalwarts in their respective areas of professional expertise, at the helm of affairs in their organizations. Spouses who are well educated and successful in their own right  and grown up kids to go back to end of their long days, in an ideal world theirs should be pictures of the classic perfect, happy families. But, the lure of the proverbial apples on the neighboring trees seem to be too strong to resist, in both cases.

Allegations and counter allegations are being volleyed up and down at breakneck speed and I would not want to mull over that here. One thought that refuses to let go and is nagging me day in and night out is, here are two head honchos, who have no qualms about cheating on their family, giving two hoots about their feelings. If they have no second thoughts in their personal life, what about the organizations and the lives of hundreds who work for these organizations? We have the answer unfolding right in front of our eyes, the obvious, arrogant manner in which ‘Tehelka’ is flouting all that they supposedly stood for.

The defensive silence in the first few days was telling. When the culprits are someone whom no one knows about and are those who cannot harm anyone, the furor is deafening. The social media zealots were uncharacteristically mute last week. What were they scared of? Or was it that such an incident was beneath them, after all in high and mighty places  this is the norm? What skeletons were they afraid would tumble out of their own or their friend’s cupboards? The comments, if at all there were any , were mild and meek compared to the vitriolic ones in the Delhi and Mumbai cases.  The slithering silence that shrouds the powerful ones in a protective sheath is more deafening than the loudest of voices. The icons of social causes have retreated to their holes, their true colors shining through irrespective. This telling silence scares me, much more than the act.

In his book ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded‘ Thomas Friedman talks about what caused  the ‘Great Recession

“…was caused in part by a broad-based breakdown in ethics by key players…… It was not the illicit behavior that caused the Great Recession. It was all the stuff going on in plain sight by people who should have known better but suspended their beliefs and values and norms and skepticism to get in on the party.”

Yes, that is exactly what is happening , stuff everyone knows is happening around. The suggestive phone calls that a young widow receives from her boss, the lewd messages that keeps on beeping on the phone of a girl whose only crime is she is good looking, the shoulders that brushes against your chest in an ‘absent minded’ manner, the made up late night meetings, the good natured ‘banter’ that are more overt than covert in their sexual flavor…. the norm in most of the ‘professional’ organizations. You want to grow? Better gel in. There is no male or female divide, as one Ms. Chaudhry has shown us. It is all about power and who is the most powerful. You dare not touch them, lest you are burnt and lacerated. Those on the periphery, watching silently, longing to get in and party along.

Yet, all is not lost. A young girl , at the beginning of her career, who refuses to let go of the principles that her organization taught her, but failed to stand up for…. three young men, who stood by her relentlessly…. a group of young girls who threw away their jobs in support…..an Arundhati Roy…..a Nandita Das …..who voice their opinion fearlessly in a world of incidental intellectuals …. spunky men of value who is not ashamed to call one of their own by the names that they deserve….

They are our hope, the rays that shine through..

Long live their clan and may we raise more of them!

picture courtesy – metstoday.com

What has schools got to do with it?

cryCertain things in life hit you so hard, you become numb for some time. Much has been said and discussed about Nirbhaya and the Mumbai girl. People who know me closely are aware of where I stand on these issues and what my opinions are. Though I actively participate on some of the discussions on Facebook, I have never discussed it openly here. Some times, a small spark is enough to ignite a large fire.

There was a blog past that went viral last week, an apparent first hand experience by soemone on what happened in broad daylight in Manesar, NCR. The post has since been removed, I’m sure the poor guy must have been intimidated by all the attention that it garnered. The gist of the post can be found here. Something that this person mentioned really got me thinking,

“I wonder if any brother, father, friend, and a good person can ever save any girl surrounded by so many people, in this state of mind when they are drunk, full of weapons, roaming around in groups, and UNEDUCATED shouting WE ARE THE SYSTEM. No one can and may be that’s why system is built. And that day it was a reminder, how broken our system is.”

A good friend of mine shared this on his wall on FB and he rightly said,

“Education has nothing to do with it. Have we not seen educated IT crowd using Ma Behen swearwords?”

Our opinions on most of these issues are similar and I have always believed that education is something that is beyond what you get in schools. It is more of what you learn at home, from observing others, from what you assimilate from the books that you read, the conversations that you listen to, the values that define you, the definition is far beyond its conventional expectation.

One of the responses that he received from an ‘educated’ person really rattled me.

“there is a difference between an IT Guy using Maa Bahan and these people. However drunk an IT Guy is, he can never think of raping a girl, mugging people in broad day light. If you see all the incidents, Nirbahaya, mumbai rape case and even in this case…all the people involved were illiterate…I think the root cause is growing class difference in India. By class I mean their education level and financial status. This problem is not going to go…the mind set of the people needs to be changed and that change can be brought only by bridging this gap which I am afraid going to take ages.”

My reaction was…well….typically me,

” How is an IT guy using maa behen different from an illiterate guy? More shame on the educated ones, I would say. You are sure educated guys do not commit any heinous crime? Or is it that you do not read newspapers? You are right, maybe they do not do it as a gang and not in broad daylight. You knew about a Nirbhaya or the ‘Mumbai – girl’ as you call her. Have you heard about the harassment – both mental and physical – that happens in many a home that is headed by the ‘IT guys’ ? The culprits in these two cases got caught because of that very fact. If it was someone highly connected, do you think they would have been brought to justice so easily? 
“However drunk an IT guy is, he can never think of a raping a girl” , Seriously? Have you heard of date drugs, spiked drinks etc? Are you saying it is ‘these’ illiterate guys who use it?”

I knew there was no point in continuing the discussion when he responded…

“Stop over reacting and first decide which problem you want to discuss…and speak about the solution not about the problem…stop sending your kids to school if you think education has nothing to do with it”

….and I closed it with a short comment,

“If you think education is what you get out of school, I rest my case. Nothing more to say.”

This happened a few days ago, but the questions that it raised still refuses to let go.

What message are we giving our kids and to society at large? That all the problems are caused by a certain section of the society only? That as long as you have a degree added to your name, you are entitled to talk any which way you want, because, “hey, you know what I mean”? What gives me the right to look down on and pass judgement on someone else?

I still believe we got to know about these cases and the perpetrators were caught fast and sentenced because they belonged to this so called lower strata of society. This is not to belittle the brutality of the crimes, not even for a moment. As a daughter, sister, mother, friend and a woman, I cannot even start to think of the trauma that these girls would have gone through. For each Nirbhaya whom we know of, how many other unknown scared girls would be there who are tortured day after day and specifically by the so called educated class? How cases are diluted just because they are either ‘connected’ or the family is scared because it will affect their ‘reputation’? All the while, the culprits still jaunting around free and taunting their victims like this

And what has schools got to do with it?