Random musings of a wandering soul

Archive for the ‘women’ Category

Life On The Other Side

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My left hand still searches for the gear lever and hits the car door instead of my son’s bony knees. I’ve learned bed is not a mere bed, but is made up of bits and pieces that you can chose to bring together or not. That a bathroom could very well be the biggest room in your house, or that the sheer variety of it could even make you stop drinking milk. I’ve also realized the vast difference between American Chinese, Indian Chinese and mere Chinese. And I’m thankful for the sheer beauty of this place that I now live in.

I’ve always seen brilliant women take it slow in their career as they reach middle age and their kids turn teens and start the exams of their lives. Even before that, in many cases. In the fresh or should I say naive and maybe foolish days of my youth, I would never have thought that one day that is what I would do as well. Not that I was so brilliant anyway, but that’s besides the point. When I got married, the only thing I wanted was for us to be together. A soaring career was not in my dreams anyway. To cut a long story short, I got back , not to be a rat in a race, I was missing having people around and thought my brain was rotting, not to mention the phase of being a pest to the husband as well.

Now, are you wondering what has the two got to do with each other – the move and being career woman? Well, I’d never lived the life of a man, if I may say so. Or at least as I see it. The change in routine and what you are familiar with is taken for granted when you move even from one house to another in the same city, not to mention across continents.

The biggest change I’ve been noticing is in my work. Or, the way I work. It’s total abandon. Priorities shifted. The wake up thoughts moved from how to wake the kids up to how to tackle that client meeting today. Not that it was not a focus earlier. It was the only focus now. Forget about cooking, no thoughts of what to eat today, not to mention what to make for the family or even what the maid has to cook. Kids’ illness, doctor’s appointments, school projects, milk man, electricity bills, booking gas, every domestic thing flew out of the window. Dust gathered, bed was not made, but who cared? Yes, I was informed. Daughter sprained her leg, son had to have a root canal done a few days prior to his board exams, maid didn’t turn up for a day, there was no milk in the fridge. I listened. And that was it. In the RACI of life, I had moved from the extreme left of being Responsible to the extreme right of being Informed of.

Isn’t this how it is for most men? Yes, they do take care, they care for their families. I am not denying that even for a moment. But how much of their mental space is occupied by the nitty gritties, the realities of day to day living? And what occupies that space instead? In most cases, the instant answer would be work, or even their passion.

I’ve had colleagues who have taken breaks during their kids’ board exams. And they were not the paranoid ones who breathes down their son’s neck for 24 hours. They are the no nonsense, head firmly on their shoulders ones who know their value very clearly as well as the value of what they were giving up. What prompted them to take that break, I’ve wondered. Was it guilt, a sense of possibly misplaces responsibility, or sheer frustration of handling it all together?

Yes, it is a choice as some of you might say. And yes, I did make that choice years ago, and there is not even an ounce of regret as I reminisce over all the years past. I’ve had plenty of time for going over many things in the last two months of solitude. Just that being away has made me realize the enormity of that space in our minds and what occupies it at each phase of our lives and according to the roles we play.

Space has a new meaning now, and I hope each of us women get the luxury of that space in our lives, at least now and then. A place for being away from everything, where our minds and bodies are able to wander freely, we walk or run or jump or somersault in the air, at our own pace, in our own rhythm.

Saying that every day is a woman’s day is a cliche now. Instead, can the men who really care, help their women find their special space, let them be on their own, for a few days? Now, that would be a real Woman’s Day gift.

Meanwhile stay blessed, all the special women in my life!

(p.s. no envy, please. Life will be back to normal in two weeks :D)

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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)

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.

Pieta

pieta

Oh Gabriel,

I was just a a girl

A naive one, at that

You knew it, didn’t you?

Mother of God, you said

And blessed am I, you added.

Dreams of angels playing harps

Shattered by Herod’s armed ones

,

Bed of roses I looked for

And a manger lay in wait

Shepherds for courtiers

Donkeys singing hymns

Three kings came and went

Gold, Frankincense and myrrh they brought

Of the first I know not

The other two, burnt and spent

The child born of me, was never mine

Yet a mother, I had to be

Agony of a son gone missing,

What would you know of that?

Three score years with me

And a man  he called abba

Life was but a chimera

Of that we knew not, yet

,

Of a son lost,

What would you know?

He cried for the world, wiped their tears

Did he  see the drop that refused to fall?

Laying hands on the sick and sinned,

Did he feel these trembling hands?

Anointed in oil by Mary the Magdalene,

Did he forget a heart that bled for him?

,

On a donkey, back he came,

Hosanna, shouted the world

The silly heart, it skipped a beat

Jumped in joy for a moment or two

He broke bread with his friends

Turned his blood into wine

Promised them everlasting life

And was betrayed, in return.

,

Son of God, crowned in thorns

Dragging a cross, whipped on his back

Nailed on a cross, stabbed on chest

Gasping for air, thirsting for a drop

Limbs broken, life escaped

Shattered, he lay across my lap

Gathering him into my arms, I said

Blessed am I among women.

The Princess and the Statue

doe eyes‘Doe eyes’, you call her. But, have you really looked into it, ever listened to what it tries to tell you? Have you seen one that is caught in light at night? You are  not the jungle type, you say? Oh, don’t worry. Just look around. Who said jungle is in the wild? But then, do we even know what wild is any more?

See that crowd? Push your way in, and look around. Do you see those frightened eyes? Yes, that is what I was asking you about. She is still a baby. What do you call a baby doe? A princess? Yes, that would be apt. For, princesses rarely come out of fairy tales these days. But then, let us not digress. Can you see how she squirms, as if caught in a trap? Why doesn’t she fight, you ask? Well, she still doesn’t know what is it that she has to fight against, or whom.  She did not ask for the fight, heck, she doesn’t even want to fight. Was just going about her way, when a pair of horns stopped her . She doesn’t know yet… why stags have horns and why they try to poke her.

Wait, are you jumping out? Can’t stand the crowd, you say? Neither can she. She doesn’t have a choice, though. For she is not a stag. And she doesn’t have horns.

It’s getting dark out there. The eyes start getting wider, the horns are getting closer. Why doesn’t she fight, you ask again. You see, she was taught not to. Would grow horns, she was told. Back then, she was a princess, and princesses were supposed to have crowns of diamonds, not horns. Hardly her fault, you know.

You’ve seen some of them fight, you say? You are right, my friend. Horns rammed inside, some of them do, really.

Now tell me, do you know what they were fighting for and against? No? I will tell you.  Or better still, ask one of her. Even better, ask a few. One will say, against fatigue. Another, against prejudice. Yet another, expectations. And the other, against the pain that is killing her, from dawn to dusk. The reasons  are aplenty. But, there is one that binds them, almost all of them. The fight is ‘for’ something, there they are one. For their princesses, princes too. That they may not have to fight, some day. That they are not shorn off their tiaras and crowns. That their staff is used to guide, not rule.

Yes, they fight, with their tooth and sharp nails. For, they do not have horns, you see.

What about those horns that battle alongside the  eyes, you ask? Oh, them? Poor things. They end up being called hornless. In spite of the strongest ones you might have seen, ever.

The princesses, and what of their doe eyes, wouldn’t you want to know? I will tell you, irrespective. Some of them burned with a fire strong enough to  singe the tips of a few horns.  Then got charred in the process. A few of them folded the lids in, never to open again. And the mass, you cannot miss them, even if you don’t see, look or whatever. Those are the ones that you find all around, resigned, helpless. Even the brightest light fails to light them up. For, they grew up, and got to know. Only in fairy tales, princesses turn into queens, you see.

What of her kin, the horned ones, you now ask? Aren’t they supposed to protect her? The brothers – the real and the rakhi ones?

Neither does she ask, nor  expect them to , anymore.

For, she knows by now.

That they are busy….building statues

 

(p.s – title courtesy my favorite film maker, the inimitable Padmarajan)

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?