Dear “Hindustan”,

The rape & murder of an eight year old child is a tragedy we must all condemn & demand justice for. That an eight year old is subjected to the brutality that the victim in Kathua faced is terrible and we must stand up against it. We must fight to ensure that justice is served.

But we must also realise that rape and sexual abuse are reality for many children 8 years old and even younger all over India. Yes, we have a problem. But not because the statistics say so, not because it happened in a temple, or for whatever other reason but that it happened at all! Even one rape is far too many!

And I would have stood with you if that was the crux of the message that you delivered. Unfortunately you choose to highlight the smaller of the problems. That it happened in a temple, that the perpetrator was Hindu and the victim Muslim. Communal disharmony is not unknown in India but to highlight just that and neglect the victim and the crime, because that is indeed what the debate has moved to, is a crime which you are all guilty of.

It’s disheartening, and perhaps a reflection of why this happens time and again, that your message has completely derailed the conversation. You say you are ashamed, of what? The crime or that it was done in a “devisthan”? You can scream as vociferously as you like that it’s the crime you condemn but your placard says otherwise.

The fact that the rape happened months ago and only got picked up now – after the revelation that the child was kept in the temple again exposes your agenda. If your fight against child sexual abuse were serious, you would’ve been there from the get go!

Yes, we need justice for the Kathua victim but by taking up just her cause you’ve let down millions of other children who are as deserving of justice. The fact that you found just cause to condemn child sexual abuse after only this incident exposes you for the fakes you are. Because children all over India face what the Kathua victim did and much worse. I won’t bring up Unnao or Assam or other incidents quoted in the media but the cases of sexual abuse of children in schools in Bangalore. If any of you reads the papers you will know there have been multiple cases in the past few years. Children of kindergarten age were abused. At school that they attend EVERYDAY! By the very people who are supposed to educate them!

Religious institutions have long been known as places of sexual abuse. The catholic clergy has been and is still guilty of widespread child abuse and yet you choose to highlight that it happened in a temple & paint all Hindus with that brush? Terror has no religion but Saffron terror and Hindu extremists exist! Rape has no religion but Hindus are guilty of raping Muslim children. See the agenda here? Whether they are mosques, churches or now temples, shouldn’t be the point of the debate but that it happened at all! And in highlighting that you have done injustice to the victim and to millions of other victims.

Let’s move on to the most famous of your clan. To all the Bollywood stars who held up the same placards. The power you wield over your fans is most politicians’ wet dream. But as Peter Parker’s uncle said, with great power comes great responsibility. Bollywood, however, has never been great with that. Responsibility and accountability are both something you run from. Case in point Salman Khan and the Blackbuck case. You believe you are above the law and in that way, no different from our politicians. You sit in your ivory towers and when the occasional glance below doesn’t sit well with you, you take to twitter to raise hue and cry.

While all of Hollywood stood up for the #MeToo movement, Bollywood was silent. And anyone who has seen a Bollywood movie knows how deep misogyny runs in the industry. How many of you stood up for Kangana Ranaut when there was controversy raging about her? One movie on sanitary napkins and you assume to speak for all of us! But let’s forgive all that. If you claim to be the social justice warriors that you are, why does that seem to be limited to twitter? With your resources and clout, you could make a real change. Instead you choose to sit on Karan Johar’s coffee couch and bad mouth each other just to make sure you stay in his good books.

So if you’re ashamed, you should be. Because Bollywood is partly responsible for the misogyny in our society. Songs like ‘Inkaar mein jo chupa hai wo ikraar ho’, the portrayal of sexual abuse and stalking as gestures of love and the violation of a women’s dignity through rape are just some of the nonsense you propagate. So get off your high horses and face reality. You are part of the problem!

Now let’s down to the real deal. Rape is rape, irrespective of the place of occurrence or the religious identity of the perpetrator and victim. It’s terrible and has no place in our society. Our children must be protected! Shame doesn’t do shit. Words don’t do shit. Candle light vigils are just that. The placards were probably just to draw attention to the fact that you are ‘aware’ and you moved on a second after you posted a picture on social media. I know many who certainly did!

If you are serious about changing this, then it’s time to take action – read up on POCSO. See how you can make the laws tighter to make sure no person will ever even dream of touching our children. If you live near a school or college, keep an eye out for vehicles or people who don’t have kids but tend to hang out during opening and closing times, these are the perverts who hang out around a 1-2km radius around schools/colleges and flash innocent kids on the way to school or college. Watch out for perverts on public transport who stand unnaturally close to children. Keep an eye on anyone children interact with and who make you uncomfortable. Take children seriously when they don’t want to be with someone!

We are a country of myriad problems. Our diversity is what both makes and breaks us. It is our duty as citizens that we don’t let the differences break us but find ways to bridge gaps and understanding beyond difference. By maligning or painting one community for a crime will not change/stop the crime. It will only add more problems to our already long laundry list. Realise there is an agenda when religion, caste, colour or race is involved in a narrative. Think beyond the headline and read between the story lines. See where the stories are coming from and how truthful reports are. Be someone who mends rather than someone who destroys. And here is what sets me and many like me apart from the likes of you:

I am India.

I am angry.

I will not let agenda get in the way of justice!

I will do everything I can to ensure this doesn’t happen again!

Sincerely,

Someone who is serious about fighting child sexual abuse

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The other side of ‘Happy Women’s Day’

On March 8th my FB Timeline, Twitterfeed, Instagram, Whatsapp and Email were followed with Happy Women’s day messages. I received a plethora of sale and discount offers from various brands and others extolling the virtues of women and the advantages of being one.  My uniqueness was praised and used to sell me more garbage than I need, which I was told I deserve. It is just another way of patriarchy telling us you get one day, shut up and take it. Because on the other side of March 8th is radio silence. Back to the past we go.

International women’s day started as a day of observance and awareness of the injustices a woman faces in everyday life. Today it has become a charade with brands offering discounts to women or celebrating her! Case in point, the email I received from Etihad. It features discounts for women’s day and the featured items include makeup, hair dryers, epilators, etc. Throw back to about two weeks ago when they had another sale in their shop where the featured items included headphones, battery banks, etc. This is in itself an indicator of a woman’s place in our society. We exist as eye candy.

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On the other side of Women’s day, is the reality of what it means to be a woman. The objectification, fear of assault, conundrum of existence, fight for equality,…. Every day of a woman’s life is a fight and for many women every second of every day is one. The fight begins even before we enter this world for many girls who never find their way out. Even at birth the odds are not stacked in our favour. But making your way out is just the beginning, then comes the real challenge – the constant fight for resources and to prove we deserve to be where we are every single step of the way.

Patriarchy is suffused in every breath we take in our everyday lives. It manifests itself in the most inconspicuous ways – being asked to organise parties/events at the workplace because as a woman you are more capable of it than a man – and on more horrendous levels which makes newspaper headlines – female infanticide, rape, FGM, etc. The list is endless. The average woman has gotten so used to being snubbed for the woman she is, that she hardly notices it anymore. She has relegated herself to the treatment she begets. Content with fighting her way through the barriers put in place just for her benefit.

Even today men are told to respect us for being someone’s mother, sister, wife, aunt, grandmother and sundry. We are not people. We are always spoken about in reference to a man. Even women who have fought their way up are relegated to being someone’s wife or daughter. Our humanity, or peoplehood as Mr. Trudeau would call it, is never acknowledged because it has never existed. We continue to be treated as property. A fringe group despite being half of the population.

Every woman has a story to tell about some injustice she has faced in life. Many times they are the victims of their own gender. Our mother, grandmothers, aunts constantly tell us to toe the line, to remember our place. Not because they don’t want us to succeed but because they have themselves paid the price of trying to do otherwise. They do it to protect us from the pain they themselves have faced, unaware that in doing this they are further perpetrating the same crimes that we accuse the other gender of. We have internalised the patriarchy thanks to how we have grown up with. So the struggle is always twofold. An internal struggle to over the internal patriarchy and the external against the world to get somewhere.

We are slowly beginning to lift the veil on the misogyny that is so pervasive in our everyday lives. Hollywood’s Time’s Up and #MeToo movements are just the tip of iceberg. If some of the most popular women have been victims of patriarchy, just imagine the lot of the rest of us. The amount of time that has elapsed since the incidents to the actual reporting of the same and the grieveousness of it all should give you a picture of just how much women tolerate.

We can’t afford to shut our brains off for even a second. What to wear, to where we go, how we travel, with whom we move, what time of day, what we say, how we move,…. because all it takes is one ‘wrong’ move. She was out too late, her dress was too short, she touched my arm, she smiled at me, she didn’t respond,… Everything we do or don’t, say or don’t, wear or don’t can and will be used against us. We can’t catch a break.

So no! It’s not great being a woman! It’s a nightmare! This hyper-awareness is exhausting! It’s insulting! It’s degrading! We aren’t asking for much. We don’t need any special treatment. All we ask is that you look at us as people. People with opinions, aspirations, desires, just as you would a man. Don’t respect us for being the giver of life, respect us for our actions when we are deserving of it, like you would any man.

And the next women’s day, don’t give me shit about –

To strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

I thought that way for a long time too. But then I realised, why should women alone be strong? Why can men be more sensitive, create an environment where women don’t have to be strong. Where we can just be ourselves.

The next women’s day, give me reason to believe we won’t need one anymore. Give me –

To equality. May we know it, may we live it, may we work for it.

Dear Swara Bhasker,

Let me start off my open letter by saying I haven’t watched Padmaavat and I only know you from having watched your movie Anarkali of Aarah on a flight. I must say, I was impressed by your performance and even the movie itself which is unlike mainstream Hindi movies. But just like you have taken offence to Mr. Bhansali’s portrayal of women in Padmaavat/glorification of Jauhar, I have to take offence to your ‘upholding of the feminist cause through your open letter’.

Let me explain that this is not in support of Mr. Bhansali. I don’t claim to be a big fan of his but I have enjoyed a number of his movies. Like you I find his attention to detail compelling. Whether Paro’s house in Devdas, the Shanivarvada in Bajirao or even just the backgroud of his battefields, every frame of Mr. Bhansali’s movies is a piece of art. And it is for this beauty that I look forward to watching Padmaavat.

I’m also not a movie buff. While I support everyone’s right to freedom of expression, I’m not doing this because I’m a die-hard fan of Bollywood. Far from it! While I have watched Bollywood movies ever since I can remember, I have never gone in expecting a moral lesson or to be blown away. In fact, more often than not, I’ve come out disgusted and regretting the money and time I wasted.

I don’t even have a problem with how many times you have used the word vagina. I just have a problem with how you have dragged it into this mess considering how until now the only people who this movie bothered was the Karni Sena. By dragging vaginas into the mix, you have reduced them to the level of people who have endangered children just to make their voices heard. And that for me is unforgivable because the vaginas in this country have borne, and still bare, inexplicable atrocities to stand proud only to now be vilified by one of our own.

I find your offence a little disingenuous considering the fact that out of a plethora of Bollywood movies that objectify and vilify women you choose Padmaavat to take offence to. Just in the recent past I was horrified to see the trailer of a movie in which a man is told he will get what he wants if he ‘gives’ his wife to his boss(?) for a night. And this movie is set in the 21st century. Isn’t this objectification of women? Us being reduced to ‘just’ vaginas? With such glorious contenders for outrage you pick Padmaavat? Can you understand why I’m annoyed?

Have a look at the serials that Ms. Ekta Kapoor produces and tell me you’re okay with how women are portrayed sitting at home with pallus on their heads plotting against one another. So your brand of feminism is okay with this and not with the fact that a fictitious queen in the 12/13th century decided to choose death over rape?

Bollywood has never been the measure of how progressive our country is but I’ve always found the women in Mr. Bhansali’s movies to be compelling. They know what they want and do what they have to achieve their goal. Whether Paro’s mother, Mastani or even Kashi Bai who finds the strength in herself to send her husband to protect her rival. How does that even compare with most Bollywood movies where the woman is just there as a love interest? And if we started out with using the Bechdel test in Bollywood, god save our vaginas!!

Feminism is about equality. It’s about having a choice and respecting it. Your letter doesn’t question Mr. Bhansali but the choice made by a woman. It’s unfortunate that feminism today is hijacked by the likes of you who make a hungama about a movie but sit silent when it comes to real issues. Where were you when Kangana was vilified a couple of months ago or when Deepika’s cleavage was the headline a couple of years ago?

But as I write this and re-read the rant that is your open letter, I wonder… rather believe that this letter was not so much to pull Mr. Bhansali up for failing the feminist cause as it was to steal the spotlight for yourself. After all, in Bollywood any publicity is good publicity. Because what stands out in your letter after multiple reads is your desire to prove the ‘righteousness’ of your cause and how ‘righteous’ you yourself are. Why else is the need to explicitly mention that you took your cook along with your family or about how you fought trolls on Twitter. You talk about how you are a fan of Mr. Bhansali’s work and would love to be his heroine before you embark on a farce. It’s absolutely despicable how you have used feminism to further your own goals!

Here we are fighting for the chance to be the women we want to be. Raising issues of marital rape, domestic violence, female infanticide, female genital mutilation and even the right to just live! Fighting to remind ourselves how to be a feminist while trying to forget the patriarchy imbibed in us. And you lower the bar to how you felt ‘reduced’ to a vagina watching a movie? With your letter you have proved that all Bollywood is capable of is taking a cause and making money off of it.

Unlike you, I do not end this letter in peace. I end with the promise to fight and reclaim feminism from opportunists like you. To fight people like you who hijack a cause to promote yourself and further your interests. Who derail who conversations and set us back as we strive to push ahead. I write this letter to remind the world that feminism is a cause worth fighting for. For the women who have been denied and for the men who have been mocked.

Sincerely,

Manasa Manjunath

A feminist in development

#IAmNotNice

Another day, another attack, another hashtag.

In my 27 short years and even shorter 25-20 that I’ve been aware of the world and been able to understand it, I can count on my fingers the number of times Kashmir has not been in the news for a terror attack. Bombs, guns, terrorists, people dying, newspaper article, Indian politicians making speeches against Pakistan and the next day silence. Rinse, repeat for the next time.

For the longest time, I thought of terror attacks as a norm. As something that happened everywhere in the world and something that you could do nothing about. It was a reality of life, I thought, just like diesease and death. And then 9/11 happened, there was outrage and uproar and the usual condemnation. But it wasn’t forgotten the next day. Suddenly there were plans to tackle terrorism, to bring justice to the victims and all these things that to my 10 year old self, were unheard of. I was puzzled but I moved on. Shelving it in the back of my mind, and concentrated on more important things like Harry Potter and Pokemon.

And then London happened and it was the same as 9/11. In the meantime, the attacks in Kashmir continued with all the motions of a daily routine. To my slightly older & more aware brain, there was something slightly off. Sure, the people killed in London on that one day is a lot more than those in Kashmir on a single day but if you took the sum total, surely the number of Kashmiris we’d lost to terrorism was much more than in London or New York?

With this gnawing at my brain, I moved on with my life. Then Mumbai happened. At this point I was more than a little aware of this thing we call international relations and diplomacy. The war on terror was on but that this war was on terror that killed white people was not lost on me. With this, the cynic in me was born.

Since then there has been Boston, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, France, Turkey and a million other places. But the pattern was the same. Attack, death, outrage but international sympathy and action only if white people are involved. For someone born in the 20th century and grown up in the 21st, apartheid, race and class were a thing of the past. The colour of your skin was just that. Nothing more. How naive!!

Today everyone is Nice. But yesterday when Burhan Wani was killed, everyone spoke about extra judicial killings. Pakistan expressed shock and concern at how India was handling things in Kashmir. Pakistan! Pakistan that gives birth to terrorists with the sole intent of creating terror in India , Pakistan whose terror policies led to the massacre of a hundred of its own children. And the world just stood by and watched. No talk of fighting terror here. Kashmiris have been dying for ages, there’s nothing new about that.

So today, I’m not going to condemn the attacks because condemnation is not going to stop them from happening again. Today, I’m not going to pray for the victims because it is the same sadistic God who let those people die. Today, I am not Nice. What I am is outraged. I am disgusted. I am appalled. I am frustrated. I am helpless….. I am human. I am hurt.  I am sad. I am scared. I am terrified.

I am certain this will happen again. My feelings won’t change that. My prays won’t. Because as long as terror is identified with as good or bad, as long as dealt with based on the colour of the skin of the victims, innocent people will continue to die. Kashmir is perhaps the saddest example of that. But it won’t be long before the entire world is.

A big thank you and a small update

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. I’ve been keeping pretty busy with my job applications and with my Masters almost coming to an end (can’t wait for October 31st). First of all I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to all the lovely people at WordPress who thought that my previous blog post was good enough to be on Freshly Pressed. I read a lot of the posts on Freshly Pressed and am always in awe of the people who make it there. I can’t thank you enough! Being on Freshly Pressed has been one of my life’s biggest and most rewarding experience.

Another BIG THANK YOU to all those who liked, commented, shared and followed my blog. You have no idea how happy you made this girl. I couldn’t have imagined, even in my wildest dreams, the response I received. Each comment and like just made my day. I don’t think I’ve had a bad day all of last month thanks to your comments and likes. I really appreciate each and everyone of your comments and suggestions. Thank you so much for taking the time out to read  my blog.

#StopCondemningStartConvicting

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Congratulations on your first successful address to the Parliament. I must say I was impressed. When I initially saw that the clip was 50 odd minutes long, I’ll admit I was hesitant. The plan was to forward through the rhetoric and be done in 10 to 15 minutes, but you managed to hold my attention and imagination (though I can’t say the same for your colleague sitting two rows behind yourself) for most of those 50 minutes, which is more than most of my Professors could ever manage, as you waxed eloquent about your plans for our country. And what a picture you painted!

I’m used to seeing a chaotic and disruptive Lok Sabha. It was a pleasant surprise to watch our representatives listen. I congratulate you on having managed to capture their attention as well. It is indeed a feat worthy of praise. I liked that you focused on your plans for the country rather complain about the mess that you have to clean up. I was greatly impressed with the humour and wit you showed as you rebutted your opposition. Frankly, your conduct as Prime Minister was a subject that was on my mind having watched your rallies during the elections, in fact, there was even a Blogpost in the works, but a big thank you from lazy me for having carried yourself with so much composure and grace, very much befitting a Prime Minister, yesterday and ever since you assumed office.

Your critics have been many ever since you announced your contention for the coveted post of Prime Minister and it seems that there are even more now that you have assumed office. I can only imagine what a daunting task you face of running the country. Critics only add to the existing pressure but indeed as you said, keep us from becoming complacent and arrogant. While you endeavour to revitalise our country, as much as I wish you all success in your endeavours, since your successes will mean success for the country, I shall endeavour to praise you for your successes and criticise your weaknesses.

While many have criticised your direct and hands-on approach as dictatorial, I find it a refreshing change. Time and tide wait for no man and you seem to have adopted this policy. Immediacy and alacrity are the need of the hour in today’s rapidly changing world. Just keeping abreast of the information is no longer enough and you seem to recognise that. In a country such as ours, where people wear their hearts on their sleeves and their tempers on the tips of their noses, things escalate quickly and easily. In most cases, just the smell of smoke is enough to start a fire. Fuel arrives much later only to help in spreading the fire and water, well, there are so many disputes on who can take how much that it seems a foreign concept.

One such wild fire which seems to engulf the entire country is right now is violence against women. In your 50 minute speech in Parliament and other speeches and public forums, you spoke maybe four sentences about this issue. The content of which was limited to requesting the MPs to refrain from commenting on the psychology behind rapes and saying that the harshest of punishments should be given to those who violate the dignity of our mothers and sisters. Your lack of response to this issue begs the question, if this issue and our safety is at all a priority for the new government?

I agree a 100% with you that making comments about the psychology of rapists brings nothing. But only discussion and debate will create awareness about the situation. Also, saying the harshest punishment will be doled out to the prepetrators is not enough, nor is it new. We have had enough people “talk” about it. A person of your stature and position and especially with the influence you wield could be critical in stemming this violence.

Since Mahabharat seems to be the trending epic of the moment, let me put it this way, are we going to sit, heads bowed in shame, like the Pandavas while our women are assaulted like Draupadi? Are we going to just let our women pray to the gods like Draupadi was left to pray to Krishna while their bodies, rights and dignities are violated? Should they await justice in the form of their violators’ blood after we avenge them in a bloody battle?

It is a pity that even our Prime Minister identifies us as just mothers, sisters and daughters. There are among us, Mr. Prime Minister, those without fathers, brothers and husbands. And what of those who are violated by these very people? Do they require no protection and consideration? Are women only defined in relation to men? Do they not exist beyond these relationships? Are we the same as furniture or utensils? Objects meant to be used or possessed and then thrown aside? Are they not individuals?

Your party’s policy of empowering women is indeed a great one. Now that you form the government, you have the power to implement it across the country. You, with your influence, your way with words and the ability to paint a picture have more influence than most of your opponents dare or want to admit. Even the simplest of your statements could go a long way in ensuring the safety of our women. There is a need for awareness and education at the basest of levels. A need to stress on the equality of men and women, on the individuality of women, on the rights of women and the consequences of violating these rights. Your voice could lend the strength that the women in our country require. The question is will you remain silent too?

Yours sincerely,

Not just a daughter

Down with Patriarchy!

Last weekend I started looking for jobs. By tonight I’d have made my first application. By the end of this week I’d have lived 25 years on this planet. You would think this is a time for celebration, Look at me, all grown up and independent. But no, there’s no celebration. Unfortunately for my mum, it’s a cause for worry. 25 and still unmarried. 25 and still not serious about marriage. She tries not to think about it. Tries to heel the worry out of her voice during our daily phone calls, as we both try to keep the conversation light. She tries to hide the tinge of impatience when she tells me about yet another proposal that came and the fear that colours her voices as she talks about the relative who asked about me (read when I’m getting married) at the latest family do.

I feel sad for my mum. Sometimes I get a little angry and impatient with her and abruptly end the conversation saying I have to go, but mostly  I feel sad and call her back. From the look of things you would think my mother is uneducated but she’s not. She’s an educated and working woman. She works at the bank, runs the house, pays the bills and follows up on her kids. And yet she’s like any one of those millions of uneducated women who worry similarly about their twenty something daughters. These are the same women who have a harried look on their face at every family event, the same whose throats close up when asked about their unmarried twenty something daughters. These are the same women who face the barrage of “When is the wedding?”, “Have you started looking?”, “My <Insert-some-relative/friend’s-name>’s son would be perfect for her, shall I give you their number?” at every event.

It never ends, until of course, the unmarried twenty something becomes a married twenty something. Then, it’s onto the next. These busybodies who have nothing else to do prey like vultures on hapless mothers one after the next. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it. This is our society. Our evolved, modern, open society which is surprisingly still as patriarchal and backward as 50 years ago which still looks on an unmarried twenty something as damaged goods. Must be something wrong with her, why else would she be single? From the moment you graduate, or sometimes as you even approach graduation, unmarried becomes affixed to your name. From that omen forth that is how people view you, it becomes your identity, your profession, your goal irrespective of your wishes.

Yes, that was the purpose of my birth. To marry someone, bear his children and devote the rest of my life to him and the children in question. The fact that I have ambition is, let alone a matter for discussion, not ever a consideration. Blasphemy in fact! How dare I? Woman that I am, think for  myself, think about myself? Mine is a life that must be devoted to others and the fulfilment of their dreams and aspirations. That is my dream, a dream that was chosen for me even before my birth. But it’s not! that is patriarchy’s dream for me. The same patriarchy that puts women in veils, that kills infant girls, that doesn’t recognise women’s rights, that doesn’t recognise marital rape, that blames the victim for the rape, that slutshames. It’s the same patriarchy functioning in a subtle way. This patriarchy uses words such as duty and responsibility to chain us. The end goal, of suppressing women, remains the same. This kind of patriarchy of course is much milder, nothing in fact compared to the crimes other women all over the world suffer but it’s patriarchy none the less. But if we, educated and privileged as we are, can’t cast the yoke of patriarchy off, then what can we expect of our powerless sisters?

Patriarchy has different faces and rears it’s head up everyday in different situations. Expecting a girl to give up a career she’s built and move to a different place just because her husband to be has a job, that’s patriarchy. Do you expect a man to do the same? Of course not! It’s the girls duty! Expecting the bride’s family to pay for the wedding, patriarchy! Girl should change her last name after marriage, patriarchy! Telling a girl she can’t work once she’s married, patriarchy! Each of these acts is called a girl/wife/daughter’s “duty/responsibility”. Somehow, all the “duties and responsibilities” fall on the shoulders of women. A man’s only “duty” is to “fend for and protect” his wife and family. Women are always someone‘s something(mother/sister/daughter). An object. To be closeted and used. They are never someone. Someone with feelings, emotions and aspirations. A living, breathing and bleeding person.

Women have a profound impact on their children. It is my mother’s strength and efforts that enable me to dream today. Unfortunately, she’s unable to find the same strength in her to fight off this society. But it’s her efforts and fight, and the efforts and fights of so many women all around the world which have allowed us, even the small number that we are, to dream and aspire. It’s easy to say we need change. Bringing about the change is harder. This system of objectifying and dehumanising women has existed since the dawn of humanity. It is not something that can or will change in a day, The change has to be gradual and start at the most basic and smallest of levels. Me telling that my career is as important as any man’s, that is my small way of denouncing patriarchy and fighting for my rights. How are you fighting patriarchy today?

Same shit, different day

Open the newspaper, and it’s the same news everyday. Rape, eve-teasing and sexual abuse have become so common place in our “modern civilised society”. The news is the same, just the locations and names change. The statistics keep rising and nothing is being done. To begin with, we have an appalling crime on our hands. An invasion of privacy and the right to a healthy body and mind. People are over-stepping boundaries everywhere and are doing so undeterred, unpunished and more importantly, unashamedly! What’s more appalling is the way we handle it. One the one hand there are those who prefer to push it under the rug and ignore the menace while the others take it to a whole other level by blaming the victim. What are we living in the 12th century?! We’ve stepped on the moon and even made it to Mars but we can’t even ensure our women can walk at anytime and anywhere without fear!

We have our “leaders”, elected representatives of the people, talking about how you can’t get pregnant by rape or about how women need to dress more conservatively or better yet stay indoors! Do you know what’s more pathetic? That these people actually do represent the majority opinion. Most people out there agree with them. There are people who think it’s a taboo subject, not to be spoken about in public but whispered within the confines of our bedrooms and shoved in our sock drawers along with the other stuff we’d like to keep a secret. Others think that it’s the fault of the girl or woman for being too forward – for dressing up too much or too down, for daring to step out of the house after hours or for going out with a boy. Let’s take this one at a time.

For those of you who are sitting at home and whispering about this, my question to you is firstly, are you a man or a woman. Whichever you are, SHAME ON YOU! Shame on you because all you do is whisper, where you agree or disagree with the majority, it does not matter. Your opinion matters, it makes a difference. You could be teaching people, making them understand, changing their views, but what do you do instead? You whisper. You whisper about it just like you whisper about your next door neighbour’s affair you just unearthed. Unfortunately for you and for the rest of us, this is not something that needs whispering about. You need to pick a side and take a stand. Raise your voice and make sure it’s heard. It’s not much but it makes a difference.

Now let’s get down to the ugly business. To the ones who think it’s the fault of the girl or the woman. Let’s take it a step at a time. The most common sentence I’ve heard is “Have you seen the way she was dressed? She was asking for it!” and that’s where the conversation ends. Like that one sentence just said it all and explained the how, the when and the why. From my point of view, that is where the conversation should start! Let’s think about it. Women need to dress a certain. You shouldn’t show too much because then you look easy and you DEFINITELY DO NOT want to look easy. But then again, you can cover too much because then there isn’t anything to see there, is it? You’re meant to dress JUST right! Then you have to worry about what JUST RIGHT means, just right according to whom? What’s normal for one could be vulgar for another and classy for a third. Whom do you pacify? Whatever happened to dressing for yourself and not having to worry about attracting comments and untoward glances? The clothes don’t matter, just like age does. People go for women in burkha just the way they go for little kids and old women, please explain to me how either of the two could be “provocatively dressed” or “asking for it” in any way or form? And if you still say that clothes make you provocative, then I guess you could also say the same when a rich guy is robbed. He was wearing expensive stuff, I was tempted. Makes perfect sense doesn’t it? But this argument doesn’t hold in court, then why does the previous one hold in every situation?

Two down, two to go. For those of you who think that there should be a curfew imposed on women, what can I say? Please return to the medieval ages! They’ll welcome you with open arms! Crimes happen in broad daylight in the same capacity as they do in the dark. Offenders have taken continued indifference to mean approval and bask in the glory of their crimes even during the day. So what will you say to that now? Please don’t step out of your houses? Then how do you expect us to work or get an education? Or maybe you think that we don’t need it! If you’re the kind of person who thinks women shouldn’t be out after dark then maybe you also think that we’re not worth educating and that we shouldn’t be working! You start with one small imposition and before you know it, you’ve made several laws and striped people of basic rights. If you’ll had it your way, women would be back where they started, in the kitchen without the right to education, vote or even equality!

Last but not least. For those of you who think that just because a girl is with one boy, she shouldn’t mind being with many. Hmmmm, how do we tackle this one. Would you the say the same if the object were to be your house? your salary? After all, sharing is caring right? If a girl is with 1 boy or with many, it shouldn’t matter to you! She’s with who she chooses to be. And how do you know how the boys are related to her? They could be her brothers for all you know!! It’s her choice. You ARE NOT entitled to something just because you think you are! It does not permit you or give you any authority whatsoever!

The problem with our society is we don’t educate. We don’t teach. We don’t teach that a NO is a NO. That once you hear it, you back off! That silence does not mean yes. That even when you hear a yes, ask again and be sure. Why should innocent people become victim to your urges. Just because you can’t control yourself, why should someone else be punished? Are you so weak? So weak that you would prey on anyone and everyone? So mindless that you can’t see past the lust? Then perhaps you’re unfit for a civilised society. Perhaps YOU need to rethink getting out of your house. Because what you are, is a threat to safety, the safety of all the women out there.  A bane and a curse let loose on all the women around it. You are sick! For the crimes you commit and the pain and humiliation that you put someone through. You’re a coward! One who stoops so low and gives in to such depraved acts. But most of all, what you are, is an abomination! An abomination on man. So until you can control yourself, until you can understand what a no means, you are unfit for society.

Safety is not a privilege that you offer to women. It’s a right. And it’s a right we should be allowed to take for granted. Right now, it’s not. It’s far from being a right. Speak to the women in your life, your sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends and friends. Ask them how they feel when they read this on the paper or see it on the news. Are they outraged? Afraid? Worried? They’re all of the above and more. We angry, angry that we’re not allowed to be independent, that we can’t go where we want and when we want to. Angry because we’re being questioned about what we’re wearing and that we’ve to question ourselves a million times about what we’re wearing before we step out. We’re angry that we are the ones who are being blamed when all we did was exercise our right to freedom. We’re worried, worried for our friends and sisters and mothers, that it might have been them. That it might be them the next time or the time after that. We’re scared, scared that might have been us, that might be us when we go out today. Scared that no one will be able to hear us, hear what we have to say, scared that we may end up as the article on the newspaper or the latest breaking news on TV.

If you’re a man, then know this, there is NO EXCUSE, absolutely none to violate a women’s body or her personal space. It doesn’t matter how she’s dressed, whom she’d with, what time of the day it is or what state you’re in. You may think she’s asking for it but spare her all the same. If it’s not spelt out explicitly then it’s not called asking for it. You resist robbing a bank when you pass it everyday, don’t you? Then I’m sure you can resist raping a woman. You worry for the safety of your mother, sister, girlfriend or friend. Why? Because you care about them. There’s someone who cares about these women too. So back off. Do as you would want done. Shed that mask of anonymity and you’ll find that you care.

If you’re one of our legislators or in the media, stop spreading negative messages. So a Minister said that girls shouldn’t dress provocatively, that’s his opinion. There’s no requirement to broadcast it to the world! We live in a country where the majority is uneducated, such words coming from a person of that stature would influence a lot of minds. They would be inclined to think he’s right and since you’re broadcasting it, then it definitely must be. Be proactive and educate the public. You wield a power in your hands, such as no other! Use it to influence and educate the public. When terrorists infiltrate out soil, we take them out, we don’t put restrictions on the city and discuss what the city did wrong to attract the terrorists. Then why are we penalising the victim here?

To the rest of us, it’s up to us to make a difference in the smallest of ways. To stop being shy and raise our voices. Everyday there are girls who are harassed and bullied. If you’re one of them stand up and stop it. Carry a pin, a knife or any other sharp object. Show them you’re not meek, that you will fight! This somehow takes all the fight out of them. They don’t want someone who’ll fight back, They’re looking for an easy target. They don’t want to put in effort in getting you under control that’s a waste of time. Quick and easy. Safeguard yourself, move in public where there are a lot of people. Scream if the need be, you’re not the one at fault! If you’re a part of a crowd and you see something then do something to stop it. Yell, scream, call the police but make a ruckus so that the person at fault is caught. Stop this crime before it becomes an endemic. One voice is all it takes to start a revolution.Be that voice, or you might as well be nothing at all.

Happy 66th Independence Day!!

Being away from home on Independence day makes a person do weird things. I was all pumped up to watch the Prime Minister’s address at 3:00 am in the morning when I remembered last year and decided to celebrate Independence Day a little differently this year. Thank you Facebook and all my friends who search the web for videos relevant to the day! If it weren’t for you’ll I wouldn’t have found the video that made this year’s Independence Day the most inspiring so far. (Check the video attached. If it doesn’t move or inspire you, you don’t even have the emotional range of a teaspoon!)

I’m not one of those people who suddenly realises the greatness of their motherland on moving to another country. I’ve always loved India and no country could come close to commanding the affection that I have for Mera Bharath Mahan! One thing I do understand now is the reason for the state of our country.

All day today, I’ve read posts about how our country, despite it’s 66 years of freedom, is in strife. About how we’re at war both outside and within our borders, the corruption that is plaguing our government, the loss of law and order, the lack of progress, and the list goes on and on. I’ve also had my rants where I’ve complained above all the above and added a few concerns of my own. But why is that this is all we ever do? Complain?

Roads are not proper – what’s the PWD doing? Eve-teasing – where’s the law and order? Another new government scam – all politicians are thugs! Never do we look for a solution, only look for the next scapegoat. If it’s not within the four walls of my compound then it’s the problem of the government. Well, if it’s the government you want to blame then save your breath and blame yourself first. It’s you who chose the government didn’t you? Or wait a minute, did you? Either way you’re to blame – either for choosing someone incompetent or for letting someone incompetent be chosen.

If you really paused to take a look around, you’ll realise, how many of the things you complain about you can fix by yourself. Take a moment and question yourself – did you pay the tax this year? if you did, were you completely truthful when you filled your taxes? have you ever slowed down for a yellow light? stopped people who were bothering a girl? given your seat to a senior citizen on the bus? Most of these questions will be answered with a no. Why is that? Why are we like this?

We’ve become a timid people. Gone is the fire that raged in the heart of every Indian to overthrow the yoke that was holding them enslaved. Gone is the passion that ignited the minds and souls of the young and old alike, to rise in rebellion against a foreign empire. The fire is now replaced by submission or greed. We either sell ourselves to the highest bidder (yes I’m pointing at you, who said that once you became someone you’d do something but got side tracked by your 5 digit salary, swanky apartment and expensive car) or submit ourselves to the daily grind (and now I’m talking to you, mindless drones, who are satisfied as long as your salary covers your food, gadgets and liquor)

What happened to the land, “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”? We are confined to posting about the greatness of the yesteryear India and cribbing about today’s India. We forget that no nation is perfect. It is up to us, the citizens, to make it perfect. Yes we have our flaws, but which country doesn’t? I’m not being an idealist. Far from it! But if we for a moment reflect on the words of our national anthem as we sing it today, or about the significance of each colour of our Tricolour as it flies high and proud, how can you not feel moved and angered by the condition we’ve confined ourselves to?

We are a free people! But we continue to confine ourselves to the fetters of laziness and indifference while shirking our responsibilities and looking for people to blame for our problems. It is time to break those bonds that chain us to the past and make our own future! Take a stand today and make a difference. Let it be however small a step, but a step it is. Help an old lady cross the road, give your seat to that pregnant lady you see standing, educate a child, the possibilities are endless and the progress immeasurable. We are a land of a billion people. If each of us we to take the tiniest of steps each, imagine the step it is for India. As Neil Armstrong once said, “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.”

Today, I take an oath. I make this promise to my country and myself, that within the next 5 years I WILL make a difference. I am here today because my country has afforded me the right to education and an equality of status. Two rights which seem so common place today but which are still a dream to so many. I will be involved in the uplifting of the women and children of our country. It may just be one woman or child at the end of 5 years but I will have guaranteed my country of at least 1 future. After all, actions are supposed to speak louder than words.

A Moment of Madness

Liberating! The exhilarating moment in which your craving is satisfied. The merest of indulgences into our hearts most ardent desires leaves us all feeling more gratified than we ever have been. Or so we think. Sometimes the urge to satisfy our needs becomes so great as to blind us to all rhyme and reason. We become so gripped and impassioned that all else disappears. It becomes a primal want and we resort to all ends to quench it. We don’t pause to consider the repercussions of our actions. So intoxicated do we get by the heady concoction of these emotions that we lose our ability to think, nay, be human. These emotions when run unabated manipulates you into doing something so completely out-of-character that you later look into the mirror and ask the person staring back at you, “Did I really do that?” But do you deserve punishment for your impassioned crime? The debate stirs up every time a high profile figure in caught indulging red-handed.

One action does not make the man. One act of kindness does not always serve to wipe out an era of cruelty. And yet we say actions make a man. Does that mean he deserves punishment? Or does reprimanding him for his offence, as he pleads for a chance to redeem himself, suffice? How far does one act go to change everything he ever strived for in life. Should his one deed dictate how he should live the rest of his life?

‘Look before you leap’, perhaps one of the most fundamental lessons of life. One that has been passed down for generations. Yet how many of us follow it? Each day we make a hasty decision only to rue over it later. Sometimes our mistakes are negligible and at other they leave an indelible mark on our lives. We are left clutching at the piece that used to be our life. We spend endless hours berating and chiding ourselves for that “small error in judgment”, wondering how different life would be if we hadn’t given in to our fit of passion.

Life is never simple. It has its highs and lows. The trick is to make each of them count. It is not to give into every weak moment and then try to redeem ourselves. If everyone were to give into their “moments of madness” and were it excusable, we wouldn’t need rules. The ability to feel an overwhelming emotion and the decision to keep it in check, that is what sets us apart from other animals. That is what makes us MAN.