Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A long wait for justice and for equality

It has been two years since that gruesome incident. Dec 16, 2012.  This date will forever remain etched in our memories because on this day, a young girl was brutally assaulted and thrown out of the bus to die – an incident that made us wake up to the fact as to how some human beings can don the soul of demons. The girl, whom the media called as ‘braveheart’ died soon after, leaving her family and the whole nation shocked and helpless. Huge furore ensued, politicians made high promises, candle marches and protests followed everywhere. Now what after two years? Of the five accused, one relaxes in a juvenile home because he had not attained age 18 at the time of the crime. He could rape a woman, brutalise her and help his friends do the same, he could be a heartless criminal that day but his blatant cruelty was forgiven because he was few days short of turning 18.
Another accused hanged himself in jail. The remaining four are still in jail, perhaps enjoying their days. Will they ever be punished for this inhumane, cruel and barbaric act? God alone knows.
This is the state of affairs of our country when it comes to punishing criminals. Since December 16, 2012, there have been numerous reports of rapes and atrocities against women. Some saw these reports as a positive sign that now more women were reporting the matter to police. Really? Then what? What is the conviction rate in such cases? Abysmally low.
Image source: http://bit.ly/1ABADEY
Rapes do not occur just for lust. A rape is a show of power and fearlessness. The power to show that as a man, he is capable of forcing himself on any woman and fearlessness that emerges from the fact that nothing happens to rapists. It is the victim who is always marignalised, blamed and punished by the society for no fault of hers. Our system does nothing to help but by making her wait for years for justice and making her repeat the ordeal that she wishes to forget, every day before an audience, only add to her trauma.
There isn’t any one solution to the whole issue. India has always been a patriarchal society and even today, when examples of women achievers are taken with pride, women continue to suffer because they are ‘women’.  Hope the law becomes such a deterrent that any man would dread to touch a woman without her permission. Laws and our system need to change so that it becomes victim friendly and not accused favouring. There should be a deadline for convicting rape cases. It should not stretch for years. A rape is equivalent to a murder because most of the victims never get a chance to lead a normal life again. She is mocked, criticised and looked with doubtful eyes for the rest of her life. Hence such criminals should be considered as murders and punishment should be harsh and quick.
The second step lies with each household and each parent. It is necessary to start a campaign by each Indian to protest against rapes and this campaign should start from the cradle till grave.  I mean, that at each step, there needs to be awareness. Children right from the cradle need to be taught that boys and girls are equal. Toys need not be gender specific. Let boys play with dolls if they wish to and allow the girls to play with cars if such toys make them happy. Don’t tell ‘Boys don’t cry’ or do not ask him ‘why are you behaving like a girl’. Please do not tell girls that they need to cook because they have to get married one day. Stereotype thinking leads to a stubborn mindset. It is these boys who grow up and believe that just because they were born boys, they have the right to humiliate any one and especially women.
Let every girl in each village and city educate herself and be raised as empowered individuals and not just as empowered women. Let us also forget some age-old thinking that only sons can do final rites of their father. Stop accepting and giving dowry.  Do away with gender stereotyping.  Only when a boy sees that there is no difference between him and his sister and the girls in his school that he will grow up and realise that women are no different and that they are a human being as he is.
This might be a long process ahead but can we at least start now?

Rapes and treating women as second class citizens will continue as long as there is no fear of law and there is this vast difference between how a male and a female child are raised. The government and our justice system will have to wake up and realize that they cannot afford to sleep over the matter because with the kind of atrocities against women are going on, if democracy and justice remain mute spectators, the day will not far when their will be complete anarchy with criminals ruling the roost and the country going to dogs.  Politicians, please worry, for you all will be the ones who will suffer the most because most of us, citizens, are anyway living in such a situation. 

Monday, 8 December 2014

A Reunion

After writing about having no friends on a Friendship Day, little did I know that I will actually get to meet my old school friends. One day, I get a call and since it was an unknown number, I did not bother to answer the call, thinking that it might be one of those promotional calls. Then came the call again and this time I answered it and Lo! it was my school friend Chetna. She, as usual, started with abuses and I should say I really enjoyed them. Then, as the enterprising girl she has always been, she soon formed a group on What’s App and soon I was talking to more of my school friends. And I did not know Beena was staying so close to my house for years! We could not hide our excitement and quickly we decided to meet. And after 14 years or so, we three finally met and we laughed so aloud together that those around us gave nasty glances and we talked so much that we did not even bother to look at the clock.
Image source: http://bit.ly/1sbl0j6 

There, we were, like a bunch of school kids and for the first time, I was not feeling conscious or awkward. In fact, I did not even look at anyone around me and for me, those moments, I only had me and my two sweet friends in the whole word. I could not wait to meet them again. It was then I realised that no matter how far you come in life and how many friends you make later, it is only your school friends that are your true friends. They do not judge you and do not care how fussy you look, or how clumsy you are because they have been friends with you when you were ‘real’. In school, you do not put up an image of yours and you behave the way you are and there are no pretensions. You just are the way you should be and your school mates love you for that. Then, there was no jealousy during those times. If you got more marks than others, nobody bothered and if you wanted to study or write when others around wanted to chat, they allowed your space. In fact, if you look back at your school days, you can catch up on so many values of life.

Since we belonged to that generation who grew up without internet and mobiles,  we knew only that much that our parents or teachers told us. We also had so much respect for our teachers and they in fact, loved us so much that I remember, in one of my tests, I did not do that well and my history teacher gave me such a stern look. They cared for us and protected us in every step. During picnics, they always had an eye on us to see that we were safe.
As school mates, we never went out to eat or catch a movie, hardly visited each other’s home but yet we were there for each other, when we needed notes or any other help. Perhaps, that was an age of innocence and we are grateful we belonged to that generation. Thank God, for that life, with little money and no gadgets, because we could be what we should have.
Today, all of us are settled in our own life and I am happy to see that all of us are happy and content in our life with family and children. Hi friends, I can’t wait for another get-together, for I want to be a school girl again and I want to laugh as if nobody is watching, I want to scream and talk as if nobody is listening. I want to be in the company of old mates with whom I can be what I am and unlike in that oil ad, where a woman has to groom herself before her reunion, I can show off my greys and my imperfections because I know my friends do not see them. They see and love ‘ME’.

For my friends, a poem that I love.. from the internet, author unknown:

Written with a pen, sealed with a kiss,
If your my friend, please answer this:
Are we Friends or are we not?
You told me once But i forgot.
So tell me now And tell me true.
So i can say...."I’m here for you
Of all the friends I’ve ever met,
you're the one i won't forget.
And if I die Before you do,
I'll go to heaven And wait for you

I'll give the angels Back their wings
And risk the loss Of everything.
Just to prove my Friendship is true..
to have a friend like you!

Friday, 10 October 2014

My write up on http://www.sparkthemagazine.com/   (October 2014 issue)

Living with desire

(paste the link on your browser to go to the page)  


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Yeh dosti…hum nahin chodenge..

Today is August 3, Friendship Day. How does someone like me will celebrate it? Someone like me - a person who really does not have too many friends. Or do I? I have friends on Whats App, I am in touch with some ex colleagues of mine and I had a best friend. I mean I had a friend who I had met when I had just joined college, somewhere in 1992. We were friends till 2014. That’s 22 long years. For some period, we weren't in touch but somehow we managed to join the missing dots. But this friendship day, we might not wish each other because new dots have cropped up amidst us and this time the dots seem to be a jigsaw puzzle.

Yet, this Friendship Day, I want to reminisce about friendships and pay an ode to true and lasting friendships. Friends, the word conjures up images of fun, excitement, togetherness and what not. The saying goes, blood is thicker but when it comes to friendship, the thickness of blood really doesn't matter. When you are young, friends are needed as help, or as a partner in roaming about aimlessly. But as you grow older, they become a part of you. With them, you can be as you are. It develops into a bond where even silence is understood.  After you have your own family and kids, these friends become guides and note points. You want them to share stories of motherhood, sometimes cheerful stories but sometimes about the pain. And when you grow older? Perhaps, that’s the time you really need a friend to talk to when no one else has the time to talk to you. May be a time will come when one of you might never be able to speak anymore and might bid adieu to this world first, yet, the memories remain and may be, they nudge you to go further in the journey albeit alone so that soon you will reach the end and there you may find your old friend standing, with a smile to welcome you. Perhaps, that’s the beginning of a new journey.  A step into a new world, reuniting with your old friend again.

So, this Friendship Day, wishing all those who have won new friends, and those who have lost old ones, and those who are yet to taste real friendship and those who have been betrayed and those who have been blessed with true friends, - wishing everyone a Happy Friendship Day. Make more friends and fewer enemies. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Balcony Musings

I am at home staring outside through my wide windows at the pouring rains. Rains indeed evoke many feelings in people – romance, first love, loneliness, happiness, despair, lost love, hope and so many other emotions.  Yet, we all love to stand and stare at rains… Rains and balcony have such an inter-connection.  It is as if there is no better or more suitable place than a balcony to watch downpour. Perhaps, that’s the reason why characters from literature and films are shown standing in a balcony staring longingly at rains. Think of how many songs from Hindi films were picturised like that? I have loved fairy tales in childhood and that paved way for romantic tales during teen years, especially the Mills & Boons type. Balconies feature prominently in these stories, be it Rapunzel, Cinderella or the beauty from the romantic novels, they all had a balcony through which their romance could bloom. And yes, the epic love story, Romeo and Juliet, where the balcony was the focal point?
So, I admit I love balcony and I stare yearningly at any houses with balcony. It is another matter that sometimes, the elderly gentleman at the balcony has given me curious glances and may be suspected my action.  Yet, my love for the quintessential balcony continues. Sadly, my home doesn’t have a balcony. And I miss it. That is why, it’s been an ambition, an aspiration, a hope that I will one day have a home with a lavish and spacious balcony. 

Image source: bit.ly/1wyb6K6

That reminds me of a story which a friend had narrated to me years ago. About a lovely girl who used to sit in her balcony and sit there for hours. One day she caught the attention of a handsome boy and slowly they fell in love, just through glances. And one day, he saw her outside her house… in a wheel chair. Did the boy continue to lover her after that? I do not remember how the story ended but as the ever optimistic and romantic person, I would love to believe that they both lived happily together.
There are other sides to a balcony too other than just staring out. When people sit in the balcony just immersed in thoughts, aren’t they giving some importance to themselves in this busy life? Today people are so busy, they really do not have ‘time to stand and stare’. There is no time to analyse one’s own life or think about family and friends. Who knows this ‘balcony time’ will actually enable some of them at least to mend their relationships or even counsel themselves?
There’s a grouse – today houses are so small that people are eager to enclose whatever space is around. That is why many like to demolish balconies and enclose the space so as to enlarge their drawing or bed rooms. That is sad. Many buildings do not even have balconies to speak of. Hope all houses get the benefit of a balcony albeit small.  Let all of us spend some time doing nothing but just stare admirably at rains rather than cursing it sitting inside stranded local trains, just sit and think about the sorry that we did not say, a thank you we did not mention or a hello that we missed out because we thought we were hurt.  Let us all do it…

Thursday, 30 January 2014

My short story

My short story 'Returning Home' was published on www.womensweb.in as a part of a contest. Only 5 best entries were published. Glad to say mine was one of them!!
Here is the link to the story: