Sunday, March 22, 2015

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars

I have been wishing to go star gazing for a while now. Somewhere I can see the black sky dotted with glittering stars...not unlike those shiny dupattas you get, only much finer, much grander.
And I finally got a perfect location for it, 34000 ft. up into the sky. 

Aboard a flight en route to Zurich from Singapore and four hours into it, having finished watching the 'Gone Girl' which by the way is one of the most mind messing movies I have ever seen, I happened to look out of the window.

And what I saw took my breath away; the massive A380 wing stretching impossibly far into the void against the background of the sky of my dreams.

I craned my neck in all possible directions to take in as much of this sky as was possible from the tiny window (literally) of opportunity. The closer stars boldly declared their existence while the ones away just registered their presence before they seemed to disappear. The sheer number of twinkles, the concentration of the starry pinpoints against jet black was overwhelming!

Laws of nature never cease to amaze me. What I was witnessing then was a snapshot of what was. And that it will be millions of years before someone sees what is. 

As I tore my eyes away from the panorama above to look below, there was another sight to behold. I could see a layer of sparse clouds far, far below me, and a lighted up city sprawling erratically till as far as I could see. I switched to ‘Flight Path’ on the screen to identify our location; and what a moment I had chosen to look out of window. Since just then we had entered the Indian air space (above land that is), travelling west from the Bay of Bengal entering the state of Orissa.


I felt a surge affection and longing as only your country can trigger. Distance makes hearts grow fonder took a whole new dimension for me at that altitude. 

I was also less scared, and for sure it wasn't because I was in my motherland, in a way. No, India doesn't evoke a sense of security at any distance and in any direction. It was because I could now visualize our plane flying between the boundary of the sky above which in my imagination was a like a sheet stretched across above us and the golden twinkling landscape below. I am always more scared when I cannot see anything outside the plane window, or worse, when I can see water below.

The fear of unknown manifests itself in strangest ways. 

Am I the only one to feel relieved when I perceive that there are limits around me? Maybe limits isn't the right word. How do I express it? Boundaries? Walls? Cage? Sanctuary?

How primitive is my sense of safety! Lock the gates; lock the car doors on a deserted road. I remember the time I was petrified to step out of the car in a deserted parking lot at midnight. We had driven there to have a glimpse of a star laden sky. But I couldn't get out of the car. It was dark, it was quiet. I couldn't see where the boundaries were and what was within.

Even at 34000 feet, the boundaries of a plane aren't enough.

Did I digress?

Sigh, it is a beautiful night.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I don’t get it. I just don’t. What could possibly be the reason for this? Hurting a child, who is probably not even aware of how is she different from the one who did that to her. A child! What do you do in such a case? What do you talk about? Patriarchy? That cannot lead to this. Progressive attitude of the girl? Revealing clothes? Daring to walk alone? WHAT? What could one possibly attribute this to?

Deranged minds? Psychological disorders? There are a bit too many cases like these to shrug them off giving these reasons.

Solution? Gender sensitization? How the hell does that sensitize people to not rape a child? Girl, OR a boy? A child for god’s sake!

If I ever decide to have a kid, I don’t think I will have the courage to bring a girl into this world. What could possibly justify bringing a being into this world only to be harassed or molested or raped or murdered at some point in her life? How will I let her play outside with her friends? How will I trust her to a relative? How will I keep her safe? How will I let her be?

Friday, September 30, 2011

There and Back Again

You never grow out of home sickness, do you? Rather it grows on you progressively as you grow up. Or maybe it is that you become keener or more aware of what it is that never let you stay for more than a week at your Mausi’s place and run back home. There is of course that bit in you now which irks you with boredom at home, you fidget in the confinement, you crave to get out, but, you always, without fail, yearn to be back…back home.

The whole growing up just prevents you from bawling away and flatly refusing to budge from home or calling up your mother from a strange city and crying your heart out. Only now, you cry when they are not looking, maybe in the kitchen, maybe into the pillow at night. Just that now you realize that your parents when giving you strength to leave home or to stay put in a new place, grow steadily weaker. It is only now you realize how much of their life is about you, or rather all of it is. It is now that you start thinking how unfair that is. Always one for a balanced relationship, you now see how badly out of balance this relationship between parents and their kids is. Not that you care less for them, but while your day will comprise of your family, office, friends and many random people, so much of their day is spent in thinking about you, talking about you amongst themselves or to other people or waiting for that daily call.

Add to that the fact of you being hopeless when it comes to conveying that you care for them. Yours has never been a family of words, but gestures…so when you mother breaks down while making rotis for you, there is little you can do but cry with her. When you father points that today is the last day you are spreading that mattress on the floor to sleep on, with a smile, you can barely manage to say that you are coming back.
You are glad, that you are starting a new job, that you are at the onset of a new life, but you also know that your parents have long ago stopped giving any thought to their own life. It has been about you long ago, your school, your college, your fees, your clothes, your intern, your job, your marriage, your future kids. This should not happen. You know that in the long run you will be able to perhaps make up a bit for all the sacrifices your parents have made for you, but that seems so far…and so impossible to do.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Knot or Noose?

“What are your thoughts on marriage? ” asked my mother, one abysmally humid morning. My mind went into an overdrive immediately. To an innocent bystander, if such a person exists and I have never understood why ever would such a person be around and would be eavesdropping if at all she/he is there, this would seem like an innocent question put by  a mother aimed at making routine conversation  with her daughter, maybe as an endeavor to know her more. But no, this question went much more deep than that, much more intricate were the intentions and it had a sinister connotation to it. It could be roughly translated as, “Right, so we plan to marry you off and we have option(s) but we roughly have the idea as to who we like the best”.

While the cold in my feet slowly began to make its way up, I tried to select an appropriate response among the many that popped up into my head instantly. “Well, it is an interesting concept, I have a good mind to experiment with it sometime in future… maybe”, or “Who have you been talking to? Who knows I am home?” or “I think it’s a horrid way to end your life with a lot of pomp and splendor aimed at feeding people most of whom I don’t even know while the same money could be put to much more sensible uses and I have no intention of going through the ordeal” or the loud and simple childhood claim, “I won’t get married!!!”

“What?” is what came out, with a laugh that faltered on my lips and cold that had now clamped my heart. Things are much better in one’s head are they not? All was not lost though; I would pretend to be tickled to death by the absurdity of such an idea even occurring to her. That should make it evident how preposterous the proposition would be to me if my mother decided to go explicit, or so I thought.

“When do you intend to get married?” There, straight to the point, there was no way around it. But I would be calm, take it easy.

“Is it time yet to talk about that? I am just a graduate! I have not completed my education if that is the news going around! I am yet to do masters in…err…something! Why do people have to assume so much! Why did you let them?!” I broke out vehemently and poof went my decision to take it in my stride. I had broken into a run right away! I am sure my face then bore the marks of being faced with an utmost horror. Well, you can’t blame me…I can at least leave the room when a lizard gets in, but this? There was no way out of this!

It was not entirely unexpected; ever since my elder sister got married I was getting a lot of “You-Are-Next”, accompanied by a grin supposed to convey I am not exactly sure what and a malicious glint in the eyes. To me it is a signal to grimace in return. Seriously what pleasure do relatives take in pointing this out? I was much happier with Arey-Kitni-Badi-Ho-Gayi-Hai! Though really, I have never quite understood the surprise there too, you meet a kid after ten years and if you still expect him/her to be of same size, that is evident lack of imagination and how cruel it would be to the kid if at the age of 20 she/he looks the same she/he did at 10, how unjust is this expectation!  

At a wedding, a birthday party or any family gathering, I could see the throng of my married cousins slowly advancing, some of them holding their kids, the rest after handing over their kids to their respective husbands, and to me it seemed they actually grew taller, more menacing, their grins transformed into cackles of evil laughter, their faces suddenly alight with sadistic pleasure at the sight of one more facing the gallows! I cowered and before they could get me, I would get a sudden call on my cell and run for cover, get me an invisibility cloak someone please!

“I am just asking, what are your plans?” she was never the one to give up so easily.

“It does not figure in my plan. Who have you been talking to? Anyway, please do not go ahead with anything, can’t you just tell people I am too young?”

“You are not.”

“Fine. But do not take any move until and unless I express a wish to be slaughtered thus.”

I was waiting for Mum to strike back, she did not. Phew! Now the question, who? I was sure this was not the end of it, there would be more to come. I asked my eldest sister that evening. 

A little investigation brought to light the entire matter. It was the random doctor we met in Vrindavan who generously offered my mother to contact him regarding my that-which-cannot-be-named, whenever she had a mind to, he knew an obviously-well-educated-and-rich family in Noida with an obviously-highly-eligible-bachelor son working in Bangalore (where else!). It was also my Sister’s-Father-in-law’s-Brother’s-wife who had an offer of a guy in wait-for-it Bangalore! Seriously, why is everyone in Bangalore!? That poor city will explode! It was also my Brother-in-law’s-Mother’s-Sister’s-Daughter’s-Husband who also exhibiting the highest consideration for the plight of my parents having an unmarried daughter on their hands offered to share his knowledge of an eligible bachelor in of course, Bangalore!

It took me a while to overcome my bewilderment at the mind boggling extent of this ever burgeoning marriage market! I mean, what does it thrive on? Surely it can’t be just the future prospect of a free dinner and a position of high prominence in the two affected families as The-One-Who-Made-It-All-Happen! What is it that makes them willing to accept the overwhelming responsibility of vouching for the decency of one family to the other, the daunting prospect of being the first to be blamed and taken to task lest the match does not work well, for again he/she is The-One-Who-Made-It-All-Happen! No, I am not against the whole system, far be it from me to say a word against these noble women and men working tirelessly for others' benefit, if only in this respect. It works largely well for those interested…interested being the keyword here.

I just wish there was some sign, you know, which signaled that the particular guy/girl was ready to tie the knot( what a depressing and ominous expression!) Maybe something like a particular candidate making a public appearance wearing a white handkerchief on her/his arm, a sign of surrender. But I understand that could be embarrassing; maybe something subtle then, like when the mother cleverly lets something slip. But this unasked for assault does little for the peace of mind of those who suddenly find themselves the unwilling centre of attention owing to nothing but the virtue of their being the Next-In-Line! Who formed this line in the first place?!

As I had anticipated, there was more to come, but that my sisters would betray me had not yet occurred to me, but well, they did. The week when both my sisters were home, there were moments when I was in physical pain! My mother, father and both my sisters (most appallingly) would sit in a room discussing the Rishte. I would run out of the room but not before registering my severe disapproval and utter disdain for the entire discussion, to no avail of course.

“Humour yourself. I will run away if you try to force me into something!” I know they do not take me seriously but well, they have been warned.

Anyway, I knew now I had to be cautious. Just the previous morning I went to this grocery store, Naval-Uncle-Ki-Dukaan, where I have been going since childhood.

“So you are at home now? Your studies are over?” inquired Naval Uncle with that all too familiar raised eyebrow.

I was pained. I am sure Caesar would have felt the same when Brutus stabbed him. But no, I won’t give up like Caesar did, besides, this was no Brutus!

“Nahin Uncle, of course not! I am home only for holidays! There is ample time for that!”

Seriously, maybe I should get all these people Idea 3G, you know, get them bijji! On a different note, brilliant Ad! 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Are You There?

Right. So, how have you been and how are you? Long time eh? 10 are 32 now! Gosh!

How have you changed? Or have you changed? I am trying to remember exactly when it was that you gained so much importance. When in teens, all that future consisted of were a few exotic and happy images painted in an untroubled mind. I know better now. I guess it was when I started using the phrase going-out-into-the-world that my growing up process was triggered, quite a pain really. But I don’t deem I have yet. I have been going-out-in-the-world at each step ever since I first left home for Kota.  It never happens does it? This whole going-out-into the-world thing. The world is just too big. Too cruel. I always create a cocoon around me at each new destination. A miniature version of what I envision as the big bad world. A few friends, many enemies. I revel in it; I agonize and cause agony in it. There is chaos theory naturally, and I know these small spheres must all intersect with each other. I know not how though. But this does not concern me as each time I meticulously build a private orb. And every time I need to break out of it, it calls for courage and causes apprehension as much as it did the first time.

Anyway, you must look pretty different...or do you? Yeah alright, that was a euphemised way to refer to the whole process and I must stop kidding myself. It’s a wee bit early for me to be afraid of the Turning 30, so I will assume that you are handling the associated blues alright, if at all you suffered from any. For now, 25 seems threateningly close. Then I remind myself, it’s the time I took moving from class X to out of school. That’s time enough. Do you still retain the habit of visualizing time thus?

What do you think about me now? I remember how I felt when I joined IIT Roorkee three and a half years back, all ready to grow up. In fact, I believed I was already and thought the school self of me so juvenile.... I just read an article I wrote then about all the transformations college life brings in. Three months here and I was talking about not trusting people, carving an identity, doing something worthwhile in an IIT. I sound pretty dumb really, assuming so much so soon. Nevertheless, it’s easy to perceive the underlying tranquillity. It was a self I longingly look back to just three years later. Is that how I sound to you now?

I realize how naive I was, just like I refer to my school self in the article. I have committed blunders since then, they appear quite funny now in retrospect eh? Some happened in full consciousness and mostly in a way they usually do. They just do. I get so lost in the vision of how I expect something to turn out as, that I ignore the obvious warnings. But then, that is the way it has been with me, don’t you agree? I can never learn by applying logics, inventing situations and analysing my reactions, in my head. Not until something hits smack on the top of it that I learn. Not until it cracks open that I do. I do hope you are quicker now. 

Are you smiling reading this...thinking I have it so easy now? Do you want to come back to this? I wonder...when is it that we stop growing up? I hope we do some time, it is bad enough already.
Or is it the contrary? Do you think I have been hopelessly hopeless? That I am far from being wise for my age? Have you learnt to let go then? Have you learnt to be consciously happy?
Heck, so have you realized what this word ‘happy’ means then? I am nowhere close. I definitely can discern when I was or am happier, by a comparison against some spell when I was miserable. In an absolute sense, I just can’t make sense of the word. Everything is Relative. Every Single Goddamn Thing. Remember how I have always wanted to live in the present? Sigh.  Of late, it has not been possible without an eye on you, on the future. I am sure quite a lot of things I am worried about currently have been resolved by now only to be replaced by something deadlier or so must appear to you. Seriously, can you believe how much we wanted to grow up back...10 years for me, 20 for you?

How are Mum and Pa? I am assuming they are with you, I dare not think otherwise.  Did you manage to express how much they mean to you? I wish I could tell them. It is strange you know, being an extrovert and not able to tell my own parents how much I love them. Well, they definitely must not think of you as a kid anymore. Is that a relief?

You know me well, so I am leaving a few questions unasked. Surely you must know to what all I am referring to or have you forgotten me already?

This will do for now. Don’t worry too much about when you are 42. Take care of yourself and Mum and Pa.

By the way, I hope you are alive.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Precious....

As I take a quick flashback look at the last twenty two years, it’s a confused and unfocussed vision, a blur of the flurry of events and people hurrying by; all that which has left an indelible mark on me, be it in the way of a lesson learnt or just a memory earned! Change is an inevitable part of growing up; a process longingly looked forward to in childhood and wistfully looked back at later. Not that all the changes are unwelcome but they make life unnervingly vague. Even my family has undergone a transformation especially in their opinions of the world around and of me. They previously thought I was a rebellious nuisance, now they think I am an uncontrollable one.

One part of my journey so far stands out, unmoved, unabashed, and magnificent as it looms large in my memory, with all the assurance of its constancy in a forever changing life and its patterns, and with all the sense of protection it has never failed to offer me against everything, even myself. My house. Going home spells going back to this 300 or so square feet area as much as it does going back to my family.

I have grown out of boycut and rasna cut hair, dividers and frilly frocks, lollipops and Parle G toffees. I have progressed from a tantrum throwing child and a tiresome adolescent to a (hopefully) mature girl. But more importantly, I have also grown from laying down a claim to a single compartment in the cupboards to possessing them completely, from sleeping with my parents I gradually started to sleep alone in a room. These were the small and hardly compensating benefits of elder sisters leaving the house. This room which I proudly call my own is something or rather the only thing now, about which I am dangerously possessive. The only traces it retains of my sisters are the medical science books of one in my ‘study’ cupboard and a painting by the eldest above it. I wonder how they felt about it when I meticulously transformed their erstwhile domain into my own bearing my unmistakable signatures, literally and figuratively, all over it taking little care when I destroyed theirs. I was furious, for being left alone but I was delighted for I could finally realize my dream of ‘my room’.

Going out into the world, as it is called, heralded an era of metamorphosis into something I had and still have little vision or idea about. It marked the end of childhood and a beginning of the realization that after all, being a kid was perhaps the best thing that could ever happen to me and I’d rather not grow up as I so wanted to. Amidst the uncertainty which forever shrouds me, a visit, however brief, to this haven never fails to rejuvenate me. Returning home to find my room exactly as I had left it gives me a happiness surpassed by few other things. I wonder how my sisters felt when I took this away from them in my naivety. I do regret it now. They never said anything, but then, I have always been a tad pampered and I am pretty glad about it.

 It is only here, in this house, that I can be content with doing nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, not even thinking. I love its wide spaces. I love the fact that every wall is at least 1.5 feet thick and has a window or a gate in it. It was constructed way back in the 50s with little thought to privacy but a lot to cross ventilation and stuff. The fact that the passage to the interior of house, for anyone not content or distant enough to be restricted to the drawing room, goes through my room has always irked me but we have never had too many visitors whom I would not gladly invite in.

I refused to get the cupboards painted from inside, they are covered with my scribbling and postcards. Some I wrote for inspiration, some in desperation and some to vent out my anger. One I wrote when my eldest sister got married and left me thoroughly miserable. I can easily visualize my entire childhood in these scribbles. I can see how my hand writing changed over time. Once in a fit of I-don’t-know what, I decided to paste pistachio shells around a window in my room and then paint them. Quite predictably, my patience gave away before I could paste half of them and there they remained for over four years before Mum and Pa finally got them down for aesthetics sake.

The posters, sketch books, cards, collection of erasers, stickers, key rings, pens, stamps, the 52 certificates, report cards, and all the books that I have ever possessed are all that remain of that bygone world. I do not live in the past, but I do preserve it. Every time I go back, I never fail to go through one or all of these, for a stroll back into that time. I am struggling to describe the exact effects it has on me. It calms me down, amuses me, motivates me....
I have my favourite places. The corner in the drawing room secluded by the sofa where I snuggle for a quiet reading or retreat for a few silent sobs. The window sills. The chair in the veranda inside on which I love to stretch out with feet popped up on the wooden divan alongside it. I remember the patterns paint has etched on the doors. I love the fact that it has five terraces and three courtyards in all. I love the fact that it is so old, a few on its walls get damp in rains and the tiles in the courtyard, the inside one, have swollen up to form a very small mound due to the same reason. I never would have thought possible that even stones can be so accommodating and flexible. The roof leaks at times in rains when the leaves from the peepal trees, which surround the house on three sides clog the drains.

I can’t even begin to think how will it be going back to a different house, or will it ever be same. I cannot bear the thought of it being demolished. It never failed me, but I have. I do not know the day which would me my last there. Perhaps, that would be day when the mound would finally burst open.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Infliction of a Life.

I feel humiliated every day, as I mark my attendance in this God Damn hostel. I feel humiliated when I see the lock being put on the door. I feel humiliated every time a security guard finds it in his right to tell me what and what not to do, where or where not to sit or stand, when or when not to arrive in the campus or hostel. All this for propriety sake and who define the propriety? Those who exploit it. Guards letch, policemen rape and the administration is not untarnished either. What kind of perverse mind makes a group of four guys and girls sitting on the library steps shady, inappropriate or offensive is beyond my understanding.

Reason being? Safety. From Whom? From the very guy(s) sitting with me, whom I have trusted to be decent. But of course, girls do not have the sense for that now, do they? I have to be protected from the people I believe to be safe with. The fact that they seek to prevent something which is by the agreement of both sides and always fail to even appear when it is unwilling makes the situation all the more ridiculous.

Besides, the very hormones they seem to suspect, I wonder what makes them sure of those produced by the ones employed to suspect or their own for that matter. I definitely am not. The guard at the library entrance, given the duty of ‘checking’ out, quite literally from top to bottom makes my skin crawl. Every time I pass through any of the campus' gates, I am painfully aware of security guards’ shamelessly unwavering gaze.

The fact that our administration believes in enforcing of security by caging in the endangered rather than impeding the pursuer has been embedded so firmly in the minds that the guards have assumed all the rights to rectify any girl and in any way. They snigger as I pass, pass lewd comments when going by on a cycle and have the nerve to warn me against reaching my hostel after 10 PM. Needless to say that to prevent anyone else from doing so is something not of their concern but of course they take sufficient care to point out our fault in being present at that place.

Also, what is so grossly wrong in two full grown adults deciding to spend time together, and why are they not given the choice of how they want to spend it so long as it does not defy the acceptable normal forms of social behaviour. They can anyway do whatever they want, I wonder if the administration comprises of too genuinely and abysmally dumb contingent to know this, or that these rules are the product of their frustration on the realization of this fact.

Yes, I am fully aware of my vulnerability but I would like to have the right to take care of it myself and count upon the administration to make it safe for me to do so. I can be trusted not to venture alone on a deserted road, I do not need to be told not to. But even if I do, I would like to believe that I have every right to do so and I have the support of people being paid for it.

If I stay out of hostel after 10, alone or with any guy, that should be my choice. What I choose to do should be my discretion. I defer the rights of defining morality for me to no one. And yet, I have the care takers dictating me on every corner. The sheer insanity, unfairness and illogicality of the situation eats my insides with rage and make me want to rip apart the person before me, piece by piece.

In my opinion, it is more of an exercising control thing than any genuine concern for the person. The wardens and the supervisors employed in a girls’ hostel have come to consider it as their kingdom where they are the queens. It is a sadistic pleasure they derive out of making the girls miserable to spice up their hopelessly mundane lives. Who does not crave authority? Oh what a thrill it gives them to call up our parents to insult them when we are late and demand an apology letter. If a male worker letches on a girl, it is of course the girl’s fault in wearing shorts. If a thief steals, it is the fault of the victim that she left her clothes out to dry. This campus abounds with pathetic rulers, too impotent to do anything that calls for a bit of effort.

All this but, much pain though it causes me, is bliss. I read what goes on in the world beyond. That women’s bodies are a site of punishment to the male members of the family is a thought that makes me want to hunt down every man with this mindset and turn him into an eunuch. It starts at the elementary level, where it is the mothers and the sisters who are targeted whenever an abuse is to be hurtled at some guy. The fact that I serve as a warning to my father on certain occasions makes me want to disappear.

The instances of gang-rapes, performed in the presence of police, ministers and most agonizingly the sons, brothers, husband or father of the woman are too frequent to be considered as a work of few disturbed minds, it is a carefully developed system, nurturing on the way our society is fabricated and functions. I am too paralyzed by the thought to express the anguish it causes or to write any further.

I wonder at the solution of it…and I see none. I am left to live with my helplessness and slowly wither inside.

I cannot be a woman. I do not want to be a man. I'd rather not exist.