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Monday, 3 September 2018

Cruel Confessions I

It was around half past nine in the morning. Thanks to the blazing heat of the sun it seemed like noon. She stepped out of her friend's apartment. She was in a hurry to go back home. She could feel him behind her. She turned. He smiled and graciously offered to walk her to the bus stop. She complied. It was as if someone had turned on a switch in the last twenty four hours. She was in the "complying mode". After a bitter spat of close to two days, she has complied with her boyfriend's final declaration - "I will only speak to you again if I want to and that too when I want to; if at all I ever want to."
She thought it would be alright, she could take silence from him for a couple of days. She pretended to be fine and emptied half a bottle of the oldest of monks. She pretended to be fine and puffed out two packets of smoke into the air. She pretended to be fine, until a friend asked her, "Is everything alight?" The torn heart broke its stony silence in the comforting words of a friend. His encouraging and generous words helped her boost her confidence. She realised all was not lost with her relationship and began to think of ways to end the right. She remembered the liquor hitting her hard and she remembered him offering to drop her home. "No, I am too high to go back home. Take me to a friend's place." She retorted in her drunken stupor.
"Do you know whose place you want to go to?"
"Yes, here's her number. Call her and tell her I am coming over."
A few minutes later, he called her a cab and took her to her friend's place. She remembered reaching there, hugging her friend and clumsily making a room for herself on the living room couch. Before passing out she heard her friend inviting him to stay over as well.
"Hello! What are you thinking?", he said in a sing song voice, waving his hands in front of her. Her reverie broke and she found herself facing the face of a friend. She made an expression indicating a bad hangover.
"Come on! Let's go. You will be fine."
She smiled and sighed, not sure which one of them bore testimony to her true feelings. She adjusted her shades and stepped out.
A few minutes later in the bus, she began recollecting the events of the night before. She remembered calling for her boyfriend and then eventually passing out amidst the laughter and energetic conversations of the people around her.
She remembered suddenly been woken up again by the feeling of something on her. The room seemed dark and everything was quiet. Probably everyone had turned in. She felt uncomfortable and tried to move. It was then she realised that something was moving on her. In the faint light of the street lamps that flickered through the window, she was her friend on top of her. It was him alright, but there was something different about his eyes. She could see no comfort and safety there; no not any more. The eyes spoke of hunger, he himself reeked of liquor and lust. Still heavily dazed by the effect of alcohol, she somehow managed to push him off her and rushed to the other couch. The enveloping darkness and constant swooning prevented her from locating the door. He almost pounced on her like a beast and pinned her down on the other couch.
"Come on, you know you want it. You know your relationship is over. It's fine!", he whispered reassuringly in her ears.
"No, no! This feels wrong. I love him. What about you? What about your girlfriend?"
"My relationship is a mess. She doesn't let me touch her, feel her, fuck her. It's dead from my part. Come on, you know you deserve better, what we are doing is nothing wrong. Come on!"
"But, I don't want too..." Her voice trailed off unheard somewhere in the pressing silence of the darkness.
While his words imitated a convincing tone, his body did not stop ravishing her. She lay like a stone, mulling over what he was saying. She remembered what her boyfriend had told her, "I will speak to you if I ever want to again..."
"It's over then.", thought her fatigued brain. And then she began to feel the physical pain being 'showered' on her. She tried to break free, but that earned her more pain. She wanted him to stop. She wanted the voices in her head to stop - comments, assertions, declarations all pounded her soul. Their din had almost reached a crescendo. It was at that moment the prey submitted itself to the beast. She submitted and complied to his every fetish. She didn't know what was the greater reason behind their 'transgression' - the fact that she believed her relationship was over or that she just wanted him to stop.
The bus was approaching her stop. She quickly dabbed the single tear rolling down her cheek and got off. She went home and slowly made her way to the washroom. She faced the mirror and opened her shades and sweater. A girl covered with red-blue bruises around her neck and swollen red eyes stared back at her. She realised she was bleeding. She washed her face, adjusted her clothes and called up her boyfriend, requesting him to meet her for the last time. The cool and calm voice of an otherwise chirpy girl, frightened her boyfriend. He agreed. She stepped out of the washroom, went to her family and confided in them. She refused to disclose the name of the friend. She believed it was transgression on her part and thus took responsibility for her actions. She apologised to them and stepped out to meet her boyfriend.
They met. He stared at her puffy eyes. She quickly put on her shades and with tears rolling down her cheeks, she told him everything that she had done. She told him how she had transgressed the boundaries of the relationship. She apologised to him over and over again. He stared at her, disbelief written all over his face.
"Please tell me nothing like this happened.", he murmured softly.
"It did. It did! I am so sorry!"
He put on his shades and walked away. She stared at the receding figure, until she could see him no more.
She called her friends. She met them and told them everything. She apologised to them for her transgression. Everyone stared at her in disbelief. "You? How could you do something like this?"
On her part, neither could she really understand how she could have done something like this. This was so unlike her. Her boyfriend called her up that night to talk. They talked for hours, days and days rolled into weeks. He accepted his share of responsibility for the decadence of their relationship. They agreed to work it out. They fought and fought for what seemed like eternity, but finally made peace. He promised her everything would be okay. She felt guilty. She felt she had not apologised enough. She apologised over and over again until he asked her not to anymore. All went back to being picture perfect. She felt the ray of hope slowly spreading back on her life.
However, it still bothered her how she could have done something like this. She kept on asking herself from time to time. It was almost more than a year later that she found her answer. She realised that every drunken 'transgression' is not consensual, even though apparently might appear to be so. She realised the mind could be tricked into believing that you are equally participating in something in order to shield the more treacherous pain, a pain that comes from being mutilated, a pain that comes from being taken advantage of, a pain that comes from being treated as an object of lust instead of as a friend, a pain that comes from being ravaged by a friend, the pain of a broken trust. It was not her fault that the comforting shoulder of a friend would transpire into the hands of a lusty beast at night. It was then she realised that she owed an apology to herself. An apology for being a bad judge of character, an apology for taking the wrong decision. She finally understood that it was not her fault; there was no transgression from her end. It was hard to admit it and come to terms with it, but she apologised to herself for not admitting what had truly happened with her - an assault. 

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Little myths steeped in oppression: the question of homecoming

Small conversations often give you a lot to think about, and that is precisely what happened yesterday.
I had gone to visit my parents for the nabami evening. My parents are both quite active these days in the durga puja preparations and execution in your locality. My father I guess spends hours at the pandal because of the fun and the photographs he gets to click, whereas my mother, who has always been a partially devout worshipper, directly participates in the preparations of the puja. While having a light conversation with her yesterday, she casually mentioned that a woman at the locality had expressed concerns that Shiva was nowhere visible in the pandal decorations. My mother’s guess was that the tiny picture of Shiva that always hangs at the top of Ma durga’s idol had somehow been hidden from the view for sake of the pandal decorations. All in all the point was, how can you have a proper puja without Shiva being present there!
Well my point is, you can and you should. There is a very simple story surrounding Durga puja, that every married Indian woman will be able to relate to. It is believed that Durga leaves her heavenly abode at the Kailash along with her four children and travels to her parents’ house and stays there for the four days and then again journeys for her husband’s home on Dashami, or the last day of the festival. Okay, so that considered why on Earth (or heaven?) do we celebrate her by showing her as the one defeats evil (Mahisasura here being the evil one)? It could have well been a joyous homecoming celebration- a daughter coming back to her home.

Then again, there is another story about Durga herself which we so often get to here on the wee hours of Mahalaya. Durga was created by the Gods themselves and each endowed her with one weapon each (the ten weapons in ten of her hands), in order to defeat the evil Mahisasura who was wrecking havoc on Earth. Now who or what does Mahisasura is a separate question altogether, but just to keep it simple let’s just presume that Mahisasura here is the evil one and he is destroyed by the power of Durga.

So if you round up the two stories then Durga comes home with her four children and she is celebrated for being the one to vanquish evil from Earth. However, when we here about the story of the creation of Durga, there is no mention whatsoever of her bearing children, let alone be married to Shiva. Shiva is the one who presents her with the trident with which she defeats Mahisasura, but that’s just it. She till date stands as the epitome of the celebration of the power of a woman, but then again how do you fit in the image of woman who is to worshipped being moulded into one who conveniently fits into the social norms surrounding the functions, responsibility and more importantly identity of an ideal Indian woman? Why of course! Domesticate her. This is exactly where the question of her children and her being married to Shiva comes in. To be more precise, as far as myths go, Shiva was married to a woman named Sati. So technically as far as myths go, Shiva is a grieving widower. So it all pans out every conveniently. We have a widower on one hand and a woman who symbolises power and a free spirit (but how can she be kept free for long? A free woman is bound to wreck havoc if she is allowed to run lose, right?), on the other. So the most practical (?) of all arrangements were made- she was married off to Shiva, initiated into motherhood by propping four children and as far as myths go, given a new name Parvati. So from the inaccessible one (Durga) she became the one who dwells in mountains (Parvati). Thus a woman who is the slayer of evil and a free spirit roaming here and there, she is domesticated and confined as a woman who lives in the hills by marrying her off to Shiva- in short she becomes domesticated. And hence today when we celebrate her power we place her in a domestic setting- defeating evil on one hand, keeping her children company in the other and of course with her husband watching over her! When and how this practise started is an uncertain one and the fact that there are many stories of the Ramayana too interspersed with the practise of celebrating Durga’s power, makes it difficult to pin point a single narrative.
Whatever the story might have been the woman that we worship today is a one who is loyal, strictly bound and watched over by her husband. And while she is raising four children she is also busy curbing the evil that so called threatens humanity. Sounds familiar? Ah the too well heard chant of your family members- you are supposed to work and manage the household equally effectively, women are stronger than men and they can do both etc etc.
So next time when you worship Durga, decide which woman do you want to worship- the one with a free soul and powerful will to defeat all evil or the one who is picture of a modern and working woman, created by the oh so well planned ploys of patriarchy. The point is not to judge the choice, but rather to make an informed choice and if need be asking the questions that need to be asked.
Subhoya Bijoya...

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

It’s all in the mind, baby...
I would like to start off with a problem that has been bothering me for a long time lately. I am, what might call it, exposed to a very “liberal” atmosphere, so far as my academic institution is concerned and luckily my environment at home is also conducive to practising “free thinking”. But people more often than not confuse certain acts that are regressive to their own health as acts of liberation. The thing that has been bothering me is the issue of consumption of cigarettes by women.
Virginia Slims was launched in 1968 by the Altria Group. Its target group was young working women. More slim and sexy in appearance, the first tag line of this brand was “You’ve come a long way, baby.” I would point out here, that America and some other parts of the world were fighting for equal employment rights for women and also trying to do away with discrimination against women during this time. It is not that women had just started to step outdoors to work. Women had taken up professional roles outside their houses, way back into the time of the Second World War, when they stepped out to take responsibilities for their households since most of the men had been sent away to fight. This was a time of rising up, a time for change. This liberation movement of the late 60s and 70s might be termed as the second step of the suffrage movement of the 1920s. It was inevitable.
Ideology is a very powerful tool of Capitalism. It can be used to plant and grow certain ideas amongst masses (Remember Nolan’s Inception, anyone?) and capitalism has and continues to use this to a great extent. So, what the Altria Group did was go with the flow a time when women were setting foot proudly and with dignity in what was known to be a “man’s world”. How did they decide to go with a flow? Lo and behold! They came up with a brand of cigarettes that were designed specifically for women. It successfully fed into the consumerist mentality and took the market by storm with catch phrases like “It’s a woman thing”, “When he offers you a low tar cigarette, tell him you’ve got one of your own” etc. These catch phrases and posters were designed in such a way so that they would make the target consumer desire to make themselves more desirable and it was successful in using the spirit of that time in making women believe that they would be considered liberal and progressive, if they had their own box of cigarettes!

I am in no way asking members of my sex to stop smoking. If I do ask one day I will ask all, irrespective of the biological sex or the socially determined gender. But, I am in no position to do so, since I myself am quite fond of these tiny treats. I have seen a lot of women and girls around me who begin smoking because they think it is “cool”. What is the definition of “cool” for a 21st century woman? She has to be liberal, she has to be progressive and she has to be independent. Very good... but how can independence be equated to the smoking of cigarettes? I for one do not think for one second that smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol makes me a liberated and independent woman. It does not give me any pride at all when I see other women smoking either! I think that just like everybody else knows that cigarette smoking is injurious to health (hell, it’s there on the packet itself!) and in spite of that indulge in it, they are nothing but fools who are harming their own health. I am one of them and yes I admit it.
Admit it girls, smoking a cigarette does not bring any kind of independence or liberation along with it! If you do feel a sense of liberation, a feeling where you feel proud that you are openly smoking on the streets to flout the norms of patriarchy, then it is because of this ingrained consumerist ideology that smoking is a sign of being liberated. It is time you become conscious of that. I am sure that almost every girl who smokes has been once or twice been questioned in their lives by complete strangers as to why they smoke or being passed comments at by men and women. You will hear statements like “she is bringing a disgrace to our culture”, “girls are not supposed to smoke” and what not. I have listened to women brag and boast as to how they have retorted back and lit another cigarette to prove that they don’t care. My dears, if you want to retort back, why not find a way that is less harmful for your health? How can smoking a cigarette be an element in a fight for equality! If you want to fight, fight with something more substantial, more concrete. I refuse to believe that any kind of independence is attached with the rings that you blow out when you smoke. If you want to smoke, smoke. If you like to smoke, smoke. Nobody should stop you there (until there is of course some valid medical reason and you yourself choose not to). But do not smoke because you think that this is a sign of liberation or independence. If you do, know that it is a big fat consumerist ideology that is driving you and it’s a mistake. Do what you want, but do it for the right reasons.

Warning: Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your physical health. Thinking that a woman smoking a cigarette is a sign of how independent she is, is a greater danger to your sanity.  

Friday, 18 September 2015

Attempts at teeny-weeny yarns

      Take 1

She stared at the empty ceiling. The fan had been taken down a few weeks ago. A tine ray of light had managed to squeeze into the room through the little window. Boxes of Packers and Movers lined the room. It was cold, a tad bit depressing. The low ceiling felt more pressing than ever to her. It was official. They were moving.
She reached out her hand and got hold of the packet of cigarettes lying on the floor. Light? Where is the light? She groped about the floor, stretching herself out on the sofa to the best of her gymnastic capabilities. Ah! A lighter! God knows whose lighter is this. In all the gloomy pressing darkness it was next to impossible to actually see the damn thing. She narrowed her eyes trying to decipher the thing clasped in her hand. Nah! It’s impossible. Her head was spinning. She lit the cigarette and coughed up a lot of smoke with the first drag.
“Don’t smoke while lying down.”, his voice penetrated the darkness. She laughed. The room rang with her sad laughter adding to the melancholy of the grey shades.
“I love you” she whispered.
She rolled down the half packed couch on to the floor. He was right there, lying on the floor. She went and hugged him tight.
“I don’t know why we have to move. It feels like home, right here.” She whispered into his ears, embracing him. “But, we have to, I guess.” she added, almost like an afterthought.
“Babe, really you must quit smoking pot. You just go nuts!”. He looked back and smiled, pulling her closer to his chest.
“Well, you always said that you love the nut job that I am!”
“True that. You really are one crazy woman.” He laughed. His laughter had a hint of warmth. It spread through the room as if filling the dark corners with a trickle of sunshine.
“Honey, it’s our anniversary you know.” She said, putting her head on his chest. Lub-dub, lub-dub...she could almost count his heart beats. It was just like old times. Sure they had had their rough patches. Which couple does not, after seven years of marriage? But now that the necessary things had been sorted, they were them again.
“Babe, I didn’t get time to buy you a present. I will get you one the moment we move to our new home.” He smiled.
“Aw honey! But I already have one for you!” She complained mockingly.
“Really? Show me!”
“I will give you a demo of it in the phone and then you can take a look at the real stuff. It’s in the bedroom.”
“Boy, you really are a tease aren’t you! Come on show me!”
She pulled out the phone from her Patiala pocket. Thank god for these patialas with pockets, they really do come in handy.
“Babe, when did you change your phone?”
“I didn’t. This isn’t mine.”
“Wait a minute, this is...”
“Yes, it’s her phone.”
“You knew?”
“Found out a few weeks back. I thought that the ring that you had bought last week, the one that you had kept hidden in the almirah, was my anniversary present. But then guess what I saw it on her finger two days ago. And I knew...”
“How did you get her phone?” His voice was shaken. It was difficult to tell whether it was from fear or anger. There was almost a trace of frenzied excitement in it. Her’s was as cool as a cucumber.
“You disappoint me, honey. You of all people should know better. We have to leave the house tonight. Won’t be able to enter the bedroom from tomorrow. She will turn out to be one stinking bitch, no doubt! “ Once again the atmosphere of the room mystified with her melancholic laugh. The smoke from her almost dying cigarette created a foggy effect. They still lay in each other’s arms.
“Babe pass me a cigarette.”
Like an obedient ten year old, she handed him the packet and the lighter. He lit the cigarette. It was impossible to gauge his expression in the darkness. The silence was a little stifling. She was getting a little restless. She was growing tired of waiting for him to react. He reacted so little these days. Maybe he had stopped feeling anything at all. A few months ago she had felt that she could not feel anything at all. But the moment she had seen that ring on her fingers, all the emotions ad come rushing back. Jealousy had gripped her soul. Finally now that she had been put to rest, her soul was at peace again. Impatient, she took the lighter, which he had been fiddling with. Wait a minute, the make of this lighter was familiar. She stiffened a little. He sensed her movement and laughed out loud.
“Come on, Babe, you thought I would never find out?”
“Where is he?”
“We will need a new car, babe. He is no less of a stinker I am sure.” He slowly turned to look at his wife of seven years. He could make out only her silhouette. She dropped the lighter and pulled him closer to herself.
“I love you, you know that?”

“I love you too...” 

Monday, 24 February 2014

She stared wide-eyed at the reporters crowding around her. They fired questions at her-
“How did this happen?” “Do you know this group of guys?” “When did they take you to the truck?” “Didn’t you try to stop them when they raped you?” “What do you feel after the incident?”
All she heard was ...........................
Where was her blouse? She had been looking for it when all of a sudden this throng of people had arrived with so many cameras and microphones! Who are they, anyway?
She couldn’t figure out what was wrong. All she knew was that she who used to roam about the streets without a piece of clothing on her, today suddenly felt the need to cover herself. She couldn’t remember where she had kept her blouse, it has been years...

Where is the god damn blouse?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Read, enjoy and do NOT forget to judge!

A dictionary of translations

A note of caution: These translations have been solely dictated by the prevailing social norms. Any resemblance to any definition that you might have come across in any academic journal or a certified dictionary is practically impossible.

1. Bhadralok (gentlemen): “educated” middle class Bengalis exemplifying the proverb- “empty vessels sound much”
2. Mohila Samiti (a women’s organization): A dangerous congregation of mostly middle aged woman with a great interest in the personal life of other people. They believe it is their moral duty as well, to keep their locality pure of all social “impurities”
3. Jogyo patri (an ideal girl for marriage): A fair-skinned, educated but not too well-educated girl of about 20s with a docile attitude, who knows how to carry out all the house-hold chores to perfection, nurse children, look after her husband and in-laws in all sorts of situations.
4. Jogyo patro (an ideal man for marriage): Well educated young man of about mid 20s with a high-paying job, preferably in the IT sector and a bhadro family background.
5. Baje meye (bad girl): Upstart, with an ability to do something other than what the society dictates her to do, somebody who smokes pot and drinks publicly, gets a tattoo or a piercing done, somebody who has the guts to be herself in front of the society.
6. Baje chele (bad boy): Messy hair with an inclination towards western hip hop, rock or punk music, somebody who sometimes dares to dress up all in black, somebody who wears a track paint paired with a Panjabi to a wedding, somebody who dares to bring her girl friend home when his parents are not around, somebody who dares to be himself in front of the society.
7. O biye kobe korbe? (when will he/she get married?) : An eternal query of all middle aged house wives and relatives to the parents of unmarried children with a hidden attempt to figure out whether the prospective bride or groom is straight or not.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Teeny tiny yarns

A slice of life

That is all she wanted- a hand to hold. There was one which held her waist. She waited for it to loosen its grip while she searched for what she wanted. And she waited...
Meanwhile, he waited for her to look at him, just once and he knew she would know. He waved but she didn’t notice; it seemed she was looking for something else. Yet he waited...



There was not a moment to lose. He lost her with every second of the clock. She stumbled through the dark, moving away from him...consciously... He fought tooth and nail to find her and he finally did.
This cycle went on and on. She always tried to run, he always found her back, but he never could reach her...

It was a dangerous thing to do. Training a machine which has no mind of its own is something, training something which can think for itself is something completely different. She trained him to be perfect. Perfect for her; perfect for her social standing, perfect to meet all her needs. So meticulously and subtly had she done the entire thing that neither did he or even she realise it. Everything was planned, perfect. She made one small mistake- she forgot that he had a mind of his own. She forgot that this mind defined him- the man she had fallen in love with.
He was oblivious of the fact that he had been trained. All he knew now was that his life centred round her.
One fine morning she came to him and accusingly declared, “I cannot take it anymore. You are too perfect for me!”

She gently took a sip from her glass of wine and closed her eyes and slowly replayed the moments of her passionate love-making, that she was engaged in a few minutes ago. She felt the entire thing all over again. It had been years since she had felt this kind of satisfaction; it was never this good with her husband.
A vibration from her phone jerked her out of the reverie. She took the call, “Yes baby, I am going to be home in an hour and then we can go for our anniversary dinner.” She hastily got up, put on her clothes, gathered her stuff and headed for the door. She paused for a moment on her way out. She looked back at the bed once just to catch a glimpse of her sleeping peacefully, before leaving.

Fed up with her demands he walked out of the room into the small balcony. He noticed the potted plants which hung from the railing which she had grown with so much care. The cool wind brushed against his face. It helped him to cool down a little bit. He wondered how the relationship had become so tiresome. Phone calls every hour, constant allegations that he did not give her enough time, how alone she was...God! Wouldn’t it be a bliss if she just shut up and went back to her own place? Go back to her own life...”her own life”...he wondered what her life was now. Who did she have apart from him? There had been a point in his life too when he had no one. She was the one who had found him and taken care of him then. She had patiently listened to all his complaints and provided him with everything that she could afford with her meagre income. He even remembered her doing extra shifts just to pay for his education. She, a single mother, had transformed a street urchin into a “well-bred” and “educated” gentleman.

He slowly went back inside the room. She lay there wrinkled and almost senile with age, yet her eyes still had the warmth which he had caught his attention when he had first seen her looking at him. He curled up beside her and whispered, “ma...”....A tear rolled down the wrinkled face....

Utterly confused and puzzled she looked at the woman. She was repeatedly shouting out something at her. Gradually a few others joined her too. All of them were roughly about the same age. Clad in clean and perfectly pinned sarees, they seemed to be shouting at her for doing something grievous. She racked her brains to figure out what she had done...last time they had raised the same raucous when she had had to entertain a client at her home. They alleged that it spoiled the reputation of the para...The same para which stayed mum when a drunken husband raped his pregnant wife. It was a para of bhadraloks, the same “educated” bhadraloks who chose to ignore such an act- it was a matter of the household, after all! “We are outsiders, how can we intervene?”said some, while others simply denied having any information regarding this. She wondered what was more important to the mohila samiti- the reputation of the para or the fact that she was an escort by profession?

She had always stayed out of all the events that the residents organized from time to time at the para. Imposed with a strict restriction to not enter the puja pandal she had no other option but to sway to the beats of the dhak from her home. She consciously avoided any form of interaction with any resident. She wondered what she could have done this time to enrage the dangerous congregation of women again...Uff! She pulled out the head phones from her ears and tried to figure out what the entire thing was all about. It seemed that her neighbour Ramen “babu” had been caught circling around her house the previous night by his wife. They complained that her profession was raising a finger at the residents of the para, the bhadraloks of the para were finding it difficult to live with such a woman around. She had to leave, they demanded. She knew she had no other option but to change her place, again...