Friday, December 12, 2014

Not My Shame

It's again that time of the year when rape news is doing the rounds. Earlier this year, NCRB's report showed that 93 women are raped everyday in India. And these are just the reported cases, mind you. (Read Times of India article) Like every time, arguments and discussions are taking place as to why rapes are happening and who is to be blamed. Currently Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter to our nation's superstars is in news. The letter deserves to be read by every sensible Indian.

Just like in media, discussions are happening around me too. Like most times a woman's attire is being blamed. One compared a woman to a lump of jaggery put in the open without a cover for flies to sit on, implying that women who were short dresses invite rape. Another said he didn't like that women blame the rapists' psyche for the crime and say that no one should touch them even if they are wearing short dresses or nothing; that Indian women are seeking freedom to wear skimpy clothes. Such sentiments are just echoes of our so called cultured society. I remarked that most rape victims in our country are dressed in salwar-kameez and saarees. Also most rape cases take place in rural, so where is the question of wearing skimpy clothes. Even children and old women are raped. What do you say to that? In western country, women wear short and plunging dresses all the time, then why are they not getting raped! Don't you think then, something's wrong in our country.

Please watch the video below which was in circulation around a year back.

As I read Shenaz Treasurywala's open letter, I was reminded all of those accidental touches, stares and gropings I had faced since I was a teenager. Her experiences is almost every girl's experience in our country. When I was around 15-16 years of age, I was coming home in a large auto (8 seater) from a tuition class. I have grown up in a small town in upper Assam. It was winter and so it was already evening when I was travelling. There were only a few passengers. There was a man sitting on my right hand side. As I was nearing my stoppage (it was the last stoppage), I felt the man's left elbow touching my chest from the right side. I thought it was because of the vehicle's jerking and so shifted towards my left as there was space. But the man also moved and the elbow pushed again, this time a little harder. I was horrified as I realised what he was doing. It was winter and so you can imagine my dress. I was "fully clothed and covered" in several layers. I wanted to scream and slap the man, but I couldn't as my mother's words rang in my ears, "Don't mess with men/boys who misbehave with you. Don't be rude to boys who approach you with love proposals". She feared such men's reactions just like Shenaz's mother.

Another time when I was studying in Kolkata, I was in a public bus. I was wearing salwar-kameez and the dupatta was wrapped around me. Although the bus was crowded, I was seated. Suddenly I noticed a man standing opposite to me who was ogling at me and scanning me from head to toe. I smirked inwardly thinking what was he looking at, only my face was visible! Later when I was working in the same city, I took the same bus at the same time everyday. After a few months, I started noticing a man staring at me. Then I noticed him being at the stoppage everyday, taking the same bus, standing close to me and looking at me. In horror, I recalled incidents my girlfriends shared of men standing behind girls and rubbing their private parts against the girls. Once I told the bus conductor not to let the man come near where was standing. Well, the conductor was least bothered. Oh yes, I always wore salwar-kameez to work.

Even now when I travel in a public bus, I am very cautious as to how close the man is standing near my seat, specially how close his groin is to me. Many a times, I have thought of carrying safety pin in my hand in such a position that if the man comes tries to come any closure, he will get pricked.

I have a theory for eve-teasers and rapists in our country. In our country, girls/women are taught to be always covered from head to toe, so that no skin shows. So males also see covered ladies all the time. Hence whenever they see even the bare calves and arms of females, they go crazy (My sister once met a Czech woman on the train who narrated how Indian men gape at her bare legs). But it might not be possible for them to lay their dirty hands on those females, so they vent out their lust on other vulnerable females. Also such males need instant sexual gratification, but they might not have a wife or she might not be available at that place. Hence they force themselves on vulnerable "decently clothed" females. I wonder why such men don't go to prostitutes instead. They can save so much trouble.

Below is a video for ogling men.

From time immemorial, women have been treated as an object; a property which is owned just like land. Rape is just another way show and keep women at their place, that is below men. Marital rape and rapes in the family or in a particular community are evidences. Women are considered the honour of a family, yet this honour is violated by the men, who are supposed to protect her just to teach her a lesson. This is the country where goddesses are worshiped.

We teach our daughters to wear decent clothes, cover themselves from head to toe when they go out, not to go out after dark, not to talk to boys, not to go out alone and so on. But do we teach our sons to respect women, speak up when a girl is teased or abused in front of them, and not to tease them or touch them without their permission.

As a woman, I feel rape is the final assault. After the ogling and groping, raping a girl is the worst thing a man can do to her. But from where does these men get the courage to commit such heinous acts? The answer is simple. They know they are not going to be punished. There is no fear of punishment at all.  Like a young brother-in-law of mine wisely said that rapists should be punished severely just like in other countries, such men should be scared to touch women. I advocate capital punishment and lifetime imprisonment for rapists. The bottom-line is that the laws of our land should be made stricter, stronger and more victim-friendly.

Everyday, I read some article or the other relating to eve-teasing and molestation. Sadly such news have become regular news like the weather reports. Ladies, I don't think mentality of Indian men or security conditions in our great country are going to change any time soon. A man can never understand what a woman goes through her entire life. So it's better that we help each other, be alert and carry some defense item like the pepper spray at all times.

Something I saw on Facebook today
Rabindranath Tagore dreamed of a nation where "the mind is without fear and the head high". Tragically in his dream country,  hearts and minds of women like me are always in fear, and we are taught to walk with our heads and eyes cast down. I dream of a living in a nation where I don't have to feel the glaring eyes on me as I walk on the streets, where I don't have worry about my necklines and hemlines all the time, where I can work and travel at all times feeling safe, where I am not deemed to be open invitation to eve-teasing or molestation, , where I am not treated as an object of desire or property but as a human being with feelings. But today this seems like an impossible dream to materialize in this lifetime. For the time-being, I would like to just remember what Shenaz Treasurywala said, "It's not our shame, it is their shame". 


Monday, December 8, 2014


I don't really remember when it all began. I just remember beginning to see something small and fast darting from room It would always move along the walls and seldom across rooms, other than through doors. I concluded that it had to be a mouse. I couldn't see any visible damage in the house and so let it be. Also back home, a small mouse moving around the house is considered a lucky charm (As mouse is considered the mount/vehicle of the Ganesha, the Hindu god of beginnings and remover of obstacles). Gradually it could be seen frequenting the house quite regularly. 

Finally one day I had a close encounter with it. I entered the kitchen and I saw it darting along the kitchen slab. At the same I and it moved towards the edge of the slab from opposite directions. It stopped in its tracks. I too stood motionlessly. And the I saw the cutest mouse ever. I had never thought that mice could be even be cute. It was a few inches long, with clean and shiny dark brown fur, black eyes which looked like deep black beads, pointy whiskers and a sleek tail. The only cute mouse I knew was Jerry from 'Tom & Jerry'. Hence I christened it 'Jerry' then and there. And I knew at that instant that I couldn't hurt it. Jerry did to me what Puss In Boots does to unsuspecting victims. So I let Jerry go. Later I alerted the in-house members about Jerry.

We got used to Jerry. Az also had a glimpse of his cuteness and agreed that we couldn't hurt it. Hence we and the darting Jerry shared space. When Mom and Dad (Az's parents) arrived last month, they saw it. And I simply said, "Oh! That's Jerry." Dad was amused. He said we should capture it and tie a bell around its neck so that we would know about its movements.

But other than Jerry, we started seeing something else running around too. It was bigger and slower than Jerry. It was an ugly rat! We blamed its presence on the boys who went out leaving the main door ajar. Rats are not acceptable. So rat-kill cakes were bought and placed strategically. Finally the rat got captured and done away with. Luckily Jerry was smart enough not to consume any of that.

After a couple of weeks, Mom and Dad were out of town to visit relatives. During that time, I caught Jerry jumping up on to my trunk and then I realized that it's time. So I placed the mouse trap with a trail of biscuits at one of the turnings Jerry takes frequently. This time Jerry was not smart though. It took the bait and got captured. It was frightened and tried to get out by cutting the metal. But of course it couldn't. It was so cute that all of us went gaga over it. We all started discussing what to do it Jerry. Killing it was totally out of question. To leave it on the main road could also be injurious to him as different predators were always on the prowl. Az suggested we should keep it in the cage itself as it would be safe. But again how do you keep such a cute thing in captivity and make it sad. It was night time and we decided to keep it through the night. I gave it some more to eat and bade it a good night. 
Look at those eyes
The next evening one of my brother-in-law took it to leave it near the drain next to the main road. But he didn't have the heart to leave it there and let open the trap before the end of our gully. And off Jerry went darting with relief into a new house. We were happy and wished Jerry a safe life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Local Maayka

My little sister Namz arrived in Delhi exactly three years ago. This one was a first because it was she who used to follow me to a new place. But this time it was I who followed her; even though I knew much before that I had to come here anyways. She moved to Delhi a year before my wedding. She rented a DDA 1BHK flat and I came over from Guwahati for a few days to help her settle.  I got married from her place. So technically her place has been my local maayka (maternal home in Hindi).

Ever since the it was confirmed that Namz is getting transferred to Bengaluru (I still prefer to say Bangalore), both she and I have been kind of sad. She kept saying that she would kidnap me and take me along with her. You see, we two have always been together since her birth. At most we have been in two separate cities/towns for a year. And now she is gone to a different part of the country altogether.

After I moved to Delhi, it was Namz who showed me around, taking me to different markets and site-seeing. Almost every month, I would spend a couple of days at her place and she at ours. Her place had been my refuge and solace at times of frustration and madness. Whenever I used to be fed up with my duties in my marital home, I would run off to Namz's place. But no more. Now Az and his siblings will have to bear the burnt of my blues!

Twelve days back, I went to her place for the final time, to help her pack. We spent the night in the traditional way; ordering something special for dinner, watching a movie and talking. The next day the movers and packers came and took away everything except two suitcases. Namz spent the next ten days at our place. And the days flew by. She left two days back.

With Namz gone, the bright colour of my life in drab Delhi is gone. Ma is also upset for she knows I have been rendered lonely. Also with both daughters in the same city, we used to have a family reunion when Ma and Deta came to visit.

Now Namz is busy masterminding as to how she can move Az and me to Bangalore. She left warning Az that either we should move or he would find me missing someday!

Namz being in Delhi was my connection home. Now that my local maayka had been shut down, I have lost my refreshing asylum. But I can't be selfish. Moving there is a positive turn for her life. Here, I have Az and the family. But she would be all alone there, adjusting to a new life in a new city. So the move is difficult for her too. Life goes on, doesn't it?

I miss you sweetie. Will see you soon.