Posted in Musings

Rape Is A Reality

Disclaimer : The following post is a tad different from the normal contents of this blog. These words represent my own personal sentiments and thoughts, and are not in any way meant to invoke anger, indignity or resentment.

When I say rape is a reality, I mean that it is not something that should shock us. It is not an isolated incident that ought to catch our attention from time and time, when the act has enough associated brutality to command media attention. It is not an enigma. It is not a strange occurance. And it is definitely not a sign of patriarchy.

It is just like murder. Just like robbery. Just like bullying. Just like any other instance where humans repudiate the rights of another, and refuse to respect the worth of their lives, their space, their belongings, their existence, irrespective of race or religion or gender.

And just like murderers and robbers and bullies, rapists are everywhere. Sadists are everywhere. It might be a stranger, a friend, a lover, a relative or a coworker. It can happen at home, at school, at college, at office or on vacation. Stop pretending. Halt the flow of those million candles that weep for a forsaken girl only to die out into oblivion, like she did. It was just another news headline. Let it be what it is. Stop the hypocritical battle cries that call for the death of one, when a thousand others disappear unheeded. The molestation of a fifty year old deserves as much wrath as that of a ten year old. But then, that story isn’t half as spicy, and lie hidden in the folds of her skirts untold, for she would rather it didn’t end up in a crumpled newspaper that caught no attention anyway.

So I tell you, treat it as what it is. A crime, yes, but not one to make a hue and cry about. Not a tale to be sung in blood-red tones of fury, till a better one comes along.

So I demand, treat it as it is. A routine affair. Not a shadow lurking in the alleyways of our utopia, but  one that shines so bright it blinds us with the sheer brilliance of mockery and human pathos. A reality as palpable as my sweaty palms when I turn a shady street corner, and tangible as my feet that hurry on its own accord, as my heart, once home is far. A truth as real as the catch of my breath when a group of men shoot a glance along my lonely way. I hold my purse tight and myself tighter, for deny as I may, I know it awaits somewhere in the near unknown.

So I beg you, treat it as what it is: unexceptional news. Rape is average, commonplace and ordinary. Stop inflating its importance to monstrous proportions so that she has to cower under attention forever rather than being allowed to rewind her life to back to normalcy. Stop feeding her chunks of debauchery draped in hedonistic sympathy and let her be, instead.

I am here to tell you rape is a reality. It is not an event reserved for that random stranger who happened to be at an unfortunate place at an unfortunate time. Anyone can get kidnapped or robbed or killed. And anyone can get raped. 

It may happen to you. And if it does, know that you are not alone. You are not a victim. You are not scarred for life. You are not flawed. You are one of a zillion who refuse to bow down to what life hands you. More importantly, you’re in every way stronger than the men who overpowered you. They were just a bunch of bullies, retards, who have no control over their own thoughts and actions. Show the world and yourself that you are so much more.

It may happen to me. And if it does, please just let me too keep my head held high still and march on.

Posted in Anecdotes

Cone Ice Dreams 

She held my hand as I looked both ways and crossed the street. It was ten at night and the road leading to Rock Beach was almost isolated, with just a trickle of traffic. A few people and a couple of dogs loitered in the distance. 

Suddenly she pointed at the lone bright spot in the vicinity, an outlet of Baskin’ Robbins that was still open. I saw a child walking out.

“Ice cream cone!!”

Her voice brimmed with delight and longing.

“You want one?”

She looked at the shop, back at me, and smiled.

“Come on, then.” 

I led her in. An array of exotic flavours were displayed.

“Which one do you want?”

She peered into the glass counter and hestitated. It was not an easy choice, and the familiar tones of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry were conspicuous in their absence.

“You choose one for me”

“You can get a taste, you know. Pick any one you like, and I’ll ask them for a sanple”

Her eyes widened. 

“Umm.. something crunchy. That I can chew on as well!” She could hardly reign in her excitement.

I pointed to Mint Chocolate. The guy behind the counter took a tiny spoonful and handed it to her. She licked it up and shook her head. 

“Too minty”

Next up was Milk Choco Chips. That one won her approval. I ordered a cone of the same. The guy scooped a huge ball of it and filled a fancy BR cone with it. I watched him handing it to her as I paid. 

“What about you?”, she asked.

“I don’t do icecreams”, I said laughing.

We settled on a rock and watched the waves crashing.

“You know”, she began, “when I was little, everything was an adventure, and I longed for so many things that you might even laugh at. Even an ice cream was a dream, a luxury reserved for carnivals and such! Another one of my biggest wishes was to watch a plane take flight.. or at least see one up close. I remember, once I was allowed to accompany Mami to the airport for her flight. I got so excited! I put on my best dress and powdered my face. I decided your Grandma was not proficient enough at plaiting my hair properly so I ran to the neighbour’s place and had her do it instead. Bur alas, by the time I got back they had left without me! It was such a sad day indeed.”

She paused.

“But then, I did get on a plane with you that day after your college counselling session. And now here I am, at a beach in Pondicherry at midnight, having ice cream! Who’d have thought!”, she laughed. “I believe I was meant to see the world through you”

I pulled her closer and hugged her.

“I love you too, Mom”.

Posted in Anecdotes

Saving Food

Wasting food is something I feel quite strongly against, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t do it. I do it all the time. My tiny appetite almost never sits well with the enormous portions of food served in most restaurants. Hunger makes me overestimate my nutritional needs and I inevitable end up staring at half eaten plates with a satiated tummy and deepset regret. 

One solution I recently devised is to never order a meal for myself when out with other people. Tidbits from their plates usually suffice to ward off starvation, which again fits my funda that one need only eat what is necessary to survive.

Today, even that didn’t help as the hotel I visited with my parents and an uncle proved to be extra-gracious with their food supply. An entire bowl of fried rice sat untouched and forlorn on the table, and we stared at it, wondering what to do about it. Indians generally hate wasting things that they pay money for, and it’s considered blasphemy to not get leftover food parceled, regardless of whether we end up eating it later on or not. As patriotic citizens, we contemplated doing the same, but our full stomachs rebelled against the idea.

That was when Uncle A suggested we give the parcel to a random beggar or ragpicker, a surplus of who are found along streets in the region. It hit me how the thought had never really occured to me before. Yes, it’s leftover food.. but it is still food, and throwing it in the trash somehow does not seem anywhere as ethical as letting a hungry soul have it.

We kept an eye out for vagabonds on the way back. Soon enough, along came a man with a large bulging plastic sack over his shoulder, with clothes and body both covered in grime. I was still hesitant to carry out the plan, lest he should be offended and start swearing at us. So Uncle A took the lead.

‘Have you eaten yet?’

His eyes gave away his voracity and his hands beat his tongue in response; they extended way before his mouth could mutter ‘No’. We gave him the parcel and rode away. I turned back once out of curiosity, and I saw him taking out the still-warm packet and turning back to look at us.

Now I have another solution to not waste food. I think I like this one better.

Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Expected

Yesterday was one of those days. My mind was a web of cluttered thoughts as messy as my room, and although the right thing to do was to get to work at cleaning both up, I found myself reaching for my keys. A lonely ride around town at night seemed like a great idea. I did not know where to, but then, the beach and the streets of White Town are all that Pondicherry really has to offer at night. So I rode slowly in that direction, gathering my thoughts.

I had never been to the beach alone before, and it felt rather strange. More disconcerting than soothing. Among all those people around me, armed with friends, lovers or families, I felt I must make a sorry picture, alone at the beach close to midnight, with not even a bottle or a puff to keep me company. I perched on a rock and began to stare at the sea, seeking tranquility. The waves crashed much like my ruminations – anticlimactic, recurring brilliant pieces of frothy white light that dissipated just on the verge of formation.

Suddenly I heard a call behind me.  Two young men stood precariously close, and I started, as any average Indian woman would.

“Don’t be afraid”, one said. “It’s our friend’s birthday.. he’s rather shy.. so, here you go”.

One of them extended a piece of Black-forest cake (incidentally, my favourite) as the other stood by, sheepishly. I was not quite sure of what to do. If this were to happen in the Western world, and if I am to believe what I’ve seen on television, the ideal response would be a beaming smile and to extend a hand, or a hug perhaps, wishing the ‘birthday person’ warm greetings from your part. As a cautious female, I did nothing of the sort. After choosing to pinch off the tiniest fraction of the cake I could manage (lest it be poisoned with the date rape drug) and muttering a hurried thank you, I went back to staring at the sea with even more determination. Sure, I was currently in apparently one of the safest cities in for women, and was surrounded by more than a hundred people, but one doesn’t want to take chances. To quote a poem I recently came across on YouTube, “we don’t want to be another of India’s daughters, do we??”

So I sat there with my back to the world till it occurred to me that perhaps I had been rude. They had not really seemed like trouble. I decided to walk up to them and say a proper birthday wish. As I stood up and turned around, I realized they were gone.

I remembered his first words. Don’t be afraid.. And then it hit me. Perhaps, like any average Indian, my response was exactly what he expected anyway.