Friday, November 29, 2013


The more I read about it, the more I admire and respect the young girl's courage and grit. It takes a lot to stand up to someone powerful, someone you have known, someone you trust. As an aftermath of this incident, many more cases are coming out, most of them talk about harassment at work and at home, by men who are known and trusted by the victim.

While I do think its unfortunate that the misdoings of some men end up maligning all of them, I would have to admit that women no longer have an option, they don't know who to trust, especially when the trusted ends up being the perpetrator.

As a young girl, I was always told to watch out as was every other girl around me. We had to be careful while travelling, while at school and college, while going out, while staying over at a friend's but rarely were we advised to watch out for people we knew -- family, extended family, family friends, teachers, doctors.

Until some years ago, I would never talked about being harassed or violated, for some reason I always saw it as my own shortcoming. Today however, I am not ashamed to admit that I too have, on numerous occasions, been subjected to some or the other kind of sexual advance -- a touch, a brush, remarks and gestures, occasional groping -- the list is endless. And almost always it has been someone I knew, in places I was supposed to be safest. Fortunately, I never had to face it at work, strange, since for ten years I worked in one of the most infamous industries, travelled alone late at night and spent time with unknown people.

I have known of women from so called respectable families going through sexual assaults all their lives by someone as close as their father. I have known of girls being frightened of their uncles and cousins, I have known of women being touched and felt up by their teachers and doctors. But, I have not known women who have come out and talked about it -- I have not known any women who has confronted the man, I have known no woman who confided in her parents or teachers.  

As a young girl neither did I nor those around me reported any such violation, for a long time we did not even know if it was a violation, all we knew is: it felt wrong. We would talk among ourselves and find solace in the fact that everyone went through it, slowly it became a part of our system as did pretending to be normal after any such incident. Confronting was always more difficult.

But things have changed since. While earlier such incidents were not as grave and frequent, today, the danger to our children and our women is much greater. Sexual advances are no longer limited to a touch or a brush, they have transformed into full fledged assaults and rapes. The society is degenerating at every level and even toddlers are not spared.

In such a scenario it is only fair that we trust no one, for we never know how soon it will be breached.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Devil's Advocate

The country stands avenged today. After five years, we finally know who killed her. Some of us are rejoicing at the victory, yet others are applauding the expertise of the involved lawyers, judges and investigators. Newspapers and TV channels are going crazy breaking the news to the public who is hungry to grab every juicy detail.

If until some years ago it was the media that went berserk trying all such sensational, high visibility cases for the victim, now it is the social media. Twitter and facebook are abuzz with activity -- opinions, debates, criticism, judgement -- the works. It went into frenzy a week ago and it is at its frenzied best tonight. As a country, we love passing judgements -- at every level and what better opportunity than to excoriate the accused of a rape or a murder?

I do not follow Twitter and on facebook too I have a very small circle, even then all I see on my page is people's reaction to the verdict and the sentence handed out to the Talwars, some want them hanged others are not done expressing shock and horror over the incident. I am no one to speak against the judgement or the sentence, I have not followed every little detail of the case neither do I have any sympathy with the convicts. But, I do have an opinion which is slightly different from most. 

All said and done, the truth is that no one, other than the convicts themselves, know what happened in the house that night. What we have is a reconstruction of the event as seen by the eyes of the investigating body. For a moment, lets assume if the parents have not killed the girl and the man, that they are speaking the truth. 

Imagine the plight of a dead child's parents who are also being held guilty for her murder. They have not only lost their child but also their career, their reputation and their life -- as they had known it. For the rest of their lives they will not only live without their daughter but also without all that they had earned with their sweat and blood. 

I maybe too naive to go by the face value of the event but I find it very hard to believe that any parent can kill their child only because she was in a compromising position with a man. Come on, what world do we live in? What is new or unusual about a teenaged kid exploring her sexuality? And we all know that kids do it, mostly with someone elder to them. Does that warrant death?

The theory says that the girl was accidentally hit but instead of taking her to a hospital or even providing her first aid the parents got busy in killing the servant, left the daughter to die, slashed her throat and calmly dressed the scene and waited for the morning. Believable?

In my opinion, the only people who can be so unperturbed by death are usually hardened criminals or doctors, any normal human being can not go through so much in a matter of a few hours yet be so calm. And the Talwars were neither criminals nor doctors. But then, dentists consider themselves to be doctors.

Then again, is it possible that all of the above is true. After all, rage can make the most sensible of people lose their sense. And if the girl was dead anyway, what was the point in going and telling the world about it? They might have taken a chance. 

In any case the parents will suffer forever,  with or without the conviction, they are on a lifelong sentence.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Few Good Men

Another man has lost his sense of judgement, another man has misread the situation, another man has done what many, many other men do everyday. That this man is a well known is just a coincidence. It could have been any other man in his place and chances are if he was not as well known, such a case would not even have surfaced. It happens all the time -- in schools, colleges, at work, in social events and even at home. Men invariably lose their sense of judgement and cross the boundaries and their drunken state often bails them out. 

So, this gentleman too lost his sense of judgement, or did he? Chances are that his judgement of the situation was not wrong but that of the woman was. Usually, in such scenarios, often the victim, if I can use that term, gives in. The man is senior, often her boss or boss's boss, he is also well connected. Giving in is the easy way out, aren't women taught that all the time? 

Then there are those who do not. Being a woman, I can imagine how tough it is to stand up to something like a sexual assault and to come out and report it.  In a social set up like ours everything eventually is the woman's fault -- she might have been dressed inappropriately, she herself might have been drunk, she might have asked for it for all we know.

I will not be surprised if soon there is another version of the story that reports it as a consensual relationship gone bad and therefore the woman chose to report it as an assault. After all, it took her more than ten days to report the incident.

The way we bring up men in our country, they can never see a woman as their equal, a woman to them is a public property up for exploitation. And women, they leave no stone unturned to prove the man's innocence, the reasons for his mistake could be varied but will always be justifiable. And this man, look how gracious he is! He apologised and even stepped down for the honour of his company, wait till he offers to marry the girl to protect her honour.

Thanks to such incidents, we seem to have lost trust in the men all together. A woman can trust nobody, not even her family and friends. No longer can she step out without the fear of being  mistreated and no longer can she be at home, at work or even in school or college without constantly being on the watch. What a pity!

But for all such men, there are more men who love their women --  who care for their friends, who stand behind their wives, who walk beside their lovers, who look up to their sisters and who value their mothers -- who respect women. And as long as we have even a few good men, the bad ones can be taken care of.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interpreting Dreams

As a child I often dreamt of a family which I was part of. The people and the place were so familiar that I could have recognised them anywhere in the world.  It happened regularly for many years but by the time I was old enough to make anything out of those dreams, they stopped. I have, many times since, tried to recall, replay and remember the details, but have never succeeded.

Then there have been the usual recurring ones -- failing to make it for the board exam or not being able to complete the physics paper or missing the train or the bus. There also have been some very strange and bizarre ones too (each of them etched clearly in my mind). And then there have been people who I dream of quite often.

Dreams intrigue many, I am no exception. I have tried to look for what they could mean and how, if at all, they reflect the subconscious. I have not yet found the answer, although I have observed a pattern. Sometimes they reflect our state of mind and at other times they reveal the deepest darkest fears, desires or feelings that we often do not acknowledge while we are awake.

One such fact that I have never acknowledged is that I have let two of my very dear friends down. Though in my conscience state, I don't even think about them, somewhere deep down within me, I live with the guilt. They are the only people who I ever walked away from, for no valid reason whatsoever other than my fear -- fear of having to lose them anyway.

At different points in my life, these men were amongst my closest friends, but eventually things changed and we grew apart. Was the growing apart natural or intentional? Don't we stay with those who we want to despite the emotional, ideological and even geographical differences? Did I create all the differences only because I no longer wanted them to be around? Or was it because both of them were men? These are questions that I have ignored and brushed aside for years now but they keep coming back to me and bring with them these uncomfortable dreams.

When two people meet and realise that they have a lot in common -- interests, work, ideology, even roots, and if they share common space -- work or otherwise, they usually end up spending a lot of time together. In this time, they might not only discuss professional but also personal matters and might also become close friends, that they belong to different sexes notwithstanding. Nothing wrong with that, after all, haven't we as a society moved to a stage where being a man or a woman does not matter? Not quite, especially if even one of these two happens to have a partner.

Very rarely will you find partners who are comfortable with their spouse hanging out with another man or women, unless they are a part of a larger group, often comprising of common friends. Ironically, if two men or two women are in similar circumstances, no eyebrows are raised. They could go out pubbing, drinking and even stay over at each other's, the partners would not care. In fact they might just be happy for their respective partners. 

But if it is another man or a woman -- as the case might be, insecurities creep in, emotions come into play and hell breaks loose. Going out with him or her, talking at odd hours or even texts on off days can trigger any or all of the above.

I could see it all around me -- women getting possessive about their man hanging out with a woman friend, men getting obsessive about their woman going out with another man -- insecurity and paranoia killing marriages. Mistrust and doubt replacing love and commitment.

It could have happened to me too. Having to chose between a friend and a husband or having to clarify about the nature of relationship I shared with anyone was something I was not comfortable with. So, I let go of two wonderful people from my life. They called, I did not call back. They offered to take me out, I made excuses. They mailed, I did not reply. They left messages, I ignored. While they might have forgiven me and moved on, I have not.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Never Too Late

However much I proclaim that I write for myself, the truth is that it feels great when people read and acknowledge what I write. There are a few who call regularly to discuss my latest post and some who do it occasionally. Some say good things about my writing, some give me ideas and then there are those who admonish me for my content. A few of them also insist that I should seriously consider writing a book. It is really kind of them to think so, I however, do not see it happening. I do not have the knowledge, skill or attitude that is needed to write a book. 

Forget about books, as of now, I struggle to keep this blog running. It takes hours for me to put a post together and by the time its done, I am so exhausted that I often end up deleting it -- obviously in error. The other day I accidentally deleted something which I had laboriously written over two days. I wanted to kill myself and I did -- by redoing the entire thing the same night. 

Anyway, one such call came last evening from my newly married and very lovely sister in law. She sounded upset and apologetic. On asking her why she sounded that way, she confided that she felt miserable for not being able to help me in anyway. 'But what help do I need?' I asked. Turned out that she had just finished reading my last post, A Dream and A Reality and felt sorry for me. It took fifteen minutes for her to be convinced that I was fine and although what I had written was true, it did not mean that I was unhappy or in need of any help. 

In fact, just before her call, an old friend had called and had commented on how she has been noticing a stark difference in me, and that she's not seen me so happy, carefree and liberated in years, may be since College. I tend to disagree with her usually, but I think she was right about this. After many years even I see myself really happy and I owe my current state of mind to two things -- love and writing.

Love, because I have a lot of it around me. There are quite a few people who can not function without me, who need me -- all the time. That of course makes me feel important and happy. Then there is writing. I write when I am lonely, I write when I am pensive, and I write to express what I otherwise cannot. I do not write for anyone but myself. It helps me let go, if people like it -- great, if they do not -- well, I still would.

At times I do feel like life's come a full circle. I seem to be back to where I started from, twelve years ago. Back then, I lived with parents whose permission had to be sought for almost everything, now I have children whose permission I have to seek. Then, I had the time and the energy but no money to do new things, now also, I have the time and inclination to do many things but hardly any money. Then, I had a handful of friends who were my emotional anchors, I still have a handful of them -- most of whom are the same. Back then I had the fire in me to do something with my life, to be independent, to have my own identity and now, once again, that fire seems to have been rekindled -- after a long hiatus.

There is one huge difference though, I could do a lot with my life then while I am not sure if I can do anything with it anymore. After all, I am already thirty four, the best years of my career are behind me and it is too late to begin afresh. Then again, if I look at it differently I still have at least fifteen years of productivity left in me. I have only just begun to get comfortable with myself and be proud of who I am. So it might not be a bad idea to consider starting afresh and may be write a book even. I know someone who will say, "Never too late."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Dream and A Reality

There are people who seem to have everything: a great career, a super family life, a rocking social life, ample money, and happiness too. Then there are those who can barely manage the basics. At one point, I belonged to the first category. Now, I am a happy contributor to the second.

Not so long ago, I had great work life, wonderful family life and a fairly decent social life. One fine day, everything changed. There was no work and no work life. No friends and no social life, my phone that had not stopped ringing in five years had no calls or messages. I had no inbox to clear and no deadlines to meet. It felt great in the beginning, I was tired of running non stop for eight years and this was a much needed break, a long overdue holiday.

But reality soon struck. The never ending holiday irked me, it was upsetting to be confined, to be financially dependent, to not have people around. But I managed because my family needed me, and that was more important than my work, my friends and my money. So I stayed home to ensure that my mother was nursed back to life and my daughters were taken care of. I cooked, cleaned, washed, dusted and did everything possible to ensure those around me were happy. All but me.

Initially, I was too overwhelmed and engrossed to even realise the effect it had on me. I was happy being around people who mattered most to me, being totally occupied by the daily drudgery of life, to lead a normal life. But, how long can you tame the fire within?

My independence has always been vital to my existence and I had it in abundance at work, along with that I also had love, respect, satisfaction and recognition. I worked non stop for hours at end, helped people build their careers and in the process, built mine. Life could not be better. In the quest to achieve everything however, I soon started to miss out on simple pleasure of life. I became more mechanical and less human everyday and started to burn out. So, one fine day, I quit.

Giving up my work sometimes seems like the most sensible decision and sometimes the stupidest. I know that whatever I could manage in the last three years would not have been possible had I been tied to a job. A transplant, a birth, two weddings, a relocation and many, many more things that I could facilitate would not have been easy otherwise. I however, also know that I will never get those lost years back, I was at the peak of a career that I had worked very hard for and had I stayed on, I would have had two promotions, a good salary hike and so much more. So, I sulk and sulk some more.

But wallowing in self pity has never helped anyone, it is not going to help me either. I can choose to sit and sulk and cry and whine or I can do something that adds fuel to my fire -- a fire that is almost doused.

But what can I do? I cannot and will not go back to a job that requires me to be at work twelve hours a day and be connected to my Blackberry for the other twelve. I cannot start a business because I neither have the money nor the sense. I cannot paint, draw, sing or dance -- too late in the day to acquire these skills anyway. Thankfully though, there are certain things things that I can do and love doing. I can talk, I can write, I can cook, and sometimes even dream.

One such dream is to travel, all by myself, to places far and wide. From the Himalayas to the oceans of India, from the churches and ruins of Europe to the sky scrapers of America. In our culture, it is rare for a woman to travel alone for pleasure and that is something I want to defy. I absolutely love the power and the confidence travelling alone gives me -- to be on my own, in a world unknown.

So maybe I can travel to beautiful places, explore the art and culture there and write about it. Who knows, someday I might be able to write a feature in a fancy magazine and some pictures taken by me could also accompany the write ups. In my spare time, I could also pen down a few short stories here and there, without the fear of being judged for their subject or content, I could also make some money in the process. Now that is a dream worth living for!

But wait a minute, like every dream, this too has a practical problem -- where will I get the money from? Since I am on a dreaming spree, why not dream of a man, who, allured by my charm, would happily pay for my travel? But such a man is hard to find, even in dreams. As of now, its just the mother-dairy guy, who is charmed enough to offer me a two rupee discount on a packet of buns, in case I have no change! 

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I had not expected anyone to notice that I had not been writing lately. After all, there are hardly a handful of people who read my blog, most of them friends, who have the blog thrust upon them. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to see a message in my inbox from a reader asking why had I not been writing, she also suggested something to write about. That something, coincidentally is the only thought that has been haunting me for weeks and I have been ignoring it. Not anymore.

Three months ago, when I wrote my first post, after a gap of four years, I wrote it only for myself (OK, for one other person too), but the primary reason was to express the thoughts which were getting bottled up and had started to choke me. So, I wrote, and I wrote some more and in three months I ended up putting together close to forty posts. That, is a good number, given that I hardly get any time to myself -- to think or to write. Number, however should not be the driving force behind writing, content and skill should be. And it was the content that I was getting a little worried about.

Reading some of my posts, I realised that though my writing style is evolving, the content has more or less remained concentrated around similar subjects. I decided to pause. I also decided to try my hand at subjects that I had not yet written about.

As a result, there are more than half a dozen incomplete posts sitting in my drafts. Some are ideas, some are thoughts, yet others are just vague emotions. Together they would easily be more than a few thousand words, yet in their current form, they are just that -- words. I am trying my best to convert these words into comprehensible pieces of prose, but tonight, I need to go back to my comfort zone.

Going by the general feel of the subjects in this blog, if a reader tries to draw a mental picture of me, they might see me as a sad, forlorn woman, disappointed in love and dejected in life, who has nothing better to do than whine. Those who know me might think of me as a good actor who pretends to be happy on the outside but carries all the pain of the world within her.

This however is far from being true. Neither am I dejected, nor disappointed and I certainly do not carry anymore pain in my heart than anyone else around me does. In fact, I am quite capable of being a pain myself. I just happen to be fascinated by the grey areas of life in general and relationships in particular. And since I can not go and talk to just anyone about it, I chose to talk to myself and to a few others too by the means of my writing.

In my last post, I had shared a poem by Kipling -- a poem of friendship, companionship and in a way of love too. It was sent to me by someone, who believed that we -- that person and I, were in such a state at that time.

Last night, I shared the poem not because I was missing that person or because it was a relationship gone bad that I regretted. I shared it because it cemented my belief in the process of drifting apart. It was a reminder that every relationship, at the end is transitional. Everything that begins must -- and does -- end, eventually.

Observing the many relationships around me, I have realised that drifting apart is almost inevitable. Best friends, siblings, lovers, spouses -- all drift apart sooner or later, totally or partially. And there is nothing much one can do about it, in fact the harder one tries to hang on to a relationship, the sooner it gets over. Strange but true.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

One Man In A Thousand

Rummaging through my folder for something, I find a piece of paper. Fraying at ends, just short of yellowing, but still firm enough to be held and clear enough to be read. On it, with a beautiful font, is printed a poem, which, at one time, was meant for me. The person who sent it, is long gone and I guess its time for the yellowing sheet of paper to go too, but not before I share the poem with you.

One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth man will stand your friend
With the whole round world against you.

'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him.
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.

You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.

His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot -- and after!

Every now and then, we meet people who we think fit this discription. Alas! its just a matter of time that they go away, move on or drift apart. What a pity that such beautiful words lose their meaning in the whole bargain.