Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Will Protect Myself

Being a woman in India is a compromise, a compromise that we accept at birth. We are taught lessons of acceptance, of shame, of fear. We are taught to keep our heads and voices down, never to 'provoke', either with words or actions. We are taught that all men have vicious animals dormant in them, and yet that they are better than us.

We perpetrate these notions in our sisters, friends and daughters. We demean other women by saying things like 'She looks like a slut' or 'Those shoes make her look like a hooker'. We teach our sons to disrespect women by saying 'Don't cry like a girl'. No wonder they think we're weak, that we will take anything they give us. We judge a woman's right to protest against assault by asking whether she was dressed appropriately, whether she was out late, whether she was drunk, whether she was the partying type. Those who refuse to live by our rules are asking to be brutalized. Even those who play by the rules are asking for it simply by being women.

Our political class knows us too well. They know that the best way to shut up a rape victim is to imply that she is a prostitute. They know that most of us do not believe that a prostitute too has a right to deny consent for sex, that she too can be raped. They know that our anger will abate the moment we leave the protest venue and go back to earning a living.

I have no faith in this government or any other because it is made up of men and women just like us. A government which is powerless even to make sure that auto drivers do not refuse female passengers hardly inspires confidence. A political class which passes resolutions to increase its pay with supreme efficiency cannot come to an agreement that women deserve to feel safe. I know that most of those six rapists will probably be hanged, because it's easy. Because none of them belong to well-connected families with political clout. I know that ultimately I'm the only one who cares about my safety. But I will do what I can to make things better.

I will not shame any woman for her clothes or her habits. Nothing gives me the right to do that.

I will learn to defend myself as far as possible.

I will learn to rely on myself as much as possible.

I will never do anything to put another woman in danger.

I will not teach my son that he is better than women.

I will not teach my daughter that she is less than a man.

I will not keep my voice down.

I will not be ashamed to be a woman.

To the girl who faced worse cruelty than anyone deserves, I'm sorry we all failed you.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Dear All, Fiction

Love is bandied around too much. The word, stupid. You don’t need to love to say the words. But I did. You remember that schmaltzy song, the one which said ‘Love was when I loved you’? I did love you, enough to know that you needed me. Even when you kept lying to my face.

Stop crying now. Don’t be a whiner. She’s gone, she won’t come back. Your tears are no magic elixir of life. I sent her away for good this time. I’m always the one doing the hard things to keep us together. But it’s nice that you need me that way.

No, you only thought that you loved her. How could you, when your heart was so full of me? I just had to make you see it. She kept getting in the way. Tenacious, I’ll give her that. Made me almost regret what I had to do to her. But then, I had to get you.

What d’you mean by that? Of course this is love. Yes, it’s vengeance too. What makes you think the two are different? Vengeance is just love gone bad. You know how love feels when it changes? Like a light inside you that suddenly turns into an inferno. You’re always burning, keeping it from the world, but smouldering  inside. Your heart turns black, but the love/vengeance keeps it alive till it consumes everything around. The weak ones let it destroy them. But you know how strong I’ve always been.

Yes I know you tried telling me that you didn’t feel the same way. At first I believed you. I actually felt my heart break. Spent a few days crying, thinking nothing was going to be the same. But then I realized that it wasn’t true, couldn’t be true. And the world righted itself again. Now look what I’ve done to you. I’ve turned you into what I was for those few days for which there is no forgiveness. Your tears, I’m actually enjoying them.

Let go of her hand, it’s cold already. Let’s sit here and enjoy the view. It’s the least you can do for me, after all I did for you. But then, my darling, you were totally worth it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making memories

I want to remember this time. Maybe words won't be enough, but they can try. I want to remember the endless whirlpool of nerves in my stomach at the thought of getting married. I want to recall the details of the trip to Benaras for the perfect saree. I want to remember serious jewellery decision-making via Skype. I want to hold in my mind the perfection of the moment when I wore the lighter-than-air green lehnga in a small Chandni Chowk fantasy shop.

There were the days we spent checking bed linen in every hotel in Shillong. The hurried decision over which colour suits whom in the extended family, while sipping cups of tea in a shop from a hundred years ago in Benaras. The moment when the sparkle in the 150th pair of shoes I was trying on suddenly seemed to work. The living room debate over curries and cakes. Every moment, every detail, every little thing was driven by one desire: to make sure that nothing was less than it could have been. No regrets.

Maybe you don't get everything you thought you would. Maybe you don't need to. But you can make a lot many dreams come true with a little bit of time, a little bit of love and a lot of good people. For those who would've been very important in this whole affair in another lifetime, but can now do no more than look on from above, all I want to say is this. The very best you could do, you have done through my hands. It's time, for you and me both, to be happy now.