I want to be a Mountain. Allowing that river to flow through me And those plants to grow on me. I want to be the highest yet grounded. So stern that no force living can move me. I want to be so vast That any man who chooses to Cross me Thinks twice Blinks thrice. I want to proudly wear my Steepness like a crown one adorns when they reach the summit. And just once in a while I will let you walk All over me Grow on me Feed off me. Let you kiss me- Like the spread of sun light. I too will allow you to be intoxicated by my beauty. Let you feel like you own me you conquered me. I will sit still as you pass through me and pass you will until gone assured that you have learned of my curves and ups and down. And pass you will until gone for no one ever stayed too long. Unless, buried. I will sit still I will stand tall until the next traveller comes along.
I told you I'm a dreamer and then I dropped hints again and again here and there. Repeatedly. Yet, all you can talk about is people People who wronged you or didn't. People in politics, business and bureaucracy basking away in second-had success and delving into second-had failures You talk about boundaries when my head is limitless I suggest you hammer nails around my head and build a fence and see if that might conform me into what you want me to become. Don't tell me about work that is uninspired and safe like docu-men-tation and how you do it for 60 hours a week. It tires me. It tires me how You talk about money Like it can buy culture or class. It tires me when you recite what you hear on one idiot box and scan on another- never pausing to read between the lines Yet, I envy you. I envy you for your depth as well as outwardness towards things, yes, things that I feel nothing towards and your stoicism towards subjects that keep me sane. I envy how effortlessly you stay afloat while I am suffering and struggling I wonder where are your layers? or are you as one dimensional as what meets the eyes? I dont know what am I more afraid of. I dare you, for once- Tell me about your deepest, darkest secrets, fears and fantasies and watch me not flinch. I promise I will not look away I will not blink and hear me out just once - For I am here to find out if you can return the courtesy. Can you for once be real? and not what they are telling you to be. For once, can you tell me when was the last time you felt alive.
I had seen you
Around for so long
That I thought
You would stay around
Is such a loosely
at some point
We trick ourselves into
No matter what,
few things are here to stay.
Stay because they
are too weak to
Leave and go where?
Where else would you
rather be than stay with
Me- I never fussed
Enough about why
You don’t take your medicines
Or go see a doctor
Or go for that walk-
Or see that therapist
You have been putting off
For years, I listened to
you so indifferently-
Through my phone,
Seeing things I will never remember.
They call it
cannot be seen
Are so insidious
Just yesterday, I was trying to
Guess if I am
PMSing? You asked
‘I think I am PMSing too.’
And neither of us laughed
Because we know it might be true.
Truth is that even
we would be around
Is such an overused,
You see, the chasm separating
is the toughest
a shade called facade which
Idiosyncrasies so stark
They couldn’t sit
Next to each other,
Let alone lay.
The rain washed
over that facade and
is burned, so
the silence sits
in my mouth
of love and tenderness.
And I know for a fact,
That this void,
Is here to stay
Forever, you see
Is not such a loosely
I, have a confession to make The truth is I like being the other woman. Yes, The One Hated by all But revered by One I like the questioning eyes that follow me when I step out their gaze like a red carpet rolled out right in front of me to strut over. I like the judgement bestowed upon me from the moral high horse The scoff, in their tone. The smirk, on their lips. The surprise, in their innocent eyes. The freedom. Ah, the freedom! Maybe, I want you Maybe, I want you too. And why not? I like driving’em crazy. Feet on the accelerator, The car's gonna spin off. I like knowing We are headed to this Beautiful town called ‘no-where-land’ Where we make no promises hence, dispense no misery. But there’s adrenaline and ecstasy and love As selfless as promoted in the archetypal world. I like keeping secrets And also being one. I am the secret, I am the truth, I am the sin and The forbidden fruit. I like pulling the strings I like being worshipped And I like the taboo I am the taboo. I am the taboo, Yet you are drawn Like moth to a flame - Unable to retract what you started. Even if you wanted to. But don't take me Otherwise. After all, It was you who started with “Everything is fair In love and war” And when we meet In the folds of midnight, When the world drowns in darkness- It's a dance of both.
I woke up this morning
And looked outside the window
To the same view
Constant for months now
10 months to be exact –
A quiet yellow house
jaded by rain and sun
With a rusted red door
And a black car
I think, a Wagonar
That disappears at 9
and reappears at 7,
Dutifully parked across the
asphalt abraded road.
But I know the house has
As they sun dry their clothes
In their verandah
On an aluminum stand
Near a banana tree
That refuses to grow any taller.
But they say
A year has gone by.
A year, is it?
True it must be
As it was this cold,
A long time back
When we wore 2 pairs of socks
And sweaters and pants.
Also, some people have
Made their presence scarce.
But alas, sooner the better.
Yes, a year must have gone by
For I don’t remember much from
The one before the virus.
Yes, the virus
That succeeded in breaking
My body but
Not my spirit
As I came back
Even stronger than before;
Ready to take on
Whatever comes next
And so did many others
For there is no other way to go on
Than to go on fearlessly.
Outside, the winter air
Hangs heavy with silence
Of those who mourned the past
From the loss of lives and livelihood.
Scarred yet unbowed.
But apart from that
Everything is pretty much
yet they say,
A year has gone by.
I don’t believe them.
Tell me father-
Were you a child?
To have thought you knew it all
To have thought you knew the best
To have thought that
To have thought
So highly of oneself
And yet leaned on God
In the name of guiding light
To unravel the great mystery of life
Of love and hate
Of love and loss
Wrong and right
Tell me father
Didn’t you know
You, your forefathers
And their grandfathers
Who knew not
Of blue skies
Of mountains high
That plants do live
the cycle of life
Your forefathers and their grandfathers
a fact and a lie
Maths chemistry history biology
Knew not fire
Knew not rain
Your those forefathers
And their fathers
Father, you created god.
It wasn’t waiting
When Adam and Eve arrived.
And in name of God
There were people whose
houses were burned
sons were lynched
Daughters were touched
Daughters were beaten
Daughters were dragged
And you sat in the comfort
Of your Home
Of your office
Of your car
While the capital burned down.
Their homes burned down.
While you listened to music
Hummed in the shower
Attended fancy parties
Holding a glass of champagne
A lovely bed of flowers
Made you a rad
But I know
Your scars were borrowed
So was your pain
Your wars were
Based on hatred and hunger
None of it matters
And it was all an idea
Just as you were one.
But i know
You weren’t alone
You were united by divisions
With those you thought to be your own
Divided by boundaries
United by boundaries
Divided by color
United by color
Divided by theocracy
United by theocracy
And it went on and on
But sooner or later
one after another
The veils were lifted
And today when we know
There are other realities
It was all a facade
A conspiracy for commerce
Just as slavery
Just as holocaust
Just as racism
I wish I could bring you
Dig up your grave
Sit you up
To show you
What a royal circus it was
Watching and clapping
As you liked
In a pseudo reality
Of an idea
That played out too long
I wish i could dig you up
To show you
Your whole existence
Was a lie.
What if all
I had been
Seening till now
Was a mirage
My mind’s tricks
And now that I have fallen
Flat on my face
The spell has been broken.
The Paradise has disappeared.
I see nothing for miles
Amidst a sea of sand
But I wonder-
Who tricked me?
A feeling tells me
From the memory or a dream-
All this love
in my heart
couldn’t be wrong.
this i knew.
couldn’t be wrong.
this i knew.
the mind doesn’t work
in matters of heart
and that only her love
got to me.
this i knew.
and I knew
my lover was
proud of me as I
proud of her.
yet a lot of worlds would crumble
if i told them about ours.
this i knew.
so i cradled this love
close to my heart.
behind closed doors.
a part of me.
my better half.
we will kiss
under the stars,
just as lovers do.
not worried to be
put behind bars
not worried to
prove the truth.
for they realised
what i always knew.
and i knew
All this love
in my heart
couldn’t be wrong.
Fact: India has second largest number of sex-selective abortions only after China.
Four hundred kilometers in the west of Uttar Pradesh, our great ancestral home stood pretty as a bride, veiled by red and yellow fairy lights that illuminated the otherwise dark rural neighborhood. I could hear faint sounds of women singing wedding folk songs on a dholak as I parked my car in the courtyard. Mother and I had come all the way from New Delhi to attend the wedding of my last cousin brother.
Nostalgia overwhelmed me as I ascended towards the doors of my childhood getaway where I had spent countless summers as a child before I got sucked into the quagmire of city life. Maybe it was the lights, or the folk songs or the smell of the food but I suddenly felt alive again despite the tiring journey.
I looked at my exasperated mother who was striving to find a scarf in her massive handbag. “Do you really need to cover your head, mother? You are going to turn fifty.” I couldn’t help but ask.
“Yes, I do. It would be considered as disrespectful if I didn’t.” she replied sternly and then paused to glance at me as if realizing this for the first time, “you should have worn a longer and a looser shirt.”
“Please.” I scoffed.
Inside, the house was buzzing with all our relatives and friends who had come from across the country to attend the wedding. There were people from neighborhood too because of the cohesive society structure in the suburbs and grandma invited everybody to attend the big fat wedding of her last grandson. I noticed that the house was broadly divided into two sections, men’s and women’s. The men sat in the living room while the women and kids sat in rooms near the kitchen area. The men wore pink turbans and discussed politics while the women were clad in colorful sarees and managed the kitchen. I noticed that mother had proceeded to touch some of the elderly’s feet, a mark of respect in Hindu culture.
I was talking to one of my distant aunts when someone tapped at my shoulder.
“Didi, you are here! I have been waiting for you since morning” said a soft voice. I turned around and instantly recognized that face…it was Maya! She was the daughter of chachi ji, our domestic help who had been serving my grandmother from before I was born. Maya was my only friend during my summer break here. We played doll house, teacher-teacher and threw pebbles in the river in the evening. We used to talk for hours and nurtured each other’s secrets. We were inseparable until she went home at night with chachi ji but only until next morning. She was a long lost friend and a sister.
“Maya, oh my god! Look at you…you got…. married! ” I hugged a petite Maya who stood clad in a bright green saree. She wore vermillion, a red streak along the parting of her hair and a red dot between her eyes, a symbol of matrimony used by Hindu women.
“Yes, I did! I have a daughter too” she said with a weak smile pointing to a little girl playing with other children.
“Oh my god! You have such a cute baby Maya! What’s her name? How old is she? I want to meet her!”
“Her name is Bala, didi and she is three years old. Let’s get you something to eat first and then you can meet her.” She said with a warm smile.
We had dinner in a quiet room, away from the hustle just like old times and talked about our lives in past twelve years. Her eyes lit up like a child when I told her that I worked in a reputed firm, travelled sometimes and lived on my own. It was very fascinating for her that there existed a society, just a few hundred miles from here where women, even unmarried ones were ‘allowed’ to live independently. She told me she had been arranged married when she was twenty years old, as soon as she had completed her graduation. She said she wanted to become a teacher in college once Bala turns five.
“Why did you stop coming here didi? I thought I would never see you” Maya asked.
“Because I started enrolling for summer camps, tuitions, internships and then I got a job. It’s a crazy vicious circle. Though I really missed you and the good old childhood days when…we could just jump into the river.” I smiled and she did too.
“I miss those days too. Married life is complicated especially when living in a joint family but Raghav is very loving and understanding.” She blushed.
“Of course he is very loving, in fact, his love is very much showing.” I teased. “Sooo…when is the baby coming?”
She paused as if searching for the right words. “Never”, she finally said.
“I don’t understand…?” I asked perplexed.
She opened her mouth to speak but instead burst into tears. I held her in my arms for almost ten minutes before she could compose herself.
“They want me to have an abortion because it’s a girl.”
Her next words hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew there existed societies where women do not get equal rights and are required to live and behave a certain way. I knew in this world, we have to cover our faces sometimes and sometimes we are raped. But being murdered while still in the womb because it’s a girl, I didn’t see this coming.
“This cannot happen…” I uttered aghast.
Outside the evening prayers had started and the temple bells were chiming. The priests were singing verses in the praises of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
“Who wants you to get an abortion? And how do you know it’s a girl? Sex determination is an illegal practice and so is abortion. We can go to the police.” I said trying to make sense of the situation although I did know that illegal abortions happened all the time.
“Everybody — Raghav, his parents and the society. But… I don’t want to lose my baby.” she said as tears still streamed down her face, “Having a son is everything to him and his parents”.
My mother stormed inside the room pretending to look annoyed. “Girls, come for the Pooja. Grandma will not be happy about you missing the prayers.” She knew I never attended the prayers but then I also knew that she would have to hear an earful from grandma on bad parenting and so I played along.
“Coming Maa.” I said as we both stood up to leave, Maya wiping her tears. “Let’s talk about this in a bit. Okay? I promise you, we will figure something out.”
My head hurt and my heart broke from the information I had just received. Maybe I could talk to her husband Raghav and knock some sense into him, I wondered.
Later that night, I tossed and turned in my bed, lying next to mother. Not knowing what else to do, I told her about Maya’s situation. She heard everything and lay there silently. I thought she was shocked too until she said, “I know this is not what you want to hear but sex-selective abortion is a common practice here and I think you should not interfere especially when she is not family. It’s between a husband and wife.”
“You cannot be serious! Please Maa, Maya doesn’t want this, she was crying like a baby, we need to help her.” I protested.
“This is not your place. Be rational about it and get some sleep. We have to wake up early tomorrow.”
But I didn’t sleep that night because if I knowingly let a baby die then I would forever bear the guilt of it. I finally got up and opened my laptop to make a presentation on some of the powerful Indian women who had earned respect and laurels to show to Maya’s husband. I did some research and prepared some arguments.
Next day, I approached Raghav who was reading the newspaper in the verandah. He looked just slightly older than me and was a brashly attractive man with broad shoulders that came naturally after a lot of fieldwork. I did recall Maya telling me that he was a farmer. He greeted me politely and told me that he had heard a lot about me from Maya. He came across to be a gentleman and seemed a bit surprised when I requested to talk to him in private but nevertheless obliged to my request.
“What can I do for you?” he asked in his thick local accent.
“Raghav ji, I know that Maya is pregnant with another baby girl and that you want her to have an abortion.” I saw his expressions change from kind to grim.
“I want you to understand that times have changed and girls are as competent as boys these days. What you are doing is not only illegal but irrational. There is no need to murder an unborn and put your wife’s life at risk and -”
“Are you done? Can I leave now? This is none of your business” he barked as anger flushed his face.
“I will report this to the police.” I stated. He stared at me and then rolled his eyes.
“What is the matter with you city girls? Why do you always have to show off all this fake power? Go tell the police, I give no damn. And if you must know, I always wanted to have a son and I will not stop until I have one. And though you think you know it all but let me educate you a bit. It’s a son who carries on a family lineage and takes care of his parents when they grow old. Daughters get married and leave their families. A son becomes the man of the house who earns money for his parents, protects honor and guards his women. It is he who will light my pyre when I die. A son means security and a social status. Having only daughters is like watering your neighbor’s lawn. You collect money all your life and give it away in dowry and god forbid, if she brings dishonor to the family. Plus I already have a daughter so you better not lecture me on family planning especially when it looks like nobody wants to plan one with you.”
And then he stormed out of the room as I sat too shocked to move. That man was right in his mind and that terrified me.
However, later that day when all the women, including Maya’s mother and mother-in-law, had gathered to sing folk songs, I thought maybe I could use this opportunity to talk to them. One last shot, after all there wasn’t anything to lose but a lot to gain. I stood up and clapped my hands to draw everybody’s attention and after a few claps I had almost fifty pair of eyes gawking at me.
“Namaste. We have all gathered to celebrate my brother’s wedding but I must confess to you that finding a bride for him was not easy. Wonder why? Well…because there is only one female to every eight men in our country.
Surprised? I am not.
I stand before you to talk about my friend who bears with her an unborn daughter. It has been told to me that she has been asked to get rid of this unborn child on the grounds that it’s a girl. I have also come to know that having a son is of prime importance in some households because a girl is considered to be a social and economic liability.
At this point I cannot help but wonder, did nobody have sons who never called once they left home? Sons who turned their backs when you needed them the most? Sons who never earned a penny and never built a house? Sons who left for good and made choices that didn’t exactly align with the moral compass. Then what is it that assures this ‘social security’ and why is it that a girl cannot provide this? The difference here is not of gender but of belief. There were some who believed in their daughters and those daughters became Indira Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Kalpana Chawla, Saina Nehwal and I could go on. These girls became prime ministers, sportspersons who won medals for the country and went on to the space. And there could have been more like them but they were killed while they were still in the womb. Imagine what would have happened if you and I were killed in the womb? Then what gives us the right to take another life? If you believe in God, then you must also believe that only he is entitled to create and take lives.
The times have changed and we do not need men to fight in wars anymore. They work in offices and earn money and there is no reason a girl cannot do the same. In today’s times, education is a game changer.
We should not forget that when a girl is killed, an entire family tree is killed with her and for what? The law now states that the family property is required to be equally divided amongst all the siblings irrespective of the gender upon parent’s death. The law also provides free education to all girls up to elementary school and it also bans dowry.
I can only request you all to just think about it and if you still think only a son can save your family then, god help us because soon we will be living in a society of all men who will share and rape women because there will be so few left and they will treat us even worse because the minority is always treated the worse. The solution here is to not have few of us but to have more of us. Let’s not kill our daughters. Please.”
After I finished speaking, I saw that there were few women who had tears in their eyes and there were few who were visibly derisive and thought I was out of my mind. Maya had left the crowd.
Next morning mother and I left for home after attending the wedding, this time not talking much during our journey. I till date not know if Maya got to have her baby girl but I do hope I convinced at least one mind in that crowd of women that day and saved at least one family tree.
I cannot help but wonder if some battles will end with the end of humanity for their seeds were sown as early as with the beginning of one.
Although I spent about six months living in London, now that I look back a few months later, the one thing I remember most vividly is the Red couch in my apartment. My couch was flanked by two table lamps on either side against a back drop of a cream colored wall. It was on this couch I’d sit for hours holding my laptop hoping to squeeze some words out of my brain. I’d wake up and lazily drag myself to this couch after which I would eventually open the curtains to allow the sunlight to flood my apartment. It was sitting here, I’d look outside the window at the houses, as still as a painting against the clear blue sky, wondering if anyone lived in those houses as no where ever seemed to come out. At times, I would try to analyze the sky for tens of minutes just to determine if it would rain that day. I would go through all this trouble just so that I did not have to carry an umbrella. I eventually learned that on days it shined the brightest, it rained the hardest and as always, I learned my lesson the hard way. The lesson in itself being that ‘always carry an umbrella’.
But the illusion of a quiet neighborhood broke as soon as one began to walk towards the Underground. An interesting fact about the London Underground is that around 55% of it is actually above the ground. Ironic, right? But what I loved the most about the Underground is that there would always be some artist playing a guitar, a piano or even a violin, calm as a sea in midst of a hasty crowd of people. A reminder to smell the roses, as the Americans say. The nearest Underground station from my apartment was the Stratford station adjacent to the Westfield mall. They say that the Westfield mall is one of the largest malls in Europe. I am sure I never covered it entirely for like most humans, I am inclined towards familiarity. I’d often visit the same places and eat at the same resturants. The waiters in the resturants and the sales persons at the shops apart from the general public usually comprised of what are known as ‘immigrants’. I later learned that London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world that gives you a fair glimpse of people from across the globe. I could hear hundreds of dialects as I would ideally window-shop for hours. However, my ears shot up only when I heard someone talk in Hindi. The beauty of this diversity is that you never feel like an outsider. You just blend in. Why? Because almost everyone else is an outsider too. In retrospect, I think that the Westfield mall is a correct representation of London in itself.
On some weekends, me and some friends of mine would go to central London and wait in never ending queues in cold and rain just so that we could tick off a known eating joint and kickstart our weekend. I have to admit that London is a food paradise even for a vegetarian like me and I always looked forward to eating at Punjab, Spaghetti house, Pret a Manger, Where the Pancakes Are, Roti King and Wahaca to name a few.
We would later stroll on queen’s walk along the south bank of the River Thames. We would start somewhere near the London eye and go on till the Westminster bridge. It’s remarkable how almost everything has a piece of monarchy in it. The monarchy in itself contributes to ninety percent cultural heritage of the country which includes all the museums, palaces and other landmarks such as the big ben itself. In ways, the monarchy will always live through it’s subtle reminders.
On evenings, when my friends felt particularly adventurous, we’d go to Piccadaly circus and SOHO which is extra lit-up with the onset of the Christmas month. I’d look at the LGBT clubs in SOHO and wish for the same to happen in my country where the LGBT community is not only unrecognized but also ostracized. How wonderful it would be if people could just work anywhere without having to justify their genital status. I know one day this day too would come for it is only natural, I just wish it would happen sooner.
On weekdays, I would go to the same tube station to take the Jubilee line for my office in Canary Wharf. It used to be a short ride but it doesn’t take long to recognize that the Londoners don’t like it if you stand to the left of an escalator, cut the queue or try to get on a packed tube before everyone’s gotten off. The Canary Wharf comprises of endless high-rise glass buildings. At night, the buildings glitter as if studded with millions of yellow diamonds and the dainty Thames glitters along with these buildings. The ladies and gentlemen around here are often seen trotting in black coats and polished boots with an aura that states no-nonsense, strictly business. But no kidding, these buildings have very important roles to play in the practical matters of the world.
On some evenings, I would come back home to an overheated apartment, often with a bag full of groceries from TESCO or Sainsbury and realize that I had forgotten to turn the heater off. I would draw open the curtains and open the window to allow the fresh air to come in. Sometimes, I would see a couple making love in the apartment right across from mine. I would wonder if they left the window open on purpose for they put up quite a show. I wondered if the other residents of my building were hanging by their balcony too. It has always fascinated me how men let go of their ego behind closed doors. On some of these evenings, I would draw the curtains close and go back too doing my work but on other days, I would grab a glass of wine and enjoy the show once I slouched on my Red couch.
Every morning I wake up with a burden of million tons weighing me down, immobilizing me from leaving my bed. If I could put a finger on where it weighs the heaviest, I would point to my chest somewhere close to the left shoulder. I bury my head into the pillow waiting for this feeling to pass because succumbing to it is a trap. You cannot surrender for if you surrender, it sucks you in and before you know, you are standing midst a labyrinth of madness. You are spiraling, circling and nothing makes sense. It’s a place untouched by a ray of light. I know the drill to escape these traps. I created it. I give myself a minute for the haze to lift up and the reality to sink in after which, I get up and walk towards the bathroom to splash my face with cold water, hence triggering the domino of routine.
But seldom. I do wonder if there will come a morning I will wake up to, feeling not this way. Any other way but not this. Some days I do get lucky when I am in a hurry and my brain gets no time to think. In a hurry to reach somewhere, be someplace. I hurry as if things depend upon this thing that I am hurrying so much about and for a moment I do feel like it’s all not so bad. My heart sometimes, feels light as a kite. I smile an untainted smile like nothing heart retching ever occurred to me.
Conversations, sceneries and events also play a role to keep me momentarily distracted. But life passes somewhere between these brief moments. Doesn’t it? And one day, maybe there will be peace, unperturbed by any of my yearnings. Undistorted by pain. I am willing to make peace with peace brought upon by monotony. But I know there will come the night, as constant as it is, followed by the morning and yet again, the feeling will return, tiptoeing like the moonlight behind the clouds and it will begin all over again: I will wait for my phone to ring. I will envy anyone who has been fortunate enough to be loved. I will yet again wish I hadn’t woken up. But I also know that I will find a way to dodge this familiar trepidation somewhere between my drill and distractions.
Chapter 4 – Surrealism
Café Viena was bustling with people and activity which gave Amelia Buch more choice of subjects to draw and observe. She would rise with the sun at five am to go for a run along the Mediterranean Sea and would later cook breakfast for herself that mainly comprised of toast and omelette on all seven days a week. She would be ready just in time for her daily tours after which she would go to Viena to work on her thesis. She had set short term and long term checkpoints for her thesis to track progress and had targeted to finish it within a month after which, she had decided post much consideration that it was time to move to Paris to complete its final leg. On alternate days, she had arranged to take Spanish lessons from Africa in exchange of English lessons that she gave her. She would return home tired and exhausted mostly just to sleep ensuring to give herself not much time to think. Why think when you can act and accomplish? She would occasionally drop by the studio to catch up with the band who were busy preparing for their upcoming multi-city tour. Amelia was relieved this would give her some time to reconsider her feelings that she believed, she had delusionally developed towards Diego. She felt utterly silly for deciding to admit her feelings to him and then him taking off to see his ex-wife the very same day. A sign, she thought, only a fool would ignore.
But today she would face Diego for the first time since he had left for Seville. It was Nicholas’ birthday and there was a party at the studio At around eight pm, Amelia and Africa reached the studio where everybody including Nicholas’ family and friends had already gathered. The studio looked different decorated in fairy lights and white balloons, matching the white studio walls.
It was almost midnight before everyone went back home leaving just the band members, Amelia and Africa. Clarence had passed out on the couch while Matteo was helping Africa in cleaning up the studio. Diego went outside to sit on the porch which was dimly lit by the lights escaping through the studio’s door and windows. The night was dark and across the lawn on the other side of the road hung a huge billboard of a cement commercial with a funny tag line. Diego smiled.
“What’s so funny?” Amelia asked as she sat next to him.
“You would know if you could read Spanish.”
“Long time.” He said looking at Amelia.
“Indeed. How was Seville?”
“Successful…if I must say. It’s over now. The divorce papers have been signed. I am a free man.” Said Diego feigning enthusiasm.
Amelia recognized a similar somberness in his eyes, the one she had first seen the time they had had their first conversation outside Marty’s. A pang of guilt overcame her as she realized all through she had been thinking only about herself, oblivious to his problems. They both sat quietly looking at the bill board, not speaking anything.
“Is this is your diary where you write your compositions?” Amelia continued as she reached out for a ragged brown diary sitting next to him.
“How long have you had it, it looks really torn.”
“Almost two years now. I always buy the same journal when one runs out, makes me feel as if the sanctity has remained intact.”
Amelia smiled. “So this contains all the songs that you wrote in past two years?”
“Most.” He looked at her going through the diary, “In fact, there is something I wrote about you.”
Amelia looked at him surprised but his face was expressionless as if he had said the most natural thing in the world.
“If it’s about me, then I deserve to hear it.” She said.
“Well, if you must.”
“Yes of course, nobody ever wrote me a song. It’s good to be somebody else’s muse for a change”
He took a one long glance at her and began:
“Thought that I stood
Made in time
Been there, done that
A man past his prime
But then came along you
And I was hit
By a wave of surprise
For they said there was more
To the air we breathe
But I didn’t know
that there existed
A scent so sweet
I didn’t know
There was a void
as old as me
But then came along
You, oh Amelia,
and life itself
rained over me
and now I am alive
more than ever
more than life
itself could be
For you are a rainbow
With all shades of life
Amelia looked at him both surprised and confused. Does this mean what I think it means? A million question crossed her mind. Why doesn’t it feel so great?
“It’s lovely.” She said, “Could you please read it again?” Diego did without asking any questions. He could almost sense her confusion and did not rush her to respond. His face radiated composure as if it was only important to tell.
“I didn’t know I inspired you like that.” She finally said.
“Everything about you inspires me. I think it’s very brave of you to travel by yourself. You are so young and look at you…” he trailed off.
“How long did it take you to write this?”
“I don’t know. 15 minutes.”
“15 minutes?” Amelia echoed. “That’s it?”
“Well, what can I say? Strong was my inspiration.”
“And when did you write this?”
“It’s been a while. A month maybe. Look, I am sorry if you think this is inappropriate…”
“That was a lovely poem, Diego. Loveliest things anyone ever said to me…in years.”
“I am glad you liked it.” said Diego.
“I am leaving for Paris in a month… maybe.” Amelia said.
“Oh, is it? You never told.”
“Well, how can my thesis on Picasso be actually complete until I cover France.” She smiled.
Diego felt uneasy. He wondered if this was in reaction to his poem. He knew something remained unsaid. Her lips were talking but her words were empty.
“It’s not you.” Amelia said almost reading his mind.
“So what’s the plan?”
“The plan is to go home, sleep. Wake up tomorrow morning, go for a run, go for the tour, study, etc.”
“That is an excellent plan. But seriously, what’s the plan?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I will study further or I will follow my ancestral footsteps.”
“Had enough of Spain?”
Amelia smiled. “Can I just say that I felt at peace after a very long time. I felt…” Amelia paused to light a cigarette, “hopeful. And it’s been all because of you and the beautiful family I found in you guys.
They sat there in silence and shared a cigarette looking into vast nothingness that spread forth their eyes. Both united by pain they had quietly suffered but never shared.
“You gave me a hope too.” Diego added after a while. “And this poem that I wrote about you, is in itself a sign of that. I wrote something after…almost a year, something I truly felt other than indifference. So, thank you. You should know that you will always have a home here.”
Amelia leaned forward to kiss Diego on his cheek.
“Please don’t slit your wrists when I leave next month.” Amelia teased.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Do you think I will ever make big as an artist?”
“Yes…you know. Successful?”
“That depends upon what your definition of success is.”
“You know…like Picasso.” Amelia said carefully.
“Do you think Picasso drew because he wanted to be successful?”
“Hah! I doubt.”
“Tell me, would you continue to keep drawing if I told you that you will never be a successful artist?”
“Yes I will.’
“Would you continue to keep drawing if only five people came to visit your exhibits including Africa that is. I am not making any promises though.”
“Yes I would. Amelia chuckled.”
“Would you keep drawing if you didn’t have to?”
“I don’t think see that ever happening but yes, I would.”
“Would you draw if there was no hope and would you draw honestly?”
“What else would I do?”
“Well may be, just maybe, you might actually be “successful” someday. Artists, my love, are too consumed to choose. They do whatever they do because there is nothing else they are able to do. And I don’t know if you will be successful, but you will definitely be happy. The joy of creation is unparalleled.”
“I must admit that coming here, really helped me. I think my Blue period might finally be over.”
“Yes. Picasso’s work has been broadly divided into: Early works, like when he was a child and was doodling, the Blue period- that was when he was so poor and his best friend died that all his painting looked blue and sad, the Rose period- that was when he moved, eh, wait for it…Paris!, Cubism you already know. Classicism, Surrealism. I could explain-“
“When was your blue period? Where was I?”
“Oh it was before I moved to Spain. Nothing important.” Amelia said dismissively.
“Amelia, you can talk to me.”
“It’s a story in itself.”
Chapter 5 – The Blue Period
Amelia vividly remembered the first day at the university where she had been wait-listed for more than two months for the Fine Arts course and the anticipation of making the cut had gnawed at her at every waking second. It was while standing in a queue in the Admissions office, she had noticed Neal for the very first time. A guy in baggy blue jeans and a plain white t-shirt standing ahead of her. Amelia only saw his back for first ten minutes until he turned around a couple of times. He had not shaved in days and his dark brown hair were wildly unkempt. His face looked placid in contrast to his shabby appearance while he skimmed through a book titled “Quantum Mechanics”. He was unperturbed by ongoing conversations and the occasional bursts of laughter in a room packed with freshers, as if an invisible wall separated him from the inessential, distinguishing him from everyone else. He would lift his eyes every now and then to see how far along the queue had moved, his hazel eyes in contrast with his dark brown hair.
Amelia did not see him until next two months in the library where he was making notes from a number of books carefully laid down in front of him on the table. His gaze was intense like that of an observer and betrayed his otherwise empty face. Amelia flushed with embarrassment when he suddenly looked up, meeting her in the eye as if he knew all along that he was being watched. It was only after a few minutes that Amelia looked at him again to see if he was still looking and to her astoundment, he was not just looking but also, grinning openly. Amelia’s heart skipped a beat for the first time ever in almost two decades. She knew it was a beginning of an era.
Getting to know Neal was an experience. He came from a middle class family where his father was a high school Maths teacher and his mother was a nurse in a local hospital. He was the third youngest amongst his four siblings comprising of two older brothers and a younger sister. As a child Neal learned the value of money and hardships that came with the absence of it. He witnessed his parents work extra shifts to ensure private education for all their children. As a child he vowed to be rich when he grew up and provide his parents with every luxury the world had to offer. By late teens he had realized that the only way to earn some real money was to become a businessman and he couldn’t wait to finish his education to become one. Every morning he woke up to The Financial Times and The Economist and never missed a class.
He admired Amelia for her kindness and compassion and would often tell her about his dreams as if they were already true. He told her how he would become an industrialist one day and she would tell him how she would own an art gallery. He would talk in facts and she would talk in poetry and they would both lay consumed in each other’s vastness. She was an idealist while he was pragmatic and they both knew how much they needed each-other to complete the spectrum. They were like lost pieces of a puzzle. The more they appreciated each other’s mind, the more they desired for each other’s bodies. They would travel across cities together, at times indulging in inebriated lunacies and on other times just being silently by each other’s side, reading their own books, listening to their own music. On other times, they would just walk by the beach holding hands, taking a dip in the ocean. Occasionally they would argue but one of them would always concede sooner or later. The price of separation was too high to pay in a life this short.
It was in an evening of their third summer together that a nineteen year old Amelia walked into her hostel room, after a hectic day of classes to find her otherwise shabby room to be decorated with candles and fairy lights. In the middle of the room was Neal, down on a knee. Oh my god! He is going to propose!
“Amelia, I know life is full of uncertainties and as we grow older, it is only going to get tougher. But if there is anything I am certain about, then it is you. I don’t know what future holds and but I am certain that I can go through anything as long as I am with you. I am certain that I cannot go on without you and believe you me, I have tried. I am certain that life will be beautiful with you. And so I want to celebrate my love for you and let the whole world know how proud I am of us. Would you spend your life to me? Amelia Buch, will you please marry me?”
“Bloody hell, yes, yes and a thousand times yes! Please tell me I am not dreaming.” Amelia exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms. Amelia couldn’t believe that love had finally found its way to her. That night she lay in bed, cuddled with Neal, beaming at the ring. The ring wasn’t gold or diamond. It was probably aluminium but she couldn’t care less. She giggled as she said out loud, “hello, fi-an-cé” and they kissed for the hundredth time. Amelia knew that the ring was a promise of commitment and she knew the value of one. Even her own parents couldn’t make one to her when it seemed to come naturally to all the others in the world.
Amelia carefully examined her surroundings. She wanted to remember every detail when she tells this story her children years later. She remembered the light pink floral curtains. The dim lights. The white window panes. The light blue cotton sheets sprawling carelessly across the bed. Her roommates’ Black Sabbath posters on the wall. The tilted photo frame on the bookshelf with a photograph of Neal, Grandma Lily and her from her previous birthday standing next to the only picture she had of her parents from their wedding day.
Must they be still together, mom and dad? Amelia knew of her parents only through her grandmother who had told her that her parents were travelers. Her mother had left for a fourteen day trip when she was twenty but had returned only a year later to inform that she will be travelling for the rest of her life. Her mother had blonde hair and sea green eyes on a heart shaped face, it was a face that must have left a string of broken hearts. It was while travelling to India that she had met her father and had been instantly smitten by his sun baked complexion and stout muscled built. Mother wanted to travel through India and father wanted to leave for Europe so they had both decided to take turns. First, her father showed her mother the gigantic Himalayas, and the dry Thar, the valleys of Kashmir, the royal palaces of Jaipur and the beaches along Indian Ocean coastline. And then it was her mother’s turn to show him the colors of Europe that shaped the history of entire world. Somewhere between the two, Amelia Buch was created and that was when her parents got briefly married somewhere over the Atlantic in a cheap ferry. How drunk they must have been, she thought. Her mother had dropped her off at her grandma’s house, promising to come back once she had run a few errands in Japan. But she never did. Never called and never turned up. What was in Japan though? Amelia wondered.
She looked at the photo frame and then looked at Neal who was casually lying next to her. She smiled. It was a moment of absolute bliss. It’s all too good to be true, she thought.
Amelia and Neal had moved in together in a small one bedroom apartment. Neal had joined as an intern at one of the top corporate firms and Amelia had been taken by a local artist for shadowing in central London. It was only five months later when she was looking at the calendar to pick a date that it struck her that she might have missed her period. She sat there baffled to see if there was a discrepancy but in her heart she knew she had never missed a date. Not once. But today she was late by twenty days. Even the thought of missing her period, let alone getting pregnant had never occurred to her as she had never missed a pill. There was even a reminder in her phone for every night at ten pm. Dredgedly she dragged herself to a pharmacy and got five pregnancy test kits. On her way back home, while sitting in the bus, she stared at the cover of the kit, on which a blond white girl smiled gaily as her stick reflected a positive sign. The blonde girl was happy about being positively pregnant. The sheer irony of it mocked at her. She decided against telling Neal yet, in case it was a false alarm. Hours later, sitting on the bathroom floor, holding a stick, Amelia felt nauseous. All five sticks surrounding her reflected a positive. She couldn’t bring herself to walk out the door and tell Neal about the…baby, she thought. There’s going to be a baby inside of me. She knew she wasn’t ready for this. There is no job, no financial security and no matrimonial bond yet. It was almost thirty minutes later that she heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Babe, are you in there?”
“Are you okay? It’s been a while.”
Amelia looked flushed when she opened the door. She walked up to Neal who was listlessly changing channels on the television. Neal noticed that she was drenched in sweat. Before he could ask any questions, she handed him the pregnancy stick.
Neal looked at the stick for a good one minute. Amelia could see his eyebrows raise and knit in confusion.
“But this is not possible…just not possible.” He said without conviction. “How’s this possible? You were on the pill.”
“I know, oh baby, don’t worry… we will take care of it.”
In that moment Amelia felt as if somebody had burst her bubble. “Take care of it?” She echoed. “It could be a him or a her. There is no it. We created it.” She said, her eyes blazing with betrayal. She couldn’t believe that Neal had referred to their child as an object who could be taken care of.
“Yes, I mean…you know what I mean.”
“I don’t think I know what you mean. Look, we cannot waste any more time. This needs to be meticulously planned. We need to pick the next date. How about Sunday? And get married as soon as we can so that we can begin getting ready for the baby. I know it’s going to be really tough but I could use my savings and prepare for the baby. We could get married somewhere cheap and save the marriage fund for the baby…”
All Neal could here was “the baby”. He could see Amelia talk passionately for about next ten minutes but he didn’t hear a word.
“Yes…yes…of course.” He said at the end of it.
“Should I call grandma?”
“Let’s wait until tomorrow. Let’s go and see a doctor first. One could never trust these sticks.” He calmed her down and put her to bed. Exhausted from all the weeping, Amelia drifted off to sleep while Neal lay wide awake.
Neal wondered what he is going to tell his parents who expected him to join one of the Ivy League colleges. He felt like his head would explode. Next morning, he woke up and got ready for the doctor’s visit even before Amelia woke up. He prepared breakfast and woke up Amelia who ate in silence. The visit to the doctor was a quiet one and even quieter on the way back once their biggest fears were confirmed. He started massaging his forehead with his fingers not knowing how to say what he really wanted to say.
“Baby, I have been thinking a lot about this and I don’t think that the timing is right. I mean we haven’t even started our career yet and how are we going to look after a baby? It’s expensive you know, education, medical, and so on and we are just twenty, we have all our life to make babies and we will. I promise you but not now…please. And think about all our plans of accomplishing things together, travelling together? Prioritizing our career? Please, we are not ready for this.”
“but it’s our baby, Neal? We can’t run away from this and I know we can do this together. I was scared too and I thought about it. Really thought about it. I even googled it and this situation is somewhat similar to cold feet but believe me, we will figure this out. We will love this thing more than we ever loved anything.”
“Do you seriously believe in all these things after what your parents did to you?,” there was mockery and anguish in his tone.
“Are you suggesting that I get an abortion?”
Neal nodded, his lips pressed in a straight line. “You just need to take a medicine.”
“Just a medicine? Is that right?”
“At least sleep over it?”
“I think you should leave.”
“Leave? This is our home. Where should I leave for?”
“I don’t know.” Amelia’s snapped.
“Are you sure you want to keep the baby and there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”
“Bloody hell Neal! Yes I am keeping the baby. You can get lost if that’s what you want to do.” Her eyes were brimming with tears as she stormed out of the room into her bedroom.
In the morning she woke to an empty house and realized that Neal had left. She tried calling him but he didn’t pick up the phone and didn’t reply to her messages. It was on the fifth day that Amelia realized that he probably will never come back. She lay in her bed restless, feeling anxious. She didn’t tell her grandma or her college friends that Neal had left without a word. She didn’t have courage to tell anyone that she had loved a man who didn’t have courage for responsibility, a man who had left her at her worst. A man who had abandoned her and their unborn child. Amelia didn’t leave her bed for next fifteen days. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t change. She never left her home, in case Neal came and always charged her phone in case Neal called. She felt incapable of even crying anymore. It was only when she had decided that things could not get any worse that a month later she woke up in the middle of the night, confused and deranged. Did I get my period?
Chapter 6 – Classicism
Diego looked at her, his expressions soft. They both sat in silence. Diego wanted to give her a hug but he knew she was too strong to be pitied. Amelia understood his silence and was relieved that she didn’t break down, neither were her eyes moist when she finished talking. Instead she felt lighter. It felt like a story from a hundred years ago. None of the characters from this story were around. She smiled at irony of all of it. She wondered where everyone was? What were they doing in this very moment while she was looking at the Spanish sky with a full moon? Were they looking at the same moon or were they looking at the sun? No one could tell.
“Neal was a first class coward and I am not saying this to make you feel better.” Diego finally said.
“He was perhaps a lapse of judgement, now that I look back.” Amelia said nostalgically. “Sometimes I do wonder what the child would have been like. What would I have named it? Would it have been a boy like him or a girl like me with dark locks of hair and Neal’s dark brown eyes?”
“Don’t go there.” Diego said as he held her hand.
“Sometimes I also wonder if I subconsciously killed my own baby. Not willing to face another living reminder of yet another failed relationship for the rest of my life. I wonder if I had been selfish all this while, playing a victim while actually being a perpetrator. You see…I denied myself food when it was someone else who needed it more than me. I did to my child what my parents had done to me. Abandoned it. Selfishness must be a genetic trait.” She said dryly in a flat tone.
“Do you hate your parents?”
“Well. Let’s see. I definitely missed them around the parent teacher meetings and birthdays and sometimes Christmas and I still think about them every day. I wonder if they aged gracefully or if my mother became fat and if father became bald. I wonder if I have step brothers or sisters. I wonder if they wonder I was a mistake. I wonder, if they are even around. I miss them. Sure. But then I also know of a friend whose parents abandoned him and he was raised by his uncle and aunt who were really bad people. His aunt used to burn him and abuse him and what not. They didn’t send him to school for a very long time and said really mean things to him, so the poor guy is still very shaky and sensitive. I think I got lucky to be raised by my grandma who is so smart and intelligent. We both love each other so much. I think she raised me better that anyone ever could. I was home-schooled till thirteen which I loved by the way. But no, I don’t hate my parents because honestly… I don’t really know what it is it like to have parents and so I don’t miss it in that way. I know having parents is mostly about being unconditionally loved and I was fortunate enough to be loved by my grandma. Plus what’s wrong in being selfish? Aren’t we all thinking about ourselves first? Even those who say we love “unconditionally” do it because it kind of makes them feel like a bigger person or makes them feel good about themselves. I don’t hate my parents. I know they must be a little guilty and they definitely are cowards but… what can I say? Right now, as selfish as that sounds, I am happy that I didn’t have my baby. No, I don’t hate my parents.”
“Can I tell you I had a crush on you for a brief moment? And I was slightly disappointed when you just left for Seville. All those feelings came back and I felt like, another man I loved has left the town. Déjà vu.” Amelia continued.
“I would never leave you,” said Diego his eyes burning with sincerity.
“We would never know.”
“You are the only women, if I may say, I really liked after a long long time. After my wife left me, I thought this is it. This is the end, I will never feel this way again. But thank god for you and you have inspired me in so many ways and after today, everything has changed. Thank you for telling me everything”
“How drunk are we to talk about life and matters of heart? Think we should call it a night?”
“It’s almost sunrise.” Diego nodded.
Amelia rose and they both hugged each other. They went inside the studio where the others were sleeping. Amelia packed her stuff and headed towards the door.
“Should I walk you back home?” Diego asked.
“I think I’ll just walk back on my own.”
Diego nodded and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“Will you forgive me, if I never come back?”
“I could never be angry with you.”
Dedicated to my late grand parents – nani-nanu, dadi-baba, who I know shine bright with the stars.
You can read Amelia- Part I here.
As mortal beings, we humans put in a lot of efforts into saving memories. We click pictures, collect souvenirs and sometimes people like me even write it all down. But when the pictures are gone and the souvenirs are lying someplace we can’t remember, then, there is only one thing that comes back to us when the sun goes down and the door in the back of our head cracks open and that is: how we felt. Precisely, how we felt in that moment. Was it ecstasy or fear? Was it exciting or dull? Was it forced or faked or undesired? Did it feel victorious or quite the opposite?
A memory reminds us how we felt at a point in time and sometimes, for good reasons, memories shouldn’t be created.
In the summer break of 2005, my mother decided that it would be a good use of me and my best friend’s time to learn swimming and so, she enrolled us for classes at a local school that sublet its pool to freelance swimming instructors. I still remember the first time we went to see the pool along with my mother. We were introduced to two young instructors who promised my mother that they would extend all the necessary support and ‘watch out’ for us. The pool was crowded with all the kins, especially the mothers sitting by the pool guarding dry towels and clothes, cheering and motivating their kids, making friends with fellow mothers. It seemed like a picture perfect moment full of fun and frolic with at least 20 pairs of eyes constantly watching the pool making sure that a part of them doesn’t drown out there. Vedika and I giggled as we exchanged enthusiastic looks with each other just as any thirteen year olds would do. We had already decided the color of our swimming costume, the goggles and the cap. We were finally going to learn the butterfly stroke! Or so we hoped.
The first few days were easy. We were taught to hold our breath, float and scissor kick our legs. Being a hydrophobic, I always stood by the shallow end of the pool while Vedika explored the water until it reached her shoulder level. She would swim almost 10 feet away from me and then signal me to come but I always shook my head in a firm no. If there is one thing I learned then it was that nothing sucked more than chlorinated water up your nose.
A week later, one of my instructors approached me and said something along the lines that I need to try harder in order to overcome my fear of water if I really were to learn swimming. He suggested I should try to go towards slightly deeper side of the pool and in order to help me, he promised to be there by my side at all times. ‘I won’t let you drown’, he said and I agreed, mostly because my friends in the park, including my crush said the same, i.e. one needs to go into deeper waters in order to actually learn swimming. So we both are somewhere in the middle of 8 feet and I am doing just fine trying to paddle away the water until it struck me that there is no ground under my feet and I panicked. I could feel my heart hammering against my ribs as I gasped for air as the water sucked me in. I fanatically reached out for my instructor who was at an arms distance. He helped me resurface and tried to calm me down, ‘It’s okay’, he repeated again and again and the next thing I realized amidst all the confusion is that one of his hands is touching my inner thighs while he looked me straight in the eye waiting for a reaction. I wonder if I looked more confused or terrified or both knowing that I couldn’t even push him away from myself or else I may drown. ‘I want to go back to the shallow side’, I finally said not knowing how else to react. ‘Sure’, he smiled like touching a person’s bare thigh is the most natural thing in the world.
That was definitely the end of swimming lessons for me and never did I say a word about this to anyone simply because I wasn’t even sure about what happened back then. Vedika never complained about anything so I thought maybe something was wrong with me or maybe I misread the whole situation. But this definitely wasn’t the end of sexual harassment I faced as a naïve teen ager. Once my ass was pinched at a crowded Diwali fair, even though my parents were just a few feet away from me and at another instance when I was hospitalized for a few days, the doctor thought the right way to listen to my heartbeat is by pressing the stethoscope right at the center of the breasts, which I observed wasn’t the case when my parents were in the room. And mind you, all of this is apart from the day to day eve teasing and name calling of body parts which involved no physical contact thankfully. At all instances I wondered if my behavior was provocative in any way? Was I wearing inappropriate clothes? What did I do to invite such depravity? After every single instance, I came back home with a little bit of innocence being replaced by a little bit of cynicism but importantly, I came back with the fear of being out alone.
I wondered what it must be like for women and little girls who are taken against their will. Every day the newspaper had a new story to tell which suddenly had all my attention and I realized that all this is for real. I couldn’t help but wonder if something worse happened to me.
The recent Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo spark is yet another reminder that even today, women at top of their fields face such sexual innuendoes by men at top of theirs, even in first world supposedly advanced nations and maybe in all those years, it wasn’t my fault for inviting such behavior and honestly, that’s bit of a relieve. It is a reminder that successful and even learned men treat women like objects and suddenly I can clearly see that face with the creepy smile in the middle of the swimming pool that said ‘Sure’. Scandals such as these take me down the memory lane and even after more than a decade of first such incidence in my life, the first thing I remember is how I felt at that very moment and I precisely felt terrified.
But why am I writing about this after all these year when the discomfort of talking through this can be easily swept under the carpet? Well, I am sharing some of the darkest moments of my life because I know there are other young and naïve girls out there who don’t know how to react. To them I want to say, speak up. They are targeting you because they think you are young and vulnerable which is why they can probably get away with this behavior. We have to make sure that this screwed up mindset changes and for that we need to speak up.
Today, I wonder how many girls must that instructor have tried to molest before and after me? I wonder how things would have been different if I had shared this incident with my parents and then they would have probably taken appropriate actions to escalate the issue. Maybe, I should have slapped each one of those guys, I do imagine doing that sometimes and it feels good because then people like him would at least think twice before pulling such stunts. I wonder how many innocent girls I could have saved from being scarred because back then when I said nothing, they won. I gave each one of them the power by staying silent and till date, it bothers me.
To all the parents, I want to say, talk to you children both girls and boys because in the recent light of events, little boys are exploited too in ways we don’t want to imagine and all of this happens in plain sight of a pool or in social gatherings by people who look completely normal. It happens when you don’t even see it coming and it is of utmost importance that you educate your kids about the ‘bad’ touch. You tell them, that you as a parent are open to such conversations because the world isn’t a fairyland after all. Such conversations are very difficult yet very important.
To some extent, I want to blame the society and the social media for my silence back then because of the victim blaming games they play. They somehow twist the whole situation to show that it was the girls fault. They mask the woman’s identity when instead as a society we should say, ‘Look, here’s a hero who survived disgrace’ but in reality, the questions that are raised are: Why was she out so late? Why was she dressed like that? Why was she breathing?
The conservative remarks such as ‘’Boys will be boys, they commit mistakes” that come from ministers holding political offices in India show how doomed we are as a society and how our leadership is screwed beyond repairs. Such weak men cannot handle strong women and more importantly they cannot handle being let down, being said ‘NO’ to by a woman and so they make up a world in their heads in which women are supposed to behave in a certain way while men can grab and grope anyone they please. It’s no surprise that 70 percent of work place sexual harassment in India goes unreported.
It goes without saying that there are good men too, the ones I see in my father, brothers and friends who treat women as humans not above or below them but equally, and they are far more in number than the bad men which is why this world isn’t such a bad place to live in after all. To such men, I want to say thank you, for your thoughtfulness and compassion is moving.
I know there is a long way to go but I also know that we have come a long way from a world where once there was practiced Sati to a world where women can be themselves more freely. It is bit of a paradox that we are born free but still we have to fight majority of our life fighting for some kind of freedom or a basic right. This is probably because we ourselves are our biggest enemy and the hunger for power overcomes us in various ways. History stands tall as an evidence that men in the past have oppressed and waged wars on other men for no rational reason at all but just to feel powerful and it shouldn’t be a surprise if such men and women with vile motives keep surfacing from time to time. Together as a society we can fight them all but as a starting point, we need to speak up.
Photo Courtesy: verilymag.com