Static

The drum stick ricochets off skin

Like the flutter of wasp wings.

They dance – thrust, throw, shove, grind –

Frenzied, hurried. Dirty

They’re pigeons in heat.

The tiny hair on their cheeks has risen.

Accidents happen – gaze, chests, bottoms, lips.

Around them, within them, their own blood

Turns to sweat. The air turns musky;

Their voices, husky. Zoom in, out of focus.

There’s nothing but the sound of them

Breathing. Nothing; but them. 

The Wrath of the Spurned: How Acid Attacks Life Beyond The Moment

(Now that the Supreme Court of India has made the laws regarding acid attacks more stringent — imposing a rather difficult-to-implement ban on sale of acid, and a more respectable amount of financial aid — it is worth looking at how this might change things for the better. You can also read this here)

Pragya was sleeping on the upper berth in a sleeper compartment of a train to Varanasi when she felt a burning sensation on her face. She woke up with a start — she literally felt her skin on her cheek come away when she touched it. “I jumped down and began screaming with pain. It was 2 am, my clothes had melted and people around me thought I was going mad. If it weren’t for the foreigner who recognised what had happened to me and called a doctor, I would’ve perhaps not survived,” she says, recalling with vivid clarity, the moment she was acid attacked in 2006.

The attack came merely 10 days after her marriage and, as she and her family were to find out in the following weeks, was the repercussion of a rejected marriage proposal. “The man was at least a decade older than me and apparently already married. They caught him and put him in jail in the next few months, but he’s out on bail now. None of it changes the fact that it took me over two years simply to recover physically,” she says.

Recently, two men on a motorbike threw acid on four sisters in Shamli. The case has made national headlines, as did another incident in Patna where two teenage girls were also victimised in their sleep. It is heartening to see an increased focus on reporting sexual crimes against women, following the December 2012 protests that were triggered by the gangrape of a girl in a moving bus in the capital.

It is important to recognise the special nature of acid attacks, seeing as they are generally perpetrated by somebody in the know. In the Shamli case, one of the accused is the brother-in-law of the victim. The girls wanted to go to town about their illicit relationship, and this was his way of containing the situation. In the Patna case, the attackers were spurned lovers.

“A general perception is that the male ego cannot take rejection lightly and seeks to overcome his rage through such an attack. This is complicated with the impulsive spirit of today’s youth, which cannot handle what we call ‘delay of need gratification’ – they don’t seem to find any sense of illegitimacy to their actions. Another explanation would be the lack of accessibility – the feeling of “if your attractiveness can’t be available to me, I will make sure nobody else can have it either”,” observes Dr. Arvind Mishra, professor of social psychology at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The notion of revenge is critical to acid attacks, since its intent is to ruin the victim’s life without actually ending it. Such attacks cause disfiguration that lasts for a lifetime, because the social stigma attached to deformation ensures that the victim would no longer have access to a social life, nor will she be considered a viable candidate for marriage. The fact that acid is easily available at kirana shops and supermarkets across the country, doesn’t help the situation.

The consequences of acid attacks can be very dire – considering the fact that this form is particularly popular in the low to lower-middle classes of society, the victims’ access to medical help might be limited. Basic operations to keep the victim alive could result in bills as big as Rs 50 lakh, or more, at times. Also, the facilities to treat first degree burns are few and far between. It was due to the lack of proper medical treatment that 23-year old J Vinodini died in Pondicherry after being attacked by her neighbour, and battling for life for over three months.

It is also within the momentum created by the December 2012 protests that the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was passed recently, recognising the various forms of such violence and raising the punishment bar for rape, voyeurism, stalking and acid attacks. Up till now, all these offences were clubbed under the ambivalent label of ‘grievous hurts’ in sections 320, 322, 325 and 326 of the Indian Penal Code, punishable by imprisonment upto seven years – legislation, or lack thereof, that itself showed just how seriously violence against women was being taken by the state.

Under the amendment ordinance, acid attacks, along with the others, are recognised as specific crimes and are punishable by imprisonment of upto 12 years, along with a fine of upto Rs 10 lakh. While this is a definite improvement, it still seems to fall short of the correction required in cases of acid attack, from the point of view of the victim. “The government has made provisions for a parallel amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code to provide compensatory medical and private aid for victims. But whether this will be followed through remains to be seen,” notes Madhu Mehra, director of Partners for Law in Development.

Image

She is sceptical because of two factors – the speed of convictions in India is nothing to boast about, and it isn’t possible to adjudge the capacity of the accused to pay the stipulated fine. “The government needs to recognise that this is among the most physically debilitating crimes. It must also acknowledge the fact that violence can create polities of its own kind. For the victim, it would be more important to get back on her feet. You can either make sure that you take up social transformation, but when you can’t even tell the Khap panchayats to shut up, you could at least ensure that the schemes or provisions you draft are water-tight,” she states.

In such a situation, does regulating the availability of acid make sense? “Not really,” says Mehra, “because it isn’t the ‘weapon’, but the intent that needs to be inspected. Ten years ago in Mongolpuri, we heard of a case where men on motorbikes were slashing women’s faces with razor blades. The government could slap restrictions, but there’s always a way to get around the law, especially for a product so cheaply available. We just can’t deal with disfigurement and that is what needs to be addressed.”

Today, living in near-complete anonymity in an undisclosed location, Pragya believes that she’s been luckier than most, thanks to a supportive husband and family back home at Varanasi. “I have no friends though – when I walk on the road, people ask me what happened to my face. There’s plenty of sympathy, but they don’t really want to associate with me beyond that,” she says.

She has now started working with Stop Acid Attacks, an NGO working to help victims with medical and financial aid. Her aim is to help girls come out of the trauma through counselling and group support sessions. “I don’t think I am abnormal – it is feeling that a lot of girls develop when their faces and bodies are maimed in this manner. I want to help them get back to their lives as before,” she says.

You [already] Stink and Burn

Perhaps it should have been heartening to see so many people finally coming out on the streets, crying for ‘justice’, whatever it is that they mean by the word; demanding that our roads be made safer, that rape cannot be tolerated.

Perhaps it is the ever-growing cynic in me who just cannot find a hint of satisfaction or relief in the drama that is unfolding every moment in pristine Lutyen’s Delhi, in these beautiful winter days.

Perhaps they will pass a new law, there will be a new CM, there will be more police on the roads, the papers and TV channels will follow rape cases more doggedly.

BUT!

This is not the first time a woman has been raped to the brink of her death. This is not the first time the CM has shrugged off responsibility. This is not the first time the common man and his kin have come out in the streets. This is not the first time they’ve increased security. This is not the first time there’s so much excitement. This is not the first time – and it won’t be the last. Not the way we seem to be going about it!

Because rape isn’t an under-the-table act, where both parties can leave with some sense of satisfaction, gratification. It isn’t an assembly line product that has come to dominate psyches, turned into a status symbol, something that one MUST have, a sign of one’s affluence at the cost of another’s impoverishment. It isn’t a man, a regime that has his/its own way all the time. It isn’t an ideology, a religion, a policy, a piece of property. STOP calling your picnic a fucking REVOLUTION, for heaven’s sake!

Because if you think what you’re doing out on the roads – shouting slogans, burning effigies, calling authorities names, getting a shower-down by policemen, demanding death by hanging and/or castration – is a revolution, you don’t know shit about what it is like walking on the road, alone, everyday, with a mix of fear and stubbornness swirling inside you, making you nauseous and pumping adrenaline into your bloodstream all at the same time. Knowing that any moment now, you will face an ugliness that you never dreamed possible, even in your worst nightmares.

You don’t know shit about how everyday, you see it in their eyes, everywhere. That you’re being undressed slowly or hastily, depending on just how his highness likes it, your breasts are being weighed, your buttocks are getting spanked, and this may not just be foreplay. You know it because you can see the bulge in their pants that they will continue to thrust into your behind, your shoulder and everywhere else as you jostle for even the littlest space to stand in an overcrowded bus.

You don’t know shit about that lecherous uncle / cousin / male relative (even fathers!) who will leave no stone unturned to be with you in a closed, isolated space, touch you whenever possible, wherever possible, however possible. And just how the sight or sound of them fills you with an inexplicable dread, a sense of terror that can paralyse you down to your very puny soul.

You don’t know shit about how your dreams, your identity, your entire being is subservient to your safety, which is just politespeak for your family’s honour, that nondescript sense of selfhood that rests almost completely on the girl’s sorry shoulders. You have a job that keeps you out late? Imagine the possibilities! How can you not be panicking yet? After all, worrying is our prerogative, beta.

(By the way, if you do know all this and are still screaming your head off in the streets, for your and fellow sufferers’ rights, then aww, you poor little naive thing. Even my rant here on this webspace that nobody reads isn’t half as bad as yours.)

Why do you talk about it, and those who do the deed, as if it were exclusive to you and your environment? Rape isn’t an isolated act, much as it may require isolation as a condition to facilitate its happening.

Rape doesn’t happen because the girl (or boy) was looking soo unbearably sexy that no power in that dot on the time-space axis could’ve stopped her (his) molestation.

Rape doesn’t happen because the rapist harbours exceptional degrees of lustiness. Nor does it happen because the night brings out their romantic side.

Rape happens because society, and you, let it happen. Because you don’t stand up against offences of any nature in public places such as, say, the Metro. Heck, you don’t even get up to give your seat to the old/ pregnant lady standing in front of you, that’s how blind you are! Rape happens because we live in a repressed society where girls and boys are segregated, having boyfriends is seen as criminal, sitting and talking with a boy in a public place warrants a lock-up, being beaten-up, where prostitution remains illegal and sex is seen as a depraved, corrupt activity. Rape also happens because Hindi cinema glorifies masculinity, which in turn has its source in violence and sex. Rape happens because power equations across class, caste, gender lines are changing – lines that were drawn by the very people who are climbing lampposts and posing for pictures at India Gate today, not-waiting to put them up on FB to show they’re so with it. Rape is not one man’s crime, it is even yours when you tell your daughter/sister/mother to stay indoors at night, even though all you want to do is protect them.

At this rate, rape will continue to happen. Even as you lot are ‘protesting’ – which, come on face it, is just asking for revenge – there were at least three more cases reported in today’s newspapers. Do you think your shouting is loud enough to drown out their urges inside their heads? Doesn’t look like it.

Rape will also keep happening as long as you think that women need to be protected. The presumption here is the male is and always will be an animal, naturally. That’s like, WTF? And all you women, you buy into this crap because it makes you feel better in your cramped existence too.

Rape happens because in the friction caused by shifting plates in the continent of patriarchy, there’s a little squeak that the woman manages to edge in sideways now. Because when boys with bloated heads from small towns arrive in the National Chutiyaap Region, otherwise known as the land of promise, they see all these…the girls!…calling the shots! How could this be? Meri ma toh mere baap ki jooti ki dhool chaat-ti hai, ye kya anarth ho raha hai yahan?!

Rape will keep happening because you mothers don’t slap your sons enough and continue to let them turn into such egoistic, horny bastards.

Rape will keep happening as long as educationists and the moral police (who should be sent back to the 17th century) believe there’s much glory in segregation and separation, not realising that in the process, they turn this ‘other’ into this fantastic, exotic creature that must be had at all costs.

There are other reasons for rape to happen too, but the overarching reason it actually goes DOWN (ALL puns intended) is because the girl’s body is thought of as a site of control. Even as you yell from the ramparts of the Parliament for equality, what you should be fighting for is to gain control of your body. Free it from this omnipresent gaze, free yourself from being conscious of this gaze.

The only way you can really stand up for the poor girl struggling to get off ventilators now is by swearing to change how you think and how you let others around you think.

By some twist of fate, she’s a hero today instead of being a victim for life or even dead, and that is the only good thing to come out of this charade. She will live respectably where countless others have perished.

But her life will be in vain if you don’t realise that this is not one incident, this is not the 9/11 of India, but something that, sadly, happens everyday, several times a day.

The answer, my friend, doesn’t lie in retribution, in castration, in revenge, because that is only enabling a vicious cycle. It lies in education. Unless we learn lessons from history, as modern as last year’s fascinating summer, things will never change.

That is, of course, unless all you’re looking for is cheap thrills over the weekend, in which case, ignore all that you’ve read so far. Obviously, you are the MAN of the moment.

Last Call: What the FUCK do you mean by a rape CULTURE?! Can you please think before you let these words come out of your mouth?!

The illogic of small big-big things.

Beware of the night, they whisper.

In the black, there are always, and only, shades of grey.

A vortex, it will slurp up the white, like a Hoover,
Burp and beam, from Jaapan to Jalandhar.

Replete with satisfaction, it will leave red.
In your face, on the road, on your sheets.

And then Society will come a-knocking.
And all they’ll be able to see anymore is the mud.
Horrors. No blairwitch, this. “She wouldn’t listen”
Is all they’ll have to say, passing it on.

*Facepalm*. Life’s sucha bitch.

Friends, anyone?

Airtel’s (now slightly old) new ad campaign says har ek friend zaroori hota hai. Every friend is important. Or every friend holds some place in one’s life. Every friend is special, indispensable. It attempts to sell talk-time to a generation that lives in college canteens in groups on kulhads of chai; bunks classes to smoke pot in huddles or watch movies in single file rows; has survived on watching re-runs of ‘The One Where…’ episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and absorbed more life lessons from those than any classroom lecture. The day it was launched, the video went viral on Youtube and Facebook and every few seconds, somebody or the other would post a new status message getting all soppy and emotional about dosti and what all their friends meant to them, as if it had JUST then occurred to them the vital wisdom of this simple statement.

Look at the ad stills at bus stops – the lazy friend, the bookish friend, the kanjoos friend, the adventurous friend…and it goes on. But here are some they totally…forgot (is the word)… to include i guess:

The Study-Notes Friend : Come February-March and I suddenly find there’s an increase in the number of people willing to buy me coffee or wanting to talk with me or simply just beaming at me from across the room. Of course, the fact that I record notes like a dictaphone has nothing with this, it’s just the spring air, yaar.

The I’m-Never-Going-To-Pay-You-Back Friend : Soo, you lent her some money one beautiful morning, when she needed it and you still thought she wasn’t one of ‘those’. But turns out….abhi toh pocket money nai aayi yar, my boyfriend dumped me yar, i lost my phone, my wallet, FIVE HUNDDDRUD bucks yaaaarrr….yaaaaarrrr, *puppy face*, kal pakka haan!

The Bottomless Void Friend : Who basically measures the amount he/she loves you by the ounces you put into him/her (oh well, you might as well say IT!). Feed them, nurture them, water them (with beer and whatnot) and IT shall be yours lovingly forever (till your resources for such fruitful enterprise run out). Even Marley knows where his loyalties lie, bones or no bones, yaar.

The Vanity-Fair Friend : She will bring you all the gossip and shine her royal light on you, at the price of at least one compliment a day. Or she will do whatever it takes to get all the boys’ attention, all the spotlight so she can radiate the sun into oblivion. Or he will crack witticisms about everything and bring to you the most bizarre, alternative information engineered to blow your mind away and make him cool. And the moment you stop the flow of admiration, he/she will begin to see in you the essence of your office’s dusty furniture. Mein bhi toh sultry hun, yaar!

The Who DAT? Friend : You’re walking down a street and you come across a face you know very well, and you stop, turn and run back to say hi! But the person is so oblivious to a world outside of their own personal haywire orbit that they cannot place you. Orrrrr, they pretend not to place you because you’re just not cool enough to be on their list of acquaintances even! Of course, this comes after they’ve ignored your calls, messages, wall texts, tweets, postcards, inland letters, pink-scented love letters…once your medium of association has expired. Out of sight, out of mind is only fair, afterall i know soo many people, yaar!

The Le Joker Friend : Sinister, like, Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight, this one’s particularly tricky because they’ve got split personalities and many faces. She will be always by your side, you will witness her ups and downs, you will an intrinsic part of her life, glass-shattering, wrist-scratching, self-loathing moments included. But the moment you go home, she will tell the world how you torment her, sabotage her, prey on her, steal from her, mooch from her and basically treat her like she’s the doormat. Sympathy milegi toh boyfriend bhi toh milega, yaar!

Of course, this list goes on. We’d all find some or other ‘friend’ who’s done this or more to us, duped us into believing this is the real thing. OR we might squirm and, if we still have a heart left, admit that we too have not been ‘holier than thou’ and done something awful to some unsuspecting soul, maybe not so wittingly ourselves. So if the bums at Airtel wish us to believe that being nonchalant about it will make it alright, they must know heartbreak and friendships don’t mend easily. And if all they’re trying to do is tell the world to get a grip and be good to your ‘hommies’ too, well, it’s a noble enterprise, but i do think it is a rather lost message in this day and age of short attention spans, shorter memories and big humongous egos blooming at terribly young ages instead. Dosti ho toh aisi yar!

Annalogy

mini-revolution at Chandni Chowk. (mid-August)

(Two weeks after the government ‘gave in’ and agreed to review the Jan Lokpal Bill draft as per Anna and the rest of his brigade’s demands, the circus is over. Over? Maybe not. But definitely taking a break. Now Anna Hazare and Prashant Bhushan have differing opinions on the fate of Kasab. But where has the urgency behind the “Bhrashtachar mitaoo!” morcha suddenly gone? Patience may be a virtue, but this seems suspiciously like a case of bought silence. On another note, there really ought to be an in-depth analysis of the role of 24*7 media coverage in events and their effect on the world. But this is a rant i wrote while the storm was raging and all of Delhi was out on the roads, celebrating god knows what. The silence now only goes to show how easily we’re made fools of.)

One 74-year old man has taken the nation by storm. By simply defying his right to food, right to freedom and right to speech on various occasions in the past couple of months, in protest against that corroding feature of the Indian ‘system’ called ‘bhrashtachaar’, he has almost single-handedly put the government on edge, making it jittery enough to take damaging decisions that it has regretted two seconds later. In the tornado of fury that he has unleashed, there has emerged a ‘civil society’ more comprehensive than the smattering of NGOs and activism that the word is understood to represent in common parlance – spiritual leaders, yoga gurus, human rights activists, academics or simply my neighbour who seems to have finally found, if nothing else, a maidaan to vent his frustration – all under a single umbrella. They’ve yelled slogans as one, screamed silence as one, gone on sulking diets as one, walked the roads with candles alit and banners ablaze as one, chanted hymns, ranted against the government, fed each other’s anger, as one – one immensely volatile mass of people that is giving the impression of being a time bomb, ticking to explosion.

One has to hand it to him. Anna Hazare is to 2011 what Mahatma Gandhi was to 1942. Leadership is no walk in the park. Getting through to a mass of people that is usually too self-involved to bother about the rest (the dictum goes: “humne duniya ka theka le rakha hai kya?” or “Have we taken on the contract to uphold morality in society?”), and getting them to come out of comfort zones is a big achievement. Taking on a government along with the entire hallowed ranks of officialdom is daring, like a garish cinematic stunt one can expect from those gutsy gatsbies, the likes of Clint Eastwood or Rajnikant. He has become our new age poster-boy, the hero of this 21st century saga reiterating the ‘good vs. evil’ or ‘us vs. them’ battle that has been raging since eternity. He has suddenly metamorphosed into a demi-God, with his name on everybody’s lips, like a chant, feverishly whispered, that has the power to purge a society steeped in decades, nay centuries, of sin.

Then there is the cause itself. Corruption is that aspect of Indian life that every office, household, man, woman and, sadly, child is acquainted with. From the time we begin to gain a basic consciousness of the way systems and societies work, we are told in defeated tones that this, too, is an undesirable, but entirely real facet of how things are run here. At some level, we are even encouraged to learn how to slip it to them ‘under the table’, smooth talking all the while to cover the crudeness of the act, be it to the local plumber, the policeman or the politician (or even his peon).

We learn that as is in the case of our elders, teachers and other authority figures, “ours isn’t to question why, ours is but to do and die”. Only this time, it isn’t the steely resolve Tennyson imagines to be on the face of the many-hundred dedicated soldiers, now it done is a casual, dismissive shrug of the shoulder, and we’re on our way. A subtext that lends itself to innocent beings getting welded into maturity and adulthood in this process is: if it’s ok to give some, it must be ok to take some back too. After all, what goes around, really ought to come around too. And so, corruption, one would be forced to argue, is more than just the much publicised 2G scam, the Adarsh scam, the Bofors scam; it is more than numbers and names, it is increasingly an entire ‘norm’ in itself. Fighting against corruption, then, is fighting against our very own baser selves.

This is not to say that everybody in this country is essentially corrupt. They are not. We, the middle classes who are said to be the backbone of this movement, would essentially be victims, even in the carrying out of the act, because honest ways don’t exist. But it would bode well to pause and question – does externalising the fact absolve us all of our mini-sins that snowball into the hulk of an evil? Is everybody in this movement just fed-up of the system, are there no appearances being kept up in the process? Would one more law change everything so drastically, would this be the nation that manages to kick the butt for good? Will Jan Lokpal be the most effective nicotine patch man ever made?

Chances are, this won’t happen. A lesson our parents wish very strongly for us to learn is that change never happens overnight. Social change, systemic change, specially, is a time-consuming process and generations of protest could go into changing hearts and minds, show them a better path. Similarly, we should know that corruption, the epitome of all that constitutes the rot and decay of our precious ancient society, is not going to go away with a hunger strike and general civil upheaval, like the sustained Satyagraha of Gandhi managed to repel the British. This is because corruption is not an alien colonial capitalist invader, it lives and surfeits within and among us. Nor will it evaporate out of existence with another law being passed, because one can’t fight the system through a weapon of the system itself. We will have to be more innovative than that.

With a little common sense, it would seem as if education is the sole ambit of possible social change, especially if the change is to be as monumental as this. If you want it out of the system, you’re going to have to start from the basics. Hajmola can only quell the quake in your stomach, not eradicate the root causes. The cure might lie in changing the way you see things, do things, eat things. Forget the fish fry and butter chicken, shift to whole wheat and green leafy vegetables. Bring back the discipline and restraint in your life. So, while I too am all for holding ‘them’ accountable for all our taxes that they gobble up, it would really be encouraging to see some more long-term thinking and less indefinite fasting from Ramlila Maidaan.

Of course, to this cynicism-coated rant, one could retort that movements like this are about building hope. Hope is what we, the people, the common men, thrive on. It is also what Obama’s thrived on, with big words possibly going to land him a second presidential term. If a man can inspire hope in this world steeped in scepticism, we ought to doff our topis and stand up for him, next to him. One knows that conflict resolution is all about ‘winning hearts and minds’, which Anna, bless his starved soul, has definitely managed to do. And for simply that fact, one hopes that this circus is over sooner than later, that we get our accountability and our transparency, and that this is not just another spark of excitement in the mundane lives of countless trigger-happy and TV-hooked Indians, that fizzles out before autumn arrives.

Ann-a-shan. mid-August, Chandni Chowk

Burrrrp!

First off, to the maybe five readers of this blog (i’m being optimistic), apologies for the last post. Rambles aside, it was general frustration and an empty mind that cooked up such burnt broth.

Now, to the point of this one. All those who remotely identify themselves with the young urban Indian who is slightly frustrated, slightly scruffy, because he has no time left after work, play and dealing with affairs of the heart, must watch Delhi Belly. Not only because it is about people like us, but because it is a relief to see what is not. The hyperbole that the lives of Tashi, Nitin and Arup go into in the space of 24 hours is out of the ordinary, but peppered with all the gutter language and the sentiment of being ’21st century men’, it strikes the right chords – you know you’re a Delhiite (or almost there) if you are stricken with mirth everytime they say the C word.

And then again, every time one of them is hanging off a noose or is rampaging around Delhi-6 in a burqa or has a gun pointed at their crotch, you think, “not in a zillion years can that happen to me!” But you love every bit of it, every bit of the madness, and you laugh your guts out because this comedy of errors is the most hilarious Bollywood has come up with in the longest time. Honestly, i thought not even Hangover was this funny.

Nitin’s grotesque diarrhoea-cal dilemma is only topped by Arup’s hysterical imagined rage at being so cruelly dumped. The misgivings after the no-trailer warning in the beginning are soon drowned in gales of laughter as you rock back and forth in your seat, delighted at the unapologetic incorrectness of it all. Yes, shit does happen, but retrospect is very important because it turns the coin onto the hilarity of it all.

But, on second thoughts, i do remember a few constipated looking faces, belonging to those unfortunate who thought of this as a weekend family venture. Mummy-Deddy, Bahu-Beta and Chunnu Munnu this movie is not for, at least not all together.

Such is the fire this one’s created: My aunt calls my mother from Calcutta and muses, “…but they can’t all really be talking like that? our children? our GIRLS??” So, i guess POP! go a few hearts (neon, bulb-suit or just glittery red) and then…wait…our secret’s out! Does that mean i don’t have to wince and immediately apologise everytime i yell ‘FUCK!’ at some wayward idiot while driving with my mother anymore? Far-out that seems, but one can always hope!

And if Aamir Khan does come out with Return of the Disco Fighter, I’m booked and hooked already. Waiting for it!

This story is not about undermining a woman’s choice to wear or be what she wants.

…It is about perceptions and generation gaps.

So, a couple of evenings ago, ma and i were gluttonously popping pani pooris at that famous stall in GK1’s M-Block market. We were also silently indulging in our second favourite pastime in markets (no prizes for guessing what is at number 1) : Voyeurism of the Venus-ites. It is by now common knowledge that while men check out women everywhere, women, too, check out other women more often than they size-up the mans on the prowl. And what is it that we’re checking for? A quick 5-second once-over can take in clothes, make up, hair, shoes, accessories, nail color, waistline, other lines and sizes and come to conclusions as to the nature and character of the studied specimen (speciman? speciwoman?). If you add another 2 seconds, judgements can be doled out if you have the ‘right’ company: all you need to do is raise eyebrows and make eye contact at the right moment. The smile is passed, the shoulders are shrugged in a it-takes-all-kinds-to-make-a-world way, and some bitchy part of the soul is satisfied at the one-uppance. There is nothing monumental about this process – it happens everywhere, all the time. But, I theorise, and thereby digress from my story.

So, ma n i have moved on to aloo chaat and somehow look up from the plate to take in this sight: three young women whose figures suggest they practice anorexia regularly, doddering up the street in painful high heels. The shortest of them wearing what seemed to be only a corset ( of the undergarment-of-yore variety, and therefore decidedly not classy ) and tight, terribly low-slung jeans, poker straight hair, heavy eyeliner, thick mascara, a peachy pout. Extremely conscious of herself, she has the air of one whose feet are barely making contact with the ground, she’s so high on how good she thinks she’s looking. Frantically gazes down at herself to check that just the right amount of skin is visible. Comes off looking like a brainless tart.

The mother and i quickly look at each other, smile. Grimace is more the word actually. We’re both tch-tching in our heads till the tittering trio are out of earshot.

And then, ma says, she’s clearly a small-town girl grown too big for her boots. Iske toh par nikal rahe hain, aur dekho kaise!

I say, yeah, well, what can one do? more tch-tching happens.

And then it occurs to me, hah! look at us, how arrogantly we talk, like we were born into the big-moneyed, big-city ranks. 11 years here and just look at us!

We laugh at ourselves. But then comes the punchline from the learned one: True, we’re middle class people, belonging to small towns. We’re bourgeois to the best of our abilities, but we never EVER behave like that. Never have, never will.

Point noted, O mother. There’s a lesson in decency to be had somewhere in there.

On a related note, I urge you to walk the talk, get down and dirty at Slutwalk Delhi on June 25. Talk about inverting roles, taking to the streets and taking back the power!

Tenses

Two years. Two massive years that have just buzzed by in a flurry of fun and fretting, eating, playing, dancing, drinking, poking, jumping, posing, laughing, breaking, singing, screaming, running, copying, studying, dozing, listening, shopping, holding, hugging, crying, kissing, supporting, talking, BCing, reading, writing, fighting, clicking, dragging, begging, teasing, falling, scraping, cutting, flying, burning, freezing, baking, partying, daring, confessing, climbing, snatching, tracking, gossiping, arguing, walking, sitting, following, caring, sighing, wishing, dreaming…coming closer, loving, hating, but always being…together.

In the name of peace, may this present continuous never end.

Nirmal Tower, 26/27, Barakhamba Road

For the many visions
arrived at through
glass skies,
for the friction of
intent footsteps and
curt glances,
for the echoes of
jostling numbers on
rustling sheets,
for the imprints of fresh
black ink on
twiddling thumbs,
for the many souls
that have lost themselves
in my hallowed hollowed
skeletal being,
for the many sins
that have transpired,
for the plots conspired,
I stand here, but
a sad ghost of a
ringing past.
You may hack at
my pride, leave me
grey, maimed, naked.
but you cannot have
me crumbling, for
in the shambles will die
all your concentrated
dreams, lies, empires.
So when your warring words
become redundant,
weed me up,
air me out,
i’ll be right here,
ready-to-use again.