Sunday, 24 February 2013


I scare easy. Say boo and you'll have me jump five feet in the air. But the deep, primal fear I felt last night was different. Very different.

My belly full of way too much food, a cigarette dangling from my fingers I was walking down the main lane of Hauz Khas Village with four other girls. Time : 10:30 pm. I hear someone call out a few times, "Excuse me!". I walk on assuming it's to someone else. But he follows and asks if I know the location of some restaurant. I don't. I say he should ask a shopkeeper. He says they don't know either. He steps closer, gets a  strange smile on his face. My friend is quicker on the uptake. She tells him that's not what he's looking for. What does he want? He says why don't you come into the car and I'll show you what I have.

In my head the warning bells aren't ringing, they're clanging. I'm out with four foreigners. We're taking autos back home. What if these guys force us into their car? We're in a crowded space but who'll help? What if they follow the autos? My heart is racing, I'm breathless. I'm remembering every warning I've ever heard and wishing I'd called my dad to pick me up.

We walk to an auto and after several refuse one guy agrees. The whole way I stare at him. Every hand movement is scrutinized. I don't even pull out my cellphone when a message alert comes for fear that if I get distracted and look away he'll make a move. I engage in an internal debate over which route leaves no possibility of  an empty stretch of road. He takes out his cellphone. Will he call his friends and ask them to stand at a point we pass, help him pull me out of the auto or rape me in it? I told my parents my friends will drop me, good lord I shouldn't have lied. He touches his leg, is he feeling a weapon? I am crippled with fear. I can't move, I can't breathe, I can't take my eyes off this man. Except to briefly look back and make sure I am not being followed by the other. A distance of four and a half kilometers, which takes barely 15 mins to cover and I am a nervous wreck.

I reach my house and relief washes over me in waves. Nothing happened. I'm safe.

But is that really true? Did nothing happen? I spent fifteen minutes condemning a man as a rapist just because he agreed to drop me home in his auto at 10:30 pm. He may be a simple guy. Might have a family he works hard to earn for. May be he has nothing but respect for women. And as I say thank you bhaiya to him while paying his tariff he doesn't even know how I vilified him. I wonder if he'd smile and say goodnight the same way if he did.

Am I safe? If I were, I doubt I would be in this state just because I took an auto after dark. The fear I felt, the magnitude of it, shook me. I couldn't shake it off, I didn't sleep well at night. I kept replaying everything in my head just with different endings. What would have happened if that man had taken me into his car? What if he had followed me? What if the auto guy hadn't been a decent bloke? What if he'd called more friends? I can barely imagine myself overpowering one man, but more than one? Impossible. How different my life would be right now if any of that had happened. I surely wouldn't be sending my son off to school and writing a blog!!!In a few minutes everything that I've been reading in papers became so real.

It rattled my notion of myself as a strong, independent type woman. Every single patriarchal notion flashed through my head in those twenty minutes. I shouldn't be out so late. I shouldn't take public transport. I should have asked my father to pick me up. I'm glad I didn't dress provocatively. What are the other girls wearing? No skin show? Phew! Are they being too loud? We shouldn't attract to much attention.

Every thing I protest against.

And as I came home, each member of my family looked at me accusingly and asked how I'd come home. Why didn't I call to be picked up? Had I been stupid enough to take an auto alone at that time of night? I lied. Of course not, I'm not a stupid teenager. I didn't come alone. We were five girls together, my friends dropped me.

Monday, 18 February 2013

I resent him

It's the truth. I've tried to mask it in as many ways as I knew, but the hard, cold truth is that I resent him.

I resent that while my life, (and when I say life I mean when I shit, bathe, eat, go out, do work, socialize, masturbate,  plan trips, sleep...) revolves around my two and a half year old midget monster and his routines and schedules, he gets to do what he wants when he wants.

I resent that he can party and travel. That he can sleep when he wants and wake up when he wants. I hate that he can lead an exciting fun life while I am tied down by responsibilities. While I need to work out finances and logistics.

I despise that he walks free all the time. I have to find baby-sitters if I want to go out for coffee. He can hook up with any girl of his choice. I have to think about how to get out long enough to even find a guy. And then worry about how my son will deal with it.

I hate that he plans his next trip before he's back from his current one. I can barely manage one trip a year without my son, and then too I am racked with guilt for leaving him. Worried sick about how he'll be. Not to mention that being broke and looking after a child doesn't leave much money for travel.

It pisses me off that his idea of making an effort is landing up twice a week for a few hours to play with his kid. I mean seriously??? I play with him, discipline him, feed him, put him to sleep, send him to school, pick him up from school, clean his poop, wipe his vomit, nurse him when he's sick, and stay awake all night when he can't sleep!!! 24/7! And he's making an Effort??? Oh and of course he feels entitled to pass judgments when the bi-weekly visits happen! All the things that aren't being done right for his little one. Ever thought of doing it yourself?

I am angry that his idea of child support barely covers the daily essentials. Am I the only one thinking of our child's future? And I'm angry because he has all the money in the universe to live it up and party while I think a million times before spending 500 bucks on myself.

I know I should be patient. He says he's trying to change. But I'm sorry. Too little too late. I don't see the change. I RESENT HIM.

Oh you've got my goat!

I was sitting in a doctor's clinic waiting for my turn, my head burrowed in a book as always when I heard divorce being said on the television I'd been ignoring. You don't usually hear the word divorce on Indian television and so my head snapped up.  By the time the advertisement was over, very different things were snapping within.

Let me tell you a bit about me here for a moment. I'm someone who's very hard on herself. I find it difficult to give myself permission to be sad, to feel pain, to take it easy if I'm exhausted. I feel the need to keep going. To say 'hey look at me I'm so strong'. And so when I got divorced I said ' hey look at me, I ain't crying all day. No drinking myself senseless. It's not such a big deal. I'm being responsible and taking control of my life and my son.' Aren't I so cool?

No. I'm not. It hits me again and again. I feel I've put it behind me and then WHAM! I'm struggling with it all over again. And being hard on myself all over again. I don't talk about it because I feel my friends don't want to listen, will get bored, will judge me as weak.

But you know what? Divorce is hard. It's a deep, lacerating pain. It never quite fills. It leaves you with no sense of self. No confidence, no self-esteem. It's hard because no matter how much you keep telling yourself it's the right thing to do, it's good for you, still it's one of the toughest decisions you make. You go back and forth, try to reconcile yourselves to staying in the marriage, try therapy, try role-playing, try everything under the sun. And when it still doesn't work, you say enough. It is not a decision made or unmade in an instant.

It is not a decision taken casually or lightly. There is no amicable divorce. You can't be friends with your ex, at least for a while. And that first time you hear he's with someone else, it hurts. You don't love him anymore, you're not jealous, but it hurts. There is no easy divorce.

So back to the television. There's an ad playing out for a well known laminates company. The woman strolls in, gruffly demands the signed divorce papers. Man looks sad, questions her need for speed. While he goes to fetch them woman strolls around and sees the new laminates in the house, comments on how things have changed. When presented with the papers she repeats his question about being in a rush to get divorced. Both laugh. Ad ends. VO says 'Ek jhalak mein badle dil.' A 35 second ad and there you are. That's the understanding they have of divorce. Seriously? Divorce? That's what you use to sell laminates?

The state of advertising in our country, and most others, is pathetic to say the least. All day we are told that if we don't buy a new tv, fridge, washing machine, laptop our lives will not be complete. Beautiful women sell everything from cement to deodrant. But for me this hits a new personal low.

Please Mr.Advertisor! Grow up and treat yourself and the audience as responsible, intelligent adults!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Seeing like a feminist...Speaking like one?

"Reading this book will leave you feeling angry all the time. Because you'll see things where you never saw them before" said someone at the launch of Nivedita Menon's book Seeing Like A Feminist.

I couldn't agree more. I haven't read the book yet but I see like a feminist. And I am angry. A lot. 

My cousin got engaged recently. Sweet enough bloke living in the Americas and working for Bill Gates. The family collected for the usual round of congratulations. And then it began. The girl hasn't completed school yet, and one of my uncles sagely nods his head, saying it's good to marry young "kyonki phir adjustment karne mein problem nahin hoti". Why not just go right out and say it's better because the girl hasn't had a chance to carve out her own identity yet and will seamlessly blend into the boy's life? The mother of the groom struts around like a peacock talking about how her highly eligible son floored the family and the girl in a glance. The girl is just dying to get married and telling her family her home is now in America. Of course she is! She's 18!!! You gift her iPads and show her dreams of living in USA. So much more exciting than her life in a small town in the hills. She hasn't lived in a big city. The romance of this good-looking man coming from another country and sweeping her off her feet is all that matters. But does she have any real perception of what her life will be? Does she know what a marriage entails? Can she stand up for what she believes in and not just give in to her husband and in-laws? Does she even know yet what she believes in???

It was like watching someone being bought. Like a piece of property had been purchased. The worst was when my cousin expressed his apprehension that she'll flunk her boards because of the distraction he's causing in her life (should have thought of that earlier buddy!) and my father said " arre ab woh zindagi ke sabse bade exam mein safal ho gayi hai, baaki sab toh ho jayega, kya farak padta hai". I was furious! Really? Is that it? A girl gets married and nothing else matters? Her education, careers, dreams, aspirations? All take a back seat because she found such a good catch? She was so lucky that she married? And my own father? The one who always told me to study hard and work?

But what really got me was that I kept quiet. I didn't say a word. I who rants and raves on my blogs, goes for book launches and protest marches, sat through it all without a single utterance. Why? I didn't want to create a scene, I knew they wouldn't understand what I'm saying, it would strain our already poor family relations...any number of reasons. I see like a feminist but why can't I speak like one. Against or in favour of.

Just a few days ago I found out that my mother's sister, 43 years old, got married without telling anyone. She had her fair share of proposals in her younger days but for reasons known to her said no. She went on to study and pursue an academic career as a professor. Now that she'd found someone, she went ahead. She didn't tell anyone, including her parents and siblings, again for reasons best known to her. So the guesswork started. It must be because of her age, she must have been awkward, maybe she thought people will refuse, how would people react, maybe she was worried about disclosing it to extended family. What the hell? The woman got married for god's sake, she isn't a suicide bomber! She did it on her time, with whom she wanted and ya she did it at 43 instead of 18 but that's her bloody business. As far as I'm concerned, if she's happy and he's a good guy, kudos to her. She did with her life as she wanted.

This time I did say what I felt. Only to be given the look that says, don't be radical, you know how society is.

Good lord, this word society. How it infuriates me. Where is this omnipresent society? The decider of everyone's fate? Where is it when it's women are traded like property? Where is it when the men think it's their birthright to insult, humiliate and rape? Why does it only rear it's head when women make their own decisions?

I've sat quiet while friends and family have said the most patriarchal, inappropriate, misogynistic and down right disgusting things. I am ashamed to say that I have sat quiet to avoid conflict and to appear cool with my friends. Who wants to be the girl who has issues with things? I'd rather be one of the guys right? The one who laughs at all the sick jokes? 

No, thank you. Here's my new year's resolution. I see like a feminist. And from today, hard as it may be, I will try my best to speak like one.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

To the mothers of all my exes (and other boys)...A question

I'm the youngest of three siblings, all girls. My parents wanted a boy, there is no doubt about that. My arrival was the death of their last vestiges of hope. I was always aware of this.

My parents are an odd lot. I can write till my last breath and you'll still be confused. I know I still am. But there is one thing that shines through clearly. My parents taught us to take responsibility for our own actions. Never was a friend or boyfriend blamed if we were caught smoking or smoking up, drunk or doped. All through the flunked exams, the stolen goodies being discovered, the trashy talk, never once do I remember being told that I was doing what I was doing because my company was bad, my friends were influencing me. And not once did a friend get reprimanded. If I screwed up, I screwed up. I was responsible for it and no one else.

That one solid value has seen me through some rough times.

How is this a question for the mothers of my exes (and other boys) you ask?

In my 31 years, I've been around and had my share of relationships (a pitiful 5 to be exact!) and each one, each and every single one has made me ask this question again.

It's tough for me to describe myself. I'm strong, yes. Wilful, for sure. Stubborn, determined, talented, intelligent...the list goes on. And that is where the trouble lies. I don't hide who I am. I'm not quiet or submissive. I don't pretend to be polite. I will challenge you when I feel the need. I will not apologise for the way I look or because the powers that be blessed me with breasts instead of a penis. I will be me, tough and confusing as it is.

Why is that so threatening? Why have I been repeatedly told that I am too strong for my boyfriends? That I influence them too much? That I have too strong a hold on them? So strong that I can apparently bend them to my will and make them disregard every thing else. How is it that I hold so much power? And why is it the mothers, who are so threatened?

So my question to these mothers is, why don't you have more faith in your own upbringing? Did you screw up so badly, and are you so aware that you screwed up that you think I can change in a few months the son you brought up for 20+ years? Why didn't you give him a stronger foundation, so that people like me can't shake it so easily? Why, why is it someone else's fault always? Me, his friends, his work, his past...always something to blame. Why isn't he responsible for his own thoughts and actions?

If you did your job well maybe you wouldn't be so scared. If you knew you'd reared an intelligent, sensitive and independent man you wouldn't be so worried about him being 'wrongly' influenced by people like me. If his own moral compass was well honed, if you believed in him and yourself, no one, not me nor any other human being would be able to convince him to be immoral.

Where did you go wrong? Why are women taking responsibility for themselves and others while men pretend to be boys and pass the buck while their mothers say their son could do no wrong? Why didn't you teach them that they have within them the strength to know right from wrong and to be true to themselves? To trust their instincts, their inner voice, the intelligence that each one of us has and needs to connect to? To feel deeply and know that their is value to their feelings?

You can blame me and everyone else till kingdom come, but where oh where did you go wrong?

I am me. I choose my own sets of values and morals. I abide by them. I voice my opinions and I fight for what I believe in. I will not be cowed down by any man or woman, by any religion or society. There are millions out there, just like me. Strong, independent, unique and gifted. Let your sons out only if they are brave enough to hold their own. Let them out if they can stand by a woman and be her equal. 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

When did I become this person???

You know how we all have an idea in our heads about who we are, a picture of ourselves? Well, I had one too. I was a single, independent woman. Someone who wants to have pot loads of money, travel, eat exotic food, be all glam and famous.

Given half a chance I would toss off the mommy-clothes, clean up good and be out there living it up. Maybe even hook up with a guy or two. Party hard.

So you'd think that when I was offered a return ticket to USA in exchange for 4 days of babysitting I'd be thrilled right? My little one will be with the grandparents and after a week of hanging around with my niece I get two weeks of holidaying in NYC.

I've got what I always wanted. Freedom. To do what I want, to be a single adult and not a single mom, to sleep and wake-up when I want. Basically to answer to no one and be accountable for no one. For 2 whole weeks!

Yay!!!  Right? Huh....

My heart sinks at the thought of going. My eyes fill up every time the little monster says 'I love you Mamma.' I lie at night after he sleeps, holding him close. In the wee hours before he wakes up I look at his face and think about how much I'm going to miss him. I wonder if I should take him along. I see the fun things to do in Philly with my niece and think of how much he'd enjoy it.

I worry that he'll miss me and be miserable. What if he falls sick? Hurts himself? What if he's scarred for life cos I left him to be frivolous and enjoy myself? What if this has far reaching impacts I can't even foresee right now? How will I ever forgive myself?

Not quite the person I thought I was, am I? When did I become this person? When did I become the hyper paranoid super obsessive mother instead of the uber cool and confident single woman I thought I was?

And so another myth is busted. Oh what an eye opener this one was!

DISCLAIMER: I'm still going to USA alone and will truly enjoy my single holiday despite sorely missing my son. Hopefully he won't hold it against me forever. And don't worry, these thoughts mostly stay in my head. Those who see my around my son know I don't let the crazies out while he's around!

Friday, 1 February 2013

I miss him

Divorce - it's such a loaded worded. It brings out all sorts of sentiments and judgments when you tell someone you're divorced. I've had people ignore it, like if they don't mention it at all they will not notice the absence of my partner. I've had someone gasp and whisper "I'm so sorry". I got divorced, no one died! There was my cousin who laughed and said "you're joking right?". I mean really, would I joke about something like that. And my favourite, a friend's sister, who upon hearing of my newly acquired single status said "Good for you!" without batting an eyelid.

The thing is though, that divorce is a sneaky, sneaky little thing. Just when you think you've moved on, you're over him, you're happier and healthier than you used to be, it catches you by surprise. A song, a look, a smell is all that's needed to make you realize you miss him.

Maybe it isn't just divorce, maybe it's any kind of loss. A loved one, a relationship, anything that was special and cherished. And maybe it's not 'him' I'm missing but the idea of him. The idea of a partner who's there for you, who's committed, who's love can never be doubted.

Today I woke up, with a song in my head. strange things happen to me and this is one of them. I sometimes wake up with random songs in my head. At a time in my marriage it happened so often that it became a joke and the first thing my then husband would ask me in the morning is " Aaj kaunsa gaana hai?" And usually the absurdity of the song would have us in splits. (We bonded greatly over bad Bollywood music of the yesteryears).

But today, I woke up with a song in my head. And there was no one I could tell.

The grief, the loss, the morning hugs and cuddles, all the memories swamped me. And so I know that I still miss him. Or the idea of him.

So here I am, telling you all something that was once a special moment, ridonculous as it is.