Thursday, March 05, 2015

Ban me!

It was physical.
The visuals — most of them comprising just a man talking to the camera, calm and composed — jabbed at my ribs.
Unable to process any more anger, the mind went numb. Tears hazing the vision were the only sign of the remorse, the despair, the desperation.
India’s Daughter has a father and mother talking about their daughter. How they brought her up and how they worked to make her dreams come true. I shudder to think it could be my parents. They could be talking about me, my sister, my friend, my colleague. But she WAS me, my sister, my friend, my colleague.
I know why so many people took to the streets after December 16, 2012.
Because I have been them.
I have been her —

The girl.
Who went to the movies.
With a male friend.
For an evening show.
In Delhi.

Nothing feels real anymore. This life. The simple joys it offers. The length most of us have to scale just to get home safely. When an ace lawyer says he would burn his daughters and sisters alive if they were found ‘off’ track. When another says ours is the best culture. Because There Is No Place For Women. When a rape convict says the girl Invited it upon herself.
But I feel, as Leslee Udwin says, none of this is the malady. But only the symptom.

It was not a Govindachamy who killed Soumya. It was us, the society.

I wish I could withhold paying my taxes. And insurance. And loans.
When the woman that is me, the person that is me, is given no regard and no respect, when all I am told is to be careful and be on the lookout for danger and be alert at every single instance I am outside on the streets, irrespective of the time, and when I am effectively banished from every place I genuinely want to be, why should I care about a system that has no qualms about receiving money for its exchequer while it cannot ensure even a part of what I am entitled to as a citizen?

I care two hoots about the ban on India’s Daughter. Ban me, ban your womenfolk, my beloved country, if all you want is a brooding hum of obedience and the eerie silence after all voices have been muffled.


When Nirbhaya died, I felt as if the country failed me. Now I feel I may never win, after all. 

Saturday, February 07, 2015

A point of no-return: an athiest's thoughts on Ghar Vapasi

Whenever I come across news on Ghar Vapasi, my non-religious (or all-religions*, whichever way you put it!) self thinks about Ammachi**.
My most favourite idea of holidays was us, her grandkids and children that are our mothers, huddling around our chubby grandma on a large bed and generally having a blast with her wise cracks and snuggly hugs thrown in ample measures. One of us would ask her, a firebrand leader of the Communist party in its early days, whether she believed in god. She would smile her signature naughty smile and say: Whether I believe in him or not, he loves me for sure!' If Ammachi was here today, she would have laughed at the idea of a god who would love someone more since she chose to return 'home'! 
People have asked me where do I go, to a church or a temple, by virtue of my mother being a 'Christian' and father, a 'Hindu.' I have often been amazed at their inability to understand how someone can just be without 'going' anywhere.
God, and religion, were never part of my psyche when I grew up, but certainly were religious people and places. And I have never felt alien around them. I have never noticed a truly religious person harbouring some kind of hatred towards those in other religions. I like to imagine that, for them, religion is matter of the heart. And I understand matters of the heart. You don't have to pray to, or believe in, an almighty to understand matters of the heart. You only have to be human.
The lovely Celine in Richard Linklater's soulful movie Before Sunrise tells her partner, Jesse, as they visit a Vienna church, far away from both their homes: "I can't help but feeling for all those people that come here lost or in pain, guilt, looking for some kind of answers. It fascinates me..." It is fascinating. To think about huge masses of people united by a single entity, or many entities in certain faiths, and trying to find solace. I respect the human urge to do that. But arbitrarily terming a particular religion 'ghar' and pushing reconversion in such scales in our country, a crucible of so many faiths and ideas, simply feels absurd. It is equally absurd seeing people hurting each other to avenge perceived insult to their religions.
I can only say that if anyone referred to Ammachi "that old hag," I would definitely be outraged, but that feeling would soon turn into pity and I would just put the imaginary dagger back into its sheath, most heartily!


* Ammachi: my grandmother Koothattukulam Mary, she went through unspeakable police torture while building up the Communist movement in Kerala. A person of unbeatable spirit.

**All-religions: My father was born a Hindu, mother a Chrstian, both non-practising. My husband is Muslim, and says he is still searching...