No! It’s not always been this way. No! The
Indian society wasn’t always a sick one. No! Women were not always, and are not
always treated with disrespect and objectified – but, today – things are
different… The Bollywood impact. The
lack of education. The taboo on sex education. Personal and professional
frustrations. Lack of proper upbringing due to multiple reasons…
I’m sick – to say the least – of telling myself, and those who care to talk
about India, her womenfolk and their safety - that this is not India, not MY India. I'm tired of giving explanations and believing that it's my duty to defend every heinous act of this nature in India.
At first, I believed in what I said. I thought
it. But then, I wondered if I had always lived in a ‘make-belief world’ that I
was made to believe in by those who loved me and taught me. I was naïve.
When I spoke to my friends and family in
India, I often heard, “Oh, it’s been happening for years. It’s only now that
the media is highlighting certain cases.”
publicity or not, the matter of the fact is that the Indian thread of morals
and ethics is weak – the fibre of our society continues to disintegrate.
Whether now or from the times wherein the Mahabharata or Ramayana have been
portrayed- I do not know. But yes, the
Indian culture and society is being scrutinized, criticized and
exposed in a demeaning light.
Every time India is in the news for rape or
women abuse- I, the face of
India in the land I now call home - wish I could don a ‘ Burkha’, vanish or dissolve into the earth for a bit to hide from
pointed questions. Questions pertaining to India’s mental health, the sex route
taken by the people from the land of the Kamasutra, the value attached to the
woman when Indians (read Hindus) worship so many Goddesses (some of the people even
rattle off names including Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati, Durga and Kali).
With those non-Indians more aware of Indian
mythology – I always come to conclude that it’s a stupid paradigm the
Indians are stuck in. Men have shown their uncouth and lowly behavior in the
Ramayana (asking for Sita’s ‘agni pareeksha’ without having to give one), the
Mahabharata (by way of Draupadi’s disrobing or ‘cheer haran’ – and doing this,
after the five showed complete respect towards Kunti, their mother, by
beingunable to disobey her statement to
‘share whatever’ they had brought home). But that does not – and should not become
inherent to the Indian male… or, does it?
So, once again with Nirabhaya’s case of
2012 in the limelight again, there I went – defending this time, not India and
her culture, by my own personal culture. Why, I even saw myself distancing myself
from my country I was born in and its population that makes up so many friends
and family of mine. Explaining, elaborating, and learning as I went along.
Recently, I, too, like many in the world
watched India’s daughter.
really upset me was not Nirabhaya’s story. She’s gone. She’s dead. She’s an
unfortunate part of history – but fortunate to be away from her pain – physical
and emotional. May her soul rest in peace if possible.
really got my blood boiling was the disgusting culprit.
He blamed her for the rape!
What’s worse – there was an actual defense
that took up his case.The less said about this atrocious beast the better.
This advocate comes across as an insane brainless
twit to say the least (and here, I stop to for otherwise the explicates I might
go into may shock the sensibilities of many). Quoting this sick mind briefly:
“A girl is just like a flower. It gives a good looking, very softness...
performance, pleasant [sic]. On the other hand a man is just like a thorn.
Strong, tough enough. That flower always needs protection. If you put that flower
in a gutter it is spoilt. If you put it in the temple, it is worshipped."
He adds, "India has the best culture. No place for a woman in our
Wake up! A woman gave you birth. A woman is
who you worship and who you work for in the hope that she always stays with you
in the form of Lakshmi. A woman is what is made you a lawyer – count the
blessings of Saraswati who you revered on each day of your examinations. Fear
the wrath of Kali and Durga!
Still, I am a soft-hearted woman. I wish
him well.And with all the kindness and
pity I can muster up for this guy –I wish him a slow, shameful, painful long
years of assault that remind him of every woman’s pain who was ever raped
in- no – not the world, just in Delhi.
And then, just as I feel I have nothing
left to say, and am completely numbed by the countrymen,I read this: "It's a very safe city."
This has been stated by the Additional Deputy Commissioner,
Delhi Police. And, it just happens to be the rape capital of India, right?
Yes! That's one for the ladies, and I know I've kept some of you waiting and perhaps wondering if I chickened out of this topic... Naah! Actually, I forgot! I got so involved with healing my shoulder post a bad injury that all I did in the last few months (autumn 2012 until summer 2013) was stop all exercise and put on weight. So obviously, pools, beaches, bikini were out of sight and out of mind. But now, I'm back - taking it slow, but back to shedding those kilos courtesy cortisone and no workouts... And since summer is still around, I thought of going to the pool for a dip. And lo! The bikini topic came right back into my head (though a two-piece swimsuit is still a faraway dream...)
It was in Monte Negro that I started to focus on those luxuriously bronzed and browned bodies. Lasses with long legs, taught arses, and firm bountiful bosoms seemed to be strewn all over the beaches of Monte Negro. In my swimsuit - I felt like something dragged out of the dungeons by the cat who went on a search mission! But dragged out I was - right there, on the beach, among the beauties... Where were all the men though? I asked my man to look after the kids while I did my own little snooping.
Interesting facts that I realized were:
1. Women check out women more thoroughly - yes, yes, yes - they all say it, it's a known fact. But when a straight woman experiences her own insecurities and goes on a snoop trail - the fact punches you straight in the face and leaves you shocked and gasping for air (also partly due to temperatures of 38 degrees... phew!)
So here I was, squinting through the sun's rays and focusing on how some of these 'more prominent figures' walked - did they jiggle enough or were they unnaturally taught? You got it - I was scouting for potential implants, nips, tucks and lifts. Oh - and did I find a few! It seemed so common. No - I was not letting my imagination fly, nor was the green monster taking me over with envy and the big J-word, I was merely scrutinizing some of these ladies. Erm... yes, I was shocked by my thorough investigation - but honestly, I could not take this perfection as natural all the time each time, especially with those sultry eyes with lashes that waved a mile ahead, and that light blush on tanned skin which would remain untouched by waves or sprinkles of water. What made me take on Project Scrutinize was the sheer distance between some women and water, the hours of fiddling with their hair or nails, the self-indulgent air of luxury, and expensive whiff of 'I-know-you're-watching, but-I'm-worth-every-glance'.
Clearly, some of these were natural tigresses on the prowl - young, free, single - and waiting for prince charming to fall into their tiny laps and take their breathe away. Others were the slightly enhanced beings - a minor shot of botox to do away with the odd furrow in the brow, some permanent touch-ups for the naturally beautiful eyes, and how could a few kilos of silicon not help? With youth, slim waistlines were a natural given anyway. And then, there were the perhaps tired tigresses, trying, once again to lure an exciting prey with their still-evident-even-if-majorly-'perked-up and enhanced' looks.
Would I want to trade places with any of them? For an hour? May be? But then really no.
2. Men will be men! Ogling oafs tried to impress the beauties. And worse - some lovely lasses did seem impressed by the least impressive. Perhaps as a "gesture of kindness" or an "act of charity" - this lovely woman, about 180 cms tall, with proportions to die for, wearing this skimpy "fall-all-out" or to put it kindly "show-all" bikini, let this ancient doddering, dribbling man rub suntan lotion all over her back. Eew! Nothing against age or shape of the man. But hey, she was old enough to be his grand daughter. And she! I have no idea how she let those lecherous looks and seeking hands touch her!
What about the good looking lads at the beach? Oh, there were a few. I must say - rather handsome hunks who'd make heads turn and women drool unabashedly. If only they had not been soooooooo self involved, and seemingly conceited (the call it being cool these days. Flexing their muscles and flaunting their water sport skills to more of their kind. Not all oooooh-so-hot guys could be gay now, could they? No offence, but these guys were just so into themselves that they couldn't seem to see the gentler sex at all! Or now was this an ego thingy of sorts that lies far beyond my comprehension...
Everywhere I looked - there seemed to be fantastic beach bodies, just a touch too aware of their looks and brusque attitudes that didn't add to, but in fact, seemed to take away from their beauty.
Then we hit the beaches of Croatia. Ah! Here I was more at home in my skin. The women were real - not model like at all. No 'upgraded assets'. All natural. And that is not to say that they were unattractive. No way! They were more attractive - not because strutted their bodies in designer bikinis, but because they unknowingly flaunted their qualities. Project Scrutiny was on again! There were the young women, playful in the sea or sunbathing on their bright mats, clad in sexy, stylish bikinis to comfortable and simple swimsuits. Some were sipping a drink, chatting with their girlfriends - their slender legs, taut torsos and beautiful faces glowing with joy. There were the couples in love. There were women with kids - slightly rounder and fuller bellies, bosoms that did not point at the skies, bottoms that did not do an anti-gravity act - but these women felt whole and complete - despite the laugh lines, the wrinkled brow. Some relaxed while their partners pampered them by taking care of the kids, one of the women looked totally exhausted but completely happy in their role as mother of a teen, a toddler, and a baby that was still at her breast. Still others sat alone, lost in though - experienced eyes and bodies that seemed to say : Woohoo! what a ride it's been!" And others who seemed in search of something that had been eluding them.
Happy, sad, lonely, complete, whole - these women - their emotions went far beyond their bikini styles... And it was the bikinis that told me their stories!
It wasn't as if I'd been unhappy in my job - I mean - who minds getting 'moolah' for a job that pays more for less and gives you all the flexibility you need. But then, there were things annoying me - these included:
. Getting more for less (sigh! the guilty conscience kept placing it's angelic halo on my head!)
. Being home - but at work. Seeing the kids, but getting the nannies to enjoy them.
. Boredom - just waiting for work to trickle in...
. Lack of job satisfaction - I call it - no pride, no fun.
. Escapism - yes, my job had become my route to escape the daily routine of essential chores I considered mundane - despite the fact that I had to deal with them in my so-called 'free-time'
And then there was this feeling that I was meant to do more... something else.... this was not my road to retirement... there has to be more! More fun. More joy. More life!
So after due contemplation - I decided to search for a purpose in life.Many things came to mind. Things I feel strongly about. Things that make me furious, that make me tear up with emotion, that make me want to dance with joy... so much! But - options where I can contribute, grow and gain the pleasures of the world at the same time...I have to still look at the viability of it all.
Fear - that was another element that plagued me. What if I quit and never find a purpose in my life or a job that fits my needs? What if my friends and family lose respect for me now that for a while - I might be just a housewife who spends but brings in nothing.
FALSE - I have realized over the years that the misnomer "Just a housewife" is probably the worst misnomer in history! There's no "just" about being a housewife - gosh! you've got to be a wife, friend, mum, caretaker, cook, cleaner, sounding board of the family and so much more... It's not just in any way to call a housewife 'just'a housewife. But still - there was the other side to it - not contributing monetarily, not engaging in business talks, not being able to contribute to anything beyond the four walls of the home. Would I be able to live with that?
The clear answer was "no"! So yes, I had to do something. However small, however insignificant in this world of bigger things - I have to do something. Step 1 would be to clear my head, give myself time and space and follow my dream... a dream that I've had since I was a teenager. A dream that I did not feel strongly about - simply due to the fear of failure. but a dream all the same...
For now - I have only put in my resignation.
This winter will see a new me - hopefully - a new and improved me :)
Wish me luck! :)
So now you all no I didn’t make it in my first attempt. I was disappointed – but more than that I was angry! And with Anil!!! How could he not realize that I can’t come to terms with failure? How could he not know that I needed waaaaaaaay more than 10 classes? Did he not realize that I’d never driven in snowy, frosty conditions? I mean real thick snow! For that matter – that I’d really never driven?
In retrospect – how could he? We’d been married just 11 months! (Ah! Me and my large forgiving heart J )
And now that I’d been here for a year, and not passed my “convert to Swiss license” test, I had to go through the whole rigmarole of:
2.Practical driving lessons – number of classes to be taken – read this – double the number of years you’ve walked the planet! In my case, 56.
3.Red Cross Course of 3 solid weekends
4. Driving psychology course
And you pay a large amount for each step. Those days driving practical lessons used to cost CHF80 per hour! Howzzat for saving and being a new arrival in the land of expenses and high living costs!
I am B-A-D at convincing my own hubby.
I tried telling him the joys of public transport. And no kidding, most people – even politicians and top shot business people travel by train. Switzerland is well networked – trains, buses, tram systems are all coordinated like clockwork – and talking of clocks – punctuality is the middle name of public transport here – along with cleanliness, pleasantness and more. Yes, I am truly amazed at this level of attention to detail for a bunch of commuters – nameless and unknown to the authorities.
But – no – Anil had a licence and I had to have one! That was that. So I thought, what the hell – I’ve given umpteen number of exams, so here’s one more. And I had the option to do the theory in English.
And off I go!
I passed the theory, enrolled myself for the rest of the procedures and started practical lessons – this time – with Annabella Meier Singh! Yes, the nurse-wife who wanted to teach. I was her third student.
We bargained a bit and decided to go for 20 – not 56 classes (desi mentality comes to the fore). After all, her husband had taught me before, so 10 classed should be considered done and over with! So classes began. She spoke German and “haan-ji” “nai-ji” – punjabi ishtyle. She said I was doing okay as I drove.
She was a lovely person – until we decided to go on the highway. “Aradhna – I have three children! No – you’re not set to hit the highway. We will practice parking,” she shrieked – hyperventilating at the same time.
Parking was a bigger fiasco – we tried it everyday, till my 103-point reverse parking became a 3 point-parking J Nice!
The Red Cross course was interesting and so was driving psychology.
Shaking with nervousness I asked if she thought I could do it. “Yes” – she said – and added “may be, but you should have taken more classes”. Well, at least she hadn’t said “No” !
And – she went on – “you have a lenient examiner.” Yippee! Smiling, I greeted the examiner and we were off!
I went on the highway – a bit too slow. I changed lanes – a bit too fast. I parked – at the wrong spot and with 30 false moves or more. And then – I almost killed a dog! Not really. The lady and her dog had crossed both the streets of the main road – and then the stupid mutt jumped back on. On to the other side. It has to be “Superdog” to be able to run all the way back to my side of the street – so I drove on! And the examiner breaked hard and asked me if I had made a mistake. I said no – and gave him the above reasoning. He said I was arguing. I said I wasn’t. He said I was and I continued with my reasoning…
Well, like her other students, I failed – AGAIN! And poor Annabella reverted back to her old profession of being a nurse as she nursed her own mental wounds!
I was devastated yet again! Anil told me about a friend’s wife who attempted driving in Europe 9 times and passed at the her 10th attempt. I said hats off to her. I’m not the kind to go on after this.
So I heard, I read, I burned with furious rage.
Then a sort of helplessness descended upon me. I was shocked at how ruthless and seemingly just my thoughts around public humiliation, mutilation and torture - could be. I hesitate to put those thoughts here – not for the fear of what the readers may think, but the fear of how intense they are. Yet, the punishment for these sick people is still not fair enough… and these are just thoughts – there was no concrete way to influence the cause which had churned up this whirlwind of extreme emotions.
Shock set in when I heard about the Delhi rape case. Indians – young and old had taken to the streets. The sheer intensity of the sick minds and their torturous deed that led to the death of the rape and violation victim (death being God's act of mercy here since she had been damaged emotionally and her guts had been forced out of her and spilled on the roads of the rape site by the perpetrators of what was mildly put across as "the rape") had started this internal turmoil. As if this one case that had grabbed the media's attention and brought to light was not enough – it now seemed rape and torture was prevalent in big cities, small suburbs and villages as well.
In a country that worships the female avataars of the Supreme Power (MahaLakshmi, Durga Maa, Mata Saraswati, Kaali Ma, Amba maata – to name a few), it was as it is difficult to come to terms with the realities of child marriage, female infanticides, abortions and the evils of dowry and sati – and now this! And what of the morbid news of five year olds being raped. And we aren't even mentioning those uncles and cousins and fathers and grandfathers thinking incest! Unbelievable, infuriating hypocrisy at its best! A blatant display of the pervert mind and sexual frustrations.
Why blame the West for beaming in those movies, soaps and reality shows-flaunting a sexy leg, giving a sultry look, showing off the subtle curve of a breast? Indian media is no less at showing skin be it in a more-than-just-the-mid-riff bearing soaking sari, a micro-mini skit combined with a cleavage-dipping ultra-tight top, together in a hot spicy item number with all its heaving and thumping and jhatkas and matkas.
But if the Western women can wear what they do (be it straight from Hollywood or the fashion walks of Paris and Milan or something just thrown together) and not be gang raped, why blame the Indian girls for wanting to wear what they believe brings out their best in terms of femininity (be it Bollywood inspired or from the fashionistas that India proudly boasts of? Victimizing victims is what the social structure of India is brilliant at doing unfortunately.`
It's time mothers and others from all walks of life inculcate the right values in their sons – respect for women, equal freedom to choice – be it career choices or dressing up, acceptance of the freedom exercised as long as harm comes to none by your act.
Take the society, your friends, sisters, mothers around you and put the woman back on the pedestal that's rightfully hers.
Use religion in a positive way – Hinduism also believes in "Shakti" – why all our deities have their women counterparts (Shiv-Shakti). Have you been seen the sculptures on the oh-so-many temple walls? Do any of the women have their faces covered completely in a 'ghunkat'? Do they wear loose flowing clothes – or beautifully adorned bustiers and mid-riff exposing saris or dhotis? Do they not have the 'solah-singhaar' complete with jewellery, accessories for the hair and waists, a touch of make-up even?
And for all women out there - elegance is the new word for fashion! It's time to get up and be you! Be a charming, attractive person you can be proud of – and feel safe in your skin – in your clothes and surroundings. And – whatever your age woman – learn to stand up for yourself and pick up some form of self-defense!
Being an NRI, it gives me great pride to talk about the positive aspects (and there are many) of India and the big achievements and successes of Indians around the world. But as a woman – when people in my country of residence read about the India of today, ask me questions on the status of women, the state of education, and humanity – I must admit, I put my head down in shame and say, "That's not the India I left a decade ago."
Today (March 11), I was at the hairdressers. the radio was on and the song was interrupted by the news. I call it an interruption since it was a rather nice foot-tapping song - and the news broadcast was rather disturbing. Yes, once again it was that of the Delhi rape case. And - heads turned towards me with very mixed expressions that flashed across those concerned faces...What could I do but hang my head in sheer shame at the time... WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE if you were the only brown-skinned Indian among Europeans - 2 of whom knew you were from India as well... Well...
Sigh! It can't get worse! A Swiss woman was raped today... Makes life for NRIs in Switzerland a touch difficult - don't you think?