Saturday, December 29, 2012

Jaunpur ka Ravinder

Extremely distressed by the news of the rape victim’s death, I walked out of office today evening and went straight to Bandstand – the sea calms me down; makes me reflective and happy. So I decided to give it a try again, to check if it could still permeate my state of utter frustration, anger and grief at everything going on around me, at the country I live in, a country I claimed I loved no matter what, at one point of time.
And so I went and walked, for a really long time. Turns out, my expectations were met indeed. I did come back a calmer, slightly happier soul, and the reason for this was one street vendor, Ravinder from Jaunpur whom I happened to speak to just by chance. I asked him where, pray, would I find a dustbin across the long stretch of the Bandstand promenade where a huge sign forbidding littering was put up, with no ambiguity whatsoever of its commandment. The irony was that not even a single, small dustbin was provided anywhere along the entire route. And thus, in response to my query, began the outpouring of frustration, probably pent up inside the guy for quite some time. I, henceforth speak on his behalf, mostly quoting him word for word, and thus explaining my reason to return home a calmer soul.
P.S. The language may get slightly coloured for a few people henceforth, but please excuse me for these are views of the man, and in order to remain true to his sentiment I shall quote him exactly.

            This is a chutiya place with chutiya people living around. They could make up an entire Bandstand but haven’t even provided for a single dustbin around the area. And so you see these huge houses, with rich people living inside? They don’t care whether people all around litter this promenade or not, but what they do care about are us poor vendors who are trying to earn an honest living. And thus, everyday, complaints are made, money is fed to the police who come around and pick up a few odd vendors from here, making sure they do not return, and thus shutting out an honest man’s way to support himself and his family. And then they talk of crimes being committed. Now, out of frustration and poverty if crimes won’t be committed then what else will happen? I try so hard every day to sell these peanuts, and chana jor garam etc. and ensure a decent income for my wife and me, but every day I battle the fear that today may be my fate won’t be with me. This government is a chutiya government. Laws are made not for welfare of people but just to harass us poor people, and for a show of authority. Why do you think criminals move around fearless? Because, the government knows that one gun totting criminal would do them and their “incomes” much more harm, than would a peaceful common man. And so they unleash their authority and ‘’laws’’ on the common man. He is supposed to adhere to laws, to respect them, while the chutiya government and the rich work hand in hand to ensure smooth, comfortable lives for themselves. Now take the case of that girl from Delhi who got gang raped just last week. The poor girl has passed away. But do you think the rapists will be punished? No way. Nothing is going to happen. Because this chutiya government only wants to save their backsides. When I have a son of my own, I am going to teach him the right way to live. I am going to teach him how to respect women, and be a good human being. Just the way my father taught me. You know how I got married? My wife was not getting a nod of approval from anyone else, for either there were exorbitant demands for dowry, or they had some or the other problem with her appearance, or they would just not bother to even reply back after going for a meeting. My father went just once to see her, for in my village the elders go and approve the girl, and immediately said yes. He just had one condition- there will be no exchange of any sort of dowry but since they insisted he agreed to let them give us whatever they sought fit, but within a certain limit. He did not ask for a single penny. That is the kind of lesson I shall impart to my son, when I have children. It’s so sad what happened to the girl in Delhi. But these things happen every day and will happen till this chutiya government continues to not care about us common people.

This is the anguish and frustration that got unleashed from this common man of India. And it was extremely satisfying to see that there is still a man around who thinks like this. To be colloquial, here’s someone from a “lower social strata” of society who can think more progressively, clearly and sensibly than more than half the ‘’cream of society’’.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Open Letter to the Delhi Woman CM

Dear Chief Minister of the national capital, Delhi.

I am not sure whether you will even read this email, or even acknowledge it in any way or not. But as a worried citizen of this city, this country, and as a woman who is concerned for her own safety, and for the safety of her friends, family, and her own mother (for as you shall notice rapists that are animals claiming to be 'men' do not discriminate on the basis of age), I am writing this out to you to voice my opinion which is otherwise not given a forum in the state or corporate controlled media that we have today claiming to be the fourth estate of our so called democracy.

Yes, India is a democracy where all castes, classes, and everyone is supposed to be granted equal rights (hence reservation policies galore) and given respect by the laws, except for this poor creature called the woman. Women across classes and castes and social structures suffer the harsh, disgusting, appalling attitudes of men who think they are God's gift to earth and have the right to do whatever they please with whomsoever they please. And who has shaped such attitudes in them? Our patriarchal society, our country's callous laws, poorly structured law enforcement agencies, with no real authority (or even if they do, they don't seem to care much except for filling their protruding stomachs, chewing tobacco, and watching lethargically as the city continues at its own pace).

The frequent sentence given for rape is 10 years of imprisonment, or in certain cases the death penalty. In the capital city of a country which fights and debates over FDI but cannot claim to guarantee basics like food, water, electricity and housing to its own citizens, and guarantee safety to its women (read Honour killings, physical and mental abuse, and the worst of all RAPE), rapes occur at the rate of approximately 635 per year (as of 2012, according to a report in Hindustan Times, dated 18.12.2012). And this figure is probably only those of registered cases, known to the authorities; it does not even include cases where girls, and women are harrassed no end, till at times some of them even go to the extreme of committing suicide to end the painful misery their lives become. What claim does such a country have to call itself a budding superpower and make nuclear deals and debate over FDI on one hand, even as a girl, through no fault of her own, is brutally gang raped, and thrown out onto the streets of Delhi in the cold winter, half naked and in a degrading and horrific condition?

A rape is worse than murder. My biggest fear in life is not to die, because that shall just mean my misery and joys of this life, as I know them, are over. I do not need to suffer anymore. My biggest fear, my nightmare as a woman is to be raped. Because rape affects a woman mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially the most, since our narrow minded society with dogmatic ideas still tends to blame women for their predicament, and not those men who simply cannot keep it in their pants and do not have a strong enough value system to know right from wrong, humanity from torture. Women are blamed if they step out at night, if they step out early morning, if they are not clothed from head to foot in what is seen as ''proper attire'' by our country's distinguished leaders, if they so much as dare to say a word to any man who may be harassing them verbally, or if they take public transport to get home to their families. 

There is a complete and chaotic breakdown of priorities in this nation, which needs to be addressed ASAP or the country's social decline is not far. And believe you me, that does not make a country a superpower, however much you claim the GDP to be growing in numbers.

So first of all, keep castration as a punishment for rapists. Hurt them where it hurts the most. Only then, with such severe extreme punishments, will the future rapists be deterred. Death penalty and life imprisonment doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what a heinous crime they commit. And do not say, what of those accused wrongly. We have a judiciary to make sure no one is accused wrongly, and even it that happens, there are even then murder and other such cases where wrong accusations lead to punishment. But punishment is nevertheless meted out. In Saudi, rapists are stoned to death publicly. That is the kind of humiliation and punishment such men deserve, not measly life imprisonments.

 Make stringent laws and ensure they are properly adhered to (try not completely curbing women's freedom, please, as you do so). Set up fast track courts for rape cases- a long drawn out battle for justice wherein again and again the victim is made to revisit the scene of the horrendous act that was done to her is more mental and emotional torture than we can even imagine. And please, please set up a non-corrupt, efficient transport system in this city. Do not say, there are autos because the auto drivers REFUSE to go anywhere if there is traffic, bleak hope of subsequent fare, too much distance, too much time, too much effort, basically refuse any fare that required them to ferry the passenger anywhere inconvenient to them, also charging exorbitant rates while doing so, not adhering to the meter system. Last I checked the public transport was to 'transport the public from one place to another' and not to give them extra headache and inconvenience. Half the time, people do not get transport, as was the case with this girl who waited to get an auto back to her home, for over an hour and a half, until ultimately she decided to climb aboard the fateful bus, that too late in the night. 

Please, I implore you to make this case exemplary, by providing prompt justice, and strict, severe punishment to the rapists so that this evil is curbed otherwise, the future is extremely dark and hopeless, full of anguish, fear, misery and possibly dissent, even.

A concerned citizen and a woman becoming increasingly paranoid for her safety.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Pleasure of Pain

- Aastha Katyal

“Hey Honey!”

“Hi Rajeev. How was your day at office today?”

“It was Okay. Remember that presentation I had been preparing for, for that Colgate account. That was today.”

“Oh Yeah! How’d it go?”

“Good, Good. At least I think it went well. Next week will tell for sure, when we know whether we are getting the work or not.”

“Well, I am sure you will.”

“Sheila, What’s for dinner?”

“I was thinking let’s go out tonight. I just don’t feel like cooking. I am so exhausted with all the work at school. That Principal of ours is such an inefficient, confused, old hag.”

“Oh Lord! What happened now?”

Yaar, She is the most inefficient and uneffective administrator I have ever come across in my 20 years in the teaching profession. So after telling us to prepare lesson plans in a certain way, and constantly berating us to send them across as soon as we could, basically ensuring our one short month of holiday was effectively ruined for all of us, she today tells us in the needlessly three hour long meeting, that she doesn’t want them that way and that we have to redo everything following a new format which will ensure more clarity and accountability, apparently.”

“Why the hell, do you not leave this stupid job? I earn enough for both of us.”

“Please Rajeev, don’t start again. You know I like being financially independent. Besides I have some good friends at the school. If it gets too much for me, I’ll look for other options.”

“Fine. Whatever! So where are we going?”

“Well, I thought we could go try out that new place that had opened up in the Vasant Vihar market. It’s called Soi Thai. It seems very interesting.”

Acha fine. Just give me half an hour to get ready and stuff and then we can leave.”


“I liked the food, nahi, Sheila?”

“Yes, it was really good. I especially loved the Pad Thai noodles. But I can never forget the ones we had in Thailand, last month. They were so delicious.”

“Yeah. That was a fantastic place.”

“Hmm. It was nice of Shekhar to get us those great rooms at his friend’s hotel at a discounted rate. When’d he join your office honey? A month or so back na? You were so wary of it when he offered to do it for us and I told him to go ahead with the discount deal, if he could. He’s a nice chap, isn’t he?”

“Hmm... Yeah. Speaking of Shekhar, Sheila there’s something wrong with him I think.”

“Why do you say so?”

“The man seems slightly crazy to me. I mean he’s alright, I guess. Respects me a lot, and looks up to me and stuff. But he’s begun telling me about him and his wife, Richa, and it’s just all so unbelievably astounding. It just makes me ... uncomfortable.”

“What does he tell you?”


“Sir, May I come in?”

“Yes Shekhar come in. I was just finishing the pitch on this account. The boss is really after my life on this one.”

“Yeah! I think it’s really important to him. He must be getting some sort of kickbacks or something. He He.”

“Haha, Yeah probably. So how are you settling in, in this city? Do you like Delhi?”

“Well, it’s so different from Chandigarh. I mean I’ve lived there for 10 years, and am so used to the kind of life that place has that I am feeling quite out of place in this city right now. It’s more quiet and there was this community feeling in the area that I used to live in, the society in Panchkula. Here it’s all so big, and every body’s too busy to even spare you a moment. It can be quite daunting in fact. And what’s the deal with these constant traffic jams sir?”

“Haha! Yeah that’s quite a pain. Especially, at this time of the year. One rain and the damn city has a breakdown.”

“I told my wife to avoid taking the car to work. It’s much easier that way. Anyway how far is her office? She can easily take the metro to and fro.”

“Hmm. Where does your wife work again?”

“At this start up in Gurgaon sir. It’s called Fast Furnish. She’s done an MBA and she wanted to work with an MNC, but she thought it would be better to begin work here, while she scouts for good offers.”

“That’s good. So she’s gone all day? Do you guys get any time together what with your busy hours here?”

“Oh Yes Sir! I make her get up at 6:00 am so that she can cook my food and iron my clothes, before she leaves for work at 8:30 a.m.”

“What do you mean you make her ‘get up’?”

“Well, obviously she won’t wake up herself na? You are lucky to have a good devoted wife sir. Girls these days. They have no sense of homemaking and treat their husbands with no respect. All she cares about is her job and herself. I have to sometimes slap some sense into her.”

“What! When you say slap, you mean...”

“Oh No no Sir! It’s all playful. She knows I mean no harm. Now just the other day, she was ironing my underwear and she burned a small hole into it. Now how careless is that! Would she do that with her clothes? No, Never! Just because I don’t say anything to her, doesn’t mean she’ll treat me like shit, right? So I gave it to her. Nothing much, just a whip or two with my belt. It was very light. But it was just because I was so furious. It was more meant to teach her a lesson than anything else. Not like she complained.”

“But Shekhar How can you...?”

“Oh no Rajeev Sir. Don’t worry. I am not a monster or anything. It’s just that she’s so self involved and hardly cares for me and my needs. You know she’s a pure vegetarian. She doesn’t eat even eggs. But that doesn’t mean I have to turn vegetarian too right? So I get her half a kg of mutton and ask her to cook it for me. I got it cleaned and cut beforehand. I am not thoughtless, am I? But she says, ‘I can’t cook it Shekhar. I can’t touch mutton at all, and I get sick at the very smell of raw meat. But I will for sure sit at the table with you as you eat, give you company.’ I was so angry, I slapped her, very lightly of course, and said, you don’t want to cook for your husband? What kind of a wife can’t do this one simple task? Have I married her so I work while her highness graces me with her company? So I told her, even I won’t cook it, if you’ve got such a problem with this thing. And I just threw the mutton out. It was so horribly annoying. I mean, has your wife ever done such a thing sir?”


“I’m sorry. Of course she hasn’t. Mrs. Sandhu seems quite lovely in fact. How many years has it been to your marriage sir?”

“Umm... about 16 years now. You’ve married recently I suppose? You seem quite young.”

“Yes, Sir. In fact I told my mother to find me a wife. And look what was the best she could come up with. I mean, do you know, Richa did not get a single penny from home upon our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, Sir. I am a man of principles. No one from my family even mentioned dowry. But isn’t it her duty, or rather her mother duty to be considerate enough. After all these our social norms. You never go empty handed to your husband’s house, do you? All she got was some jewellery and clothes, and a few gift items for my parents and me. Like we are some sort of charity cases.”


“Last week, she comes to me and tells me her brother needs a ‘small loan’ to cover his expenses for his Applications to Universities abroad. She tells me, she’s giving him a part of her savings which she claims he shall return later. Like I am supposed to believe that. I told her nothing doing. Keep your money with you. He will manage. So she tells me, she was not asking me, she’s just telling me because I am her husband and she thought it was her ‘duty’ to inform me. I got so angry. How can these young nothings talk to their husbands like that? I just lost my cool. Usually I am a very reasonable person, Sir. But when you a push a man’s buttons like this... What is one to do after all? So I set the record straight about her family. Her mother and brother just want to pawn off her, Sir. They are a good for nothing pair, who see her marriage to me as an investment nothing else. They must have thought, let us get her married to this guy who is doing well for himself in a renowned Ad agency and earning good money. Not only will she be happy but we could also get enough support. They know their daughter earns peanuts in front of me, currently. Just because you’ve got an MBA degree doesn’t mean you’ll be made the Managing Director straight away of some MNC na? Huh! I’m sure she and that family of hers knew she was worth nothing. Well, they are sadly mistaken. I may be a decent chap, but I take no bullshit. They are not getting a dime from me! In fact Sir, Don’t tell anyone else, but I had to even beat her a little bit that night, to knock some sense into her. I mean, she was being unnecessarily insistent and sometimes...well sometimes...I just lose my temper a little too much.”

“Shekhar...Uhh...I really have to get this work done now. So if you don’t mind...”

“Oh Yes Yes Sir! Please carry one. I am sorry. I just came in because I wanted to talk to someone. For some reason not many people in this office seem to like me too much. I mean, I am quite fond of you. You’ve been so welcoming and so understanding about...everything.”

“Thank you Shekhar. I’ll see you later then.”

“Yes Sir. See you at lunch? Alright then.”


“Excuse me Sir?”

“Ah! Shekhar...Uhh...I was just..”

“I can see you are having lunch Sir. Do you mind if I join you?”

“Umm...Alright. Please take a seat.”

“Thank you Sir. I’ve got Baingan ka Bharta today and I know it’s your favourite so I thought I’d come share it with you. Please have a bite sir, please.”

“Mmm...It’s very nice. Richa is an excellent cook.”

“Oh! She knew nothing initially. When we got married, the woman would serve me watery Daal and a gooey, slimy paste she would call a vegetable preparation. God knows she doesn’t cook meat. It took a few exhausting lessons, to teach her some stuff. You see I was away during college years in a flat, so I learned to cook myself then. So I passed on my knowledge to her then. Nothing a few light slaps won’t do, eh? Hehehe.”


“Oh My God! How could you let me believe this monstrosity of a human being was a good person?”

“I told you Sheila he was a bit off.”

“A bit off? Rajeev a bit off is Hunder, our servant, who talks to cats and stuff. You could call him off. This guy is just plain creepy. What a Male Chauvinist Pig he is!”

“I was a bit amazed when he said she irons his underwear.”

“I know. She’s an educated professional for God’s sake. What’s wrong with women today? Despite all the education they don’t stand up for their rights and speak up for themselves, against such bastards.”

“Now, Sheila relax. Maybe she has a genuine reason she’s not speaking up.”

“Like what Rajeev?”

“Like, maybe her mother has refused to support her if she leaves her husband. Her father has anyway passed away. She probably doesn’t want an added burden even as her brother is still studying for graduation or something, I think.”

“Oh C’mon. She has an MBA for heaven’s sake. You mean to say she can’t support herself? Even if Richa doesn’t get a big shot job initially she can earn enough to feed herself three square meals a day can’t she? At least it would be better for her than being subjected to such humiliation every day?”

“Sheila, a woman needs support not only financially, but even socially. Our society is still quite biased against separated or divorced women.”

“Whatever Rajeev. I still think a woman as educated as her needs to have enough sense to know her life, peace of mind and happiness are more important than some group of people’s fake cry for ‘honor’.”

“Hey I have an idea. I am too uncomfortable with dealing with these matters, you know it. But you are such an independent and strong woman. If you feel so strongly against this why don’t you contact this NGO you were telling me about the other day, the one you sought help from for Kamla, our previous maid? You could take a representative or two from that place and I’ll give you Shekhar’s address. Go find Richa and talk to her about this.”

“Yeah! I think that’s a good idea. I shall contact them tomorrow morning itself. Maybe she just doesn’t know how to begin getting away from this man’s crap. We could probably help her with that, right?”

“Yup. Now relax and take some rest. Tomorrow is a Saturday so you’re off from school right?”

“Yeah, thankfully.”

“So maybe you could call them up tomorrow morning around 10:00 am or so. And talk to them about this whole thing. Preferably go over tomorrow only and talk to Richa.”

“Hmm...Yeah I’ll do that.”

“Good. Now sleep alright. Goodnight honey.”

“Goodnight love.”


I stared at my face in the foggy mirror for a long time. The bruise on my forehead from last night’s beating, shone as if it was some sort of a medallion or something. I gazed at the shiner, standing with my hands pushing the wash basin down as I let it bear the weight of my arms, the shower spewing warm water in the bathing area that was separated by the green curtain. It was only when the bell rung, resounding loudly through the empty house that I was shaken out of my reverie.

I wondered who it could be at that hour. I glanced at the clock settled above the bathroom door and saw it was 11:00 am. I was a little taken aback when I realised I had been standing there in the same position for over 45 minutes now.

I hurriedly screwed shut the knob of the shower to stop the water flow, and grabbed my t-shirt which had been hanging from the towel rod next to the bathroom door. I pulled it on over my head, and quickly arranged my hair so that it flopped over the bruise to cover it up. Who knew who was at the door. I ran out to the main door, just as the third bell ran through the house.

I opened it slightly to see who it was. There were three women standing outside, smiling at me benevolently.

“Hi Are you Richa Shekhar Gupta?”

I nodded.

“I am Sheila Sandhu, your husband’s boss Rajeev Sandhu’s wife. May I please come in?”

I wondered what she was doing here, but I nodded and opened the door a little more to allow her in. She continued smiling at me and entered, as the two ladies behind her followed her in.

“Richa, this is Mary Gonsalves and Trishna Rajadhyaksha.

“Hello. Please make yourselves comfortable. I’ll get some water.”

I motioned politely to the couch in the sitting area near the entrance and went to the kitchen to get them some water, wondering what the hell this was all about. It didn’t seem like a casual visit. These women, impeccably dressed, clearly meant business. I thought for a second how I might be looking like a hag to them, but then I shrugged the thought away the next moment. I had bigger things to worry about.
I took the tray of water to them with a bowl of some namkeen as a polite gesture. Once they had each taken their glasses of water, I bent down to put the bowl of namkeen  onto the centre table. As I did so, I caught Sheila looking at me and her eyes flickering to my forehead. As she did so, she glanced towards the other two ladies and gently nodded. I caught the movement and worried she might have noticed my bruise. I went to the dining table to deposit the tray there and set my hair appropriately as I returned to the sitting area.

I took a seat on one of the folding chairs placed opposite the couch and placed my hands on my lap, joining them together in anticipation. What the hell did they want?

 After a moment, Sheila spoke.

“So Richa. How are you? How’s your job going?”

Oh God. Small talk. Needless small talk.

“Just fine. Thank you for asking ma’am.”

“Please call me Sheila.”

I smiled at her, hoping she would get to the point quickly. I decided to hasten the process.

“So what brings you here?”

After a few moments of hesitation and silence during which the three ladies shot uncomfortable glances at each other, Sheila finally decided to take the lead.

“We know Richa.”

“Know what?” I asked, though I had a bad feeling I knew what they were referring to.

“About your husband...umm...beating you.”

“What? My husband doesn’t do any such thing.”

“But...I have seen your bruise. It’s right there on your forehead.”

“I don’t mean to sound rude Sheila,” I said firmly, “but just because you see a shiner on my head you assume it’s because of a beating from Shekhar? I got this because I got pushed in the metro and I banged my head against one of the poles inside. That’s all.”

“Richa, Rajeev told me everything. Your husband Shekhar tells him about...your arguments.”

“Which couple does not have arguments? Yes, we too have our share of fights and disagreements, but that doesn’t have to mean he beats me. What a preposterous suggestion!”

“Look Richa,” Mary said, “You don’t have to be afraid. Trishna and I are from an NGO which deals with cases like yours. We have a lot of women who are victims of domestic violence coming to us for help and building a new life for themselves. We can help you financially and emotionally. We shall provide complete support and assistance to you on all fronts. You don’t have to be afraid of anyone. Not even your husband.”
“But I am not afraid. Nothing scary is happening to me. I am happy with my husband, thank you very much,” I said beginning to get irked now.

Then Trishna spoke to me, trying to persuade me. “I hope you are right. Because we have received stories to the contrary. If Mr. Shekhar Kamal abuses you in any way, any way at all, physically, mentally, sexually, you can turn to us for help. There is no need to be afraid.”

“I assure you three ladies that there is nothing of the sort happening, at the moment. If I am ever in need of your support I shall inform you. As of now, my husband does not beat me. He does not abuse me physically or in any other way.”

The three of them looked at each other hopelessly and then probably resigned to accept my stand on the matter, because then Sheila said, “Alright then Richa. I am sorry to bother you.”

I merely smiled. I was quite irritated by then.

I accompanied them to the door and bid them goodbye. Just before I shut the door, Sheila turned around and handed me a slip of paper on which there was a number scribbled.

“This is my contact number. Please call me day or night, if there is any need for any sort of assistance. Alright? There is no need to hesitate.”

“Thank you Sheila,” I smiled again and shut the door behind her.

I turned around and stared at the slip of paper in my hand.

I then proceeded towards the bathroom again. I threw the slip of paper in the dustbin in my room as I entered the bathroom and bolted it behind me. I took off my t-shirt again, and went and stood in front of the washbasin.

As I stared at the bruise on my forehead and the others on my back and around my waist, I smiled slightly, to myself. They would never understand. Few people might.

I did not have any problem. I just couldn’t tell them I enjoy the ‘beating’ my dear husband gives me, could I?