Sunday, December 30, 2012

The nation awakens while a braveheart dies

Don't mourn her death countrymen
She has left for a better world
A world where surely beasts don't roam around in human cloaks.

It is with great anguish that I put my thoughts into words. I have been avoiding having to write anything about it at all due to want of words that would do justice to the gravity of the situation but today with the demise of the braveheart whose pain managed to awaken an entire nation slumbering, I couldn't help venting it all out lest the agony leak out through other channels.

What happened thirteen days back failed to make me angry. When everybody else was up and about in streets and all over the internet with what could have been done to prevent it and what should be done to prevent such crimes in the future, I failed to even put my emotions into words for this blog. The brutality of the cold blooded act had shunned me into silence and made me numb.

How was I to be proud of such a country? How was I to love my Delhi again? Could my faith in humanity be restored ever again after such a dastardly act, more so when the victim could very well have been me? 
The courage shown by the brave heart who, against all odds, still fought to live only made me more ashamed. That we have been independent for 60 years now seemed a farce. What good is it after all if half the population is scared into confinement for fear of life? Surely, this couldn't be the independence our countrymen fought for.

The protests in Jantar Mantar and at the India Gate oddly seemed like  new additions in the long list of protests that have routinely taking place in these protestor friendly sites, ones that would soon fade out and give way to new, 'more important' issues. Nithari and '6 years' kept pounding in my ears. It was a sick feeling and it didn't help that more rape cases were reported in the newspapers every other day.

 Today, I'm at peace that the girl has died. I wouldn't have wanted her to continue living without intestines and God knows what. She was an inspiration for the whole country but it would have been cruel I believe, to have wanted her to continue living even if she herself wanted to. She has done more than enough by fighting valiantly against death, and the nation has been, I have been noting with growing satisfaction, awakened finally, as reflected in the protests that haven't fizzled out yet and that don't appear to fizzle out without anything concrete coming out of it. It's heartening to see so many protestors, all over the country, out in the cold, in silent contemplation or shouting slogans, united in their efforts to shake the authorities out of their comfort.
So after all, I can be proud of my country and be in love with Delhi and have faith in humanity, again. This possibility is as welcome to my heart as the fingers of death must be for that 23 year old. I pray that she's born in a country where she won't be punished for leading a normal life and doing normal things that 'men' normally do elsewhere. At least this much she deserves for having stirred us into action.

That murder charges have been framed against the convicts is only the start. I look forward to being able to walk in the streets of South Delhi at 9:30 at night and board a bus without feeling scared. That day I would be able to be proud of my country and love my Delhi once again completely. Yeah, when you're a woman, such small things taken for granted by men do seem precious. With the anger refusing to die out, that day I hope, rather believe is not very far.

Meanwhile, let's not forget the issue. That's the least we must do. Let's not give any other issue the centre stage until this one has fulfilled its objectives. And let's take an oath to never fall into the trap of the conspiracy of silence. It's high time the victim is not made to feel ashamed. It's the convict who loses his dignity and the right to be called a human and if anybody is to be stigmatised, it's the convict only. Not. The. Victim. As I keep saying, all crimes committed exclusively or mostly against women have their roots in misogyny. The chauvinistic beliefs that allow a man to dictate what his wife or daughter can wear or who she is 'allowed' to talk to or what her conduct must be like are the same that, combined with weak law and order dynamics, allow men to commit such atrocities. Not every rapist can be a psychopath.

Coming back to the valiant lady, I would say she will remain an inspiration for the nation and hopefully her trauma will compel our sexist politicians to think before trivialising rapes as consensual 90% of the times or likewise.
 A sister dies in a faraway land, punished for no fault of hers, and here I choose not to mourn her death 'coz I know she has left for a better world. Don't mourn her death countrymen. That would  do no good. Don't forget the issue and keep the anger brimming over. Let not her fight go to waste.
And she will be avenged. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review: Once Upon The Tracks Of Mumbai

 Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title is straight Bollywood kinds and so is the front cover, which made me a little apprehensive, thanks to every Tom, Dick and Harry with an engineering or management degree churning out a bestseller these days, which I call the Chetan Bhagat effect. Thankfully, the apprehension diminished when I scanned the back cover.

"Autistic, Schizophrenic, Psychotic. 'They' use these words to describe Babloo." Ok so the central character had a psychiatric problem (or something close to it). Definitely not the beaten path.

But more importantly, would Rishi Vohra's language be up to the mark, better than a certain Chetan Bhagat?

Before you tag me overly biased against Indian authors in general and Chetan Bhagat in particular, I myself acknowledge to be one. No denying that there are Amish Tripathis and Ashwin Sanghis and Debdutt Pattnaiks, but these prolific writers are in the minority, and though their works are no less popular, it troubles me to see that the less deserving ones are bestsellers too. Sadly, this is the case not just in India. When Stephanie Meyer happens to be one of the best selling authors in the world currently, pop garbage has to have something. Only I don't get the 'something'. And bashing Indian authors is easier than bashing others without reading their works, thanks to my friends. Alright we can move on now.

The various short reviews at the back were encouraging and the author's bio data turned out to be pretty interesting. You can check it out here.

The first few pages and I was sorted regarding the language. Though it is easy, obviously keeping in mind the masses, it is not pedestrian. Rather there is a lyrical touch and fluid lucidity in the words, almost an effortless grace that goes about the equally enthralling plot.

The first chapter of less than 10 pages took me 3-4 seatings, owing to an upcoming paper presentation in a conference. But the second chapter onwards, in which Babloo meets Vandana, made me stay up all night and finish the rest of the story in one go. In other words, the pace is good and the lead character the more and more loveable as you go along. The story is told from Babloo's vantage point and so one poignantly comes across the various thought processes and emotions of a differently abled person.

Here I will digress a little from how I liked the book and point out two major fallouts of labelling people with developmental difficulties or psychiatric disorders. Firstly, the label carries stigma. Nobody would like to, for e/g. have a child who is Mentally Retarded or marry a Schizophrenic. And in India, where there is sadly very little awareness about mental illnesses, everybody from a dyslexic to a child with Down's Syndrome is just called 'mad'. Secondly, once a person has been labelled as such, society or even mental health professionals wash their hands off the person. Society finds itself with the license to be insensitive and psychiatrists stop looking further, equating the person with just the label now attached. Sometimes this is the chaff and the wheat remains undiscovered, unappreciated and the real person is lost somewhere. The first one is built upon beautifully in the first few pages eventually culminating in the second issue coming across as the main idea behind the story.

It is a story of love essentially and how Babloo's love for Vandana inspires him to embark on a voyage of trying to be somebody she could be proud of, his weaknesses notwithstanding. This voyage is given direction by a chance event in which Babloo comes spontaneously to do something exactly of the sort and by and by discovers himself, though for very good reasons can't go tell Vandana about it. He himself takes it as a different person initially and decides to forsake his life as Babloo for that of this 'Rail Man'. The interactions of Vandana with Raghu, the younger brother of Babloo with whom her marriage is fixed and the fiasco with Sikander who is out to 'get' her, illustrate the tight rope on which today's Indian woman walks and it was heartening to see the way Vandana and Babloo finally came together.

What was that chance event? Who was Rail Man? How did Vandana come to love Babloo and not the successful Raghu who could have made the ideal provider? These are questions you'll find answers to in the book Read it. If you prefer light reading and want to read Indian fiction that won't make you regret wasting those 150ish bucks on toilet paper, this book would be it.

Coming to the parts that I found touching/remarkable are firstly how the author attempts valiantly (yet makes it appear natural) to normalise a psychiatric patient. At the outset, the labels of Dissociative Identity Disorder (that's the correct term, not Split Personality Disorder), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism, Psychosis, Schizophrenia are all frowned upon and by and by, very sensitively, it is shown that Babloo does indeed show symptoms of the kind that would get him labelled as such. "But so what if I show those symptoms?", "Do I become less of a human in lieu of that?" are questions that scream out of the pages.

Secondly, the equation between the Rail Man and the police throw light upon the unusual way in which the system reacts to Good Samaritans.

Also, the patriarchy that surfaces when it comes to arranged marriage (totally mismatched, to top it) and the unrealistic expectations out of a to-be bride that accompany are dealt with using subtle humor and refreshing directness.

Furthermore, from the title itself it would be apparent that railways and Mumbai are at the heart of the plot and the author should be congratulated for the eye for details he has got, that comes out in his explanations of everything to do with how the railways have an impact on Babloo's life.The uniqueness of Mumbai is well elaborated too and the whole plot revolves around the rail tracks and the city, justifying the title.

To conclude, Rishi Vohra surprised me, I must say, as a debutant author and I would be looking forward to this novel making it big in the charts.

View all my reviews

P.S. The book, as I recently came to know is already a bestseller. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is this what is love?

You let me say things I wouldn't to anybody else-
Sometimes delightful nonsense and childlike banter,
Sometimes tales of woe and rage, as catharsis,
And mostly stories that would bore any other mortal;

You make me do things I wouldn't if it weren't for you-
Saying sweet-nothings without feeling awkward,
Being vulnerable, being silly, being sappy,
Doing the very opposite of what I have been known to be like so far.
You make me wonder if it's still the same 'me',
Or being with you has made me,
What I was always afraid to be.
Or simply perhaps, you just allow me to be myself.

Floundering footsteps

I die a little every time I realize that I have hurt you again, yet again. I die a little every time I remember my lofty promise to you that I would never ever hurt you. I have died several tiny deaths since that day.

So easy it is to make promises and so difficult to live up to those!

Now do you see why I called myself c* p*? It's far better not to raise expectations than to raise lofty ones and then shatter those every once in a while, don't you agree? And I laugh at myself for the reasons I have hurt you so, time and time again. That day, I was in a dream when you came unbidden and breathed life into the tired me and when it was time for you to go, my dreamy self refused to let it all end on an earthy note. It wanted a dream ending. For it had been all so dreamlike!

What may appear commonplace to you, was special and magical for me. You didn't try anything extraordinary, you may say, but every word uttered in that dialog would make some part of a memorable chapter of my life. Even the silly way the dream ended, made sense later. Because it found its way to my book of special memories that I think of again and again and live my paradise. The only hitch is, I took you for granted and said things I shouldn't have. I won't say sorry, rather I'll try and see to it that I don't repeat such a mistake again. It takes a lot of foolery to slip up after a public promise, you see :D