As Henry David Thoreau put it, ‘An early morning walk is the blessing for the whole day.’
What are these times we see today around us?
The nation heaves and gasps for air
As the regime rushes to whitewash away
Or look the other way.
Strangers come together to help and to hold
Misery colours all that we behold
Where is the national pride now?
As people wail in despair.
Other nations look aghast at our bloodied canvas
Murder holds India in her throes
As loss upon loss piles up of those we know and those we don’t know.
Let us pledge never to forget
Let us vow to help each other find our way out of this mess
The time has come for our Mann ki Baat
The time has come to say no more. No more. No more.
People do not die from suicide, they die from sadness.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide has deeply affected many of us. At a time when everyone is being forced to introspect and to face their demons, there is a feeling of fragility being experienced by many.
It’s not just sadness. It is this feeling of connecting with a person standing on the edge of a precipice and trying to understand what he must have been feeling. Suddenly, you’re not sure of what you see on the surface. Suddenly, you realise that there is so much that goes on within that is unfathomable … an overwhelming sense of being adrift, lonely and forlorn. Driven to the point of stepping off a precipice.
Today, there is this big, urgent, unprecedented pause where everyone is flailing, trying to hold on to what they have always known but being compelled to release and let go. The vacant pause is becoming larger and the fog is still not showing any signs of lifting. The earth has tilted on its axis and nothing much makes sense anymore.
At a time like this, SSR has become a symbol of collective pain and collective consciousness. The question WHY reverberates and echoes. Again. Again. And again. Carrying with it millions of personal stories that have found a connection with this one act.
This pain that so many struggle with, disturbing and unsettling as it is, moving away from judgement maybe the first step in the right direction.
It’s difficult to wrap my head around what we are experiencing today. Just a month ago it was life as I had always known it. Stepping outside of the door was never accompanied by a jolt of fear or doubt. It was just something you did unthinkingly as you set out and about.
Today, I worry about my car as its stands unused like the others in the car park. The cars are all washed regularly. They gleam and glint like showpieces but the tyres are slowly losing air.
The park has a huge padlock at the gate. It looks verdant, peaceful and alive. Not a single human is visible but birds are reclaiming their territory with evident delight.
The air is filled with bird song and eerie quiet. There is no honking. No traffic sound. No chatter of people. No motorbikes driving through noisily without their silencers. No lovers hidden in the folds of the lanes. No fitness obsessed people jogging with single minded intent. No flights roaring overhead.
The outdoors are calm. Deserted. Surreal. And yet they seem to be in a state of regeneration. The buildings, on the other hand, pulse with hidden energy. You expect them to explode with all that suppressed fear they are holding within them. Each apartment brimming with people 24/7. Reined in. Restricted. Locked down.
Where am I? What is this place? How did we get here? There is a feeling of inevitability to the life we are all suddenly leading. That breathless, endless surge of people through the cities, rocking back and forth between home and work has ceased. Completely. We have been forced to retract, retrace. To pull back and stop. The machines have ground to a halt. The malls have shut.
And yet the world has come alive. Were it not for the lonely deaths and the rapidly spreading contagion, the pressure on the medical teams and the local governments, the absolute halt of the economy … I swear, you could hear an underlying strain of melody. There’s a faint tremor to the note but it’s pure and sharp. And it’s fighting its way through. I can feel the world straining to rise like a phoenix from the ashes … and when it does … what an enthralling sight it will be.
Till then … stay safe.
I tried writing this blog from the POV of a sexual predator but I gave up after a few attempts. I couldn’t get myself to think like an entitled imbecile who believes that women should be grateful for his attention and should respond with servility and sexual compliance.
The grey zone of sexual harassment is filled with judgement and opinion. What is ok or not ok can be hotly debated and ranges from allowing a hand on the thigh to drinking with a male colleague to being someone’s favourite at work to consistently dipping into the office pool to hone their marksmanship…. The inevitable bonding on projects and long hours at work make the workplace a hotbed (pun intended) for potential exploitation.
What really constitutes sexual harassment? In my considered opinion, it is anything that involves :
- Using aggression, blackmail, power, promise of retribution, fear, undermining someone’s spirit … all for sexual dominance and power trips.
In case there is any difficulty understanding the points above … I am clarifying them here for your benefit.
- If you believe that you own the women who work for you or with you …
- If you believe that women are basically dumb props and have made themselves available because they stepped out of their home to earn a living
- If you believe that women exist for your pleasure
- If you believe that women cannot achieve their goals without your proprietorial hand on their ass
- If you believe that your female colleagues need sex education
- If you believe that you are populating your personal harem while employing young, fresh ’talent’ then …
My suggestion is STOP. There are several instances of men being toppled from their seat of power by the very women who they chose to subjugate. It could be your turn.
This applies to predators across the board, irrespective of gender.
Bright curious eyes. Expectant. Childlike. Alight with dreams.
Reality. Insidious, unpredictable, inexplicable, fuzzy.
Two parallel lines of wishful thinking and reality moving along a trajectory that will always remain apart.
Simi was forced to accept reality. To swallow the bitter pill. To walk the fine line between illusion and fact. To question her dreams. To doubt her gut.
She learnt that love can be a lie that trips smoothly off a tongue. That promises are made to be broken. That avowals of love can be made to more than one. That love can be a string of beautiful beads. That the string can snap in two and the beads of fantasy scatter across the floor to never come together in the same magical way they once had. That love can mock. That love can be a facade. That hate can be love. That causing pain can be love. That love can hurt. That feeling is illogical. That, sometimes, you just don’t have the stomach for it. Or the heart for it. Because you dread the emptiness it may leave behind. That love can be a one way street. That words are not love. That retaliation can be love. That love cannot be hidden. That love can let you down. That you can let love down. That love makes you vulnerable and powerless. The love can make you powerful. That love is an unboxing of contradictions.
Simi’s eyes remain bright. Curious. Expectant. Hopeful. But there is a wariness now. Doubt.
Till love comes along again. Wearing a different costume.
And she holds on fast for the ride but this time, she keeps her eyes open.
We learn cuss words. The best ones. From friends. We speak freely without censure and judgement. Come to think of it … almost anything and everything is without judgement.
The pranks. The madness. The wild cackle of laughter. The passionate debates. The lunacy. The impulsive travel. The movie marathons. The whirling dervishes we transform into. The gluttony. The wisdom and the sage advice. The falling over and picking each other up. The celebration and the tears. The sharing of fears.
The circle is tight.
Member of the tribe
Hope is the word that drenches every new year wish. Desperate, urgent, heartfelt hope that the world will be a better place, all lunacy aside.
These are 10 hopeful, anxious requests to the year 2017.
1. May we never again have to deal with whimsical people hijacking our hard earned money only to dole it out to us in rationed amounts.
2. May we find the voice to counter fiction with fact … it’s that little detail that checks out consistently across time and documents.
3. For the love of God, may the Air Traffic Control at airports get their spatial assessment right … each and every time.
4. May news channels discover a conscience and give the people a fight worth cheering for, a truth worth aspiring to and an idealism that inspires the nation.
5. May the underprivileged stand up and demand their rights, leave fatalism to the past and broker a brand new future for themselves.
6. May we, the citizens of India, not have to pay for silly statues and the lavish lifestyles of our illiterate … uhh … hard working netas … until each and every citizen gets to experience the basic human dignity of living.
7. May we acquire special powers that can stop the flow of stupidity from the mouth of leaders.
8. May we find the cure to chronic ailments so that hospitals are no longer the sought after destination hubs.
9. May people allow themselves to be better, more compassionate, kinder and more generous souls.
10. May new item numbers flood the market and fill the world with joie de vivre. The nation needs to be inspired to sing and dance and laugh and love.
A speck in the vast humanity
Hello. You have become a more predictable friend now. I met you when I was suddenly introduced to loss. The sharp, sick taste of loss. Metallic, angry, harsh, incomprehensible and gut wrenchingly sad. There was no formal introduction. You just entered and settled down like a blanket. You enveloped me for a long time, so much so, that I didn’t realise you had become my second skin.
Then, one day, I recognised you clearly in my daily routine and my comfort food and my weight gain and I felt strangely relieved. At least now, I knew. From that point on, I’d observe how you would drop in from time to time, often when I least expected you. In the middle of a hearty laugh or a brilliant book or a formal dinner, you’d deliver a sucker punch in my solar plexus and I’d double up in pain. Gasping. Screaming silently. Reeling from the hit. And then you’d disappear again and I’d go back to life that would relentlessly urge me to hop on and get a move on.
So, I alternated for a while between grief and life. I learnt that as you grow older the losses pile up and the wheel turns again. And again.
Now you come and go, as and when you please. I learn to ride your crests and troughs. I learn to embrace life and treasure the love I have.
I await with dread the incoming traffic of all nature of emissions destined to take place in my space. I’m ubiquitous, almost. Airports, railway stations, bus stands, market places, multiplexes, highways, towns, cities, some villages, the list is endless. My presence is necessary and mandatory but basic respect unfortunately, eludes me. I’ve been mulling over my predicament and figured that its time I spoke out.
As a public shauchalaya or centre for excreta, I feel abused and exploited. My job is to be welcoming. A clean haven for those who desperately seek release. I would like to take pride in my role as a service provider but the management fails to do its bit.
- It does not provide the basic materials required to keep me spic and span.
- Not even cheap disinfectant. I mean, why run a public restroom if you can’t supply basic infrastructure!
- It doesn’t hire enough cleaners so stains grow and residual matter collects and the rot sets in.
- It does not take care of sustained maintenance, so if the tank leaks or the tiles come apart or the roof is not fixed, I have to live with it.
I’m tired of my own stench. You walk in and turn up your nose but I’m the one living in it!
Then we have some special characters who don’t seem to know what a WC is meant for. It is definitely not a step-up platform with a hole on the top. It’s a seat. Please do NOT climb on the WC and release your innards all over the place. It’s offensive.
Sometimes, I’m able to offer tissues and wipes and all things nice. Sometimes, I can barely offer water. In all cases, it should not stop you from doing the right thing by yourself … and that is to follow basic hygiene.
I understand you cannot do anything if there is no water … but do check once! The function of a flush is to pour a whole lot of water down the drain so the sewage gets carried along and the next person who comes to rest their ass on the WC is not confronted by a large turd or some floaters. I have, however, noted that an unflushed toilet does not deter some people …. they come right along and happily add to the collection. So now we have a pile up. Flies start buzzing and I have a whole new situation to deal with. The public stays out. Stray animals start visiting. You have by now converted me into a disease plaza. Which one would you like to rent today … I have on offer gastrointestinal afflictions, dysentry, leptospirosis, typhoid, dengue …
You see where this is going?
Not in your favour for sure! If you want a swachch bharat … please get off the seat, pull the flush and wash your hands … for starters.
the shauchalaya union