Thursday, September 14, 2017

Have We Let Our Children Down?

Photo courtesy - Google images

You don't realise how deeply you are capable of loving till you have your own child. As an adult who’s seen the world that can be kind and cruel, soft and harsh, cheerful and sinister, you want to shelter them from the worst and experience the best humanity has to offer. You want their childhood to be a cherished memory and not a nightmare.

So, when you read about a boy, all of 7, killed brutally for resisting sexual advances of a crazed man inside the safe confines of his school, your heart bleeds. You are filled with rage at the school for taking safety of your most precious so casually. You grieve for the parents who will be left with a gaping hole in their heart for the rest of their lives.

But the first thought that engulfs any parent is – what if it were my own child! I was living in Brisbane, and my daughter in Delhi when the Nirbhaya incident sent chills down our spine. It also brought out my worst fears. As much as I hated myself for doing it, I would ask her to be home by evening, carry a Swiss Knife with her at all times and my insides would turn into a gnawing jelly of anxiety, every time she wouldn’t pick up the phone.

Every time a child gets sexually assaulted or worse killed, we are overcome with helpless rage. It was appalling to find out that Ryan International has toilet facilities shared by students and the non-teaching staff including drivers and conductors. Children are easy targets for deviants. Also it's a known fact that paedophiles seek employment/engagement in organisations where they are in close proximity with children. It’s baffling that the school didn’t bother with background checks before hiring the non-teaching staff.

It is a colossal tragedy of our times that sexual abuse of children is not given the importance it deserves. It is either shrouded in complicit silence or the perpetrator is let off with a reprimand. The bus conductor who murdered Pradyuman allegedly had a history of sexual misdemeanours. Yet the school that dismissed him just a few months back didn’t think it was important to file a police complaint.

As a nation whose track record of safety for its citizens is far from exemplary, we still do not have a national database of sexual offenders. It’s not as if demands for one have not been raised before but our outrage that follows reports of sexual abuse in schools has the attention span of an amoeba.

The Delhi Police has chalked out a plan of action to look into the issue of security of children in schools following the Ryan incident. I am sure the Haryana government will also come up with their own list of rules and regulations for schools to follow. But simply drafting hurriedly made rules for children’s safety is not enough. If new laws and rules could keep us safe, no woman would be afraid to step out in the dark, no man would think twice before stopping to a take a bleeding accident victim to the hospital, no rapist will have the audacity to rape again and again.

Police background checks become just a useless piece paper when you know that the police chowki will simply sign the form without any physical verification for a mere 500 Rs. Regulations are of no use if the school lacks the sincerity to implement them.

One single lapse is all a predator needs to slip through the safety net.

So how do we keep our children safe?

We can’t possibly keep an eye on them all time. If we do, we will end up being that overbearing tree that prevents the small plants under its shade to reach their fullest potential. We can warn them to be wary of friendly uncles who offer toffees in parks. Stay away from suspicious looking adults. But then we will end up creating an adult deeply distrustful of the world.

Sadly, fears have an uncanny ability of becoming a looming shadow over our lives, blocking it off from sunshine and cheer.

There’s no disputing the fact that we all want our children to grow into adults capable of loving, caring and nurturing. So why not make them aware that your love is not dependant on the expectations they meet. Trust them so that they have the confidence to trust their instincts and be able to differentiate between good and creepy vibes from others. Talk to them rather than talking down to them. Instead of discouraging them from arguing with adults, reason with them.

A kid who obeys blindly will never be able to stand up for himself and fight back.

Also, let us accept that we are as responsible for our children as the school we send them to, the government we vote to power and the police force that is supposed to maintain law and order. Besides telling your child about the good and bad touch, insist the school has CCTV coverage, especially around secluded spots. A school cannot cut corners when it comes to safety of students.

Do not leave them alone with an adult. A majority of sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by people known to them. Teach them to say no if a physical contact makes them uncomfortable. Most predators are encouraged by the child’s puzzled silence.

Never forget to make them feel love and cherished. Take out time every day to just hear them talk about their day, their little joys and fears.

And enrol them for martial arts. Nobody will dare mess with a child who can defend himself with a firm kick in the groin of the attacker.

So while we are busy saving rivers, trees, our great culture, cows, morality, shouldn’t we also protect our kids from lust, rage, unreasonable expectations and abuse?

After all it is for them we are working towards a clean, breathable, liveable world where each morning in its pristine serenity makes us joyful to be alive.



Monday, August 28, 2017

How To Be An Asshole and still be Mistaken as God


Hello, my lovely disciples

Let me start by congratulating you for being a lucky bastard. Now now, don’t start fancying yourself as John Snow. Your case is different. You are blessed to be born in India and a time where despite free flowing spirits, spirits are at an all-time low and outrage at an all-time high. With the breakup of Suraj Barjatiya type of familial connections where even the dog is happy, families have become nuclear, happiness an elusive entity, satisfaction comes with no guarantee and everything you cherished is being relegated to history. You are often consumed with the fear of being part of the rootless and faceless herd, leading a life of perpetual consequence. And boy, you are so right!

Now that I have acquainted you with reality, don’t try to kill yourself or others by sharing your soppy poetry about your shitty life. If you follow my guidelines carefully, you can become the most powerful and wealthy asshole, with a following of millions ready to lap-up any bullshit you spew including achhe din. You don’t need degrees from elite institutions or be particularly gifted. All you need is a gift of the gab and a proclivity of making promises you have no intention of fulfilling. You have to master the art of making a fool of millions. Once you’ve achieved that, anything you do or don’t will be hailed as the best thing to have happened to mankind since chhole bhature.

Across the world religion is becoming the fastest growing business venture. Since there’s never a shortage of the gullible masses waiting to believe that their very existence is under threat from evil forces, all you need to do is prey on their fears and make them believe you are their saviour. If they don’t have it, create it. Mine on their ignorance and you will yield a rich harvest of unfounded fears and hostility towards one and all. Make them feel wronged, alienated. Then you can slowly take control of their lives by becoming their spiritual guide, psychologist, family confidante, semen donor and money launderer.

Remember, this is the age of instant noodles, news, outrage, opinion, love, breakups, fame and satisfaction. So why should salvation be left behind! If all it takes is two minutes to commit a grievous sin and make Maggi, it is unreasonable to wait a lifetime for moksha. And since God is like homeopathy, more faith than reality, it makes sense to look for the real deal in flesh and blood.

So here lies your opportunity for becoming their God. The one that can be seen, touched, heard, and is a one stop shop of redressal for all their grievances.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dear Magazine, I am not sorry we broke up



The newspaper is dying a slow death, but not in India. For many households it’s still the perfect accompaniment with morning tea even though the many reports of horrific rapes and killings fill you with sorrow and disgust at the same time. Every member of the family has a favourite page. During my teen-angsty days ‘the middle’ mostly witty accounts of personal anecdotes, was my favourite. My Dad stuck to the sports page and Mom would devour very inch of the paper. When the ‘middle’ was removed, I shed lonely tears on its demise. Unfortunately, there was no social media where I could call for a candlelight vigil.

These days I spend most time on the editorial page. In this age of constant explosion of news that’s breaking the Internet every few minutes, you need a learned and well-informed pen to help you make sense of the chaos and cacophony that passes off as news.

As in any middle class home where a household item has nine lives before its expiry, the newspaper too enacts many roles with ease. After it has fulfilled its purpose of informing and sending ripples of outrage down our spine, it quietly takes on the humble job of lining shelves in cupboards and cleaning windows. The ones that escape this ordeal hand meekly surrender themselves to the local raddiwala who defies inflation and offers lesser and lesser money for the same pile.

As I hand over the stack of rustling newspapers to its new custodian, I can’t help but notice the few odd magazines cutting a lonely picture. I carefully avert my eyes from their accusing glances. They believe I have forsaken them for a new lover and they are right.

Damn you, online distractions!

The fact is, we did have a passionate love affair for decades. They were my besties after a long, tiring day, my before bed companion, the secret behind my know-all attitude. I remember how excited RayMan was when I trundled home with Cosmopolitan and 110 ways to make your man sigh in bed. I read them all, giggled, rolled my eyes and then promptly forgot all the tips. And my man let out a loud sigh.

It was through Illustrated Weekly I discovered great artists and their work. My Maa’s Bangla magazine with its agony aunt column where youngsters would share incestuous, forbidden and supremely weird but exciting tales of love and longing stoked my desire to learn the language. Magazines were a one stop shop for stories, opinion pieces, satire and how to use onion juice to rejuvenate your hair.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Period leave – Yay or Nay for Empowerment


I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods

A Mumbai based firm in their attempt to be more women friendly has granted first day period leave to all its women employees. Yay! This should start making men wish they had periods too - the mythical condition that makes perfectly normal women turn into raging monsters. This monthly ritual of shedding eggs is much like the short skirt – the most popular defence for rapists and their many sympathisers. Every time a woman creates a scene, screams her lungs out, gets into an argument because she’s tired of taking shit, it is promptly attributed to the big P or her sis PMS. Either this, or she is menopausal, or may not be getting enough sex.

So deep is this rot in the mindset, a Trump voter went on to say the reason why she’ll never vote for Hillary is because a woman should never be the President. Her hormones that play hide and seek make her so volatile that she can start wars, totally ignoring the fact that both the world wars were started by leaders who were men.

That the future of world peace depends on the mental health of our vagina is a huge responsibility to shoulder. Phew!

Despite menstruation taking the blame for all the ills that befall mankind, it’s funny to note how little men know about it. Or rather choose not to know about it. Never mind the fact that they had taken the same path as period blood to slide out into the world.

Ah, well!

Thankfully we have come a long way from the time when menstruation was thought to make women periodically dangerous. The reason why we were kept in isolation, away from public space and temples, lest we desecrate its holiness.

Period is no longer the condition that renders us bechaari and immobile. We can choose what we want to do – run, swim, scale mountains, barge our way into temples or even go to office, Hell, I can go to my neighbourhood chemist and walk out with a pack of sanitary napkins without its soulmate, the brown paper bag!

No one but us gets to tell us what we can or cannot do. So a Serena Williams wins the Australian Open when she was 8 weeks pregnant. A well into her fifth month Gal Gadot plays the warrior princess in Wonder Woman and slays.

We are no longer shy from talking about what we go through when we are menstruating. Something that was unthinkable for generations before us.

So forgive me if I feel confused when a period leave is hailed as a giant leap for womankind.

Yes, I get it. It is an acknowledgment of what we go through, the uneasiness, the cramps that come and go like electricity in Gurgaon. For some women it’s worse – fainting spells, vomiting, debilitating pain that brings life to a grinding halt. But the lack of a period leave has never stopped us from staying home when it was too much to bear, right?

If we are okay with taking a holiday earmarked as ‘period leave’, what’s stopping us from going to our boss from telling, look, I am about to get my periods, the pain is unbearable. I need to go back home. And if PL is the new normal, why not make provisions for pre-menstrual syndrome as well? Bar women from being part of key decision making, meeting high-value clients, closing business deals, because hey, it’s that time of the month when her mood swings faster than a movie star’s sexual orientation.

I will conquer the world but only after I am done with my periods?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Open the door, the Goddess is right outside


If you are a woman of reasonable means living in India, chances are you have seen God regardless of your caste, belief and pet prejudices.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be deprived of this divine viewing let me describe to you in detail what it feels like.

Like all good things in life this too doesn't come easily. In fact it is a lengthy process that entails a lot of suffering, uncertainty, anxiety that gnaws at your insides. It's a lot like when you have the misfortune of going to a government office to get a job done. By the end of the ordeal and no solution in sight, you wish you were born a lizard with no responsibilities other than flicking your tongue around for your next meal.

Tragically the longer the suffering is, the higher the probability is of the sighting. Your mood swings like a pendulum on testosterone. You alternate between anger at being betrayed and extreme melancholy. Women experience dehydration from frequent bouts of crying. It is likely to occur when you are on all your fours with a mop in hand, your hair greasy from sweat.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, all you will hear is sad strains of the violin. Nothing feels right anymore, not even your favourite TV series. Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ playing for the zillionth time at club near you doesn’t annoy you anymore. You feel exhausted all the time mentally and physically and often end up reminiscing about achhe din which was your reality just a week back.

But no, the unevolved type you are, you refused to appreciate the gloriousness of the present when everything worked with clockwork precision and you actually had time to post photos of flowers, cute kittens and your dinner. Instead you chose to find faults with it. You cribbed about cups with tea-stains, the carpet that looked it hasn't been brushed for weeks.

You refused to appreciate your achhe din while you were living it.

Maybe you deserved this living hell. Perhaps you were asking for it by behaving inappropriately.

But with great distress comes greater introspection. As you are crouched over the sink cleaning the pile of dishes, you chide yourself for being ungrateful for comforts you took for granted.

You are often spotted near the window scanning the horizon for missing achhe din.

Mind you, there will come a time when you might feel tempted to cheat. Especially when the one you trusted so deeply has gone silent. Won't even pick up your calls, reply to your drunk texts, refuse to LOL on all the WA jokes you forward.

Perhaps it is time to move on. Should I start looking for a new acche din?

You give yourself a tight slap for being so impatient. Shutup, Purba, you tell yourself. You have invested so much in this relationship. Don’t give up. Not yet.

Thankfully you manage to assure yourself it is meant to last forever.

So you wait with Zen like patience. You meditate to keep your equilibrium intact. Soon you start experiencing detachment from discomforts you experience but only in spurts. The rest of the time you continue wallowing in misery and trying to unknot your stomach.

And then one day when you are on the cusp of attaining Nirvana and losing your sanity, the bell rings. You drag yourself to the door and open it and lo behold, you are greeted with the most beautiful sight. There she is glowing like a goddess, looking a little shamefaced for putting you through hard labour. Your body is trembling with unsaid emotions and your eyes well up with tears. It takes immense willpower from collapsing at her feet with relief. Before she can say, Didi, you close her mouth with your hands and whisper – bass kar pagli, rulayegee kya?

It’s been two days. Your eyes can’t stop following her like a puppy as she sweeps the floor. Once or twice when she has caught you staring, you immediately start looking intently at your phone and post a few lame jokes on Twitter. You are now making a mental note of buying her a new sari from Amazon.

Maybe I’ll give her something in peacock blue this time. It’ll suit her dusky complexion.

Better still, I’ll build a shrine for her in my heart. After all behind every carefree and footloose woman is her kamwali bai.


Monday, June 19, 2017

An Idiots Guide to How to Compliment a Woman Without Offending Her

Courtesy Google images

Certain men seem to be under the impression that they are in charge of a woman’s self-worth, and not without reason. Since the time they sprouted facial hair, they have been told a woman squeezes herself in asthma inducing dresses, totters in high-heels and spends hours prettying herself only for his attention. As a true gentleman it is his duty to reward her for all her efforts by looking intently at her cleavage and mumble ‘you are hot’, while scratching his scrotum.

What puzzles him is, instead of rolling over with gratitude and bounding towards him with her tongue hanging out, she has the temerity to walk in the opposite direction.

Ungrateful bitch!

Seriously, do these creatures even know what they want? He can recount countless instances where he tried to appreciate her legs in those teeny-weeny shorts and dresses she wears by leering at them. Once he even dropped a few drops of drool on her thighs. The confused muddle-head shrieked in horror and slapped him hard instead!

Of course he was butt hurt. He immediately put on Attaullah Khan's classic, achha silaa diya tune mere pyaar ka and asked himself again and again, tears rolling down his cheeks - isn’t this the sole purpose of wearing cleavage revealing, thigh baring and curve flaunting dresses?

He ran to the nearest temple, hung from the bell and demanded to know from God in his most pain-stricken voice, why are women like this? God as usual gave him the silent treatment.

Do you think even God is a woman? Hey Bhagwan!

Not the one to give up so easily and also because his virginity depended on it, he tried to take the sophisticated path. It was a busy weekend when he spotted a very shapely posterior at the pub. He walked up to it and said – Girl, are you polio? Coz you’re making my legs weak. She laughed like a hyena and rolled her eyes like windshield wipers. Goddammit! He then went to the dance floor and stared soulfully at the women dancing. He almost dropped his pitcher of beer when he saw a mature type lady smile at him. He immediately ran up to her and started doing his Dharmendra type moves. To show his thoughtful side, he even offered to drop her home, even though she was in no mood to go back. When she refused, he asked all the other ladies at the pub if he could drop them safely at home, because zamana is so kharab, I tell you!

Shaandaar is 28, still a virgin. And has very little time left to lose it. His Mom is busy looking for a girl who doesn’t go to malls to be his bride.



What baffles Shaandaar is these girls who treat him like he’s some sort of infection, do khi khi with other boys. They are not even half as good-looking as he is. What do they have that he doesn’t? He has biceps, triceps, fair and handsome looks, his Dad gifted Audi, couple of kothis in Gurgaon and Ma kaa andha pyaar.

Monday, May 8, 2017

If You Believe You Are A Supermom, You are a Victim not a Victor



avoid socializing with women who cannot talk beyond their kids. No, it has nothing to do with them making me feel like a useless Mom. An alien who can’t even recall the name of the papers her daughter is appearing for in her final exams next week among a sea of women who know each chapter of the course-book by heart. Rather I am filled with dread as I hear them discuss their sons and daughters’ goals they have set and make plans for a future that’ll have them at the steering wheel.

Like any mother holding her baby for the first time in her arms, I too was overcome with a resolution of being the best Mom in this universe to my only child. The one I had birthed after 12 hours of excruciating pain. I read up all the books that were ever written on childcare in the history of humanity. I constantly exchanged notes with other Mommies on diets, regimens, early habits that should be inculcated to bring up a superkid. I slogged, stressed and worried incessantly. But somewhere along the line I realised no matter what I did, there were always tots who were brighter, better, chubbier than my baby.

Our neighbour’s toddler was a sterling example of everything my daughter wasn’t. All I had to do was step out on the balcony and our neighbour’s 2 and a few months old kid would start reciting the alphabet song with sickening accuracy. Two taps on the kid’s back he would start quoting from Shakespeare and three taps was when he’d launch into his take on quantum theory. It was as if his Mom had made it her sole mission to dazzle me with her son’s brilliance. My 3 year old daughter unmindful of her mother’s crippling feeling of inadequacy would continue caressing the utensils that she’d dragged from the kitchen with the broom.

It got worse when Tee started school. This is where I had my first taste of supermoms. This specimen was always found hovering near the teachers, could be spotted at all school events volunteering and never missed a PTM in its life. Its offspring was half a dozen chapters ahead of the class and usually had a super-achieving elder sibling in the same school. After school these alpha kids were carted to their theatre, dancing, piano, painting, gymnastics and math-for-genius classes.

These kids stood out from the rest of the class. They believed they were better than the rest and had this vicious need to assert themselves by ganging up their friends against students who couldn’t care less about their supremacy. It was as if they had internalized their parents’ aggression and anxiety to excel.

As a mother I understand this need of working ceaselessly towards making your ward outshine others. Then there’s maternal instinct that makes you do everything possible to protect her from despair, failure and hurt. But when this extends to micro-managing her life - treating her school projects, assessments, exams, even disagreements with friends as your own, you encourage the apple of your eyes to absolve herself of responsibility and accountably. You end up raising kids incapable of handling stress, failure on their own. And this extends to their adulthood when you are no longer available to fret and fuss around them.

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