Wednesday, 19 December 2012

An Ardent Appeal to Indian Men and Women...

A 23 year old woman was raped heinously and left naked on the roads of Delhi on Sunday...

Yes, another rape case, since the last one was reported, let's see, ah... oh yes... a month ago ????

So readers, what's new, rape cases aren't the big thing... they just keep happening in our country...

Well it's a pretty common crime actually... you see, all Indian men, feel they have a natural obligation to condemn, judge and violate a female....

Don't you agree, ok, let's speak stats then...

One woman in India suffers sexual molestation in the form of rape or sexual abuse every 22 minutes... isn't that like wow...!!!

There have been 24,206 reported rape cases in 2011, according to the National Crime Records.

The actual number of rape cases is five times than that of those reported, because most of the cases that take place go unreported.

There has been an increase of 792 percent in rape cases in India, over the last two decades.

Yiiiipppeeee people, what if we can't top in any other fields like health, sanitation, education, sports... we do top in rape cases...

Every time a rape takes place in India, people get outraged, some go out on a candle light vigil, some write on Facebook walls, others like me, vent out their anger on personal blogs...

 Media channels vie each other on anti rape propaganda, and politicians get a chance to pay "holier than thou" visits to the rape victims and their families....

And then when some of these unfortunate women die, oh yes, our Government doles out payments to their family members as compensation for living in a near barbaric society....

And then after the two weeks' hullabaloo, everything quietens down, until another rape case happens and we are again re-awakened to the semi barbaric society that we live in...

This blog is an ardent appeal to men : Father, Brothers, Husbands, Boyfriends... whoever you are, please, please respect women...

Not just your wives, or mothers, or sisters or your girlfriends, but that woman you see down the road... yes, she looks hot, but she doesn't want to get raped... yes that lady in the bus, yes she does have a cheeky buttock, but she doesn't want it to be pinched... yes, that chick in hot pants.... she doesn't like being wolf whistled...

Only our men, when they know and respect the fact, that a woman is just not a "pair of boobs"... or a "measurement"... or a "toy", can the rape cases come down...

Woman, be brave, don't be afraid to slap that fellow in the bus who's looking at what he shouldn't be looking at...

Don't be scared of crying out aloud, when you feel an elbow nudging in your rib cage...

Don't be afraid to carry a pepper pellet... and please feel free to use it...

This is your country too, don't forget  that you are far more stronger than the man who leers at you...

To every Indian men, who leer and lech at every attractive girl, in every city of India, big, or small, you guys are cowards, big, sad, cowards...

And to every Indian female, who suffer their stares silently, alas you are bigger cowards...

Rapes in India will keep increasing, will keep happening, perhaps, that's what Indian women deserves because sadly they were born in India...

Monday, 5 November 2012

A True Celebration: My Durga Pujo in Kansas...


Festivities are a vital part of an individual's life. Be it Christmas, Id, Deepavali, Dusherra, Hanukkah or Halloween... festivals bound us like no other... even hard core atheists celebrate these, not for some religious purpose but for the bond it forges. Dalai Lama once said, "we can live without religion or meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection"... its indeed very true... the bond within us is a vital force that helps us keep living.

Like so many others, Bengalis also celebrate a variety of festivals, but among them Durga Puja, is the most grandest and awe inspiring. Its a five day long celebration of love, joy and peace. In Kolkata, the capital of the state of West Bengal, this takes form of a mass celebration. No matter, what your caste is, no matter which religion one belongs to, no matter whether one is rich or poor, young or old, every Kolkatan comes together in a joyous fervent. The city looks enchanting with lights all over, there are these colorful "pandals" that come up in various themes, colors and decorations. Its one of those times, when a city as a whole celebrates. Durga Puja for Bengalis and Kolkatans is much more than just a mere religious festival. It is indeed, a celebraton of life.

This year, about six months ago I shifted from Kolkata, to far away Kansas, USA... my husband works here and as the custom goes, a wife's place is with her husband, therefore, here I was... in a different country, an altogether different continent, a different time zone and vastly different cultures. Durga Puja arrived as usual... I kept seeing brilliant photos posted by friends and family via Facebook and emails. It gave me a sense of isolation, never felt before. Although when I celebrated the Pujas last year, I knew in my heart that it was to be my last pujas in Kolkata, along with my family, but I had not anticipated this sense of utter dejection and isolation as I saw photos after photos of happy people celebrating.

However, I got to spend one of the most memorable Pujas of my life, this year, in Kansas. How, let me share then...

There's this amazing Bengali Association known as Kansas City Bengali Association (KCBA)

http://www.kcbengalis.com/KCBA/Home.html

They are a motley group of Bengalis, far away from home, and they strive in all their earnest to carry on the culture and the tradition of their roots far away, in a foreign land. There might be many such associations of different communities and I am sure there are many like me who participate in one or the other associations. What makes these associations special is their bond within the community members. Yes, each and every one toils to make an event successful but the sheer toil is their enjoyment.

The KCBA also celebrated the Durga Puja this year, albeit a week later, than the celebrations in Kolkata, and this was my first Puja, away from home and family... and trust me, I had never enjoyed a Puja more. The sheer camaraderie and warmth shared by the members, was something I was newly experiencing. Back home, whenever people celebrated Durga Puja, it was always a closed knit affair... one's family, one's friends, and people one knew relatively well would all get together and have blast. Seeming from our busy schedule, even this was a rare occasion, and that is why, the Durga Puja, is often most sought after festival in Kolkata.

Here, there was something totally new... People I didn't know, had never seen before, they weren't my relatives, family or even friends, came together to celebrate. Where else would a total stranger, help me out to fix my saree, and people who didn't know each other came together to celebrate. There were all sorts of Bengalis, Indians, Bangladeshis, "ghotis", "bangals"... rich, poor, young, old... its didn't matter, all that mattered were they were celebrating... if there would have been an example of a true celebration... this would have been it...

Though it only lasted for three days, two and a half actually, yet it felt like forever... the five day festivities of Kolkata, would easily fade in front of this... people were dressed in their finery, there were laughter, smiles and joys... a happiness and contentment that even though these people were far, far away from home, they were celebrating... all of them had chipped in some way or the other, it was celebration of their toil, of their commitment and of their "bengali-ness"... and the pride in the feeling of being a "bangali"... of course I have the photos to remind me of how enjoyable it all was... but the most important thing, probably happened, was that I didn't miss home. I celebrated with total my family here, far, away from home, and it felt exactly like being with my near and dear ones...

I am really proud and happy that I belong to an association like this, which makes an effort for people like me, who miss home, feel a lot less isolated. Thank you KCBA... :) :)


http://www.kcbengalis.com/KCBA/Home.html

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nine Lives: Indian Spirituality Revisted


I have just finished reading another exceptional book by William Dalrymple, "Nine Lives : In Search of the Sacred in Modern India". It is an essential book, that anyone interested in India's unique culture and spirituality, should read.

It is a collection of nine stories from nine corners of India, on nine different personalities. What gives this book its unique character and feel, is the art of story telling. The voice of the characters is manifest here, and it is through them, that the reader is taken on a wonderful spiritual and humane journey.

The book opens with "The Nun's Tale", a touching story of a Jain nun. Jainism, a religion, founded by Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, is little known outside India. Even in India, it has a minuscule following of about six million as compared to the one billion following of Hinduism and five hundred million following of its contemporary religion, Buddhism. However, Jainism has the highest degree of literacy of any religious following throughout India and it is one of the most richest religion, based on per capita income. The Jain religion has an unique way to end life, called "salekhanna", which any Jain ascetic monk or even lay worshipers can embrace, if they feel, their time to end life has come.

The nun in the first story, is on her way to embrace "salekhanna", and we get a glimpse of her life, both as a lay Jain worshiper as well as a nun, in the monastic order. It is difficult to believe, that each and every character in this book, the chief nine protagonists are real men and women, who lead ordinary lives like us.

The most inspiring story I found was The Monk's Tale. It is the tale of a Buddhist monk, Tashi Passang, who now resides in Dharmashala, a Tibetan enclave in the state of Himachal Pradesh. This monk, had taken up arms in order to protect Tibet during the Chinese aggression of 1950, thus breaking one of the inviolable code of the Buddhist dharma, non violence. He was later drafted into the Indo-Tibetan Border Police,or ITBP, and helped India win the Indo-Pak war of 1972, out of which the present nation of Bangladesh was created.

His story is one of great resilience, and an inner-conflict, which plagued a monk and his path taken to come back and search the true meaning of Buddhism. It is indeed an awe inspiring story.

There is yet another story that comes from a region outside of India's political borders, but very much, within the vast spirit of the land, Sindh. This is the story of "Lal Pari", The Red Fairy, and tells the tale of a disciple of the Sufi saint Lal Shabaz Qalander. This lady, the "Lal Pari", is actually of Indian origin. How a simple, rural girl from the state of India, became a Sufi disciple in Pakistan, is not only interesting, but hair raising as well.

Each and every tale in this book, carries with it an unique human journey, the journey of human spirit, and you are left encouraged and inspired by the tales in this book. The stories, take the reader on a colourful journey of India, and the reader finds an inner conflict taking place in modern India, between the forces of development, reason and science, and the forces of spiritualism, religion and conventions. Somewhere, the reader starts empathizing with the characters in each of the tale.

As in the West, where people have lost their touch with their inner self, as religion and society becomes more and more materialistic, India is still trying to hold onto its roots of age old wisdom, conventions and religious beliefs, as they are more and more challenged by Western convictions.

An amazing work. I would urge each and every body, to take a little patience, (the book is 251 pages, excluding Glossary, Introduction and Index) and read Nine Lives. It will take you on a journey that is incredible like the land itself.



Monday, 10 September 2012

Survival: The Keystone of Human Existence...



When suddenly out of blue, your world changes... when something you have planned for a long time, suddenly doesn't happen... when you are sure of everything going your way, and it doesn't, what do you do????? Well to be honest, none of the above has happened to me, or atleast haven't happened to me right now... it's just a thought that gripped me, when a minor plan went wrong...

But I started thinking, when a cataclysmic event happens, someone you love dearly dies, someone you have trusted, betrays you or something that you were sure of, starts going horribly wrong, and your entire world is shaken and falls apart around you, how does a person in that situation reacts... I am sure we all have been in a situation where we felt that we couldn't go any further, this is it, this is the end... I am sure, such a situation has come in each and every individual's life. How then do we overcome such a tragedy?

There are two basic ways in which an individual human being survives a deep personal tragedy, either, he fights over the situation, confronts the grief and overcomes it, or he commits suicide, gives up his/her life, so as to escape the problem forever. History is filled with such men and women, who have taken both the courses. How then are we to explain these two contrasting forces, survival and death, the will to live and the will to give up...

The human instinct to survive is very strong. If we look at history, humans have fought to survive, the vilest and meanest and the cruelest of situations and emerged as winner. I am not saying each individual has emerged, but the human race as a whole has survived. The human beings survived the Ice Age, two World Wars, the Holocaust, and numerous famines, floods, earthquakes, and different natural calamities... but it has each and every time, survived and lived to fight another day. I believe this human spirit of survival is one of the traits we are born with. I know "trait" by definition, is something that has to be learned, but for absence of a better word...

This utmost urge in human beings to win over odds and come up successful can be seen from evolution itself. Anthropologists speculate that we humans have been on earth for approx. 250,000 years to the present. Of course sharks have outlived us, but we have outlived the dinosaurs..!!! Plus, I have a huge doubt, taking into account the fatalities humans have faced, whether Sharks have faced them or not... So if we are to conclude that we outlived the dinos and sharks haven't faced the same tragedies and challenges as humans on earth have, then I would say, we are the fittest species to outlive the others, aren't we?? What does that say of us... us as a human race, wouldn't you agree, dear readers, that human beings are in essence "survivors".

So where did this urge to survive, to fall and to rise up come from? Probably the early "homo sapiens" or "homo erectus", whoever came first, realized, that they were born with something unique, something that the contemporary creatures inhibiting the same living space did not,something that made them plan strategies to survive the near fatal conditions, which many of their contemporary creatures did not posses.

This was, I believe the power of thinking, of realizing and of understanding and most importantly, the will to learn from past mistakes. If these four traits weren't there, I would scarcely believe that the "man" who walked the earth with mammoths and sharks (yes,sharks were land animals, in the beginning),could come up till this stage.

Now, coming back to the individual human being, when the common urge in our species is to survive, as established above, how, then, can we explain the anomaly of individuals committing suicides. All established religion in the world maintain that a part of the common consciousness, resides in every being... meaning that humans share a common consciousness, a part of which lives in every human being. So if our common consciousness teaches us to survive and fight for another day, how do we explain the phenomena of suicides, which contradicts this basic urge. When a person kills himself, it means he/she has given up all hope, and in despair, is embracing death, that he/she prefers to end this life.

According to WHO about 1 million people commit suicide annually world wide and is the thirteenth most popular cause of death. In the United States, it is the sixth most popular means of death. Apart from countries such as Japan, where suicides, have historically been associated with bravery, very few cultures, or religion support this form of death. It has also been found that a large majority of people committing suicide did not belong to any established religious following or did not have an established means of faith. I have already pointed out the basic grounds about why major religions across the globe consider suicide immoral in nature.

Many psychologists across the world consider mental disorder to be the biggest cause of suicide. I however feel, that the biggest cause would be to lose hope in oneself, and as a result in the entire human race. People committing suicide often see this as a method of relief from pain. However, "pain" and "relief" are two feelings which a person can feel only when they are alive.

There are several helplines across the world which help people avoid such meaningless deaths. If you know someone in your vicinity, someone who is really depressed, someone who is on the verge of loosing all hope, someone who has or is facing similar situations such as those I mentioned in my first two paras above, talk to them.

Human lives aren't created because we want to die, the will to live give human beings its true meaning. People who are committing suicides or are thinking somewhere along those lines, really need to know, that the purpose of human life is to live, to survive, to breathe... and when one doesn't do so, one is not just insulting his own willpower, indeed he/she is insulting the will power of an entire specie, whose evolution has been based on survival.

So committing suicide is just not an individual decision, every individual committing this act is a slap on the face of humans as a specie.
We would do great injustice to us or to our forefathers, by choosing, suicide as a means of ending our lives, when time and again, we have been taught to survive...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Posts from a "desi" house-wife...


So, after what seems like ages, I am back doing what I love most...yyeess... blogging... well, things have undergone a sea change since I wrote my last post, for eg, I have lost my "happily single" status and have henceforth jumped into the versatile group of "newly weds"... another eg, till the date of my last post, I was a living, breathing proud resident of Kolkata, India, and now I am a living, breathing, I don't know if I am proud... resident of Overland Park, Kansas, USA... also till the last post, I held a respectful employment, now I am just unemployed, but of course not jobless... this transition from a highly independent single woman, to a much married "desi" house-wife.. well so far has not been tedious as many of my friends from the former category would see...

I think somewhere in every woman's psyche,there is an inherent nurturing instinct.I always thought of myself as someone, who would never settle down, infact in my college days, I actually sniggered upon those who tied the knot, but now having been here and done that.. I see it's not that bad...as a single, independent woman, who was singing paeans of feminism and liberty, I was myself quite shocked at the transition... I really never thought I would manage a household, let alone a husband, cook, clean, wash,do the laundary and be so selfless as to think about someone else's wardrobe, who isn't my little brother, before mine, would be so easy... Nowadays I am actually rising up at 6:45 am, just to give the man, who I lovingly call my "husband" breakfast... oh boy.. have I changed...!!!

So ok, from here on, I am gonna jot down some helpful, some helpless and some utterly moronic incidents, tips, advises, about being a "desi" house-wife.. I know it isn't the most interesting post to read about, nor is it going to be enlightening, but who knows, some woman who believed in fem-lib, earlier, and who has descended from the high life to making breakfast with sleepy eyes, might find useful...

So, here's a toast to every new age "desi" house-wife, who I think is the true embodiment of everything that's feminine, and no, I still haven't given up on shopping and bitching about... whoa girls..!!! see you around...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Shoe-Hunter...

With just days left for my wedding, I was in scrambles to find a perfect pair of footwear for the "vidaai"... no it couldn't be jazzy, like my wedding shoes, which thankfully I had already purchased, and it couldn't be ultra-sexy with a 6 inch heel, it had to be a little tall, it couldn't be black for that's an inauspicious color for the new bride.... my hunt for the perfect pair began, I had become the SHOE HUNTER... Shoes are basically like an aphrodisiac for women,a woman can never posses enough footwear. I already posses 16 pairs of different kinds of footwear, right from the 6 inch heel, to the comfy flats. Whenever we feel dejected, we either find a nail spa or go shopping for shoes. Any woman who differs with me, I would have a serious doubt over her femininity. We women love shoes, period. So here, I was, I already had bought six pairs earlier, each for a different occasion. That's the reason this shoe hunt was special, I had to find a pair which fit not only the "vidaai" ceremony to the T, it also had to be the "everytime" shoe. I had already begun my search from Kolkata's South City Mall. The search extended to Forum, and to City Center, Salt Lake. Somehow, all the shoes of the world, weren't fitting my bill. An honest confession: Basically my size is a Bata 2. It goes upto 3 in some cases. So you see the basic fundamental obstacle is with me. Probably I might have a confrontation with my maker regarding this, because honestly, except in China, these sizes are not found elsewhere. So the inevitable question, for 28 years, how did I manage.... God's grace my dear friends, simple divine grace... somehow in this particular case, the divine grace wasn't working. All the shopping malls to my horror failed me.. I felt like an out cast in the shoe world for the first time.The time has come, thought me, to hit the inevitable, the New Market.... if you are a true Kolkatan, you would know, the value of this place. If you do not get your desired object in the whole of Kolkata, there's only one place people run to. It's the messiah to all our fevered prayers. There is a saying that goes, if you want a Royal Bengal Tiger's milk, where do you find it,the answer, my friend is New Market. It's a buyer's paradise, and like many ungrateful souls, who are disillusioned by the glitter of the new fazed shopping malls, I too was neglecting the true paradise. I told you before, I believe in the divine grace, probably because of my neglect of this particular place, I was facing failure elsewhere. And so on a hot, sultry, Kolkata summer day, I set out for the final phase in my hunt for the perfect pair. My first stop was Bata, the inevitable name for all shoe lovers in India. The Esplanade store is pretty large, the ladies' section is however, quite disproportionate to the rest of the showroom. I had several criteria, and my shoe had to fit all those. First the size has to be 2, which, as I earlier pointed, is not manufactured in the country. So I went upto 3. It couldn't be black, as it was the "inauspicious" color. It had to be platform heeled, because I am not not comfortable with the stilettos and pencil ones. It had to have a belt at the back, and it had be comfortable, remember this was the "all weather shoe" I was trying to buy. Lastly it shouldn't look ghastly. So armed with this list, I begun my hunt. All the shoes in the racks, were offering themselves to my strict, ruthless scrutiny, and were being rejected. The Bata people, made their displeasure quite clear with my set of guidelines. Then one simple, elegant, light pink, wedged heel, caught my attention, this was perfect, my heart screamed with joy. I summoned the shop lady, who was very disinclined to help me, because earlier, she had first approached me, then she hadn't known of my conditions. "This is a size 4, could you see, if you have a size 3," inquired me. "I think we should have a size 3 of this pair" was her hopeful reply. Satisfied, I plonked myself to one of those benches, and waited for my size to come. As I sat, I looked around envious of all the size 4 and above people. Life is easy for them, some people, like me, are just born to struggle. Around half an hour later, the Shoe lady was back, with a very uncomfortable expression on her face. "The size 3 was taken away this morning", she mournfully announced. Was I dejected, no, I was shattered. "Oh ok, thank you", I rushed out of the store. My next stop was the Metro. I was hoping, that this time, I might face success. The Metro store doesn't have any lady helper, and you can't explain to a man, who, however, fascinated by shoes he is, what women understand in a second. So the fellow at Metro, heard my entire list of conditions sympathetically, and was really happy to announce, we don't keep those types, you are looking for. He seemed very,very glad, to see me walk out. By this time, I was feeling really, really dejected, here I had come with so much enthusiasm, and optimism, but this wasn't turning out to be as I envisaged it. Next stop. INC 5, the store which a dear friend of mine, had severely cautioned against. With great trepidation, I stepped in, the lady at the counter, took one look at me, "which size"? "a size 3 please".. "no sorry, all we have is size 5 and above". "What" I gawked, "how can you not have a size 3"? "We don't keep sizes that small". I didn't even thank the dragon lady, and just for the effect, I toppled over some slinky shoes that were displayed near the entrance. I heard curses aimed at me from behind. Now I was panicking, it had been 3 hours since I had been here, and I still hadn't found "the pair"... I turned to the local brands. Done with the nationals, thought me. That thought took me to Khadims, Bharat, Liberty and finally Shree Leathers. This time, I was determined. After 4 and a half hours, I was seriously taking a look at my list and I decided to do away with the color condition. If it was part black, I reasoned to myself, it wouldn't be that inauspicious, because I would already have been wedded. So after another hour or so, after going through scores of shoes, displayed, I finally found my pair, a brown , sweated, sophisticated, with not much heel and man, did it look cute... it looked fabulous... do you have a size 3, I croaked out. "Please be seated, I'll search", came the nonchalant reply. This time, when I sat in one of those waiting benches, I was actually praying, 5 and a half hours, all I had achieved was looking at every single shoe, by every single brand available, and hadn't still bought anything. Please let this be the last one, God. I prayed. After another agonizing 15 minutes, the new shoe came in the box, Try it, the fellow, said to me. With great anxiety, It put them on, and they fit me like magic. I was overjoyed, happy, radiant, please pack this up, I'll take it. Without wasting a second, my shoe was packed, paid for and taken away. Later in the evening, when my fiancee called, he was surprised to hear a very enthusiastic "hello" from my end, when he asked me the cause for it, I replied, "I was shopping for shoes". "Good for you, so how many shoes did you buy,"? He knows my penchant for shopping, "one", replied me,"the perfect one"....