Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Last leaf out of my secret diary

Many a time, I scroll my Facebook wall, see my posts and tell myself, “Oh! My life is an open-book!” From posting myriad of status messages about trivial things to blogging about some earth-shattering topics, I’ve been constantly striving to record my life. Despite being self-expressive, I realised that I haven’t let a word out about a couple of incidents that have scarred me for life. I wanted to write about it when people came to roads to express their solidarity with the brave heart, who lost her life in the Delhi gang rape incident. I wanted to write about it when I read indefinite number of articles about young girls being molested. I wanted to write about it when girls were raped by their own family members. But there was an unknown force that stopped me from penning down my thoughts. Maybe, it was an apprehension about telling the world that I am a victim too. Perhaps, it took a tad too long for me to realise that the incident should not be kept personal anymore for it teaches a crucial lesson. Today, I understand that there is no shame in telling that ‘IT’ happened and the story has to be recounted.

When this incident occurred, I was about seven or eight and we were living in a place that’s considered the cultural hub of Chennai. It was a sultry evening. As I was used to spending time with my friends every evening, I was too bored that day since I couldn’t find any of them. We lived in a small lane and our house was the first one. To cope with boredom, I sang to myself and kept walking from one end to the other end of the lane. There weren’t many people in the lane on the day that it happened. My mother was at home and she was chatting with a relative. I used to have long hair then and I vividly remember what I was wearing that day. A white colour hair band decorated my hair and I wore a long blue-colour frock. I was fatter and taller for my age and I was always considered older. I continued to walk in the lane for a while before I chose to ascend the staircase at one of the houses. As I was climbing the stairs, a man, who might have been in his early 40’s emerged from his house in the first floor. I had known the man because he was my neighbour, he was married to our family friend and his daughter was my sister’s friend. Although I was a kid, I had observed my parents discussing this man’s behaviour. He was aloof and his wife was not happy with him. His daughter spoke with him only when she needed pocket money. That man led a ruined family. Nobody had seen him smile. But much to my surprise, as I was on the stairs, he grinned from ear to ear. I couldn’t see the evilness in his smile. He descended a couple of steps to come close to me. Only God knows why I didn’t run away from him. Maybe, it was because I hadn’t seen a demon before. I was stationary there while he slipped his hand into my underclothes to feel one of the most personal belongings of a woman. Although his abuse went on for a few minutes, I didn’t seem to understand his idea. He stopped suddenly. Perhaps, he heard footsteps or he generally feared being caught red-handed. As I turned to head home again, I realised that he had left a one-rupee coin in my underwear and that made me see his wrongdoings. I knew that nobody would carry a coin there. I ran back home and narrated the entire story to my mother, who fumed with rage. She employed profanity to the highest degree. She said to me, “You wait here! I will kill that man. How can he do this!” She ran to his house and willfully yelled so that everybody could hear. I wasn’t with my mother to learn what happened then. But she told me that he wouldn’t do that again and she said, “Next time, if somebody does that to you, you should tell me.” I understood what he did was just wrong and I was grateful to my mother for allowing me to bring it up if it happened again. Unlike others, she didn’t conceal it nor did she think it was shameful. However the understanding was not deep enough I suppose for it happened again and someone whom my family knew so well did it.

I was almost of same age when this relative of mine, who visited us quite often, abused in a subtle fashion. He was in college then. I presume he was around 20. He would come home to meet my parents, savour my mom’s food and to lay on my lap. While my parents thought he was just being extra-affectionate to me, little did they understand that he wanted to lay on my lap to feel what he was not supposed to touch. Despite knowing that he was being a little creepy as he constantly did that every day, I succumbed to his fake affection. The kid didn’t understand her mother’s advice when she was abused the first time and so, she didn’t report it this time. He had to stop visiting us as he was getting busy with life and now I can’t envisage what he would have done to me if he continued to come home.

Only when I was a teenager, I found out what they did was sexual abuse only after I attended an awareness program in school. I gained more insight only after I discussed it with my school-friends. Thankfully, after my relative, I didn’t fall in anyone’s trap. However, when discussions on ‘abuse’ happen, I tie my tongue to refrain from sharing my experiences for no valid reason. But today I asked a couple of questions to myself? By blogging about my nighmare, am I going to be judged? Am I going to lose anything? The answer is negative as I honestly don’t care anymore. And will this be of any help to people? Yes! I plead with all parents to be extra-cautious to save children from those, who succumb to carnal pleasures, to save children from being victimised and to save children from what might scar them for lives. We are certainly at a juncture where children have to learn about ‘touches’, gain knowledge about that we shyly utter ‘sex education’ and understand whom to trust. As it happened in my life, the perpetrator might come in the form of your neighbour, relative or best friend. But I certainly don’t suggest that no one should be trusted. Trust, as they say, should get better with time.

From boarding a bus to taking an elevator, women and children have been asked to be vigilant to ‘save’ themselves from the abusers. While I wholeheartedly loathe that concept of ‘being alert and learning to defend oneself’ (as I expect the scumbags to be put in their places), I also reckon that these kind of stories should come out more to realise that it can happen to anybody and it can happen anywhere. I often tell myself ‘It happened to me and the perpetrator would suffer at the hands of Karma. However that gruesome act will never cow me down for I am bigger than all that. And if it happens again, I will be my own voice. It will not be part of my secret diary neither will I shed tears. But I will bring it to light.’ And that’s what I would love my female friends to do too. Although I’m trying not to be preachy here, I would still like to underscore the importance of bringing the wrongdoers to gallows. Not to execute them but to tear their masks off.

What happened to me when I was a child might have scarred me, but it can never sabotage my trust in men for there are many gems, whom I have found by taking my own time.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Writing woes! Whew!

When I am often asked about the purpose of my life, I usually roll my eyes, oscillate my hip like a little girl, scratch my head and nonchalantly say, “Maybe, just to read and write!” That’s how simple are my ambitions in life. Although I cultivated the habit of reading quite recently (say five years ago), I have always liked writing. I still remember the first essay that I wrote about my family. And I wonder how I could frame sentences when I was not even seven (because I still get stuck quite often). I could constantly practise writing, thanks to my school, where I could participate in many essay competitions. During my school days, little did I realise that I was fond of languages. If I had known then, probably, I wouldn’t have chosen to study Commerce in school and Chartered Accountancy after that because I couldn’t cope with both of it. Then life took a detour and I worked in a BPO for about six years before I managed to get a job in journalism. Fortunately, for the last one year, I have been writing almost every day and I have to be grateful for having got what I didn’t expect. But today, I’m here to whine again for the very reason that I’m not writing enough. Quite contradicting, isn’t it?

Maybe, I should take you back to 2008 when I began blogging. It all started with a couple of short stories, which I have chosen not to read again in my life. But I was proud of the fact that I could write stories and I went around telling people, “Look! Look! I can write!” And that was when a super rude acquaintance chose to quell my spirit with his negative criticism. I stopped writing for a while. Then I tried to hone my skills. And yes, it worked to a decent degree and I thought, perhaps, I was ready to resume scribbling. I started writing again in 2010 and since then, I have been trying to update my blog quite often. After taking up a reporter / sub-editor job at Deccan Chronicle, I couldn’t blog much. But this October, I was addicted to the pleasure of writing flash fiction and I even wrote two stories a day. For a month, the flow was not disrupted at all until a lot of friends wrote kind words to me. A lot many told that they log into Facebook everyday to read my stories. And many told that they thoroughly liked reading my ‘kutti kadhai’. Despite accepting the compliments humbly, I experienced withdrawal symptoms. The frequency of writing two stories a day came down to one and I gradually stopped writing. Now many friends inquire why I have stopped writing. Honestly, negative criticism and excess love in the form of appreciations bog me down. I quit writing when my style was ridiculed. Now I again battle with another phase of dryness because I realise that there are some people, who look forward to reading my pieces. Their expectations pressurise and I succumb to the stress. I end up not writing anything at all because I worry about meeting my readers’ expectations. That mere headache makes me forget my belief that I write for myself and I write to nourish my soul.

I’ve been telling myself that I should clear the cobweb that's formed in my blog soon. However I had to push myself to reappear here. When I feel the impulse to write a piece, I pen it down come what may. But when I’m not inspired enough, writing a small blog also comes across as a herculean task. I am constantly trying to overcome what seems to be one of the biggest challenges. However, one of my favourite writers Ernest Hemingway comes along to help with his inspirational opinions!

Eight and counting...

It’s that time of the year again. Although I can say certain things in a few words, much to your bad luck, I am addicted to the pleasure of writing. Hence I would go about writing 1500 words to take a trip down memory lane and share a few beautiful thoughts.

Thanks to all the big fat weddings that I attended and the ones that I watched in films, as a kid, I thought that my wedding would also be a glitzy affair. But I fell in love with a unique guy, who was victimised by destiny’s schadenfreude and so, on a rainy evening in 2006, we decided that we would tie the knot that December. In unison, we questioned ourselves, “Can’t we simply live together?” After giving a thought about all the brickbats that my parents would have to face, we chose to get hitched. It wasn’t a big fat fairytale wedding that I dreamt to have. At the same time, it wasn’t an adventurous one that you watch in movies. Our wedding was a calm two-hour ceremony. We were enveloped by our immediate families, who were happy-not-so-happy about our decision, but still they respected our choices and we were ‘blessed’ by folks, who tried their best to not ridicule us. They were not to be blamed. Despite being a part of the world that was developing exponentially and in spite of witnessing quite a few inter-caste marriages, our wedding still came across as a rude shock to many, as the bride was in her late teens and the groom was in his early twenties. With a lot of indifference and defiance around, we entered what one might consider one of the most important phases of life – matrimony.

December 6, 2006, we were pronounced husband and wife. Unlike the reel couples, who would scream their heads off saying ‘Yes! Yes! We did it!” after tying the knot, we realised that nothing changed in our lives. It was pretty much business as usual. Except for the fact that we enjoyed a sense of relief that we had crossed the biggest hurdle of our lives, everything remained the same. The next day after our wedding (December 7), I was at work, much to the surprise, of my colleagues. Honestly, after wedding, we seemed to have realised that we belonged to each other since the time we met. So the one day drama of doing the incomprehensible rituals and striking awkward poses in front of a strange photographer, didn’t affect us much. 

Gradually, life picked up pace. It wasn’t a bed of roses and quite fortunately, we learnt it at an early stage of our marriage. From gathering courage and sagacity to make four individuals, who were as different as chalk and cheese, live under the same roof to battling with internal and external demons, life clearly taught us that marriage is not child play. Thanks to my loved ones, who let us experiment and learn from our debacles, we coped with what seemed close to impossible. Our target was not just to cope with an avalanche of challenges that we later faced, but to come out lustrously was our objective. There is a warrior and sage in each of us, who take in charge when time comes and clears out all that bothers one. Or it might be the game of kismet that sometimes life is veered to the best side. Whatsoever! In the name of marriage, life taught us crucial and subtle lessons that we have gladly imbibed.

Today, we enter our eighth year of marriage (I think I have done my math correctly :D). I realise that I thoroughly enjoy living with this one hell of a man, who is an epitome of quite a few nice (and not-so-nice) things. But I love him for what he is. (Can I also say that he loves me for what I am? :D) Although, almost every woman longs to marry a nice man, through my experience, I learnt that that man has to be the best roomie and needless to say, he has to be the best friend. And naturally, he would turn into a good husband too. 

So, yeah, Sama, you are my perfect roomie, bestest companion and a super-cool husband! And yes, I will tell this every year. If you choose to get married in your next birth too, just keep in mind, I’m game for it. Yes, for another lifetime! Because you know why! 

Writers' block

After a hiatus of few days, today she forces herself to write. She realises that she has gradually gotten rid of the healthy addiction. It’s been a while since she opened MS Word. Today, she is in no mood to let herself go. She reluctantly opens her computer to write something, but she begins to socialize with folks on Facebook. Then she kicks herself and exclaims, “I’m supposed to write! But wait! What do I write about! I’m so dry for ideas today.” The word ‘ideas’ frightens her. She has to conceive of ideas to write stories at work too. But she loves ideating to write some teeny-weeny stories, that she really enjoys writing. But her brain plays spoilsport today. Nothing is inspiring for the tired soul. She doesn’t want to give up. She thinks hard. She thinks of the work that is peaceful these days. She thinks of her family that’s even more peaceful of late. She thinks of friends. They are those same old weirdos and too-busy-with-life guys. She thinks of current affairs. Talwars and Tejpal are beyond her comprehension. She looks at her pet dog with a sense of belief. At least, will that old boy come to her rescue to help her with some inspiration to pen a few words? Negative! The fur baby is fast asleep. He looks like he is dreaming of chasing off a bunch of dogs on the streets. She switches on the TV. There is this old actor called Livingstone, who walks in woods, as he sings a romantic number and his love-interest is mesmerized. Sigh! She checks time again. It’s 1.10 am. It’s witching hour. Witching hour! The term is a not-so-good one. She is reminded of the thriller that she watched the previous day. It wasn’t scary. But it makes her feel eerie now. She flushes the thought out forcefully. She thinks hard this time around. There are a lot about people that she wants to write. The absurdities, generosity, compassion, passion, love and lust fascinate her. When she began to think, there was no thought that impressed her. Now after having pushed herself, she has too many thoughts that raise hands and say, “Write about me! Me! Me!” She wipes off all of it. The strong urge to attack the keyboard incessantly hasn’t surfaced yet, she reckons. That compelling thought, which should do the much-needed arm-twisting hasn’t emerged yet, she believes. It’s yet another day. Writing just doesn’t happen regardless of how genuinely she attempts. She throws her imaginary pen. She tears off her imaginary paper. She scratches her imaginary unkempt hair. She comforts herself, as she says, “It’s okay. There is a tomorrow. I shall try again!” Before she lets her mind to rest, she ascertains that it’s 461 words long already! :)