Boiling Water – III

image from here

image from here

Read part 1 and 2 of the story here –

Boiling water – I

Boiling Water – II

                                                *           *           *

I stood in the balcony for a while. It was dark and the city felt dead. I wondered what will happen if the Sun does not rise tomorrow. Everyone will gape at the sky for a while and realize how minuscule their blip of an existence is. Then the world will mould itself around its absence. We are good at forgetting. There is so much misery in the world that it would be foolish to think otherwise.

Her chair was propped at a corner of the balcony. She always observed the world sitting on it, with a cup of tea in her hand and a storm of thoughts in her mind. She travelled sitting on it. It was her time machine. I smiled as I looked at the empty chair. After a while I got tired of standing and I lowered myself on it. It was 4.30 am and I knew that sleep will not come near me now. Like me, she too was scared of my dreams.  

Sleep was having a good time with the woman inside. Thank God for that. 

                                                *           *           * 

When Shyamli saw my one bedroom house in Chandni Chowk for the first time, she broke down. I still remember the look on her face. She had been waiting for this for so long. All I can remember of her first day in that house is her arms encircled around me while she cried like a broken dam. My shirt was completely drenched from one side by the time she stopped and went to sleep. I took off my shirt and looked at it. I touched the wetness of our past one last time and threw the shirt away.

Shyamli finally completed her school. She was the oldest student in her class. She then went to college and finished her Bachelors. I too did well at my job and was promoted many times in the next few years. We moved in a bigger house. A few months after we moved, Shyamli got a job of a school teacher in a nearby school. The day she got her first salary, she bought me a shirt. It was same as the one I threw away on her first day in the city, the one soaked in her sorrows. 

“You should get married,” she said once.

“I won’t. I have to take care of you,” I said.

“Don’t do this. I will not be able to carry this burden.”

“We left all our burdens in the village.”

It never came to me getting married. I somehow couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was scared for Shyamli. I was scared that a slight hint of aloofness would push her over the edge. It was bound to happen if I brought another relationship in the equation. I talked to her about a second marriage but she recoiled at the idea. Maybe it was the rape. Maybe it was the fear of leaving me behind. In the end, both of us found solace in each other’s company. People often mistook us for husband and wife. We laughed them off. Sometimes they looked upon us as a strange pair – a brother and sister living together. Sometimes there were hints of suspicion, hints of our relationship going beyond the limits set by the society. But over the years, we made more friends than enemies. It was a good, fulfilling life. We didn’t have any regrets. 

                                                *           *           *

I went to sleep sitting on the chair. Seconds later, a gentle touch of a hand woke me up. I opened my eyes and Shyamli was standing over me with a smile on her face.

“Shubh, it’s seven o’clock. Come I will make you some tea,” she said.

“It’s seven? I don’t remember the last time I had such a sound sleep.”

“When did you wake up?”

“It was around four.”

“There is a function at my school today. They have invited all the retired teachers.”

“I know. You told me a week back.”

“Did I? I am invited too. Would you like to come?”

“No, you go ahead and enjoy yourself. I will go over to Srini’s for a game of chess.” 

I did not go anywhere. As Shyamli left for her school, I switched on the television and watched some news and eventually dozed off. The last thought before my eyes closed was that I would tell Dr. Kapoor that I slept soundly for two and a half hours after the dream. This has never happened before. 

                                                *           *           * 

I wasn’t supposed to be there. If I had any idea that the incident would haunt me for the rest of the life, I would have jumped in the pond and hid myself in layers of water. But of course I had no idea. I was a curious three years old.

Somewhere in the nearby hut, the women were wailing, Ma one amongst them. I had no idea why. All I knew was that Ma had a swollen tummy till yesterday and she told me that a baby brother would come out of that. When I asked her why not a baby sister, she hushed me up.

There was a small gap between two of the bricks in one of the walls where all the men were huddled. I saw the nightmare unfold through the gap. Baba lowered the crying newborn into a vessel in which water boiled furiously. My eyes widened as her head went inside. She thrashed for a while as chocking sounds filled the room. I stared from the hole as Baba pulled out his dead daughter from the water. He then took the dead body outside and threw it in the hole that has been dug for her.

That night the dream haunted me for the first time. I won’t call it a dream now. It was as if life decided to play a part of my past again and again to me. It was like a number burnt on the skin of an animal. I had to live with it.

Ma was again pregnant next year. She told me that I was going to have a baby brother this time. The women went into our hut for the delivery and soon a wail rose from there. The man standing outside the adjoining hut started digging a hole. A fire was lightened to boil the water. The crying girl was brought into the hut where all the men were grouped.  

I was shivering. Sweat ran down my face mixed with tears as Baba lowered the girl towards the vessel. I got up and ran towards the door of the hut.

“Baba! Please! I want to play with her!” I shouted as I reached the door.

He stopped and looked curiously at me.

“Daughters are a burden on the family. We are poor, son,” he said still holding the crying chid over the steam.

“I will take care of her. I promise,” I said. Baba laughed and took his daughter in his arms. A few men sitting in the hut laughed.

“Don’t forget your promise Shubh,” one of them said.

“I won’t!” I said looking straight in his eyes.

Baba gave the little girl in my arms. She had stopped crying.

“What will you call her Shubh?” he asked.

“Shyamli,” I said. I kissed her and held her tight.

The women were still wailing. A man was still digging the hole. But it did not matter anymore. I had made a promise. I was going to take care of her. 

~The End~

I was completely disturbed when my father told me the story of Shyamli. Murdering a female child is not uncommon in India. We have already killed 10 million girls and haven’t stopped yet. Shyamli somehow got lucky.

The ending of the story is completely true but I have fictionalized the rest of the story a bit. I have changed the decades in which it happened. Also, in reality, Shyamli did get married again. In fact, that is the reason why I am able to share her story with you. She was my great-grandmother. 

Boiling Water – II

image from here

image from here

Read part 1 here – Boiling Water – I

I wasn’t late. As I waited for my turn, I looked at the people around me. They were petrified. They carried a façade but I was a fellow traveller. I knew what they craved from inside – to sleep with a grin on their face. No one was as old as I was. At least they realized early in their life that they needed help.

“How are we today, Shubh?” Dr. Kapoor, the kind psychiatrist asked as I settled in his cabin.

“Same old same old,” I said.

“How are the dreams?”

“They still visit me every day without fail.”

The doctor sighed. I was a complicated case. No amount of medication has helped me in the past year. He was the most reputed doctor in Delhi but I had an ever-growing inkling that he was as helpless as I was.

“Tell me about the dream,” he said finally after a few seconds of scribbling on his pad.

“It was different this time but related. There was a huge vessel of water kept on a cooking oven made of bricks in a corner of a hut. A lot of firewood was burning.”

“Go on.”

“The water was boiling. Bubbles were breaking the surface, making a hissing sound. There was a lot of steam coming out.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes.”

“And you woke up?”

“And I woke up.”

“This might be an improvement.”

“It isn’t. I have had this particular dream before. It is not very frequent.”

“You have never told me about it.”

“I thought it was not important.”

“What terrifies you about this dream?”

“Doctor, the dream is the same. Only she is not in it. I am still terrified of what I was terrified earlier.”

“All right, Shubh. I think it is an improvement but we will wait for a few days and see. And, it is not just the sound of boiling water that terrifies you and you know it.” 

I reached home at six. She was watching television.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“Medicines and no conclusion,” I said.

“Have faith,” she said with a sad smile. 

                                                *           *           * 

Shyamli was bright. She was the only girl in her class. A few boys teased her for being foolish enough to study and I had a fight with them. One of them ended up with a bloodied forehead. No one dared to tease her again. Both of us walked the 3 kilometres to school every morning. If we were lucky, we would get a ride on a bullock cart while coming back. Sometimes we took a dip in the village pond while returning. Sometimes we would ride buffaloes on the way.

            Shyamli went to school with me for three years before her studies were abruptly stopped. Baba was worried that he would not be able to find a suitable match for her if she studied too much. He was of the view that I too should start working on the farm instead of going to the school. I objected and stopped eating food. Ma took pity on me and talked to father who reluctantly agreed to continue my studies. I asked her to talk about Shyamli too.

“No Shubh! She has studied enough. Now it is time for her to put her mind to household work. She is already eight. She will be married in a few years,” Ma said.

“You were not sending her to school because it was the right thing to do?” I asked her. Ma looked at me for some time.

“No son. We sent her because of you. It is time to end the games and be serious about life. We have to marry her off and these books are doing her no good,” Ma said.

I started going to school alone. In the afternoon, I would come back and teach Shyamli as much as I could. I became her teacher. Sometimes she cried and I told her that she will complete her studies. I promised.

Shyamli was thirteen when Ma and Baba decided that it was time for her to get married. There was a sixteen years old boy called Raghu in the village whose father had a lot of land. They married her to Raghu who raped her on the first night of their marriage. I was not aware of this or I would have strangled him. She told me about it years later.

I was seventeen the year Shyamli was married to Raghu in 1967. My parents had started hunting for a bride for me while I was packing my bags to go to college which meant leaving the village and going to the nearby town to study. Baba was aghast. Ma was petrified as if I was going to fight in a war. No one in our family had ever left the village. In the end both of them gave in after a lot of shouting and cursing. I told them that I did not want to end up like them. I told them about the dream that was killing me from the last fourteen years.

“How many times have you committed the crime? How many?” I screamed.

Baba slapped me hard. I told them what I thought about them. That put a lock on their mouths.

                                    *           *           * 

I washed the dinner plates. She cleaned them with a towel. We then watched television for sometime. She stopped talking after a while. I looked at her. She was sleeping on the sofa with her mouth open. I smiled and woke her up.

“Go to bed,” I told her.

“Aren’t you coming?”

“I will try to avoid it as long as I can.”

“Don’t stretch yourself Shubh. We are not young anymore. Your body needs rest.”

He was holding her upside down by her right foot. She was naked and her crying filled the room. Her body was smeared with blood, the blood of her mother. There were other men in the room, watching the act. Two of them were chewing tobacco, another one was yawning. It was a way of life for them. This was not the first time they were witnessing the act. Another man was digging the ground outside the hut. Someone was wailing nearby.

            He took her to the corner of the hut where water was boiling frivolously over a brick oven. Water, that was unaware of the crime of which it was going to be a part soon. He lowered her towards the water. Steam was rushing up to condense on her face. Her tears mixed with water and dripped in the bubbles breaking the surface. Her shrieks were reaching a crescendo. Her face was close to the hissing water. Oh! So close.

I woke up with a start and with horror in my eyes. I gulped air. My hands were trembling. After a few minutes as my breathing came back to normal, I looked at the clock. It was 4 am. I sighed and got up from the sofa. I needed fresh air.

The same dream. The same dream ever since I could remember. 

*           *           *

I lived in a hostel. Every evening, I would take tuitions to pay for my college fee and other expenses. I was a good teacher. I would go to the village on the weekends to meet my family. I went to Raghu’s house to meet Shyamli. I wasn’t welcomed there. They were unsuccessfully trying to have a baby. Shyamli always beamed on seeing me. I was the only happiness in her life.  She never reminded me of the promise I had made a few years back but I remembered. She would complete her studies. She lived with Raghu and his family for four years. They sent her back home because she could not bear a child. A year later Raghu married someone else.

“I knew it was a mistake to save her,” Baba said.

My parents were grieved by her presence in the house. She was a burden now. They treated her like a servant, beating and cursing her for minuscule reasons. 

I completed my college and gave entrance exams for clerical posts in government organizations. I got through one and was posted in Delhi. I took a small one room house on rent in Chandni Chowk and shifted there. I went back to the village on the weekend and asked Shyamli to pack her belongings.

“What are you doing Shubh?” she asked with fear in her eyes.

“I made two promises that I intend to keep,” I said.

Baba stood in my way and slapped me. I was a bad son in his eyes. He then held Shyamli’s hand and tried to push her away. He pulled her hair. I slapped him. He held a hand to his cheek and stared at me with disbelief. I slapped him again and again and again till he crumpled on the ground. Ma stood in a corner gawking at me. She did not recognize me anymore. Now she knew how I felt all those years. I took Shyamli’s hand and both of us walked out of the house, never to return. 

to be concluded…

Boiling water – I

Image from here

Image from here

(Based on a true story) 

“I had the dream again.”

She walked and sat next to me, taking my hand in hers, caressing the folds of my skin.

“You have to forget her. You saved me,” she said.

“I can’t,” I whispered.

“It has been sixty years.”

“Yes. Sixty years. And her sound still wakes me up.”

“I know.”

Tears ran down my crumpled face. It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t going to be the last. She had wiped my tears infinite times before. She was going to wipe them now. She moved her hand. I held it tight.

“Don’t,” I said.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

We sat silently for a while. Then I sighed.

“The sound that woke me up today was different.”

“What did you hear?”

“Boiling water,” I said. 

                                                *           *           * 

I don’t know what it means to be completely happy. Can anyone be completely happy? Don’t we always have something running in the back of our mind – a tragedy, a horror story, a sorrow, a nightmare? Over the years, I have realised that even though I might be giddy with my so called achievements, despondency runs through me like blood.  I can never get rid of it. It is like the fingers on my hand – a part of me that cannot be cut away without pain.

            It is not as if I cannot pretend to be happy. I can. I retired from my job two years back in 2011. If you go and ask the people I worked with, they will tell you what a clown I was. I had a wand of laughter. It was my way of making my staff comfortable. I would sit with them and tell them funny stories. They respected me. They cried on my farewell. They gave me flowers and gifts. But then they did not see me sitting alone in my cabin, staring at the wall, tossing the paperweight. They did not see me gulping those medicines so that I could sleep peacefully. They did not see me getting up in the middle of the night reaching for air like a drowning man, drenched in my sweat, my hands on my ears. That is what I mean when I say that you can never be completely happy because when you are happy, you sleep with a grin on your face. When you are happy, someone wakes you up in the morning and you smile and put your head beneath the pillow so that you could sleep for five more minutes.

                                                *           *           * 

“But you never heard just boiling water before,” she said.

“I did a few weeks ago. It keeps coming back.”

“Did you hear her as well?” she asked reluctantly.

“No. Not this time. I prefer water as long as I don’t hear her.”

She patted my hand. I looked into her eyes.

“Can I?” she asked.

I nodded. She wiped the tears off my face.

“You have an appointment today,” she said after my tears were on her hands.

“I know.”

I saw pain on her face when she got up from the chair. Her joints were troubling her again. She stood holding the sofa for a few seconds before moving to the kitchen.

“I will make tea,” she said.

My appointment was at 4 o’clock. I have been going there since the last one year hoping for a miracle. 

                                                *           *           * 

It was difficult to get out of the village. Baba always wanted me to be a farmer like him. I knew I had to find ways, run towards any door that could take me away from this life. I asked Ma to send me to school. She laughed. Boys in the village hated going to school and here I was, coaxing my mother. She talked to Baba.

“He won’t like it there and drop out in a few months. What is the harm?” she told him. He grudgingly agreed to it.

The school was not in my village. There was a single school for 5 villages in the district.  It was 3 kilometres away. I walked. I did not feel tired. It wasn’t a choice to attend school. It was a resolve.

I was seven. I did not drop out like the rest of the boys of the village. After one year, Baba tried to get me out of the school but I was adamant. Ma helped calm him. She saw that I was interested in studying. Had she known that I was growing wings to desert her one day, she would have turned into someone I could have never recognised. I barely recognized Baba for what I had seen him doing four years back. Of course, now I know that Ma was an equal partner in the crime. 

The year was 1959. I had been studying for two years now when I asked Ma if my younger sister could attend school with me. Mother was milking the cows. She laughed again but this time she did not talk to Baba.

“Girls don’t study. They learn household work,” she said running her hand in my hair. Droplets of milk stuck in my hair.

“Ma, how were you saved?” I asked.

She stopped milking the cow, the fingers of her right hand curled on one of the teats. She could not understand my question. Then I saw realization dawn in her eyes. She turned around and looked harshly at me.

“Go, help your Baba,” she said. She stared at me as I walked away, suddenly scared.   

I requested my school teacher to talk to my parents so that they send my sister to school. She was a kind lady who came to my house and successfully drilled some sense in my parents. Shyamli, my sister, started going to school with me on a promise that she will still do all the household chores assigned to her. Sending her to school made my parents the laughing stock of the village. Baba was very angry but Ma asked him to be calm and let her handle it.

“No one will marry her!” he said. 

“What are you teaching your daughter for? Will she become a doctor?” the village women would laugh at Ma when she went to fetch water at the village well.

“I don’t want her to use her thumb as a signature,” Ma would reply.

“You will pay for your madness one day,” the women would retort. 

To be continued

Confused Scared Dirty Angry

image from here

image from here

What can a guy possibly know about sexual abuse? After all, he can only have a second hand experience of what the female population of this country goes through on a daily basis. That is why I have to tell you my story.

I was a very shy kid in school. I never bullied anyone or picked up a fight. All I did was study diligently and top my class every single year. When not studying, I was neck deep into Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Arthur Conan Doyle. My sports teacher were perplexed to come across a boy who did not like throwing and hitting balls. I had great difficulty in striking a conversation with strangers and was terrified at the prospect of leaving the warm embrace of known faces in my school and join a college. To my utter discomfort, that is exactly what life had in store for me.

I got admission in a good college in Delhi University. The college was a one hour bus ride from my home. In those Metro-less days, The DTC buses as a mode of transport were as good as Manmohan Singh as our Prime Minister. So, the only way to get to the college was to board the notorious killer machines called Blueline buses. Sometimes, the buses were so crowded that you won’t find space to expand your chest to breathe. All I could see was a mass of hands holding the metal rods and pressing the windowpanes for support. The crowd was like a giant, single animal with multiple hands protruding from all sides.

The year was 1997. It was a time when we still talked about a lot of topics in hushed voices. Topics like rape, sexual abuse, child molestation, sexual orientation were not openly discussed. And yes, Rape and Sexual abuse happened only to women. Add to it my complete disconnection to the real world because of my nature and you would realise that I was shockingly naive.

So one fine day, I left the college in a hurry to get away from the awful place full of strangers and boarded a Blueline bus chock-a-block with more strangers. I squeezed in somehow and stood completely surrounded by unidentified torsos. A few moments later I felt a hand on my crotch. At first I ignored it, considering the number of people in the bus but then I felt that the hand was not there by mistake. It was slowly rubbing my crotch. I looked down and traced the hand back to the human attached to it. The person who was doing this was an elderly uncle in his late 50s. He looked straight into my eyes and kept rubbing. 

The first emotion that hit me was complete confusion. Why would a person who is of the age of my grandfather rub my crotch? I knew he was somehow getting aroused by this but I failed to understand how. I went red in the face and moved away from him. To my surprise, he came after me. He again stood near me and tried to rub my crotch. By this time, I was completely agitated and it showed on my face. I had no idea what to do in such a situation. I was this scared, timid boy who did not have the courage to push him back. When I look back, I understand that courage and anger are the last of your thoughts, especially when it is happening for the first time. Confused and scared – that is what I felt at the moment. Why was this even happening? I again moved away from him and this time he sensed trouble and did not follow.

When I reached home, I felt anger erupting inside me. I still could not make sense of an old man touching me like this. I felt dirty and disgusted. I did not discuss this with anyone but my parents did notice that I was a bit sad. I encountered the man two more times in the bus back home. He recognized me and tried to come near me but I was not going to let him get away with it, so I always moved near to the driver where I was not completely surrounded by people. He gave up after that.

It took me a long time to get over the incident. 

I told my wife about this incident a few days back. She asked me that how would such an incident play on my psyche if it happened again and again. I told her that I would be devastated till the point that I will require medical help to come out of it. She told me about numerous incidents that happened to her while traveling in buses. She told me how she was groped many times and how she sometimes received help. The women not only survive such abusers but they have to then survive the fingers pointing at them. I cannot imagine someone coming to me and telling me that what that uncle did was my fault. I would spit in the person’s face. 

So you see, I know a bit about sexual abuse. It is a tiny blip in comparison to what happens to women in India but I understand what they go through. I understand how it plays with your mind, how it makes you jittery in the presence of strangers, how it makes you wonder about a life in a parallel universe where you are respected, where people will not touch you without your permission, where they will not treat you as objects. 

I still feel angry that he got away with it. I feel angry that so many people get away with it in our country, in this world. Yes, the world around me has changed in the last 16 years. We are more vocal, more angry. But the abuses haven’t subsided. 

I am a different person from how I was in 1997. I have lived alone, managed my affairs and have shed most of my phobias. And if it is any consolation, if that incident happens now, I would grab that uncle by his balls and toss him out of the moving bus. It would save many more youngsters the trauma they would have gone through by his hands.

How to survive a pregnant wife

A wise man once said that pregnancy brings out the animal in a woman. I don’t exactly remember who said that but I think it was me. It is also said that pregnancy is the most wonderful period for a woman but whoever said that must have been Justin Bieber. You can mildly compare a pregnant woman with a werewolf. Bring out that full moon of empathy/sympathy/apathy and you might be mauled in unimaginable ways. Those nine months are a litmus tests of patience for not only a lady but her husband as well.  Especially the husband. His situation is similar to a walk on burning coals. But let me not put the whole nine months in a single bracket because there are blissful times as well, like seeing your wife turn into Pamela Anderson.

First Trimester (first 3 months) – The vomit generator

After the initial euphoria of witnessing two red lines on the pregnancy test kit dies, the arduous journey begins. Your wife will turn into a recycling machine. Anything that goes inside her will come out in mashed form. Sometimes food and medicine will come out in exactly the same form as they went inside. So don’t be surprised if you see a crisp samosa lying in your wash basin one fine morning.

Husbands should try to avoid making any remarks in this duration if they do not want to be karate chopped. Here are a few sample conversations you should never make while your wife is producing hot dimsums.

Husband – I know what you are going through.

Wife – Do you now?!? *Dimsum 1* Believe me you have no *Dimsum 2* bloody idea so stop pretending *Dimsum 3*. Go away before I *Dimsum 4* kill you.

Husband – *does the mistake of patting her wife’s back while she is hovering over the washbasin*

Wife – Don’t touch me, you sex maniac. This is all your fault. You have had your fun. Now sit back and enjoy the next nine months.

Husband – This will be soon over. Every pregnant woman goes through this. You will be Ok.

*Big fuc*ing mistake*

The guy ends up with a broken neck.

The best approach during the first three months will be to hug her cautiously when you think she will not split you into two. Such occasions will be rare but they will be there.

Second Trimester (months 4-6) – Pamela Anderson

Your wife will start looking like those clandestine celebrities in this duration. The tummy will start showing in the 5th or 6th month but it will not be prominent in comparison to her other *ahem*. If you are one of those few unlucky souls, she will carry her first trimester problems in this trimester also. Most women don’t. You should be prepared for some extra shopping as it will appear that the last time your wife shopped was when she was in kindergarten. Nothing will fit her. Her bra size will horrify her. She will buy extra large everything with immense sadness.

During this trimester, the husband should be credit card ready. One tiny sound of rebellion and he might be flying out of Pantaloons. He will be reminded that this photoshop-ish distortion of the wife’s anatomy is all his mistake and now he has to ‘pay’ for it. It will not matter when the husband tries to reason that he is delirious with joy at the photoshop-ish enlargements.

Third Trimester (months 7-9) – The planet

By the ninth month, your wife would have turned into a planet. She would eat as if an asteroid is going to hit Earth tomorrow and vaporize all the ice-cream shops. Do not be alarmed because there is a baby inside her who needs all that nutrition.

The wife might find it uncomfortable to sleep. There will be instances when she will complain that the baby kicks all the times.

Do not try this at home –  

Husband – It will be soon over darling.

Wife – Yeah? What do you know? Have you ever tried pushing a baby out of you? OH GOD! I AM GOING TO DIE! 

Husband – Oh! Come on! It is not as if you are the first woman to….. *Was not able to complete the sentence because of a kick in the balls*

It will be during this trimester that there will be times when the husband and wife will be freaked out by the fact that another human being is growing inside the wife. It might sound like those alien movies but watching the baby play football as your wife’s tummy heaves like a turbulent ocean will not help. This might sound absurd but try talking to the baby. Make a paper boat and keep it on your wife’s tummy while making ridiculous storm sounds.

The D-Day

It gets worse once the labour pain starts. It is like a full moon night and the husband is under immense danger of being flung out of the window of the hospital building. Husbands should be prepared for all the groaning curses flung at them and take them sportingly. Sentences like –

–          This is all your fault you pathetic bastard. God will never forgive you.

–         Wait till this thing gets out of me! I will put you in the washing machine.

–         Don’t ever think that you will make me go through this again. I will snap your neck at the mere mention.

A husband might be alarmed that his wife has been possessed and needs an exorcist more than a mid-wife but that is not the case. Try to dab away the sweat from your wife’s brow when you think she will not dig her nails in your hand. Be quick about it.

Once the baby is delivered your wife will be back to normal except that now she has turned into Mother Dairy and will be dripping milk all over the house. The husband might feel isolated at this point of time as the Dairy will be open 24X7 for the baby. Try not to sulk. 

Surviving a newborn will be covered in another post.

p.s. Pregnancy is a beautiful time. A couple goes through myriad emotions during those nine months. They forget all the pain when they notice the child moving in the tummy, when they try to figure out the head and the arms in the ultrasound report, when they do shopping for the baby before the grand arrival. If the post has given you any negative concerns, then that is purely your pessimistic imagination.

pregnancy

[image from here]

A chat with the Seducers

They have been entertaining us for years. You cannot imagine Bollywood without their gyrations. In this nation where an average Indian struggles for a meal, they are like a shining beacon in cold nights giving equal respite to the underprivileged and the privileged. Why would I like to chat with them, you may ask? It is to know their secret formula, to know what makes them thrust, to know what inspires them to do jiggle their assets.

It was an honor to be connected to the Seven Sexy Seducers on WeChat and talk to them. Now won’t it be best if I share with you our chat history? That will give you enough fodder as to why I was jumping with joy when I got this opportunity.

Oh! But before that, let me introduce them to you.

The Chat

Me : Hello Ladies. This is history in the making.

Mehbooba : History? Are you trying to insult me by telling me that I am old now?

Chikni Chameli : LOL

Me : No! I meant this is history in the making because all of you are here chatting together.

Mehbooba : Ah! And Chikni Chameli, show some respect. I have done more dance numbers than the number of clothes you are wearing.

Badmaash Babli : ROLF! Mehbooba, like seriously! Do you live in a cave? Chances are that Chikni Chameli is hardly wearing anything.

Ku Ku Ku : Mehboobaji, girls nowadays do not wear skin colored clothes like in your times. They aren’t hypocrites and of course they do not have any respect.

Me : Ladies! Really, this is a most interesting cat fight but can we just chat? Can all of you share your thoughts about what drove you to do all those dance numbers?

Mehbooba, Laila, Badnaam Munni, Halkat Jawani, Chikni Chameli, Badmaash Babli, Ku Ku Ku : The love of Art.

Me : Wow! 5 minutes into the chat and I have tears in my eyes. What else? You all know that the men in our country love you to bits. Movies make crores because of you. Your item numbers are the first ones to be aired to generate enough testosterone to make families come and watch the movie. So what else makes you gyrate in addition to love of art?

Laila : *blush blush*

Halkat Jawani : Why are you blushing? The last item number you did was in 1980.

Ku Ku Ku : RESPECT ladies!

Chikni Chameli : Is it because you are soon going to join their ranks? LOL!

*This was not going the way I wanted it to*

Me : Ladies, can we get back to the question?

Laila : I did it for fame too. There. I said it. We all do it for fame. We love it when men fall over each other to touch us and our bodyguards fling them in random directions. It is addictive.

Badmaash Babli : See, the basic fact is that a majority of the people are sexually starved and we capitalize on it. There is no harm in it. The whole world capitalizes on things that can be capitalized upon.

Mehbooba : I never thought about it that way. I loved dancing.

Badnaam Munni : I think the whole concept has evolved over the years. The dynamics and the stakes have changed. Heroines never did item numbers earlier. Now we do not need someone like Mehbooba. I think it started changing during the time of Laila.

Me : But the item number is not about dancing anymore, isn’t it?

Ku Ku Ku : No it is not. It is more about profits now. It is about gathering as much people as you can to recover your production costs. It is more about moving parts of your body in unimaginable ways to arouse men.

Me : And all of you know that?

Halkat Jawani : Of course we know that! Who do you think we are? Paris Hilton?

Me : Ok. Forget about all the statistics but is it exciting to know that lakhs of men lust after you? That given a chance, they will pounce on you?

Laila : Sweetheart, a man who has to pounce on you will pounce on you, irrespective of the item number. The world is abundant with pouncers. 

Me : But given the fact that an average Indian male is sexually oppressed and consider all women not related to him as objects, don’t you think that you are fanning the fires here?

Badmash Babli : Look, it is a simple demand and supply phenomenon. Stop watching movies with item numbers and Bollywood will stop making them. We are just riding on the tide.

Me : What about morality?

Halkat Jawani, Chikni Chameli : Fu*k morality.

Mehbooba : Jesus!

Badnaam Munni : LOL! Let who is without sin cast the first stone.

Chikni Chameli : Cigarettes cause cancer but we still manufacture them. Alcohol is injurious to health. Why do we manufacture guns and bombs? Why do prostitutes exist? Darling, you are talking about morality in a world that has buried it long ago.

Laila : Do you really think our society will turn Mother Teresa if item numbers are banned?

Me : I believe that they are a part of the problem. And I don’t believe morality is dead. There are people who still swear by it and are fighting for its existence. It is a matter of talking sides. It is a matter of convincing yourself that there are things more important than money. 

Chikli Chameli, Ku Ku Ku : Ha!

Me : All right ladies, lets not be so serious. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Mehbooba, tell us what you think about the new girls?

Mehbooba : Too bold for my taste. And I do not understand the concept of wiggling bosoms. I think it was Ku Ku Ku who started it and now everyone is giving the twins a roller-coaster ride.

Laila : Exactly. If we line all the ladies up against the Great Wall of China and let loose the tremors, the wall will have a gaping hole in minutes. Why is everyone doing that?

Chikni Chameli : Laila, now really! You have subjected people to enough horizontal wiggling in your songs.

Badnaam Munni : I guess people like it. And lets not talk about morality again.

Me : It is a two way road. I think a society where actresses fall over each other to do an item number says a lot about the society as well but there has to be a sense of responsibility in the industry too. Actresses are not machines on a production line that have to manufacture a product that they are designed for. It is not a simple demand and supply. We are humans with brains.

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Misanthropically Yours

I am turning into a misanthrope. I don’t want to but when I see a five year old raped and tortured, when I hear news of a bottle and candles retrieved from her vagina, when I see a policeman offer Rs 2000 to the raped girl’s father to let go of the thought of an FIR, when I see a policeman telling the survivor’s family that they should be thankful that the girl is alive, when I see a policeman slapping a protesting girl, when I see politicization of the issue, I don’t see how I can stop myself from hating mankind.

My generation has not seen the World Wars but I have read enough books, seen enough movies, seen enough documentaries to understand what happened. I know how a culture was obliterated, how it was turned into gaseous fumes coming out of a chimney of a camp. I know how millions of carcasses were shoved into pits using trenchers, I know how two entire cities where vapourised in the name of peace. The images are entrenched in my mind. I can never forget the image of a four year old naked Jew boy running towards a barbed fence of a concentration camp as a German shepherd chased him. I felt lucky that I haven’t lived in those times but the ironical bit about history is that it doesn’t matter. It is an embarrassment everyone wants to forget and then commit again. And no, you are never lucky enough. The end of barbarism can never be a done deal.

Has the world turned into a better place to live? Is this a meaningless question? Can our society function without brutality or will it crumble to pieces in its absence?

I do not understand this race anymore. I do not understand why I have to live in a constant fear of losing my loved ones. I do not understand the brutal images of what could happen to my family that spring in my mind every other day. I do not understand the utter abjection with which we treat each other.

I sometimes feel that my mind will explode into a million tiny pieces. I sometimes want to howl with pain, scream so loud that the sound exterminates every human from the face of Earth. I want to give this planet another chance, something that is not possible till humans infect it.

They tell me that I should be grateful for the good life God has given me. I have a loving family and a happy life. Is that good enough reason to be satisfied, to count my lucky stars? How can I be happy when I look around and see misery? How can I be happy when I read about men exploding themselves in marketplaces to serve their God? How can I be happy when I belong to a country where the fragile culture is all about encouraging rapes and molestation? How can I be happy when I see a doctor telling the parents that they can wrap the dead female fetus in a newspaper and throw it in the dustbin on their way out? How can I be happy when I see the subjugation of the weak at every nook and corner? I don’t know how people cocoon themselves and live a detached life. I feel violated.

They tell me that there is good in the world. I would like to believe that but how is good a part of the solution? Is it growing? Is it reducing the coldness? How many more sacrifices before it takes over?

No. Telling me that there is good in the world is not good enough. Tell me how the world is getting better because that is what I want to know. And don’t call me a pessimist. I am only numb with horror. I see things getting worse all around me.

I am scared to bring a child in this world. I am scared that I will spend the rest of my life worrying for the safety of my kid. Apathy has no boundaries. It is a limitless ocean, it is a black hole that has sucked everything that was good in this world. I don’t want my child to live in its shadow and I don’t want to put a cage around my child. I don’t want to live the rest of my life pretending that I live in a war zone.

I wish to meet that 5 year old girl. I wish to hold her in my arms and tell her that it will be all right. I wish she looks at me and smile. I wish to live in a world where this heavy burden of fear does not exist on my chest. I wonder how it feels to live without it. Just thinking about its absence makes me feel rejuvenated, makes me feel like a freed slave. I wish to live in a world where power is not brutal, where humans are not derailed psychopaths, where life is treated as an invaluable gift, where happiness is not insulated and confined to a selected few, where God has no face.

The night sky fills me with awe. The stars and planets are nature’s way of telling us about our insignificance, about our diminutive presence in the universe. And we still have the intrepidity of hurting each other, of clawing at each other’s soul, of raping a 5 year old.

Isn’t that enough reason to be a misanthrope?

Time to bury chivalry?

chivalry2I was sitting on a ladies seat in a DTC bus. Now before you take out your knives, let me clarify that I was very tired and there wasn’t a single lady around who was glaring at me. A girl boarded the bus a few minutes later and courteous and chivalrous as I was, I got up to offer her the seat. I guessed that like me, she too was studying in Delhi University as both of us were wearing that unmistakable, funky college kinda stuff. She declined to take the seat and asked me to keep sitting. There was a near contempt in her voice, as if I had insulted her in some way. Confused and bewildered, I sat at the ladies seat while she towered over me for a while and then got down at Mall Road. Finally, my confusion gave way to respect.

This happened almost 15 years back but the incident plays on a loop in my mind whenever I see demarcations etched out all around me for the opposite sex. In our quest to solve a problem we have created a bigger one. Quick fix I call it but they never solve the real issue, do they?

The era in which we live will leave any man confused. The age old concept of chivalry somehow does not fit in. We cannot talk about equality and special privileges in the same breathe. Ever since that incident, I hesitate to open the door for a lady, I hesitate to pull a chair for her at a restaurant, I hesitate to get up to offer a seat. What if she turns around and glares at me? What if she tells me in very definitive terms that she is capable of taking care of herself? That she does not require any help that is provided considering her gender, considering her weak.

All the women I know are capable of handling things on their own. They are independent and self-sufficient. But you see, that is where the confusion begins. Sometimes, I have been asked to help. When I have refused, citing the fact that the woman in question is completely capable of handling the situation herself, I have been called unchivalrous.

So how much is too much and how less is too less?

What is the point at which I go from being helpful and courteous to being completely irritating and sexist?

Giving an example from my personal life, Geet has been a very independent and headstrong woman all her life but sometimes something gets into her and she behaves all dependent-ish. A few days back, she called me up at the office and asked me to call up her bank for an enquiry.

“Why don’t you call them yourself?” I said.

“Because I don’t feel like doing it. Please can you do this for me?” she said.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you can do this on your own.”

Stony Silence.

chivalryThis went on for a while before she understood that I was not going to do it. She finally told me that I was useless and I asked her whether she would like to replace me as I was still under warranty. She called the bank on her own and got the information she wanted. This wasn’t the first incident as I have done similar routines a number of times with Geet and my sister because I don’t want them to depend on me for things they can handle on their own. In the end, once the task is accomplished, I am greeted with a look-we-don’t-need-you snort. And that is exactly what I am looking for.

But then, am I being a bad husband and a bad brother? Am I been unchivalrous to my wife and my sister? It is not as if both of them don’t know the first time around that they can do it on their own but as much as I am able to understand, women sometimes ‘like’ to depend on men. They like it when we do things for them. It is, for reasons unfathomable to me, taken as a sign of love, affection and respect.

Please don’t take me wrong. I like being helpful. But if I hold a door for someone to pass through, I will do that irrespective of that person’s gender.

I have been running this thought again and again in my mind and I have reached a conclusion that I do not like the idea of a woman asking me for help for a task she can perform on her own. I do not like the idea of extending courtesy to a woman because she is a woman. I do not like the idea of providing special privileges to woman to save them from acts of crimes instead of taking measures to prevent those crimes. Can you sweep a really independent woman off her feet by an act of chivalry? Today, when women have been fighting for equal rights and the power to make their own choices, does it really make sense to mistake dependence with a sign of warmth?

I believe chivalry and equality cannot co-exist. Is it time to bury chivalry?

A woman’s perspective – The Awww-topsy

[image from 1,2]

10 Disadvantages of being a Male

tired man

It is not easy being a man. Today when India is hit by a tsunami of Feminism, the men stand at crossroads. Should we jump in too and let go the flood of tears we have been holding since decades? We too have problems with the way the world and nature treats us. It is just that we bear our burdens in silence.

Here are the 10 biggest disadvantages of being a male.

No homemaking

There are times when we don’t feel like slogging. There are times when we are tired of wiping our boss’s spit from our face when he has finished shouting. We have to carry on the mundane task of being a cash machine. We are not even allowed to think about the alternative of letting our wives take that responsibility. How we wish to puff those pillows, dust those expensive showpiece, make dinner, raise our kids and be a perfect homemaker, but all those are distant dreams.

The Tennis Ball

Do you realize the kind of pressure we undergo when Momma and Mate pull us from both the ends? We are not allowed to sit and watch the tennis match between the two ladies because we are that ball. That ball, which is smacked violently and repeatedly in this never-ending match. We are supposed to take sides. Our eardrums hurt.

Road runner

There is always a war on the roads in India. A woman driver is given space and respect because everyone in her vicinity thinks that they will die otherwise. Men on the other hand have to jostle for each and every inch of a road amidst roaring honks and glaring swearwords. We are all Gladiators ready to beat the daylights out of each other.

Probably a rapist/child molester

We are at the end of our tethers trying to duck every woman and child out of our way. A slight brush of our hand on a woman’s skirt and we might be under a hailstorm of sandals. We might talk to a child with a smile and we might end up being pasted to the road by the his father’s SUV. Do you know how straining living like this is? We are a human bomb walking on needles. Of course there is the other end of the spectrum too, but they are more animals than men.

rugby-concussion-demotivational-posShares. Stocks. Bonds. Budget.

Men are supposed to act smart. Even if we believe that shares are sung in a Mushaira and Bonds is the name given to all the girls who bonded with James Bond, we are supposed to act like Harshad Mehta. We should follow the rise and fall of the stock market like a Bollywood actress’s bosoms in a dance number. The latest budget should be on our tips if we want some respect.

Under a lens. Always.

Ever since we open our eyes, we are under constant scrutiny. Our parents burden us with all their unfulfilled dreams as if we are a cargo ship. Then we spend the rest of our lives dodging our wives as they suspiciously go through our shirts for a whiff of an affair, our bosses as they take a smelly dump on our career and our children who start treating us as losers the moment they develop sex organs. When we are old, the nurse treats us as an unwanted cockroach that she is too scared to crush under her feet. Ditto for our children.

Sports Journal

Even though the only sport we are good at is the in-the-night-no-control types, we are supposed to have passionate knowledge about a sport, preferably cricket. God forbid if we confess that we are not interested in it or do not remember the color of the underwear Sachin wore in an unforgettable 1993 series, we will be immediately shunned like a woman carrying an illegitimate child. Knowing about Soccer, Baseball and Rugby is an added advantage. It is not easy to be a walking encyclopedia on sports when all you really like is burgers and breasts.

The rise and fall of Junior

The problem with junior is that it is like an alien entity attached between our legs. Like the Ring of the dark Lord, it has a will of its own. It sometimes rises with the Sun and refuses to subside. It refuses to rise and shine when it is actually required to because of performance issues. It rises at the most inappropriate of places and thus has to be covered up with whatever props we can muster – a book, a lost puppy, a bowl snatched from a beggar. Compare this to women – they might be aroused even in a funeral and not a single soul will know. They could be walking on the street, sitting in a bus or sleeping in a room full of guests and no one will ever point at a hill between their legs and laugh. Oh! The pleasure of that freedom!

Facade

Since childhood we are brainwashed into being a real man who don’t cry, who does not take but give emotional support and who can break a jaw at the drop of a hat. Basically we should be robotic providers who do not go beyond a Hmmm when our children run towards us screaming that they have been selected in IIT. It is taxing. We feel desperately like crying at times, we sometimes wish we could treat our children as friends, sit with our wives and pour our heart out but we can’t. We feel unmanly with the mere thought of it. Instead we get drunk and scream swearwords at strangers on roads.

Dispensable. Always.

jack-and-rose-fit-on-wooden-door

Yes! She could have saved him!

What boils our blood is that whenever a tragedy strikes or there is a war, we are the ones who are left to die. Women and children are the first ones to be saved. If time and situation permits, men are given a thought. Remember when the Titanic sank? Men were left on that sinking shit while women and children sat on lifeboats and saw the show. Rose had a whole goddamn wooden plank! Why are we always so dispensable? Just because we are in excess and selectively chosen over girls to live does not mean we don’t have a life and can be treated like a street dog.

So you see, it isn’t all that rosy for us men too. The world has been subjugating us in its own way. Nature have had it’s revenge too as we can’t even have pleasure at our own convenience. We are living in unbreakable molds like a Mummy and there is no escape.

[image from 1,2,3]

Sensitization begins at home

We are contrary creatures, us humans, but that isn’t something we need to be afraid of, or even much troubled by. And if you make a list of those people who worship consistency, you’ll find they are one and all tyrants or would-be tyrants. Ruling over thousands, or over a husband or a wife, or some covering child. Never fear contradiction. It is the very heart of diversity.

– The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

A few days back, I overheard a conversation between two Software Engineers. Both of them were discussing rape cases and laughingly agreed with each other that 95% of the rape cases are consensual. I am sure that they kept a window of 5% open in case a female member of their own family gets raped. Such females can then be conveniently boxed in the category of 5% women who are tamed and belong to well-to-do families but who are victims of the evil. Mind you, these are extremely well-educated men working in an MNC and earning a handsome salary, who like going to a pub and like getting drunk, who despite being married will stare at a woman’s buttock as she passes by, who snigger at a woman driving a car. This well-educated category of urban Indian male also believe that any woman who does not belong to their family are objects and possible prostitutes and leave no stone unturned in blaming the victim. They forget the fact that a stranger might be having similar thoughts about a female member of their own family.

The bad news is that education has nothing to do with changing mindsets. Education cannot teach the idea of respecting a fellow human. But then what can? Baring a minuscule population of India, a large unbelievable chunk is deeply entrenched in the swamp of patriarchy. The rot is so deep that we will not be able to see a change in our lifetime. Patriarchy glorifies the act of controlling another human’s life. The acts of crime against women that we witness in modern India are illegitimate offspring of patriarchy. Respect has to be treated as gender neutral and so should be freedom to make choices. 

Can we make a beginning somewhere?

It is extremely difficult to change the mindset of an adult. Two adults can react differently to the same situation. For example, consider a man who has seen his father as an authoritative figure all his life. It is possible that such a man carries his father’s legacy and treats his own wife as a subordinate. It might also be possible that he reacts to the suffering of his mother and when the time comes, treats his own wife with all the dignity and equality she deserves. But where does the distinction comes from? What are the factors that decide the path a man would finally take?

In the end it all boils down to how much contradiction can you swallow as a human. How much is the magnitude of your fear for a thought or an act that contradicts your beliefs? Are you willing to let go and ready to open the cage that was meticulously built around you? Ironically, a majority of us do not acknowledge the presence of a cage. It has melted so deeply into our psyche that we fail to feel its presence. It is embedded in us. A monster that lurks silently.

Sometimes I wonder that if gender inequality is such a pressing issue, why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation? Why can’t we set up mandatory sensitization sessions for all the newly wed couples? Why don’t we put a huge fine if the couple fail to attend these sessions? Why can’t we arrange similar sessions for all the parents with children in the age group of 0-10 years? I don’t believe reactive measures are the correct way to approach the issue. What we need are preventive measures in place so that the next generation don’t end up like those two software engineers.

I see that as our only hope. Unless the present lot of parents understand the idea of bringing up their daughters and sons at an equal footing, no amount of punishments or laws are going to work. We have to make sure that our next generation is not as messed up as the present one. Otherwise this is a vicious cycle and there is more never-ending, unimaginable traumas coming our way for years. 

A majority of women in this nation do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road. 

We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.

Kofi

[This is an entry to Indiblogger’s iDiya Contest]

http://www.isb.edu/idiya/

image from here