Thursday, 31 January 2013

Questions ....slightly existential in nature

Dear Reader, life teaches a lot of lessons, life is meant to be savoured, each and every moment should be appreciated...Oh, I know that you are probably wondering about my statement...well, I can tell you that most of us have had a rude awakening about the fragility of life in the past few months.

First, (I cringe to mention this) the idiotic news about the 'end of the world', the internet and all those other mindless channels carping awn and awn about how the world would end, because the Mayans had not had the courtesy to pencil in 2013 in their calender (maybe they just ran out of space?). You and I and all those countless people with brains that are bigger than pea-pods, couldn't get further away from all the nutters who actually believed in the Armageddon, although I confess, that for a fraction of a second, I might have attempted to believe it, only in the next fraction to shake my head to avoid such lunacy.

Whilst, most of us had a good reason to laugh at the foibles of all the 'conspiracy theorists', we had a rude awakening in the form of the shooting of innocent school children in the USA and the Delhi Rape case. It made me wonder, if the world as we knew it, was actually worth living in?

Is it really safe to step out of our houses? Should we even get out of our beds in the mornings? Is it actually better to be a maniac depressive than a happy person? I am quite certain, that we have pondered on existential questions at least once, over the past few months.

I found myself asking that old question- 'What has the world come to?' As I currently work in a human rights organisation, I have had the opportunity to research current crisis that we face. It didn't surprise me to find that there has been a steady rise in crimes especially in violence against women and children. The perpetrators are often sociopaths, belonging to perfectly normal family backgrounds.

Some may blame the parents, families, peer groups, some may say that the influx of new technology has made man- a social animal by nature- anti-social. Some may say that brutality towards others especially 'rape' are bred into the minds of children due to cultural norms.

I think that it is a combination of  all the above that may have exacerbated what in my opinion is a social evil world wide. It is therefore necessary to take urgent steps to address this mammoth problem. There must be a debate about healthy masculinity, led by men who are sensitive to the issue. My sister feminists may not agree with this but, to the common 'macho man' it would be more practical to hear a few home truths from their 'brothers'.

We must sensitize ourselves about all our rights, everyone must be made aware about these problems and....forgive this rant....the idiotic statements by ignorant , pompous public/ authority figures should be panned fact they should be gagged as soon as they start uttering their usual drivel.

Seriously though, as a responsible adult, and a young woman, I am going to do my best to sensitize my peers and all those I know about the serious social evil that we face currently. I will also do my utmost to raise awareness about the rehabilitation of those that suffer acts of brutality.   

My sun and my north star

Dear reader, today is a special's my mother's birthday! I wish I was there with her today..I wish I could hug her and bask in her warmth....Well, there will be other birthdays, but after living at home for several months, one can't help but miss the somewhat mundane yet sweet existence.

I discovered certain things about myself that I didn't really think I was capable of. But, before I enumerate, let me tell you that I was a somewhat solitary child, happy to live in my own world, in fact I was really fond of my own company. I didn't like being hugged as I wasn't the clingy type and absolutely loathed the constant need that my family had to keep tabs on my activities!

The move to Delhi for my BA was a relief, I was proud of the fact that I never called home to cry, which so many of my peers (even my sister) did. And then, the two years in England were an absolute blast! I moved back home last year after my MA , it was supposed to be temporary a holiday....yet, I found myself staying permanently for 11 months. 

During that time, I discovered a new side to my mum and dad, they were more like friends, than parents, there were no sudden awkward silences when I entered the room ( they did that when we were younger, probably discussing 'grown-up stuff ' ), dinner conversations were about politics, and current affairs rather than the situation with homework or the crisis with disputed clothes (my sister and I always quarreled about clothes), my relationship with my mum and dad has now settled into a level of comfort that I would never have even imagined as a teenager. I also found out to my shock that I adore hugs, especially from my mother, I love teasing my father and seeing him smile despite trying to frown gives me a lot of pleasure.

I always made an extra cup of coffee just for my father (he isn't fond of coffee but always drank it). Every evening, the sound of the car in the garage would send me rushing to make tea for my mother, who was always surprised when I handed her the cup! Sometimes, cuddling up to her as she watched the TV was such a source of comfort.

I have now moved to Delhi, and I find myself bewildered, that for the first time in my life, I have the urge to call my parents, just to hear their voices. Am I turning into a total sap? Well I suppose I am!

My mother is the sun, she is the center of my universe, an inexhaustible source of warmth and light, she is the mirror that always shows me the truth about myself. My father, well he is my north star, my guide back to righteousness, whenever I stray from the path to achieve my goals and my axis when I need direction. 

I have spent a lot of time in having misunderstandings, and in general feeling that my parents didn't know me at all  (I think we all do that at some point don't we?), only to discover that they know me better than I know myself. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

Welcome to the 'Birdhouse'

Dear Reader, I have been so busy! I literally haven't had the time to breathe. The first half of last week was a nightmare. Days were spent filling up this awful proposal document that I had no idea about and then after hours spent slaving on the bloody proposal (because of a stupid deadline), I found the deadline had extended....well it was the pits!

I work with really nice least that's what I thought! However, it turned out that certain individuals are not so nice after all! There are also those who are highly competent, and I quickly learnt that it is they, that  are lassoed into doing others' work.

I think that the office is like a bird-house, there are those birds that immediately catch one's attention...they of the bright plumage that are akin to a show of efficiency. They always seem to be busy and yet on a closer look, they are the ones with the least output, in-fact it is amazing how they manage to get so much work done with such little effort! Then there are the sparrows and wrens; they assist these exotic creatures and are generally the 'dogsbodies', they seldom seem to enjoy their work but manage to get it all done by the end of the day. For them, it is just something they  have to do as a habit.

This brings me to the category of the songbirds.They are generally not of the attention-grabbing exotic variety, in fact quiet plain, but these are the ones who volunteer to do most of the work and seem to enjoy it! They might be of the most nondescript variety, yet they are the most captivating on closer inspection.

The next variety is my favourite. The large birds of prey. They are beautiful,with an elegant plumage, yet they are also dangerous. They are the hawks and eagles in the office, deadly if provoked but magnificent allies who are the most competent of the lot due to their keen intelligence. Nothing escapes their notice as they are sharply observant so it is nigh impossible to hoodwink them.

 Then there are also the scavengers, the scariest of the lot, they are the vultures and buzzards who swoop in and pick at all the pieces, they are deadly and prone be in chronic love with themselves, they are also the firm allies of the flashy, exotic ones and generally leave utter chaos in their wake.

So there you have it dear reader, my observations about a random workplace. Whether you work in a place like the one described above is something that you may have to observe on your own. All I want to say in the end is that through my interactions with all of the above, I have gained an insight into the 'real world'- one that we heard about as students. All I have to do now is determine the category to which I belong!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Dear Reader, the past two weeks have been really hectic and so, I couldn't take the time out to write a post. I have missed blogging. I never realized the fun I've had writing my posts until I was unable to do so. Blogging has given my writing a purpose, it serves as an outlet for my thoughts and ideas and your comments have become a source of pleasure as well as inspiration
Every time I see something amusing or interesting, I automatically start formulating a blog post in my mind. As a writer, I highly recommend blogging to all who have something to say.

Anyway, I was just thinking about the things I've written in my blog in the past two years. From a blog that began as a journal about my days as a journalism student in England to the triumphs and pitfalls of my personal life to my opinion about the world in general, it has taught me a lot about myself.

Two years ago, I was a girl with aspirations of becoming a journalist, now I am a girl in search of a vision. I would not call myself confused, rather, I have found within myself a thirst to experience all the myriad flavours that life had to offer.

In some ways, dear reader, I have grown up and in other ways I am rediscovering the inner child with all the freshness and curiosity that accompany childhood. So, all I'm going to do now is enjoy life and try to keep myself free of stress. Have a great week dear reader! :)

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

'Dear Reader'

My Dear, Dear Reader, I can't stop blogging....Today seems to be one of those days when all my creative juices are flowing like a water- fall really. I will not apologise for the borderline philosophical treatise on life from a few hours ago...I think I needed it. I can't talk today because of a painfully sore throat and black headache so I'm communicating through this blog.

However, after I posted the blog, I began imagining you, for me, the perfect you is a person who looks exactly like my grandfather, completely lovable with a healthy sense of the ridiculous ( You have to admit.. some of my posts are rather absurd! ).

So what are you? Are you a kindly lady like my dearly departed grandmother, A distinguished grandfather figure, a peppery but lovable guy like my father or the absolutely adorable and lovely person like my mother. You could be my own age (potentially amazing girl or guy) or slightly older and experienced....or you could be the younger sister/brother/friend who is just plain fun to be around. 

I soo hope that you have a sense of humour. I do hope that you are slightly outrageous but not obnoxious. The reason? Well, I adore people with an outrageous sense of humour but some are positively obnoxious and borderline rude! 

What I do know, and am really sure about is the fact that you are the best listener, and that you may even admit to liking me a Well, I'm quite certain that you empathise with my way of thinking although you may agree or disagree with my statements. 

Whatever may be the case dear reader, you are the one constant in my life that is wholly amazing and wonderful. You have made a writer out of a simple girl and helped me combat loneliness. You give me pleasure by your, silent yet comfortable presence. So thank you...thank you for just being my Dear Reader. 

'When life hands a lorryload of lemons, keep churning out lemonade'

Dear Reader, I believe...I believe...I believe, that we should live life with positivity. However, I couldn't help but look back at the previous year and dwell on the sheer amount of negativity that saturated 2012.

The past year has been one filled with realisations; some necessary and some unpleasant. 2012 for me began on a high note, I graduated with a Masters and got to travel around England with my mother. I realised how fortunate I was to receive a good education and also the support of my parents. On the flip side, I was physically unwell for most of the year (I still am), I still suffer from bouts of extreme and debilitating bouts of melancholia and realised that although my parents love me and I love them, they don't trust me at all.

I know that I am to blame, with my education I should have landed a comfortable job immediately, yet for some odd reason, I was unable to. I moved back to the 'deadbeat, small-town nightmare'(a quote from someone in my family), it was indeed a quagmire of spiritual and mental decay that I quickly sank into.

Still, I can't help but ask the question as to Why my Parents don't trust me? I am 25 and can be described as a 'good girl', I have lived my life the way my parents taught me to live and have tried my best to be understanding.

Still dear reader, I find that I am hurt.... I am strong but nothing in the world has the power to hurt me, except my parents' lack of trust. Do they really think that I am their problem child? Do they really think me a failure? Do they really feel that I have in any way dishonoured them?

I don't want to be whiny......I don't want to be negative...I have lived Dear Reader....How I've lived....I love life even when I am miserable.....I laugh at my shortcomings, not cry.....I laugh with people when they ridicule me. I know that you're thinking Why? Well, it is easy to make people cry and so difficult to make them laugh and also I would not give them the power to hurt.

I feel blessed in a way, perhaps I needed all  this time at home with my parents. I got to hug them, and hear them and bask in their love. They might worry about me but they love me. I have known the kind of love that all of us receive but few appreciate....And that is why my dear reader, I love life...I savour each and every moment, whether they be luminous or dark, like honey on my tongue.

So, here is the lesson I've learnt in the 25th year of  my life -- "When life hands you a lorryload of lemons, you shouldn't taste each one and turn sour, you should  use it all to churn out lemonade " (this is a quote I read somewhere and instantly loved). So I have endeavoured to learn from setbacks and turn their lemony sourness into lemonade, something refreshing and positive.  

Monday, 7 January 2013

An old article...Story of a Survivor of Rape

Dear Reader,
Happy New Year!!!

The Article below has been taken from the archives of a magazine. It was written by a survivor of Rape.. I call her a survivor and not a victim because she experienced brutal physical suppression and like Lazarus rising from the dead she embraced life...a true survivor, an inspiration and a font of positive energy.

“I Fought For My Life…And Won” – Sohaila Abdulali #mustread #Vaw #Rape

I was gang raped three years ago, when I was 17 years old.  My name and my photograph appear with this article.  in  1983, in Manushi.
I grew up in Bombay, and am at present studying in the USA. I am writing a thesis on rape and came home to do research a couple of weeks ago. Ever since that day three years ago, I have been intensely aware of the misconceptions people have about rape, about those who rape and those who survive rape. I have also been aware of the stigma that attaches to survivors. Time and again, people have hinted that perhaps death would have been better than the loss of that precious“virginity.” I refuse to accept this. My lifeis worth too much to me.
I feel that many women keep silent to avoid this stigma, but suffer tremendous agony because of their silence. Men blame the victim for many reasons, and,shockingly, women too blame the victim, perhaps because of internalized patriarchal values, perhaps as a way of making themselves invulnerable to a horrifying possibility.
It happened on a warm July evening.That was the year women’s groups were beginning to demand improved legislation on rape. I was with my friend Rashid. We had gone for a walk and were sitting on a mountainside about a mile and a half from my home inChembur which is a suburb of Bombay. We were attacked by four men,who were armed with a sickle. They beat us, forced us to go up the mountain, and kept us there for two hours. We were physically and psychologically abused, and, as darkness fell, we were separated, screaming, and they raped me, keeping Rashid hostage. If either of us resisted, the other would get hurt. This was an effective tactic.
They could not decide whether or not to kill us. We did everything in our power to stay alive. My goal was to live and that was more important than anything else. I fought the attackers physically at first, and with words after I was pinned down. Anger and shoutinghad no effect, so I began to babble rather crazily about love and compassion,I spoke of humanity and the fact that I was a human being, and so were they, deep inside. They were gentler after this, at least those who were not raping me at the moment. I told one of them that if he ensured neither Rashid nor I was killed, I would come back to meet him, the rapist, the next day. Those words cost me more than Ican say, but two lives were in the balance. The only way I would ever have gone back there was with a very, very sharp instrument that would ensure that he never rapedagain.
After what seemed like years of torture (I think I was raped 10 times but I was in so much pain that I lost track of what was going on after a while), we were let go,with a final long lecture on what an immoral whore I was to be alone with a boy. That infuriated them more than anything. They acted the whole time as if they were doing me a favour, teaching me a lesson. Theirs was the most fanatical kind of self righteousness.
They took us down the mountain and we stumbled on to the dark road, clinging to each other and walking unsteadily. They followed us for a while, brandishing the sickle, and that was perhaps the worst part of all—escape was so near yet death hung over us. Finally we got home, broken, bruised, shattered. It was such an incredible feeling to let go, to stop bargaining for our lives and weighing every word because we knew the price of angering them was a sickle in the stomach. Relief flooded into our bones and out ofour eyes and we literally collapsed into hysterical howling.
I had earnestly promised the rapists that I would never tell any one but the minute I got home, told my father to call the police He was as anxious as I was to get them apprehended. I was willing to do anything to prevent someone else having to go through what I had been through. The police were insensitive, contemptuous, and somehow managed to make me the guilty party. When they asked me what had happened,I told them quite directly, and they were scandalized that I was not a shy, blushing victim. When they said there would be publicity, I said that was all right. It had honestly never occurred to me that Rashid or I could be blamed. When they said Iwould have to go into a home for juvenile delinquents for my “protection.” I was willing to live with pimps and rapists, in order to be able to bring my attackers to justice.
Soon I realized that justice for women simply does not exist in the legal system. When they asked us what we had been doing on the mountain, I began to get indignant. When they asked Rashid why he had been “passive”, I screamed. Didn’t they understand that his resistance meant further torture for me? When they asked questions about what kind of clothes I had been wearing, and why there were no visible marks on Rashid’s body (he had internal bleeding from being repeatedly hit in the stomach with the handle of the sickle), I broke down in complete misery and terror, and my father threw them out of the house after telling them exactly what he thought of them. That was the extent of the support the police gave me. No charges were brought. The police recorded a statement that we had gone for a walk and had been “delayed” on our return.
It has been almost three years now, but there has not been even one day, when I have not been haunted by what happened. Insecurity, vulnerability, fear, anger, helplessness—I fight these constantly. Sometimes when I am walking on the road and hear footsteps behind I start to sweat and have to bite my lip to keep from screaming. I flinch at friendly touches, I can’t bear tight scarves that feel like hands round my throat, I flinch at a certain look that comes into men’s eyes—that look is there so often.
Yet in many ways I feel that I am a stronger person now. I appreciate my life more than ever. Every day is a gift. I fought for my life, and won. No negative reaction can make me stop feeling that this is positive.
I do not hate men. It is too easy a thing to do, and many men are victims of different kinds of oppression. It is patriarchy I hate, and that incredible tissue of lies that say men are superior to women, men have rights which women should not have, men are our rightful conquerors.
My feminist friends all assume that I am concerned about women’s issues because I was raped. This is not so. The rape was one expression of all the reasons why Iam a feminist. Why compartmentalize rape ? Why assume rape is only an unwanted act of intercourse ? Are we not raped every day when we walk down the street and are leered at ? Are we not raped when we are treated as sex objects, denied our rights,oppressed in so many ways ? The oppression of women cannot be analysed unidimensionally. For example, a class analysis is very important, but it does not explain why most rapes occur within one’s own class.
As long as women are oppressed in various ways, all women will continue to be vulnerable to rape. We must stop mystifying rape. We must acknowledge its existence all round us, and the various forms it takes. We must stop shrouding it in secrecy, and must see it for what it is — a crime of violence in which the rapist is the criminal.
I am exultant at being alive. Being raped was terrible beyond words, but I think being alive is more important. When a woman is denied the right to feel this, there is something very wrong in our value system. When someone is mugged and allows herself to be beaten in order to survive, no one thinks she is guilty of willing consent to be beaten. In the case of rape, a woman is asked why she let them do it, why she did not resist, whether she enjoyed it.
Rape is not specific to any group of women, nor are rapists a particular group of men. A rapist could be a brutal madman or the boy next door or the too friendly uncle. Let us stop treating rape as the problem of other women. Let us acknowledge its universality and come to a better understanding of it.
Until the basis of power relationships in this world changes, until women cease to be regarded as the property of men, we will have to live in constant fear of being violated with impunity.
I am a survivor. I did not ask to be raped and I did not enjoy it. It was the worst torture I have ever known. Rape is not the woman’s fault, ever. This article is one contribution towards exploding the silence and the comfortable myths which we build up to convince ourselves we are not potential victims, thus consigning actual victims to the most agonizing isolation a human being can know.
 ( This article has been reproduced from archives of Manushi, and was written in 1983)
Today, Sohaila writes, reads and walks. She has published two novels, The Madwoman of Jogare and Year of the Tiger; three children’s books; and numerous short stories, essays, news reports, blogs, columns, manuals, and just about every form of written material, which is in direct contradiction to her devotion to trees.