Archive for January, 2014

In the previous weekend, I went to a leading Pizza outlet to quench the sudden craving I was having for Mushroom pizza. The guys sitting in my adjacent table seemed all drained out IT professionals who were out for a casual chit-chat. As the attendant came with a menu towards me, their conversation turned to the recent Kidderpore gang rape of 21 year old female who was a housekeeping staff of a renowned shopping mall.  “But I heard that she was out till 9:30 PM. What was she doing so late?” asked one of the ‘decent’ men of the group who was having pasta with fork in his left hand and spoon in his right hand. Just the way it should be–perfect and according to the protocol.
“Even though she was working, still girls should not take so much risk with their safety. I am sure she must be drunk or waiting for her boyfriend at the bus stand when she was pulled in the car.” remarked another man from the bunch of friends who seemed proficient enough for moral policing classes. The kind of lengths they went to bulldoze the character of the woman was atrocious. Finally some more heads started nodding in agreement. Unable to control my rage by then, I shot back “Next time your sister is groped in public, the police should first scrutinize her morals,” and left the outlet without placing any order. They kept on blabbering to support their arguments, but I didn’t pay any heed to the denouement.
And these are the men whom we see wearing suits and sauntering in swanky offices.  If this is the mindset of ‘educated’ Indian men then imagine the conversations of poor, uneducated labourers who have an innate outlook to see women either pregnant or making chapattis. I am not here to point fingers at Indian men in general, but if statistics are an indicator, an Indian woman gets raped or molested every 3 minutes.  Many theories float to explain the perversion of Indian men; right from access to pornography to less stringent legal system. Nevertheless, if this is the case then Las Vegas or Holland should have highest statistics of frequent rape cases. But, this is not the case.  India leads this issue unapologetically.
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Every time women in this country step out of their home, they flirt with death instead of men.  No one is certain whether or not she will be able to come back the same way as she left. Clearly something is wrong. The dynamics of men and women have always been sensitive, but of late the feeling of compassion has slipped into coma. We are becoming less understanding and more judgmental. As far as I can think the problem lies in hypocrisy. We refrain from talking about sex and yet the population of our country is 1.27 billion. Only an oppressed society can give birth to crimes. If you try to put every burning issue in closet rather than talking about it then naturally the desirability associated with it increases by leaps and bounds. We talk about FDI, drinking water, economic reforms then why we feel uncomfortable to talk about sex education or ways to curb the diabolical attitude of men.
In fact, the previous year’s Tejpal molestation case only triggered ‘elevator jokes’ amongst working men and women. Why it is so difficult for us to take up a serious issue and have a mature discussion about it? This reason is again the same thing- the apprehension related with an adult topic. So, we try to divert the topic into some ‘harmless’ humour. I feel this fear and uneasiness is the only thing that is stopping our women from blossoming. It is good to be seeped in culture, but getting confined to it creepy. If women start reacting to chauvinist remarks instantly –whether at workplace or in college- we would save ourselves from unwanted physical encounters later on.
Apart from trying to be physically strong, it is wise to discuss things openly instead of thinking that it will tarnish our image or put ourselves to shame. You can read fifty shades of grey in your bedroom, but later claim it is not your type! Articles like this can preach you to demand death penalty for the offenders, object to offensive jokes that demean women, demand censorship on item numbers, but nothing will change until amendment is brought inside. As we are approaching International women’s day in a month, I wonder how many more rapes will happen till then, how many case ‘numbers’ will be highlighted by the media and how many glasses will be clinked at restaurants while discussing morals of women. After all, GPS and CCTV cannot be installed in a human mind.


Posted: January 28, 2014 in Personal

“You don’t sound like a Bengali. Where are you from?” A middle aged gym friend asked me panting on a treadmill. By now, I am quiet accustomed to be lacerated with such remarks or queries. Although I abhor when the conversation harps to crass detailing of origin, very little can be done when your father has been an integral part of armed services wherein as a defense kid you had to relocate to new locations after every three to four years.  Of course, I have no complains to it! But, in the last decade –now it seems to me-I have dedicated endless hours in explaining people from where do I actually belong from.
If I indulge in deep analysis, it would not be wrong to say that I have always been an outsider; first an outsider to Maharashtra, followed by Rajasthan and then finally Punjab. In all the states, I was embraced with much needed love and affection. But, one thing remains common- I have always been an outsider to their culture. No matter how much you try to learn the language, it is difficult to penetrate deep into any culture, especially if you don’t belong to them and are supposed to reside there for merely 2-3 years.  The avalanches of uncertainties regarding your inclination towards a certain culture or language burgeon with every passing year. While you can dance in the Ganpati Visarjan, fast in Karwa Chauth or groove to Dandiya beats-it cannot be ignored that you do not possess significant knowledge about it despite being in the city for couple of years.
So, when I had convinced myself that I am a Bengali who is residing out of her city, and is serving the purpose of being a torchbearer of her culture to other people, my father gets retired and we settle down to Kolkata permanently. All this while, I went rah-rah about “my” so called Bengali language and culture in front of my non-Bengali friends. But, my world came crashing down when I got the flavour of truth. Upon joining college here, I was regularly pointed out and questioned for my typical “hindi style” Bengali accent. Yes, I couldn’t speak my language as fluently as others. Even if I spoke, the glare let me know that my accent was something different. To be precise, something of an OUTSIDER! It seemed everything I knew was just a figment of my imagination.
My mind indulged in constant emotional tug of war as I couldn’t even understand the basic Bengali sense of humour.  This is when the phase of identity crisis struck me. Was I a Bengali or a “Punjabi type” looking Bengali? How do I communicate to people? How do I survive in this city or any other city for that matter? Is there any city which actually belongs to me? No! This thought itself was rubbing me off.  One thought just occurred to me and suddenly all the jigsaw puzzles started falling in place. I realized that a piece of driftwood is may be an extension of several defense kids like me who do not stick to one place for a significant time.  Although we are masked as an outsider, we are able to adjust and adapt to anyone in minutes like a cog in the wheel. Unlike local civilians, we do not struggle with words to talk to people outside our state. I have the steering wheel in my hands and I can steer it anywhere I want.
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 I always had friends who had great things to say about their locality or state. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t have to go to the vindication mode ever because all the states are equal to me.  I can criticize or praise a city as bluntly as I want without sparking any hullabaloo. So, I can enjoy Dhokla as smoothly with Gujju’s as I can relish Aalo ka Paratha with large-hearted Punjabi’s; I can also invite my friends over to have scrumptious Mishit-Doi, and can have Idli when on a diet.  Yes, I am an outsider who can see through you and evaluate things much easily than others.  When my chips are down, I can read an intellectual Bengali detective book, and I can also dance to Amrinder Gill’s song. I always had something to fall back on. Not many people are blessed with such mental bandwidth. I am no more into the revolving door which was not taking me anywhere. I have learned to capitalize best on my strengths, which is frankly far more exotic than anyone! 😉
“I don’t know what qualifies as Bengali, but Ma’m I am a Bengali with multi colours.” I puffed with pride as I answered my fellow gym mate.

“Why always we have to suffer”? I retorted as my colleague told me its 8:15 pm and still there is no trace of train. We don’t know when the train is going to arrive.  Victory can be defined in many ways. For a cricketer it means winning a match, for an engineer it means completing a project, for a doctor it means saving a patient’s life. I too learned a new meaning of victory in Kolkata. Finding a place to stand in Metro and local train is no less than an Oscar (in fact more than that). Somehow over the years even I have joined the league of the Oscar award aspirant. Getting into train and reaching home safely without being crushed in the stampede is the aphorism of everyday. People in local trains have a world of their own. They will hit the fellow passengers, use malicious profanities for getting a seat, curse the government and finally get into redundant brawl with hawkers which is like hammering the last nail in the coffin. This is what I see every day.
Yesterday was nothing different from it. It was just 15 minutes left for the clock to strike at 9. “Two hours of our journey and still we haven’t reached anywhere! Today Local trains are a national shame!” I was just venting out my resentment by blabbering such words while my colleague just kept quiet with a poignant face. The eagerness of reaching home has dulled and the excitement now has a pale shadow. There is no end to this struggle. I just closed my eyes and repeated this line. We saw a dull shimmer of light at a distance and we know the train is coming. Hundreds of people just like me got ready to jump inside while some of them are gifted enough to fly in even before the train stops or perhaps that is what people call EXPERIENCE. Nevertheless we managed to get a place to stand in the corner. My dad called me to inform there was some technical problem in the train may be that is why the train is late. At every station the train came to a halt and was motionless like dead body for more than 20 minutes. There was no movement of train but no one can stop the time. We were really late. My dad and I involved ourselves in a chain of uncountable calls where he just wanted to know whether I am okay or not.
I kept abusing the West Bengal (Paschimbanga) government for having such a poor infrastructure. Something stopped me from doing it. I heard a man talking to someone on phone that a 12 year old kid was smashed under the train just a few hours before and that’s what the protest was about on each station. All of a sudden people stopped complaining and looked at each other. Their facial expression changed. For the first time I saw some compassion and humanity in them. All my criticism fell short in front of a kid losing his life. I thought that if my father is so much nervous when I didn’t reach home on time then what about that boy’s family. I had nothing to complain now.
   Sure tomorrow morning I am going to be the same but for today I learned my lesson:

       “I complained that I had no shoes, until I met someone who had no feet!