Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not A Protest March (and some badly taken photos)

It all started at the Mandi House metro station. 
A Freedom Parade to parallel the Republic Day parade that had just wrapped up down the road. 
That parade had had big guns, this parade had big ideals. The recently released Justice Verma Committee report needed to implemented. 
Unfortunately, the Home Ministry website seemed to have 'misplaced' it, which made it difficult for the government or political leaders to take action. So somebody had to point the right direction...

(Incidentally, if you're looking for the Justice Verma Committee report, lookey here! It's been found!!)

Of all the protest/ freedom marches I've ever been on, this had the best slogans. The theme of 'Bekhauf Azaadi' (Freedom Without Fear) was extended to:

Azaadi: Night or day, on deserted roads & crowded, at home and at work, with family or strangers etc.

Azaadi from: sexual violence, from the insensitivities of the police & politicians, from the nonsense of Asaram Bapu, Abhijeet Mukherjee, Botsa Satyanarayana and Mohan Bhagwat, from patriarchy, from a broken justice system etc.

Azaadi to: be born, to study, to roam freely, to have aspirations, to marry and (my personal favourite) to not marry.

There were strident calls for 'nyay' or justice for Delhi, Kashmir, Manipur, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh, Haryana etc. For each and every known & unknown victim of sexual violence - male or female, straight or gay or transgendered.

There was absolute clarity on the amount of tolerance for apathy & inaction: Zero.

The crowds were a mixed bag. 

From leading activists and Twitter celebs (not in image...what is this? Us Weekly?) to regular Joes and what Chetan Bhagat might call 'The Fours' (I don't know about 'taking them along' CB, they giggle a lot when they chant 'Azaadi!')

Time came to get moving from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar (Delhi's 'Outrage Central'). The crowds promised to be orderly but not everyone was convinced.

They needn't have worried. 
There was a strict single file policy when crossing vehicular traffic and an overall policy of not wanting to be pains-in-the-asses.

At Jantar Mantar, we were all asked to sit right down on the road. 

There were powerful speeches made - most memorably by Kavita Krishnan, who introduced us to each of the names on our posters, who had yet to recieve justice. Collectively, we acknowledged all the unknown victims of sexual violence (much like the 'Unknown Soldier' at whose memorial, the Indian PM placed a wreath every 26th January).

She briefed us on the salient points of the Justice Verma Committee report and asked all those gathered there to self-reflect and confront the patriarchical mindset, fear & insecurities (why does 'freedom for all' threaten so many of us?) that reside in all of us.

Then she emceed a delightful medal-giving ceremony for the 'Mardaangi Maryada' brigade (Asaram Bapu & co. who had distinguished themselves as the 'Balaadkaar Defence Team') proving that feminism could also be fun.

There were a few more speeches, poetry and singing before people began to disperse. 
It had been a peaceful public gathering - peaceful not just for the lack of lathis, water cannons or tear gas, but peaceful in discourse while being forceful in intent. As someone who had observed the steady disintegration of the anti-corruption movement into an anti-government one, I was gratified and extremely proud of this campaign.

Everyone there agreed that getting the people in high places to take the Verma Committee report seriously (or even just put it up on their website) would be a long haul. So there was a call to regroup the next month and the next and the next.

As the crowd slowly peeled off to return home, we passed another dharna. Hardly any women in the group but lots of fervour.
It called for justice.
It called for the 6 Delhi gangrape accused to be hanged (With trial? Without trial?).
It called for us to 'Follow on Facebook to Save our Sisters'.

And one couldn't help but go - Ah, democracy! Happy bloody Republic Day.

Happy Republic Day (or the Justice Verma Committee Report)

 The constitutional guarantee of the right to equality....

(Urgency of response) from everyone in the world except those who are supposed to act on it....

If the politicians and others don't see the writing on the wall....the people of this country, particularly the youth, will not forgive them...

If there is a murderer or rapist, do you think he's going to support a law that culls murder or rape?....

In 29 days....if we could gear up a bunch of youngsters to help us, the government with all its might & infrastructure if it can't do that, it would be exposing itself to the criticism of lack of capacity to govern...

For anyone to think that sexual assault would in anyway be associated with the performance of any official task, well, needs to think again....there is something radically wrong with that thinking....

If the DGPs (Director-Generals of Police) didn't respond...thinking they are insulting me or my committee, they are living in a make believe world because it goes to show their apathy to their duty....and the issue of gender justice, which is the constitutional right of every woman in the country...

If there are such insensitive people to this important cause holding the highest office, a serious, prompt review of each of them is required....

Talking about police (and electoral) reforms - isn't it related to gender issues? Anyone who says we exceeded the brief must be having a very narrow vision...


Sometimes, when someone in a place of authority speaks simply & logically, the supreme-level bullshit rhetoric and dangerous platitudes offered to us by others suddenly become exposed and we're reminded that we can't afford to get tied up in knots anymore.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Loyalty - II

I'm set to be presented a Kindle in a couple of months and ever since I learned this, I've been devoting a few minutes of each day to stare at my cupboard full of books. I've decided to get rid of most of them, especially the ones I've only read once, even if they've been gifted. I'm pretty nifty like that, doesn't take much time for me to sift through objects and decide which ones are relevant, which ones aren't. My nostalgia is nuanced, ruthlessly honed to a fine-tipped craft. Most things will not make the cut.
(My generation has had to say a lot of goodbyes in quick succession to the things we built our lives around. I have a feeling the next lot will find it easier to use & throw.)

So anyway, I've been spending more time off the computer and reading books, hoping my fingers will remember their weight and crinkle long after I give them away, even though I know it won't matter a few months, years and decades from now. I'm disciplining myself to read with more care - my attention wanders disastrously nowadays. I'm preparing for loss and this preparation is bringing new joy into my life.

Everyday I will stare at my cupboard full of books, pick one and say goodbye. 
Maybe the books will be gone, but the cupboard - the one that used be in my grandfather's house - will remain.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Like the kind we feel for bands, which have had the big hits and are now churning out mediocre music that we can't stop listening to because the sound has gotten into our blood and we get it now. There's a sense of comfort we draw from this music, which no longer labours to be understood and comes from a more honest place. We wouldn't dare admit we miss the gimmickry and all the times they tried so hard to please us or that that was magic too.

Shellac Disc Changer

Thursday, January 10, 2013

There Will Be A Revolution

She takes a walk along her favourite road. It rises and falls with the dying swells of hill now replaced with asphalt and half-built shopping malls. She likes that even from kilometres away and despite the fog, she can still see her destination; growing taller in encouragement as she gains ground.
Today is different in a sense. For the first time in a long while, she’s aware of how quickly this road can turn. Four years ago, a young journalist was murdered here; on account of being female, some conjectured. Then two weeks ago, it was this road that carried a busload of criminals and two hapless victims to their dastardly fate – an outcome most attributed to one of them being female. 

The volume is turned up on her music player but she can still spy the de rigueur obscenities hurled from rolled-down windows as cars speed away - so quickly that only she will benefit from the enraged middle finger she launches into the fog. In spite of the refreshing cold, she’s just not in the mood today.

A few yards ahead, a white taxi stops. Windows tinted (always illegal, even more so today), exhaust pipe vomiting black fumes. Two men stumble out. Not being pedestrian friendly, this road is often the next best thing to a urinal. Men Only, of course.

One of them doesn’t even bother walking into the bushes. He simply steps out of the vehicle and begins to unbutton, right in her path. Oh for fuck’s sake, she mutters, not today. He fumbles with his zip, whipping out his penis as she approaches him. He hasn’t even noticed there’s a person standing next to him. 

Kya kare rahe ho?” she yells, hoping to shame him into complying with the rules of decency.

He doesn’t move an inch. His eyes are fixed on his crotch. He still can’t seem to find his grip.

Besharam! This is a public road!” she tries again. For someone doing the shaming, she’s beginning to feel awfully sheepish. And now scared, as he lifts his listless gaze to look at her. The man is clearly high on something.  

He sneers, “Chal hat, saali.”

She takes a step back, speechless. Her facial muscles sag as she finds herself bringing her hands together, her palms joined in offering. It’s a platter serving up all of her: 30 odd years of living, loving, doing and being. 30 odd years of hugs collected from friends & family, souvenirs collected on travels, pats on the back, letters of appreciation, tears when a loved one – or a love – died. Money earned, savings made, taxes paid. Secrets kept and books read. Theories learned, experience gained. Exemplary traits, stubborn flaws, absurd quirks and every promise still to make good. Every time she felt strong. And every single time her body was up for grabs in a crowd, in an office, in a home, on a road. All up on a platter for this man wielding his penis.

To which he draws back his full concentration. She sidles past him. Looking back she spits out a filthy word. An insult born from the belly of misogyny, which, until the world changes, will continue to feel oh-so-good as it leaves her lips. She doesn’t wait for his reaction. She’s on foot and he’s got a white taxi with tinted windows. But she doesn’t speed up either. She’s just not in the mood today.

She takes refuge in the quiet aisles of a big & bright retail shop. Behind closed eyes, she makes her movie. In it, an enormous medieval cauldron filled with water is boiling over an insensed fire, flames slapping against searing hot metal. The bubbling of water is punctuated with theatrical splashes as rows upon rows of men are flung into it, naked as they came. Their wails of anguish & torture echo through her cranium and she takes in a long drag of air. “There will be a revolution,” she mutters, “and then they will kn- - - “

“Excuse, madam. Excuse, excuse.”
A tiny shopgirl gently nudges her to the side, impatient yet restrained.
She’ll have to move; it seems she’s been blocking the dandruff shampoo.