Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tradition - The loving term for Inertia


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t despise traditions, its the convenient usage of the word that really pisses me off. What exactly does the word tradition mean? Going back to the dictionary, here is what its definition will look like - 

an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior.

In lay person’s terms, it simply means the way things have been done or situations perceived -  from generation to generation.

We make traditions to create a sense of identity, a sense of purpose for the community or simply to come together in events of extreme emotions - happiness, Mourning, etc.. But there are times I really wonder if we make traditions or if the traditions make us.

Talking about the recent Jallikattu ban. We saw all sort of people coming together to protest against the banning of this centuries old ‘tradition’. I believe they felt that by banning the sport, the legacy of their ancestors would be taken away from them. That they will be lesser versions of themselves, if a few people from their state were not able to play that sport(yes, because only a few have the actual cheek to try and ride the bull).
But this logic of lost legacy applies to every tradition that was widely accepted and practiced but eventually was shunned by societies. Here is a tiny a list of traditions that were and some still are, practiced by many people across the world - 

  • Slavery
  • Caste System
  • Sati
  • Purdah
  • Polygamy
  • Child marriage
  • Widow ostracisation
  • Dowry System
  • Vaginal mutilation
  • In animal sports
    • Bull fighting
    • Cock fighting (perverts can smile here)
    • Dog fighting
    • many more..


Each of the above-mentioned traditions had and may still have millions of supporters, who must have seen or still see much merit in them continuing. But most of us now know, how out-of-tune, those people were or still are, with where the human civilization is heading. 

My whole point being, that no-one is crying or protesting because hundreds of traditional crafts that are getting lost because the new generation is not interested in learning them  No such reaction even for the languages and dialects that we are losing every year. Not one protest to save the environment or to save the thousands of plant and animal species being wiped off the face of the earth. Only because these traditions, practices, and organisms are dying a natural death at the hands of the changed environment and lifestyles. But we as a local community or the entire human civilization are able to survive any sort of identity crisis erupting from the end of these practices and traditions or the extinction(rather murder) of millions of unimportant(from the perspective of region and religion) species.

Will Diwali be less of a happy occasion than it has been because there are no fireworks? Will Holi’s meaning be lessened because the government banned throwing water balloons? Aren’t we all making up new traditions every year, within our own homes, our workplaces, and communities? Are the traditions associated with region and religion the only important ones? We tend to be quite logical and practical with the rest of the traditions that we introduce in our lives.

I would urge you to believe more in yourself and what you stand for, right inside the core. Once you do that everything else will seem ancillary, you will be more than the sum of your  - gender, financial status, region, religion and country.  Time to free yourself from these boxes that you did not choose to begin with, but have to spend the rest of your life defending or rationalising.

Monday, December 5, 2016

You know something is horribly wrong when ……. - #1

I am one of the people who can sense something amiss right in the beginning of a blunder. But I still keep telling myself that I am being paranoid and things might turn out just fine. Later, in most of the cases, when things just don’t turn out fine, I tend to think  - “Wow!! how did I know this beforehand?!!”  So given my vast experience in life and such things, I thought I’ll start a series imparting my pearls of wisdom that can act as life hacks for those who are still trying to put a finger on the cause behind that queasy feeling in their tummies.

Here is a first of many(yes! sorry in advance) such posts.

"You know something is horribly wrong when - the poster boy of development and the head of the state brags about the enterprising tactics of a beggar in his country.”


Disclaimer - This is NOT a political post. 
If I succeeded in riling you up, then I suggest a quick remedy - Replace the person you think I am talking about, with the head of another country of your choice. You might see the irony in his/her words. Incase you still are pretty agitated, here is another remedy - “Stop reading this, now!”

For the rest, whenever I will get that feeling of dread and I am able to figure out the cause behind it, you’ll see another of my posts here.  Till then you’ll need to figure out the world, all alone!

All the best!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Dear Nike - Da Da Ding, Thank you!!


Have you guys seen the new Nike ad?  The really long one, with only women in it? Lots of sporty, sweaty and badass women. (You can watch it here.)

Wow! The ad took my breath away…. My elder one, a girl, was also startled to see so many women, having fun, being focused, being crazy, yet looking great without wearing flouncy or skimpy dresses, makeup or even a smile. The music is also great, along with all the other aspects that go into making an ad film. Kudos to the team who created and approved an ad like this.

Did you know, with the sole exception of Deepika Padukone(who played Badminton professionally, but no more),all the other women in the ad are professional sportswomen? I didn’t know, I dug around to find that out. No wonder the ad looked so  real, their movements looked instinctive and not rehearsed. They looked like real sportspersons. Period.

The ad resonates completely with the Nike tagline  - “Just Do it!”. In the constantly objectified projection of women and their body parts, this ad is like the first drop of rain on parched,drought-ridden land. It was not about towing the line, being a good girl or a sex object or looking like a doll, but about doing your thing and doing it with full conviction.

I know there are be many people who would change the channel and comment about how advertising standards of Nike have gone south,for them to come up with such a girly ad. They would also be some who would find titillation looking at women running in slow motion with their navels exposed.
Then there will be some who would wonder out aloud, as to what is the future of all these women? How are they going to get married in respectable households and raise children? You know, the “settle down” question that even Wimbledon champions have to answer.
While I have don’t have a single gram(yes I only do SI units) of sympathy for their concerns but I do have answer for their entertainment needs, why don’t you stop watching the ad and go back to  Bhai movies, Porn and Saas Bahu soaps respectively.
On behalf of the rest few like me, who rejoice in this real and splendid portrayal of women, I thank Nike for this ad from the deepest core of my heart. 


Da da ding!! Da da ding! Da da ding!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Like a girl!

Recently my husband made me watch this video - Do things like a girl!, in which they ask people what is the meaning of doing something like a girl. It’s a nice one and I highly recommend that you watch it. In this video, anyone above the age of 8-9 knew that it was used as an insult. Boys even younger than that knew that they were being insulted when they were compared with girls. The video features mostly caucasian children, teens and young adults from USA but things aren’t better in India, in fact they are much worse. 

Religion tells us that if a man sins in a specific way in his current life, then he gets ‘punished' with the next birth as a woman.There are jokes across all geographies making fun of driving skills of women. “Be a man!”, “Man up!”, “Show us some balls!” all tell us that, to show courage and gumption, you have to stop behaving like a woman. Hindi language has extra provision of suggesting that someone is cowardly by saying that "they are wearing bangles” - directly indicating towards the gender associated with jewelry. 

Breezer' a light alcoholic drink, was deemed beneath drinking, by someone I know, because it is a 'ladies'' drink. During social occasions, women are often told off, in a light vein, to take part in 'lighter' and hence more suitable discussions than the heavy duty stuff only suited for the male mind. Crying - a form of anger and emotional release, is considered extremely weak and an effeminate trait. Shouting and beating people up - also forms of emotional and anger release aren’t as bad, rather manly and hence more acceptable. 

She is one of us guys”, is a compliment for a girl. She has won her place in a social group comprising of guys and they almost treat her like an equal. But analogous to it, if rarely a guy is called “One of us girls",  by a group of women, then he should prepare himself for some lifelong hammering by his male friends. It is a joke on him, that he will take to his pyre. 

Even the most eloquent of statesmen also fall victim to such use of language. Recently our esteemed Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, lauded Seikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, for acting tough on terror, ‘despite’ being a woman. Wow! She must feel on the top of the world. Mr. Amitabh Bachchan in his good intentions, pointed that we can call our daughters  - 'Beta', but we can’t call our sons - 'Beti'. He meant how special his daughter is for him, but it made me think about what would people think of a person who lovingly called his/her son 'Beti'. “Crazy!” Right? It sounds like an insult and not a loving moniker.

But, this is just the top micron, of the tip, of the iceberg of insults, associated with the female gender. In my opinion it is a full blown research topic.
True that our generation did not invent these phrases, idioms or sayings. They have been handed over to us by generations, some of which even equated women with cattle. Many of us use them unmindful of what they truly imply or indicate. But every time we use a phrase like this, we are not only insulting all the strong, intelligent, wise and fun women who fill our lives but we are also propagating another cycle of this verbal abuse. Let’s try and use our words consciously, we owe that to our daughters, if no one else.

Also, if there is a wise-ass reading this, who knows not a single woman worthy of being called strong or intelligent, who does not consider his mother, sisters, wife, daughters, colleagues or friends in either of the categories, clearly he has wasted his time reading my blog. I suggest he go back to his Playboy or Hustler or whatever cutting edge literature he frequently ‘sees'  …


Friday, July 24, 2015

Dear Roshini

Dear Roshini,

How is my little pudding doing? I know, I know, you’re all grown up now and you don’t like being addressed like this, but I can’t help calling you such silly names.  You maybe surprised or even shocked to hear from me now, that too not one-to-one at home but here in college that too after long vacations. I always felt that letters were the best way to express your deepest and most stable feelings.  The fact that the receiver can hold them in their hands and read them again and again is an added advantage.

The most  important bit in this whole message is that “I Love you”. You are the most important person in my life and there is nothing that I won’t do for you. You have given me unimaginable joys in simple things and I thank you for being part of my life. I have been proud of you the moment I set my eyes on you as a newborn and I am proud of you today.

Feels odd, to write a letter to my own daughter telling her my feelings.We have lived together all these years and I have held you in my arms everyday. You should already know most about me and I think I know much about you. Yes, even about the tattoo on your bum. 
But still I wanted to write to you my love. I wanted this extra connection between you and me that may outlive both of us.It makes our relationship a bit more tangible, doesn’t it?
You being a girl of current times, may say that even emails are tangible. After all one can hold a cellphone anytime and access the email. But to me email is even more impersonal than a typed letter. I don’t get to choose the paper, it’s color or texture, I don’t get to use a pen of my liking, I don’t get to write in my own handwriting and I don’t get to perfume it with the fragrance that is dearest to me.

Your father and I used to write a lot of letters to each other during our courtship days. The letters used to carry the intense fragrance of our new love and light scent of our perfumes. You may not be able to tell that by looking at us lately, but those letters, still in my study’s locker are a testimony to that fact that those days were real and so were the emotions. Like most things love is also transient having it’s high’s and lows and unfortunately our highs ended in our youth.

My own family had been my pillar of strength through the extreme lows in our marriage and you sensed that too. Your grandparents and uncle were always there for me, loving me, running errands for me, whenever I needed them. My brother, your uncle Paritosh, from being the silly little boy of my childhood, became my man Friday and my confidant. 
There was a point of time when I used to think what I would do without his support. My career and the growth of company was all thanks to him. Even at home he had been most resourceful and helped me juggle my work and family quite well.  There was a time when I could not have imagined living without his support, his encouragement and most importantly his brotherly affection.

It seemed so surreal, reading your journal from years ago where you mentioned how you didn’t like being held by Paari and then another where he touched you while you slept off on the sofa while watching a movie with him. I couldn’t believe my eyes and had to read those entries again and again to accept, what had happened. Sorry honey, I was not meaning to pry, but your recent rebellious streak left me in a very fragile mental state. I needed to understand why this distance had come between you and me. Looking back I was able to put the pieces together and explain why you avoided him in the past few years. Why there was always a class or a friend to be visited whenever there was an occasion to meet with him. Clearly I had not been the best mother, my neediness and dependence on my family must have been a more recognizable trait than of a protective parent. How I wish I could unwind the clock and prevent this from happening or at least make it stop as  early as possible.How I wish it were me to whom you had confided in and I who had put a stop to this. But I am thankful to your friends and to that tattoo for giving you courage and confidence that succeeded in getting rid of his clutches.

Your father is a good man Roshni, but something broke between us a very long time ago. I could not go to him with this. I was too coward even to accept to you that I knew. But knowing this I couldn’t sit still. How could I pretend that this never happened? That the person I trusted the most in my life and most importantly with my own child, could breach that trust in the most diabolical manner. I had a very hard time in reconciling with the fact that this dreadful thing happened to you and my blind trust in someone not worthy, had a role to play in it’s occurrence. The more he expressed his affection for me or you, the more my hatred for him increased. I could have confronted him outrightly but that would not have served any purpose other than telling the world about what had happened to you. Moreover he was more resourceful and useful than me in social circles, eventually it would have been my word against his and I know how that would have ended.

You can say I went crazy and started to look for other ways to teach him a lesson. For many months I couldn’t find a way that was befitting and also didn’t implicate me. But then my prayers were answered in one single word, called - Dimethylmercury. Pretty interesting chemical that. I had a really difficult time getting hold of this thing but our Nepal trip was a ploy to get it. Wow! what a hard time I had trying to convince you and your father to travel back by train and road. Anyway, using it was no problem at all. Paritosh was helping me in the garden, we were both wearing gloves, just that mine were not plain rubber gloves. I supposedly spilled a few of it’s drops on his hands which he didn’t even notice.

Then began the longest few months of my life. I knew that the poison took very long to show symptoms but I was getting impatient and well as paranoid. I started to wonder if the day would ever come? If I had bought the right thing? If it were pure? If Paari has super human capabilities to process a poison like that. You must appreciate my acting skills those few months. I remained the guillible, loving elder sister to him despite my inner hatred and anxieties. I had already begun to hatch my next plan to kill him, convinced that the last one had failed, when his symptoms started to show. He started getting sick, feeling numb, loosing vision along with other things. You must remember me being there for him and his family during his sick days. I nursed him, fed him, giving breaks to his tired,clueless and very thankful wife. I wanted to be close to him, to be sure that he was dying.They did detect it as mercury poising eventually, but the therapies to remove mercury from his body didn’t help much. It was established that he was going to die and I now only had to tell him the reason why he was suffering so much. As much as I wanted to rub it in his face and tell him before he became incoherent, I also had to avoid the situation where he could inform others and had me reported. 
Days went by and Paari became very religious and always wanted to hear shlokas or mantras recited to him. I always took care to subtly read to him the shlokas talking about one’s karma and how it comes to haunt us. How coming clean about one’s bad deeds can lead to salvation. In the mornings when he asked me to read newspaper to him I would carefully scoop out the stories about children getting abused by their relatives and express my shock at how someone can do it to an innocent child. I would wrap it up, by cursing those people and wishing that they be poisoned to death. It seemed that eventually Paritosh started to suspect. He would often ask me about you. He would also ask me if I thought he would go to heaven or hell? Not wanting to bite his bait I would tell him that he should have faith in his deeds and the purity of this thoughts. They will lead him to the place that is right for him. The ambiguity in my answers seemed to disturb him. He would get agitated and would sulk for hours. This game went on for many days, but hen he seemed to grow tired of it and kept quite. His health was also failing him in many ways and he was almost at the brink of death. A few days before he died he said to me, “Didi,  maybe you think what I have done is unthinkable or unforgivable. But if there was ever a moment of true brother and sister connect between us. If you think that there is one good deed that I have done in my life, then I beg you never to reveal to my family about the reason for my suffering. I can’t tell you why I did, what I did. I myself don’t know. I am not even sorry about it. I am sorry that I am dying like this. My children are young, they deserved better.” 
When he said this, his words just bounced off my head. Seeing him getting emotional, I assured him that his children and his wife will always love him like they have done so far. I came back home that day, emotionally drained and feeling a hint of guilt. Feigning bad health I didn’t visit him for a couple of days and then the news of his death came. 
I had imagined a sense of euphoria  coming over me when I hear this news. Reality was much different from imagination, I felt no happiness or relief when I heard of Paari’s passing. Instead of a climatic retribution, I felt my sense of loss deepening further. It was as if someone had cast a darker shadow upon me. The false sense of purpose that I had cultivated while killing him was suddenly gone and it left behind the emptiness that reminded me every second of my failures as a mother and now as a sister and a human being. Avenging my own daughter I had created two children who further deserved vengeance. 
You are my daughter and quite aware of my failings as an individual.Courage has never been one of my virtues and you should know better than blaming yourself for what will happen a few days from today. I have been thinking about it all long, ever since Paari died. Seeing him suffer so much for so long I have developed an aversion to poisons.  As I was thinking of better ways to achieve my goal, you had already started to plan for our annual vacation. You may blame yourself for picking up Jog waterfalls as one of the destinations. But the idea of going there was subtly planted in your head by me. I was the one who told you do something different, go to beaches , mountains and maybe a waterfall. I was the one who steered your mind towards Karnataka that offers all those things.

I have also arranged for this letter to be posted from my office only after a delay of 3 days. That will give me leeway to stop it from starting it’s long journey to you, in case I lose courage again. The fact that you are reading this letter today implies that I have been successful at jumping to my death at the Jog falls. But it would have looked like an accident, I don’t want to leave you or your father in a legal mess. If there is something that I want to give you my darling, then it is the sense of closure.  I punished the man responsible for the darkness in your life. I am proud of that. 
I don’t know if Paari deserved a punishment as severe as death but I certainly did.
I seek forgiveness from you for not being there when you needed me the most and for not being there whenever you’ll need me in future. 

You can treat this letter as my confession or a suicide note or both. But to me it is the closing of the dark chapters in your life.

Goodbye Darlin’! Thank you for being the brightest and shiniest light of my life.

Love,

Mumma

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pose like you mean it

Have you ever wondered about the way people pose for pictures these days? No I don't mean to point at that goofy guy or gal who puts a "V" sign behind someone's head. That has been happening since the inception of photography. I am talking specifically about the way people pose for pictures especially since it became viable and also 'cool' to click and share pictures using cellphone cameras.

I have observed a pattern of poses, especially with the younger crowd.  The girls/women are generally pouting, unnaturally with their pout sizes ranging from Angenlina Jolie right till Late Sh. Narsimha Rao.


If not the pout then you'd see the duck face which is also quite very popular amongst both the genders.



The cheeks are sucked in(intentionally) and one hand is on the waist. Atleast one of the legs is bent, if not both, giving the girl a very strange and unnatural posture. It's almost as if they are trying to take the least possible space on the ground.





The eyes are enlarged, again consciously, to give a "I am desirable and I see you seeing me" look(See Priyanka Chopra's pic above). Also popular amongst girls is the mouth open and licking-the-upper-lip pose.




The boys/men don't do the bent leg thing, they claim their space on the ground and still believe that they are desirable. But then they resort to other things like fist pumps, the rock star demonic or peace signs.



Also popular amongst guys is the pose where they are looking away from the camera, usually down, with their hand on the neck.


Raising eyebrows is also common amongst both the genders and so is wearing sunglasses on the nose with eyes peering above them.


To me these pictures seem to be newer versions of the yesteryear pictures where the girl showed the henna on her hands, or when she posed with her face between her wrists with bangles or when men posed wearing suits looking far away into the horizon:






In both the cases it feels like the picture subjects have been trying toooooo.. hard. Only the definition of cool seems to have changed, but in both the cases - Pretty girls end up looking like wannabes and  good looking guys end up looking like creeps.

By the way, how do you get your pics clicked?

Image Sources:
  • https://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/8-tips-pink-lips-naturally-000304791.html
  • http://jbob1390.deviantart.com/art/Popular-Girl-Poses-The-Neck-Break-442501076
  • http://article.wn.com/view/2015/04/08/Politicians_posing_for_and_being_caught_in_selfies/#
  • http://layzeebee.com/22-overused-selfies-not-expected-2015/
  • http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?models=225031&context_photo=18868339
  • http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-207279304/isthatjessiej/photos
  • https://www.pinterest.com/erincolson1/i-love-photography-seniors-boys/
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8687002.stm
  • http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-topless-young-man-posing-hands-behind-head-closeup-portrait-holding-both-back-his-looking-camera-image32079276
  • http://www.gettyimages.in/detail/photo/smiling-bridal-woman-posing-royalty-free-image/464741037
  • http://www.shutterstock.com/s/india+dance/search.html
  • http://dylanmoranforum.yuku.com/topic/1471/MEN-other-than-DYLAN-we-FANCY?page=62#.VZNyP2SeDGc
  • http://www.slate.com/articles/life/gentleman_scholar/2013/04/how_to_take_a_selfie_for_men.html

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Skin



“Sonali……………, Sonali…….. Get some vegetables for dinner.” cried her mother. She was feeling under the weather today and hence wanted Sonali to make that short trip to the local market. This was a rare occurrence, since her husband had asked everyone, to not send Sonali outside their house for avoidable reasons. She was her father’s darling daughter, but his love for her was limited by his view of the society and how women and girls need to be treated/protected by the men of the family.

Sonali’s face lit-up on hearing this, but soon she felt guilty for feeling happy at her mother’s health's expense. She got up from her bed where she was working on her B.A assignments, combed her hair in a way that her mother wouldn’t make out that they were freshly combed. She found her dupatta and slowly pleated it over her bosom, as she had been doing for the past many years. She gave herself that last glance and her eyes met her mother’s in the mirror.  Mother screamed again - “You are going to get vegetables, no point looking like a hoor. Now go quickly, before it gets dark or else you’ll put both me and yourself in trouble with your father.”
Sonali rushed out of the room and bumped into the new wall that had come up in their compound. “I’ll never get used to this.” She said to herself as she rubbed her forehead while staring at the incongruous and hideous structure that now divided her childhood home into two exact halves. Her elder brother, Vijjuu - Vijay, lived in the other half with his wife and two children. 
“Now what has happened?” asked her mother, as Sonali stood before the brick wall, open mouthed. 
“Nothing. Will be back soon” she said, while going out. As she closed the gate behind her, she saw her brother hurriedly getting on his motorbike. She said 'Namaste' to him, her eyes lowered. As was the case usually these days, he seemed angry and rode off without responding to her. 
She started to walk towards the market in quick , hurried steps quite aware of the impending dusk. On her way she saw some of her friends coming back from college and waved at them. After exchanging quick helloes, she promised to meet them later since currently she had to run an errand and rush back home. Her friends understood, they knew all about her father and his strict ways. He was the reason why despite being a bright student, Sonali was doing her graduation via distance learning and not from a regular college.

Sonali moved on and as soon as she  was about to enter the market area, she adjusted her dupatta again. She had to remain and appear modest at all times, especially in the market, she doubted every male who passed her.  At the vegetable stall, Sonali exchanged greetings with the vegetable seller. Since her mother was his loyal customer, he serviced her order before others. It was almost dark and Sonali turned to go home. From the market she took the right turn which lead to the narrow lane. Her own house's lane was at the end of this one. Five minutes walk and she would be home and her father wouldn’t even know about it. 
As she walked, she saw a green tempo (a big, covered autorickshaw) parked in the side encroaching almost all the space of the narrow lane. “Now there is going to be a big jam as soon as even a single bike passes through.”, she thought.  Two guys were smoking bidis standing next to it. Sonali stiffened on seeing them and quickened her step. Just as she was about to pass them, both of them threw their bidis and pounced on her. The taller one pushed her inside the back side of the auto and jumped in it with her. The other one closed the doors to the backside and her world went dark. Sonali was paralyzed with fear, but still her body was throwing punches and kicking hard, her mind on the other hand was completely numb. What was going on, was this really happening? She continued to kick and punch in the air, but eventually the guy, who had been grappling with her, got his aim in the dark, punched her hard on the nose and she passed out. 

Consciousness came and went, but all the time the vehicle in which she was captured, remained in motion. Her hands and feet were tied and she was lying sideways in pitch darkness. The space in which she was lying no longer seemed to be as small as that of a tempo rickshaw. This seemed to be a bigger vehicle, but with her state of mind and the lack of light, she couldn’t say. To her it seemed that she had been drifting in and out of consciousness for eternity, but in reality only eight hours had elapsed. Her captors had kidnapped her from a small bylane in Najafgarh, in the outskirts of Delhi. From there, they rode the tempo rickshaw to a dark farmhouse near Kapasehra border of Delhi. There she was moved to a lorry which was meant to carry refrigerated goods. The lorry took her to a small village in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, where they took her to a deserted house.   On reaching there, the driver and his helper opened the doors to the lorry. It was still dark outside and Sonali was awake that time. Trying to make sense of the events that had just unfolded she started to blabber, “Bhaisaab, why are you doing this? Bhaisaab, Please let me go! What have I done to you? My parents would die worrying for me! ” But the two guys moved her from the lorry to the old abandoned house like they were moving a corpse. They threw her inside a room and closed it from outside and then locked another door on the outside. She heard the lorry go and all became quiet. The darkness of the night was as black as it’s silence was deafening.  Sonali finally realized that her captors were gone and started shouting and screaming for help. She screamed and sobbed but her shouts and cries got diffused in the dry, hot and morbid air of her room. Not a soul stirred outside, not even a bird, even an insect sound would have given her some assurance. But all was quiet.

She tried to understand why this was happening to her. She was dressed modestly, her salwar suit was loose fitting, her dupatta was covering her chest properly. The neckline of the suit was very conservative and she wasn’t even wearing kajal.  She had done nothing to “incite” anyone, as her father had often said of the girls to whom bad things had happened. Then why was this happening to her? She did not have any enemies, she barely had a social circle, no boyfriends, ex or otherwise. Her father and his ways were well known even for any secret admirers. She started to feel a little relieved. “They’ve got the wrong girl. Yes, it has to be. Let them come back and realize their mistake. It was dark when they got me and it has been dark ever since. When they come back in the morning they will realize what a big blunder they have made.” 
Morning came soon, her head was spinning, and her nose hurt like hell. On and off she shouted for help but there were no sounds around and she got the impression that she was in the middle of nowhere. The room in which she was locked had a door which was locked from outside and a window which was also closed. With her tied hands she tried in vain to open it. Some light got inside via the crevice along the window and the room and it’s silhouettes became less dark. After growing tired of shouting and crying, she lay there waiting for her fate.  After many hours, she heard the lorry stop a bit farther. Her captors had returned. They then unlocked the door to the house, got inside and bolted it and then unlocked the door of the room in which she was lying.  Her hands were set free and they gave her the food they had got for her.  She asked for water, her throat was parched and her lips were cracked. “There is a tap in this room”, the shorter one pointed towards the darkest corner of the room. With a little more light in the room due to the sun outside, Sonali could see it. “Use it as you deem fit.”, he said and then both of them smiled after exchanging glances. She hobbled to the tap and drank to her fill. She then changed her focus to food. They stood there staring at her as she ate, with both pity and amazement in their eyes.  She could feel their gaze on her person but kept on eating. Upon finishing she began her barrage of questions. “Why am I here? My father is not a rich man! I have no enemies. You have made a mistake. You have got the wrong girl?” The tall and fair one kept on looking at her mockingly. Eventually he said - “Sonali ‘ji’, we have made no mistake. We were asked to pick you up only .” But Sonali kept on repeating her questions, totally missing the fact she was addressed by name. She shut up only when one of them threatened to give her a black eye. Her nose was already giving her a tough time and she did not want to ‘feel’ one more organ on her face. She quitened down, eyes brimming with tears. The guys softened and told her that they were willing to set her legs free, if she promised not to create trouble.  They told her that they’d get her dinner in the night and also the answers to her questions. 
Sonali spent the next few hours alternating between extreme hysteria and then total composure. At times, she felt totally spent and out of control and then at other times she seemed to be accepting her fate. Still the why’s and the who’s lingered in her  mind. Night fell and the lorry came back. This time she heard more footsteps, or maybe she was just imagining. The room was pitch dark, she couldn’t even see her hand,right in front of her face. As the men entered the house they performed the same drill, bolted the door to the house, then opened the door to her enclosure and then bolted it back. One of them was holding a torch and in a very light vein, asked her - “See who has come to meet you Sonali ji?”. The man was flashing the torch light on her face and Sonali was blinded by it.  She put her hand to her eyes, trying to cover them when the third voice spoke - “I need to talk to her alone. You two wait outside”. On hearing her brother's voice Sonali felt an instinctive relief but then the reality dawned on her. She couldn’t believe her ears. How could this be? 
“Vijju bhaiyya? Is that you?”, she asked in the direction which the voice had come. No-one answered, but the other two men left the room and the house. The third person bolted the room from inside again and kept the torch on the floor and replied, “Sonali, don’t pretend to be innocent. You must have seen this coming.”   He paused for a bit “I came to know that father is planning to name you as his sole heir in his will. Who else but you to feed such nonsense in his head? How else do you expect me to react? I had to teach you and the old man a lesson? How can he do this to me? How can ‘you’ do this to me? ”. 

“But bhaiyya, I didn’t even know about all of this? How can you think about me like this? I am ten years younger to you..…” she said finding her voice finally.  “I know what is beneath this innocent facade. If you weren’t my sister, I would have killed you to teach that old bastard a lesson!” said her brother. Sonali’s head was spinning in circles, she really wished that all this be a really bad nightmare and that she wake up from it this instant. But it wasn’t and she found herself crying out loud, calling out to her mother and father, asking them to help her. Her brother waited for a few minutes, but then came straight to point. “I don’t think this will go on for too long. If all goes well, they should be able to come and get you by tomorrow night. But I don’t want any funny business from you till then. I don’t want to take any risks so I am asking you to do this.” He hesitated for a bit but then pulled himself together. “I want you to take off all your clothes and put them near my feet. All of them, mind it! I am going to look the other way and you can just take them off and put them near my feet. These clothes would be your assurance to me that you would not call out to anyone or try to runaway till the time this matter is sorted. Do you understand? Did I make myself clear?” he asked menacingly. Sonali couldn’t recover from the shock, the faint light falling on her face exposed the disbelief and pain in her expressions. How could this be happening? How could her own brother be putting her through so much shame and humiliation. Is this the same boy, with whom I have shared my childhood?”, she thought.  

Bhaiyya, don’t do this, please!! Ask father nicely, he’ll give you everything. It is all yours anyway. You are the only man in the house after him.” she pleaded with him. 
“But the oldie has threatened to disown me and I want to put an end this before he gets any more bright ideas. Now stop lecturing and wasting my time. Do you want me to rip these clothes off your body or are you going to take them off yourself?” Sonali caught the expression on his face and froze in her tracks. How could she do it? She had only been naked in the bathrooms, that too for the quick 5 minute shower on a daily basis. Always fully clothed from neck to toe since last 9-10 years. Even her own mother had seen her fully clothed in salwar kameez since she turned 10! How could she disrobe with her brother in her own room? Tears started to fall from her eyes, but she couldn’t move her hands. Her brother on the other hand, had had enough. He took a step closer to her and snatched her dupatta. “Are you testing me sister?”. Sonali was shaken and took a couple of steps backward. “Wait bhaiyya, wait! Don’t stoop to such levels. I will give you my clothes. Just look away please, in the name of god, just look away!” Her brother was shaking himself, and was relieved to hear her words. He turned his face towards the door and turned the torch light away from Sonali. She undressed herself completely, and as she took of her clothes she instinctively started to stoop, trying to cover her nakedness. Almost doubled over, she neatly kept all the clothes near her brother’s feet and stepped back from him. He knelt down, picked them up and carefully checked if both the undergarments were in place. Sonali felt even more violated at his last action and continued to shed tears. As he stepped out, her brother told her to wait for a couple of minutes and went outside locking the door. He was back after a short while with a bag . He said loudly, as he put the bag near the door ledge, “Here is food for you for the next day or so. Now that you are in such a state, I can’t have those guys bring you food or anything. I myself need to rush back to Delhi to settle things with father. Pray that things go as per my plan and your beloved old man picks you up tomorrow night. I know you won’t try to act smart, because I am carrying all your smartness with me.” 
With that he locked her room and then the outside door as well. She heard the start of engine and then they were all gone. The room became pitch dark again and Sonali felt that the color of her life was darker than the darkness that engulfed her body. She crouched down on the floor and thought that if she remained still for too long maybe death would come and claim her as it’s own. Maybe it was possible to die by sheer will. 

How was she ever going to reconcile with what had just happened to her? Since childhood she was taught to trust only her father and her brother when it came to males. Her brother had often told her to cover up or choose more modest dressing style than her existing one. He had stood guard at the terrace as she walked to go to school. Her family’s honor more often than not depended on her clothes and here she was lying naked, in a strange place, carried by strange men, thanks to her own brother. Her mind drifted to her parents, how worried they must be for her and how her mother would be crying buckets worrying about her daughter’s whereabouts. How her father would be moving pillars and posts to get her back. She felt a sort of satisfaction in knowing that her father would smack her brother on his face when he would come to know about what he had done. She  imagined her brother in the police lock-up and her father rescuing her from this forsaken place. She also imagined visiting her brother in jail and him asking for her forgiveness, just the way they show in the movies. She would not forgive him! Definitely not! But she’d promise to take care of his wife and children in his absence.

Night passed in all this fantasizing with short and disturbed interludes of sleep. As the sun shone outside, some of the light also trickled inside Sonali’s enclosure.  Every time she woke up her nakedness and her humiliation at her brother’s hand came hurtling back to the forefront of her consciousness. It still seemed very surreal to her. She wondered if all that really happened and is still happening. The lack of clothes on her body, lying in that hot and dark room, smelling of sweat, all brought her back to the real world. 

She had never been this naked for so long. She was all alone, but still crouched forwards, with her knees or her arms covering her breasts all this while.  She realized this and started to think about what made a woman’s body so worthy of shame? She couldn’t understand why lying there she was the one feeling the humiliation and shame, while her tormentor, her own brother was in the driving seat, probably bargaining with her father for a deal. How is she going to look into her father’s eyes again? She had been disrobed, whatever be the reason. Would he blame her for this? Maybe he will kill Vijju for doing this.  As she was sitting there, she thought she heard some voices from a distance, maybe it was sound of some animals, but she didn’t get up to scream or shout. Her brother knew her too well, or maybe they had tamed her well enough to know that for her clothes were an integral part of herself, almost a second skin. She wouldn’t want to be seen by anyone without them. 

The food that Vijju had bought remained in the same bag, untouched. Hunger was far away from her mind and her body was not complaining either. She did feel thirsty every few hours and every time use to make the trip to the corner tap, bending over, afraid of being seen in this state.  The day descended into night and little lines of light entering through the window crevices became orange and then grey and finally darkness swept the room like the night before.  No-one came for her, she was expecting high drama  to unfold but all was as still as a tomb.  All sorts of thoughts crossed her mind. Maybe the police killed Vijju before he could divulge where she was hidden, maybe he met and accident while going back to Delhi or worst still- maybe her parents or one of them had a heart stroke on hearing Vijju’s misdeeds. She cried thinking about her parents and how badly they’ll be affected on seeing her like this and even more on realizing what a devil Vijju had become.  Another night passed almost like the last one and dawn came. She got up, washed her face and drank some water. The bag of food had started to stink, maybe she should have eaten. She couldn’t even throw the bag anywhere now.  It must be five or six in the morning she guessed and thought she heard the groan of an engine in the distance. Her heart skipped a beat! Who could this be? Her rescuers or her captors? Maybe her parents had come to get her or maybe her brother’s accomplices had come to rape her. Maybe it was the police. How would she face them? Like this, without clothes? They would all smirk at her? Maybe pass lewd comments! Oh! How was she ever going to face anyone! She hoped and prayed with folded hands that the coming vehicle be the vehicle of her rescue and that her parents be in it. The engine stopped outside and there was faint shuffling of feet. She couldn’t hear any voices though. Then someone unlocked the outside door and moved towards the inner door. The second door was opened as well and Sonali’s squinted her eyes to counter the sudden surge of light in the room. “Sonali…..Beta……Sonali…”, said the voice. It was her mother’s voice. Sonali didn’t get up and started wailing “Maa……… Maa………”. Her mother came to her with an opened sheet and draped it over her.They both hugged and cried for a very long time. Her mother kept on kissing her forehead and after a long time they broke the embrace. “Beti, are you alright?” Sonali didn’t hear her question, she looked at the door and asked her mother where her father was? “Your father is outside, he has come to get you.  But how could he see you like this. We were so worried for you beti. Get dressed, here I got your clothes. Wear them and let’s go home.” replied her mother while glancing downwards, unable to look at her daughter in that state, despite the cloth draped over her. “But ma, how did you guys get here, tell me what happened? Where is police?” asked Sonali. 
“Let’s get home beti, we’ll tell you everything. This isn’t the time or the place. Let’s just go and forget this like a bad dream.”, came the reply from her mother. “No ma, tell me”,said Sonali with finality in her voice, her back straight and eyes prodding her mothers.

“When you went missing that day, we looked all over for you. Your father went looking for you in the market where the vegetable seller told him that you had taken vegetables from him and gone back in the direction of our home. We called your nearby friends and checked with the neighbors as well. When all failed then we went to the police to report you missing.  The police started interrogating people and the only lead that they got was that someone saw a cargo tempo parked outside our lane, but no-one in the neighborhood had any cargo coming or going out of their houses or shops. The police suspected that someone in the family may have a role to play and were investigating on that angle. Then yesterday, in the day, your uncle called us to say that we should reach his house immediately. We rushed there hoping to see you but instead Vijju was there. He had called some people from his in-laws as well. There he told us what he had done. I was so relieved to hear that he had you and that your honor and the honor of our family was still intact. Your father was also relieved but in anger he gave a tight slap to Vijju. Then a scuffle broke out and people had to disentangle both of them. When Vijju told us the reason for his deeds your father was very disappointed. He rushed home to get his will. He came back to show Vijju his plans for him. When Vijju saw that your father had willed all the agricultural land to him, he had tears in his eyes. We wanted him to become independent but we knew what our responsibilities are towards him and his family. Your father told him that he was very disappointed in his lack of patience and with the partition wall in the middle of the house and then at what he had done to you. On hearing this Viju fell on his feet and apologized in front of all relatives and friends who were present. He also threatened to kill his kids and himself if we did not forgive him. It was all very sad.
Vijju really looked repentant. On advise of people around, your father and Vijju then wrote up a compromise note and some legal things happened with a lawyer and by evening, all was settled. Now, we will all live together happily . Vijju will also start working with your uncle at his factory. We informed the police that you were at a relative’s place and we’ll present you in the station after one day.”

Sonali stared at her mother in disbelief, “But what about me, Ma? What about me?” 
“What could we do Sonali? Vijju would have killed himself and his little kids. If we reported him to police, then also he would have done the same. You know how hot headed he is. We had no choice in the matter. We wanted you back safely and he is also our son, we couldn’t be too hard on him. He also apologized to both of us for what he has done to you and touched our feet. Now everyone in our relatives are involved so he will also behave himself. Come on beta, forgive him. He is a fool. Good, that no real harm has come to you. You are hale and hearty, with just some bruises on the nose. Otherwise what all happens to girls when they are abducted. Let’s thank god for his graces and go home. Think of this like a bad dream and forget it.  Here, take your clothes and come outside.” Her mother stroked her head with her hand, got up and turned her back to Sonali, probably giving her some privacy to put on her clothes. “What is that smell coming from? ” she asked, trying to move the conversation to a less dense topic. “What a rotten stench! It’s coming from this bag. What is in it?”, she paused for Sonali to answer. On not getting no response she picked it up and carried it outside “What is in this?” Sonali heard her say to someone. “Food I got for her the other day”, came the  response. 
If it were possible to be more devastated than before then Vijju’s voice, at this point of time, had that impact on her. Not only was he not punished by her parents, they had also shielded him from the police and now they had the audacity to get him there with themselves. Her tormentor, her captor, her abductor was a part of the rescue team and she was to go home with him. Sonali did not move from her place and her mother came back after a few minutes to check if she was dressed and ready to go. “Arre, you are still not dressed! Why didn’t you eat? Vijju said that he got the food especially for you. Paranthas and pickle. You should have eaten beta. Anyway he is worried for you and says that he knows of a dhaba just outside this village. We’ll stop there first thing, to get you something to eat. Right?” she asked her coaxingly. Seeing that Sonali had not moved a muscle, her mother came near her and said to her, “Don’t be a stubborn child, you have always been our good daughter. Come! Get up! wear your suit and your dupatta and let’s go! If you are feeling too weak, I can help you with it! We need to hurry beta, we have to get to the police station in Delhi by evening or else the police people will get suspicious. Papa has prepared a sequence of events that you need to learn and tell to the police people. Rest we have taken care of.”
Hearing this, Sonali woke from her trance and slowly stood up straight.  She started to walk towards the door listlessly. The sheet draped over her, parted from the front and slowly slipped off from her shoulders. Her mother aghast at seeing her daughter like that and fearful of what was going to happen next, gave out a cry, “What are you doing?” 

As she reached the door , Sonali said slowly, “I am going to father.  He needs to see me like this. So he never forgets, what all he has forgiven..” and out she went.