Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Year Is Ending

And what a year it has been! In spite of my quitting my job early on and spending much of my time at home, the days just seemed to fly past.

This year seemed characterised by two things: travel and meeting people. I have done more of each than in most years. And the two went simultaneously, too: unlike other years, this is the first in which the Guy and I haven't taken a vacation with only the two of us.

In January, we went to Guwahati to visit my mom. We also met my niece for the first time and celebrated her second birthday. We made friends with her, and she now regularly asks to speak to mahi (aunt). One of my most emotional moments of the year came when the Guy and I arrived late at her birthday (because we were picking up the cake my mom had forgotten) and there she was near the gate, in her father’s arms. As soon as she saw me, she squealed, “Mahi!” and leaned forward, holding out her arms to me, almost jumping off her father’s arms and into mine.

The next few months were relatively uneventful. I was stressed out by my job and it was making me ill. I finally quit in May.

Also in May, we went to the annual Friends of Children camp in a small town nearby, and on our way back we took a detour and visited a lovely vineyard restaurant.

In June, I travelled to a small town in Madhya Pradesh to attend a friend’s wedding. That brings to mind that weddings might be another theme for this year. We attended one in Guwahati, there was this one in Hoshangabad, and we travelled to Delhi for another this month.

In July, we visited Effe and the Man-Friend in Bangalore. We also met an old childhood friend of mine and his wife – whom I had never met – and ran into two of my old colleagues.

In September, we went to Rajkot, Gujarat, where the Guy’s parents live.

In October, we went on what’s become our annual trip, to Goa.

And in December, we went to Delhi.

I don’t know what the next year will bring. And given my near-absolute failure at achieving any of last year’s goals, I won’t set any this year. Especially as, despite all that failure, this has probably been my happiest year ever.

Happy new year, all! See you on the other side!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Delhi Wedding - IV

I had had an idea for Veeru and Basanti's wedding gift for quite some time. Something practical and useful, that you can give close friends whom you've seen through their courtship. Especially when you have teased the groom - after some glasses of drink - about his inadequate sexual experience.

You guessed it right. So the night of the sangeet, as we make our way back to the hotel in a taxi - the Guy, me, Veeru's cousin and another friend nicknamed Lambu Chachu for being the tallest of us all - we look for a chemist that was still open at that time. Veeru's cousin seems like a straight-laced and rather naive small-town young man, so we don't let him in on the joke - deliberately, that is. In actual fact, the hints LC give are very broad, influenced by the copious amounts of alcohol he has ingested, and it would be extremely difficult for anyone older than twelve to not have understood what he refers to.

Veeru's cousin is extremely tired, it being well past midnight and he being one of the early-to-bed-and-early-to-rise types. We are rather cruel to drive around, ignoring his rather tired face and drawn-out yawns - but we figure it is Veeru's wedding after all, and this is something he'll remember (though not necessarily fondly).

Lambu Chachu volunteers to get off the car and get it, and him being a bachelor, the Guy and I give him a couple of tips on what to buy. LC makes a somewhat veiled reference to a down-market - and hence funny - brand name. "No," I advise him. "If we're doing this, let's get him something he can actually use. Get D."

LC nods sagely and gets down purposefully when we finally stop outside a chemist's. He comes back empty-handed.

"I found out where we can get it," he says, and gives instructions to the driver.

"They didn't have any?" I am surprised.

"Wrong brand," he informs me. "They had C, not D."

"What's C?" I wonder.

"Cobra," he says solemnly. And we all burst out laughing at the image that conjures up.

After we get what we want and get home, I find some kind of paper to wrap the gift in and take the ribbon off the chocolates intended for Chandni (sorry, Chandu, but I did give you the chocolates!) to give it a festive look.

Then the Guy and I fall asleep and miss the party. The little box lies forlornly on our table till the next evening, when we get back from the shaadi and have a couple of hours to rest and prepare for the reception.

We sit Veeru down and I tell him earnestly that we have a gift for him. "We hope you'll find it useful."

"Condom?" he says at once. That's the problem with trying to trick people you're friends with: your minds probably work in a similar way.

The men put him off the scent and Veeru looks suitably abashed at having made such a lewd suggestion. And then he unrolls the paper off and sees the bright blue box.

"Denim!" proclaims Lambu Chachu triumphantly once the laughter subsides.

Lambu Chachu has also been recording the entire proceedings on video. At this moment, he asks Veeru to look into the camera and say a few words.

"Yawn sambandh jab jab, condom tab tab," Veeru advises us all.

The reception is uneventful, compared to the fun we had at the earlier events. We get there just a little late - but before the bride, which is early enough. There is a hilarious photographer who make Veeru and Basanti stand in filmy poses while he points his camera at them. The rest of us make bets on whether he will ask Veeru to pick up Basanti in his arms, or have both of them make as if they were sliding down a slope and add snow-covered mountains onto the background later.

It was an open-air party, and we are glad that Delhi isn't as cold as it can be in mid-December: but as the evening lengthened we are grateful for the coal fires scattered around the lawns.

The fun part of my evening is when this kindly looking old uncle of Basanti's finds himself near me and tries to make polite conversation. "Where are you from?" he asked as most people are apt to ask at some point early into making my acquaintance.

"I grew up in Assam," I tell him.

"Really?" He is surprised. "You don't look like that at all." Like what? I wonder as I smile graciously.

He disappears after talking to me for some more minutes. The next thing I know, he's back, wife in tow. He introduces us, I smile and namaste.

Apparently, she has come to see the freak from Assam.

"You're really from there? When he told me I said, it's impossible! You don't look like you're from there at all! You're so good-looking - you look like you belong to our region!"

I continue to smile graciously: she so clearly feels that being told I don't look like what I am is a compliment.

Besides, me being Veeru's sister makes her a samdhi: and you can't offend one of those, can you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Delhi Wedding - III

That night, after the sangeet, we have plans for a party. We reach the hotel first, and Veeru and a few more friends are expected to join soon: there'll be daru, and celebration of Veeru's last night as a bachelor. (No strippers or any such outrageousness: we're staying at a hotel owned by an acquaintance of Veeru's father-in-law, remember?)

But then I turn around and see the Guy nestling inside the sheets. He confesses he is really tired and wants a little rest before the party begins. I change and get in with him. After a few minutes I hear Veeru's voice.

"They have come!" I think. "I should get up now and join the party!"

The next I know is when the alarm rings in the morning. I hear though, that it was a great party. They even have a video of drunk people saying weird things to prove it.

So the Guy and I get up at half-past six, feeling not too bad after six hours of sleep. We take quick showers and dress - and then try to wake the others.

By the time I've dressed and gone to look at the boys - four of them cramped into one room because they were too polite to knock on the door - Veeru is up and about while the others lie in various places. By a miracle, everyone's up and dressed by half-past eight, and we feast on tea and toast.

We leave soon after nine, glad that we'll be on time. We get there at some time past ten, which was the hour at which we had strictly been told to arrive with the groom - and found no one from the bride's party there. There are banquet hall employees, cleaning up and conferencing in huddles. The room is all decorated in blue. So we settle down, we six people - including Veeru - who make up the groom's party - and pretend to be comfortable. We take pictures. Veeru makes phone calls to the office, talking nonchalantly about new clients and whatnot. While the rest of us hang around waiting for him to get married.

Some time later, we glimpse the bride arriving, and heave a sigh of relief. There is going to be a wedding today!

And because this is getting too long, let's cut to the actual ceremony. It is an Arya Samaj wedding, and we have a priest who makes it a lot of fun, interspersing his mantras with explanations, advice, and social and political commentary. (He reminds me of Joey in Friends, who explained to Monica that in him they were getting a minister and an entertainer at their wedding: a "ministainer"!)

So the priest drops gems such as how wives should wait for their husbands to come home so they can eat dinner together and lots of other entertaining advice which I'm pretty sure neither Veeru nor Basanti are going to pay the least heed to.

We sit to the left of the couple, where the groom's family should be. Veeru's cousin takes over the role of the family patriarch. As the only woman in the groom's party, I am called to tie the knot that (literally) binds the couple together. The priest calls me Veeru's "didi ya bhabhi, jo bhi hai" - and as I am neither, I look around in surprise for a second before realising he means me. After the knot is tied, the priest orders Veeru to buy me a sari for my service.

So that's how I become Veeru's younger didi. I figure the Guy has enough siblings: having more family on my side isn't a bad idea. Veeru, though, has steadfastly refused to touch my feet so far.

And so they are married, finally, Basanti and Veeru. I feel very glad, somewhat tearful and unaccountably proud. We have seen them together for some time, rooted for them, and hoped for things to work out when Veeru's parents refused to acknowledge the relationship. Now finally, they get what they have wanted, and we feel blessed to be present at this moment.

Next installment: the reception, and what we get Veeru for a wedding gift

Monday, December 21, 2009

Know More About Me

I've been interviewed. And I'm thrilled that someone would actually want to know more about me.

But actually, for my regular readers, there are no surprises. Maybe I should have made some big revelation, like how the Guy is actually a cat. Or something.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Delhi Wedding - II

Earlier that day, I ask Veeru to show me what he's wearing. I exclaim over his kurta, "The Guy's wearing a similar one!"

"Maybe he can take my place then," suggests Veeru wickedly, nursing his peg.

"Will Basanti be drunk too?" I ask - for how, unless Basanti was very drunk indeed, could she willingly get married to anyone but Veeru?

So we are about to arrive at the
sangeet plus engagement, and are over an hour late. None of us knows the way - including the driver - so we all peep out of the windows trying to catch a glimpse of the wedding hall. We see a large building with lights all over it some way ahead.

"That must be it!" says the Guy, laughingly.

"No way!" cries the groom.

But it was. And Veeru is infinitely more nervous now, at the thought of the number of people and the grandeur that await him inside.

The car comes to a standstill, and we scramble off. (At least I do. Try getting off a high SUV while dressed in a long dress.) There is a large welcome committee waiting for us. I look around at the unfamiliar faces and smile. We climb down the stairs to the reception room.

Thankfully, the entire building isn't decked up for this event: there are other events on simultaneously on different floors.

There's a pretty (if somewhat ostentatious) blue and silver sofa on the stage, and Veeru is guided to it. We follow him to the stage and stand around, the exuding moral support. Veeru expresses embarassment at sitting on the sofa alone. The Guy promptly joins him on it.

Much hilarity ensues. Turns out it isn't Basanti who is in danger of getting hitched to the wrong Guy after all.

We take turns standing by Veeru while also cruising around looking for food. For some reason, we are all ravenous. We also find the time to take a peek at Basanti, who is sitting demurely in her dressing room.

Then Basanti comes out and everyone crowds around to look at her. The photographer - who seems to be the great dictator of the occasion - directs Veeru to hold out his hand and help Basanti up on the stage. They sit next to each other, and rings are exchanged. (Veeru had, of course, been sticking his hand into his pocket several times, to reassure himself that the ring had not disappeared.) We all clap dutifully.

The music becomes more rollicking, and people gravitate towards the dance floor. Basanti dances gracefully, but Veeru is still nervous. His men friends rise to the occasion, however, and offer him a Coke glass half filled with whisky. He downs it before realising what it was.

After this, nothing can stop Veeru. He dances vigorously to everything and with everyone, including happy old uncles and very old songs. Everyone is very pleased with him, for of course he has demonstrated his innate Punjabiness now.

Next installment: the shaadi.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Delhi Wedding - I

...was the most fun. wedding. ever. Including mine, because I could actually sit back and enjoy things instead of obsessing over them.

First off, the bridegroom missed his flight. It was on the evening before the sangeet, and due to a conjugation of circumstances, including a late cab, a detour demanded by one of the travellers, and a traffic jam, the three travellers found themselves stranded in a cab in a traffic jam less than an hour before the flight time. So the three people got their substantial bags off the cab, crossed the street and squeezed their substantial selves (including the aforementioned substantial luggage) into one autorickshaw. The autorickshawwallah very competently proceeded to get them to the airport fifteen minutes before the flight time. Upon which they found out that the airline had sold off their tickets. Why three very smart individuals had not thought of calling up the airline to inform them they were on their way beats me: and I decided that suggesting it after the fact would not earn me any brownie points.

On all the flights that were going to Delhi that night, there was one available seat, and the bridegroom got on it, while the others returned home and postponed their trip till the next morning.

The bridegroom tells me this very entertaining story soon after I arrive at the hotel (from Gurgaon, remember?). His prospective father-in-law being a police officer, we get visits from sundry men in plain clothes (whose build and moustaches loudly proclaim them to be policemen), bowing politely and hoping all is well and asking to be informed if anything is not. The bridegroom is busy on the phone and barely nods at them, so it falls to me to smile and assure them that everything is perfect.

Now, since "the bridegroom" is a mouthful, and he is the star of this (and one or two subsequent) posts, let's call him Veeru. That, of course, makes the bride Basanti.

Now Veeru is dedicated to his work. Some might even call him obsessed. So that, when it is time for us to get ready for the sangeet, he is sending work emails on his laptop until we remind him of his priorities.

And then he is nervous at the thought of meeting so many people - because, while the baraat (the groom's party) is just the few of us friends, the bride's family will be present in full strength. He downs a strong drink - and the rest of us, of course, actively support him.

The Guy arrives (from his client meeting) just in time and we all set out together.

We leave merely half an hour later than we had expected - but we had failed to account for Delhi's evening traffic. It takes us an hour and a half to reach the venue.

But we are amply entertained by our recollections of Delhi. And by the sights that Delhi has to offer. I leave you with one, which fascinated us and prompted us to discuss for some time on the whys and hows and wherefores.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Am Back Home

... and don't seem to have been much missed, going by the number of comments on my last post.

As you may have guessed, I couldn't get internet access after that post. And I came home to find something wrong with the internet here too. And the GuyDad isn't completely recovered yet, so the visits to clinics continue. Hence the long posts on Delhi will have to wait.

But the vacation was awesome. Seriously, it was the first vacation from which I didn't want to come back. I didn't do most of the sight-seeing I wanted to, but I did lots of other fun things, such as:
  • I met a number of blog friends: Aishwarya, the Mad Momma, Aneela and Chandni. This was somewhat surreal, this juxtaposition of the virtual and real worlds. As you might have guessed, I had never met blog friends before (except for simplypallu, who's actually a friend of Effe and thus not strictly a blog friend). It was great meeting people whom I already knew I had something in common with.
  • Attended the wedding. This, after all, was the reason why we'd gone. Two very dear friends were getting married, and what made the occasion even more significant was that the groom's family was almost entirely absent, and we took the place of family. It was a lovely Punjabi wedding, with bling, booze, good food and dancing. Fun!
  • We did something all of us had looked forward to. We went to the India Gate one evening, the day after the wedding: the bride and the groom, the Guy and me, and one other friend. It was beautiful.
  • We partied! The groom kept booze handy in his hotel room, to get some liquid courage whenever he needed it (which was a couple of times a day). The night after the wedding, we went out for drinks and dinner.
  • I met two old friends, one of whom had been a very dear friend of both of us, but with whom we had begun to lose touch. We reconnected and reforged ties.
  • I also met my first boss, and gaped at the old office building, now radically transformed, because it had been under construction when I had worked there.
  • We visited our bschool again, and had chai in the canteen.
  • We went for parathas near Fore (the bschool). It was night, and getting cold and the hot buttery parathas were just heavenly. The company too, was perfect: just me and the Guy and the aforementioned old friend: it was just like old times, only better.
  • We went shopping in Janpath yesterday! And in Dilli Haat too, the day before. We couldn't make Sarojini Nagar, but I think we did enough shopping anyway.
Most of all, this trip seemed to be about relationships. I met blog friends, met old friends, met a bunch of nice people (the bride's family), and gained a new brother (because the pandit at the wedding turned me into an impromptu sister, and given that the groom is one of my favourite people, it seemed quite right).

Delhi seemed so familiar, so inviting. I wished I had more time. I hope I can go back soon.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Even while I’m on the flight, I'm so excited I want to get up and jump around. We land finally, over half an hour late. The air is cool. It envelopes you, caresses you. It’s afternoon but the sun is soft and welcoming.

“I can’t believe it!” I say to the Guy as we walk towards the car. “I can’t believe we’re really here!”

Most pleasures, long anticipated and wished for, ultimately disappoint. My first day in Gurgaon did not.

On our way to the hotel our driver picks a fight with another driver and pulls down his window to exchange abuses and threatening gestures. I grin with amused delight. I have missed Delhi so much that even the traits that use to disgust seem somehow endearing, like the familiar habits of a loved one.

I gape like a villager at the flyovers, the big shiny new buildings. I recognise one building out of five and am thrilled. “They all look so ugly,” I confide happily to the Guy.

Later, I walk alone down the street of the malls. It had been so long since I had walked down the street like this. I live such a sheltered, protected life nowadays that I had begun to wonder if my memories of myself as an independent person were just an illusion. But as I step on the street and take my first few steps, my body settles itself into a somewhat aggressive stance, hands in pockets, feet a little apart, as if warning off hostile interlopers; and I walk with ease. It all feels so familiar, yet half-forgotten.

The air is exhilarating. The cold touches my nose, my ears, makes me feel alive. I want to gulp in lungfuls of this much missed air. There is dust and smoke, but even that feels welcome on my skin. I have an odd sensation of being at home.

I see some way away the name of the mall where I am to meet Aishwarya. I walk there, looking forward to exploring the large bookstore. There is some open space, and somewhere I can sit. I take out my notebook to pen down my feelings. I have one pen, and it is out of ink. I reckon it is good luck I am near a bookstore, and decide to go and buy a pen. I ask a guard, and he points me upstairs. I climb three floors, fail to find the door, and climb down again. I walk around the building and find the door, but it is closed. I have no idea why.

I walk to the next mall. Then the next. And the next.

Most of the shops are closed. I realise Tuesday is the wrong day to be out shopping. There are a few stores, selling gadgets and clothes and food. I buy a little gift for the Guy, but there’s nowhere I can buy a pen.

Finally, I find an Archies. I select two pens. I feel successful.

I walk back. It is nearly time to meet Aishwarya now. I settle into the café and wait for her.

She walks in and glances over me, looking around. I suppose I do not look like what she had expected to find. But there is no other woman sitting alone, so she looks back at me and comes over.

I had been nervous about this, about meeting someone I had only known through her blog. Someone who was much better read than I was, even though she was younger.

The first few moments are a little awkward. I don’t know what to say, but I want to learn more about her, so I ask. Where she works, what she does. And suddenly, the conversation flows. It doesn’t seem any more like we are meeting for the first time. We talk like friends.

An hour and a half pass easily. But her family is expecting her, and she has to leave.

I walk out of the café and walk down the street again. I am a little tired from walking, but yet this simple act makes me feel so strong again. I only spot one woman walking alone in all this time, but I am not intimidated. A few men stare at me, and I have to make sure I am not smiling back. It is hard, you see, to keep the smile off my face.

There are two malls in sight that I have not visited yet: two malls that had been around even when I had lived here. I have to walk around those again, to remember what it was like, how I had walked around here when I was truly alone.

But most of the stores are closed, and it is disappointing. I have to cross the street to get from one mall to the other, and it is scary, standing by the street while vehicles speed towards you, the bright lights nearly blinding you. I complete the crossing and almost laugh out loud at my success.

I explore another large store. There are lovely jackets and sweaters on display, but I barely need winter clothes where I live so I only look and pass on. Then I see something I can buy: underwear. I stuff some in a bag. I look at some dresses. I am tired, and find a chair to sit on. The Guy calls: he is joining me soon. I wait.

We go down to TGIF for dinner. I had looked at TGIF with curiosity all that time ago, never daring to venture within, knowing it was out of my means. We have a very nice meal, though it still feels beyond our means.

We find an auto and go back to our lovely hotel room, settling into the soft bed and drifting on into a deep sleep that we only awake from at past eight in the morning. The Guy and I had been sleeping apart for weeks: first because he was spending nights in the hospital, then because we gave up our bedroom to the GuyDad, hoping it would be more comfortable, and I was relegated to the guest bed. Waking up together in a large comfy bed is extremely nice.

We go downstairs for a very nice breakfast, and then settle down in the lobby with our laptops. Now I shall go to meet an old friend for lunch. For the rabidly antisocial person I usually am, this trip is going to be different. I have plans to meet a number of friends, old and new. Let’s see how it goes.

Written in the morning but not posted till evening because the hotel's internet connection is woefully patchy.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Because I'm Too Lazy to Write an Actual Post

Me (on discovering a great new blog): Oh my fucking god.

The Guy: Why are you calling me names?

Me: That's nice. You are my fucking god.

Should I change his blog name to MFG?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

For Those Who Asked

...the GuyDad is at home now. He is recovering, though he's still on drugs. But there seems to be nothing major wrong, the operation went well, and we are thankful. The GuyMom is expected to come over this weekend so that she sees him first-hand and stops worrying, and he gets some company other than a daughter-in-law who spends most of her waking hours at the desk with the laptop and the rest with her nose in a book.

Now I'm going to reveal our fabulous plans for December which have not fallen through after all. We are going to Delhi! Next week! To attend the wedding of two dear friends. Another of those inter-community marriages that make me feel all warm and fuzzy. And while I am excited about the wedding, I'm also very excited about going to Delhi! again! (I lived in Delhi for my MBA and then worked in Gurgaon for nearly a year before moving to Pune in January 2006. And I haven't visited since, except for a few hours three years ago when we were changing flights there and we went over to Gurgaon to meet friends.)

Anyone in Delhi wants to meet me? (Or rather, not... If you had me pictured as a fabulously cool person, that image is bound to be shattered into a million pieces when you actually see me. And if you hadn't... leave a girl her illusions, will you?)

Monday, November 30, 2009


The GuyDad is still in hospital. We have been taking turns to sit by him. Long hours of sitting in the hospital chair have left my back very sore. To top it all, we went to a party on Saturday night, hoping for a nice break - and a nice break it was. A fabulous party, and I got drunk and danced away, the alcohol numbing the pain so that I didn't feel the need to be careful. Since then, add my legs and feet to the list of aching body parts.

It's not just the backache, I'm feeling tired and numb overall. I couldn't muster up the energy to go to the hospital this morning, as I'd planned, and the Guy covered in for me. I have to go soon though, so that I'm around to talk to the doctors. We're hoping they'll release him tomorrow, but they've been delaying it every day so I wouldn't be surprised if they said otherwise.

And I have an event with Friends of Children Friday to Sunday, something I've been planning and working on for a long time but that I haven't been able to work on as much as I'd wish lately. We still need to figure out how we'll take care of the GuyDad those three days: right now, we're just wishing he can come home too. He's quite all right, except for the dressing still on and tubes stuck into him, and he's getting bored with lying around all day as well.

Blogging might be slow for a few more days. Ciao.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Wonder Why

... so many men seem to have so little hesitation about exposing their genitals in public. How often do you see a man peeing by the roadside, in full (okay, profile) view of anyone passing?

I can understand some people may not be shy. Modesty of one's body is mostly a social construct, I think. But it's not like these men walk about without wearing any... bottoms. They wear pants right down to their ankles. Yet they are okay with taking out their genitals and shaking them right in the middle of the street?

I discussed this with the Guy, but he has no idea either, never having had that kinda urge himself.

Do you have an answer?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why I Am A Feminist - II

I don’t remember how young I was when I was first sexually abused. Probably around five or six. I might have been a little older, but no more than eight, might have been a little younger but no less than four. It was a wedding, I remember, and we were all assembled at the venue. I was wearing a new frock, I think, that I fancied myself in. And we kids were doing what kids usually do at weddings, running around and playing.

It was daytime – the wedding was to take place that night, I presume – and many relatives had gathered. Those were times when people had time on their hands, and sauntering around all day at a wedding and lending a hand with preparations was commonplace. I suppose I wandered out of the building to play outside. I wasn't totally alone: there must have been cousins nearby.

A cousin had a car, and a driver. I had taken rides in the car and knew the driver. So I wasn’t surprised when he invited me to sit in the car. Cars were amazing and mysterious things, then, and I must have been tempted.

I was a polite, shy little kid who had been told to obey her elders. So I didn’t know what to do when the driver took my hand and forced it under his pants. I squirmed, I hated the feeling. I tried to remove my hand, but what strength did I have against a man? I wanted to leave, I think I said so. But I was too polite to cry out, to scream. A younger cousin came around – I suppose he wanted to get into the car too – but the driver shooed him away.

And then he insisted on putting his hand into my underwear. I still remember that it burned. I hated it, I refused, I squirmed. I didn’t cry out. After some time, he let me go.

It was many years before I realised what that dimly-remembered incident signified. I wonder now, how many girls and boys that happens with. I had family nearby. What happens to children who don’t, children who are disadvantaged, whose family isn’t around or is unable or unwilling to fight for them?

It wasn’t the only time I was abused. It was only the beginning. Since I was around twelve, I took the public bus to and from school. The first time a man stood uncomfortably close to me in a relatively empty bus, I wondered what was wrong. He seemed to be pressing against my breasts, but why would anyone deliberately do that? I was in Class Six.

For a time, I used to pray, every time I got on the bus, “Oh god, not today, please not today, if you are listening, spare me today…” My prayers often went unanswered.

I never cried out, never protested. I didn’t know I could do that, that I could fight back.
There were often other people on the bus: did no one else notice? I did notice when it was happening to someone else, and not just once. Did no one care, or want to interfere? Did they imagine it was consensual?

I had a short walk from the bus stop to my home. Every day, a man would stand there. He wore a blue uniform and directed the buses, kind of like a traffic policeman. As I passed, he would look at me with leering eyes and say, “Sexy maal.” He said it to another man dressed like him, loud enough for me to hear. It began to happen every day. The routine didn’t vary. I would cross the road to avoid him, and he would cross it again so that I would have to pass him anyway.

It traumatised me. I don’t know why I was so scared. The words itself were scary to a thirteen-year old, unfamiliar words signifying a world of perverse lust beyond her understanding. It angered me, too. I wished I had a brother I could confide in, who would beat him up. It never occurred to me that I could stand up for myself, that if I confronted him in the busy street he was unlikely to physically hurt me.

I started getting off the bus at an earlier stop and taking a long walk to my home. Sometimes. Sometimes, I went the old way and often encountered him again.

I am not sure how it stopped. Whether he simply disappeared one day – which is what I seem to remember – or whether it continued till we moved away in a year or two.

I never told my parents about any of these incidents, I knew they wouldn’t let me come home alone in the public bus any more. I thought about it many a time, but I couldn’t bear to give up that little bit of freedom I had.

For years, the memory of that man in dark blue uniform continued to haunt me, in my dreams and while I was awake.

I had been wanting to write about this for a long time, but I couldn’t gather the courage to take out those memories again and look at them. Now I have. It’s easy now, because there is no guilt, and even the anger has faded. For years, I was racked by guilt and self-doubt as I wondered what was wrong with me. Now I know what was wrong wasn’t with me, and I also know that we have to change the world, make it an easier one for children to live in and deal with.

We have to stop this violence. We have to speak up against perpetrators. We have to stand up for our girls and women. We have to stop sexual abuse, domestic violence, street harassment and all the other forms of violence misogyny takes.

Thank You All

The operation was done last evening, with no major hitches except that it started a couple of hours after the scheduled time, and that wasn't wholly unexpected. We waited outside, the Guy and I, his sister and her husband and the Elf - behaving himself better than usual, only throwing tantrums a couple of times. We barely dared to go and have some tea and snacks in case the doctors might come out and we wouldn't get to talk to them. We were back in time, however. After some more waiting, we were told that it's over. The doctors came out, and as soon as he saw my harried face, the doctor assured me that everything went well. They took us in to take a peep at the GuyDad lying in the recovery room. The GuyDad is thin - though not very weak for a seventy-year old, and we were worried that his body might not be strong enough to easily withstand surgery.

He looked around and waved cheerily at us, and all our fears melted.

The Guy stayed with him, while I came home for a night's sleep. As I made my way home, I thought about my aching body - and felt immense relief that that was all that I had to complain about, that everything had gone well and the GuyDad seemed okay.

I have to go back soon and relieve the Guy of his duties. Remember, you all, tomorrow we blog for Elimination of Violence Against Women. who have agreed to participate include: Dipali, Masood, NuttyNits and IndianHomemaker. And me, of course. Anyone else in?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Things are Difficult

... right now. We took the GuyDad for a check-up a few days ago, and after some tests and much waiting around at clinics and hospitals, we were told that he needs surgery. In the meantime, there were a lot of concerned phone calls among the three of us, the GuyMom, and the other siblings. The GuyDad belongs to that school of thought that advocates ignoring medical problems until they turn too nasty to ignore, and he was in favour of ignoring this one some more, but we collectively leaned on him until he gave in. So the operation takes place tomorrow, and the GuyDad needs to remain in hospital for at least four days.

The Guy and I have been breezily telling everyone that we will handle it, so we are the primary caregivers now. We have put our business skills to use by dividing off duties among us: I will sit in the hospital all day and the Guy will take over nights; I will worry and obsess while the Guy will think of solutions.

Given all that's happening, other plans remain on hold for the moment, and we had plans for December, believe you me. But this is what's important right now, and we need to see it through.

I am trying to wrangle internet access for the hospital, but it remains in doubt. So if you don't see this space updated much, you'll know I'm sitting by the GuyDad's bedside, nose buried in one of the nearly-dozen books a kind friend has loaned me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

And, in More Sexist News...

I regret it whenever I try to mend my general lack of awareness and watch the news on TV (which I usually don't watch in the first place because it makes me depressed or frustrated). I think I should stick to reading feminist sites and fantasy books instead.

Last evening, I watched as the Indian Air Force's Vice Chief Air Marshal politely "explained" on TV that women couldn't be put into combat positions because they have babies and are psychologically not fit. You think I'm exaggerating? Here are his words,
"Nature's way of life is that you get married, bring up a family. Now the latest position on ladies flying is that if a lady goes into family way, she is off-duty for 10 out of 12 months. Now while we can always utilize... a lady in some other job, but in the pure profession in which we have invested so much if the poor lady herself who has contributed so much... if we cannot utilise... then it is not fruitful for either party. But we are looking at it and in a few more years we can see a change coming with certain pre-conditions."
Now I don't know what kind of way of life "Nature" has, but in the real world, we have birth control and child care. More from the esteemed gentleman:
"In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings."
Also, as we are chivalrous chauvinists:
"It is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war."
A lady or a woman, get it? He is not just kind and condescending to well-bred ladies, but also to mere women!

And this gem:
"Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor," he added.
And, in case you thought he was being sexist:
'I have full respect for women……but there are also other physiological, psychological, cultural and historical considerations. We cannot send them into close combat.'
"What considerations?" you may be wondering at this point. Which is where I will enlighten you, gentle reader. First, physiological. You need a penis to man (see? I made a pun!) the controls of a fighter plane. What, you thought your hands would be sufficient?

Second, psychological. How can mere women deal with the immense emotional upheaval of being up in the air and fighting! with! the! enemy! You have to be a strong, warlike man to be able to survive the trauma. (Maybe some extra testosterone would help?)

Third, cultural. Don't you know women are supposed to be at home, making food and ironing uniforms while the men are out fighting? Who is going to have the male fighter pilot's uniform all starched and ironed in the morning, and the food hot on the table when he gets home in the evening, if his wife is out flying too?

Fourth, historical. We are a patriarchal society. That is, you stupid women who want to be equal be grateful for the crumbs of respect we are giving you. Isn't it enough that we are allowing you into non-combat positions? You want to actually FIGHT ALONGSIDE THE MEN?

I am not surprised at the IAF's policy; I am not surprised at the obvious sexism in a government agency. I am apalled though, that the Vice Chief Air Marshall doesn't seem in the least embarrassed about his own sexism - or about making such sexist statements as a defense of those sexist policies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: November 25

Read this article (hat tip: Deborah) on how violence against women is a problem that is far from a solution. Read it to understand why feminism is so relevant. I write against sexism, subtle and blatant, but one horrendous result of the sexism and misogyny prevalent in the world is violence against and harassment of women and girls.

What shall we do on November 25 to mark our protest at the ongoing violence against women? I suggest writing a post (or a comment here, if you don't have a blog) at some act of violence you have witnessed, or endured.

Let us talk about this. Let it not get shoved under the carpet, let it not remain a 'women's issue'. Crimes of violence committed against a billion people is not a 'women's issue', even if all those people are women and girls. What does it say for our world if we allow this to happen?

Blog against violence. Blog for equality.

If you plan to participate, do put in a comment below.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In Case You Wonder...

...what I'm grateful for, let me give you an example.

I went to a small town nearby for some work with Friends of Children. The Guy, who also volunteers, though not as actively as I do, expressed regret that he wasn't going with me. He wanted to get some rest. Even though we had had a late night, he got up with me in the morning so that he could make me my favourite breakfast, packed the laptop and camera in the backpack for me to carry, and even found my raincoat and umbrella when it started to rain and I mentioned I should carry them.

After I went downstairs, I called the Guy to make sure he had packed the camera. He told me he was just done cleaning the fan (a chore that was long overdue and that I had been too lazy to take on).

I felt guilty then, especially as the Guydad arrives early tomorrow and the house was in a mess: at least the guest bedroom needed to be tidied a bit. The Guy had informed me that he was going to have a lazy day.

Our team had a lot to do and didn't get time for lunch: we made do with biscuits and chips and bananas and tea. But the nice breakfast I had had helped to keep me going. We finally got a nice meal at six, when we had finished our work and were on the highway back to town.

I just got home, and discovered that the Guy was cooking dinner. I was touched, and glad, for I am longing for a home-cooked meal. Then I saw a big bowl and uncovered it. It contained gajar ka halwa. I tasted it: not-too-sweet, creamy, with lots of raisins and nuts... perfect! Neither of us had ever made it before. I had meant to all this week and was too lazy to.

And the house was much tidied.

What have I ever done to deserve him?

Friday, November 13, 2009

To the Guy, Four Years Later

It has been four years. Four years since we agreed to take a chance, decided to be together. Let me confess, if I had known how full of fun and contentment and happiness the next four years would be, I would have deliberated less before making the decision. I had thought then, that I was simply "locking you in" so that you would remain my best friend. I hadn't imagined how much of the lover, the partner, the playmate, the parent you would become.

We talked last night of that night exactly four years ago, when we had met after many months, and for the first time after our feelings towards each other began to change, and, not wanting to waste a single precious moment of those three days, we had talked to each other till we could stay awake no longer and had fallen asleep holding hands.

We might have been less frugal about those moments if we had known how much time we would have together in the next four years, if we had known that in a little over two months, I would have moved to your city. On the other hand, we might have not.

I am grateful for what we have. I am so grateful that I have you.