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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Rambling, Pointless Post

I don't really want to blog. Not today, either. I don't feel like I have anything important to say. But I thought, maybe, if I force myself to write one post, I will want to do another, and then another. And when you have been asking me so nicely, how can I refuse? (Only don't complain at the quality. I'm focusing on getting something out today.)

I have realised something unenviable about myself. I realised that without structure to my work, without deadlines or a boss to report to, I let things slide. I commit myself to things and when it comes to it, don't want to finish them. Like that half-finished piece of embroidery lying optimistically in my living room. Like that presentation I was going to edit. But on the other hand, I have not been very behindhand on my work with Friends of Children, partly because it's something I really want to do, and partly because my friend Vani (whom the Guy, not without reason, refers to as my "boss") reminds me if I miss something.

In other news, the Guy caught a bad cold and generously passed it on to me. He coughs, I sneeze. He comes home early from work because the AC makes him feel ill; I wake up umpteen times at night because I can't breathe well through my nose.

The weather has been behaving erratically too. First it was sunny, with a nippy breeze. Today the sun has disappeared, the sky is covered with clouds, and it's been drizzling. It looks lovely and romantic: I wish I was feeling better and could actually enjoy it.

But at least I can look out of my window at the grim grey sky and see the raindrops fall. It makes me glad we don't live right in the city, even though I often crib about how far we are from everything and how I have to walk up to the main road to get a rickshaw. I am glad the Guy set up our spare bedroom for me to use, so that I can look up from my desk and look at the world outside.

But the GuyDad is coming this weekend, and I will have to relinquish my office (after I put all the mess into some semblance of order). I am afraid I'll be even less tempted to work then. The GuyDad is the least fussy of houseguests, though, so that should be the extent of my complaint.

There you go, a post at last. I can't think of anything more to say. Maybe I'll try again in a day or two.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Nothing to Say

Or rather, I have a lot to say, but can't seem to be able to say it. I write long blog posts in my head and don't seem to have the energy to commit it to the keyboard. I promise myself I'll blog, and the day passes by with me pushing the thought away for later, until it's tomorrow again.

I don't suppose you've missed me. (Well, you haven't said so.) So it doesn't really matter.

But if you do come here and look at the date on the last post, and wonder... I'll be back.