In the wake of #MeToo…

MeToo-twitter-imageOver the past 2 weeks, social media has exploded with the #MeToo campaign. It caught fire when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo in the aftermath of ‘Harvey Weinstein’ scandal, where dozens of women accused the Hollywood mogul of having sexually harassed them. Following Alyssa’s tweet millions of women have come forward with stories of being prey to known and unknown men who sexually harassed or molested them.

I too put up a #MeToo post just like 90% of my women friends did. It is commendable that we women have found strength in the collective, which we couldn’t as individuals. I prefer to refrain from articulating on the many incidents over years, which led me to write #MeToo. Instead I’m pondering over this one time when someone groped me in an office meeting room – the safest places of all, one would assume – and to my utter disbelief, I found myself dumb-struck. I was unable to move or say a word for the first few minutes. My tongue felt like it was glued to the roof of my mouth, my hands seemed stuck to the sides of my body, my senses frozen.

So what happened to the bold, liberated, free spirited woman I presumed myself to be all those while? What was this inertia which suddenly consumed me beyond my own belief? Was it because I was transported back in time to a period when I found myself in similar predicaments, but did not know how or if I should respond? Or is it that despite all what I had surmised about myself, I too am just another weak, feeble, hapless woman like the millions I doled out pity over the years?! If so, who was responsible for my complete incapacity to react, despite being a non-conformist who has been relentlessly vocal about justice and its paraphernalia? Why did I let him walk out of the meeting room with a puffed-up chest like he had conquered something prodigious, instead of hanging his head in shame for his abominable behaviour? The fact is, I felt disgusted. I am not sure who is responsible for that though – him, my upbringing, or the society as a whole. A revolting, repulsive feeling overtook my entire being that I was ashamed of my body, ashamed that I have breasts. And made me freeze like an Arctic iceberg.

Thankfully I was wise enough to come to my senses, lodge a complaint with the HR department and the punishment he deserved was meted out – immediate termination. The myriad of #MeToo hashtags that have been swarming the internet shows the unbelievable number of women who have been preyed upon right in our vicinity. Isn’t it surprising that most of the women we know have all been wronged against, but none of us know as many men who have been in the wrong? Precisely why women need to rise from being lambs who find strength just in herds, and be tigresses who hold their heads high even while facing the storm. Let fingers be pointed with no shame, at those who think they can hide in the safety net of anonymity endowed by the silence of women.

This thought catapults another incident to my mind. Of another woman who stood up against the atrocity that she was faced with. A colleague at the same office, who had an exactly identical experience from her co-worker. She promptly filed a complaint to the HR team. She had to attend multiple hearings and discussions for months, which culminated in them deciding to move the person to another location as a disciplinary action. She expressed her disapproval that this sort of trivial penalizing would not suffice. And now even after 10 months, she is still fighting for justice. The worst part is that, one of the lead in the HR team, called her for a meeting outside office premises and advised her to forgo the case, lest it creates more issues and more ignominy to her. The difference between mine and her case was that, I had a voice clip I discreetly recorded while confronting the guy about his deed and that proved his culpability, while she on the other hand had no proof of the incident. Whatever happened to ‘no questions asked for harassment redressal’, that too in a company which has been featured repeatedly in the global list of ‘Top 50 employers for women’!

And a question gnaws my insides – When a woman is treated like she is a run-down wall any passer-by could scrawl scruffy graffiti on, it takes every shred of her strength from every crevice of her being to tear herself open, lay out her entrails and scream aloud of how she was trespassed. And when she manages to do that, if the law, the organization she works for, or the society that includes her family and friends look at her as if she is a culprit, and if she needs to prove what happened to her or she needs to be ashamed of what transpired, what is she left with? When she tries to stand tall and cry her lungs out of the horrors she endured, where would a woman draw strength from, if her trembling shins are kicked down?


For ARoy, from my humble pen

When the hands that pray

Are same as the ones that kill,

And people think it’s divine to fold palms

And bow down in temples, still.

Should you give them a ‘sermon’,

Which noone else will ?

Or instead, just sit back, be nonchalant

And take a tranquilizer pill?

Even when those voices ring in your ears,

Painful and shrill,

Should you let it blare,

Alongside the incessant blood spill ?

The thoughts that make you restless

And make your bones chill,

Should you let it be, let them wane, or at least

Let your bleeding heart be dipped by your quill?

Arundhati Roy, such an inspiration.. and this is about her.. from my humble nimble fingers 🙂

#ArundhatiRoy #Inspiration #TheMinistryofUtmostHappiness

Chester.. “In the end , it does matter”

For the past 10 hours or so, I’ve been scraping every bit of news off of the internet, about the apparent suicide of Chester Bennington. In the shock, didn’t know what else to do, or how else to vent.

Chester and Linkin’ Park holds a significant part of my coming of age, the days when I didn’t know if I am a teenager or an adult. His words ran deep into my veins, and his songs drilled right into my heart. And it was so easy for him to have that effect on me, like many others I’m sure, because such was the power of his music, and his voice. I had all of LP songs in my playlist most of the time, their wallpaper and screensavers on my computer desktop. In fact the best way to concentrate while I study was to listen to LP loudly with headphones and then read the textbooks. Chester was my go-to-person during my ‘not-so-bright’ days at college, imbued with adulterated friendships, broken relationships and tattered hearts. And then the image that comes to one’s head would be me taking a long drive in car, lulling my head to music slowly. But no, the only way I knew to vent was to drive like crazy, screaming his songs out loud and that was my healing process. And it worked like magic, every single time.

When I decided to go abroad for higher studies, the very first article on top of my ‘to-do list’, was to watch LP live before I come back to India. And I made it happen, even though I had to drag friends who knew absolutely nothing about the band. To my surprise, they too enjoyed the concert quite a lot even when they had never heard any other songs than ‘In the end’. That was the charisma of Chester running all about the stage like a rabbit, singing and screaming, throwing water all over his face intermittently and never taking a proper break in the whole 3 hours. He really was born to perform, an absolute superstar, in every sense of the word.

I am sure many like me understand it when I say LP gave me the will to go on. To an extent, it is better to face things with rage than with depression. With rage you fight it out, you don’t give up. I don’t know how to explain feeling connected to a person whom you never knew in person. But I felt it. And I know for many my age, his songs helped fight our demons, and he literally was part of our growing up. I felt he dragged me out of hell holes and pits of darkness, while singing to me that he’s been there too, and I am not alone in feeling what I felt. I remember feeling that if he could fight the devils inside him and rise up in life, so could anyone. And through it all, I changed, transformed, and I learnt one more way to vent and cope – write.

But I think I still need to take a drive now. For, no amount of words seems to heal this pain.

He sang,

I want to heal,
I want to feel,
What I thought was never real
I want to let go of the pain I felt so long (Erase all the pain ’til it’s gone)
I want to heal,
I want to feel,
Like I’m close to something real
I want to find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong

Chester, I hope you are in a place you feel you belong, and you find the peace you wanted all along. Nothing can ever deter the love and allegiance I feel to you and your music. Love you forever and ever.


Women’s day specials

FM channel 1 – Man congratulating his lady colleagues ‘cos they are going to achieve a supposedly ‘unheard’ feat of cleansing the sea by scuba diving to celebrate womanhood.

FM channel 2 – Lady in high pitched voice irritatingly saying thanks incessantly to all women in her life, in her office, in the city, in the country for being women, for being successful and followed by another list of superlatives I can’t recollect for the life of me!

FM channel 3 – Tamil song which LITERALLY translates as the following..

Male vocals: “You are a Mango, A Malgoa Mango from Salem..I am going to pluck you and eat you whole..
Female vocals: “Yes I am Mango, how are you going to savour me?
Male: I am going to bite you here and there..
Female: Devour me and say where all I taste good..”

No more channel change. Next stop: The power OFF button.

Because, I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough with all this pseudo enthusiasm and jumping-up-with-joy over Women’s day, and enough with the peppy fun events to celebrate womanhood ! ‘Cos you look around and all you see is women being objectified in every way possible way; men, women, celebs, advertisements, movies, songs and everything and everyone under the sun equally applauding and endorsing it. Don’t people realise this is the crux of is what is terribly wrong with our society. This is what ultimately leads to women being preyed upon at every place she goes to. There is not a single safe haven for women – not school, college, office, buses, public places, her own home or even in her mother’s womb. Because a woman is just an ‘object’– for religious extremists, for moral polices, for movie heroes, for family members and for men in general. There is no escaping it, even if you are a glitzy glam girl who goes on screen all dolled up and is overwhelmed by the claps of millions! Hope no one still wonders why in this great nation a woman gets molested every 2 hours and raped every 4 hours! (And that’s real stats!)

If media is actually genuinely bothered about women’s welfare, they should start by creating a better milieu for women to dwell in. They should stop promoting anything that objectifies women and vehemently oppose it. They should start channelizing their energies towards educating people on why women too deserve respect, towards bringing awareness among the lower strata of society to treat and value women as equals, and to make every man recognize the fact that women are not mere soulless ‘objects’.

P.S.: Forgive me all my friends who wished me and whom I didn’t wish back. Forgive me for not able to overlook the glaring eczema our society wears with pride, and join in the ‘pretend-that-ALL-women-are-happy’ events to celebrate womanhood.

And it’d never be the same…

It was the Spring of 1996. I was 12, and he was 2. He was running about in the verandah of the house. And me chasing him shouting “Don’t run too fast!” I picked him up and carried him back inside, though he was actually a little heavy for the scrawny skeletal frame that I was. He fussed for a 4th helping of his favourite ‘Fuut Salad’, I turned down his plea and gave him a peck on the cheek instead. In return he gave me his own version of kisses – a lick on the cheek.

Year 1998. I was 13 and he was 3. It was the year I learnt to ride a scooty and he was in his Karate Kid phase. I was exhausted the whole time getting punched incessantly, though it didn’t stop him from throwing tantrums to go riding in the scooty. He would stand in the front, wailing and screaming in a happy hysteria when the wind kissed his soft, round, chubby face.

Onam, 1999. Me 14, and him 4. All cousins were gathered together at one place to celebrate the festival. He was the centre of attraction of course, being his nonchalant self. Singing (rather howling) through the mike non-stop, and dancing (rather bouncing) in all directions were few of his antics which he wooed the crowd with. It was also the Onam when we would watch Juhi Chawla’s only Malayalam movie till date, and he would make me repeatedly sing his favourite song from it, over and over till he slept off by my side.

Year 2005. Me 21 and he was 11. We were teaching him how to play Rummy. He sucked at it so bad that he left it halfway through and went to play cricket. It was also around the time when mobile phones made their grand entrance, or should I say barged into our lives. And one night he took my phone, read all the SMS in my inbox and then started blackmailing me in return for chocolates.

2007. I was 24, and he was 14. It was the year I started earning ample money to afford buying branded clothes for him and to have dinners at star hotels. Who gets to sit in the front seat was our constant point of contention every time we got out into the car and agreeing to put Rahman songs in repeat-mode was our common point of reconciliation. Those were also the days I would fake sick leaves and extend the weekend just to sit and watch cricket with him, eat and drink in the same bed the whole day and finally doze off gazing at the TV hugging each other.

Year 2012. Me 28, and he was 18. It was the year he stripped open his wallet of secrets and regrets to me. Girlfriends of distant past, present and even future; friends he loathed and enemies who were friends; the scars they left, along with the lessons; of his realisations that family comes before anybody and stands by you in front of anybody, of how much he started to crave being with family, being at home, than anything else in the world; of his introspections, and even of his glimpses into spirituality!  Those were the days he held a mirror across his heart and asked me to peek in. And the image which ricocheted made me realise that the toddler I had come to love about 2 decades ago had almost completed his transmogrification to an adult – and a decent, beautiful one at that. I couldn’t be gladder and prouder.

Then came 2013. Me 29, Him 19. It was the year when I finally taught him how to play Rummy during a family trip to Munnar and boy, was he proud! The year when on and off he would ask me out of the blue, “29 Chechi? Really?? 29 !?” And I’d smile and nod, “Yes Kanne, I’m 29.” And he would chuckle revealing the cute one-of-a-kind dimple – which was not on his cheeks but on its fold, under his left eye – and reply, “But you sure don’t look a day older than 15 !” It was also the year which had the night I wailed in horror, staring at a TV screen. The year he disappeared into oblivion without hinting even a word. The year I wish I could erase off of memories, off of my life.

Throughout the year I thought of how I would ever cope with this loss. Time flowed by and I gradually came to realise… from that night in May, that night onwards, my life would NEVER be the same. Life as I knew it had irrevocably changed on that night he left without even a wave of hand. No matter what an incredible holiday I get to take, I’d always think, “if only he was also here with me on this trip”. No matter how huge the leaps of success I make are, I’d always think, “if only he was here to celebrate this with me”. No matter how blissful a moment I get to savour, it would always be marred by the shadow of what transpired on that dreadful night in May. No matter how beautiful a moment I have, a second later it would diminish in quality, and lose its sheen just by the thought of not having him in my life anymore, or ever again.

2016. Me 32, Him still 19. That’s what death does. It changes lives; while keeping the person intact, frozen in our memories.

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Defining taste.

Sometimes you chance upon something that it makes you stop. Go back. And take a look again. Today I stumbled upon something like that at my friend’s office deck. It was a model tree made from cut stones of white, red, blue and green colors. Just glancing at it while passing by sparked some flickers in my mind. Flashes of a life so long past. Of my childhood. Of wearing necklace made of exactly same colorful cut stones; cut, yet polished and smooth. Of feeling beautiful just wearing them, though I was just a skinny 8 year old. Of me fiddling with the stones all the while. Of licking the stones often, to see what they tasted like. Of mom chiding me for being filthy like that. And me thinking, “It’s not filthy. Its tasty.” I guess I thought tasty also meant liking something when you put it in your mouth. In that logic, it wasn’t tasteless. ‘Cause I liked their coolness and their shape. I loved the way the stones felt against my tongue, for reasons unknown.

Or who knows, maybe I loved them because deep down I wanted to be like them – irregular, uneven, but with a finesse. And yes tasteful too.



Isola di’ Burano in Italian – Island of Burano… Island of colours, it should rather be named. Every building joined on its side with another. Every building having an upbeat colour and none having the same shade as its Siamese twin. I wonder if the islanders get together and decide which colour they should paint their walls every year, so that they don’t end up having the same colour as their neighbour’s house.

I just couldn’t stop clicking pics of the buildings. They were so bright and vivid. The whole island was full of almost identical tenements. Each sporting a different colour, and yet the melange managed to be so well blended. Numerous disparate colours in one place, yet so perfect with each other, so perfect together.

I kept gazing at them wonder-eyed. May be because they were so unlike us humans. We too are of the same species, but of different colours – having different cultures, languages, vibes, thoughts and feelings, and so imperfect when together. So imperfect together as a race.

Humans, the biggest let-down of nature.