A child is abused. You stay silent
A woman is molested. You stay silent
Your morals are on sale. You stay silent
Predators on the street. You stay silent
Domestic Violence. You stay silent
Or maybe you don’t. You speak. In the numb frozen corridors of your office, in the comfortable AC lounge of your home. From the safety of Facebook. From the anonymity of twitter. There you debate. You ask. What were the child’s parents doing? What was the woman wearing? Who accepts bribes, not me? What was he doing on the dark roads? Was she the one who was divorced earlier? You analyse. You find reasons. Sometimes you are genuinely angry. But the anger stops on the walls of Facbook. Drowns in the noise of your car. Gets replaced by the next breaking news.
So you turn the music a notch higher when you hear the girl in the next building screaming. You walk past the sad little boy abused by his monstrous uncle. You know about the shady deal but would rather become a silent accomplice than be the whistle blower. Unless it happens to you. The screaming girl is your sister. The little boy, god forbid is your child. The corruption costs you your job. You are the one cornered in a dark street. And then you scream. Angry. Passionate. Hurt. And you wonder why isn’t the world speaking up with you. Where are the witnesses, the helpful passers-by. Why don’t they stop. Why don’t they pick you up. Cant they see you lying there bleeding.
And then the gag falls off. But maybe it is too late. Everytime you walk away saying it is not your problem. Every time you shut your windows. Everytime you are a silent spectator. You contribute. You contribute to making the Frankensteinian monster. You feed it. Let it grow. And then oneday it turns on you.And then there is no escape.
Or wait –there is. You have to take off the gag. You have to take off the blindfolds. The earplugs. You have to see evil. Hear evil. And then speak out against evil. If you think you are alone you aren’t. A million strong crowd is standing behind you just waiting for that one individual to take the step. A Gandhi or the Mandela may be too big examples for us ordinary mortals. But the power to be extraordinary, to be brave to step out to speak out lies in all of us. Listen to your conscience. Next time you hear the woman next door screaming, knock on the door.. You see a girl being harassed on the street- step forward, raise an alarm. You know a child is being abused. Walk in to the principals office. The more you keep quiet the more the monsters will grow. Most crimminals are insecure cowards. A small voice from you can stop them in their tracks. Speak up.
And before I sign off I quote Tagore –The one who commits the one who is the silent spectator. Equally deserve to be singed by your hatred. Take a stand. Kill the monster.
I have been asked times and again if marrying a bong girl is a good idea. Yet Others have declared they are genuinely scared of marrying one given how fiery they are. The implication always has been that the choice of whether or not you should marry a bong girl is yours. It isn’t really. Bong girls don’t make anyone make choices for them and gives as much importance to your opinion as to her pet cat maybe less. So before you ask a bong girl’s hand in marriage, know all the reasons why she will not marry you
- She is too hot for you – all that kancha lanka and the sorsher tel. She is hot and fiery and most men pale in comparison
- You don’t compare to her father – Know the father was one of the rare men who could convince a bong woman to marry him. So he is a dude. And you may not just measure up
- You think slower than she speaks – A bong girl beats any Chennai express hollow. You will be left fishing for words or thoughts
- You failed the fish market test – Every bong girl or atleast your bong in laws will make you undergo the fish market test. Stand an hour in a fish market without fainting. Did you survive? No? Side please
- You have the musical talent of a WWF wrestler – Your musical talent is almost close to zero. You cannot even feign playing a guitar. No you cannot get tied to her strings.
- You look like a WWF wrestler – beefy and muscular? The bong girl will conclude you have muscles in your head. Hide the muscles if you have to impress her
- Your hobby is boxing – Told you she isn’t the one who falls for brawns. You do not have a creative hobby. You are better in the boxing ring not with the wedding ring
- You cannot write poetry in praise of her beautiful eyes – Anything even Vogon poetry can save you. No? Wrong place, man
- You do not know rui from katla – the twin Bengali fish and they look deliberately similar to get rid of unwanted suitors like you!
- You disagree with her – remember she always has to win the argument. You disagree with her? You are lucky if you escape only with your wedding hopes dashed
- You agree with her – remember she doesn’t like wimps. So if you are agreeing with everything she says she will walk over you and then leave disgusted
- You neither agree, nor disagree with her – She hates ambivalence. So you do not stand a chance
- You wear mufflers and monkey caps – Tell tale signs of being a mommas boy – she will reject you outright
- You wear short Tees and transparent shirts – As bad. She would tick you off about your sense of fashion
- You cannot pleat a tant saree – Take a crash course in folding and pleating a tant saree even before you go anywhere near her
- You cannot pronounce rasogollas stressing all the o’s – Remember it is rashogolla. Add one or two more h. Speak reverently. Your life depends on it.
- You do not think luchi, begun bhaja are the best thing to happen after electricity
- You did not ace atleast one of Literature or Mathematics – What are you? A moron?
- You do not get excited by ‘A brief history of time’ and say Stephen everytime she says Hawking
- You do not know your Rabindrasangeet from Nazrulgeeti – If you are mixing up the bards, you are better off dead
- You say a word out of place about her mother – Remember Bengali moms bring their daughters up to be tigresses like themselves. Anything you say against her mother is are a reflection on her. Beware
- Your literary skills are limited to the grocer list – Buy a dictionary and start learning new words. You otherwise stand no chance
- You do not know how to cook – A bong girl will expect you to know how to cook and clean. You think these are things that wives do – well we are with her if she beats you up with the nearest detachable object
- You have perfect vision – The bong girl will look at you with suspicion – you must have not read enough books to impress her. Try squinting.
- You have not read the work of atleast one author whose name you cannot pronounce
- You cannot distinguish between ghotis and bangals
- You think Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are equally awesome – Man, you have to take a stand!
- You do not know your varieties of Illish – issh! Go learn pisciculture.
- You flaunt your big car – She shuns ostentation. But she can get on a bike with you and sing Ei poth Jodi na sesh hoye
- You cannot stand someone singing down your neck – If you are out on a two wheeler she will always sing. And the same song. Get the ear plugs but don’t stop her.
- You do not know the answer to ‘ Kamon hobe tumi boloto?’ – Loosely translated this means – What will happen darling. The answer is not giving an answer but say – Tumi bolo. And let this go into an infinite loop
- You do not know the exact meaning of nyaka – No word in any other language conveys what a nyaka is. I wouldn’t even try explaining it – believe me it will take months of perseverance to know what is nyaka and what is not
- You do not let her call all your female cousins and girl friends naka
- You cannot stand sorsher tel and say it is as bad as nariyel tel
- You think cricket is cooler than football – Yes maybe for the period dada played. Never before. Never after
- You think a Punjab ki kudi is hotter – remember they are her strict competition. The good natured bong will give you a good lecture about the bong supremacy. The only punjabis she can stand are the sardar taxiwallas who drive the mammoth Ambassador taxis on Kolkata roads.
- You say a word about dada – Praise or blame – don’t try either
- You cannot eat ‘fuchkas’(golgappas for the uninitiated) – at 10 a minute
- You are not ok with tattoos, thick kohl and eccentric glasses- Her sense of style is bizarre. Live with it
- Your hero isnot Sheldon Cooper – Love Sheldon Cooper, Get under his skin. Watch Big Bang Theory back to front, front to back. Those geeks are her heroes
- She talks about rockets and you think Diwali – For her rocket is rocket science. She likes Diwali rockets too but that takes a second place
- You do not have a conspiracy theory view of Tintin – So you think Tintin is a funny comics and not a political satire. I feel sorry for you, you stand no chance
- You cannot sit through an opera or a dance drama without falling asleep
- You do not have a sense of humour
- You do not think huge red bindis are cool – Yes they hide half her forehead but you have to live with it
- You cannot beat her brother at chess or atleast scrabble – This is the Bengali equivalent of a rajputana duel. Beat her brother at chess. She is all yours.
- You revolt at being called – Ki mishti chele – You are not in unless all her masis and pishis have pronounced you as mishti
- You have not made one pilgrimage tour to Shantineiketan – or if she is the sporty type to that one house in Behala where dada lives
- You cannot do the Dhunichi- the dance with the smouldering pots during Durga without coughing yourself to death
- She is a witch in disguise- only a wizard will do for her – She is magical, she is fiery and she is unpredictable. Only some men measure up to her. The rare ones. The wizards
When I read Michaela Cross’, the University of Chicago student, account of her visit to India I felt a range of strong, conflicting emotions. I felt angry and sad and apologetic. I felt revulsion. I felt resentment to the men who had reduced our identity to a pervert nation subjecting women to a demonic hell. But as I read through the article, I also felt let down. By a view of Indian men that paints a unilateral photo of perversion an misogyny, reducing the identity of a varied nation to a nation of rapists and eve-teasers , erasing the many positives we see around us and making us all feel ashamed of our wickedness. Because it is not just the failure of the Indian men. It is of the women too. Who have raised them and taught them. Who have loved them. Of the entire country which lets a tourist, a foreign student be assaulted while we watch silently. Of a five thousand year old culture that evaporates to leave behind a dirty residue of lecherous men. While I do not wish to play down in any way Michaela’s experiences, I do wish to put my hand up and say a vehement no to the stereotyping. Yes I have seen foreign women being harassed but I have also seen my friends rushing to help them. I have seen rickshawallas taking the unwary visitor for a ride but I have also seen an honest taximan in a worn out uniform returning bags full of dollars and expensive laptops. I have read reports of unthinkable crimes against women but I have met excellent men who are warm, sensitive and respectful. If the rapist at the hotel defines India, so do the honest taximan, the helpful friends and the good hearts who go out of their way to help visitors find their way, trying sign language where communications break down. Crimes against women aren’t a peculiarity to India. And while this no way exonerates my nation, I have faced racial jibes and harrasments in upmarket London and the well-polished America. I have not painted those countries with a uniform brush because a group of boys threw a bottle at me at Belfast or I sat cowering in a late night tube at London while a drunk group hurled abuses at me. Instead I cut through these experiences and discovered the warmth of London or the expansiveness of America. Ofcourse India is a much more difficult to fathom place. The country lives in many centuries, in several layers. And hopefully Michaela will find the strength to cut through the layers and find the gamut of experiences which together make India. Else we would be doomed to be stereotyped by the actions of a few men who are by no means atypical of a pluralist, multi dimensional society.
Peter Pan. I think there is no greater symbolism for our generation. A group of 25-35 year olds who are so scared to grow up. I had always thought that this is a queer problem that I face – the typical aversion to mortgages and childrens education worries, the disproportionate love for the hand written Tees and the torn jeans and a general desire to be secluded from the worries of the world. Till I started asking around. And happened to read this very nice article in a UK daily- describing our generation as the one of Peter Pans. The gen y, genZ intersection and some gen X leftovers. Who have had relatively more pampered childhood than our parents. Grown up on pepsi and Barbie and Leo toys. Been educated at the best places. The luxury of postponing responsibilities as our parents continue to work. No joint families or demanding uncles. Not much of the marriage imperatives as we lead independent, self contained lives with many friends. Not much of a necessity to buy a house as our parents have painstakingly built up property portfolios. And we lead nomadic lives anyway. And so things like marriages, children, mortgages seem like unwelcome intrusions. In our happy bachelor pads with graphic painted walls. And half eaten pizzas. As we start earning well while we are still in our early twenties, we have all the financial freedom to indulge ourselves- the weekend trip, the adventure game, the shopping sprees. The child in us gets fatter and happier. A set of friends who grow up with us perpetuate the ever youth syndrome. TV ads cajole you to stay young. Why a 50 year old SRK is still playing Video Game heroes and singing silly songs. Madhuri and Sridevi go about pretending to be 30 year olds. Am I complaining? No. At the corner of the head there is a nagging worry that I may suddenly grow old and wrinkled and be no longer welcome on the adrenaline rush bike trip. But the worry miraculously disappears as the next back-slapping hangout comes up. And the tattered jeans from 10 years back still fits. As long as the credit cards hold out. And the gyms keep pumping up the energy. We can afford to be the Peter Pans. Mortgages be damned.