Friday, December 21, 2012

No Country for Women

The more I read about the gang rape of the 23 year old student in Delhi, the more I feel helpless about not being able to do anything about it. Having learnt the details of the gruesome crime, I left for work feeling both aghast and extremely angry. I  wondered that in a country where only one in four rape accused gets convicted, what the odds of her getting justice were. And more importantly, I hoped this will be one of the last sacrifices a woman will have to make before our country wakes up to creating a system that is a strong deterrent to such acts - including others such as abduction, dowry harassment, molestation, domestic violence, honour killings, female foeticide, forced prostitution or even verbal harassment and eve teasing. (No wonder India has been ranked as worst country for women of the G20 countries, even behind Saudi Arabia!)

I am not going to talk about stuff that we read in the headlines. I will talk about the lives of the ones I know and my own. I have witnessed a woman being groped in public by a group of hooligans while she was getting off a shared passenger tempo. A cousin of mine was harassed and beaten for dowry for many years until she divorced her husband. My maid left her husband because he was physically abusive. One of my friends confessed to me about how a member of her family had once made an attempt to take advantage of her when she was 13. Another friend spoke about how his friend and neighbour was killed on resisting a sexual assault (this one made it to the headlines). I am appalled by the frequency with which I hear/see such instances of varying degree in my daily life. I can go on and on but I intend to focus on a more deeper problem - of the male mentality.

I started a discussion with my team (graduates from a tier two college) over lunch about the recent cases in Delhi and Mumbai. One asked who the Delhi victim will marry, to which the other replied "the guy who she was with in the bus". Regarding the rape of the Spanish woman and murder of my friend's friend in Mumbai, they commented that it is not always the male fault - "Women should not encourage men by wearing provocative clothing and inviting unnecessary conversation". My friend who's friend was killed was asked in the interrogation by the police - "What was a girl doing with a him at 10.30PM in his house when they were 'just' friends?" and "Did she always wear clothes like this (probably pyjamas/shorts and tee shirt) ?"

To such male chauvinism and highhandedness, I have the following questions:

Why should a woman dress decently to prevent rape? Even if she is naked, would it still not be her prerogative whether to get physical with a man? Why can't men stay at home to keep the women safe? Why does a woman with many male friends become immoral? Why is the onus on women to not get raped? And the more universal questions related to all acts of violence against women -Why is a woman victimized when her only crime is "being forced" into the act?

The worst part is this chauvinism is not restricted to just one section of the society - it's prevalent across economic classes, castes and education levels - more in case of some pockets of the country, less in case of some others. I can't speak on behalf of these men because I don't fall in their category.

However, I can't do nothing about it. I can challenge the derogatory mindset when I get an opportunity. I can help and support the ones who have been roughened up by these experiences. I can educate children on the importance of being sensitive to people from all genders and respecting their opinion. I can vote for governments which take proactive steps in prevention of violence against women. I can respect the women in my life for the individuals they are.

I can't be both enraged and helpless - anger is valuable driving force best not wasted. I can however channelize these feelings into better activities and not just FB/Twitter symbolisms. I can change one person's views and hope that the next time he looks at a woman as a sexual object that can be owned and abused, he remembers my words. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

For the sake of Formality: The Arranged Marriage Intro


A prospect recently mailed one of my friends giving a brief introduction of himself. I couldn't help writing down the probable reply (in italics) she could give to the expressive bloke (names changed for the sake of everyone's privacy). I mean no offence to him, but the world can live with a few more SMILES :-) 

Hi Anita,

This is Nilesh Piramal. I am pretty sure you might have heard about me from your family. Our parents/relatives are trying to find best companion/life partner for us. You are the first girl that my parents strongly suggested to get in touch with. So, let me take a moment to thank you and your family for sharing your profile with my family.


Hi Nilesh,
As you already know, I am Anita. I don't introduce myself in third person. I haven't heard anything about you so your mail comes as another shocker. My parents are trying extremely hard to find me a companion (don't know about best) and you will not be glad to know that you are just another boy in the unending list. At this point, they will be okay if I even marry an orangutan (not that I am calling you one).

My parents really wants to tie my knot. Ahhh, i guess they hate my freedom ;-). 

Haha. Which of your knots are you talking about you naughty boy? :P If you meant your parents want you to tie 'the' knot, my parents want the same too. They don't hate my freedom. They do not want to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions anymore (I am not an obedient daughter). 

Let me introduce myself in brief. As you might know, my name is Nilesh. I am born and brought up in Valsad, Gujarat. I belong to lovely family of 5 members (Mom, Dad and 2 elder brothers).  I am proud and lucky to born in such a beautiful family. From the childhood, i was taught importance of education, independence and respect for fellow human beings.

Oh I forgot you still had not started. Yes, this time I know your name is Nilesh (good for you). You must be one hell of a guy to be born and brought up and eligible for marriage in one mail. I am glad your family is lovely. My family is family, though I may have called myself lucky had I been Bill Gates' daughter and proud if my father was Tendulkar. I love my family but that doesn't make them lovely for the world. I appreciate the values your parents have taught you. From my family, I learnt the importance of mutual respect and the myths of traditions (like marriage). I learnt the importance of education and independence myself, which may in all likelihood affect the outcome of our interaction. 

Career & Education:
Currently, I am working as Software Engineer with O-General, CT, USA. I have passion for software development. I believe that my work should directly or indirectly improve lives of people. I have always been star performer and awarded with best performer awards couple of times :-). 

Oh I too was a software engineer. Back then, I wondered how anyone with the slightest intelligence could be passionate about software development. That is by no means directed at you. That was in India where they could make a donkey do coding. I know engineers are smarter here. I would like to know how your work directly improves lives of people (not including you). BTW, that star performer at work bit is of no consequence to my rating of you unless you are talking about extra curricular activities :P

I came to United States in the year 2009 to pursue my Masters in Computer Science. Prior to coming to United States, I worked as Software Engineer with one of leading firm in Hyderabad, India for 2.5 years. I did my Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science from Christ University in the year 2005.

Oh come on, you can use the abbreviation U.S. and MS in CS. Don't have to be so formal and/or insult my intelligence. Which leading firm did you work for - Accenture/TCS/Infosys/CTS/Wipro/HCL? I am assuming leading firm means one of those in IT services and not truly leading firms like Google/Facebook/LinkedIn where the work you do actually impacts lives and sets new technology trends. I worked for one of the former too which is exactly why I quit to pursue higher education. I don't think my affiliations matter as much as my accomplishments as far as career goes. 

I am pretty good at what i do. Just to illustrate, I manage to gather some information about you from the web :-). Currently, you are working as a Project Manager at DuPont. You did your Masters in Information Systems from Ross School of Business, Indiana - which is very impressive. You are gorgeous and heavenly pretty ( my cousin sister words :-) ).

Wow, you are a star Google searcher. I didn't even have to use Google to know that you have poor vision/impaired judgement. I am heavenly ordinary in the looks department but thanks for the kind words.  

Hobbies / Interest:

I am foodie. I enjoy great food - pasta, mexican, italian, indian, … you name it ;-).  

Mr.Foodie, Pasta falls under Italian unless you have found a Gujju variant of it. ;)

I am fond of good music. I love watching TV shows and movies.

I would love to know which bands you listen to and the TV shows you watch. I may well base my decision to continue talking to you on your reply to this question

I like to jog and exercise at GYM during evening hours after work. Oh, once upon a time, I used to a badminton champion :-). I used to play badminton at state as well as at National levels.  

I am a fitness freak too. I went from Size 10 to Size 2 in like one year, but well, I can't guarantee that for the rest of your or my life. For now, I run 5 km a day. "Once upon a time"? You will have to be really old or a fairy from the classics. I don't have any "once upon a time" moments in sports. I was a fat lethargic kid.

I love to travel. One of my dreams is to go on World Tour for vacation.

I hope you have more than two stamps on your passport to prove that. That is as general as anyone can get. If you love travel so much, you should know exactly where you would want to go. 

During weekends, I like to get together with friends to share a laugh or two and have a great time.

All of us in the US end up doing that. Unless you are a sociopath. 

BTW, I still don't know which of these are your hobbies and which are your interests. Do you even know the difference? 


About Me:

I am compassionate, confident, smart, handsome, hardworking, decent, laid-back and a happy person ( Too much ? :-) ). I believe that you get only one life and you should live your life to the fullest. I will tell you more in chat.

I am surprised you have to use words to influence the opinion I have formed after reading your mail thus far. You will be surprised to know that I do agree with some of them, like confident and decent. Happy person, yes, considering the amount of smileys. I would prefer you let me form your opinion of you than make me memorize your impression of yourself. That will be truly - uh, classy NOT and a bad indicator of the direction our life could take post the 'knot', if it does get there. 

I think I have already bored you enough :). I would love to know more about you, your thoughts, family, dreams, hobbies. I look forward to your email. 

Finally, you realize you are boring. As you can see, I am a person of few words. Sarcasm is my natural defence to stupidity. I can tell you about my family and me, but as far as the thoughts and dreams part goes, it is too soon to get there. I am 27 (yes, OLD), have two brothers (surprise, they are twins), one father and one mother (no surprises there!). I also have two dogs (who are not twins and tend to put on/lose weight as quickly as I do). 

Let us first start communicating over mail / chat /phone /sms. Let me know the best time to catch you on chat. What do you think ?

I don't think you will be able to deal with me on chat. Let us continue mailing and test your ability to 'work hard' to impress me.

Finally, Smile :-).  Say "Hello" to your family members on my behalf.

You are one Happy Person, aren't you. Cheers to your lovelies too!!

Take good care of yourself &  Have a great day.

I will do both. You stay jolly.

Best,

-- Nilesh :-)
(See attached photos of me, if you are little curious :-))

Cheers,

Anita

I can't imagine you expect me to smile seeing them. Nonetheless, you are more pleasant looking than some of the others who my parents have recommended but alas, it is a pity that God doesn't bless more men with 'heavenly' looks, brains and some emotional IQ.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Choice to Celebrate

It is Diwali. I woke up at 7.30 AM today. I woke up not because of my endeavour to see the break of dawn on an auspicious day (anyways, that happens way to early for me). I woke up because of the noise of firecrackers and the blaring sound of my neighbour's speakers. Today, like many other festive days in the past, it was just a question of my sleep, which was far more disturbed anyways due to the allergic sneezing from the smoke of the fireworks. I can live with that as I have in the past. The photography keeps me going, but unfortunately there is far less light and far more noise during Diwali these days. That is my personal regret and not the objective of this post.

However,  there could be an old lady suffering from asthma who had an attack that ruined her Diwali. There could be a mother trying to put her baby to sleep, only to find it has woken up yet again to the sound of a chain bomb. All her festive preparations could still be pending. There could be a person down with dengue, whose head is exploding because of the fever and headache, to who every single sound of a cracker is like a hammer smashing at the walls of his skull. He would probably want to rest and not want to celebrate at all. On another day, there could be a man, who has had a heart attack, being rushed to the hospital only to  be caught in traffic caused by Ganesh visarjan celebrations. The point is that some person, somewhere is being discomforted with the celebrations of the larger group. Forget humans, even animals are not spared by children who tie crackers to their tails "just for fun" during Diwali or make them targets for their water balloons/cannons loaded with strong permanent colours  during Holi. I have made it amply  clear to those children that such behaviour is cruel and bordering inhumane (regardless of whether I know them) to the extent of threatening to report them to the police or animal right groups.

Celebrations are a reflection of the passion of our people. They are a great way of bringing the community feeling in otherwise isolated lives and must be encouraged. I personally take great pride in telling my friends who are foreigners about the uniqueness of our culture and its celebrations. I think India won't be the same without them.

However, in a democracy, the power to exercise the choice of not participating in a celebration or a part of one must be given to every individual. People must be sensitive that the individual may opt out of the celebration  not because they oppose it but because they are discomforted by it.

It is as much their festival as our own and they have as much a right to celebrate it their preferred way. By being responsible and sensitive, we can help them make their own choice. That is how every single one of us can have a joyous festival. That is how we become a democracy in the truest sense.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Pursuit of Happyness

The mail subject reads "Congratulations". It is a simple word, of which I heard a lot this week at my engagement. However, it didn't hold as much meaning then as it held now. Then, I was getting a stamp of public approval on my relationship, which would have had no impact on how things would turn out between us in the long run. Now, I was getting a licence to make my dream a reality - a dream that will add meaning to my life, that will allow me to impact the larger problem in my own small way, that will teach me lessons for a lifetime, that will set me free and above all, that will make me a better person, a stronger person.

On reading the mail, I ran to the bathroom and screamed. A few tears rolled down my eyes. At the same time, I was also smiling. I wished I had the one person, who had made me believe in the dream, with me. Of the memories that I vividly remember, only one other had managed to bring out such emotions in me - when I had told this same person what she meant to me.

That is what being in love is all about. I am lucky to have found it twice.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.

Today, I can understand what must be going through Arnold H. Glasow's mind when he quoted the above statement. I took the first step in my journey towards excellence, moving away from mediocrity. I have been excellent in the past - when I have given those speeches in the debates I have won, when I have got my class of novices together to perform and to win a street play competition, when I have accepted nothing less than perfection from my club teams during certain events or when I have deleted 95% of my photographs because they haven't made the cut. My focus on excellence had reduced only recently in the corporate environment, where the means often don't justify the ends. In some way, the mediocre way of thinking had started seeping into the other activities of my life.

It felt good to make an attempt at being excellent again today. It would be over stating my performance, but I would at least take a great deal of pride in saying that "I put in my best." The amount of effort it took was tremendous considering the circumstances. I had been planning for this day for 6 months, planning for each little detail. I did not want to leave anything to chance. I managed to not leave much to chance eventually, except one small but important aspect. I hope it doesn't cost me the day. 

If I get the desired outcome, I will experience a flurry of emotions. It will probably be one of the best days of my life - only second to falling in love. If I don't, I will at least take pride in the fact, that despite everything that I have seen in the recent past, I haven't let the sea of mediocrity drown the perfectionist in me. Needless to say, the disappointment will be tremendous and probably, I will not get a second chance at doing what I set out for. That's when I will call upon my tenacity.

PS: Thanks everyone who has stood by me in the last few months. I could not have done it without your understanding my passion about the task at hand.




Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Final Lap


A journey arduously long
To begin writing your life’s true song
You think you had planned it all
Underestimating the height of Murphy’s wall
Only a few miles to go
But with resources depleting
Every mile worth four
More uphill the task seeming

Many say shortcuts are easier
To me, compromise is  a stranger
What’s the joy of a journey?
If you make satisfaction your enemy
A task is meant to be done well
Only then can your heart swell
The sense of true achievement and pride show
On the retrospective road when you go

The chosen path you must walk
The set objective you must stalk
For being a man resourceful
Material wealth is less meaningful
You draw the power of your will
The ability to focus on the path uphill
Your creativity is limitless, moral fibre strong
Why even think you will go wrong?

You won’t if only you know
Why you take the path you do
For the reason is the source
Of the belief – your driving force
Believe in your goal
Then, no wall will be too tall
For belief gives you wings to fly
To rise, and to create your own high 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Argument for the Shadow's survival

Coincidentally, it has so happened that two of my friends, who are completely unrelated to each other, have asked me - Is my blog dead? I would dare say yes but I realize that their fear is not unfounded. The last time I wrote a proper post was probably June. More importantly, the last time I wrote straight from the heart was in December. My blog has not died, but it is surely breathing its last breaths. If it dies, the more appropriate phrase would be "I killed it".

From June to September, I have been making different excuses whenever it comes to writing. The most convincing one probably has been the lack of inspiration, ideas and time in that order. The alternate explanation has been having other forms of expressions that have kept my head clear from clutter. To be honest, I know in a deep corner of my heart that both arguments are without basis. 

Inspiration and ideas do not come knocking on your door often. Ideas and inspiration are both ephemeral, like a bubble of soap water - their beauty can be experienced only for the moment they last. They have to be converted into a more permanent form of expression so that they can stimulate your mind when needed. Instead of capturing the ones that have come my way into a more lasting and complete form of expression, I have chosen to blow them away through menial updates on platforms like Facebook and Instagram thanks to my smart phone. 

While I am a strong advocate of technology that can empower people, I am also in awe of its power to reduce your span of attention and make you a compulsive responsive technology addict. Technology should be an enabler in making you more efficient. If you are not conscious, it quietly starts creeping into your routine so much so that the collective time spent on checking updates on your smart phone takes up more time than the time spend on everyday tasks - for me, those tasks are reading and writing. 

As for the alternate form of expression, I haven't pursued either of my other interests passionately either. I don't remember the last time a photograph I clicked moved me. I haven't been on a travel experience that has been truly enriching. I have not done anything I enjoy in a manner I used to when my blog was active. 

I did not take up blogging because of my craving for a thousand readers. I wanted a record of my memories and feelings, a record I could go back to when I was lost or wanted to switch my mood. I wanted my writing to tell me exactly what I had in mind without telling the world too much. That is the purpose of the Shadow's existence. That is why it must live.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Creative Expression through Experience

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The time it takes me to get one good photograph is probably thrice as much as it takes me to write one good post. However, the effort it takes me to get inspiration for writing is probably thirty times as much as it takes me to click a photograph. While it may seem between the two, I frequently choose photography over writing as my preferred means of expression, it is often a third medium that exhausts the will to practice either of the two, which is experiencing aesthetic or creative brilliance itself. 

Many a time, I end up seeing a work which is a representation of an creative thought in me. Though not my own, it works well to release the vent up creative energy within me. There is only so much more I can do to portray a thought better than the one I have witnessed and enjoyed with immense pleasure. I automatically run out of the will  to recreate what I have already seen before my eyes for the few days that follow. However, it is crucial that the experience is a moving one, a one I connect with.

Today, I saw the movie "Shanghai". Among all the recent movies, I have not seen a better depiction of the corruption inflicted, exploitative and power driven leadership of India than this one. Kudos to Dibakar Banerjee for having laid out the plot beautifully, the cast for having depicted characters that the Indian in me could connect with and above all the crew, for not having missed an opportunity to evoke an emotion, through the choicest visual and sound experience. The movie doesn't even spare the title as a means of evoking thoughts, ensuring you ponder over the contradictions that bind the nation when you leave your seats. I will not write about India nor will I reveal the plot of the movie. I can't because I was overwhelmed. I will however recommend you to watch the movie. 


Friday, June 01, 2012

India's Blues

This is the conversation I had with the driver of the auto rickshaw I was travelling in:

Me (M): Aaj aapne auto kitne baje shuru ki?
Auto Rickshaw Driver (A): 5 baje.
M: Subah nikle the?
A: Haan, lekin dus baje gaadi band kar di
M: Achha, kya hua tha?
A: Sahab faltu mein jokham kaun lega.
M: Kyun aapko pakda kya gundon ne?
A: Nahin, par baaki driver keh rahe the ki raste pe rok ke bol rahe the..."Ghar jaao, nahin toh auto ke saath saath tumhe bhi jala denge"
M: Aur TV pe BJP-Shiv Sena waale keh rahe hain ki logon ne mann se bandh ka samarthan kiya hai. Sab bakwaas hai. Mujhe bhi aaj office jaana tha par subah koi auto hi nahin mil rahi thi.
A: Sa'ab aapka toh theek hai, bahut logon ke paas ek din kaam nahin karne ka matlab hai us din bookha sona. Main bahut logon ko jaanta hun jo vada paav pe din guzaar te hain.
M: Hmmmm.
A: Aisa nahin hai ki humein samarthan nahin karna. Mehengai toh sabko chubti hai. Par hum dhandha bandh nahin kar sakte.
M: Sarkaar keh rahi thi ki logon ko dara dhamka ke bandh kiya jaa raha hai jabki log samajhte hai yeah petrol ke daamon mein badotri zaroori thi.
A: Sab samajh aata hai humein. Sab chor hain. Humare desh mein bahar se dushmanon ki zaroorat nahin, yeah sab politician milke kha jaayenge.
M: Wohi, samajh nahin aata vote de bhi toh kisko.
A: Sa'ab koi toh jeetega, aur phir se wohi hoga.

The common man is disgruntled with the state of governance. He is not stupid. He is only losing faith in the system and is worried about the lack of options. Is there any hope of India  being led by corruption free politicians who truly believe in progressive governance without violating the values that formed the foundation of the nation? 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

When life feels complete

Those are the good years
The ones in which you
Learn to run
You fall, your recover quickly and run again
Like a reset button in a car racing game

Those are the good months
The ones in which you
Travel places
Meeting people, soaking cultures
Like a sponge

Those are the good weeks
The ones in which you
Meet your loved ones
Feeling pampered, getting spoiled rotten
Like a prince or a princess

Those are the good days
The ones in which you
Don't wake up to an alarm
Remembering your dream
Like the visions of another life

Those are the good hours
The ones on which you
Spend dedicated time with your music
Humming along, feeling the rhythm
Like a meditating yogi

Those are good moments
The ones in which you
Experience the first rains
Transforming the world around you
Like a flick of a wand on Cinderella

Those are good blog posts
The ones in which you
Philosophize casually
Making silly comparisons
Like someone who is not you ;)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Rhythm to Life

I love listening to music on my iPod while looking out of the window of a vehicle. The ability to set the tone to a mundane scene of city hustle bustle is empowering. The reason for the empowerment is abstract though (as always is the case with my posts :-P)

Only God can use the play, rewind, forward, pause and stop buttons of life. How you want to perceive life around you is only your prerogative. Someone else is listening to a different score on your life too. Thus, feel free to indulge in this harmless pleasure and amuse thy self. The truth is incomplete without your interpretation.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Limbo

lim·bo
  1. The abode of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls, as those of infants or virtuous individuals who lived before the coming of Christ.
  2. A region or condition of oblivion or neglect: Management kept her promotion in limbo for months
  3. A state or place of confinement.
  4. An intermediate place or state.
  5. The state of my life

Notice definition number 5. This is the one place I hate being and that is exactly where I am. I am a big rock in a gushing stream, being subjected to a constant erosive force of the water, until it wears it out so much that it cannot hold on its own. The current is deceptive. From the outside, I seem in control. I seem strong, apparently directing the flow of the stream. On the inside, I know I am stranded and tired. It is not the one big knockout punch but the many tiny needles that the cold water pierces through my layers. It is loosening me up layer up by layer, till I become nothing but particles of sand and dust in the stream, like the million others there are, flowing haphazardly where the current takes them. The sooner I break free from the current, the better. When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, whichever stands the test of time wins. Time is not on my side, my will still is.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Happy Sixth Birthday

Dear Shadow,
At the very outset, let me wish you an awesome but belated sixth birthday! Apologies for missing out on the celebrations but hell, it was the first time this happened. I will not make excuses seeking forgiveness nor do I promise it won't happen again. All I can say is you have been missed.

I have had my reasons to stay away. Firstly, there has been a paucity of interesting day to day experiences that trigger a creative thought. Work is not what you discuss when you are taking a break from work. Secondly, there has been a dearth of aesthetic experiences that are a stimulus to positive emotional expression. My camera has captured whatever few there have been. I have set even higher standards for you as the years have passed and have not found inspiration that gives me such a quality output.

The initial apology also does not mean I am going to come back to you more often now. As long as the above reasons remain, I will be doing gross injustice to you. What I can promise is I will find a solution to eliminate the reason.

Till then, I am going to wait for inspiration. May you live a long life.

Cheers,
Illuminator