Yesterday Night, 30 Women Walked From Anupam Theatre To Munirka Bus Stop For Nirbhaya

Posted: December 16, 2018

30 women came together in response to a call out on Facebook, to walk together on the night streets of Delhi, to commemorate Nirbhaya. 

This picture was taken at 2:30 am. At Munirka bus stop.

It’s 3 am as I am writing this. A little overwhelmed. Today is 16th December, the night Nirvaya was raped.

A group of 30 women started walking from PVR Anupam the same theatre she and her friend walked out after watching the movie, ‘Life of Pi’. And post that took that ill fated bus that halted at Munirka. And we all walked for around 2 and a half hours from 12 am to 2:30 am and reached that place.

It was cold. Bone chilling. Every place brought back memories of what we had read in newspapers. Yet we walked. In memory of one woman we never knew. We were stopped by the police twice asking why were we walking. We saw buses moving. My heart pounded a thousand times thinking of that night.

But we felt safe as there were 30 of us women. Cars sped by. Some honked at us. Yet we marched on. Women supporting women. We kept walking. Public spaces are safest when women are around, this is what each one of us said. This city stabs you with fear each time night falls. We as women make our steps faster, or look for company. This is a weird city. Yet we marched. Marched for that one woman and many.

I have always wanted to walk late at night listening to music. Today I did. And I talked to Nirbhaya. It was after her that the conversation around sexual violence came to India’s living rooms and still is. I just felt she walked with us today. The cold air, the buses, the Delhi sky, the autos… everything was overwhelming. It’s strange that though this night sky belonged to us, we had to form a group to walk out. But we did. Something so overwhelming today. I am just sitting on the bed, did not change my dress after coming back, and am thinking of a woman we walked for today, an unknown woman who brought us together.

Also while coming back with my friend Priyanka, I asked the policeman who was nearby for his number, so that we can feel safe. He not only gave us his number, but spoke to our cab driver to drop us off safely. He even got the cab and the driver photographed. Yes, we reached safe. I called the policeman to inform him. He himself was so overwhelmed. He said, “Thank you Beta. Main aapki call ka wait kar raha tha.” Hearing my voice, he sounded relieved, like a parent. I kept the phone down. Still thinking, wish that night the police were there to ask her, if Jyoti Singh had reached home. If only the bus had been checked.

Feeling so overwhelmed today. Not sure what I am writing.

Maa, I am sorry I did not tell you that I was going for a night walk. I always do, but now I just had to do it for her. You would have not slept the whole night if I had told you, and I’m am sorry for today.

This night walk was organised by Women Walk at Midnight – 16th December to commemorate Jyoti Singh a.k.a Nirbhaya. A walk from the point she left PVR Anupam theatre after the last show of Life of Pi, around the city, ending back at the Munirka bus stop.

A version of this was first published on the author’s Facebook page.

Images credit Paromita Bardoloi.

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Crimes Against Women Have Risen Despite Awareness Created By Nirbhaya Day!

One more Nirbhaya Day comes along on 16th December, 6 years since Jyoti Singh a.k.a Nirbhaya was brutally gangraped. Has anything changed for the women of India?

Amidst all the crimes and atrocities humanity had witnessed, one could not disagree on including the night of December 16, 2012, in the prime list of this sinful history. A young, aspiring physiotherapist traveling with her friend was brutally assaulted in a moving bus, in the capital city of our country, by a group of men who not only gang-raped her, but inserted a rusted iron rod inside her private parts to the extent that her intestines were pulled out.

“A knife cut is enough for a tear to escape, they pulled her intestines out with an iron rod.”

The incident rocked the entire nation. The media dedicated significant airtime, a number of candle walks by the citizens and in a rare instance, law machinery functioned.

The term ‘Nirbhaya’ meaning fearless was coined for the name of the victim. One of the accused hanged himself in prison, another juvenile was given imprisonment in a reform facility, and the remaining four culprits were sentenced by hanging to death. As per the general understanding, it could be concluded that Nirbhaya was served justice. Her soul could rest in peace. Following the judgment, it wasn’t wrong to expect that a certain level of fear might have been induced in the minds of offenders.

“Was the justice served? Did the havoc of lust subside? Did the soul of Nirbhaya rest in peace?”

On the contrary, the instances of rapes, acid attacks, and assaults exploded in various cities. The gang rape of a mother and daughter on the National Highway, the Uber rape case, Kathua rape case, assaults on newborns; the count of atrocities got lost in the flood of such cases.

The safety of women became a tool for politicians and was played well to put the blame on each other, with attitudes of ‘she deserved it’..

“We kept on blaming, judiciary, police, doctors and even religion. And yet the souls of Nirbhayas’ wept along, when every time a new sister joined them.”

Where have we gone wrong? Why did a landmark judgment and overall awareness fail to stop the horrors spread by the predators? Rape is a global epidemic but of all the nations, supposedly, we were ‘expected’ to guide rest of the world with the light of wisdom. A country of Goddess Lakshmi, Parvati, Saraswati, a land which is itself called Bharat ‘Mata’, a birthplace of four major religions, with sacred rivers flowing through our land identified with feminine identity, where the lap of ‘Maa’ is considered as equivalent to God; yet we have utterly failed to respect and protect her form.

“She has to give her body again for the preparation of samples even in the condition where she can die. We call that the law?” – ENDURER A Rape Story

It is a shame, despicable. If we want a future, we need to clean it up. It takes years to rebuild a system but we can always start at an individual level. No matter how many fast-track courts are set up or laws are enforced, unless we learn to unconditionally support the victims and expel the perpetrators from the society, nothing is going to improve. The age-old taboos which have plagued our society irrespective of class and demography should be given away. The only philosophy which should prevail is that no one has the reason to disrespect the physical limits of a being without their consent.

“If the size of the skirt is your reason for Rape, try leaving your beloved in full clothes with a Rapist.”

On this Nirbhaya Day, I take a pledge to be part of the revolution. I would always support and be there for the survivors of sexual assault. Would you join hands with me?

A version of this was first published here.

Image source: Flickr

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Kapil Raj is an author and a professional based at New Delhi, India. His writing reflects the understanding of the social functioning and human psychology. With the heart of a philosopher, mind of a realist, and a deep-rooted non-conformist, he lives many lives, yet stealing the time for the most precious thing which matters to him: crafting plots, playing with characters and weaving the stories with inscribed messages. He actively runs a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @realistespresso reflecting the other interests like photography and poetry.

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My First Crush: Wish Your Life Wasn’t A Waste

Posted: December 15, 2018

A heartfelt remembrance of one’s first crush as the author takes you down memory lane.

Does love choose its recipient?

1989

I knew Adu had a mean streak. I also knew Adu to be gentle and kind when his heart was taken- and it could be taken so easily, and by anything at all; a stray cat, a doleful pair of flirtatious eyes, a child, an infant, anything that struck a chord. We, our group, were constantly astounded by Adu’s mercurial nature. His meanness was as nasty as his touch was soft, and healing. We loved Adu, and we missed him when his family moved away. This was so long ago, but the memory of his departure still makes me wince. I’m married now, and I’m pregnant too, yet my mind wanders to the past.

1991

There’s to be a school reunion, and I don’t expect all of us to make it to Mussorie. My heart hopes and hopes that Adu will, although he’s the unlikeliest of all to. These are exciting times, although my baby is just 2, I’m going to travel. Viren, my partner is such a wonderfully supporting person.There have been 5 confirmations, and we have 3 pending. Adu has still not connected. Only Miriam knows his number, and his whereabouts. I dare not ask. I wish there was some way of making a group of numbers, and broadcasting it among us.

2005

Oh what a meeting that was! I’m remembering it today, as our daughter, Bea, talks animatedly about her group of friends, and wonders out loud if they’ll “always remain in touch” because Amit, her buddy, is slated to leave the school. Her heart is breaking. I feel for her. When Adu had left, somewhere, many hearts broke. He would pull our hair, pinch our cheeks, and call us ugly, but we loved him. I hope Amit leaves that kind of mark upon Bea’s heart.

So, the reunion had been one of a kind- Adu made it. He was allowed 4 days off. One wondered what it was he did, to be needed so badly at ‘work’. So we congregated in one of our rooms, and the ambience in our hotel room thawed, as the chilling story came out in bits and pieces.

After leaving Pune, Adu’s family moved to Delhi. Unknown to him, the family business was smuggling. Eventually he got pulled in too. Soon thereafter his father was caught and jailed. Adu’s mother,  a smart lady, moved to Dubai with him. But a family never lets go does it? His mom passed, and he returned home. Adu was instantly inducted into the ‘business’ by his father’s brothers. And of course, he took to it- he being the good-looking and exceedingly bright boy, became the negotiator and chief coordinator. Adu dada was what he was called by the entire lot of them, as he instilled fear, and discipline. This was the kind of work, he stated, he absolutely loved- being in command and all that. Perhaps it was, but to what end?

As these things go, before long, the arm of the law caught up with him, and when we met that year, he had been living in a high security prison since 1987. I trembled as I listened. It was all unreal, filmy, over-dramatic, and just not in keeping with my expectations. Oh these expectations, how they break our hearts!

Recently, Viren and I attended his funeral. Adu was shot trying to escape. What an end, and tragically, what a waste of a precious person! It’s bizarre how we all reunited only to say goodbye this time. I don’t think there’ll be another reunion, ever.

Adu, you were my first crush, and an unforgettable one. And you were perhaps more than a crush- I saw your potential when others around didn’t. I loved you, I did.

Image Source: Pexels

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Mental Illness Isn’t A Taboo. About Time We Talk About It!

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The author emphasizes on the need to talk about mental illness openly and to stop treating it as a taboo.

Given that mental illness is a rising problem in today’s world, that is slowly spreading it’s tentacles far and wide, I thought of sharing my thoughts on why we all need to consider mental health on our agenda whenever we think of health and fitness as an essential component of our overall well being. Last year I had written a post, where I had shared a few tips on how to stay mentally fit—which focused on the little things we can do, to keep our stresses at bay and work towards enhancing our mental fitness to be able to take on the everyday pressures of life.

Today, I’m talking about mental fitness and how our perception of mental health is increasingly becoming more relevant and important in the world we live in.

They say the mind works in mysterious ways and although we’ve only been able to tap into the tip of the iceberg with regard to how our mind functions, a lot of it is still a puzzle, in spite of long years of research and major studies that have kept researchers and scientists engaged for years. Thanks to technology and a fast-paced lifestyle, we now work 24/7 and the added complexities of our modern-day lifestyle only add to our woes and stresses, instead of reducing them. If statistics are to be believed, the USA happens to be the most depressed country in the world. In India today, as many as 5 crore people are said to be suffering from depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and if that isn’t enough, we also have the highest suicide rates among youth aged 15-29, according to a WHO report.

Statistics also state another fact— that, of the rising number of people who are suffering globally, only half seek treatment for it. This is primarily due to the lack of awareness and the prevalent stigma and taboo that comes with the label of mental illness, making it difficult for them to talk about it in the open, leaving them to suffer in silence. In fact, nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have had a negative effect on their lives.

Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people. Many with mental health problems are also amongst the least likely of any group with a long-term health condition or disability to find employment, be in a steady relationship, or be included in mainstream society.

The question before us is—Why is there so much bias against mental illness?

Perhaps the answers to all these questions lie in the fact that most people still tend to focus far too much on the word ‘mental’ rather than the ‘health’ part of it, and see mental illness as synonymous with madness, abnormality and even insanity. In the society where we live, perceptions often matter more than common sense and while we don’t shy away from speaking about our physical ailments, we pull back when it comes to disclosing the ailments of the mind.

So, why is it that while we never hesitate to reach for help when we are physically ill, we tend to hesitate to do so when we/someone we know is mentally ill? Why is it difficult to accept or even acknowledge the fact that we need help? Why do we not make time and effort for our mental well being when we can see the toll stress is taking on us each day of our lives? 

Perhaps what we are doing is not enough. Now that a few celebrities have come forward to talk about their conditions, many find it easy to acknowledge their problems. There is a certain openness with regard to how mental illness is perceived now as compared to a few years back when it was only spoken in hushed whispers.

It is perhaps the right time to now encourage everyone to openly talk about mental illness and seek help for themselves or their loved ones, without embarrassment or fear of being judged. As we all know, seeking timely help makes a tremendous difference.

Image Source: Pexels

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Why Did You Raise Me Like A Son?

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The author brings out the plight of a girl who was raised as an independent woman but later expected to mould herself as per the norms of the patriarchal society.

‘Tu meri beti nahi beta hai’ (You are not my daughter, rather you are my son), her father’s words resounded in Uttara’s ears. Living in a patriarchal society, Uttara had felt proud whenever Kishan and Radha used to say this to her, as if she had won a Nobel prize. Contrary to that, she could not believe when her father said, before her in-laws, ‘You need to abide by your husband’s and in-laws’ wishes’. This rejection by her own parent stung her painfully, as she wiped off the tears.

Kishan and Radha had brought up Uttara like a son. With a lower middle-class background, having faced many ups and downs in life, Uttara, being their only daughter, had been their sole hope. They wanted her to be decently educated and married before they became her responsibility during their old age. So, they kept pushing her into being an independent, responsible child, besides their determination to educate her to the best of their capacity.

Uttara was an intelligent child. She was aware of her parents’ situation and concerns and had accordingly moulded herself in everyway they wished. She worked hard to make sure her grades were good and thereby earned the merit of being one of the few top students in her school. But over the years, Kishan and Radha’s financial burdens only kept increasing and they kept struggling hard to fulfill even their daily necessities. So Kishan wanted Uttara to finish her graduation and become a teacher whereas Uttara, outstanding as she was, aspired to do her Phd. Uttara decided to strike out a balance between the two, by joining the teaching profession and continuing her Phd. alongside.

However, on his part, Kishan was unsure of whether he could handle her higher qualifications since that entailed searching for an equally educated groom, preparing himself for a bigger dowry and higher wedding expenses. But as luck would have it, as soon as she completed her B.A., Akshat’s proposal came along. His family did not want any big wedding or dowry and Akshat was well qualified. Moreover, Akshat and his family also agreed to take care of Kishan and Radha’s needs in the future. ‘We just want a girl who would adjust into the family’, was what they had informed. All this made the match appear ideal, and the two were married off.

Akshat now wanted her to give up her teaching job and also her Phd. studies. He wanted Uttara to take full charge of the domestic affairs, besides taking care of his parents. Since a sense of independence was ingrained into Uttara right from childhood, the idea of giving up her job and studies meant compromising on the values with which she had been brought up, something that she could not reconcile to. Differences escalated inside her marriage and her parents were called. ‘You must abide by whatever your husband and his family wants. Why do you want to work when your husband is willing to take care of the financial necessities?’, her father scolded her before everyone.

But baba (father), was it not you who brought me up saying that I am your son and not your daughter? If that was not the case, why did you raise me with those ideas? You have been very selfish baba. At a time when you needed someone to take care of your financial responsibilities and old age care, you were clinging on to me as your future security and preparing me towards it. But now that you have got Akshat, you are asking me to unwind and throw off my years of efforts and preparation to the wind. Did you ever realize, what a scapegoat you have made of me? You instilled the mindset of a man into me, while knowing fully well that I am a girl and these situations in marital life are foreseeable. Today when a confrontation has arisen, you don’t have any guts to face it. I am not against domestic responsibilities, since irresponsibility is something that is not known to me. But, when it was I who took the trouble of reaching this far, because you wanted it that way, at a time when you had nobody, it is me with whom you should be standing by and needless to mention, also the lessons you have given me throughout. It’s impossible to turn back the wheel now. Above everything, I am a human being too who has feelings and my mental make-up cannot be changed to suit your conveniences. I refuse to be treated like an “option”. You should have sorted out these issues when you had fixed up my marriage with Akshat. If not then, do it now.’

Her father stood agape while Akshat now understood where she came from and was immediately contrite.

Image Source: Pexels

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A Chartered Accountant by profession...wife...mom...a blogging enthusiast...the philosophical, perceptive thinker in

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Dil-Vil, Pyaar-Vyaar Movies Kya Jaane Re? Busting 7 ‘Love’ Myths Movies Propagate

We need to look elsewhere for real romance as pop-culture in general and movies in particular reinforce irrational ideas, and myths about love and relationships.

During a causal conversation with a friend recently, we started talking about the movie Love Actually and how the kid played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster was only five years younger in real life than the 18 year old Keira Knightley, who played a married adult in the movie – an overt sexualization of a teenage girl! And that certainly is not the only creepy thing in this movie which I think is about ‘men being creepy and being rewarded for how creepy they are’.

It wasn’t news to me that movies distort our ideas about love, but it was this conversation that truly set me exploring the various irrational and sexist beliefs about love we see portrayed on the silver screen.

Consent is for losers!

Many of us know about the Indian man accused of stalking two women in Australia who escaped conviction after arguing he was influenced by Bollywood movies. This may sound like an extreme case, but as Kirthi Jayakumar points out, “The most common skewed idea kids derive from movies is, ‘If she says no, she means yes. She wants you to pursue her and win her over.’” And this problem with consent is a problem with pop culture outside India too.

There are some who say that we are killing the romance and spontaneity with all this talk of consent. But maybe, it’s time to reevaluate our ideas about what is romantic? After all, there is nothing unromantic about being sensitive and accepting of the desires of the person one claims to love.

Love is for the young, able, beautiful and heterosexual

“yeh chandsa roshan chehra
zulfon ka rang sunehra
yeh jheel si neeli ankhen”

I think most Indian women would struggle with having a face as bright and (white!) as the moon, naturally blonde hair and blue eyes, no?

Most movies show that love (and sex) are for young, able, heterosexual and conventionally beautiful people.  Physical attractiveness is elevated above all else (shared values, likes and dislikes), and the boundaries of what is considered attractive are drawn restrictively. The ultra- feminine, ‘new girl’ Rani Mukherjee was who Shah Rukh Khan fell for in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, ignoring the tomboyish Kajol, who knew him for years. Of course, as soon as Kajol swapped the dungarees for the saree, and short hair for flowing tresses, she was instantly the perfect love interest.

These limited ideas about who is capable of love and being loved have an effect on real people. Which is why is heartening to see movies like Badhaai Ho or Margarita With a Straw, which show that love is not just for the young or abled. However, in terms of representing non-heterosexual relationships on screen, we have a long way to go. Homosexuality is still played for laughs on the screen in India, and well-written, sensitive films portraying such relationships are few and far between.

Nice guys/ Sanskaari girls deserve love

This is a corollary of the above idea that there is a particular kind of person that deserves love. In many movies, women are shown as realizing that the ‘bad guy’ they love isn’t right for them, and they run back to the ‘nice guy’ who has been patiently waiting for them (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, I’m looking at you). Or men realize that they are in fact in love with the traditional, homely girl next door, instead of the westernized, ‘modern’ girl that they thought they were in love with (Cocktail is one example).

However, this reeks of entitlement. In the case of men, it brings up the sexist idea that because a man is nice to a woman, she owes him love/sex and by just remaining friends (friendzoning) with him, she is being unfair to him. It ignores the woman’s own desires and agency.

In case of women, it sets up the goddess-whore dichotomy, which greatly harms women in general, and reduces the quality of relationships for men.

Is love even love without the grand gestures?

The fairy-tale proposal, the mad dash to the airport to stop a loved from leaving, and choreographed serenade, all work to convince us that if someone loves us, they will go the extra mile to do something amazing for us.

Recently, a man in New York proposed to his girlfriend who was in the middle of running a marathon.  The girlfriend was happy to accept the proposal, but people were quick to point out that it was a very selfish act. Soraya Chemaly, the author of Rage Becomes Her, tweeted about the incident, asking “Why didn’t he wait, let her focus and finish without interruption and refocus?”

While such grand gestures are nice, what a romantic partner/ spouse would really appreciate are the little initiatives taken to help them with their work/chores, words of support when they are feeling down, encouragement, the celebration of small successes, willingness to keep the lines of communication open even if they disagree. As Michelle Obama’s recent revelation about seeking marriage counselling with Barack Obama shows us, couples who are #relationship goals, are inspiring precisely because they have taken the trouble to put in the hard work that requires.

This is fact, in one of the things that I really appreciated about the recent movie, Sui Dhaaga, in which the husbands are shown doing household chores without any fuss, and the wife stands by her husband as he sets out to achieve a dream.

Love will change you (or, romantic partners are free therapists!)

I have written in detail in this article about the Devdas story, how in a romantic relationship, the women are expected to reform the men and do all the work required to maintain the relationship, singlehandedly.  And while women do bear this unfair burden, this idea that love can “change” a person is also used in pop-culture, to ‘tame the shrew’, as in the movie Laadla.

In reality however, attempting to act as a romantic partner’s therapist, can only have disastrous consequences. Especially if the person is suffering from serious mental health issues.

Love = Compatibility

Movies set us up for disappointment by peddling the idea that love equals compatibility. This is the idea of the ‘happily ever after’. That once the couple has fought off the villains and dissenters, and have married, they live a perfectly conflict free life. They are made for each other, simply because they love one another.

However, as this article discusses in detail, “You must be in love with your life partner, but you also must be in like.”

What is life without romance?

The biggest lie that movies and pop culture sell us is that everyone wants romance and/or sex in their lives. In doing so it ignores people who identify as aromantic or asexual.

As our understanding of sexuality has evolved, we have come to realize that there are people who do not experience or desire romantic attraction (aromantics) or sexual attraction (asexuals) or both (aromantic asexuals). This does not mean that people who identify as aromantic or asexual are cold or heartless. They simply find satisfaction and joy in other relationships.

This article explains the aromantic spectrum well.

It may be argued that art reflects life, and these ideas about love and relationships are not seeded by movies, but are in fact a portrayal of what people really experience and believe. However, I believe that the explanation is not so simple.

Yes, movies draw from life, but they also inform people’s opinions and behaviours, as we have seen in some examples above. As such, film makers, who have access to such an influential platform have a responsibility to tell stories about love that encourage healthy, fulfilling relationships, rather than stories that create false expectations that lead to dissatisfaction.

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The Inner Thoughts Of A ‘Housewife’, The Perfect Sycophant

The story of an ordinary Indian housewife, whose wishes are considered ‘naturally’ secondary to that of her husband, looking from afar at a happy, ‘free’ woman.

She sat nodding and smiling,
Trying to be happy, busy following.
Successfully deceiving herself and everyone,
The perfect sycophant that she had become.

Finding peace in shade of a man,
For her, who was like a banyan tree.
She was busy in pleasing and nurturing the tree,
For it provided her with shade and societal glee.

So, what if her own paths seemed blurred?
In dignity struggle she was submerged.
She had become immune to pain,
In a life of inertia and fictional gain.

She convinced herself yet once again,
Being a sycophant has its own gains.
Elated by a false sense of security,
She wondered if she was someone’s property?

She then looked at the girl next door,
Wondered how she was so happy?
Creating new paths, celebrating success,
Rejoicing in her freedom, finding herself!

Was it a magic pill she had?
Which in her life she lacked?
One was trained to only clean and cook,
Other was empowered with knowledge and books.

Image source: shutterstock

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The Hidden Domestic Violence – By Fathers And Brothers, That We Need To Speak Of

Women’s birth families are no different from marital families when it comes to being violent towards its women – violence by fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers… is common enough!

Trigger alert: Graphic description of violence against women

The story of Cinderella, a Disney princess, goes like this: she’d be suffering at the hands of her family who’d verbally abuse her, lock her from the outside world, making her to all the chores, and abuse her emotionally to a point that her day would not end wishing that she’d live like a princess, free of all the abuse and cruelty.

Once we finish the fairy tale, coming home to reality, we’d realize that there’s not just one real life Cinderella, but countless Cinderellas actually surround us, wanting to leave their birth families just to escape the abuse. Why? If we look into the mirror, we might appear as a Cinderella as well. But many Cinderella’s are conditioned in a such a way that, they think that abuse and violence is justified.

Violence justified by 15-19 year olds

The data from the NFHS 2015-16 survey shows a piece of data where 47.7% girls aged between 15 and 19 agreed that with violence by husbands is justified.

Who are these girls aged between 15 and 19? Aren’t they the daughters, sisters, of men? They don’t just see that their mothers are routinely abused by their fathers, but also are conditioned to believe that the violence is justified.

A woman learns from several different kinds of abuse such as verbal, financial, emotional, physical violence, etc. to give into the abuse, accept the abuse, and to live a life like she deserves all of it. Before even getting into a marriage or leaving their parents’ home, these Cinderellas are made to believe that domestic violence is okay.

The data also showed that 41.2% men supported abuse against women. Who are these 41.2% men to women? Aren’t they their husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, acquaintances, and strangers?

The male members in a woman’s life are okay with being violent towards women. The brothers, fathers, uncles, etc., are okay with their women being abused and violated. When the victims and the perpetrators agree with the violence, it’s no wonder that we barely talk about the violence in birth homes.

Violence in birth homes

When we hear the term domestic violence, our mind automatically registers the violence women face in marital relationships, giving less or no thought to the fact that women suffer at the hands of their birth families as well.

Of course 20,000 women in the age group between 15 and 39 committing suicide every year would raise an alarm in marital domestic violence, but the violence, abuse, and exploitation that happens in birth homes shouldn’t be ignored just because it’s not as visible as marital violence.

Just because it’s not spoken about, doesn’t mean there are no women/girls suffering domestic abuse in their birth homes. Some Cinderellas did not even live to tell their stories.

A father beat his daughters with hammer and set them on fire. “Out of frustration,” the police believe.

Another father, kills his daughter because his wife took “too long to cook mutton”.

A brother kept his sister in captivity for 2 years because she was “mentally ill”.

A father raped her daughter in the absence of his wife, while he was “drunk.”

These are just few instances of violence against women and girls in birth families. These are extreme cases of violence. This doesn’t mean these are the only cases of violence. Many women have to suffer in silence.

Privileged men – fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers…

The fact that men rape, kill, abuse their own daughters, sisters for not preparing food in time, out of frustration, after consuming alcohol, etc. just go to show the privilege that these men have. They should be fed on time, kept entertained, not have anything to worry about, otherwise the women have only the privilege of having their names in the news, or suffer in the darkness, blind to our eyes.

“Break its branches to grow a drumstick tree and grow a female child by beating her”

An Indian a proverb which propagates the idea that an ideal women is grown only if she’s beaten while growing up. Physical violence, verbal abuse can create a negative impact on a person and with the culture that treats women like they’re made to serve men and justifies the violence, the meaning of violence is almost invisible to us unless a woman ends up as a corpse or seriously injured.

Are birth home really safe from violence and abuse for women and girls?

Fathers

The term ‘father’ is so powerful because a traditional family is designed to revolve around him. Head of the family – as we’d see in several government documents and forms. We’d get excited to see a woman having a loving father, because a loving father is a rare sight to see for many women who are abused by their fathers. The strict father, usually meant that either the father would explode in an array of verbal abuse or would get physically violent. The mother’s and the family’s role would be consoling the daughter to bear the abuse, as their father is “doing it for their own good.”

The daughters are expected to dress modestly, come home before it’s dark because their father wouldn’t like it otherwise. The daughters are expected to marry the man their father points his finger at because he’d not have it otherwise. A daughter should not do this or that, because her father would not like it. Like, is the daughter going to commit a mass murder or rob a bank that her father would not like it? No. The daughter just wants to do simple things in life that will not harm anybody, but isn’t doing simple things as a woman is a sin in patriarchal society?

If these women don’t accept the verbal abuse, the threatening, the physical violence, the expectation to work like a machine, and decide to put up a fight, the men would raise their hand against them. Aren’t movies and soaps a testimony, and a subtle reflection of what abusive men are in real life? First will come the abuse, the violence, then will come the, “I’m doing it for your good” drama, and then again the abuse will take over, forming a vicious cycle of abuse that way too many women are used to.

Brothers

Some brothers aren’t exceptions from being an abuser as well. Exploiting their sisters because of their gender, taking away their basic rights, as well as their childhood, including the right to education. The brothers can live freely, controlling their sisters with the help of patriarchy. Because many brothers can be heirs to their parents properties, including the father’s abuse. Even if some laws say men and women are equal, the patriarchy would say otherwise.

Take the woman who had to give away her share of a meal because her brother needs to eat more because he was a ‘male’. Also the woman who had to stop going to school, because her brother has to continue his higher studies. And also the woman who had work every day, from morning to dusk, even if she’s sick because it’s an abomination to let a man work in the house if there’s a living, breathing woman to do those works.

89% of girls are asked to do chores at home despite them being enrolled in a school. Why aren’t boys asked to do chores? Everyone can do chores but why just put burden on girls? Because a girl’s education is not as important as boys? Isn’t depriving a girl of education an abuse?

99% of sexual assault cases go unreported because of the stigma that’s associated with reporting the incident of sexual assault. 42% Indian girls face sexual violence before even entering their teenage years. So is birth home really safe for women as it’s believed to be?

Their life just doesn’t seem to get better by the day. Maybe it would get better too, if we start recognizing birth home domestic violence that happens in one’s own homes; where they live with their fathers, brothers and every other male member whom they’re supposed to be safe with, but in reality, are not. Are fairy tale princess the only ones deserving a happy lives and our fellow girls and women are not?

Image source: a still from the movie Secret Superstar

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Adieu 2018! The Year Of Change With An Unstoppable #MeToo Movement?

2018 was an important year for women across continents, as we decided to raise our voices together against oppression and harassment. The #MeToo movement which originated in USA swept across India and started the cycle of much needed change.

I grew up in a small town and the magical world of movies always fascinated me. Hence, when I had a chance to move to the dream city of Mumbai, I tried to enter the entertainment industry.

However, I soon realized the grime that was hidden behind the glitter of this industry. I realized that unfortunately, talent alone was not enough to make it in this world and decided to sacrifice my dream for something less demanding.

My love affair with Indian movies continued and I would devour the gossip columns of newspapers. Ten years ago when I read the news of Tanushree Dutta accusing Nana Patekar of harassment I was surprised but not shocked. Tanushree was a newcomer with no industry backing or godfather. Her entry in the movies had been aided by her winning the ‘Miss India’ title and she was only a few movies old. As expected, the entire incident was called a publicity stunt and her budding career died a premature death.

However, a few months ago she got a chance to speak up for herself. The #metoo movement which had started in Hollywood and was shaking the foundations of some big studios there hit India and found a wave of support.

Tanushree once again bought forward her story and this time around she was heard. The episode as narrated by her was confirmed by another woman journalist as well as an assistant director who was present at the set. The decade old video of her car being trashed came up and went viral, silencing those who insisted that she was back to reinstate her career and was once again lying.

Once Tanushree showed courage, stories of other women being traumatized by the stalwarts of the movie industry started coming out. Not surprisingly, film director Sajid Khan’s name appeared on the list. He was accused by his former assistant director of mental and emotional trauma. Many aspiring female actors also added their voice against him. This accusation against him led to his dismissal from the big banner film he was directing.

Another director, Vikas Bahl, who ironically directed the woman centric film, ‘Queen’ was accused by the former employee of a production house he was a partner in. The company had to be dissolved when it came to light that though the partners were aware of his misbehavior, no action had been taken. One of the most unexpected names that came up was that of Alok Nath, the epitome of the ‘Sanskaari’ father in Indian cinema. He was accused by writer – director Vinita Nanda of raping her almost twenty years ago.

The responses to allegations hurled against them ranged from the merely weak to the completely atrocious. For Eg.: Alok Nath gave a statement saying “It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it. Well, I do not want to talk much about it as for the matter if it has come out, it will be stretched.”

This insensitive response clearly shows the misogynistic mindset that exists. The other influential names added to this infamous list were – Comedian and former AIB member Utsav Chakraborty, Singer Kailash Kher and Singer Abhijeet.

The movement also hit another industry replete with incidents of harassment – the media industry. The torch bearer here was journalist Priya Ramani who accused the then junior minster of external affairs MJ Akbar of sexual misconduct when he was an editor. As many as eleven women came ahead with their accusations post that. As voices against him rose to a crescendo, he had to resign.

Author Chetan Bhagat, who claims to be a supporter of woman’s rights, was accused by two women of sending flirty messages even though they did not encourage such behavior. The Chief of Bureau of Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha was named by a lawyer and journalist and had to resign from his post.

Other names such as Suhel Seth, Mayank Jain, Sidharth Bhatia, Gautam Adhikari, KR Sreenivas – all names to reckon with in the media industry were pulled up for making unwanted advances towards their juniors or colleagues.

Women have finally decided to fight back and not take such behavior lying down. For once, many in the various industries have also risen in support and spoken up against harassment. Powerful people have come forward in support of this movement which in itself is remarkable.

Thanks to this movement many of those accused were forced to resign and were held accountable for their actions.

But, will this change be sustainable? Will this revolution continue? Will women finally get an equal and fair chance without having to bow down to the demands of those in power? We can only wait and watch.

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Plan A Trip Today To Channagiri, A Day Trek Destination For Beginners Near Bangalore

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Channagiri is a trek destination close to Bangalore, that can be done in a day trip, and suitable for all ages and even for beginners, and perfect for the Indian winters – so when do you plan to go?

Karnataka state is one of the most promising states in India, especially for adventure enthusiasts. Karnataka has one of the best peaks for trekking of which few are identified even by Karnataka Tourism highlighting as Eco Trails. It offers from difficult to moderate easy treks within the state and in and around Bangalore City.

At a distance of about 60 km from Bangalore city lies Channagiri, one of the hills amid the famous Nandi Hills range. With the total height of approximately 1350 meters above the sea level, the trek to Channagiri is easy to moderate of about 3 km and takes about two to two and a half hours to complete. Take some more time in hand to enjoy the scenic view atop hills from where you can also see other hills in the range. The other hills in this range are Skandagiri, Brahmagiri, and few others.

The trail, especially after the monsoon, is densely covered with life-size shrubs and thorny bushes. There are rocks in between to reach the highest point. There are few places where one has to be very careful as there are lots of narrow passages but is great fun to cross. The hill is quite steep with some points at an angle of 70 degrees though difficult to climb for amateurs but when with the group one can easily do it.

Sri Kanive Basveswara Swamy Temple, Channgiri Trek

Sri Kanive Basveswara Swamy Temple

Getting there

The access to the trek is easy and can be done with or without any guidance.

It takes about an hour from Bangalore city to reach the base of Nandi Hills. You can either take the Karnataka State buses from Bus Terminal to reach Chikballapur. Ideally, if you are going in a group take your own vehicle and reach the base by 8 am to avoid the sun, as it really becomes hot. The base is where Shree Kanive Basaveshwara Swamy Temple (Nandi) is situated. You can park your vehicle there and visit the temple if you wish to, and then start your trek which starts just from there.

The Channagiri hills is an adjoined by 2 hills and the view from top seeing 2 more hills by your side is any trekkers delight. It’s an easy trek so enthusiasts of all age groups will love it. You can break in between for snacks or breakfast to be carried by yourself. You need to load yourself with carbs for instant energy, so we took Puliyogare rice, some sandwiches, dates, Chikkis and lots of own water bottles to keep ourselves hydrated. There is no facility for any food or water availability. Make sure you do not litter the area, and carry your own trash bags to take back which implies travel light.

Channgiri Hills

Channagiri Hills

Channagiri trek promises an exciting and rejuvenating adventure through diverse beautiful terrains to enjoy the panoramic view. Though it becomes warm as the sun rises higher, if you plan to leave early morning you can enjoy good weather with lesser temperature along with misty and windy surrounding, making for a fond memory.

There are a couple of options available to trek in Channagiri. For those looking for an easier route, the Southern side of the hill is would suit you best, and for seasoned trekkers who are looking for a challenging trek can opt for the Western side. If you are lucky, you can spot the Peregrine Falcon, the Nilgiri Woodpigeon and the Shaheen Falcon which are believed to be nesting on the route. Even if you wish to spend some time atop the hill and enjoy the panoramic view the trek can be completed in half a day with loads of memories and stories to share.

Channgiri Trek for Beginners

Channagiri Trek for Beginners

Express Info

How to reach

By Air– Closest airport is Bangalore International Airport which is hardly 35 km from Nandi hills and can be directly reached by car.

By Train- Chikballapur passenger train from Bangalore City Railway station goes till Nandi station, from where you can take an auto rickshaw to reach Nandi village or Sultanpet.

By Road– Nandi village is about 60 km from Bangalore city and road is well maintained and is a nice drive to reach Nandi Village or Sultanpet.

Best time to Visit– Post monsoon from September till February is a good season to trek.

Things to Carry– like any other day trek carry your own hydration, snacks or breakfast, emergency medicines, well-worn shoes or sandals, cap, dry fit clothes and of course your camera to capture scintillating views and moments.

Images source: Meenakshi Gupta

Header image source: Flickr

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