Sunday, December 30, 2007

Unbreakable

She lay in ruins. The Angel. The valley wore a desolate look as the wearied sun longed to disappear over the horizon. The bleak landscape resounded with her incessant sobbing. The demons had long been gone. Her hapless outcries had been vehemently suppressed by their demonic exploits. A crime so heinous that left her shattered. Her modesty knifed at mercilessly. Her soul hid itself in a coccoon of ignominy. The Angel lay still in a pool of blood, wide awake, tears meandering down her cheeks only to fade away. She had been left for dead. But something in her was still breathing. Hope. It overpowered her shock. Her fear. Redemption on her mind. Fight back she would. The Angel waited.

The silence was defeaning. Amidst the clamor prevalent in the crowded hospital ward, there was an unusual calm seeping in. Those eyes said it all. Imrana knew this. She held the girl's hand.

Three arduous years had transpired since that shocking incident. Imrana knew how she had dealt with the pain. The Nizam-e-Qaza was a law in its own right. A Parallel judiciary system run by fanatical Muslim clerics. Men without an iota of compassion and pity. Their heartless way of meting out 'justice' could not be questioned. Their irrational judgments, were an end in itself. Those who opposed were victimized ruthlessly. Such an oppression of the masses had been prevalent for many years. Women, in particular. Relegated to the confines of the four corners of a room, enshrouded in a veil, women were treated in the most bestial ways possible. They were born humans but only to grow up devoid of their rights. The freedom to express themselves and the right to education had long been snatched away from them. Wretched men, kicked them around whenever they could and whenever they needed to. Women, after all, were considered weak and a needless burden on society. What could they possibly do? Who would dare raise her voice and question the ways of men? But Imrana did. She spoke for the rights of her sisters, of what was rightfully theirs. She dared to speak about the essence of education for all women, something quite unheard of in the past. She made women in her neighborhood shed the vile purdah, urged them to work and taught them to become independent. The courageous woman that Imrana was. Men around were offended by Imrana's daredevilry. It wasn't long before she was being threatened of dire consequences. Other women were forcefully dragged out of classes and beaten mercilessly. Imrana's husband wasn't much of a man and he fled away, fearing for his life. But she didn't care. She never took a step back and braved her way forward. It wasn't long before the Nizam-e-Qaza did what they had to do. She was dragged around the whole village, clothes stripped off and labeled a witch. With false allegations being heaped on her, her character was questioned. Nobody around did anything, for those who did try to protect her were singled out and mistreated. And not long after, she was dragged into the woods and raped. Again and again. Her cries for help throttled in hell-fire. The multitude was a mute spectator to such a vicious crime. 'Justice' served. Or was it? Imrana was helpless.

But now she wasn't. A fearless woman who now stood by her ideals, much more firmly. She was heading a NGO which had been on the forefront in helping women and reinstating their presence in the society, time and again. Her guts, determination and valor had stood the test of time. Braving a chauvinistic world of men, she did everything in her capacity to give back women the respect they were entitled to.

In an assuring tone, Imrana spoke.


"You are not weak. And you shall not give up. I'm with you. Believe in God, for he is with us too."

Tears gave way to a broken smile. An endearing sight as such, the Angel bent forward to embrace the girl.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Last Laugh

I am dead, almost. But why, what had happened? Memory fails me. With an immense effort I lift my eyelids, the harsh light of the room blinding my eyes I search for the picture; Pari being kissed by Suresh and me on each of her cheek. It was the picture I opened my eyes to every morning, Pari’s kohl lined light-brown eyes shone through the picture even now. Dressed in a baby pink frock with puffed sleeves, her scarce but curly hair (unruly even then) scrupulously tied into two fountain ponies, and a toothless grin that could captivate anyone, she was the cutest baby ever, as every baby on the face of this earth is.

The picture was taken two years back, when Pari was barely 4-5 months old, it was her first picture in the studio, her eyes had danced from one flashlight to the other and then to the camera, hardly resting in one place. But how had she posed and given the best of her smiles when the photographer was ready to take the picture, as if she understood fully well what was happening. “She is a born actress, so comfortable in front of the camera.” The photographer had remarked, jokingly. How would ‘her’ first picture be? I thought. And my hands instinctively reached for my stomach to feel her, but I immediately sensed that something had gone horribly wrong, and my world crashed down in an instant. It was coming back to me in patches now and I so wished that I had died without remembering, without going through it all over again.

Is it a girl or a boy? Nine months of suspense, expectance and nervousness. But not in this age of advanced technology and Suresh wouldn’t wait. I had reluctantly agreed for the sonography, forbidding him from disclosing the result to me. But the result couldn’t have been more obvious; I had never seen him so preoccupied. Suresh wanted a boy and it was plain from his disappointment that it was a girl.

A girl! Pari will have a little sister! Will she be like Pari? Will she also be as tiny and delicate just after birth, will her eyes be as big and unblinking, will her hair be as unruly, will she also sleep, curled up like a cat, forehead tense in concentration but lips curved in a serene smile? Will her favorite game also be entangling things into my hair and then extricating them with great skill? Will her antics also make my otherwise boring day, exciting? Will she also hold the same power over me; will her tears make me anxious and her laughter make my moods soar? Questions, left unanswered forever.

It was yesterday (or was it?) when Suresh took me to the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine checkup, only if I had known of what lay in store! Suresh was quiet all through the drive, he had made up his mind, I being used to his mood swings didn’t give it much of a thought. But I started having misgivings the moment I was brought into this room, it somehow didn’t feel right, but the Doctor assured me. Events after that are a blur, but there would’ve been complications, which are bound to happen in an abortion so late. I remember having a dream though (or was it a dream?), I was in a pitch-dark room running away from a masked man, soon he had me cornered, his knife glinting, as if it had sensed its prey. I cried and begged, but was he even listening, I still remember his eyes they were, so unmoved, so business-like, so inhuman.

But can words ever describe what I am feeling for Suresh now? Is a human being capable of such an intense hatred? Why did he do this to me? Is the desire to have a son, so strong, so maddening? Is it a boy or a girl? Does the answer to the question matter so much? Why is ‘girl’ a totally unacceptable answer to some? Questions left unanswered again, but can any answer be convincing enough to justify a deed so wicked?

People are shouting outside, I hear Suresh too. “It was a boy, you killed my son, you killed him!” he is shouting. Some one is trying to pacify him “The technology is not fullproof, Sir,there is always a margin for error.” But this enrages Suresh even more, and the placatory voice is drowned in agonizing screams and sobs.

I no longer hear the voices, it’s as if calm has descended over my whole being. A strange sensation is flooding my body, and of all the feelings, strangely I am feeling elated. And so, in spite of the tears streaming down my eyes, in spite of the powerful pain searing my heart, in spite of knowing that I am going to die, inspite of knowing that I’ll never hold Pari in my arms again, in spite of having just lost a part of my soul, I laugh and laugh and laugh.
--A mother

Sex-selective feticide is so rampant in India; it sends shivers down my spine whenever I read
about it. And ironically it is more common among the so-called educated class .In many cases women are forced into it, but many a times women are complicit, even willing participants, in both the cases it is a gross violation of human rights. Laws are there but only on paper. Detecting the sex of foetus, without citing proper reasons, is illegal, but clinics have spawned up everywhere and they are doing brisk business. Mobile clinics frequent rural areas which otherwise are untouched by technology. It is easy to see that these clinics are catering to the demand of the society, but that does not make them less unethical. Amidst talks of women’s rights and women’s liberalization, every single minute a girl goes ‘missing’ in India and the clock is ticking fast.


Friday, December 21, 2007

The Painted Veil

In our part of the world marriage is considered 'the only' solution to your otherwise problematic existence. May be new problems make them forget the old ones. AND match making is one of the favorite hobbies of people here. A rich and well-settled (preferably abroad) husband…. also educated – depending upon their definition of 'an educated person'…. is considered an 'ideal' one. It doesn't matter whether our mr. perfect is a person of intellect or carries a soul inside….. yeah, after meeting so many conscienceless people I have come to believe that body and soul can exist without each other.

He might be 'an ideal husband' for a girl whose thoughts begin with patiala shalwar (with very short shirt) and end at the stories published in local women digests – whose life revolves around latest romantic Indian flicks and saas bahu soaps.
But for a girl who thinks there is more to life than eating out and getting dressed all the time, who believes that relationships are not all about getting physical… one who professes platonic love…. a woman who can think for herself and who can speak her mind ….. for such a woman life is not easy.

Live but don't let live…. that's the motto of people here!

Here goes our stuff:

Lying next to him
yet a world apart
with dreams all broken
that's how she had to start

carrying her battered self
carefully stepping on broken dreams
holding on to her crumbling hopes
drowning within her salty screams

he couldn't see thru her
the fate has its own strange ways
she kept bleeding inside
and it went on for days and days

she – his pretty little angel
who he possessed her fully and whole
he had her in his arms
but he never had her soul

enclosed in a coffin
and as the death-bells chime
she bid herself good bye
and felt alive for the first time!


Monday, December 17, 2007

What's Love Got To Do With It?

A New Year is around the corner and one of the first western festivals that we will be celebrating in the New Year (apart from New Year’s Day itself) will be Valentine’s Day. Now this has long been the eyesore for a multitude of Indians and they have been worried about immorality and the western concept of love infiltrating our culture. Of course, all Indian love stories are exempt from any compliance with morality (as defined today by the masses – dating included FYI) and are above and beyond all verification. Why don’t we begin with the Mahabharata – the book most Indians will swear by:

While on a hunting trip, King Dushyant of the Puru dynasty meets the hermit-girl Shakuntala. They fall in love with each other and, in the absence of her father, Shakuntala weds the king in a ceremony of 'Ghandharva', a form of marriage by mutual consent with mother Nature as the witness.

Today, the concept of being in love and love marriage is looked down upon by our society as they cry foul for the loss of culture. Would they care enough to look into their past and realize that we inherited that tendency from the supposed foremost ancestors – Dushyant and Shakuntala – whose son gave this country its name: Bharat.

What’s this got to do with Human Rights, you ask?

In a series of incidents in the city of Nagpur a few years ago, the city’s self-proclaimed moral police – a bunch of hooligans professing to be saviours of Indian culture (read Hindu Culture) – went on rampage in the city’s parks. As part of their crusade for culture, they would catch hold of young couples sitting in these parks and abuse them both verbally and physically. The boys were beaten more than once. The girls were insulted. And the city was entertained/horrified (as the case may be) as the newspapers carried a chronicle of this drive.

What was worse was that the protectors of the people – the Police Force – were playing privy to these hoodlums (so what’s new about that?!). They would go about in those Khaki uniforms (now more a symbol of terror than anything else) driving away or abusing these kids who had probably come there to have a quiet conversation or watch a sunset together over the beautiful Ambazari Lake. In fact a few days later, there was a notice in the papers that the Police will not appreciate seeing couples in parks and public places anymore and they will be dealt with stringently.

I now want you to read the following articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -

Article 5
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 12
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

The behaviour of the moral police and the police force was in direct violation of Articles 5 and 12 above. Even girls were not spared. And the fact that visiting parks and public places together was prohibited for those out on a date came in conflict with Article 13. In addition to being a mockery of human rights as recognized by the United Nations, this whole episode came in the way of an undeniable need of man as a social animal – to love and to be loved. It is the absence of this emotion – love – that causes all violations of Human Rights in the first place.

If a person is stripped of the basic right to love someone and spend time with them, if one has to undergo physical abuse and indignation as punishment for loving someone, if love becomes an embarrassment for the way you are treated in public by hardly educated hooligans and not a principle to uphold, no Human Rights Charter can save humanity.

And you ask, What’s Love Got To Do With It?


You can access the Human Rights Charter here: http://www.unhchr.ch/udhr/lang/eng.pdf
Sources: http://hinduism.about.com/

About the writer: Anupama Kondayya is a software consultant by profession. She is a writer by passion and has utter faith in the power of the spoken and written word. Her other interests include reading, singing and travelling.



Monday, December 10, 2007

Soul On Sale

"And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done"
Genesis 2:2

He should not have. He created humans on the sixth day to have dominion over land and sea and all the creatures there shall be. He created us in His own image. Did he forget to fill our hearts with the same mercy and compassion?

Today is World Human Rights Day. It is the day the Human Rights Charter was adopted by the United Nations. Have we ever wondered for whom? Certainly not for those mute birds and animals or immobile plants. Ironically and tragically enough, the Human Rights Charter has been adopted for humans.

Civic laws may be different everywhere but how one human being should treat another universal principle. All the religions have the same fundamentals. We are the descendants of Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Mohammed, Buddha and Mahaveer. Yet, we need to be told how our fellows must be treated. They died telling us to respect our women. Yet, men beat their wives in inebriated condition, over dowry matters and harass their children. We have failed our saints and their work and it is shameful to have a Human Rights Charter.

What are the factors that make us human? Our ability to think, to feel, to empathise...our soul, our conscience. We have the ability to be merciful, compassionate and kind. We alone have the ability to make this world a more beautiful place.

Instead, we choose to put our soul on sale. The price is measly. It is a trade-off between morals and money, sadism, greed, lust...The treatment of Prisoners of War (PoWs) by the American soldiers - sadism at its peak...The macabre manner in which innocent people are mauled in communal riots - a mockery of the Human Rights Charter. Does white skin give one the license to superiority and reckless animalic behaviour? Does our soul have colour too? What race does pure conscience belong to? What religion? After a certain point, we become immune to such questions. We go back to our origins, become animals. And then the world adopts a Human Rights Charter. It is tragic.

" You should build a better world," God said.
He questioned, "How?
The world is such a wondrous place
And so complicated now;
So small a man I am,
There's nothing I can do."
But God all wise and kind advised, "Just build a better you".

And then the world will be filled with more love than ever before. That will be the day we will be able to scrap the Human Rights Charter - a true celebration of humanity and human rights - for it is our right only to live together with love, harmony, brotherhood and tolerance. Till then, Happy Human Rights Day!

About the writer: Anupama Kondayya is a software consultant by profession. She is a writer by passion and has utter faith in the power of the spoken and written word. Her other interests include reading, singing and travelling.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Euthanasia

When we think of this word, certain points emerge from our consideration. What spontaneously comes to my mind is 'Mercy killing'. Yeah, I'm for mercy killing. I somehow find these bunch of guys silly...the ones who are against euthanasia. I can't banish their perspective either but one thing's for sure...they'll have to accept the fact, eventually. People happen to be against Euthanasia, I don't know why. This comes out from my heart. It's true! Life is God's gift, we have no right to take it away but forget not, Euthanasia means 'Mercy killing', most likely the word 'killing' catches the eye and not 'mercy'.. I would have strongly been against it had people wanted to give up their lives because of family or monetary problems. This ain't for losers but for people suffering from incurable diseases. Imagine the pitiable state of a patient suffering everyday, every moment, crying in pain helplessly. He has no other option. He knows he's gonna die soon but then why being put through all these agonizing moments of torments when he has an option to die in peace.

But who would want to die? Imagine a young child weeping dolefully, holds his mamma's hand and says, "Mamma, I wanna live.. Mamma, I wanna live.. But I can't bear all the pain". The point is the mother knows that her child would never be able to live in peace with so much of suffering in store. At the same time, the child wants to see the world. Now don't you think it's a trivial situation?

One post in some community read, 'The origination of the word 'euthanasia' itself is shameful as it shows defeat of some medical science against some disease'. That seriously makes no sense because in today's world had it not been for medical sciences, our lives would have been in a jeopardy. Just because there hasn't been cure for certain diseases, you can't banish the medical sciences and hold them responsible for the origination of, 'Euthanasia'.

When some things aren't in our hands, we need to accept them the way they are. Dying in peace is better than struggling each and every moment!