Worries of an Indian Girl

The recent articles and blog posts about sexism and frustrations of Indian girls made me write this post.

Couple of months back my Mother asked me whether I had met one of our family friends in Chennai and I replied no. The background story is one of my family friends saw me in the Railway station and the complaint was that I was wearing a loose sleeveless top. The lady got alarmed seeing me in a sleeveless top and complained to Mother saying I should be wearing Salwars as I am Malayali girl.Apparently,the lady is worried that I am spoiling the name of keralites and Kerala’s highly boasted culture(?).Now, this not new to me. Forget about sleeveless tops and party wears, wearing jeans can earn you the name slut.I find it very difficult to understand this concept. If a girl wears a salwar/saree, then she has a good character. From when on wards did we start making analysis of a person’s character according to the clothes they wear.Now,do men have such an issue? Imagine we girls making such an analysis about men — men wearing formal shirts and pants want to sleep around, men wearing veshti don’t think about /look at girls, men wearing lungi want to eve tease or rape and so on. When women don’t judge men according to the clothes, why does vice versa exist? Do not generalize because we don’t think that a guy is bad if he is wearing clothes which he likes.

I remember getting a message in my blog page after writing the post Shadows of a Girl. The message was from an old classmate who was a constant faultfinder of my posts. The message was an apology for the rubbish comments he had posted on some of my posts. The change in attitude happened after he took his newlywed wife to Delhi for honeymoon. The message said that he fumed in anger and helplessness when his wife got lost in a crowded street and she was groped badly. He wrote that his wife cried in shock that strange men squeezed her breasts and waist in those ten minutes she got lost in the crowd. And what was her dress?A pardah!! He apologized for his earlier views on women.But,what I want to tell the world is why should you wait for something to happen to your dear ones to change your attitude? What is so difficult to think that women are human beings too? And I know, in India, men get groped too.

Don’t do such things because a girl should not do such things”. I grew up hearing this dialog round the clock from my Grand Mother.But, thanks to my parents for letting me grow up doing things from playing cricket with neighborhood boys to rolling in mud. I thought such mentality was only in Kerala but as I moved out of home and started meeting people from other parts of the country, I understood that it is a national problem. Here are ten rules which I have heard often.

1)Girls should not talk loud

2) Girls should not play with boys after 10 years old or getting her period, whichever is earlier.

3) Girls should not go out alone

4) Girls should not stay outside the home after 6 PM (This still exists in Kerala. Thanks to the men in Kerala)

5) Girls should sacrifice

6) Girls should obey their parents, elders and whomsoever who has the right to rule/shout at her

7) Girls should give more importance to her wedding than her education.

8) Girls are the honor of a family and should save it at any cost

9) Girls should not tell their opinions because they don’t know what life is

10) Girls should give more importance to her husband and his family than to herself and her family

Most of these dialogues are followed by a story from the religious books praising women in those books who made sacrifices, who were epitome of patience, who obeyed her husband without any objections, who grew up according to her parents’ wishes, who saved the honor of the family and so on. Now stop right there. First of all, it is dumb to force girls to grow up under such rules and force them to be examples of the so-called “the good girl”. Women are humans too — what’s wrong in getting angry and shouting? Why should we sacrifice things which we like just because we are women? Why should we suppress anger and be patient just because we are women? Above all, why should we be good girls, why can’t we be just girls? Imagine a society telling the Indian men to be like the ones in the religious books?

One of my friends was narrating the story of a movie. Then she said, “after that they will have this” and giggled.”They will have what?“. We asked.”You know, that“, she again giggled.”You mean they had sex?”, somebody in the gang asked. And she said, “Don’t tell it openly. It is a bad thing”. Yes, I heard this from a married woman who has a kid.Sex is one of the words which will spoil a girl’s name. People often forget that sex is a simple thing. Even when they celebrate a girl becoming pregnant, they conveniently forget that she became pregnant after having sex with her husband. It is a ubiquitous fact. The mankind still exists because people are having sex; let’s tell it that way than the rosy way of telling that babies are born. So why should a girl be bad if she talks about sex?If you want a baby then a woman should have sex with a man. This has been happening since Adam and Eve and how is a woman talking about sex a sin? (That too in this century!!)

I am in love”. How often have you heard an Indian girl telling such a thing openly?90 % of the Indian women don’t let this out because having a past relationship will spoil her chances of getting married(even if the guy who rejects this girl would have had many relationships and is not a virgin).Yes, pure-girl concept is prevalent in Asian and Eastern countries. The usual dialog from the family, “Guys can do anything. Even if he rapes girl, he will get a girl to marry” discourages women even more from telling out their feelings.Recently, one of my friends informed me that she rejected a proposal. The reason which she gave me was that the guy’s parents are dumber and my jaw dropped. Looks like the guy wanted somebody who hasn’t been in a relationship, so she politely withdrew from the proposal but his parents wanted somebody who hasn’t had any crush or infatuation so far. She asked me how they can even think of such a thing when she is already 26 years old. How does it matter whether she or he has a past? Infatuations are mementos of our teenage life. Having a relationship will only help a person grow better. I read this somewhere “Relationships are never a waste of time. If it didn’t give you what you want in life, at least you know what you don’t want in life”.

I saw a comment in a forum which discussed about the above problems,”Twenty years ago, I was reading articles on the same lines. Twenty years from now, we will continue to do so. Some themes never grow up!”

Related Read : http://tamilculture.ca/an-open-letter-to-young-tamil-men/

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Shadows of a Girl

I woke up screaming and taking off my bed sheet. I felt drops of sweat flowing till the end of my spine and they disappeared inside the fine cloth of my skirt. I peeped into my shirt and checked whether my not yet firm and still blooming breasts are in their place. I sighed. I badly wanted some water so I searched for the water jug and gulped water making my shirt go wet. I wanted my breasts to get removed from my body. There is no other female organ which makes the life of a girl terrible. Lying down on the bed did give me some comfort. The cool air which found its way through the bed room window soothed my headache. The window pane had weird designs made by the shadows of the nearby trees. It gave no surprise when I saw the switched off street lights.

 “Why can’t you wake up early and sweep the house?” mother shouted at top of her voice. I slowly pulled the bed sheet from my face and looked at her. She was standing tall with a broom. The dust from the broom made me sneeze. I looked at the timepiece and it showed 6 A.M.

 “You will suffer at your husband’s place. Lazy girl ! ” Amma shouted from the kitchen. I wanted to shout at her back but refrained. I have always thought how she can think about getting me married at the age of 13.

I am not going to marry until I get a job. Period.

Why did I born in this house? I should have born as Prakash uncle’s daughter. He stays in Chennai and his children are well off. Unlike me, they were smart and intelligent. Once, he once promised me that he would take me to Chennai for higher studies if I pass out tenth grade with flying colors. From then onwards, Amma started calling me, Oye Collector madam, please wash the clothes; Collector madam please wake up. I hated it. At times, I really hate my Amma. I wish she were not my mother. Bhavana’s mother is the best mother in the world. She loves Bhavana so much that never I have heard her shouting. They talk to each other as if they are friends. Bhavana has no secrets with her mother. She is so lucky. I don’t even remember talking with my full heart to my Amma.

 Before getting out of the house to school, I prayed well. Looks like God is not listening to my prayers. I have been praying for more than a year and until today I am tortured while going to school. While walking to the main road I still prayed. Nobody is there to help me and I wish I had a brother.

I got inside the 8.15 AM bus and stared at my toe nails. Suddenly somebody touched me and I recognized that touch. I slid my right hand inside the school uniform skirt’s pocket and took out a 1 rupee coin. I gave to him without looking at his face. I again slid my right hand into the pocket to keep the ticket inside. I hate him.

While getting down from the bus, I again recognized the touch. There were so many sleepless nights which I have spent thinking why can’t buses in Kerala run without a cleaner man standing at the door of the bus pretending to help the women open the bus door. Five months back, when I was sitting in front seat, he touched my hands. I stared at the cleaner man and he winked at me. A sudden chill hit me like a lightning and my heart started beating fast. I understood that he has kept the hands on the brim of my seat as if it is a normal posture to travel in a bus. He touched my legs and pinched me. I went numb. I saw my classmates flocking at the door to get down from the bus but I couldn’t even get up from my seat.  But my legs were shivering, my hands were sweating and my stomach had butterflies flying inside it. I gasped some air to make me look normal and then it happened. The conductor pulled me out of the seat holding my arms and shouted “Day dreaming girl!”.He used the opportunity well and slid inside my shirt sleeves as deep as possible to hold my hands. I ran to the door and stepped down from the slightly moving bus. While stepping down, the cleaner man almost hugged me to throw out of the bus.

At times, I feel that my Amma doesn’t love me at all. She never listens to me. All she talks about is the money she has to find to pay the dowry when she marries me off. I think she misses my father and that’s why she behaves strangely and rudely to me.

I always wanted to tell her about those men who is coming both in my nightmares and day dreams. I wanted to tell her how much I hate them and how much I hate myself when they touch me or pinch me. Once during the lunch break, I told Reshma about him. I somehow felt like trusting her as she has been sitting next to me since we both joined the school together. But I couldn’t believe what heard from her. She told me that her father’s brother who is staying with them always keeps her in his lap. He would caress her breasts when her mother is in kitchen, he would tell her to massage his legs and he would touch her hair as if showing affection. Reshma’s family is a joint family and her father toils to run that big family. I asked her why she is not telling this matter to her mother. My jaw dropped when I learned that her mother knew it and even tried talking to her father but all in vain.

I cannot explain the blood rush and the rage that wave inside my heart and body when they touch me or pass lusty comments. I want to hit them on their face when they do so but all I can manage is to hold my fist tight and then sit on the seat like a stone. Sunday is the only peaceful day but then Sunday nights are terrible. The thought of again bearing those hard presses and pinches will make me scream in helplessly in anger.

Few days back, I was sitting in the front seat, far away from the conductor seat. I gave him 1rupee coin without looking at his face and put back the ticket in my pocket. When the crowd grew, he came and stood next to my seat. He leaned on the bar next to the front seat in the bus. I could sense that he was looking at my breasts and my blood flushed. I held my bag tight to my chest and looked outside. When an old lady got inside the bus, he ordered me to get up from my seat. He shouted to everybody that students are making the private bus owners of Kerala in loss. I managed to stand up from the seat and stood holding the seat rod. He asked the crowd to give him way to the other end of the bus. Then it happened. On the pretext of pushing me, he squeezed my breasts. I thought I would faint then. I wanted to vomit as I felt sick in my stomach. I held the iron bar of the seat tightly and stood in the crowd. After this incident, I started getting nightmares that at times him or some other times strange men are trying to squeeze my breasts. My mother sleeping in the adjacent room neither cared nor bothered but yet shout at me to better sleep soon rather than disturbing her sleep. When she is in her slumber, she forgets me. I searched for one person to talk this out or to get help.

I lost my father when I was two. I know him only through stories from my mother which she told when she wanted to let me know how unlucky I am. It was from Reshma that I learned the secret behind my mother’s hatred towards me. A soothsayer made my mother believed that it was my unlucky charm which brought death to my father. A lot of times, I have secretly wished that my mother have hugged or kissed me like rest of the mothers of the village do. They oil their daughter’s hair, they celebrate when the daughter reaches puberty and they tease their daughter telling about the prince charming waiting for her. Once I took the bottle of oil and sat next to my mother who was sitting on the steps of the front door of the house. She gave me a glaring stare and I understood the answer. How can I ever tell a woman who hates me, who talks only about the pain she is taking to make money to pay my dowry about the men who eves tease me?

 Every time when I get on the bus, I wished I had the courage to hold the hands of the cleaner man from touching me and then slap him tight. But when I think about the school mates, neighbors and acquaintances in the bus I refrain myself from thinking about such a plan. I was going crazy thinking about the modus operandi that he worked out with me. Why do those two men torture me this way? Why should bus have a man standing at the women’s door? Why does he never move from the two meter foot-board while women are getting on the bus? He touches every other women getting inside the bus. He teases every school girl sitting in the front seat of the bus.

Ninth grade final exams were going on and I returned home at noon after the exam. Most of the times, I will be the only girl in the bus by the time the bus reaches the last stop where I get down. Somehow I was lucky for four days as the village Panchayat president travelled to my stop as he was monitoring the road work. I thanked my stars and for the first time I enjoyed the warmth of security. I realized how beautiful the sideways of the roads are. I understood what I missed by sitting scared and absent-minded in the bus. On the fifth day, after my Social science exam I gleefully sat next to the window of the front seat. My heart uttered sotto voce that things are wrong. I hesitantly looked back and I didn’t see the Panchayat President in his usual seat. Then I looked at the cleaner man and I saw the lusty urge in his eyes. I took my eyes off him and sat straight. My heart sank and I wanted to jump out of the bus. Altogether, there were only eight people in the bus. Two security men returning from their work , two tenth standard students coming back from their tuition class, the bus driver, the bus conductor ,the cleaner man and myself. One of the tenth standard students is my neighbor and I have already blocked his textbooks for my next year. The security men took the advantage of the nearly empty bus by keeping their legs on the bars of the seat and snoring off their last night’s pending sleep.

I jumped from the seat when the cleaner man came and sat next to me. He looked behind the boys and winked at them and I heard them laugh. He comfortably stretched himself on the seat and kept his hands around me as if he was my lover. I was not sure whether I was dead or not. I couldn’t move and inch and I shivered. When he held my hair, I took all my courage and jumped out of the seat. He laughed at me and pulled me to him. Bus conductor made a comment to encourage the cleaner man. He kept his hands on my shoulder and something inside me exploded with courage that I slapped him hard on his left cheek. He fell off the seat. He called me names and ran to me and lifted me holding my uniform shirt’s collar. I kicked him and suddenly the driver applied sudden brakes. Both of us fell down. His head hit on the gearbox and he was in a rage. I opened the door of the bus and ran. I ran. I ran until I reached my house. I slammed the door and got inside my room.

I wrapped myself in the bed sheet. I held it tight to stop myself from shivering. I heard my mother shouting at me for getting inside the house wearing the shoes. She poured her rants about me not being an ideal girl. I found it difficult to breathe and finally I cried. I cried my soul and anger out. I cried until the news reached my mother’s ears. Her hands made huge noises on my door and I couldn’t make out whether she was shouting or crying. I got up from the bed and slowly opened the door. There I fell on my bed again as my mother slapped me hard. I went blind, deaf and dumb. She lifted me from the bed holding my arms and asked why I slapped that man. She threw me down on the floor and ran out the room.

She lamented that the family’s honor is lost and now nobody will come forward to marry me. The complaints showered on my head and I felt that my head is going to blast. People flocked outside my house as the news had gone viral. She ran around our small house saying I have brought such a shame to her and the family. I lay on the bed and closed my eyes.

When I opened my eyes, it was dark everywhere. I couldn’t see the clock to know the time. I realized that I had a sound sleep. I touched my left cheek and felt the imprints of my mother’s finger. My ears pained and the clotted blood behind my left ear smelled. I got up and went out of my room. I stumbled upon some utensils. I switched on the light and saw my mother lying down of the floor. I ran to her but she turned her face without any emotions. She cursed me.

 I went back to bed after gulping some water from the kitchen. I slept peacefully that night. I dreamed about walking through the beach, singing songs and running around in garden. I saw my prince charming dancing with me. When he kissed me, I woke up. I screamed when I saw my mother hugging me. Her face was as calm as Night Sea. Her eyes were puffed from continuous crying. I felt good having her hands around me. The last time she hugged me is not even there in my memory. I tightly hugged her. She kissed on my cheeks and told me to stop going to school. She advised that I am too young to bear the embarrassment. I argued with her because there was one more exam left for me to pass the ninth grade.

Stop it Priya. People will talk nonsense about you. Let me talk with Prakash to get you married off soon.” She told me wiping her tears.

I fell back to my bed and looked through the window. The street lights were off but I could see the moon and stars. A million questions burped in my mind. I am good at studies and lately Meena teacher told me that if I can put in little more effort I can pass out with flying colors in my tenth grade. Then I can go to the town and study further. I had plans of telling Prakash uncle to loan me some cash and I will promise to pay him back once I get a job. The thought of job and salary for myself always brought me goose bumps.

I woke up early and got dressed up to go to school. Mother uttered no word but when I got out of the house I saw my neighbor hanging wet clothes on the jute lane. She stared at me and spat on the ground to get rid of my sight. While walking to the main road, I heard people’s whispers behind me, I saw people coming out of the house to see me walking and I felt that they were looting my inner strength. I walked faster and people at the bus stop covered me with their stares and glares. I breathed heavily to relax myself .People around me debated about whether I should be allowed to come out my house. But at this crossroad, I decided to go to school and study.

The bus came and I was the first one to get inside. I looked at the cleaner man and he looked away from my eyes. He has lost the guts to look into my eyes. I sat next to the window of the front seat of the bus. When the conductor reached my seat I looked at his face. He was not looking at me. I took a one rupee coin and gave him. I slid the ticket inside my skirt’s pocket and looked outside the window. The wind patted me to appreciate my courage to stand up for myself, the trees stooped to let me know their respect and my hair danced in the wind to show my happiness of freedom.

And I smiled.

PS:  This is not a fictional piece and this has disgusting memories from my school days. But, this incident was told to me by my relative who lives in a remote village in Palghat, Kerala. Looks like this girl is currently working as a teacher in the village.The ending of the story is made this way only to make the girls feel better after reading this and to let them know that they don’t have to give upon their dreams because of some morons.

 It is high time that Kerala should stop a “cleaner” man standing at the front door of the bus. A decade back when I went to school, things were bad. But, today things are worse. Stories which I hear from  school- going girls are nasty and terrible. Why can’t the Kerala Government fix an automatic door or have a bus without a door. In the worst case,  women are capable enough to open the door and get out of the bus. We prefer this to being touched and commented by someone every time we get in and get out of a bus.

Related Read : One Tight Slap , What I feel now is

The Perfect Mother-In-Law

It was during my initial days in Chennai that I met Revamma* at Tambaram. My friend took me to her house as I was searching for a paying guest home. She looked like any other woman of the age 60 years. There were a lot of confusions inside me after seeing her. She seemed very strict and for somebody like me who live without any discipline, staying with her and the family didn’t sound like a good idea.But, my situation was so crucial that I badly wanted a place to stay.

(Here onwards I will be addressing her as Aunty.)

While walking back after giving the advance amount, I shed my worries to my friend. The family is very big consisting of eleven people – Aunty,Uncle,their four sons, Uncle’s Mother, Uncle’s niece, wives of first and second sons and the new-born of first son. Only the elder son, his wife and second son’s wife know to speak in English. Those days, I didn’t know Tamil and these people spoke Telugu at home. This home was only a temporary escape from the jail like hostel I was staying for the first one month of my job. Though reluctantly, I still moved in to their place. I was given a room which had a different stairway from theirs.

I moved in on a Saturday and next morning, as usual, I over slept. According to the deal, the family would be giving me food too. Waking up at 11.30 in the morning and asking for breakfast seemed a very bad idea. So I again slept to wake up at 3 PM when Aunty banged on my door. She said something to me and I understood it like “Please brush your teeth and come for lunch”. After refreshing myself I went to their house and I saw a crowd there. This is the problem when we grow up in a nuclear family and have not seen anybody other than your parents and sibling. I was seeing the complete family for the first time. Aunty and Paattima(Uncle’s Mother) were having lunch at the dining table. Rest of the folks was sitting on the mats spread on the floor. I was in confusion where to sit but when Aunty told me to sit on the chair next to hers I obeyed like a good girl.

That was the first and last day I felt strangeness about the family. Aunty adopted me as her daughter as she doesn’t have one. We had language issues but still we communicated and laughed out for jokes. They educated me on Tamil and Telugu movies. Altogether the family was a completely happy family.

Aunty stole my heart for various reasons.

She kept a very good rapport with her daughters-in-law. There were no rules kept for them. Three of them would go out for a walk in the evening. Aunty has no hesitation in serving food for them. The first DIL** told me that she didn’t want to go to her house during the 7th month of pregnancy. She did so only because of her family nagged her. I felt so happy when I heard both the DILs told me that they liked Aunty so much. I understood that it is true in my one year’s stay at their place. Aunty never made a fuss about the DILs taking afternoon nap. When she wants coffee after the nap, she prepares it by herself. She is very considerate when the DILs are having their periods, allowing them to take rest. Those days she cooks for all of us without any complaints. I regret for not taking that rare moment in the history of MILs*** and DILs in India. Both of the DILs don’t know to wear sari. They would stand in front of Aunty like obedient kids and she would make them wear it. The rarest scene I am talking about is Aunty kneeling down on the floor to correct the DILs’ sari fall. I wonder whether there is any MIL in India who would do so.

I respect her for bringing up her sons teaching them every household work. Though the first two sons are married, they both wash their plates after meals. All four of them know to cook, clean the house and wash clothes. They are a middle class family but Uncle and Aunty, though they are not educated, have brought them up well.

Once, her second son went for a movie with his friends without taking his wife. He didn’t take her because he and his friends had some plans after the movie. The second DIL felt little sad about it and you know what Aunty did? We, ladies in the house, went for the same movie next day. The DILs go out with their friends, their friends come home and everybody likes Aunty so much. When the second DIL became pregnant, she refused to go to her house for the delivery. She said that she is happier here than at her own house. But, Aunty told her to go. It was a surprise for me to see Aunty calling up the second DIL daily.

My mind was full of prejudices before moving in thinking whether Aunty would watch my moves and schedules. But, as long as I update her whether I would be there for dinner or not, she hasn’t controlled my lifestyle in any way. She has never asked where I am going or with whom I am going out. She never made comments about my schedules or clothes. In fact, there were a couple of times when I actually hugged her and cried because of some issues at work.

When people around me burst my ear drums with horrifying stories of their MIL, Revamma is a Goddess.

*Not the original name

**Daughter – in-law

*** Mother-in-law

A Friday

Fridays are fun.

Friday mornings are brighter and Friday nights are livelier.

The Chennai city is a beauty during the month of December and commuting makes me feel heaven as I travel with the school kids. As the students are busy with their half-yearly examinations in December, it is a nostalgic scene to see the kids all over the city in the morning. All of them carry a plastic bag in which the wooden/plastic writing board is kept. The projection of pencil box and books could be clearly seen outside the plastic cover. The relief of each exam getting over is clear on their faces. The kids are accompanied by either their Mother or Grand Father. I look into their textbooks, at times into their question papers too and then sigh thinking what an emotional fool I am. Some kids will be very excited to tell me how they multiplied two numbers or how they matched certain monuments to their respective places. Thus the third week of December and March are weeks which I indeed look forward to. The kids bring back a lot of memories and the nostalgic-emotional-heart of mine forces me to regret for not understanding the value of childhood and school days then.

In last December, on the third Friday, a Mother and a boy got inside the share auto. The boy and I became great friends in two minutes. It was his last exam and he showed me his Social Studies question paper and we discussed the answers thoroughly before I predicted his marks. I carry chocolates in my hand bag only with the motive of bribing the kids who travel with me. To celebrate the closing ceremony of examinations and to welcome the Christmas holidays, his Mother had already bought him a chocolate. So to give him company in eating the chocolate, I took one from my bag and started eating. He sat on my lap and we enjoyed the messed up traffic jam licking the chocolate. 

Suddenly, his Mother beat him on his thighs and nobody understood why. Interfering between the Mother and the son didn’t seem like a good idea, so I waited for her to speak up. She sternly asked him why he threw out the chocolate cover through the share auto’s window despite her teaching him that it is wrong.

Then, why are you scolding only me? I did so because I saw her throwing off her chocolate cover through the window.” He said this pointing at me and with mixed emotions.

The Mother rudely looked at me and said nothing. But, all that she wanted to tell me was clear from her face. Her face told me why I am such a fool who doesn’t know how to behave in public despite boasting being educated and employed. I saw the anger on her face about why people like me are not aware that the next generation is watching us.

Truthfully, until that moment I never realized that it was my habit to throw things out of the window while travelling. The boy and his Mother got down one stop before mine. He waved me good-bye and I faked my smile. I didn’t have the guts to look at the Mother’s face. I felt ashamed of myself and I stared at my cell phone.

After getting down from the auto, I walked to my office asking a million questions to myself.

Watch your acts, the kids are watching you.

 

What I feel now is…

… terrible. Everybody around me was talking about rape and rights of women and I felt very weird because it was a new thing for me. I felt even weirder when I realized that people are realizing it only now. But, I’m glad that at least a small percentage of people did make an effort to show their solidarity against the inhumane acts against women. Many inquired why I’m not writing a post about what has happened in India. Some even told certain incidents from their life which they wanted me to mention in my post. But, I refrained from writing a post all this while only because I was badly hurt by the incident. I couldn’t cope with the fact that heinous acts can happen to women to any extent.

For an ordinary woman like me the number of stories about being raged and flushed with anger has lost count.

There was a peon in our school who molested most of the “physically matured” girls. The girls who got their period and growth of breasts were very innocent in their minds; after all we cannot expect a 6th girl in late 1990s to be as informative as the same aged girls now. The girls had no clue how to react when he did things to them because they were ignorant. Stories about him circulated among the girls and even the teachers knew about it. Surprisingly, no action was taken though parents complained about him to the school authority. Teachers are not Gods and I realized it when the girls in the Sanskrit class started telling stories about the newly recruited male teacher. It was his hobby to put his hands through the sleeves of the girl’s uniform on the pretext of pinching the girl as a punishment. Things went out of control when one of the girls was caught with the teacher in an empty classroom. The story ended with a twist when the teacher appeared with his wife and kids because he had joined the school saying that he was a brahmachari. Today, when I look back, my blood boils with anger thinking why the parents never fought to throw him out of the school.

Moving to a school in the heart of the city only worsened the conditions. The school being a girls only school taught me a lot of interesting things. Talking to a boy was considered as a serious crime and such girls were branded as “bitches”. So when I told my friends that my best friend is a boy and I played cricket with my neighborhood childhood friends, they almost fainted. Using public transport to school was a terrible thing as the bus conductors hated the students. At times the conductors would pat the bum of the girls asking them to give space for him to move around in the bus. The cleaner man of the bus is adhered to the foot board of the bus that without being touched and caressed by him, girls cannot get out of the bus. Some men love the surroundings of a girls’ school. Men standing of the walls of the school and lifting their lungi and flaunting their penis was not an unusual scene for us. Whenever we have complained, we have always got a standard reply which is like “why did you look at him?”. Pick every girl who studied with me and every one will be having thousands of such stories. Once I even slapped a man who tried to hold me and for more than a week I made my Father drop me in school as I was too scared to travel alone. Travelling in KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) buses are even messed up. The bus has only one door and that too at the rear end. While getting down, you can never make out who touched your bum and who touched your breasts. By the time the women wearing sari get down from a crowded KSRTC bus, if they are lucky there won’t be any scars or nail scratches on their body. And since the bus will be too crowded, we cannot place who did things to us.

The torture saga in the train started when I moved out of house of my graduation. While travelling in the sleeper suddenly we can feel the hands on our legs. We would become wide awake to see a shadow running away.By the time we realize what has happened, the shadow must have disappeared completely. Once a woman complained caught a man when he tried to grope her leg. She was sleeping in the lower berth of the sleeper class. The police beat him and took him away. None of us slept that night fearing what may happen through rest of the journey.

I don’t know why nobody (including me) has ever complained about people throwing stones into the ladies compartment in the trains. While I used to travel in the Cannanore – Cochin Intercity Express, there are two places (before Kuttipuram and before Shornur) where men would be sitting on the gravels next to the rails and when the train passes by, they would hurl stones at the ladies compartment. The daily travelling ladies would ask rest of the crowd in the ladies compartment to close the doors and windows before reaching those spots. I wonder what pleasure and satisfaction the men get by throwing stones at women.

There is a dialog collection which I have heard from the day I started working in Chennai. Though I have switched places, I always have half a kilometer distance to walk to get the public transport. The common dialogues are

“How much milk do you produce?”,”My penis is erected by seeing you”, “Can we book a room?”,”Have you seen my thing? Look, look”,*any of my organs* super super, can I touch them?”

Above are the few “decent” dialogues which are hurled at women who walk that half a kilometer distance. Some other things which they shout at us cannot be put on my blog, it will stink. And to add the surprise, these dialogues are said by even educated, well dressed professionals too. 

The lesson which I learned in past weeks is that now I started reacting to even the harmless comment passed on me. I realized that my silence is taken as YES even though it is just a comment.

But I still feel terrible because the peon and teacher still work in the school, men continue to lift their lungis and flaunt their penis, the stones are still thrown at the ladies compartment and my day is not complete without hearing couple of the comments.

473459_10151625998427268_1441258843_oImage courtesy : http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/male-allies/educating-boys-men/

One Pearl – Muthumani

Most of my train journeys have always given me some theme for my story or some characters that I will never forget.

Though I am tiny, I have always wondered why people open up so much to me when I start talking to them. It is always nice to talk with women in the train about the rising prices of vegetables, the donations in schools or almost anything under the sun without even knowing who she is.

The women coupé in the suburban trains will be empty after 10pm.There will be hardly two or three women other than me by the time the train reaches Tambaram. On that day I was returning home after a late night meeting. There were three women other than me in the coupé. One woman was in her early 40s and the other two were in their early 20s.They looked like Mom and two daughters coming after a function as all the three were wearing so much jewelery.But it was obvious in the first sight that the jewels they were wearing are not gold.Also,it was easy to read their family background from their faces. That’s one thing I have always noticed, how much ever people try to dress up with jewels and expensive clothes, it is very easy to make out  about their financial situation in a second.

The mother was sitting next to me and the other two girls were sitting opposite me. As I was too tired and sleepy after the day’s work I didn’t bother to have a chat with them.Also, they didn’t seem to be the ones who are interested in talking with me. I took out a book from my bag but I was too weary to read it. I leaned on the window bars and the cold rush of wind made me sleepier.

W: “Are you tired??Do you want water?”

Me: “No, thank you. I am alright”. (Trying to smile)

W: “Huh!!After all you people will never take anything from us.”

Me:??? (Confused) (Smiled. I don’t know why)

I was not in a mood to respond or to bother about the meaning of her dialouges.So I again leaned on the window bars and the cold rush of wind put me to sleep.

Suddenly I woke up and looked at the woman. She was staring at me, I didn’t know for how long. I tried to recollect the pick pockets’ photos stuck in the railway station to see whether she was one among them. But since my memory doesn’t work at the right time, I cursed myself. I gave her an irritating look and again leaned on the window bars.

W: “Why are you travelling this late at night?”

Me: (I stared at her. I didn’t want to answer her as I was frightened whether the conversation will continue between us)

W: “It is not safe to travel late.”

Me: “Yeah, I know. But my work got over late today.” (I ended it in a heavy tone expecting that she don’t reply me.)

W: “Today when I saw you, I remembered my first day in Chennai.”

Me: “Oh!!!Why?”

W: “I was young, lean and short like you then.”

Me: “So?????” (I was irritated hearing her words.)

W: “I am from Kancheepuram.I was born and brought up there.”

Me: “Huh!!Okay” (I understood that she was not talking nonsense. I became wide awake.) “So how did you come to Chennai?”

W: “I belong to a very poor family. My house was near the road side.No, it was not house itself; a place covered with some asbestos sheets. One of the men who came for road repair told my parents that he would like to marry me, that too without dowry. Since there were three younger sisters for me, my parents got me married to him that month. He brought me here in Chennai. I was excited to see the Madras city which I have only heard and seen in radio news and Tamil movies . One day my husband didn’t come back from work. I knew nobody in the city except the house owner. He was an old man staying with his wife and some distant relative girl. I informed the house owner when my husband didn’t return for three continuous days. After two days, the house owner told me to pay the rent and vacate the house. He told me that if I don’t have cash, it is alright if I pay him in “any” way that I could. I decided to run away from there. I searched the house to collect some 20 bucks. My mom had given me the phone number of one of my relatives who was there in Chennai.”

Her phone rang.

W: “Hello, we are on the way. Just left Guindy.”

I looked at her daughters sitting opposite to me. They were not bothered about their mother’s story. They were immersed in some serious talks about a guy they saw some minutes back at the Nungambakkam railway station.

W: “So where did I stop?”

Me: “..relative..”

W: “Ah!!The phone number which was there with me was his contractor’s as he was working for daily wages. He talked with his contractor and arranged to get me a job of house maid at the contractor’s house. After a month or so, my relative told me that he would like to marry me and he is not worried about my earlier marriage. I felt happy. I made him write a letter to my parents. Later he told me by showing a piece of paper that my parents were fine with the marriage. I thought this is my chance to show him gratitude. After all he did so much for me. But after the wedding, I came to know that he was already married and has two kids. The intention of being nice to me was for something else. I tried running away from there but before I could even attempt, he had trapped me. I was blindfolded and taken somewhere. When I opened my eyes, I could see so many other women who didn’t know Tamil. I tried shouting but a huge blow behind my neck made me unconscious for hours. By the time I was up, I knew that I was not going to get out of this place, ever!!.”

Girl 1: “Mom, When will we reach?”

W: “In sometime”.

Me: “So, are they your daughters? I am sorry…I am just curious”

W: “Ha Ha Ha Ha”

I felt dejected.

W: “How can a prostitute have kids? Ha Ha Ha”.

Me: “So…You…I mean…They are  …”

W: “The people who take us will make sure that we don’t get pregnant at all. These two are my friend’s sister’s daughters. When my friend’s sister died, her husband threw them to my friend’s hand. That man always suspected his wife and told my friend that these two were not his kids. We are vulnerable to a lot of diseases and when my friend passed away, I took in charge of them.”

Me: “Oh…so they are also..no..I was just asking you..like..Where are you going now?”

She smiled.

W: “Our lives change in a matter of seconds. These girls’ father is now happily married and living without any botherance.But for us it is not that way. It may take a lifetime to change our life and most of the times it won’t change at all. I don’t want them to end their lives in that hell.”

I blinked and sat there without understanding anything. Those words seemed too high-sounding for me to understand.

W: “We are getting down at Chromepet.They lost their childhood sleeping with strangers. Now I am also counting my days on earth, before that I have to put them somewhere safe. I came to know that there is a juvenile home here. I hope they adopt these kids. All what I saved by being a prey is for them. At least let them have a good life.”

Girl 1: “Mom, now how many stations more?”

W: “One more.”

Only then I realised, that we almost reached Chromepet.

W: “May be you are the last person in my life to have a friendly chat with me.”

Me: “Why me? I mean, why did you tell all these matters to me?”

W: “I told you that I remembered my first day in Chennai after watching you. Then you had a friendly smile on your face.Usually,when people come to know that we are bad women, they always avoid talking to us or even change their seats. But you were kind enough to listen to me. Do tell your friends to be careful in their lives. We never know how tragedies come in life. We never know.”

She sighed.

Me: “May I know your name?”

The woman wept badly, very badly.

W: “Nobody has ever asked my name. They have always asked me for something else. I have thought about my name because for women like me name is never an adorning matter.My name is Muthumani.”

I offered a handshake.

W: “Why should you get spoiled by my touch? But I am happy that you asked my name because nobody has asked for my name for years…for years…”

Train stopped.

She and those two girls got out of the train. I expected her to look at me to say good-bye.

The train started moving. I went till the foot board to see her, but I couldn’t find her.

Two days after this incident, I saw her photo in the newspaper under the heading “Anonymous woman found dead”.

I went numb.

But what could I do? Like every shameless Indian I prayed for Muthumani’s departed soul to rest in peace. 😦

 

This post was made into a theater play by Stray Factory.

Cash and Cards

This has happened to everyone..but every time I hear such news I always thought this will never happen to me..

It was a cold Saturday night when my brother,Prasun, and I thought of having a lavish dinner just to make us feel a change from the usual one.

We took a long walk from Pondy Bazar to the Thanikachalam Road to find a posh restaurant which we have heard from our friends..It didn’t take much of our efforts to reach this place..While heading to this place I had already told Prasun that I am an impecunious one as it’s almost month end..But that seemed to be not a problem for Prasun because of his bank balance 😉

After receiving a very warm welcome from the security,we found a nice and cozy place at the corner;a table for two..

As it was a long walk;also because of the absence of evening food on our that day’s agenda,we thought ordering in a royal way..as usual we didn’t forget to order a dish in our “try-out” section..

Silence

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Silence

The food was too good that we forgot to talk each other..Awesome!!!! 😀

Phew!!!

Then here come the closing ceremony for the dinner..the BILL..

Prasun took out his Debit card for paying..The waiter politely told us that their card reader is not working and showed us a board kept right in front of the reception which we didnt notice at all.. 😦

oops!!!

Both of us started mining in our wallets but since we are not used to keeping big amounts of cash with us,all we could do was to give a pathetic look to the waiter..

We asked them to know whether there was any ATM near by..

We were lucky to have one right in front of the restaurant..Both of us got of out of the place to withdraw cash from the ATM.The security of the restaurant was spying us to make sure that we don’t escape without paying the money..

Both of us got inside the ATM and Prasun pushed his card into the slot..

**** entered the PIN..

TTrrrrr..

TTrrrr…

TTrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

Only sound is coming from the machine NO CASH..

we thought may be the machine is out of cash..Pressed the cancel button..

Trrrrrrr…

Trrrrrr..

Card is not coming out..our finger played salsa on the cancel button..but nothing worked out..card got stuck inside the machine..phew!!!!!!!15 minutes have gone by now..

The security crossed the road and came up to us..we explained him the situation..He seemed not to believe the story..

We were thinking and thinking..

Prasun went with the security to tell the restaurant manager..And I was waiting inside the ATM with the Trrrr.. sound in the background..

30 minutes passed,I tried calling Prasun but he was not picking up the phone..

I got pissed and kicked the ATM machine..Trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr..

Kluck..there it is the card..Hurrayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy 😀 😀

I turned back to see Prasun and the security..I showed the card..Ho!!!we were relieved..

I don’t know why they actually believed us..but they took so much effort to drive us to find an another ATM and then drop us at our place..

May be this is called Customer Satisfaction..or may be they need their money 😛

But whatever..we learnt a lesson.

Card is NOT equal to Cash

Any help???

I love Chennai..i think it should be this way..I like to stay in Chennai because of my own weird reasons..

People are warm..the crowd don’t care at all about other’s matters..and after all im a stranger in this city 😉

But there are times when we truly wish if there was somebody to give a helping hand..

Once after Byju’s classes,I was waiting at Nungambakkam station for my train to tambaram..Suddenly two girls came out of the station master’s room weeping very badly..One female was cursing the other one for some strange reason..the other one was weeping over the phone calling names..

Usually I don’t used to bother much about these things..but this time I bothered..And there is a reason for it..

Lets go back in the time machine..

When I was in my 3rd year of the college,I was travelling with one of my friends from Chennai to Trichy..

We were in a hurry that day and for our bad luck,my friend lost her train ticket..Train is at 1030pm..We literally did a security check in our luggage to find out..but NO!!!

The mess was made more spicy when she told that the ticket is actually not in her name but in her cousin sister’s name;as she was suppose to travel that day..phew!!!

We checked the name list stuck on the coach..my name is there and of course her cousin sister’s name is also there..But still we got inside..we sat in the respective seats..

There come the villain of the movie..TTE..Huge build..face full of the scars of measles or chicken pox..altogether a mix of Amresh Puri and Om Puri to look like a yuck puri..with the essence of both him and his over-coat not seeing water for months..or may be years.. 😛

We both tried convincing him a lot..we told him a lot of family stories like a TV soap..nothing worked..

In the end he told us to pay Rs 500 as fine and take a new ticket worth Rs178.Haaaa..we started mining our wallets..got Rs535..But that was not going to help us..He was shouting at top of his irritating voice.. 😡

We told him our PATHETIC condition..tried doing drama with tears..

Grrr..I think his heart is made of diamond(strong..strong.. 😉 )He told my friend to get out of the train and get inside the general compartment..that too at 11pm 😦

We were watched by the whole compartment as if some movie is going on..they comment each other..some idiots laughed at us..the crowd was having fun..But i noticed a lady who was sitting on the upper berth staring at us..

She looked like the brand ambassador of Pantaloons or Fab India as she was dressed in such an elegant manner but with so much make-up..She must be in her early fifties..Out of blue,she called me and gave me Rs 500 and told to get things settled..

OMG..OMG..we thought God himself came down to help us..We didnt even try to ask who she is or the reason for her to help..we bothered about nothing..we were so happy that somebody helped us to make the “villain”s mouth shut..

We thanked her..1001 times may be..we were nearly in tears(no drama..original one)..We came to know that even she had this same situation and was helped by a stranger..but she couldn’t repay her..so she was just completing that debt through us..we promised her to pay her back once we reach college..Slept within seconds as we did so much of verbal and emotional hard work 😛

We had planned to take her address in the morning..but for our surprise,she had vanished by the time we woke up..

Now coming back to our current story..by seeing those girls weeping without money,i was able to empathize them..i enquired the matter..

There were four girls travelling..two had to get down at Nungambakkam and two at Beach station..the tickets were with the other two..I didnt bother to check whether the story is true or not..i paid them Rs 400 and gave business card to contact me later..

when the train came I got inside without waiting for them to come back after settling the issue..But i was satisfied and happy that I was able to pay back a debt..

But still after some weeks,they paid me back..So what do you think???I accepted it or …..????

Oye…Auto..

Auto rickshaw aka Auto is common man’s taxi..

I have a very strong bond with “auto”.In my KG,it was Rashid who used to take me to school along with another six souls.The seven of us used to wish him “Good Morning Rashid ikka” as we were taught that as mandatory in school.

Then it is Dinu maaman(uncle) who took the responsibility of my journey to school..even that trip to and fro from school was so much of fun 😀

In short,I used to like to travel in auto..whether it is to school or at times otherwise too..

But,after reaching Chennai,I came to know about the share auto concept..Four or five people share an auto and pay just 10 bucks each..As i started living on my own earnings,it was a very convenient method for me to save money 🙂

Then my transfer to the mount road office made my daily journey in train till Nungambakkam or Egmore..Now come the dilemma..

I have two choices to reach my office..

Choice 1:

Get down at Nungambakkam,cross the Choolaimedu high road and get inside the LIC share auto.

Waiting time to get an auto : 10 – 20 mins

Cost : Rs.10

Speed of Auto : 10m/min

Time taken : 45 – 50 minutes

My temper : Increasing

My BP : Increasing

My mood when I reach office : ^%#%$@$#*%@!

 

 

Choice 2 :

Get down at Chennai Egmore and get inside the “normal” auto.

Waiting time to get an auto : 1 – 5 mins

Cost :Rs.200

{

It is the sum of  

1)The cost of my energy which i waste to yell at those auto guys when they say Rs 80 – Rs 100 to go to LIC complex when the actual cost is just Rs 30.

2)The Rs 30 – Rs 40 which I pay in the end after so much of fighting.

}

Speed of Auto : 20m/min (Reasons : Driver is angry that I’m paying only 30 bucks plus the “terrific” traffic  😦 😦 )

Time taken : 10 – 15 minutes

My temper : Increasing,Decreasing,Increasing..according to the speed of the auto and the frequency of the stops because of the traffic

My BP : Increasing exponentially

My mood when I reach office : ^%#%$@$#(*%&^%

Now tell me..which option should i go for????

weeeep..sob..sob.. 😦 😦 😦 😦

Ladies Special – Part 1

After completing a year in my job (successfully 😉 ),I was getting bored with office and the project.So with so much of hard work i got out of the office in MEPZ (Madras Export Processing Zone ) to another branch in Chennai next to spencer 😉 😉

Since I was so much in love with Tambaram,I had no intentions of shifting from there.Instead,I planned to travel daily in the Chennai Suburban train.So as a pre-requisite I got a season ticket for 3 months. 😀

So there started a new version of my life..

The Ladies Special is at 8:30 AM starting from Tambaram to Chennai Beach.As it is the starting station and also as it is the ladies only train,i can get inside any compartment and there will be ample seats..But i will walk up to the first bogie and take a seat there so that i can climb the stairs before the crowd crushing me when the train reaches Chennai Egmore 😛

On the very first day,according to the plan i started reading a novel the moment the train started..But once when the train was crowded,i just didn’t feel like turning to the next page of my novel..Instead i noticed a gang of ladies(Aunties) having conversations making sure to be the attraction of the day..

On the coming days, i came to know a lot about this gang..

They are of 7 members..All of them became friends during their train journey..Three of them will board the train from Chromepet and the rest from Pallavaram..

Mrs.Savithri Mahalingam* is the gang leader.She is working in LIC office at mount road.She is the one who make sure that the day’s attendance is correct or not.She is married to Lt.Col.Kandasamy Mahalingam* and having a happy married life for 35 years;i.e. till last year.This year she is un happy as her only son Rahul got married.Her favorite past time is to find out the faults in her beautiful daughter-in-law..

Savithri Aunty is always supported by Mrs.RajaAmmal Mariyappan* as she has two beautiful girls to fight with.. ;)Also our Mariyappan uncle owns a shop in Pallavaram and according to Ammal,he is worst businessman on earth..Oh forgot to mention..Mrs.Mariyappan is working as a clerk in Loyola College.

Savithri Aunty’s and Ammal Aunty’s main concern is about the youngest member in the gang.She is Ms.Kalaiselvi Ponnusamy*.She is working as sales girl in the very famous Saravana Stores.The rest of the gang are working hard to get Selvi married.

Then we have singing beauty Mrs.Rajalakshmi Iyer who is working in SBI(Its hearing the Iyer Sir married her falling for her singing..that’s another story 😉 )

Now the Charlie’s Angels of the gang are Mrs.Kavitha Sridharan who is an accountant in Barclay’s Finance,Mrs.Srikala Ramesh who is a senior software engineer at Mahindra Tech and Mrs.Nalini Chandrasekharan who is the Principal of R.S.S.K School at Kodambakkam..All three are mallus..All three are breaking their heads to get their daughters married..So they are always busy searching for the most eligible son-in-law.

So here start my journey the special “Ladies Only” train with the aunty gang…. 😉

*All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.