Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

 

Exit Interview is a fiction published by Rupa Publications

Exit Interview is a fiction published by Rupa Publications

“How many times will you read it? Haven’t you written this book? Then why are you always reading it? Will you not read my books?” my five-year-old son Vivaan was really infuriated.

It was end of May and a couple of days after Rupa Publications had delivered author copies of Exit Interview, my first attempt at writing a fiction, at my doorstep, and I had not yet got over the thrill of holding my book, smelling it and going through it, although by then I knew every page by heart.

But Vivaan wasn’t liking the fact that I was suddenly giving more importance to Exit Interview than Hansel &Gretel and I was even telling him to sleep off on his own while I had work to do.

“Work? What work? You are reading your book. That can’t be work.” He retorted.

I lovingly showed him the acknowledgments page where his name is there. He looked at it and then seemed satisfied that even in the book he continues to be the centre of his mom’s universe.

Vivaan probably will never know that my protagonist Rasha Roy has been actually abandoned so many times for him – for the call of his nappy changing-feeding-cuddling duties.

I started writing the book when my son was 10 months old. I had just quit my job in Dubai and I was at home, writing. Obviously it was expected or I was internally conditioned that way, I suppose, to get up from my laptop every time my son wailed.

Although Rajasri, the wonderful lady who looked after my son was there by his side all the time, I was there too telling myself, “Isn’t this why I left my job?”

Hence the breaks from writing extended to walks in the stroller and playing sessions in the balcony.  Sometimes when I went back to Rasha Roy, my protagonist, I had forgotten what she was doing or what I wanted her to do. My train of thought had been shattered.

There were days Vivaan kept me so busy that I couldn’t write a single line and there were days I would be up all night writing. Some nights Vivaan was so restless and wanted me by his side (we always co-slept) that I also tossed and turned with the next twist in the tale in my head, unable to put it down on the keyboard.

Sometimes when I sat down to write instead of the words the only thing that came was my tears. I was still mourning the untimely demise of my brother Anirban. It had only been 10 months that cancer had taken him away.

But was it Rasha who gave me the strength to carry on, to write the story or was it Vivaan, this little boy, who only knew the sound of my heartbeat, who changed me as a person altogether and gave me the strength to follow my dream?

I wouldn’t know. But four years down the line I have realized Vivaan doesn’t like Rasha. While looking at a newspaper review or a picture of a friend on Facebook holding my book he does get excited saying, “Isn’t that your book?” but the next statement inevitably is, “If you are writing again it better be a book you can read out to me at night.”

Picture taken from the internet

Picture taken from the internet

That day a friend casually said, “Rasha Roy’s story would make a great sequel. Are you thinking of writing one?”

Before I could answer, Vivaan said, “No Rasha, only Puti.”

“Puti? Who’s Puti?” my friend asked.

Vivaan clarified, “She’s a girl from the village who can beat the boys at racing, fight off bank robbers and hijackers, she saved a boy from drowning, she is a supergirl. Mom has made Puti for me.”

The last sentence was uttered with a pride that melted my heart – a pride that comes from his innocence, a pride that he feels about my book but can’t express, a delight that he feels to have the creator of Rasha or Puti as his mom.

Few days back an uncle had come home and asked for a copy of the book. I just had a couple left and needed to send it to someone so I said I didn’t have any.

I quickly realized why people say you should never lie in front of  a child.

“Why? Aren’t there a few copies in the blue bag?” Vivaan said with authority. With great embarrassment I explained to my uncle the reason I couldn’t give those.

After he was gone Vivaan told me, “You should have given him the copies. Exit Interview is intolerable anyway.”

(Any kind of reaction failed me because I was astonished anyway that my son had the good sense to tell me this after my uncle left.)

So looks like I might have to choose Puti over Rasha very soon but I wonder whether Puti will be able to deal with bank robbers and hijackers between me handling homework, school drop off and pick up, freelance deadlines, blogging and my naughty son hitting the sleep button on the laptop at the slightest opportunity.

PS: If you are still interested to read Rasha’s story then for online orders check Flipkart, Amazon India and Amazon International.

Suchismita Dasgupta

Suchismita Dasgupta

“… I think that childfree by choice is the new gay. We’re the new disenfranchised group. People think we’re irresponsible, immoral sluts and that our lifestyle is up for debate.”

Suchismita Dasgupta wrote this on her Facebook wall a few days back. I was not surprised though. She is someone who has always spoken her mind and not always done exactly what society expected her to do. That is why Suchismita, though happily married, has decided not to be a mother.

In this post Suchismita, in her inimitable bold style, has penned her thoughts on being childfree in Indian society:

What’s a good reason to have a child?

Yes, it’s a bit tiring! I got married at 33 and have been hearing since I was 23 when am I going to get married? Then around 30, if I don’t get married now then when will I have kids? Then 7 years after getting married, I am still told ‘but you will make such a wonderful mother’ or ‘you will miss them when you are older’ or ‘it is so selfish not to have a child’ or ‘who will look after you when you are old?’. It has always made me wonder are these reasons good enough to have a child when you and your partner do not want one?

My masseuse came today for the first time. Yes I am 41 and till now didn’t think massage was important. Anyway coming back to the point, she asked me my age etc. and then children? When I replied that I don’t have any her next question was ‘naoni na hoyni’, literally translated it means, you haven’t taken one or it didn’t happen???!!!

How can a child just “happen”?

I find this word ‘happen’ extremely infuriating. In India everything seems to be happening to you. Marriage happens to you, child happens to you, misfortune happens to you and the list is endless. As if we are a bunch of reproduction machines, programmed to get married, consummate the same and reproduce. If you have not done any of them, then you are an irresponsible person bringing shame to the family.

Am I supposed to feel guilty for not having a maternal instinct?

I once had a conversation with a woman; she and her husband adopted a girl when she was about 40. This was soon after our marriage and she took it upon herself to tell me how important having children was. When I told her that I love children as long as they go back to someone else’s home, she said I was plain selfish, someone who doesn’t like children is not worth talking to. Now that suited me fine, I really didn’t care but it made me wonder how patriarchal and institutionalised this whole thought process was. I am sure there would be many (in my shoes) who would have felt guilty after this conversation for not having a lot of maternal instinct.

Suchismita in a Nextiles creation

Suchismita wearing her own design

It’s a well-thought out decision made by two people

In seven and a half years of marriage my husband and I both asked each other many times if the other really wanted a child and was not saying that because of the decision we took jointly and each time after a lot of discussion and deliberation the answer has remained the same. I still think to myself sometimes what if? But then I realise I am too settled in my life as it is right now; there’s no reason why I should change it! It might be for better or for worse but since I do not feel the urge to change it, I won’t do it and I don’t think I owe this to anyone either.

I think there should be a reason to have a child

Everyone should have a reason to have a child. A child should not just ‘happen’ to you because that’s the way you have known things to ‘happen’. Some of my friends and acquaintances have given birth to a ‘bandaid’ child; they gave birth because they think the child will save their relationship.

I feel instant pity for the poor child and the baggage it is born with. Added to this will be the pressure to perform and cope with the constant competition between the parents for attention.

A child is not born to fulfill dreams

Many parents want to fulfill their unfulfilled dreams through their children. I know someone who tells his two-year-old daughter that she has to become a doctor. I see parents treating their children like a talking doll. You go to their place, they call their children and ask them to show all the skills they have acquired. Who cares if the child hates to perform in front of strangers.

I am a doting aunt but can’t do this full time

I as an individual have no such personal crisis or future plans, in fact, I have no maternal instinct either (yeah go on call me a slut) and to be absolutely honest, I feel extremely settled and comfortable in the current state of being and I somehow don’t want to disturb that. My sudden motherhood rushes (like chocolate rush) are fulfilled by my absolute gorgeous nieces and nephews with whom I have a mutual adoration club. In fact, being a favourite aunt to many for the last 16 years, I realised, I cannot do it full time. So whilst being an aunt absolutely suits me, being a mother definitely doesn’t.

Why can’t a woman challenge social norms?

Our upbringing leads us to believe that women are the reproduction agents, who “must” look after children, home etc. We have enough books, films, television to support and coax you into that system. However the time has changed, we don’t think in terms of man and woman as genders anymore. It’s also about time we treat each other as individuals. I (a woman) as an individual may not want to give birth/adopt, breast feed/look after feeding, be woken up in the middle of night, or wake up the child in the morning to take to school. My choice, right?

Making a choice does not mean disregarding a system

Just like you don’t ask an individual (at least I should think you don’t), do you have a car? A bungalow? A pet dog? A Rolex watch? An M. F. Hussain painting? Don’t ask do you have a child? They are all pretty much a matter of choice and affordability.

At this point, I must apologise to some of you who might have been upset by the points I have picked up. That definitely wasn’t my intention. To me/us children have always been a matter of choice; the likes of us don’t believe that we must condone a system if we didn’t want to.

My choice comes with huge responsibility

To me this world has lost its story; and I must say I don’t think that this world deserves another new life, definitely not someone I will be bringing up. So let’s go back to the matter of choice. We all have a right to choose, like you choose to have a child, I choose not to have one. And to be honest this choice too comes with a huge responsibility. One day may be we will learn to respect that. Till then I live with hope.

About Suchismita:

If you have been raving about Sujoy Ghosh’s short film Ahalya then you should also know that Suchismita was the dress designer of the film. Not only that one she was the designer for Kahaani, and some of her designs were used in Parineeta. She was the winner of the Best Costume Award at Madrid International Film Festival 2013 for her work in the Bengali film Koyekti Meyer Galpo. Till date she was been the costume designer for more than two dozen films and one of the noted recent releases is Kadambari.

(From left:) Radhika Apte, make-up artist Aniruddha Chakladar, Tota Roy Choudhury and Suchismita on the sets of Ahalya

(From left:) Radhika Apte, make-up artist Aniruddha Chakladar, Tota Roy Choudhury and Suchismita on the sets of Ahalya

Growing up in Kolkata, Suchismita Dasgupta felt the need of creating comfortable yet exclusive garments using the traditional textiles and techniques. Hence, she formed Nextiles in 2004.

Nextiles focuses on the most important aspects: fabric, fit, and tailoring quality. Working closely with the weavers, embroiderers and printers from all over India, Nextiles’ main focus is to translate the traditional handwork into styles that suit the urban needs.

Nasseruddin Shah, Sujoy Ghosh, Soumik Sen, Swastika Mukherjee, Paoli Dam, Sahana Bajpayee, Aniruddha Chakladar, Ananya Chatterjee, Bidipta Chakraborty and Aparajita Ghosh are celebs who swear by Nextiles.

 

Suzette Jordan (Pix by Diganta Gogoi published in Friday)

Suzette Jordan (Pix by Diganta Gogoi published in Friday)

Strangely Suzette has been on my mind for the last few days. Mainly because of everything that’s been going on about the documentary India’s Daughter. Many friends were asking me why I hadn’t written anything on the documentary on my blog.

I hadn’t because I was angry. One interview of a despicable rapist triggered such a debate and such quick action was taken by the government. But if you Google you will find a 100 interviews and articles both in Indian and international media on Suzette Jordan, the woman who had the guts to reveal her face after being gang-raped on Park Street, but the Indian government never bothered to order a probe into her case. Never bothered to check how a Chief Minister could write off a rape saying “it is a concocted story.”

I kept thinking Nirbhaya is gone but Suzette is there – still fighting, still struggling, still facing her rapists everyday in the courtroom, but her case and ordeal continues to be dragged on and on in a sham called a fast-track court. Nirbhaya’s family was given money, an apartment and jobs, but why did it continue to be a lone battle for Suzette Jordan?

Does tragedy work better in India?

Will Suzette’s death now bring the poignancy that her story lacked so far?

Now she will probably be, finally forgiven, for going to a disco late at night (the worst blunder an Indian woman could commit)? Her struggle will now be glorified, help will come to her family or will she still remain an untouchable, like she had become, because one insensitive lady one day had declared that Suzette was lying when she reported her rape?

When I heard about her death my first instinct was to believe that she had probably been murdered because there were plenty of people out there who would have loved her dead. I couldn’t imagine she had succumbed to meningoencephalitis.

We spoke last on Facebook messenger on February 27 and she wrote, “All okay with me except my back problems.”

This was Suzette Jordan. She might have been fighting a thousand battles at that moment but she always had the positivity to say, “All okay.”

Now I see people are writing that she had a contagious laugh had a great sense of humour. Why wouldn’t she? She was every woman and being a rape survivor did not take away her right to laugh and have a life.

I had once gone to interview Suzette on a summer afternoon and their home was like any other household. Her daughters were excited to spot a feline near their pet cat Hunter. They had a friend with them along with Suzette’s nephew. The kids were telling her, “Looks like Hunter’s got a girlfriend”, and all of them were laughing.

Completely unpretentious and at ease in her two-room modest apartment in Behala, Suzette brought up her two lovely and intelligent daughters being the best mother she could be.

On hearing about Suzette’s demise I thought of her daughters, of her mother Gilda Jordan. What they must be going through. Suzette was so protective about them. Once she said, “I am so paranoid about my daughters that because of me they don’t have a normal teenage life anymore. I am perpetually calling them on their mobiles.”

But the girls never held it against her. They loved their mother with all their heart and despite the fact that their life changed completely after that fateful night the girls continued to be the pillar of support in her life, the reason for which Suzette always said she had the will to live, the will to fight.

But very few people know Suzette’s battles brought small victories for Indian women. Even if the Indian Government did not announce a probe into her case the Delhi High Court invited her twice to know her views on her trial. She had told them that the two-finger test was the most humiliating thing any woman had to go through.

Since then the test has been banned in India.

Suzette was the kind of woman who demanded respect and ensured people gave her that. “Rape is not my shame,” is something Suzette always said.

This statement defined her.

It would be unfair to say that Indian society shunned Suzette Jordan completely. She explained her dichotomous experiences best when she said, “On the one hand I have been invited to talk shows on TV, NGO inaugurations, school seminars and award functions but on the other hand despite my work experience I have not landed a job. After the incident happened if I was asked by my landlord to vacate my apartment, the landlord of my current apartment rented this place to me despite knowing everything about me. I have had parents of my daughters’ friends agreeing to send their kids over to my place to spend time with them because I was scared for my daughters to go out.”

In the last interview that I did with Suzette she had said: “If I have come this far, I am not willing to give up hope. There has to be justice. But once the case gets over, hopefully I will be able to find some peace. I won’t have to remember every gory detail of what happened to me that night and talk about it in court day after day. I won’t have to see the people who did this to me, every other day.”

Justice is what Suzette Jordan deserves, not a candle march not flowers at her grave.

 

Smit Agasti is a Class IX student of Abhinav Bharti High School

Smit Agasti is a Class IX student of Abhinav Bharti High School

It was just another normal day for Smit Agasti, a Class IX student of Abhinav Bharti High School as he boarded a bus from Central Avenue to attend his computer classes on Camac Street.

He spotted a gentleman in mid 30s dressed in a formal shirt and trouser, smoking inside the bus. Smit told himself that he could not just sit there and keep watching the other person smoke.

“I told him that he should not be smoking in the bus” said Smit.“But he behaved that he had not heard me.”

Smit told him again and this time the man reacted.

“The gentleman started using the choicest slangs and started abusing me. He even said, ‘Tor baaper paisaye cigarette khacchi?’ (Am I smoking with your father’s money?),” said Smit.

“I was a bit unnerved by his viciousness but managed to keep my cool. The conductor and a few other passengers supported me but most of the passengers didn’t seem to care.”

Smit continued to persuade the gentleman not to smoke till it came to a point when he started openly threatening him. “He said he would take me to the police if I didn’t stop. But actually I should have told him that because what he was doing was illegal. Smoking in public places is banned in India.”

(Smoking in public places in India was prohibited nationwide from October 2, 2008 under the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008 and COTPA. The nationwide smoke-free law pertains only to public places. Places where smoking is restricted include auditoriums, cinemas, hospitals, public transport (aircraft, buses, trains, metros, monorails, taxis and their related facilities (airports, bus stands/stations, railway stations), restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, amusement centres, offices (government and private), libraries, courts, post offices, markets, shopping malls, canteens, refreshment rooms, banquet halls, discothèques, coffee houses, educational institutions and parks.)

It was clear that Smit’s words were having no impact on the man and many of the passengers, instead of supporting him, looked at him like he was wasting his time. “The man kept threatening me. He was so angry I thought he would beat me up. I was scared inside but put up a brave front. My stop came and I got off.”

After this experience, I asked Smit if he would again raise his voice if he saw someone smoking in a public place? “I would. One bad experience can’t stop me,” said the 14-year-old.

Smit has been inspired by actor Bobby Chakraborty’s anti-addiction campaign I Am The King Of My Mind and has been in regular touch with the actor since he visited his school in January this year. “As Bobbyda is inspiring thousands of school children, if I can inspire 10 people I will feel good about it.”

Actor Bobby Chakraborty has taken his anti-addiction campaign to schools in West Bengal and has inspired young minds

Actor Bobby Chakraborty has taken his anti-addiction campaign to schools in West Bengal and has inspired young minds

Although the youngster has not fared too well while convincing adults – “they always say things like if I don’t smoke I can’t go to the bathroom or my stress would not be under control” – but when it comes to his peers his success rate has been higher. “I had a friend who used to smoke. I calculated and showed him that he would be able to save so much more money and have more fun if he quit smoking. He listened to me and now we hang out together at the movies and the mall.”

Smit’s mother supports her son whole-heartedly. “My mother encourages me to save my pocket money and buy chocolates and goodies for the slum children or the inmates of an old age home.”

“On a trip to Siliguri I saw this man shivering in the cold without any warm clothes at Sealdah station. When I expressed my desire to help him out, my grandfather took out his own sweater from the suitcase and asked me to hand it over to him, which I did. My family is always with me in my endeavours,” said Smit.

Smit is not alone for there are many teenagers like him who are silently doing small things and making a big difference. They only need more support from us adults.

 

 

laptop1It is said that getting a good boss is almost as important as getting a good husband. While your personal life depends a lot on the kind of husband you have, the route your career graph will take in a particular company, also depends on a good boss. You might work your a** off, but if your boss doesn’t think you have done enough, or doesn’t like you in the first place, he/she might royally …umm… finish you in the appraisals. There’s hardly anything you can do about it. Except, of course, leave the job and hope that you get a better boss in the next one.

In my entire career I have dealt with all kinds of bosses – the good and the bad, the moody and the pervert, the committed and the unprofessional…the list can go on. In the early part of my career I have dealt with a boss (lady) who was beautiful and immensely talented, but would turn up in office at 6pm when we were ready to go home after finishing the day’s work. She would walk in, take a look at the pages (I worked in a newspaper) change everything, and make us sit in office, till late, implementing the changes.

I have had men bosses who noticed the colour of my lipstick and told me what clothes to wear, bosses who believed that hitting the bar during office hours was perfectly normal, and bosses who thought calling my landline at 6am to tell me that a comma was missing in my article, was perfectly normal too.

But the boss I am going to talk about now takes the cake. I must say I was not really prepared for this new job and the boss I would have to deal with. But with time I have got used to it and the mantra is to “keep the boss happy” so I guess I have to follow that.

My new boss believes in starting the day with a kiss and there is no way I can say no. There are times I find him arching over my shoulders when I am working on my laptop with his eyes glued to the screen trying to catch what I have written. Sometimes I say that I feel distracted if he does this, sometimes I don’t. It rarely makes a difference to him.

Then he touches my shoulders and says, “Do you need a massage?” I know he wouldn’t like it if I said “no”. So I have to say “yes”. I must say he is quite good at it and it is relaxing to get a nice massage like that during my workday, but sometimes what happens is that his hands just slip from my shoulders to any part of my body and he touches me just about anywhere without any inhibition. Then he asks me to stand up because he wants to give me a hug. I have to relent immediately. He is my boss after all.

He is a control freak too. He likes to work out my schedule for me. If he sees me too engrossed at my laptop he would send me off to get him a glass of juice (yes that’s my job too) and maybe a pack of potato chips with it if he is in the mood. Most of the days after work I have to go out with him and accompany him in all his evening activities which might be cycling, swimming or just taking a walk. He says he wants me around because he enjoys my company and when we are walking he always holds my hand.

It’s a tough job because I have to do exactly what he wants. And he is constantly watching my every move. Sometimes he even wants to accompany me to the bathroom. But that is one thing I have managed to say no to.

But all said and done, this is the BEST boss I have ever had. I know I have to be on my toes constantly in this job and give myself up completely to his whims, but I somehow enjoy it.

In case you are thinking that I am out of my mind I am not. I am a full-time mom (now don’t tell me that’s not a job), who works from home sometimes and my boss is my three and a half year old son. I have been in this job for the last two and a half years and so far my career graph has been on the way up.

My boss has been happy with my performance and has been giving me consistent A’s in my weekly appraisals, in every possible colour, on his sketch book. Clearly, I have managed to keep the boss happy.

I have written this today because today is Children’s Day and this goes out to all those lovely little bosses who make a mom’s life worthwhile.

PS: Even when I am uploading this I am being asked by my boss to hurry up because he needs the laptop for his work, which is watching Tom and Jerry on Youtube.

Suzette Katrina Jordan

Suzette Katrina Jordan

I haven’t met Suzette Katrina Jordan in person although I would love to. As a Kolkatan and as a woman I know how much courage it takes to do what she is doing. So while talking to her over the phone from Dubai I was not at all surprised by her conviction. “I have always questioned every norm and never accepted anything just because it is the system,” said Suzette in an intense voice.

So it is obvious why Suzette decided to fight for her dignity after she was gang raped on February 5, 2012 on Park Street at gunpoint inside a car. Although after the incident, for the last one and a half year her life has been a constant battle, Suzette feels that being called “the Park Street rape victim” was the greatest sham, the worst nightmare she had lived.

She tells me why she wanted to reclaim her identity and how her life has been since she did so…

“A TV channel unethically showed most of my face and gave out my address and my father’s name so many people actually knew I was the Park Street rape victim”

I see no reason to hide my face behind a dupatta when most people in my neighbourhood know that I was the one raped on Park Street and I have been tolerating their stares for the last 16 months. I am the victim and I have done nothing wrong then why should I hide my face every time I talk on TV or go to a procession? I was finding this absolutely ridiculous.

“Since I have revealed my identity I have been getting more threats”

Since I revealed my identity and came on TV the threat calls have gone up manifold. Only a few days back someone in the locality told a family member: Apni oi Park Steet er meyetar barir lok na? Okey bolben ektu chepey jetey, khuub lafalafi korcchey.  (Aren’t you from that Park Street girl’s family? Tell her to step back she creating a bit too much of noise.)

“I am in a lot of financial crisis but I will never accept any kind of compensation from the rapists”

Even before the incident happened I was going through a tough financial situation because the small data-entry-cum-call centre business that I was running with my sister had gone bust because two employees had run away with all our money. Then after this incident I went looking for work through an NGO. People somehow understood that I was the “one from Park Street” and never gave me a job. My confidence reached an all-time low along with my finances. There were days when there was nothing to eat at home. I felt so ashamed to ask for help from my friends or family.

My friends, who often dropped in, understood my predicament and bought me food and groceries. This was the time when I was repeatedly offered big money and out-of-the court settlement but I cannot imagine living on that dirty money. I want justice, I want to see those men behind bars.

“It is amazing how some people have given me more respect than ever before

My teenage daughters have been the pillar of my strength. Happily enough I have not seen any change in the attitude of their friends towards me. I used to be very friendly with them and whenever I go to their school now they still greet me with the same warmth and respect. In fact, the principal of my daughters’ school, with whom I have had a difference of opinion many times, have been so supportive. Also I am grateful to my lawyers who are fighting my case for free and are working so hard just to give me justice.

“I think my single parent status has often gone against me”

Since the incident happened, the fact that I am a divorced single parent has been looked upon as a crime. But no one has appreciated the fact that I have been dignified enough not to tell people the reason for my divorce (which she tells me is domestic violence) and draw sympathy from it.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that Ma Durga is worshipped with such fervor in Kolkata”

I have grown up in Kolkata and while we were teenagers, we could wear anything we wanted to, go anywhere we wanted to. Now every woman is constantly judged for what she is wearing, where she is going, whom she is befriending. On top of that, from the autowallah to the boss at the workplace you are taken for granted. Only recently I was screamed at by an autowallah because I didn’t have Rs 1 change. When I retorted people around me said, “Choley jaan. Ei shober modhye porcchen keno? (Better leave, why are you getting involved in all this.) This is the attitude that is killing us.

Then you are molested everyday on public transport, your breasts are touched, your derriere is pinched. It’s a nightmare. So much brutality is happening to women in Kolkata and in the suburbs but still people in power say these are one-off incidents. I wonder what they say when a four-year-old girl is raped? Do they ask if she was drunk? Or do they ask if she was a prostitute? I am not fighting against the government because governments come and go. My question is why can’t women expect some basic rights in a place like Kolkata where Ma Durga supposedly reigns?

“My daughters will never get the freedom which we got as young girls”

If my daughters want to go to the movies I say no because I am always worrying for them. If they come home five minutes late I break into a sweat. I never remembered my parents being so tense all the time. For starters Kolkata is not the same anymore. On top of that they have a mother who has decided not to keep her mouth shut. So as a consequence I am curtailing their freedom because sometimes I am scared for them.

“I wonder if there will be any real change”

I have been blessed to have come in touch with so many amazing people who have been supporting my fight and believe in change. But what worries me is that no concrete step is being taken by the people in power. Like I believe there can be more stringent policing or monitoring. But the good thing is there has been an awakening and women are willing to fight for their rights.

“Indian women are very strong they just need the push”

In India, anything happens to a woman and you are expected to hide. Talking about it is complete taboo. If she talks about the injustices that happened to her then she has to face the flak. I think it is very important that we talk about these things and sensitize the next generation about it. Just because we don’t talk people are harbouring all kinds of botched-up notions and acting accordingly.

“I wonder if I can ever go back to a Park Street disco to dance”

I have always loved dancing and music is my life. I really enjoyed going to the disco with my friends, I enjoyed dressing up. All that has changed for me now. I don’t think I will ever be able to go back to a disco because it will bring back my trauma. I have felt really uncanny the couple of times I have been on Park Street in the last 16 months. But at least one thing has changed for me. I have a name again. People don’t call me the “Park Street rape victim” anymore.

Suzette currently works for a helpline counseling victims of violence.

 

 

India jail-born man earns bail money, for release of his mother after 19 years #WTF.

parents 1

 

I had the most loving, happy-go-lucky, jovial parents till I was 12-13 years, but thereafter things began to change. When I turned 12, I did not want to be accompanied by my mother when I went cycling in the lane behind our house in Kolkata but I was not allowed alone. I wanted to walk the short distance from home to Ballygunge Phari with my friends, but I was not allowed. If I went playing with friends and came home five minutes late, my parents acted like an earthquake had hit the city and I hadn’t reached home yet. Their worry translated into frequent scolding that made me angry. I just kept thinking; what are they so worried about?

At 14, when I wanted to walk the seven-minute distance from my home to South Point School, alone, I was greeted with a negative shake of head from my father. By then I had become so adamant that I put my foot down and said I was not going to school if my mom came along. They came to a compromise. They allowed me only if I went and came back with two of my female friends. They claimed they were concerned for me. I kept thinking I was a responsible girl, what were they so concerned about?

After school I wanted to join Presidency College but my father was keen on me going to the nearby girls’ college, Lady Brabourne. My father was the happiest when I took admission there, but the happiness did not last long when the admission test results were out in Presidency College. I had got through and I had my sights set on that college. My father was livid. Going to Presidency meant taking a public bus ride for almost an hour and going to a part of the city, which he felt was not at all familiar to me and also not too safe for women. My mother, however, stood by my decision and I joined Presidency College. But my mother had no clue that my joining the college would add to her stressful existence of being the mother of a daughter. Thanks to the traffic, political processions, college functions or fests, I was perpetually reaching home late. And she claimed her hair was turning grey while she waited for me on the balcony. I just did not understand what all the fuss was about as I was a grown up girl now.

drink

 

Then, when I graduated from college and started going to parties my dad drummed into my head not to accept any kind of drink from anybody at any party, “Beware, it might be spiked” was his refrain. When I went to the disco, my parents worried about the men all of whom they believed had ill intent. “If anything untoward happens what will we do?” was what they always asked me. I would say, “What nonsense, can’t I take care of myself?”

Now when I look back I think they were justified in their worry. They were prudent to know about all the beasts that lurk in every nook and cranny of our country, our city, our own homes. They knew girls in India – no matter what their age, status, class or caste – are never safe.

I wonder what my mom’s reaction has been to this news today http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Five-year-old-girls-rape-case-Accused-arrested-in-Bihar/articleshow/19643044.cms

I am sure the paranoia she experienced in my growing-up years came back to haunt her but she’s probably glad that she doesn’t have a daughter growing up in these times.

Image

Victoria was a teacher in Sandy Hook Elementary School

Today I was planning to upload some snaps on Facebook but just could not bring myself to do it when I clicked on what my school friend Rajasri Saraswat (Mumpy) has shared on Facebook. I clicked on the picture of Victoria Soto, a girl with blue sparkly eyes and lovely blonde hair, who was a teacher in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. She put all Grade I students in her class inside the cabinets and closets in the classroom. She stood guard, told the shooter the children were in the gym. He shot Victoria at point blank range and moved on.

I was so overwhelmed with grief once again that I just could not bring myself to upload some happy snaps when I thought of those parents out there crying for their lost children. Instead I downloaded Victoria’s photo and uploaded it in my blog and sat down to write my thoughts here.

On social media people have been grieving for the children, teachers and parents of Sandy Hook Elementary school since the incident happened on December 14. While some have expressed their frustration at gun laws in the US, some have questioned why a school teacher felt the need to own so many guns that went into the hands of her deranged son and some have talked about the psychological issues of the American youth that’s ravaging the country.

It is a heinous act no doubt and when there’s children involved you instantly feel a lump in your throat. But I was thinking there are children involved in the war in Palestine and Syria also. Save the Children has declared that thousands of Syrian children will die in refugee camps in Jordan because they just don’t have warm clothes and shoes to wear but not many of us reacted to it on social media. Or for instance some researchers say most children in Afghanistan will perish before they reach the age of five. Because of Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines 36,000 children had to be evacuated to temporary shelters. But right now we are somehow still discussing about the ravages of Hurricane Sandy and how wonderfully US authorities handled the situation.

I was thinking if we are obsessed with the US. Whatever happens there is more important than the rest of the world and we keep talking/writing our opinions whenever, however possible.

But on second thoughts I realized why reaction to what happened at Sandy Hook is so strong. Am sure my friend Rajasri who has a six-year-old daughter going to school in the US, felt the same horror and grief that I, as a mother, a woman, a human being felt as soon I heard the news. School embodies safety for both parents and children if something like this happens there it somehow hits you on a personal level and the tremors upset your entire belief system. After all, like many of us do, parents from Newtown were willing to commute longer and pay bigger to ensure that their children could get a coveted seat in the well-reputed school, thinking it was the best they could do for their children.

Image

Sandy Hook Elementary School

I tried to think that I was sitting in my Grade I class in South Point School in Kolkata, India, and some gun wielding psycho walks in. What would I have done? Even worse is, when I think (or refuse to think) that I go to pick up my son in his school and come to know someone walked in with a gun into a classroom? The thoughts are unsettling.

In fact, the realization that it can be a nightmare-come-true is the most horrific part. I understand and identify with everyone’s reactions better now.

A relaxing month-long holiday with my two-year old son! What was I thinking?.