Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Years ago, my father said ‘What you read is a definition of who you are or want to become.’ Then, when I would not show him my writings, he was amazed. After all, it was an accomplishment. But that was the thing – as a teenager in India writing romance stories online – I could in no way conceive of sharing those with the people who knew me in real life. But sharing my most intimate imagination with strangers was okay because they would only judge the stories, not me for writing them.

It took me years before I even admitted to my parents that I wrote romantic stories and fan-fiction online under a pseudonym. That I even had a semblance of a following.  They were proud of me. They truly did not care that I was writing romance – and romance from a teens point of view is a different matter entirely – they were just that happy that I was creative and had found a way to spread that creativity.

Since those were their reactions, without reserve, it can be said that they had not internalized it into me that writing romance was something I had to hide. In fact, throughout high school, I had regaled my grandmother and aunt with stories I read in Mills n Boons books. They had always listened patiently, never judging me or the women in those stories.

So what went wrong?

In the 1990s romance in Indian media was an obsessive thing. Men would fixate on a woman – usually for her beauty, sometimes for her spunk and many times for revenge – and then follow her until she gave in and ‘loved’ them back. Some women were wrong for loving a man while others were wrong when they refused. It all depended upon the story the filmmaker had chosen – and if the man in question was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The judgement, in truth, depended wholly upon the man despite it seemingly being the woman’s decision and her character that was being judged.

And every single time – parents opposed this love. It could be mild opposition, it could be extreme, or it could be comedic. But oppose they did. Love was taboo. And unless you were lucky, it did you wrong. It is in this world and with these role models that I started writing.

To me, a rape attempt was a perfectly usable plot device. But it could only be an attempt because ‘a heroine never gets raped’ and ‘the raped woman always dies’. This was a me who was still unsure of how sex worked – and thought she knew what she was talking about when men ripped a woman’s shirt. Sure, the shirt needs to be ripped to rape someone – after all, don’t the villains always grab the pallu in the films?

The intrinsic misogyny went deeper than this.  In my stories, when the man cooked, it was because he was taking care of the woman. He was the progressive and perfect man. It never occurred to me that every person should be capable of something as basic as feeding themselves. When a man fell in love with a woman – I found it acceptable to write that he scowled at all other men who even looked in her direction. But he was good because he did not tell her to change her clothes – he just glared at everyone else. I never understood that him having to glare at other men because they were ogling his girlfriend painted a fairly creepy society – one where only the protection of a man kept the woman safe.

In my stories, women have been abused, raped and hurt. There is emotional abuse as well as societal and familial pressures. All of these are things I had never faced or seen in real life. Yet, if I re-read my work, it is scary how accurate I was.  So how did I internalize all of this to the point that my stories rotated around women overcoming all these odds and the men who helped, supported or led them? How could romance mean learning martial arts so that you are never helpless and raped again to a sheltered teenager?

Because that is the world I was raised in. After all, familial attitudes are not the only thing that shape us. We are shaped by everything in our surroundings. From the films we watch, the songs we sing, the conversations we are a part of, or the ones we overhear.

When I grew up – I was influenced by stories and media that said rape was bad. Where the rape victim died and the ‘hero’ took revenge for her ‘izzat’. But rape was never shown, or truly described. It just had a man biting the neck of a woman – if even that. That was then.

Now, we are surrounded by news of rape. We are surrounded by mass media that propagates an internalized misogynist attitude. From lyrics to plotlines, there is objectification of women everywhere. And the children growing in this scenario are the ones who will be holding the reins a decade down the line. Some of them will not even wait that long to show the effects of this environment. For example, there was news on how a kindergartener had been raped using pencils by her classmates. This is now.

We cannot stop reporting on rape and sexual crimes. We cannot remove objectification of women from all media immediately. After all, the media is only a reflection of us. But we can try to change the narrative. It is not sufficient any more to give or even show your values to the people around you. It is important to discuss things. The children need to see and hear discussions about these things and understand that while they might be surrounded by sexualized media – that does not make it correct. That while a popular actor is dancing to extremely sexist lyrics, that does not make the reality of those lyrics okay or even acceptable.

It is easier said than done.

Everything is easier said than done.

But we have to start somewhere.

Let us start with teaching our children, boys and girls, what is okay and what is not. And let us keep telling them again and again until they internalize what we teach them, and not what the world is forcing them to learn.

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People do not change over night. You do not, you cannot, wake up one day and choose to be different than who you are. But you can change over time, gradually, sometimes so slowly, that you are a different person even before you realize it.

That realization comes later, from a word, a gesture or a thought. And it is quite profound when it comes.

I am a very open person. Whatever is happening in my life is known to multiple people at any given point in time. If they ever get together, they can weave a very detailed tapestry of my life.

It is here, on my blog, that I have been more reserved. People find it easier to speak out anonymously. I find it easier to share with people I know. No more. I made this blog so as to speak out. The only thing that has truly held me back is what I read somewhere – that once the words are out, they do not belong to the author, they belong to every reader and the interpretation is no longer what the author thought, but what the reader reads.

I have been depressed for nearly two years. It was a slide downhill ever since I got married. Discussing my marriage is not what I want to do today. But I learned a lot of things. I finally ‘grew up’. I lost the naivete and innocence I had had – without even realizing it. I was a shiny penny who thought the world only reflects yourself back to you. I learned that is not the case – and that I am a fool who trusts and loves too easily.

I am old school in all the wrong ways in a world which has moved forward. It sounds like so much self-justification but I am not listing my crimes or what was done to me. I have now felt real loneliness and I would never wish it on anyone. I have felt unrequited love and I hope no one has to go through this.

And I have changed. Today, I ranted on facebook:

To everyone wishing a #happywomensday and using said wishes to define women: a woman is a woman is a woman. Period. Its biology, not a mental state of being. Get over yourselves. I am a woman and I can celebrate that even if I am the worst excuse for a human being. Being a woman is not about being strong, managing family, having kids, having ANYTHING specific in fact, except ovaries (and not even that if you are trans). I will not celebrate getting out stronger when faced by problems, being the gentle and kind one. I refuse. Being a woman does not mean taking the high road. I am so so done with that.
Okay, rant over.

Because I am done. I changed. I am stronger, and it might be good in the long run – but I miss that innocence which I had. I miss my belief that the world was a genuinely good place – and that everyone has good intent, even if their actions do not match. I may have been a fool – but ignorance truly was bliss.

I have great friends. I have a very loving and supporting family. I have a doctor who listens to me. I have people who are willing to put everything aside and be there for me. I have that and now I know just how lucky I am to have it. I know that I was in situations where I could have been in real danger, except I was lucky that the people with me were decent human beings.

It is not about men vs. women. It is not about birth parents vs. in-laws. It is not even a husband vs. his wife. It is about nothing except fighting your own battles because no one else will do it for you. It is about growing up – because ignorance might be bliss, but at the end of the day, ignorance will only ensure that someone fools you.

I have grown up and it is today I am realizing that I have also grown a lot stronger. I knew the words, but now I finally believe: My happiness is my responsibility. My life is my responsibility. The world owes me nothing and it is up to me to make the best of the life I have been given.

I plan to keep growing, keep learning. I will not regain that naivete, but I will rebuild my belief that the world is a good place. I have changed and change is neither good or bad, it just is.

Stop!!

Posted: January 30, 2017 by Arushi in Thoughts
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What are we doing??

Can you not hear the screaming? The shouting, the wails? The voices going hoarse and yet not stopping?

History repeats itself, they say. But it is not history. It is us. We are making the same mistakes again.

There are so many of us, screaming, shouting, fighting, every way we can to make it stop! Stop!!! We cry, but so many others have turned deaf, mute and blind. They think this is the way. They have forgotten what history tells us. Maybe they have an alternate-history as well.

This is how it started. The pogroms, the segregation, the slights, the insults – veiled at first – but gaining momentum. It started with a few but it went on and and on and on… until it was no longer murder – until it became genocide.

How can we not see it coming? Once it starts, it does not just stop. You have to stop it. YOU have to MAKE it stop!

How did we forget our history so quickly? It has not even been a century since we let millions be murdered and swept it under the rug of genocide – because that word is still easier on the ears than the reality of the brutal, terrible deeds that were done in the name of the greater good.

For any who think it is not our problem, I say, not yet. But it will be.

The holocaust happened. It did.

War crimes still occur. Child soldiers still exist. Rapes are so common that I have no words. There is probably a mass grave being filled with rotting unclaimed bodies right now – no one left alive to even mourn.

This is happening.

Do not think we in our ‘sacred land’ will be safe. Do not forget. We have endured this too. Do not say we are natives while they are interlopers, we were interlopers once too.

First there was someone, then others came and pushed them down. They ruled, they crushed and centuries passed. We say we are of this earth – but we were interlopers. There was someone here before us. So we have no right to say it to others. When others came and conquered us – they did so with their might. We lost and they ruled. Why quibble about it now when more centuries have passed?

Now when we are a democracy – when we all rule – none of us is an interloper. Everyone we welcome, we gain something from. Giving home and hearth, welcoming someone who comes seeking aid – this is something embellished in EVERY ancient text, in EVERY religion.

It is now when we have to stand strong. Standing against a breeze is easy, but now the gale is coming and we have to stand up to it before it becomes a cyclone.

A cyclone does not pick and choose its victims, it brutalizes all in its path.

Asking for it.

Posted: January 4, 2017 by Arushi in Thoughts
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Until last night, I used to think I was a fairly liberal person. That I would never fall for the usual, that I knew what was right and what was wrong. That I understood the concept of consent, that I understood what was okay and what was not. I knew that no one asks for it.

And then yesterday happened.

On new year’s eve, at a party, a man kissed me. A man I did not want to kiss. I did not fight, I did not say no, I was so surprised and it was over before I even realized what was going on.

I walked out of that room and straight to my partner. But he was busy and I could not be alone. So I went to my friends who held me. Who told me it was okay. To ignore it all and not let it get to me.

Later that night, I did tell my partner.

Two days ago, we had that conversation again. He said he’d forgotten I told him anything of the sort. So I told him again. I answered what he asked. He said he’d talk to his friend ‘in his own way’.

Yesterday he did. The friend called me. Called us both, repeatedly. Said he was scared, he did not want to lose his friendship with my partner. That my partner was taking this ‘too seriously’, that it was nothing, that I had asked him for it.

I don’t know what happened to the person I thought I was at that time. I didn’t know what to say. I agreed I had teased him, I had said things, but those were outside, sitting with him on separate couches. I had never asked for it.

But I did not want to be the one to cause a rift in their friendship. The only refrain in my head was Yoko Ono. Again and again, that is all I heard. I did not want to be the one who became a reason for a friendship to end.

I felt terrible for telling my partner. I felt terrible in general.

He kept saying he had no ‘intention’ behind it. He kept saying I had asked for it. That I had said ‘it’s just a kiss’ in the conversation outside – something which I did not remember saying. My partner said there was a world of difference between ‘its just a kiss’ and ‘kiss me’. I didn’t say anything, so lost in my own misery at being put in this particular spotlight. My partner became so frustrated with me. “What do you want from me?” he asked when I kept saying I didn’t wanna be the reason their friendship ended.

I kept feeling guilty. I felt sick to my stomach. I wanted to just curl up under a blanket and for the whole world to go away. But that is not how things go. I was in office. There was work to be done. Afterwards, I just could not go home. So I went to my brother instead.

And as I parked my car, I realized what I was doing. I was blaming myself.

I was doing exactly to myself what I have been completely against others doing to anyone. It did not matter what I had said. Because if he was doing what I had asked, he should have done it when I had asked it. Why would he wait till I entered another, dark room where he happened to be. Instead of constantly claiming that I ‘had asked for it’ or that he had not had any wrong ‘intention’ he should have apologized.

I do not want to blame him. In fact, I actually don’t blame him. Maybe he did think I had asked him. Maybe his intentions were the purest they can be during such a situation. It did only last a few seconds. He hadn’t forced me in anyway, because well, he didn’t need to. By the time I had even realized what was happening, it was over.

Even now, it is so deeply ingrained in me that I am giving him the best of the benefit of the doubt, even when I showed myself no such mercy.

Yet, finally it has started to sink in. I read something that summed it up for me:

My delayed reaction had put the validity of my sentiment in question. I tried explaining that one can’t immediately confront a situation for which one is unprepared. One doesn’t want to be hasty; one has to be sure one isn’t misinterpreting things. And yet, every time a woman is harassed, physically, emotionally, or sexually, it comes up – If it is true, what took you so long?

I do not think I was harassed. I do not think I was abused. But I know something was not right.

Because I know, no matter what anyone said to me, ever, I would not do the same thing to them.

Am I the crazy one?

Posted: November 30, 2016 by Arushi in Thoughts
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So, usually when everyone is going in the opposite direction as you, it tends to mean you are driving in the wrong lane. But is it that simple for life as well?

Are you sure I am the one in the wrong just because everyone is disagreeing with me? After all, is that not how the world changed, evolved? By people questioning standard practices? By people who did what they wanted to and ignored the rest of the planet and its opposing views?

My issues are not so big, not world changing. Then again, don’t you fill an ocean drop by drop?

I have a problem with people who say a woman is impure because she is on her period. If you are pro-birth (which you have to be unless you are interested in the extinction of humans – not an entirely bad idea) then what gives you the right to turn up your nose at the process that is proof a person can have children. And aren’t these usually the same people who think a woman is incomplete unless she has a child (or more) of her own?

I have a problem with people who say they have ‘given’ me freedom. I don’t understand. I was never yours to free. I am my own person. If I was a minor, there could be something you can give me permission for, especially if you were footing my bills. But I am not. Not a minor and not financially dependent on you. Who gave you the right to free me? I was born free, thank you very much. I am a citizen of a free country, and we did win Independencce in 1947. I don’t need your permission to be free.

I have issues with people who think its okay to tell me how to live my life. Its mine. My parents taught me to be me, not anyone’s shadow, not even theirs. They helped me take decisions, but never took them for me. Did you know, I named myself. I did. And they tell the story of how their three-year-old changed her name to her liking with pride.

I do not like people who think they can take away things from me because they think I should learn to go without. I can just earn them on my own. I never needed you to get them for me because I could not, I only asked because it would have made me happy that you put in an effort. Now I know better than to ask.

I do not tell people when I really like something they did for me. I thank them, but the depth of emotion I used to share – no more – except for a few very close friends. I learned the hard way that when you tell people you like something, you give them the power to take it away from you. I do not want to give people the power to hurt me. It is unfair to so many people who would never even think of hurting me this way, but better safe than sorry, right?

I do not fit the box so people try really really hard to push me into it. I am a woman but I don’t define myself that way. I am me, first and foremost. I don’t see people as their gender. They are a lot of things first – kind, loyal, rude, nice, mean, cruel – the things that matter. Gender really does not play that big a role into it for me. Now I have had to learn that its only me.

The first problem was so broad in scope and the last is so minuscule. To me though, they all matter a lot. Maybe not equally, but then again, is there any real equality available any where?

Maybe I am the crazy one. Maybe I am the one in the wrong lane. But I do not want to change. I do not want something as unilateral as gender to decide how I see people. I do not want to be pushed into a box – just to make other people comfortable. I do not want to use labels. I want to be me and I am okay with other people being themselves. I don’t need them to fit in a box either.

Maybe I am the crazy one. But I’d rather be crazy.

Love me

Posted: November 24, 2016 by Arushi in Thoughts
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What is it about love that we crave it with such fierceness? That all acts committed under its name elicit at least a second, more forgiving, glance. Why is a crime of passion different from a cold blooded one. Why do we want it, and why do we change so much because of it when no other force would have moved us?

Why do we love? The hormones, the chemicals… why have they not been ‘evolved’ out of our system yet? Why do they exist?

Who besides poets and writers has ever appreciated it? What good does it do? Love, or the romantic notion of love, does it even exist?

There is no true love. Then why do we still look for it?

Why do we feel incomplete without it?

Why do we want it?

And how do I live without it?

 

Picture Perfect

Posted: November 18, 2016 by Arushi in Thoughts
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All of us (anyone who is reading this, for sure) are leading a life on social media as well as ‘living our real life’. There are check-ins, reviews, photographs, quotes, status-updates, snapchats, instagram posts, tweets and many other ways in which we project our ‘real’ life onto our social media.

Our social media platforms are supposedly a mirror of our lives, the parts we want to share with friends and family, without actually sharing and the parts that we want to be public. Our opinions, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, the pictures of that party or feelings about that person, all out there in black and white for the audience selected by us to see. After all, this post is also a mirror of my thoughts at this moment about something. Would you like to know?

This mirroring of our lives is fake. I love social media. But. My friends only know what I choose to share. My family only sees what I choose for them to see. With one click I can restrict anyone and they would simply think me very reticent. Not only am I selecting the audience I am also tailoring the material, editing it.

We all lead such glamorous (comparatively) lives on facebook and instagram. We are always dressed up, always pretty (what else is the Beauty setting in cameras for) and always smiling. There is no inkling of what is behind that smile.

If I trust facebook, all my friends are happy, content, eating out at posh places, travelling, reading books, going out, getting married, having kids, dancing, drinking, loving and living the utopian human lives. But they are not. Not the ones I am actually in touch with. The ones I speak to in real life – have real lives apart from all of this. In fact, this is only a small part of their lives. They never mention how hard it was to smile for a particular picture in the comments, but they do tell me on the phone.

But what I see on facebook (because that is the only one I am really active on) is what I end up projecting onto it. A friend (an amazing friend) recently told me that she had thought I was happy, that everything was great, because of what she saw on facebook. Then we talked and now she knows how wrong everything is. She also knows better than to trust facebook now, especially when it comes to me. So she texts. She calls. She emails. She makes sure she knows what is going on.

How many of us would put in that much effort? I am not sure I would. For a while, yes. But for months she has supported me. Been my rock. Months.

It is not just this distortion. I feel like I must be doing something wrong. After all, I am the only one unhappy. Everyone else looks spectacular, fabulously happy and are having the time of their lives. Right?

Somedays I wonder if they are hiding their own share of problems. They probably are. There is no utopia. But on really bad days, I hope that this is all there is to them. That there are no problems. That at least someone out there is happy, is having the time of his/her life, is partying, travelling, reading, laughing, getting trashed, dancing madly, loving like a fool but not becoming one.

Hope.