Thursday, March 15, 2018

How many Women have to DIE because Men won’t take NO for an Answer?

Ashwini, an 18 year old student was publicly attacked outside Meenakshi Engineering College, Chennai where she was reading Commerce, by one Alagesan, and left to bleed to death with a slit throat. This appalling crime is all too reminiscent of the Chennai techie case, where young Swathi, an Infosys employee was hacked to death by her stalker at the Nungambakkam Railway Station in 2016. Further back in time, a couple of decades ago to be precise, Sarika Shah, another Chennai college student lost her life after she was manhandled, and became yet another victim of eve teasing. And these are only the famous cases in one of the relatively safer metros in India that managed to capture the imagination of a fickle public notorious for its collective ADHD syndrome. There are too many women out there whose lives have been snuffed out, and without the faintest hope of justice being served because too few give a crap. After all, isn’t it simpler to blame the victim and declare that she got what she deserved instead of taking the tortuous trail to ensure a perpetrator is apprehended and punished?
The right thing to do as always is ridiculously complicated given that this pestilential problem is very much like the second labour of Hercules. The one where the monster is a Lernean Hydra. Every time, you lop off a head, a dozen more seem to replace it despite valiant efforts. We have tried tying women to the home and hearth, draping them in yards of fabric, imaginative interpretations of chastity belts that have not been limited to female genital mutilation, and brainwashing them into believing they must embrace virtue, virginity, sacrifice and self – denial to protect themselves but all to no avail. The monster continues to prevail and worse, the damn things spew their poison everywhere, damning the living and the dead alike. Be it Ashwini, Swathi, or Sarika, the overriding impulse of the misogynists and masochistic pigs out there has been to frame a narrative where the victim’s character has been besmirched and their killers are depicted as tragic, romantic heroes whose crime de passion has mitigating and extenuating circumstances. Duh! After all there are females involved and aren’t they all flighty, faithless floozies who are good for little more than fornication.
In Ashwini’s case, the moral police/ moronic poltroon brigade have been stressing on the fact that she was in a relationship with Alagesan for two years before choosing to end things. The latter of course, couldn’t believe her temerity in dumping him and has been harassing her ever since. She filed a police complaint when he forcibly tried to tie a ‘thaali’ around her neck and ‘make her his wife’. But of course, the actions of Alagesan are being portrayed as perfectly understandable whereas Ashwini is depicted as the heartless diva who smashed a man’s heart to smithereens.
Which of course begs the essential question – so what? So what if a woman is a whore, a prick tease, a seductress, a temptress, a gold – digger and whatever filthy epithet that is usually hurled at her when she is a victim of rape, abuse or murder? SO WHAT? It still does not give those of the masculine gender the right to kill them or hurt them in any way! (Psst! The law says so, I looked it up.) It is as simple as that and yet too many men have trouble allowing this fact to penetrate their thick skulls. Numbskulls!
The loss of a life, especially when cut down so mercilessly, not surprisingly leads to massive outpouring of outrage and hard as it is to believe, that’s about it. Furious articles are written about the event, twitter and facebook timelines catch fire as arguments and counter arguments heat up. Then, unless Bollywood stars, Cricketers, Politicians and depraved Godmen are involved, the entire thing fizzles out and we all move on. Till the next big crime against women happens and then we all go around the mulberry bush again. Rinse and repeat.
Enough is enough. Let us not take to social media to vent our righteous anger and frustration. Instead it is time to think long and hard about actually making a difference. What we need is not indignant rants but good old fashioned action -  CCTV surveillance, better lighting, well trained cops and enforcers to patrol the streets and make sure that it is not so damnably easy for women to be abducted, raped, molested, stripped, set on fire, stabbed to death or have acid thrown on their faces. Equally important, men and women, let us stop exonerating the male of the species of crimes and making ridiculous excuses for them every time they do dastardly things fuelled by ego and rage, while always assuming it is the females who err. Finally, let us resolve to please do whatever it takes to make absolutely certain, that years or decades from now, we are not stuck in a cataclysmic loop, where girls get killed because boys can’t suck it up and take no for an answer.

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Published Author’s Tale of Terror

What can I write about my big fat experience on getting published? Firstly, it is so much more fun to narrate it as opposed to actually living it. Working on your first book can be an incredibly terrifying and challenging experience, especially when stringing together every single sentence that goes into its making can be an arduous ordeal that begins to feel like you are attempting to scale Mt. Everest armed with nothing more than words (which have the alarming tendency to pull out of your reach just when you need them) and wit (which you assure yourself is something you actually possess not something you imagine you do). The torment is exacerbated when it entails fighting debilitating insecurity, crippling uncertainly and chronic fear every step of the way. Occasionally there is the sanguine belief that a chapter you have just completed is pure genius but the feeling vanishes after the first reread. I could go on of course, but recollecting past traumas can oftentimes recreate the trauma resulting in an uncontrollable urge to reach for anything that is sweet, deep fried or both and that is hardly conducive for good health or an enviable body. 
Of course, the terrors and tribulations of the writing process pale in comparison with the horror show that is getting published. In a nutshell, it feels like swaddling your new-born whom you love to pieces in cover letters and sending it to reputed publishing houses to be mercilessly scrutinized, desultorily examined, callously ignored, and ruthlessly rejected. Rinse and repeat. Having been put through the wringer once too often, with your self – esteem in tatters, you catch yourself contemplating the merits of flushing yourself down the toilet and putting an end to the unceasing misery. 
At the precise moment when dejection has climbed to dangerous levels, there is an email in the inbox from a self-proclaimed self – publishing giant offering you the chance of a lifetime! Which of course is to pay for the privilege of getting published. The stink of fraud is a formidable thing and you fight the urge to sell your kidney on the black market to raise the money demanded, having deluded yourself into believing that you could be the next self – published phenomenon right behind E. L James. Fortunately good sense kicks in and you decide to send temptation into the spam folder and sign up for kickboxing classes instead. After all, something drastic needs to be done to preserve the remnants of your sanity. Besides shrinks charge a bomb and you can’t shake the feeling that Freud, Adler and Jung would have retired in despair after being attacked by the bats in your belfry.
Then one fine day, when you are considering a change in career ruminating on whether waitressing in Manhattan or joining the bomb squad would be a better fit, the Holy Grail is suddenly within your grasp. An acceptance email has arrived from a legit publishing housing and you are over the moon with unspeakable, almost vulgar joy. Your belief in God and Satan, Astrology, Palmistry, Tarot Cards, Green Parrot Fortune Telling, Voodoo, Black/White Magic, and Shamanism is fully restored and you feel on top of the world. Nothing can stop you now! FAME, FORTUNE and glorious SUCCESS are going to be your lot in life. You can feel it in your bones! And to paraphrase Harry from Harry met Sally - when you realise you want to spend the rest of your lives with these three sultry sirens, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
So you wait for the magical change in your hitherto humdrum existence. Then you wait some more. And wait and wait. Finally, the editing begins and studies had they been conducted on this particular field would reveal that this is akin to having a root canal and your haemorrhoids removed at the same time. Going over the manuscript with a fine – tooth comb and discovering to your chagrin that no, the friendly editor certainly does not think your baby is perfect, can be somewhat disconcerting to say the least. Then there is the proofing to be done and you go back and forth till you are convinced you are caught in a dastardly time loop that is going to play out over and over again till the end of time. Finally, the publishers slap on a beautiful cover which may or not be exactly as you envisioned, since though you were told your inputs are invaluable it turned out it mostly wasn’t and the book is off to print.
When the book/baby is finally in your arms, the delivery pains fade into the dim reaches of memory and all that remains is pure exhilaration. Your happiness is complete and you are already toying with the idea of doing it all over again even though the three sultry sirens are still being coy and playing hard to get. But you are determined to seduce them and become a household name with their help even if it kills you. That ought to be a sobering thought but it isn’t, simply because you believe or need to believe with all your heart that ultimately it is going to be worth it.
This article was originally published by Author's Channel.