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Saturday, May 13, 2017

On Mothers and Teachers

So Teacher Appreciation week came to an end and it's Mother's Day now. We're celebrating two roles that are not mutually exclusive. 

If it wasn't for the incredible teachers around me, I would've fallen through the cracks early on. Starting at the age of 4, I was bullied, called names, and humiliated by my peers for the colour of my skin, my mother tongue, my ethnic background... Basically, things that I had no control over. I can still recall the day I was called "Black" by fellow 5-year olds. I watched them revel over my misery. I had learned to hate myself. At age 5. And things could've gone worse from there, if not for the presence of some wonderful teachers. Teachers who built up my confidence and self-worth, one kind word at a time. Teachers who taught me how to choose kindness over cruelty. 
And I chose to remember the time my second grade teacher said I have beautiful features... To this day, I have no idea what that means. But I kept her voice in my head. For the next 15 years, when I was ridiculed for looking unconventional, I repeated her words in my head. She helped me face the world with my head held high. My teachers believed that I could be more than a face, that I had something of value to give to the world, that nurture and appreciation could work wonders. 

Years later, I began my professional career at a place headed by a hypocrite who lavished praises on his own teachers but looked at people taking up this profession with contempt. His justification was a common cliche "Those who cannot do, teach". I was enraged at the phrase, at how callously it treated the most noble of professions. In that moment, I knew what I wanted to do in my life... Teach. 
Since then, I have met even more incredible individuals who helped mould my understanding of education and the role a teacher can play in students' lives. I saw them working tirelessly to help a generation succeed, model inclusive practices in the classroom and putting their students' well-being before anything else. 

Through all the self-doubt, confusion and cynicism, I had another hand holding me up, guiding me through it all. My Mum, who believed in the transforming power of education, who cultivated enriching relationships around her thus teaching us the importance of friends and family, who made sure that we had access to the best resources that enabled us to be the individuals we are today. Her arms are my safe space, her words my encouragement, and her courage my life goal. The older I get, the more I appreciate everything that she accomplished and helped us achieve as well. My greatest pleasure is being told that I look/sound like her. 

As I work with kids and teenagers now, I try to be their safety net. Because people may forget what you said to them, but they never forget how you made them feel. I hope these kids feel safe and included because they crossed my path. And would go on to spread that kindness with people who cross their paths. 
This is my tribute to the amazing women and men that I've had the privilege to learn so much from... And a salute to a mother with boundless courage, love, and confidence.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fairy Tales

We've all grown up with fairytales... And its no surprise that different people take away different learnings from these timeless stories. Let me talk about how these influence women we call "strong". 

Who are these strong women? How do you define them? How do I define them? 

For me, these are women who are courageous, passionate and most importantly not bound by gender defined roles. I've grown up with these women around me. Of every shape, age, and size. I've never known any other kind. So I grew up believing that this was the way to be. And I chose to be around people who resonated the same beliefs. 
Now the thing about strong women and fairytales is that we are taught to Not be the Damsels in distress. We do not identify with those characters because we don't know their motivations. The whole thing about feminism and such. "You do not need someone else to come save & protect you...". That's all good, right? 

But what happens when we start identifying with the Saviour Knight? Because the world around us is inundated with stories. And you can't have a good story without a hero and a villain. Mostly these are gender specific roles. The good thing about my kind of women is that we're not differentiating by gender. The problem is that we're still identifying with fictitious expectations. 

The Saviour Knight is a powerful, resourceful, intelligent persona. Out to save the world. And when we become that, it defines the way we deal with our relationships. With our lovers, husbands, parents, children. Why else would strong women hold on to weak relationships if not for the belief that they alone can save the other person in that dyad? We're so used to being called on for help that it becomes an involuntary behaviour. We now want to give it even when its not asked for. 

We want to save our men, our friends, our children because lets face it, who else can? Right? And just like in fairytales, we believe we would be the ones who finally save them from themselves, from the big bad world that hurt them in the first place. We would be the ones to make them see the light of day. Lets call BS on that, ya? 

Does this mean we stop helping and supporting our significant others? Absolutely not. We're not primed to be that way anyway. But there's a difference between being supportive and being reckless. The Saviour Knight is reckless. Risking their own well-being in order to fulfil a societal expectation... That can't ever be a good thing. 

Just as we vehemently reject the Distressed Damsel role, we need to be equally wary of the Saviour Knight complex. You can't save everyone. You don't have to. If there's anyone who needs a savin', its you. 
It is difficult to disengage yourself from these archetypes that are so deeply engrained in our collective unconscious. But we've done that for traditionally defined gender roles already. So this isn't impossible either... 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Birthday thoughts...

Flowers or cake or wine...
Gold, pretty jewels..
Parties or holidays or music,
The moon or the stars!
Not even love or laughter...

Would be the greatest gift of all. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Mass Upheaval.

Outpouring of rage.

Social awakening.

Need of the hour... Change.

These are some of the catchphrases that my countrymen have come up with over the last 20-odd days. "A mass movement that shook the nation to its core"... "Changing the attitudes of the society"... And other ' opinions' that I won't even bother getting into! 

HorseCrap! (I'm borrowing this from you, Drew... Its most apt here!) 

I went out with a friend today.. We were planning on spending some time together.. Catch up, gossip, introspect, have fun. And that's when a lecherous bastard decides to ruin the day for us.

We spent a good half hour being followed by this creep... While he made leering faces at us, honking at us outside a crowded restaurant. 

We raised hell about this man. We alerted the bystanders about his antics. We informed the managers of the establishment that he had been following us from. We informed the constable who was standing at a nearby traffic signal. We noted the number and make of the car he drove.
And we went to the police station to register a complaint against this shameless excuse for a man. 

Ironically, when this happened, my friend and I were on our way to a protest/pledge-taking demonstration in that locality. My friend was going because she felt that this was a genuine, sincere attempt by the common man and she wanted to contribute and be a part of the movement in a productive way... I went because I had nothing better to do than accompany her. 

We did what any responsible individual caught in this situation would do. 

And I was told later that what I did was wrong. That it was foolish on my part to have reacted to "such a small incident".

- What did that man do to you other than following you around? Are you sure he WAS following you? Anyone could be just standing outside the restaurant. Doesn't mean that person is following you...
~ But he was making faces at us. Leering. Licking his lips as he winked at us.... If that is not suggestive, what is?

- You acted rashly when you went and gave his car number to the police. He must've been simply driving around. How do you know he was following you? How can you make such a big fuss over something like this? Even I look at people when I go out... Whats wrong with that?
~ But do you leer at them? Make faces? Suggestive gestures? Honk at them on the road?

- Whatever it was, what you did was foolish. You should have ignored it.
~ Ignored it?

- Yes, you should've ignored the man's antics. Had he done something more serious than that, it would've made sense for you to react this way.
~ So basically, I should have waited around for that guy to pull us into the car and prove his malicious intent in a tangible way before taking any action against him? I should've waited around to be raped so that there'd be an irrefutable evidence of his evil? 

- There are times when you have to ignore such acts... What good would registering a complaint with the police do? You would go back home tomorrow, but your friend is stays here. What if he tries to come after her or harm her in some way?
~ We came so close to being victims of a heinous crime that was possibly prevented because we took proactive steps to ensure our own safety. Doesn't That count for anything at all?

- What you did was wrong. All I'm saying is, you should've ignored it. 

Right. I should've ignored it. Only, I didn't. I'm very sorry to disappoint the world on this... But 'Ignoring' is simply not my style. The ostrich has never been a favourite with me...
My reaction and the consequent steps we took would've been justified had there been some amount of physical contact involved. "Did he touch you? Did he grope you? Did he say something to you?... No?? Then you're just a paranoid fool!" 

Well, guess what?! If you want to wait around for something bad to happen in order to make legitimate responses, you're welcome to it. Please don't expect me to do the same. 

I am not made to be a passive witness. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What do You do??

Is an ugly word... An uglier experience...

It takes away something from you.. Your innocence? Your trust? Your belief in the world? A hope for goodness prevailing..?
It leaves something behind..
Mistrust..? Cynicism..? Despair..?

And so it happens again.. In Delhi.. And we all know the routine.. Outrage. Sparks will fly.. Parliamentary tables will be thumped.. Candlelight vigils and marches.. Aah those, yes.. And then a lull. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What do you do when you go out of your homes, with plans to meet friends, shop, catch a movie, eat out?? I'll tell you what I do. I expect the worst. I don't expect to come back home safe n sound. I leave amidst apprehensions and dire predictions of calamities that Would befall me. N that changes everything for me.

I walk on the street with my fist clenched tight, so that I get a split-second advantage over anyone who would attack me. I'm prepared. I'm wary of every vehicle that passes by me. I leave a wide berth between myself and that car that's innocently parked on the street...

I suspect every man who walks by me or with me or behind me... I rehearse defense moves in my head, the ones that I've seen countless times in movies... Hoping that when the time comes, at least One such move will make all the difference..

I do not trust that autorickshaw driver who is parked by the side of the road... He could take me to an isolated spot n rape me... I do not trust the guard who stands outside movie theaters... He could use any pretense of getting near me and rape me... I do not trust that policeman who looks at me a little too intensely.. If he gets a chance, He will surely grope me.. And I do not trust that 18yr old at that fancy mall... He will not bother about how much older to him I am, and he will rape me.

This is the age we live in.. We've lost what was dear to us.. This is the end of the world.. The world as we knew it. The dawn of a new era.. Merciless. Voyeuristic. Unjust.

I don't want to hear about another "March for Justice" for girl...
I want action. I want stringent laws to be put into place. I want action AGAINST the perpetrators and not just action FOR the victim.

I want a safer world. For me. For my little sisters who are just beginning to understand and enjoy the world outside their homes. For my friends, who are my windows to the awesome opportunities of fun in this city. For my daughters, who would be as much, if not more, adventurous as I am.

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I couldn't keep up pretenses...
I'm not who you thought I was
or hoped I'd be...

In that moment...
you saw, what you wished to see...
Your greatest desires fulfilled.
Only an illusion that was...

But I'm glad it was one that gave you hope,
solace, when you needed it the most... 
Your own creation,
a handiwork as yet unsurpassed..
You brought it to life... You owned it..
and today, you saw... how it was all a dream... 

Perhaps you reached an oasis,
it's reality far more assuring
than the distant hope I gave you...
that momentary bliss was all I had,
and I gave it up to you...

You defined me...
Gave me a name.. a form in your mind...
and I was real... In that moment...
In your eyes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Boy-Girl Thing

I have an idea that would revolutionize relationships as they are today... Its a super brilliant thing too! I wonder why it doesn't happen like that in real life. It would save us so many heartbreaks... 

Gender Neutrality or rather a Select-at-will kinda option! That will spell the end of all our Lau-woes... 
We've all been through the "I wish you were a boy.. I would totally ask you out" routine... We all have that One person in our lives who has absolutely everything going for them when it comes to compatibility and whatnot... Except of course... the biological makeup. 

If only it could work out in such a way that we all could be of a neutral sex till the time we decide that we've found The One. And then we choose whether to be a girl or a boy basis that. 

That would be completely awesome! Select your gender.. When you want.. Whatever you want... 

Aah.. If only!