Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trivial injustices

Street sexual harassment seems to have become an anecdotal topic. My friends and I speak of incidents offhandedly, revealing how we kicked some serious lecherous ass, or how we surprised ourselves by not doing anything at all.

The other day, while negotiating the crowds on Brigade Road, Akshay told me to walk in front of him. If anyone touched me, he’d be ready to throw a couple of punches. That eventually nothing happened bothered him.
‘Dude, why not now? When I’m here covering for you?’
I was about to object to his ‘covering for me’ when I realised that the situation had been different when I was walking up the street to meet the boys. I mentioned minor traumatic incidents later over lunch and the guys seemed outraged.
‘You women are all alike. You let these creeps do whatever and some two hours later come and tell us.’

Usually nothing happens when a woman is associated with a man while on the street. There have been times when I’m holding B’s hand and walking on a crowded footpath and men will stay away because I have a man with me. The same goes for when I’m with baba, or any guy friend. But when ma and I are out, there have been ‘situations’. (I’m feeling euphemistic just now.)
Presumably, the woman is an easier target when she’s alone. Though it really doesn’t matter whether I’m holding someone’s hand or not; I’m quick with profanities and my hand is ready to hit the person if he’s been particularly offensive.

I also believe that I react differently on different days. Sometimes, I make eye contact with everyone who looks in my direction. (This is often interpreted as Look How Bold I Am Won’t You Please Put Me In My Rightful Subservient Place.)
Other times I feign indifference at stares and advances, trying to exude the impression of the I’m Used To City Streets And I Know I’m Attractive So You Can Give Up Trying To Fluster Me type. (This is also interpreted as Look How Bold I Am Won’t You Please Put Me In My Rightful Subservient Place.)

I notice that I’ve stopped reacting to certain types of harassment while others, I address. This could be construed as a sort of self-censorship, where I begin slotting offences according to my own pre-determined categories.
Can Be Overlooked. Can Be Mistaken For An Accident. To Be Dealt With. Deserves Slap. Deserves Rude Retort.

Now singing in my ear as I walk past is ignored.
As are the loud conversations by groups of college boys referring to body parts.
And the high-pitched unnatural kissing noises.
The seemingly accidental brush against my thigh is dismissed with a click of my tongue.
Someone blowing on the nape of my neck in a queue is accosted with ‘Excuse me? Please move back.
A man staring at my chest would get nothing more than a glare if I were tired or preoccupied.
Sometimes, if I’m irritated or have had a bad day, I retaliate by making the common mother-sister references.

Sometimes I confront a man pressing up against another girl on a crowded bus.
Sometimes I scream so loud it draws a crowd.
Often, the crowd consists of men who hang around silently and size you up from head to toe.
Almost always, the men deny having done anything.
A couple of times, a man has apologised.
Once a man hit me right back.
Sometimes I’m afraid of what might happen to me while walking on a deserted road.
And sometimes I disappoint myself.

Please visit and support the Blank Noise Project if you feel strongly about this issue. Hell, do it if you feel anything at all.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Jacaranda morning

With summer breathing down my neck, I walk the circuitous, scenic route to work. My path is now longer, but trees reach out from either side of the road and the sun hits my eyes less frequently.
And the jacarandas are now in full bloom. The tar roads seem festive now, strewn with purple trumpet blossoms. The pockmarked path seem less harsh these days.

The tree outside our compound wall has only just burst into bloom and I slowed down this morning to appreciate its tardiness. Standing close to the trunk, I craned my neck upwards and filled my gaze with lilac flowers, jaunty against the electric blue of the sky.

Then my peripheral vision caught Aarti sipping her coffee on the terrace.
‘What are you? Ten years old?’ she called out.
‘Just making some time for the little things, you hardened caffeine addict,’ I answered.

And as I took my first step towards the office, I landed my foot squarely in a fresh pile of cow dung. Covered almost entirely with gorgeous lavender flowers, of course.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Turning up the faders

Who would’ve known that this guy I grew up with in North Carolina is a total rock star now?

All it took was a few shy e-mails; clicking on some innocuous links made me realise that I’ve missed out on so much these past couple of years.

I still remember jumping into piles of dry, scratchy leaves in the fall – our reward for having raked the entire yard.
Finding a nest full of baby sparrows, being careful not to touch because Mother Bird would then abandon her young.
Making home videos; taking turns at being actor and director; being the only corpse in the history of cinema that squeezed her eyes tight and giggled when the camera was focusing on her.
Good times.

And now he’s a singer-songwriter with a band.
His music is phenomenal and his lyrics are explosive.

Nathan, I wish you all the luck in the world.

Monday, February 13, 2006


I came across this in the mail – it peeped out at me from amongst all the Valentine’s Day promos, ads and e-cards. If I were ever to write a poem about being in love, it would be like this. (Well, perhaps a bit shorter.)

Being in love with you
Is to abandon the piano:
It is to take up the castanets,
The bugle,
The kettle drum.

It is to sleep naked, with all the doors and windows open,
Fearing nothing.

Being in love with you means
I wake one morning feeling
Such warmth rising inside me
That I am suddenly confident
All snow would melt
Within my steady gaze;
And I dress quickly
To test this
On the crisp,

Being in love with you means the moon is full and the wind strong
Along the western ghats of South India.

In summer, being in love with you is red, raw and delicious.
In winter it is blue, lucent, and shimmers when touched.

Being in love with you is to forget
For a moment the use of fruit:
It is to stare long at the splendour
Of a green pear
On a white porcelain plate.

Being in love with you is old as Laughing Buddha,
And as fat.

Being in love with you for even one second
Is enough. The big picture changes.
(When the honey jar is opened, the whole kitchen is instantly sticky.)

Being in love with you is a deep thirst,
An undermining hunger.

Being in love with you is ludicrous and cannot be explained.
Being in love with you sneaks up on me from behind.
It is a kind of ambush.
Or worse, it is an avalanche
In which I am tumbled furiously
For a time, then stopped cold
In whatever absurd position the snow
Finds me - perhaps only a hat
Or a hand
Visible to the outside world.

Being in love with you is alpine and religious, naked and fierce.

In spring, it is green, resilient, and sways to the rhythms of wind.
In autumn, it is pale gold and fills the sky.

Being in love with you is centripetal.
It cradles and cherishes, yet
Confiscates as much as it confers.

It clobbers and clocks, then cloisters - but only to clarify
And cleanse.

It seems to cathart then catnap, but later celebrates
And celestialises.
It cures and cushions,
Compels and completes.

It is hard to believe
Being in love with you
Was once
That tiny space
In my heart
That has since exploded
Into a vast cathedral
Of sky
Under which I stand alone,
Looking up.

It is raining cats and dogs.
I am drenched.

Being in love with you has soaked me
To the bone
And I will never again
Be dry.

-- Michael Londry

Friday, February 10, 2006

With eyebrow raised

Jute Cottage, with its adorable Jute is Cute logo on every product, still hands over customers’ purchases in plastic bags.
Irony seems to be wasted on some.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coloured pencils

I'm quite tempted to go home and sketch this myself.