Are accidents really just ‘accidents’?

I read the post of a mother who lost her 23-year daughter in a road accident.  The girl was riding pillion wearing a helmet.  There was a pothole.  She fell, got hit by a truck.  The truck driver never got punished. Though there was an FIR, nothing much happened. It was an ‘accident’ after all.

Another post was of a woman who lost her 32-year-old brother in a hit and run case by a speeding Mercedes driven by a ‘juvenile’.  The man was simply crossing the road near his house, carefully when an over speeding car driven by a ‘minor’ hit him.  There is a video of the incident caught on CCTV. The case is going on.

These families are now crusaders for road safety.  They try to create more awareness about poor habits such drunk driving, texting while driving, not following traffic signals as well as take measures to fix bad roads.

You could read more about them if you follow the links. Needless to say, it is extremely disturbing and unfair.

How would  it feel to lose a loved one, because some idiot decided to be on the road?

I had started driving two years back.  I was a slow and careful driver to begin with.

I remember the day I had got a tiny, first scratch in my brand new car. As I touched the scratch, it broke my heart. My perfect little car had to suffer because of somebody else’s stupidity.

Since then, I have had two accidents. Nobody got hurt, thankfully. I was alone both times, and it was not my fault.  The first time, it was with a cab. I don’t think the driver had any license, or registration.  He had snatched my phone and had bullied me into giving him lots of money. Remember the movie ‘Hindi Medium’, where the ‘poor guy’ extracts money out of the guy who was driving the car, even though he had deliberately got himself hit? The scene was meant to evoke sympathy, as the guy had put his life on risk for money for his friend.  I thought it was a horribly wrong message in an otherwise good movie.

The second accident was when a minibus hit my car and another two wheeler. I have blogged about it here. This time, I was smarter and called the police. It was still a lot of hassle.

Two accidents, major repairs, and money extraction by a callous driver later, I have become EXTRA careful.

My ‘grandma driving’ has been subject of ridicule. The jokes come from all kinds of people. Even the ones who do not know how to drive. Or the ones who may know theoretically? but have never driven:

  • I insisted that my friend  who sat in my car on the front seat must wear a seat-belt.  His response: ‘You drive like a bullock cart. I don’t need a seat-belt!’ I wanted to reason that the seat-belt would protect if somebody hits us from behind because no, not all drivers on the road drive like me.  Never mind!
  • Near my office, there is an empty, broken road, with dogs and pigeons resting during the day time. Now, pigeons are supposed to fly when you come near them. But on that quiet day, and quieter street, there was this one pigeon that was refusing to move. I stopped and honked.  There were some guys nearby who motioned me to keep driving, and it would eventually fly. I thought it was cruel to take a chance with hurting the poor bird. I reversed my car a little, and then drove a distance away from it. The guys laughed at me.
  • I was waiting to take a right turn at an intersection where there are no signals. It was not a one way, and there was traffic from both sides. One of my office cabs came after me, took a quick turn in high speed, while I continued to wait. The next day, one of the colleagues who was in that cab, asked me why I was so scared to take a turn. I told him that I was not scared. I was just waiting for the traffic to slow down.  ‘Traffic will be there! In that only you have to go inside! Otherwise you will keep waiting!’ he said with a wise, broad smile. ‘No I will not keep waiting. Every day, I manage to reach home! Maybe I have to wait an extra minute,’ I replied politely.
  • A neighbor was talking to another one about how she was anxious that her 18-year-old son had just started riding a motorcycle. She felt that two wheelers are unsafe and that her son was young. The other woman laughed at her ‘unreasonable fear’. She said that he is starting out late as 15, 16-year-old kids manage to drive.

I know of friends who drive recklessly. Are they ever shamed for their driving skills? No. In fact, they are considered cool and confident. One friend proudly told me how she had driven her team to an event within 20 minutes on a road that takes an hour, saving them from the disaster of being late.

We all know of people who drink and drive, and manage to get away with it. We know of teenagers, and adults who do not know how to drive, yet learn on the roads. We know of people who jump traffic lights. ‘Itna to chalta hai’ is the attitude.

Why do we take pride in putting our lives and more importantly other people’s lives at risk? Is it really something to be proud of? This must be the attitude behind the juvenile who ended up killing the man I was referring to. His parents must have thought it is not a big deal to give the keys to their minor son.

Underage drivers, drunk drivers, bus drivers, cab drivers or heavy vehicle drivers who callously drive on the roads probably may not be following my blog. But someone like the lady who trivialized driving by teenagers might be reading this. Or the colleague who believes waiting for two more minutes is a waste of time.

Is it worth it?

It is time we stopped shaming people who are doing the right thing. Let us pass on the shame to the ones who think they can get away with anything.  This kind of attitude that we have is more damaging that we think.

Next time we hear of someone bragging about their son / daughter who is driving without a valid license, let us shame them for being irresponsible parents. When we are in the car with that friend who breaks all rules, cuts into lines and has no respect for speed limits, let us not encourage him / her.

Let us ask these daredevils to join the circus. Or apply for positions of stunt artists.  The road is not the right place for them to showcase their skills.

Our roads, our legal system, other drivers on the road are all factors beyond our control. But our attitude is.

A Letter To My Daughter

Image Source

Dear Arya,

I remember the joy on your face when you found my old laptop at Grandma’s place. You managed to crack the password. You were surprised that the password was not Myarya_21, unlike my other devices. But you know why. It was long before you were born.

Your joy soon turned into a rude shock.  You saw a picture of my wedding. A wedding with a man who was not your father.  It was our joint decision to wait until you turned 18 to talk to you about my previous marriage.  But since you felt betrayed, I think it is important that I tell you my story.

Almost two decades ago, when I was barely 22, Grandma and Grandpa had arranged my marriage to a suitable man. He was charming, intelligent and witty. People who had limited interactions with him thought he was a great guy. Sadly, he had a narcissist and manipulative streak in him.  A secret only his wife knew.

He yelled at me for almost everything that he did not like – whether it was the not so apt salt in the gravy, the newspaper folded the wrong way, or his call being missed.  I would bear the brunt of his poor appraisals and his disagreements with friends. While I struggled to cope up with his temperament, he would shatter my self-esteem by saying that he is doing me a favour. He would call me names and humiliate me.  And one day, he slapped and pushed me for the most trivial argument. When I told him I would report him to the police, he laughed.

‘In this country men get away with burning their wives! You don’t even have a bruise as evidence!’

‘I will break your bones if I see that look on your face again!’

‘No other man would be able to tolerate you with all your flaws!’

I wanted to leave him. People said that my situation was not so bad.  At least he had not hit me black and blue. Aggression is a ‘masculine’ trait. Once I have a child, everything would be okay.

I walked out of the marriage.

I had never thought I’ll remarry. But years later when I met your father, I understood that not all men are bad. He was sensitive and caring. He restored my faith in everything good and beautiful in the universe.  We got married. Then you were born. When I held you, I felt so thankful.

Arya, in a few years you will start dating. You will fall in love. You may get married. As much as I would love to, I cannot protect you from meeting the wrong men. Abuse can be physical, emotional or psychological . You don’t have to ask people if you what you are going through constitutes abuse, or is it enough to end a relationship. What does not feel right for you is not to be endured.

Any time you have doubts, I want you to remember your parents. We did not give birth to you, and love you with every ounce of our soul so that you can grow up to become a doormat. Your mother did not wait to be assaulted brutally to justify her choice. She left at the first instance of abuse. Your father is the perfect example of a gentleman. He has set high standards for you. He is kind and gentle. He has never raised his voice at you or me. Being aggressive is the folly of a coward. Someone who is a slave to his insecurities.

I want you to promise me two things if God forbid, you ever find yourself stuck with someone who does not treat you well: First, that it is not your fault.  The shame belongs to the person who deserves it – the perpetrator. Second, have the courage to get out as soon as you find out.

You may have family, friends and laws for support. But the biggest barrier may be in your mind, which only you can overcome.

We want you to be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

Much love and hopes,

Mom

Author’s Note

This is a fictional piece written for the Blogathon Theme ‘#alettertoher’ organised by Womensweb to spread  awareness on domestic violence.  I would like to read Meena Kandasamy’s new book, ‘When I hit you,’ because it is time to break the shackles of abuse, and pass on the shame to the one who deserve it – the perpetrator.

 

The Intelligent, Young Woman – Wasted In Marriage

I read about Manjula Divak’s suicide the day before yesterday.

Excerpts from the article:

Manjula’s father said, “She was a brilliant girl. She was going to complete her thesis next month, but her husband and parents-in-law wanted her to come back to Bhopal and do household work.”

Mr. Devak told The Hindu that he had already made it clear to the family before the marriage in 2013 that Ms. Manjula would pursue her Ph.D. “They had agreed then but later started torturing her,” he said.

Her husband had allegedly asked Manjula to arrange ₹20 lakh from her father so he could start his own business. “Was my daughter going to wash dishes and sweep the floor after completing her doctorate,” asked the father.

My first reaction was why would such a brilliant woman, a PhD student at IIT Delhi who is capable of being financially independent not opt for divorce but tolerate dowry demands by her husband and in-laws?

Until I read another article which had screenshots of her whatsapp conversation with her sister. It suggested that she did want a divorce. The talk had been initiated with her father-in-law who was supposed to send a ‘rough document’. Her father-in-law had said that if she has to tolerate a couple of beatings to sustain her relationship, then what is the problem?

Manjula had said to her sister that she does not want a second marriage. These people were too horrible.  She is happy alone. Her sister said that not everybody is bad, and that life is too big. Sister had said ‘love you’.

I could not hold back my tears. I was in a similar situation few years back. I could relate to Manjula.

How much pain her parents and sister would be feeling now? And how hopeless she must have felt to take such a step?

Manjula got into an arranged marriage at 24 because the ‘horoscopes had matched’. Her story sounds much too familiar. An academically inclined young girl is married to an unknown man because her family feels this is the best thing for her. The boy wants a qualified girl who should wash the dishes, sweep the floor, whose family should provide him dowry for starting his business.

I hate the idea of arranged marriages, that too at 23-24 when girls have just finished their education. But love marriages prove no different either with spineless husbands siding with their parents.  Unfortunately, most Indian men’s families are like Manjula’s husband’s.  The state of women remains the same.

Manjula was brave enough to consider divorce. But she got scared of her uncertain future. She lost her faith in goodness. She hung herself.

When will things change? What do these men and their families think, that they have hired a life-long slave? The parents of girls in India have pathetically low standards. Their sense of ‘normal’ has been skewed for generations. They feel that all girls have to ‘adjust’. Their daughter is no exception.  And what can be worse than having a 35 year old unmarried daughter?

Let me tell you what can be worse:

A bruised daughter.

A daughter broken in spirits.

A dead daughter.

I agree that marriage is important. Being single for a girl has its own challenges. Whether the woman has been divorced, or remains unmarried, she would probably be seeking companionship. Every new relationship that would not end up in marriage would break her heart, reminding her that she is single while her friends are having babies. But here is the thing:

She would be going ahead in her career, without having to sweep the floor before going to work. She would probably have discovered new interests by now, which she would not have at 21-22 when she was busy studying for exams. She would not be hearing taunts all day about how inadequate she is. There would also be hope of finding a better man. A hope that is lost when she remains married to a loser.

It is still a much more dignified life than a life dedicated to serving an abusive, inconsiderate, man who happens to be your husband and a bunch of entitled, manipulative, greedy in-laws who are the by-products of this disastrous mistake that should not have happened in the first place.

To all the girls reading this and stuck in horrible marriages, I understand that the happy family Hallmark card may be every woman’s dream. But if yours is not, you have to get out, and find your dream elsewhere. It may or may not involve a man immediately. But by leaving cruel people and standing up for yourself you are not just doing a favour to yourself, but a favour to society at large.

The future generations of women would be grateful you did not pass on the legacy of ‘adjustment’.

 

 

 

 

Reema Lagoo – And Childhood Memories

On Thursday morning, I looked at my mobile mundanely to go through the morning news feed.

‘Reema Lagoo dead after suffering cardiac arrest. She was 59!

What? She did not have any serious illnesses that we knew of. She was not even a senior citizen technically. How could she die?

As a kid, (like most kids born in late 80s), I was in love with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. I was around six when the movie was released. I had already watched it thrice in the theatre. At that time, there were only single screen theatres, the impact being much more grand. My relatives who were visiting from a small town wanted to watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in the ‘bigger city.’ My parents and sister wanted to watch Bombay. It was no dilemma for me. I joined my relatives to watch my favourite movie for the fourth time. That was a bold step for a clingy six year old – to choose to be away from parents for three hours.

But how could I not? When I loved all the characters in the movie. They all dripped of nobility. Especially, the graceful Reema Lagoo. She was part of two of the most entertaining comedy shows at that time, ‘Tu tu main main’ and ‘Shrimaan Shrimati’. It was a different time when comedy was not about cracking perverted jokes, or making fun
of every other famous person.

In the interval, I had asked my uncle to get me Thums Up, (in those glass bottles), and chips. Today, I can’t imagine drinking cold drinks. I don’t even have them occasionally. And I could eat chips in a theatre, without using sanitizer? It was an innocent, less complicated, carefree time.

I remember watching an interview of Reema Lagoo. I think it may have been on Shekhar Suman’s show. He asked her, “How can a mother be so beautiful.” She had replied that when she was offered Maine Pyaar Kiya, she took it up because it was a good role. She had no idea that she would be typecast in mother roles forever. She added that once she was asked to play ‘Dharamji’s mother’ to which they both had a hearty laugh.

I used to take things at face value. It never occurred to me that in Bollywood, actors could actually not be the age they were depicted. I asked my mother, why couldn’t she play Dharmendra’s mother. My mother told me that she is very young. She is not even old enough to play Salman Khan’s mother. I was shocked! How could something possibly be unrealistic in my perfect movie?

When I heard that Reema Lagoo passed away, I felt like all the good things I associated with my childhood are gone, one by one. Her death has bereaved us of not just a great actor, but of an era. For me, that era represented values, and everything good and positive. How will watching her movies ever be the same again? She played mother to people not so young, yet she did not live to see the age that she played? It seems so unfair.

I find it difficult to say things like ‘May her soul rest in peace’. But what I do want to say is that she led a blissful life. Such a timeless beauty with a kind face and exceptional talent, that we all loved her as if we knew her, and she were our very own. We will truly miss her.

13 Reasons Why – Suicide Prevention or Suicide Manual?

The latest show that is creating a lot of controversy internationally is Netflix’s original series – “13 Reasons Why”. It is about a high school girl who commits suicide, and leaves 13 audio tapes about the reasons why she did it. (No there is spoiler yet. This happens in the first episode).

The tapes are sent to the people who in some way or another have contributed to her suicide. There are serious issues shown in the show such as bullying, rape, cyber bullying, and of course suicide. The show is based on a book. The intent of the show was to create more awareness about suicide and the importance of being kind and sensitive to others. It sounds like a great idea. But I did not feel that the show manages to achieve this. I felt it glorifies, rationalizes, and justifies suicide.

1. First of all, nobody can call out from the grave. In the show, Hannah Baker reaches out to people after her death through the tapes. The very premise is unrealistic. The show supports the thought that once she commits suicide, people would sympathize with her and finally accept that they did her wrong. It is like a revenge strategy. The people who did her wrong in this case were her classmates. Why does the show make us believe that people will care about us after we are dead? Even if they do, does it really matter once we are gone? The only people who will suffer endlessly are parents, siblings, immediate family members, who do not deserve to suffer. The rest of the world (including classmates) may care for some time. Then they will forget and move on.

2. Hannah tries to get help from the school counselor who is not of much help. Why could she not reach out to her parents? Her parents are loving and do care for her. What kind of example is this setting? That there is no help whatsoever and suicide is the only logical option? I know that this does happen.People do not believe or support the rape / assault survivor or undermine the feelings of somebody who sounds depressed. But they could have shown her atleast put in some more effort to fix things for herself. That would have set a better example. How would assault / rape survivors / bullied teens feel after watching this show? That killing themselves is natural? Something that is expected of them?

3. Throughout the show, there are a bunch of high school kids keeping secrets in an attempt to “honour” their friendship. I found this very annoying. Some of them have supportive and approachable parents who keep asking them what is wrong. Still, none of them reach out to any responsible adults. It would have been more balanced if at least some character had sense of right and wrong.

4. I don’t even want to get into the graphic suicide scene.

5. The show puts the responsibility of Hannah’s suicide on so many of her classmates (not just the rapist) who received the tapes. “We all killed Hannah!” Does she ever mention her suicidal thoughts to anybody? Is she suffering from a mental illness? Sure, they could have behaved better with her. But were all they supposed to just know, and help her?

6. People who have appreciated the show have said that it will help start conversations on suicide, being such a tabooed topic. No, I don’t think we are still at that point in time where we should applaud each other just for initiating conversations. We should not have such low standards. We should work towards finding solutions, helpline options, feasible support groups.

Teen suicide is a very pertinent issues in the US. In India, so many students commit suicide because of academic pressure. Female celebrities have committed suicide after a break-up. Suicide is horrific and the biggest pain for the surviving family members. Recent live streaming of the video of a young man jumping to his death on a social networking site death was extremely disturbing. It was a call for help. But no help can be delivered after death.

Some people may be suffering from serious mental illnesses and their actions may not even be in their control. They need professional help.

The last thing people should be made to believe is that if they kill themselves, finally people who ignored and hurt them will realise they were in pain all along. And this would be their justice.

But What About Men? Not All Men!!

Every time I write an article, I receive some personal messages and comments from men:

But what about the men?

Your articles are biased…Not all men are like that.

One guy I know even went to the extent of saying that he feels “discouraged” to be good to the women around him – dropping girls home after a party, not passing lewd remarks on scantily dressed girls in a pub, because he felt that men no longer get any “recognition” for being good in India, thanks to the “feminist wave”.

When women send me their stories and experiences, they are very elaborate and specific. They tell me EXACTLY what it is that is bothering them – whether it is pressure of getting married, struggle to manage home and work along with expectations of in-laws, lack of support from husbands etc. When men send me messages, they are usually just one liners – What about men? Not all men!!

I really cannot write a full article based on that! I write about women’s problems based not only on my own personal experiences, but also experiences shared by women, both known to me in personal life, and unknown to me, who have connected with me in the blogosphere. If a man would actually send me a personal story, about the injustice that he is facing because of society, I will care to write about it (believe me). I am also very much interested in knowing what are the issues faced by men.

Feminists are not men-hating, bra burning, home-wrecking women, provided we care to understand what the whole movement is about. I am in no way saying all men are bad, and all women are good. But I want to tell the men the following:

I have been groped in a crowded public place..

I know a girl who was abused by her relative as a child.

I know of an educated woman who was made to abort a girl child.

I know a former colleage who suffered sexual harassment at work..

I know quite a few women whose husbands have hit them.

I know of women who have been raped by their husbands.

I know of women who could not do MBA because they were told if they don’t marry soon, they would end up alone..

I know of women who spent most of their late teenage years and early adult life studying hard, but gave up their careers for children (They may still have a job, but not a career).

Many married women I know, are expected to take care of household chores, and cook / clean before and after working hours.

Most of the weddings I have attended, are funded by the bride’s side of the family. There may additionally be a car or cash gifted out of “love” as well.

Please ask the women you are close to, if any of the above has happened to them. Maybe every woman you know, will say yes to atleast one of the above.

So, next time I write an article from a woman’s point of view, please do not undermine it by saying “What about men?” Don’t make everything about men…

I get it. Gender stereotypes damage everybody. It is not benefiting anybody. Men who want to leave their jobs to study or work on a start-up or stay-at home dads feel the pressure of society to “provide”. Men get abused too but cannot tell anybody for fear of being ridiculed..I know that some women are filing false dowry cases, and bringing about shame to the ones who actually need the laws (more on that in a separate article)…

Please share such stories with me, if it has happened to you or somebody you know. I will be happy to publish it. But please don’t just say “Not all men!” Not all men are bad. We never said that!! But yes, all women are suffering, in some way or another, just because we are women. Instead of getting defensive, acknowledge the problem, and work towards making things better.

1. Next time your friend says that she is afraid to take a cab late at night, don’t tell her that the city is safe and she is unnecessarily panicking. It is not. Understand that she lives in fear..

2. Stop forwarding those sexist jokes on WhatsApp! They are not harmless and certainly not funny. Especially the married men jokes that I hate. These jokes only support that idea that women are objects to laugh at. A male friend of mine sent me the following joke:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a husband can take his wife free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all wives asking about their experience?
99% wives replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Do married men really have women throwing themselves at them? That women will jump at the first opportunity to travel with men who are not their husbands? Is cheating a joke? What if I edited this joke:

Jet airways launched a scheme where a wife can take her husband free on their business trip.
After big Success of the scheme.
Jet Airways sent letters to all husbands asking about their experience?
99% husbands replied
What scheme??
Which trip??
and When was it??

Is it funny anymore? Do we circulate jokes like this? I guess because women don’t get to go on business trips (sarcasm!)? Or maybe society does not consider it acceptable that wives could cheat on their husbands, and then laugh about it too!

3. Don’t just support women empowerment on social media, or in discussions where women are present. Apply it in your daily life. If your friend is maligning a woman’ s character, ask him to shut up. Even if there are no women around to applaud you.

4. Don’t be proud of yourself because you “allow” your wife to work, or visit her parents or go out with her friends. You don’t have any authority to allow her to do anything. You don’t own her.

5. If you genuinely care about women, and treat the women in your life well, they will respect you and appreciate you. Don’t get offended by every “feminist” article. They are very much needed, and are here to stay.

You continue to be the good person you are..

I Wish I Could Write My Child’s Destiny

It was sometime in 2012. I had just started living by myself in a PG in Bombay. This was the first time I was living away from my parents. I was 24. Not that young. Still, it was very tough for me.

My parents had found a PG close to my office. My mother was thrilled to discover that in the same apartment complex, there was a lady who had her own catering business. She had personally met that lady and fixed my breakfast and lunch dabbas with her. She said she felt relieved that my “food problem” would be solved.

I hated my job. I was terribly homesick. I wanted to go back to the comforts of my home, and the affection of my parents. I would call my father, pleading to leave my job and come back home. His response?

“Small towns don’t have opportunities like Bombay. It is a great company. Work hard, build you career. This is life..You have to be strong! ”

I recently read a quote somewhere, that “Behind every independent woman, there is a father who believed in her, and not the society.”

Today, I am so grateful that my father made me independent and strong, brave enough to face everything that happened in life thereafter….

Coming back to Bombay. I had some good friends, but I was pretty much lonely and missed my family badly. Amidst all this, food was a big solace. The dabba system that my mother had fixed for me turned out to be pretty good. The owner who my mother had met was Divya Aunty. Despite living in the same complex, I only interacted with her on the phone while placing orders. She was an extremely kind, compassionate person. She would ask her staff to put a plastic spoon in my breakfast, knowing that I rushed to work and ate in the cab. When I would be unwell, she would send something light like khichdi, along with nimbu paani. Sometimes when I would get bored of the regular Indian food, she would send pasta or noodles. It was not just a business for her. She was a motherly figure. She truly cared.

I was going home for holidays. I thought I’ll personally tell Aunty to discontinue my dabba for the next week. I wanted to meet her, since she had been so good to me. I did not know much about her, except that her husband was usually away on business travel and that she had two grown up sons – probably in their early 30s.

The delivery boys who I saw everyday let me in the house. Her house was aesthetically decorated, much bigger than the place my landlady had. It seemed they were quite well off. Aunty greeted me with a warm smile. I had an image of her, based on our interactions on the phone. I had imagined a sweet, cheerful, voluptuous lady in a salwar kamiz. Instead, she was very thin, almost pale. She wore a formal shirt, and three-quarters.

I thanked her and told her how I absolutely loved her food. She asked about my mother. We engaged in some small talk. Whenever I talked to her on the phone I always thought she would be an upbeat person. But in person, she looked sad. It was the first time I was meeting her. I was not sure if I she was unwell, tired or stressed. Was she just having a bad day?

“Everything okay, Aunty?” I asked. A question probably too intrusive for a first meeting.

“I am fine beta.”

I immediately regretted asking her. Even if there was something bothering her, she would not tell me – a customer whom she supplied dabbas in the very first face-to-face meeting.

“Somebody asked me recently beta, what is it that you want.”

I was surprised at the conversation I thought had ended but listened intently.

“If someone could make a wish of mine come true, beta I would ask God to be able to write my child’s destiny. We want the best for them. We do the best for them. Still we can’t protect them from what they would face…”

Her words pierced me. So deep. So painful. What was the reason behind such a profound thought? What was her son going through that she so desperately wanted to fix, with all the fierce protection of a mother, and yet utmost helplessness?

I never found out. Why I am writing about this now?

It has been one year since Pratyusha Banerjee committed suicide. Watching the video of her mother’s advice to other girls and boys on her death anniversary was heartbreaking. Another boy in Mumbai recently killed himself, allegedly because of failing in exams and failure to launch his start-up.

What must these parents be going through? The child who they raised and loved, and taught everything about life decided to give up on it? They must have done everything they could, but could they write their child’s destiny in Divya Aunty’s words or rather change it?

No. No parent can write their child’s destiny. The child will fail at something at some point or another. It is inevitable. Be it an exam, a job, a relationship or worse. But is it really a failure or just a phase? Is there any person who has always been successful, at everything? We get to know them after the point they became successful. Do we know what they went through before that and how much they struggled?

Children must learn to be strong. If not for them, atleast for their parents. There will always be problems, but they can choose how much empowered they want to be, by the obstacles life throws at them. It is not a philosophical thought, but the ONLY way to survive.

And the only way parents like Divya Aunty can live without carrying the unfair burden of fixing their adult children’s lives on their feeble shoulders.

How to Keep A Man From Losing Interest? Seriously!!

I open my Facebook newsfeed everyday with the morning cup of tea (Yes, I know it should have been the morning newspaper, but it has somehow been Facebook instead).

I came across articles over the past couple of days that really spoilt my mood:

10 Ugly Mistakes Women Make That Make Men Leave!

Catch and Keep Him! (It is apparently a website).

Why Men Pull Away: 3 Easy Ways to Stop a Man from Withdrawing!

How To Make A Man Commit To You!

Reasons Why Men Cheat and What You Can Do To Prevent It!

The above articles were part of the many women-centric blogs I have subscribed to, and some well-known international publications, written by dating and relationship experts to “help women”.

I am obviously no expert on the subject, but having been writing regularly for over a year now on relationships, here are my thoughts:

1. I find these articles extremely offensive to women and men. It very unfairly puts the responsibility on women for the behavior of men. As if a man is a helpless, pre-programmed, genetically disastrous creature who has no control on his feelings / behavior / actions. A man will lose interest, cheat, disappear, it is an inevitable phenomenon that we should be prepared to prevent? I would like to believe that there are far better men…

2. Why should we try to “catch and keep him” (Seriously that is a website!) if he is not interested? Are we that desperate? Do we really have a future with someone who wants to leave us in the present? Wouldn’t he eventually leave causing more damage?

3. Wouldn’t it better if these articles were worded differently: 10 Ugly mistakes that ruin relationships, Reasons why people cheat on their partners, Why lovers drift apart?

4. Are there so many articles on dating advice for men on what they could do to keep a woman? Is it because of chauvisim, misogyny or simply because women read more and analyse relationships?

Anyway, since the intention of these articles was to “help women”, I would also like to give my two cents to the women who are struggling to “keep” dating the men in their lives:

1. If somebody wants to go, it may not be such a bad thing in the long run. One day you may thank God for saving you.

2. Take care of your health, fitness, skin and overall appearance. No I am not asking you to be shallow. But don’t neglect yourself just because somebody does not care. Everything becomes harder when you are not well physically.

3. Yes, you deserve better. But I don’t know if you (or I) will necessarily find someone (better). Focus on yourself, your goals and interests (other than men 🙂 ) .

I have a friend who says that when you are happy with yourself (and that happiness comes from doing things that you like), you attract better things (people?) in life. Maybe it is true..

Indian Roads, Women Drivers and Rage

I would like to narrate an incident that took place this week.

I was going to meet a friend at a restaurant near my house. A very dear friend, who I was meeting after three and a half years. The excitement was apparent on my face, as people in office asked me why I was so happy.

We were planning this meeting for the past 3-4 days as she was in town only for a week. I suggested a place close to my house, as I could drive till there. I left from my house and was taking a U-turn, when a mini-bus hit my car and two scooters that were parked on the other side of the road. There was a loud bang. It took me few seconds to understand what had happened. I slowly parked my car in the left, my hands shaking from the impact. Immediately, some men ran out of the bus and started yelling at me. It was not a public bus. They all looked like hooligans and were ready to fight.

My car was badly damaged from the left. One man came and banged on my car window. He was apparently the owner of the scooter that was hit by the mini-bus. Ideally, he should yell at the bus driver for bumping into his scooter, right? But what this wise man said instead was that the bus driver was trying to “save my life”, therefore it is my fault and that I should pay the damages.

The fact that I do not understand the local language, probably gave them a better reason to take advantage of the situation. Some 20 men came out of the bus. They would stop any passer-by and the mob kept growing. Random people joined, to accuse me of causing this accident.

They told me that the bus conductor is badly injured and is “dying”. I called the police immediately, and asked for an ambulance. I also said that I am scared, as there is a mob of some 30-40 men around my car. I called my family, who would reach soon.

Now these men had started getting more aggressive. They all looked illiterate, and dangerous. They were asking me to come out of the car while I was talking to them through the window. The only person who was somewhat decent looking was the two-wheeler owner, who was unreasonable enough to demand the money for me, for damages caused by the bus. I told him that I have called the police and I will not leave until this is sorted. But I am not getting out of the car, as the mob is very frightening. One of the men who heard me, banged on my car window and yelled

“Why can’t you come with us, do you think we are animals?” I wanted to say, yes, you do look savage and calling you an animal is an insult to animals.

Then a man came out of the bus (apparently, the conductor) and lay down on the pavement. Everybody gathered around him. They asked me to take him to the hospital with them, in their bus. I refused and said that I have already called an ambulance. They insisted that I accompany them in the bus, as the man might die if there is any delay. I told them that I will not come with them, and that the police and ambulance are on their way.

But I noticed that the man who was “dying”, did not look hurt. There were no signs of blood. It seemed it was all just staged to scare me and extract money. They heard that the police is on way, so the bus driver and the “dying man” fled.

My family arrived after half an hour, though it seemed like eternity as I waited in my car. It was very dark by now, and I was scared. The traffic policeman who came did not care to hear me. Most of the mob present now had not even seen the accident. But I guess they had all decided to gang up against me. The policeman told me, “You should have been careful at the U-turn”.

I told him, “Do you know what speed I was driving at, and what speed the bus driver was at?”

My father who had now arrived added, “Mini-bus was over speeding,” to which the policeman replied “The lady was driving. How do you know, you were not there?”

I told him, “Sir, by that logic, nobody who is talking to you right now was there. The driver of the bus has left. These random people who are narrating the incident to you were not even there. Yet you believe them?”

We then drove to the nearest traffic police station. My father had called a former colleague of his for support, a senior government official who speaks the local language and was well-known at the station. Seeing her, the behavior of the officers at the police station magically changed. They agreed that it was a “clear chain accident case” and obviously not my fault.

I filed an FIR. I had to leave my car there, and it was picked up the next day after filing a report with the RTO. I enquired about the “dying man”. It turned out there was absolutely no injury and him pretending to be hurt and unconscious was just for special effects. My car is now under repair. Yes, it is insured. The bus was also seized by the station.

Here are my thoughts:

1. I was unnecessarily fighting with my family for a couple of days before the incident for the most stupid reasons. When the accident happened, all I cared about was being safe. Yes, life and health the most important things which we take for granted.

2. Our culture is undoubtedly misogynist. All the men from the bus had a sense of entitlement. The road was theirs. They were at fault but they all wanted to teach me a lesson. The scooter owner also thought it is easier to harass the lone woman for money, as it is easy to bully and scare her.

3. This is not the first time that I have seen people ganging up against the person does not understand their language. There is absolutely no principle of who is right or wrong. The fact that somebody is an outsider is enough to make people unite blindly.

4. If the senior official had not come to station, I would have had a hard time getting my car. The police would have probably asked me to pay for damages to everybody even though I was the victim in this case. In India, if you don’t have any connections and contacts, God bless you!

5. I kept replaying the incidents in my mind that led to the accident. Me talking to my friend, discussing where to meet, rejecting places that were far away, finishing a report just in time to leave from work etc, all the time wishing that I had not left home at that moment. And yet, this was not a big incident. I was not even hurt. Still, I was traumatized by it, and the whole experience of going to the police station, filing an FIR, dealing with the hooligans and then the police was very unpleasant.

My heart goes out to the people who have lost their loved ones to accidents. I don’t even know whether to call it an “accident” when certain irresponsible people who don’t care about their actions decide to be on the road. They know that they can get away from it, and there is absolutely no fear. The families of these road victims are now fighting for better road safety and fighting with the legal system to ensure that nobody else goes through the hell they went through.

I would like to thank the following groups I regularly follow, and pray for these families.

The Arundhati Foundation
Mercedes Hit & Run