It has been a few months now. I was getting marinaded in yet another traffic jam. As my eyes looked around the busy market street, searching for a respite from my boredom, I saw a man.
To look at, he was like every other slum dweller around him. Not even remarkable enough for me to want to draw him. But I will probably never forget his face.
He was, with his right hand stretched to its full limit and its fingers entwined in a beautiful woman’s immaculately arranged hair full of shiny beads and bells, dragging her away from her home, to the middle of the car jammed street.
The woman was obviously in pain and not at all interested in going anywhere with him.
She was beautiful. She was dressed in a carefully tucked and pleated red and gold sari, and on her hands which were desperately trying to pry her hair away from his death grip, I could spy alta, the red dye that adorns a young bride’s hands and feet. Filigreed gold ornaments and a bright splash of sindoor completed her look.
She was not crying out. Just struggling with all her physical strength and perhaps mental too, to escape this man.
I opened my door and got out. In a city like mine, I was surprised that I was the only one who even seemed to notice the couple.
“What is going on here? What are you doing?” I made my voice as loud as it could be and said in the local language.
The man turned to face me with surprise etched all over his face. Perhaps his shock extended to his right hand too, for he thankfully released the woman, who sat down on the footpath under her.
I had to repeat my questions. He seemed to have become speechless. Jolted, he retrieved his phone from his pocket, dialled and put it to his ears.
“I am taking her to my home.” He answered finally.
“Is she your wife?” I asked.
“Yes, she is not coming with me.” He wailed. He had started to look desperate, I think the person on the other side of the phone line was not receiving his call.
I turned to the woman. With a curious mix of indignation and pain she was looking and prodding her arms, which would have been red with bruises had her skin been lighter.
“Do you need help?” I asked her.
Without raising her face to look at me, she shook her head. No.
“I can help.” I insisted.
No. She shook her head again.
I stood up and looked at the husband, fervently trying to avoid any eye contact with me and willing the person on the other side of his phone to pick up. I walked back to my car and drove off.
I could not find the words then, perhaps I was shocked too. But today the emotions that had had invaded me that evening have finally found words to express themselves.
I should have asked him, “Do you love her?”
To which he probably would have widened his eyes to their extreme limit and maybe taken out another phone to dial another number.
“Is she your wife, or your property?” I should have asked him. “For if she is your wife, she will respond to your love. But if she is merely a property, then no one can help you. Because a property is a non-living entity. Essentially dead. And the dead can never love, nor reciprocate affection.”
I wish that they get to learn this fact. I hope they are able to love and appreciate each other, not as someone they have to tolerate, but the one that they cherish.
Why do we live in such a weird society, where when a man drags a woman by her hair in the middle of a busy street nobody even looks at him?
But when my father says“ I love you” to me, every eyebrow in the vicinity is raised?
Why is love shameful, dirty; but violence not? Why is it necessary to wrap one’s love under “curtains and veils” hidden from the public’s eyes, to be peered at and ridiculed from latticed windows; but violence taken for a way of life?
This is not the only instance I have from my privileged life that makes me ask the question, “Is Love dirty?”
There are various examples sprinkled throughout the three decades that I have been a resident on this planet which have compelled me to frown and ask over and over again. Why is it so difficult to love? Why did my grandparents scold my then teenaged mother when she saved a young kid from the thrashing that the local goon was giving him? And why when at the age of 43 when my mother was going to have lunch with my father in his office, did her friend ask in a sympathetic and conspiratorial tone “Are you having problems?”
Our society is You and Me. We don’t have to be weird.
Shout to your brother “I love you. Have a great day today” when he leaves for work in the morning. Kiss your wife, it doesn’t always have to be sexual, when you cross her on the way to the fridge. Revel in happiness when you see a middle aged couple taking their evening walk, their fingers entwined together.
And stop a bully from taking out their frustrations on a physically weaker being.
Today at 4:40 am in the very early morning, my eyes opened from deep sleep, to realise that my world was shaking.
Noiselessly, as if even She was afraid of disturbing these precious pre-dawn moments, the Earth rocked like a tired mother forcefully patting her errant child to just close his eyes and sleep already.
I lay, splayed on my cozy, cottony blanket draped bed, shaking along with my room to the Earth’s noiseless taandav; listening intently in the quiet for sounds from my family and neighbours and praying, for the people who are closer to the epicentre, this time.
For I remember, the seemingly festive day of 26th January 2001, when I was much closer to the epicentre of an earthquake. It was the day that a fifteen year old girl realised that the Earth sometimes needed a holiday too, and refused to tote our burden.
Swash! My eyes cringed as the morning sun suddenly filtered in through the windows, as my mother slid the curtains aside.
“Girls! Just because you have a holiday today, doesn’t mean that you will sleep through it. Get up, now! Don’t you want to see the parade?”
“Mmmm…good morning” I stretched myself up.
“What’s the time?” came from under my sister’s quilt.
“It’s 7:40, and until and unless you are bathed and brushed, you are not to sit in front of the television.” ordered my mum. “Ohh! Just fifteen minutes more, please ma.” My sister’s quilt pleaded.
For my part, I said, “Please ma, I won’t be ready on time, you know that. And this time, my teachers from my Kathak class are going to perform in the Republic Day Parade in Delhi! I have to watch them.”
“Did you hear what I just said? You have more than an hour. Hurry up. Happy Republic Day.” She kissed us both.
I love it, when my mother wakes us up. It seems to be the start of the perfect day, warm and secure. Even with the threat of not witnessing this once in a year treat, I followed her around the house, as she bustled about. She loved the parade too, and wanted to finish her chores in time to see it. “Go and get ready, and stop wasting time” she said for the last time.
“Well” I thought as I brushed my teeth, “It’s almost 8:45. I just have fifteen minutes. I ‘d better rush.” Suddenly the room started to shake, violently.
“What’s this! An earthquake?! But, but…Gujarat never had one before. Then why has it started now?...” my mind was a flurry. Of confusion and questions, useless questions and mental reminders to look up the fault-lines that surrounded India, as my hands groped for support from the violently dancing wall beside me, and my feet struggled to stay upright on a suddenly rootless floor.
The light bulb was fluctuating as I washed my hands, my mother’s hygiene ideals refused to leave me even in this terror-struck world.
A huge mass of sound came from the earth as it danced to this horrible tune.It seemed as if a large Rakhshasa from one of my grandmother’s tales had come alive and was roaring in displeasure.
I rushed downstairs on uneven stairs. Around me, I could hear my neighbours screaming in terror and confusion. And in the distance, sounds of metal and concrete…crumbling.
I created this blog in June 2012 with zero knowledge or experience of the blogging world, but also of honest intentions of learning on the job. I learned the hard way that I am not very… actually at all tech-savvy, and sometimes I just don't understand what I could say to you that you would find interesting!
I would like to fervently thank and appreciate the 7 samurai (my subscribers) who have stayed with me through my complete and utter lack of efficiency and updates. THANK YOU. I would like to gift you something, maybe an ode or an illustration especially for you.
It is past 3 am in the morning, I think the official time to be on the world wide web :P but not really conducive to creating something. But I shall definitely create something and send your way, soon.
I actually came across a bloghop today called Insecure Writer's Support Group and it seems bang on for my situation here. I am insecure about my Blogging Abilities, and I would love some advice.
I am a compulsive organiser. I make lists, and categorise everything. And spend hours creating these organised work environments and lists, so that I don't spend hours searching for something specific later on.
After reading the above line I realise that hours are getting wasted/used up either way, but I guess I am saner with this way, so lists will be made and organisations will happen.
This is I think my greatest bottleneck in Blogger. I want a static homepage which describes me and my work, and where I write or publish art or literature in well defined tabs (lists, remember!) Also, I don't like old material going down….down…..down….like Alice in the rabbit hole.
I apologise. This really sounds like whining. I am sure there are solutions to these, I just haven't found them yet.
I am still trying and as we say in India, "दिल्ली दूर नही!" (Delhi is not far!) Check out the Bibliography tab for an explanation.
Hello! I have taken the Inktober challenge. It
basically revolves around creating one piece of inked art everyday in the month
of October. Since October is a month full of festivals in India, I have chosen
Indian stories as my theme.