Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rape: Not Another Online Petition

Earlier this week, a girl was brutally gang raped and left to die. Left to die makes it sound simpler than it is. An iron rod was inserted into her vagina and she was inhumanly beaten up and thrown naked onto the streets in the nation’s capital, Delhi.

I realized that this case is just what caused a furore, the tip of the ice berg so to speak. I was shocked when I read an article that called Delhi the rape capital and stated that 400 rapes were reported this year alone. There are tons of cases of victimized women that go unnoticed and unreported.

There are no words to explain what I am feeling now. I wonder how any girl is supposed to feel safe in the country. More surprising is how the chief of the National Commission for Women (which definitely is a joke now) states that women ask for it with their provocative clothes and their western behaviour. Makes me wonder if subjugation and salwar khameezes are the answers to keep our women safe. Mind you though, I am sure rapes happen even in villages where the woman only dons desi wear and don’t know a word of English.

I, for one, do think women have a massive role to play. We should stop accepting status quo. We need to reiterate that we are equal partners in both in the family setup and the society at large. Why shouldn’t we? We are now becoming financially independent and yet at the same time trying to nurture our family and take care of everyone. If anything, we seem to have more work cut out for us because we are expected to play multiple roles.

It is only we as women who can make a change. Don’t let male friends tease you. Don’t let it be if a co-worker passes comments with sexual innuendos. Basically, don’t let anyone make you uncomfortable. I might be able to laugh at something other women cannot digest. Each of us women have to know our comfort level and not stand by and let anyone push our buttons.

It is sad but it is a fact that we sometimes need to be reminded that we deserve better that what is being meted out by society. So do that! Remind yourself that you are indeed important and most often than not, you are what keeps the family going. Remember that just because you are a woman, you don’t deserve second place. You deserve to be an equal partner.

Most importantly, it is only us woman that can change anything. Not by dressing more conservatively or by learning only Indian languages, but by valuing ourselves and by educating our sons and brothers to respect all women. By making sure that they grow up in an environment where all women are treated at par with the men. By teaching them that every woman is someone’s sister, daughter and wife. By ensuring that they grow up knowing that only cowards use force on women and by teaching them that it is unacceptable to raise a hand on a woman.

It should be our most important lessons to our sons, and our most important lesson to our daughters should be to tell them that the society needs women, that without women, the world would be a sad sad place to live in. Tell them that women are not there just to reproduce, but that it is the innocence of every girl, every woman which makes the world beautiful. Teach your girls to respect themselves, and be proud of who they are. Teach them to think and be independent. Show them that they will have everything that your son would get, show them that they are not less than any boy.

On another note, I don’t understand the point of the insane number of online petitions that has sprung up. I alone got about ten invitations to sign an online petition to give the most severe punishment to the rapist. While I am all for barbaric punishment to those who commit this sin, I do hope that people realize that online petitions are not going to change what is going on around us.

In the online world, I myself am quite vocal on a number of topics. Be this this kind of atrocity that happens in my nation, or the protests that are affecting my homeland or even taboo issues like homo sexuality, I am quite vocal and I have over 20k tweets. But I am very well aware that the only thing social media can accomplish is to create awareness and to promote healthy debate, and in very rare cases spur someone into action.

As far as I am concerned, online petitions do zilch otherwise. Look at the whole Anna Hazare issue. Does anyone even have any count of how many online petitions were signed? Did it amount to anything at all? Online petitions in my humble (ok, maybe not that humble) opinion is just a waste of space. Instead, use these media to share your relevant two cents. If you can’t think of anything of value to express, stay back, and let those who know about the issue speak about it. If you really must post something, offer a prayer for those suffering.

I am not going to sign an online petition, but I will share my two cents. I pledge to ensure that any child of mine will grow up with equal opportunities and will be treated with equal amounts of love and nurture. I pledge that my son will grow up knowing that women are to be respected, not toyed with; my daughter will learn that she is no less than any man.

And I think maybe that will change things. Education and education alone will save our girls in the future. It matters not what she wears or says or how she behaves. A woman is a woman and she deserves love and respect, and the right to a dignified living.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

My Beautiful Bahrain & ME

Today a dream came true. To see my name in print. Well, yeah I know, being in the newspaper and magazine industry, I have been blessed to write under my own by-line a number of times, but today was different. ‘Cuz it put me in a different league, a league which once seemed out of bounds. Of being a published author.

I know, I know one chapter in a book isn’t much. But it is still freaking fabulous. Oh, in case you didn’t know, today, ‘My Beautiful Bahrain’, a book containing 50 pieces of fiction, poetry and personal stories from 40  different authors, of 15 nationalities was published. All the authors ofcourse have a connection to Bahrain and my piece was one of the pieces that made the final cut.

It has been an incredible journey and one which Robin Baratt set in motion. It was his idea to compile such a book and all credits for all the success belongs to him and him alone. All of us are just candles he lit along the way, and now are shining brightly under the excitement of actually seeing our name in print.

I first attended a Bahrain Writer’s Circle on April 2, 2011, and that too, it was an assignment from the Daily Tribune for which I was a reporter at the time. If someone told me then, that within a year’s time, I would be a published author, I would have given them the look, which meant “yeah. Ok. Riiiight.” But here we are.

I remember when he first sent us an email informing us about the idea. I mulled over it for a while, wondering if it was actually that easy. Easier for me than my job, easier than work. Doing something I love and about a place that is truly my home. Over the years, I have blogged and written about Bahrain quite a bit, but this was an opportunity that was truly fascinating and was screaming at me saying “Grab me, Grab me! You can do it”

The spark of brilliance was first mentioned in an email sometime in August, and by the end of October I had sent in my piece, “Growing Up in Bahrain’. Well, ofcourse I had way too much say, but I chewed on each idea till I had picked what I thought was important and what was not. And excited and nervous, I sent in my piece. Honestly though, it did feel like my very first stage performance or the very first time I spoke in front of a crowd. Head buzzing with the thrill of achievement, a renewed self confidence that comes from completing a goal, the nervousness of response, and the fear of rejection.

While choosing my topic, I really didn’t have a choice. It was clear from the start. It was like the topic picked me and not vice versa. I was born here and grew up here, so that would be the basis. That was a foregone conclusion right from the start. But apart from what I felt growing up, I felt it would be incomplete if I didn’t mention why I, as an Indian, was so attached to this place. So, my chapter is my attempt at telling the story, my story, the story of an Indian, who was born, brought up and looking forward to living on this island paradise.

For me, Bahrain is and always will be home. It is the land of my childhood, the land of adulthood too in fact.

“It is where I first fell and bruised my knee, it is the place where I first learnt my ABC.
Had my first heartbreak here, and learnt life’s lessons.
Childhood, and adolescence spent in a breeze, on this beautiful island,
Hidden away, a pearl, only known to few.
The land of my birth, the land of my dreams,
The land that has inspired many and me.
I love you Bahrain, oh I love you, thee”

Wow. That was a sudden stroke of imagination, not part of what I wrote for the book. And yes, that too I owe to ‘My Beautiful Bahrain’. And thank you Bahrain Writer’s Circle, for awakening that sleepy lazy writer hidden in all of us.

And I must say that thanks to Robin, it never felt like an assignment. He was there, the father figure, the teacher, the mentor, who would just gently nudge us in the right direction. He let us allow our imaginations to flow. No pressure, No restrictions, nothing off limits pretty much. And how fruitful that has been. The book has everything from poetry to fiction to personal stories. An eclectic mix and a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

For us contributors, it was an amazing experience. To see our name in print and to sign copies of the book. I even got to read a passage from the book (see video here). Tonight, we were celebrities and truly revelled in the attention that was being showered upon us.
It was evening of celebration. Of smiles and cheers and applause. Of congratulations and pride. Of achievement and a sense of satisfaction. Reaffirming faith in ourselves and igniting the passion for writing to last a lifetime. I think that’s the thing about achieving dreams, it becomes an addiction. Each dream arouses you to such an extent that you are driven to make the next dream come true.

And for me personally, what this evening did, was to make me believe that one day, I too can have a book, where mine shall be the only name on the cover! It may take a while, a few years maybe, but I now know that it will be done. About what, how, where or when, I am not sure. But sure as the fact that ‘My Beautiful Bahrain’ is now a brilliant paperback I am holding in my hand, it will happen someday.

And dearest Robin, you shall always be there, through it all, because all this would have been nothing but a pipe dream if not for you. Thank you is too small a word to express what the other contributors and I feel, but for now, that is all we have to offer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dear Micheal :D

OLA !! eloooo. alloo... Micheal Micheal Micheal!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

UniF1ed..We Did It Together

Two days since Race Day and I am still in the buzz of the Bahrain Grand Prix 2012. And what a show it has been. Until even that morning, there were people skeptical how everything would pan out but we really, really must pat ourselves on the back and congratulate Bahrain on pulling off one of the finest shows we have ever seen and an even more thrilling race!  

Dearest dearest CP, HRH Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, thank you sir for your unwavering commitment to ensuring that we had this. Thank you for all you’ve done for Bahrain. You are and always will be the hope for Bahrain. Congrats also to HM the King and HRH the Prime Minister on an event well done.

Secondly, big hearty congratulations to the team at the Bahrain International Circuit, who have been working day and night for the last year, to ensure that this grand prix was absolutely fantastic. And trust me, you guys put up an insane show. I remember calling Mohammed Shareeda (of the BIC) at around 11 one night the week of the F1, and he was still knee deep in work. Go on, hug yourselves, you guys deserve it.

Special mention also to Ali Haji and his team at the racertimes, for the second by second live twitter coverage the activities got. You made us proud. And shout out also to Maryam, Fahad and the entire team at the Information Affairs Authority who have shown their strength and caliber during the lead up to the Bahrain GP, during the event and now and everyday for all their efforts.
I was honestly and pleasantly surprised at the huge turnout we saw at the Bahrain International Circuit. I headed there on Saturday with the family and really had a ball of a time. Good line up of activities which are fun for the entire family.

I absolutely loved the pogo stick guy; I can’t remember his name though. He was beyond hilarious. And some amazingly awesome stunts on the pogo stick and the uni-cycle. But more than anything, it was his rib-tickling sense of humour that made him so good.

I was also fascinated by the mini-band that was full of westerners but were playing Kolaveri, that was pretty cool. I didn’t get to see much of Shaolin monks so can’t comment much on that.

Navi, hmmm. Quite the Micheal Jackson he is. But I wasn’t too thrilled about his dance moves. But overall, with his singing and his stage antics, he had a large number of people, myself included, screaming and swooning for MJ.

Even though I was upset that it was the Red Hot Chilli Pipers instead of Peppers, must say they really know how to up the tempo. They were really good and I loved that guy’s accent. They were really good with the bagpipes and the show girls added the fun and sassy element.

The carnival atmosphere and the attractions, especially for the kids made this quite the family friendly event!

Day  3, we headed to the Circuit in three cars, friends and siblings and their friends and siblings. No surprises there that there was a long queue to the entrance. And an insanely large number of people inside. What really struck me was the sheer amount of ethnicities I found: Bahrainis, Arabs, Asians, Europeans, whites, blacks, browns, men, women, infants and even people with casts on their legs walking in crutches; there were people of all ages and from all backgrounds at the BIC.

The race day was indeed the ultimate. I am not a race fan but this race had me at the edge of my seat, with my fingers in my ears though. Yeah, I know, earplugs but I didn’t have them. The race was nail bitingly exciting.

And our seats in the main grandstand right in front of the start line only added to the excitement. We caught Bernie doing the rounds before the race, we saw the buzz of the teams before the flag off and the applause when the race started made me proud.

The standing ovation when Vettel crossed the finish line was truly humbling. But the moment I celebrated was the when they brought out the banner “UniF1ed..We Did It Together’ cuz indeed we had done it together.

I personally know a number of people who have been working round the clock to ensure that we were able to show the world what we are capable of. On Twitter, on TV, on Radio and basically on every platform we got, we have been trying to explain why this is a chance Bahrain deserved and why we should have this and in that moment, to realize that our efforts might have made a difference was truly a humbling experience.

While it was a huge disappointment that LMFAO was not going to be there, the local DJ wasn’t that bad. He had a good choice of tracks and really got the people in the groove. And my kiddies had a ball of time dancing the night away and that really made me happy.

For me though, truly the moment that stood out is when we got to meet and say hello to the cutest prince of all time, Prince Nasser. My sister went bonkers really. But I do really want to meet the Crown Prince someday.

I am really looking forward to next year, though I hope we’ll see less fashion disasters at the race. Some of the clothes and make up and heels made me want to pull my hair out.

Also, there was one incident that truly showcased the spirit of Bahrain. My friend lost his phone, I texted the number saying it was our phone and to please contact us. and in less than 5 minutes I got the call back and that person, Hussain, a young Bahraini chap found us and returned the phone to us. And that is one of the many reasons we love the country so much.

During the F1 weekend, we were also able to dispel a lot of rumours because a large number of journalists came into the country and saw it for themselves. And slowly but surely, with each passing day, international journalists are getting more clarity about the situation here.

So, Bahrain! We have every right to be proud. Every one told us we couldn’t, we faced roadblocks (no pun intended) at every level, and yet we did it and boy, we did it fantastically well. Bahrain has been and always will be the motorsport capital of the Middle East. Let’s continue holding our head up high, working for our home and clearing the misconceptions held by many along the way.

It is true. UniF1ed, We did it together. One Nation in Celebration.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Magic Of Dance

Different people are born to do different things, some people are born to sing, some are born to change the world. But I was born to dance. Yeah right. If only. I am a pretty good dancer if I may say so, but it has taken me multiple years of hard work to get to this stage.

In fact I am an Indian classical dancer. Trained in Bharatnatyam since the age of 7. Mohiniyattam and Kuchipudi as well. Dabbled in a pinch of Kathak along the way. But over the years, I have developed and built my forte: true blue Bollywood. Call me a show-off, but nobody can do the jhatkas and rock a desi song like I can. I am too full of myself no? But if you follow my blog, you already know that.

But that’s not what this blog is about. This is about the magic of dance. The excitement, the thrill, the insanity of dance. There is no feeling like it. It’s flying, it’s finding that place within you where nothing else matters, it’s when there is no pretence, nothing fake. Nothing’s more real, raw and passionate. It’s that uninhibited joy of letting go, of being free, of being alive!

For me, it’s a release. I dance when I am angry, I dance when I am upset, I dance when I happy and I dance when I am bored. I dance to vent, I dance to celebrate and I dance to drive away the loneliness. My dancing keeps me energized, it keeps me sane and insane at the same time.

 It is knowing I belong, it’s knowing that I am in a higher state of being, beyond just existing; it’s knowing I am free. Free of bondage, free of emotion, free of ties, free like the air around me, free like a bird flying to touch the sky. It’s like sliding down a rainbow. Like walking on water. Or jumping on the white fluffy clouds. It’s probably like having marijuana and cocaine together.

I remember performing onstage. It’s been more than a year since I last got onstage. But the high you get onstage is unbelievable. Something that really needs to be felt. The rush of adrenaline makes you move till you are so tired that you need to be carried off stage (yeah, it’s happened to me. Every single time).

People who’ve seen me on the dance floor will tell you I am a mad mad dancer. And people who’ve seen me on stage will tell you I have interesting technique. But at the end of it all, I am truly the happiest when I am dancing, be it alone in my room, in a crowded club or on the stage in front of a massive crowd. Because that is one time where there is nothing else, no one else, everything else and everyone else ceases to matter. It is just me. Alone, wild and free.

“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet” - Constanze

Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Little Piece Of Heaven..

Ever since I remember, I’ve loved running in the sand on the beach, and sitting on the rocks by the sea listening to the waves... Ever since I can remember, it has been the one sight that always made me happy...the first thing I set my eyes on when I go to my ancestral home, Kunnummal, in the lush scenery of God's own country, Kerala.

I've been blessed. The settings around Kunnummal are like a piece of heaven, like a diamond lost in the wilderness known only to the discerning eye.

As kids, we used to love the excitement of the waves and my cousins and I have a truckload of cherished memories of fun, games and laughter on this beach. As adults, we revel in the serene tranquility of the waves, sitting on the rocks pondering over our lives and how we've come a long way.
For me personally, Kunnummal represents solid stability: a place we can go to no matter what. A place where we’ll be welcome no matter how old we grow or how much we change.

And of course, I think what makes it complete are my grandparents smiling faces. Every time we go there, they’d be waiting for us, with a cheery look and giant hugs. And my grandma asking if we’ve eaten. They’re like a pillar of strength and stability, always there.

Since we were little kids, the thought of their hugs were and is exciting. It makes me feel blessed, to see the love in their eyes; to see that no matter who we are in our real lives, and no matter how much we’ve achieved or failed, we’ll still be their little children.

Now I am sitting back in my office and the beautiful beach and the waves are just a memory. Can’t wait to head back.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Passing the Past..

I wrote this sometime last week actually, after someone really ticked me off. And it’s more like a rant. And yeah, I am too full of myself in this one!

So, somebody told me today that i like to live in the past and i am not too sure how i feel about it. Do i really come off that way? I never would have thought that of all the vibes that i give off, stuck in the past is not quite there on the list.

I'd like to think i live for today, for now. The past is behind me and well, the future. I don’t know what in the world will happen tomorrow so I try not to spend much time on it..

 Okay so let’s see. I do hoard stuff; I have a ton of souvenirs from a time long gone. I really enjoy collecting photographs,  letters, trinkets from the good times and the worst times. I am incapable of throwing things out, no matter what kind of memory it brings...

But you know what? I really truly believe that it’s really important to accept your past. The good the bad the ugly, the fun and crazy, all of it. Cuz it is all that and more that shapes who you are today.

Me. I am passionate bordering on crazy. I am fun and exciting. I am hurt and depressed. I am ecstatic. I have been high up and I have hit rock bottom. I have laughed like a little child, and I’ve cried like one too. I have been there and done it all. Well ofcourse not all of it but quite a lot more than most people my age.

Every person we meet, every experience we have, every place we visit, all leave a mark on a person. And it’s all stored in some part of our minds.. I don’t know if there are many people comfortable with all the shit they’ve faced or done. I, for one have post-mortemed most events. But do i still live in that space? I doubt it. I am incredibly comfortable talking about my past. Sometimes scarily so. And maybe i revel in it a bit. But that doesn’t mean I’m there all the time.
Like I said before, you can’t get me now, if you’re not willing to see past (pardon the pun) everything in my life. That isn’t where I end, it’s only the beginning. There is more. 

I laugh a lot, sometimes like a little baby. I get excited and happy in a snap. I get thrown into the throes of depression. I am a drama queen. I am comfortable in my skin, doing my thing. There are things i enjoy doing and can go nonstop at. And there are other things i wouldn’t try for all the gold in Agrabah.

I think i am done talking now. So yeah. This is who i am. With all the baggage, hopes, dreams and the insanity Take it or leave it. I’ll survive either ways.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Living In Limbo

Everybody knows what being in limbo means, it’s the state of being here nor there, dead nor alive. In some beliefs, it’s the phase between death and afterlife, hanging in between. And I honestly feel like I am in limbo now, thanks to my long distance marriage.

Long distance marriage, yeah I know how that sounds. And growing up, I have seen lots of people who were working abroad and had their families away from them and I vowed that I would never stay away from the husband, when I finally decide to say my ‘I Do.’ So much for that.

Life, well, it isn’t always what we want it to be. And I am a lot luckier than most people in long distance relationships because I am in a position to financially be able to visit my man often, but never often enough.

It’s been six months since our Nikah, since we got our legal and social right to live with each other and a month since Sujid and I got officially married, but we are still very much like most couples in their dating phase. I live with my parents and he lives with his friends.

Well, the only positive about a long distance marriage is the fact that it is a never ending honeymoon period. Everytime we meet, usually for 5days -2weeks every two months, it’s a replay of the honeymoon. Excitement and love in the air, and just fun blissful days, which ofcourse pass too soon for my liking. I also do like living with my folks. It's like I never even left at all.

But sometimes I wonder if the whole thing is one big joke. We can’t be there for each other, well obviously not how we should be there for each other. When I am ill, or he is upset, or we are just in need of a hug, we can’t really turn to each other and it’s nobody’s fault.

I don’t wake up next to him, nor do I get to make him his morning coffee. We don’t even have meals at the same time, thanks to the different time zones. I don’t get to cuddle up with him and watch our favourite TV shows nor do I get to see his face light up or dull out depending on how his day has been.

When he is up and getting ready to work, its 4.30 am here, and when I am getting ready for work, he is already knee deep in it. When I give him a call, he’s at lunch and by the time he returns my call, I am at lunch. When I am slightly free, he is busy packing up and leaving and by the time I finally get around to calling him, he’s busy with dinner and his TV time, and after that obviously sleep because he has to be up and early the next day.

He does call me up in the wee hours of the morning to hear my sleepy voice, to keep the semblance of some life together but it still isn’t good enough. We do talk a lot and text and email and all that but it just isn’t enough.

I want to be his wife. There for him, no matter what time of the day or night it is. I want to be there to ask him how his day went, when he comes home from office, or have him ask me how my day was. I want laugh and chat and have dinner together. I want to cook for him, not always, but most of the time for sure. I want him to taste my little cooking experiments and the review on his face, when it actually has turned out better than we expected. I want him to surprise me with flowers like that one time and I want him to spoil me rotten like I know he does. Well, it can’t happen for a while atleast and you know what, it bloody sucks.

My colleague at work too has the same problem, with his wife and little boy in India but I guess the fact that only one of them works helps, cuz she is free no matter when he chooses to call her.

Unfortunately for me, both our careers are equally important and it will take another three months for us to be sure of where we want to be geographically, and add to that the situations out of our control, like the economy, the stability of the country and all, which directly affect the job market. At the end of it all, I hope things work out, cuz we definitely are paying the price for having a dream. Our prayer is that ultimately it is all worth the pain we are going through now; and that after these three months, we will never have to live apart ever.

So far we've made sure that we didn't miss any of the important occasions like birthday and New Years. but we are going to miss Valentine's Day for sure :( I just want these three months to fly by, so that we can start our life together, all nice and proper and be our family, with our own little apartment and our own responsibilities and everything. I am sick of our life be stolen moments here and there and am counting down till our marriage actually starts.

But till then, this is our only choice. I miss my man. I miss him like crazy. And I feel like I am living in limbo :’(.