Letting go

It’s almost midnight. The rain still softly falls on the windowsill, the blades of the ceiling fan turn slowly just enough to keep the buzzing mosquitoes away. 

The trivial noises fill my ears for they don’t know my thoughts are narcissistic. My thoughts demand to be heard as they keep getting louder with every spin of the fan. 

What did he mean by ‘who’s the settler?’. Why do I still have feelings for him? I am in a happy place, in a happy relationship, getting married in a few months. 

Do I still love him? Him who has always been rude to me, who has been nothing but hurtful, who’s never felt any kind of love for me. 

Why does my heart still flutter when I see his name on my phone? Why are there butterflies in my stomach when I respond to his messages? Why do I put all else on hold only to reply to that one text when I know he might never continue the conversation? 

Do I still love him? This can’t be love, could it? I’ve tried to tell him off. I’ve tried to hurt him with my stinging words. Remorse, remorse is all I feel after hurting him. Why does the text message I sent him months back still haunt me? I recollect every word. Should I apologise? You were right in telling him off though, says angrily the voice of reason. 

Closure. Maybe closure is what I need. Maybe that’s what I don’t have. Should I tell him that? It’s still raining, and it’s almost 30 minutes past midnight. 

Does he ever think of me the way I think of him? Skipping a look at his WhatsApp picture as I scroll through my contacts doesn’t help much either. Did he ever have feelings for me? Did he ever think of me as someone he could spend the day with and not just the night? 

*Delete chat*

Lights dim, patter of raindrops reach the eardrums again, silence of the buzzing mosquito. Letting go is an art meant only for a few. 

Why I’m a feminist

Who is a feminist?

Women who hate men? A male basher? I don’t know what other crazy definitions there are out there. But I do know that feminism is not any of those.

So, let’s get our basics right. Feminism is when you want gender equality. Gender equality between male, female, and transgender. I know you’ll argue that the ideology started off as pro-women. But, even then, it sought only equality.

Coming to my point…is feminism really such a bad word? If it indeed is thought of as a bad word, doesn’t it prove that we’re still living in such a patriarchal world?

My parents never gave me any less importance because I’m a girl, or my brother any more importance because he’s a boy. I never got an extra roti because I’m a GIRL, and neither did he because he’s a BOY. I did not grow up with any gender discrimination. My parents never had to differentiate between their son and daughter. I had a healthy environment where I had the liberty to do what I wanted. So, why do I need feminism? Why do I need to fight for gender equality when I have it already?!

It’s not just about oneself, is it? Don’t we have the responsibility of fighting for those who are unseen, and unheard? Don’t we have to voice the problems of the marginalised and less fortunate? Well, to me, that’s what feminism is.

There’s always an exception to every rule. Not all men are bad, and not all women are good. I should be safe to say that there’s equality there!

When there’s a larger than life celebration of women’s day, I’d definitely question the absence of a men’s day; and vice-versa. If there were days for men and women, but none for transgenders, I’m pretty darn sure I’d question that too.

I’m a feminist. And a proud one at that! Because, to me, it’s never about what I have or don’t. I’m lucky enough to have parents who don’t discriminate. I’m blessed with amazing friends(male and female) who don’t treat me any more or any less because I’m a girl. I’m lucky enough to work alongside my bosses who don’t discriminate me based on my gender. But, I’m just lucky. There are thousands who aren’t as lucky and blessed as I am. I take it upon myself to fight for them because it’s my responsibility to do so.

I need feminism because it’s not always about me.

Do we have the “luxury” of ignorance with workplace sexual harassment?

It was another busy Tuesday at work. Between the could-be impact of GST and Trump’s “tyranny”, I’m sure the newsroom was buzzing with action — the newsroom I used to belong to until someone thought it was better for the Social Media desk to be a separate entity. As I sat alone in this new lonely, dingy office away from all the action I was missing, my new boss calls for me from his oh-so-huge cabin. And the first thing he sees, are my breasts.

Discomfort descended. How is someone supposed to react in this situation? There’s nobody witness to this to support my claim if I raised an alarm. Moreover, what haunts me is, does this even qualify as harassment? As I stand there uncomfortably, he asks about news, work, and what not with his eyes wandering to my chest every now and then. Quickly getting up, I tell him I have something breaking to tweet out and run out of the cabin.

I’m a woman in India. I’m used to the staring. Sadly, aren’t we all? It doesn’t even bother us anymore when on the streets! Well, as long as he doesn’t do anything physical to you, why bother? Right? Because that’s how much of a commonality it has become. But, do we have the same “luxury” when it comes to a workplace? The place where you spend most of your day, where you meet the same person every single day, where the person knows when you come in and go out.

If you’ve stayed this far into the rant, then you should know I’m not writing this after one ‘isolated’ incident of him staring at my breasts (he has been doing that on every occasion he has seen me at work for the past one month), but after an epiphany of what I felt when I learnt he has a daughter younger than I am (I’m 25).

Last week I learnt from a colleague that he has a daughter who is preparing to go to college. Well, when I learnt that it evoked a new kind of anger, disdain, and disgust in me. How can a man do this to a woman who isn’t much older than his own daughter? I realised the problem with my thought process much later, and I’m glad I did.

Why does it matter whether he has a son or a daughter? And why should it? Did it matter that he was married? Did it matter that he was probably behaving the same way with other women colleagues of his? Although those things bothered me, why did him having a daughter anger me more? I gave it a lot of thought. It’s because it’s “culturally” impossible for such a man to behave the way he did. He’s the “ideal man” we so glorify — a married, family man, fathering a loving daughter. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? How deeply etched is it in our mind that these ideals make for the perfect man who does women no harm?

When are we changing all of this?

When rudeness becomes the workplace norm

Insults, rudeness, sadistic sarcasm, personal attacks, incivility, yelling, belittling, and demeaning remarks at workplace can hold back anyone who’s otherwise a hard worker. 

The self doubt ritual that arises from the aforementioned behaviour of a leader or a boss, overshadows all the confidence one has accumulated little by little over a period of time.

A leader should be a place of safety, a friend once said. When realisation strikes that the same leader you look up to, does not trust you or the team anymore, the psychological trauma it causes is inexplicable. I’m no psychological expert to provide my views on it but workplace environment does play a major role in how our days shape up.

Negative energy spreads quicker than positive energy ever can. Once this rudeness in the leader’s tone becomes an everyday affair, the team’s efficiency gets reduced to half or probably lesser. The team breaks up into groups of its own with each spreading and discussing the stinky work environment, only making it worse. Shifting blame, unwillingness to take responsibility or discuss new ideas, fading away of passion, indifference to work, etc are some of the many worst outcomes of this infectious attitude.

Individuals who work extra hours just because they love the work they do, clock their shifts and run out as quick as they can. When experienced bosses and leaders who are there to motivate us, end up doing the exact opposite, nobody wants to get up every morning wanting to go to work.

Maybe this is unfair on the leaders’ side. Maybe the leader thinks the team is undependable, and maybe the team has let them down more often than not. But does that call for yelling and being hysterical day in and day out, is something that ought to be reflected upon.

(All of this has been written from personal observation.)

​The demoralised and demonetised desi millennial

I am a millennial. One of the loathsome, entitled, rebels born in the ‘90s. And in the Indian context, I’m the most conniving, self-indulgent adult-kid (one who’s not allowed to make decisions but is expected to decide and not be taken seriously all the same) who knows not to respect people, let alone money. According to my parents’ generation, I know not money’s worth. 

Thanks to PM Modi’s decision to make Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes illegal tender for all transactions, today, I’m demonetised. The same as every other Aditya, Kavitha, and Aarthi (excuse the Indian cliché of Tom, Dick, and Harry). 

As we raid our boss’s piggy bank for coins to have the ceremonial evening chai, little do we notice the underlying nervousness in each others’ laughter. Laughter that acknowledges the absence of big money- anything between Rs 10 and Rs 100- and that which also acknowledges the possibility of an empty wallet tomorrow.

Chatting and giggling, just like yesterday, I stand in a long queue for some money. Yesterday proved to be unlucky. Today, I still hope and as do the two friends who stand along with me almost penniless. We got lucky.

Today, I have Rs 2,110 at hand. But I cross the road hoping to be able to take my usual bus, for the ticket costs me Rs 13. The new and crisp magenta 2,000 note is merely a security blanket; the 100 a luxury as much as the 10. I miss the bus and it’s time for the next hope. 

Now, I hope the share-auto wala has change for the last green note of 100 bucks I hold dearly and managed to keep for five days without spending. As I hesitantly part with it at my destination, he grins and hands me the change. Phew! 80 bucks should be good enough for the next few days.

For an adult-kid who doesn’t even have herself a postpaid cell connection, this is the most amount of cash I’ve ever held in my wallet till date. Two thousand rupees: it slowly sinks in as I hold on tight to my bag. 

What value does this money hold? I can’t buy a glass of tea with it for the poor roadside teashop will not have change to supply. Even if he is kind enough, what does it hold for him? How’d he use it? Maybe for a wholesale transaction?

Entitled, you say? 

Words left unsaid stay with us forever

​I’d just finished the work my boss had assigned me to. 

“I terribly miss you, sir… the newsroom isn’t the same without you in it now. Nobody yells at me anymore,” I said. He smiled and said, “Shall I ask your new boss to yell at you?”

“Oh, she does yell, sir. It’s just much different from what you used to do. And now, with her, it has been two editors who’s used the swear ‘fuck’ at me.” I break into a wide sheepish grin. He’s still just smiling.

I miss his dark bearded face and twinkling eyes, and a cabin that smells of stale cigarette breath. How can I tell him that? How can I tell him that without sounding like a crazy person?

I accompany a colleague on her cigarette breaks although I don’t smoke myself. I stand ten feet away from her lest the smoke go into my nose and choke me. But I go. Not because I want to watch her puffing out rings of smoke from the ice burst, but because her smoking spot is right behind his cabin. 

As I stand there, ten feet away from her, I sneak a peek into the cabin through the blinds. There’s one crooked blind that provides a vision into his world. A world of stale cigarette breaths, newsroom talks, book discussions, yelling, and loads of editing. 

“I don’t want to stay here anymore, sir. I want to leave this organisation. I started applying for jobs in January when I completed one year here. You came and you showed me what it meant to be a professional, to learn something, and work round the clock with not the slightest remorse,” I said.

“I got an offer from another company, sir. I wanted to go, it’s what I always wanted- to leave. But you were teaching me- all of us- and I was finally learning something after having wasted one whole year here. I wanted that. I declined their job offer,” I said.

“They called me again after a months time, you know? Mr M was shifted to the other edition from there by then…they called and offered me a job again. You were making me write, finally. After all those months of not doing anything, I was writing. I was surprised I remembered to write. You showed me how you edited copies. You had gotten inside my head. ‘is this how Ram sir would write a copy?’ I ask myself every single time I write.” I said.

He sat there smiling. As always. He smiles at me, his tall Lanky figure somehow uncomfortably seated at the desk with big notebooks acting as ladders for the desktop. I never understood what that mysterious smile meant. 

“Why did you leave, sir? She’s good, of course. How can she not be! You chose her. But why did you leave? It’s unfair, sir. I’m sure you have your reasons and I probably am too immature to know or understand the reasons. But you left, sir,” I said, softly sobbing. 

He sat there smiling. I missed how his silver gray hair looked when he was engrossed in work. He’d never know. I’d got out of the shower, softly sobbing. Warm tears run down my cold damp face. He’d never know the conversations I have in my head. He’d never know because these words will stay with me forever. 

The memories of a present long gone

​As I read about the ceasefire violations along the LoC, militant infiltration, army retaliation, thoughts ran wild. I had just finished reading Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. 

The average Kasmiri days are filled with events of civilians getting killed, pellet wounds. The ‘heaven on earth’ where normalcy is crippled and loses all meaning with curfewed days and nights, where tomorrow is uncertain, and the normalcy kids know of consists of soldiers, AK-47s, grenades, India- Kashmir- Pakistan, stories of loss, stories of sadness, and points of no return.

As I think about all this, I remember this photograph taken at the Madras War Cemetery. 

Where strife is a mere memory that you don’t even relate to, the graveyard of soldiers young and old becomes a place of selfies and chatter, where war knows no other meaning than being a monument of the past long gone. 

Most of the Kashmir deaths- not only the soldiers- might never get justified. Most will remain a mystery. Most without a burial or a cremation, let alone a memorial.