Wednesday, March 18, 2015

NDTV : Suzette Jordan was made a victim all her life, though she was a survivor...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

India Killed Suzette

I met Suzette Katrina Jordon around a year back at the Think Conference. (Ironically), in a panel on rape. She was scared and petrified, she had spoken on TV, but had never faced such a large and highprofile audience, she said. I went up to her to comfort her. I instantly told her I am gay so she can hug me. She laughed and said she is scared. I replied "kaiko darti hai baba, tu bhi rape victim main bhi rape victim, audience mein bhi rape victims hai.. " She was shocked and she laughed at my ice-breaker. The very day, Suzette Jordan bonded with my friends AnujaRanadeep and Yudhajit. We got along like a house on fire. She and I shared our stories of rape. Pain united us, as we laughed over the abuse in our lives, a cruel black humour, it was, when we were narrating the joke in our country - Rape and Child Sexual Abuse.

But we were not defeated by it, we were united by it. We refused to let our past affect us in any way. We didn't turn anti-men. We went on a hunt. She had the resilience no one could match. Later in the day, we made jokes on all the men at the conference like two gossiping college boys. We ogled, not leched, at them together, and had our bets on who was gay and who was bi and who was worth a try.

After we left the conference, we kept in touch over the phone. When the infamous Tehelka rape case happened. We both reached out to the affected person. Suzette called me and told me "this is what is going to happen next with her", "she is going to be shamed"... She had her horrors of rape visiting her with every story of rape. The nirbhaya rape case got her out of the closet - she famously said "I AM NOT THE PARK STREET RAPE VICTIM. I AM SUZETTE JORDAN". She was reminded again at Tehelka, and followed up with me, asking me to follow up with the ex-tehelka complainant, as she was too overwhelmed with emotions every time when she spoke to her.
Suzette loved her daughters. She wanted to get them introduced to me and have a house on fire. When she was here for shooting for theSatyamev Jayate episode, we had a chance to meet. But we couldn't as she was here for a very short while. Satyamev Jayate is hush-hush in its recordings.But i was pre-informed about her visits, because the world knew that we were like love-birds separated by a few seas. I missed a chance to meet her, and she cursed me for that.

In the meantime, we had more tragedies. While she put up a real brave front, I used to tell her that she could let herself loose and cry. I used to call her and joke and laugh. Laugh until she started crying about her psychological unrest. There were secrets that only I knew. I have no qualms in letting them out now. Suzette was really upset about the fact that she was treated like an accused in the rape case. Mamata Banerjee, called her the enemy of the state. She accused her of lying about her rape to tarnish the image of the Trinamool Congress government. She was called a hooker whose client had harsh sex with her. If all of this was not enough, she was treated with absolute contempt inside the court. She told me that the "FEMALE" judge behaved with her very rudely with absolute lack of empathy. Her court case appearances were unending. She was asked to narrate her incidence again and again as the defense looked for discrepancies in her then and now statements. She was determined to fight it out even if it meant that she would be shot dead or raped again. She was a fighter. But people took her strength for granted. People forgot that she was human and she had the right to cry. She didnt want to be brave all the time. She didnt want to be the inspiration all the time. She was a normal person. She wanted to be seen as a normal average joe though she had the worst humiliations to face. One incident that affected her so badly, was when her undergarments that she was wearing when she was raped were paraded openly. The defense lawyer held it with a stick... and asked her if it was her undergarments .. and was she wearing this on that day when she was "allegedly" raped. She told me that she broke down in court and pleaded to the judge asking her to intervene. The judge, one of her own gender, did not.

This one incident was one of the most devastating ones in Suzette's life. She described it as "I WAS GANG RAPED. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN IN COURT". She wanted to hold me and cry. I would coyly get her to laugh at her tragedy everytime we spoke. Once when she was too upset with the defense lawyer, i asked her "Was the Lawyer HOT". And she started giving me horrible hindi abuses in jest. We both addressed each other by the tragedy - "Hello Can I Speak To Rape Victim" is how we would begin our conversations and laugh before we cried.

She was not raped by some gang of perverted men. She was raped by the people of this country. She was raped by the law process of our country. She was raped by each one of you who doubted her story. Some time back, she was denied entry into a restaurant called @Ginger, in KOLKATA because *She was a rape victim*. There was an outrage on twitter and FB when she spoke up. But actually, the restaurant staff was only holding a mirror to the attitude of people in our country. For us rape is a cause, and rape victim is a story. Rape is something that happens to the person on TV, or someone you read on the news, Rape doesn't happen in our homes. We live in a world of denial. Suzette died today at 3 AM. Correction : India murdered Suzette with their mindset and attitude towards women and survivors of rape.

She died of meningitis. We all know that once depression bites you, you become a reservoir of diseases. In the end, she listened to me. I used to tell her "it is okay to go weak sometimes. It is okay to give up fighting and love yourself just as yourself. It is okay to just "Be"". She allowed herself to be. She stopped breathing. Her heart stopped beating. She passed away.
if she was really empowered. If people didnt judge her. If the lawyers didnt ill-treat her in court, if the female judge was sensitive to a person similar to her own anatomy, if the restaurant didnt throw her out, if people didnt judge her. She would have survived. or for that matter, died happily.
India Killed Suzette. You killed her.

Things have to change. I demand judicial reforms. No woman should be humiliated like Suzette was in court. NO ONE.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Dum Laga Ke Haisha : An Ode To Women

I am just back home after watching a Dum Lagaa Ke Haishaa. And boy! How disappointed I am! I mean how can such a film not have a budget for promotions. Does Yash Raj Films only promote films that have the Rani of their house in it? If there is a film that’s truly a feather in the cap of Yash Raj Films, it is THIS ONE. I mean, Dum Lagaa Ke Haishaa.

The film is an ode to women in our country.  The story in short - The film is set in the Varanasi of the 90s. Prem Prakash Tewari  is a tenth fail who is forced to marry a fat woman – Sandhya Verma. The woman is a graduate, his family lies about Ayushman’s qualification, to match her. They get unhappily married, and they are doomed to a life of being unhappily married forever. Sandhya but discovers that Prem has been forced to marry her when she catches him red handed in an angry rant to his friends about how his wife is as fat as a buffalo. She leaves him, but not before slapping him and getting slapped at that very moment.  What follows is a series of dramatic turns that I want you to watch and experience for yourself.

A film has a soul of its own. This film has a soul and a heart and a mind of its own.  The Hindi film industry is not known to be respectful towards women. She is either a devi or the devil, never the average Joanna you meet everyday. This film does just the opposite. It  gives you a peek into the life of an average looking plump woman who is at complete ease with how she looks. She agrees to an arranged marriage, but holds the reigns of it in her able hands. Even the groom gets married to her with no dowry, in awe with her qualifications as she could financially uplift the  family  in crisis. While widespread misogyny is captured in the terms of expectations from a woman, the film also captures the fact that a woman could be empowered with education to take a stand. A woman can be in complete ease of her body and doesn’t have to turn to size zero for her hubby dearest.  Sandhya, the character, also reserves her right to sexual desires, and is in control of what she expects from life. She battles misogynistic mindsets from the women in her maternal home and sasural ably. She doesn’t mind telling her father-in-law that he did no right by getting his son forcefully married to her.  She doesn’t mind reclaiming her room from her younger brother, when she returns home, determined to divorce her husband. She is in control throughout. She does feel bad, she does express that she feels insulted, but she doesn’t resign to a life of self-pity ever, she rather does the opposite. She reclaims her life and takes her freedom.

The film is set in 90s, but is relevant even for this era. Given this, why the director chose the 90s as a theme to set the film in is not apparent in the film, but nevertheless, it is one of the most enjoyable things. Production wise,  A lot of effort has been put in to set every frame in the 90s. The film also has the male protagonist named Prem which was the most popular name then, thanks to Salman Khan and Sooraj Bharjatya. I wonder why there has been no opposition from Right Wing Groups, considering that this film shows  Half Chaddi Boys of RSS in a not so very flattering way.
After Queen that released last year, this film marks the beginning of roles that are Women Empowering and that too without giving us any gyan on Nari Shakti and stuff.

Watch this film and you will agree with me that Bhumi Pednekar deserves every award. Ayushman is kiss-worthy.  Sheeba, as the nasty Bua is another star worthy of every award.   This film may not have ‘london thumakda” moments, like in Queen. But makes a strong case for valuing self worth just as Queen does.  Though no one can match a kangana doing a  Rani in Queen, Bhumi takes the character of Sandhya to heights of brilliance. This is the kind of performance that could easily make a classroom study for young  actors who wish to learn about the nuances of acting.  She is too good.

Lastly, this is one movie where you will wait till the credits finally roll.  Why? Watch the film and find out. Believe me, it is worth your money.  This is the kind of film that should be released on 08 March. This is a piece of art, a mark of brilliance.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Non-Crazy Part Of The Crazy Cukkad Family

Just out of the screening of Crazy Cukkad Family. Cinema is an instrument of change. This small film in the midst of mega budget multicrore films manages to leave an indelible mark in the mind of the viewer.

It is remarkable to note that a film that is comically themed on human greed, very substantially makes a point about human nature and human need of love. This is the first film I have seen besides my own - Amen, that shows a homosexual couple in a happily-ever-after moment. The film makes a  makes a poignant point without no taste of preachiness about acceptance of a Gay Couple and that of a cross dressing straight man. The cherry on the cake is a scene where a gay marriage is shown alongside a heterosexual marriage with no shoo-sha or humour.

In a sharp contrast it doesn't show gay people as cheaters or losers or diseased or specially gifted. The characters are shown at par with the heterosexual counterparts, as greedy and selfish and as human as everyone else in the ensemble cast. It normalises and equalises same sex relationships.

This film portrays that in a greedy dysfunctional crazy and abnormal family too, the most normal thing is being gay. It is not an 'issue' or a 'cause', the character is just gay. As simple as it reads here.  In a nation where Bollywood is a religion, crazy cukkad family would definitely be placed on the pedestal for the healthy depiction of queer content.

If you are LGBT especially, do yourself a favour - watch this film.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

@DNA, humanity beyond journalism

Yesterday night I had one of the most scary experiences of my life. I am a regular with the mumbai local and contrary to the regular criticism about the mumbai locals, I am in fact a great lover of my daily travels to work in my beloved Mumbai local.  Besides being economical, quicker and pollution free, it is also a great reservoir of stories of empathy, community spirit and in general, human nature.

But every service has its pit falls and slip ups.  I embarked on my regular late night train travel from Reay Road station. It was just another late day at work. I took the train at 1140 to panvel. I boarded the first class compartment which had a dozen odd  people. The train went smooth sailing in  complete steam till chunabhati station... A little beyond chunabhati it suddenly stopped. It didn't bother me much as delay is the middle name of Harbour Line of the central railways but as it took longer, it was getting frustrating. There were young commuters, presumably in their mid twenties who jumped down the train and walked from the deserted place where the train had stopped towards kurla station.  There was an aged  man who was in the train who was unable to jump and walk the tracks. I decided to stay with him in the train. In half an hour, the compartment just had the aged man and me, or so, I thought. I was wrong, just behind my seat was a young man who in all possibility was a drug addict who was in no control of his senses. He was continuously blabbering that he will kill, he will bomb and slaughter those who ill treated him.  The immediate emotion  was not of scare but of empathy, but as silences enveloped the compartment and his voice got stronger along with the the whistling of the untimely wind, the other emotion took over. It was 01:10 am  the dead of the night. I was glad that i was in a city that never sleeps, but the ones who were awake were better sleeping. I wanted to get down the train the train, but as I peeped out of the train, there were a group of drunken rowdies who were howling louder than rabid wolves. The thought of risking them did pass my mind, but then i looked back at the aged gentleman, he wouldn't be able to jump to the tracks and walk right till the station. We were clearly trapped between the devil and the deep sea. I chose to risk my judgements on the mentally unstable person rather.

A firm believer of "share it to diminish it, if not demolish it", I took to facebook to share my fears and that made all the difference. Within seconds there was an outpouring of empathy especially from my friends in the field of journalism.  What touched me most, was that I received an immediate message from Yogesh Pawar, assistant editor of DNA offering to speak to a cop he knows  at tilak nagar station. He further asked me to take a cab and come down to his place and that his wife and he would be happy to have me over and also treat me with some sambhar rice. It was 1ish in the night. It is easy to dismiss something as lip service, but he was serious. He also spoke to me over the phone and ask me not to be heroic but understand that anyone in such a situation could be vulnerable. As I took a few minutes more to decide the train miraculously started surging ahead. I dont believe much in god, unless I need to ask something from no one but the universe   and need to put a figurative name for an unknown force  there, but I am a firm believer in the genesis of good vibes and thoughts that manifest in positive reactions. Thanks to people like yogesh, in a world increasingly ridden with slaughter and hatred, the total sum of positivity will always remain a constant.

Thank you Yogesh. And congrats DNA and the Zee Media Group for having him as a part of your family.

Yogesh, you have covered many human interest stories in your life that have pushed the envelope of equality, empathy and justice, I thought the best way to say thank you for what you did yesterday would be to reply to your kindness in the same written word.

(I know this post maybe ridden with grammatical errors, but I'd rather keep it in its virgin heartfelt firstthoughts form)

Monday, November 03, 2014

Sometimes I wish upon a star

One of those nights where after nursing the wounds of the world, I find time to feel my own.

Sometimes, one does go through gloomy phases in life when you feel lonely in a world that you are way too known. Well, its a popular perception that people who are known are surrounded by people all the while and are lucky in matters of lust and love. Well, it is a myth. Most often the inverse is true.

I'm in no haste in falling in love or anything, (one mistake in haste is a good lesson) but I do feel the pang of lying alone under the moonlit sky. I do feel that one day, I find someone to share this space with.


Friday, October 31, 2014

The "Woh" is a Man

The Bangalore Case where the husband cheated on the wife with another man raises a few eye brows and many questions

Read about the case here :

1) I empathize with the wife, I really do, but is slapping 377 on the husband justified?

2) Would we have slapped 377 on this guy if the guy cheated on his wife with another woman and the wife caught them in 'unnatural acts' per the legal parlance?

3) Would the trauma the wife suffered be any less or any different if the 'woh' was a  woman.

4) The media revealed the name of the employer and other details  which makes it easy to identify the husband. Would the case be any less serious if the husband worked at the barber shop and not an IT firm? Would they have dared to do the same if it was the wife who was the culprit?

5) We take a moral high ground when it comes to cheating on your partner, cross your hearts and tell me, haven't you ever cheated?

6) It takes me ages to argue with the police and get a simple FIR for stalking a woman registered. Who are these lovely policemen who register a 377 on a infidelity case?

7)I  stand for equal rights. If the wife feels cheated - grant her divorce. If the husband caused mental trauma - demand alimony. But slapping 377, isnt it stretching this too far with malicious intent?

8) Also the journalism stoops to a new low here. Why reveal the identity of the man?

I received a string of Whatsapp messages from a friend who championed women rights and thought the man deserved no sympathy because he 'cheated'. He stopped sending me messages when I asked him "weren't you in a relationship with someone when you were giving me a blowjob some years back? "

We are a homophobic and hypocritical society. Hence proved.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A bit of me on the stage, and a bit of you.

How does one feel when a part of your body stands in front of you live and alive  in flesh and blood?

Martin's play - the tricky part, trickles down your spine leaving chill and thrill down your spine at the same time. It is a play that has four characters on stage - a stool, a book, a photograph and Martin.

So human his play is that you dissolve in it completely.

While Martin inspires the world and people call it 'courage' , to me it is his way of therapy and finding himself by connecting the dots of the past and the present is what is most inspiring.

Post the play, martin and I took questions from the audience. Modesty has never been my nature, so while you make your judgments allow me my moments of pride.  It was happy to note from the counsellors present in the audience,  that some survivors read my posts and look up to me. While I scare some people by holding a mirror to their past that they would rather not address, I also am seen as the level , the benchmark of where people  want to reach in dealing with their abuse. I can tell you guys and girls and trans persons that we all set our own benchmarks. There are levels that you may reach that I aspire to be. Every case of abuse and every method of dealing with it is as diverse as chalk and cheese though it looks very similar in some angles. Martin's life or mine is a story, just a story that resonates with your life. Parts of it is true to yours, but a part of it is also unique. The paths you discover to deal with it, and rise from it will also be unique and independent to your life. Be the god of your story. Write your own happy sad story with a happiness in continuum.

I have been planning something with a friend I am very fond of-  Sapna Moti Bhavnani since quite sometime now. Rather to put it correctly we have been planning something together. But I should confess, i haven't found the courage to write down my piece completely. There are phases when I lose my train of thought.  Now I will. Martin inspires me to connect the dots of my past and present.

Do yourself a favor - watch The Tricky Part. It is empowering, but more importantly, its theapeautic.

Forced to lure - a case study

"I know what has happened. I know what you have done. I know you repent. I want you to know, no matter what has happened, whatever you have done or not done - I will not judge you. I will stand by you through this. I will love you. I dont want you to believe in me. I want you to believe in yourself. I want you to see yourself from my eyes, for you will see then that you are without sin"


Context : as a young girl she was forced to lure boys and girls her age then and get them to "play"with her abuser. It has taken her 8 years of talking-it-out to stop feeling guilty. In her late 30s now, she has put her past in her past. She is writing her memoir about her interactions with me. Which she intends to publish someday when she decides to go completely public about her life. :)

Happy I be.

*some primary identifiers have been changed to protect the identity of the survivor*

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Not the Tiger's fault

If a human lands in a tiger enclosure and becomes a meal, it is not the mistake of the tiger. It's his natural prey.

Condolences to the family of the deceased, but it is not the animals fault.

I want an india sans Zoos and circuses. At least, in India we dont deserve zoos.  If you want to look at animals go into the wild. Every school should get in touch with environmentalists for nature trails where they could meet animals at their home and also get educated about wild animals and plants. What does one gain by watching animals  in an ill kept badly managed filthy environment which is way far from being a simulator of nature's wilderness

Also, we make no effort in educating our kids against hooting and pelting stones on poor helpless animals imprisoned by human(un)kind for no fault of theirs. I call for a boycott of zoos. If we want to learn about animals, travel to their homes.... And more importantly, be a guest at their home, not a pest.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sushant's effeminacy upsets you?

Well, it is pretty petty of people in the LGBT community to pull down Sushant because he is effeminate. In your definition, He may be campy, over the top, drama queen... But he is himself. It takes immense amount of courage to be yourself in a world that wants you to be a clone of what they deem fit is 'agreeable' or 'representative' of their thought.  Sushant Divgikar is a real diva, and he is only competing with himself every time he goes on stage, every time winning over his own performance, exceeding his benchmarks of excellence every single time. Not surprising that it seems to have irked many insane minds whose business is to only poke fun or pass judgments. It is sad though that these livid tongues dont ever come on the stage and represent what they deem fit. They hide behind  silhoutes and tinted glasses holding a concave mirror to society, in which they hate to see themselves. I pity such naysayers, I really pity them because their shortsightedness and discriminatory attitude of putting down a gay man as feminine is in a way a  bad reflection of their own misogynistic mindset that thinks its okay to be gay as long as you are a man-gay. I pity them because they fail to understand that the gay world is as diverse as characters in sholay, each distinct, none totally representative of reality. I pity them because they could only see sushant's twisted arm, his lady gagaish dress, his queeny shorts... But they didn't see his talent they didn't see the strength and energy he brought to the screen. I really wish to see them grow, some meat between their ears, as much of it, is just between their legs.

And to end, I'd like to tell the whole damn world - there is no one representative of the gay community. Not me, not Ashok,  Not pallav, and not Ricky martin, Elton john or even Ellen de generes. We all are different as chalk and cheese.

I have always heard this phrase 'dont act gay, act normal'. What is normal? Aren't we defining a new stereotype called 'normal'.

- Normal is the biggest stereotype.

Sushant refuses to be that stereotype. Deal with it.