Bbye 2013, Hello 2014

1 Jan

I am a little late to be doing this post, but who cares, 1st is as good as 31st 😛

2013:

I don’t know why or exactly since when, but I had been waiting to get done with 2013 for a while. It ended yesterday, and on a wonderful note. It would be untruthful if I said, I am unhappy about 2013 getting over. But the last leg of 2013 has been simply wonderful, and I am extremely happy about it, almost that much that I am ready to forgive 2013 for all the harshness, and say good things about it.

The Bad:

  • I saw 2 marriages break – within the family, within very short intervals of the people in question being married. I also heard similar news from friends, and I cannot help but wonder what went wrong. Incompatibility? Forced decisions? Parental/societal pressure? Immaturity? Commitment issues? It has made me question my belief in the institution of happy marriages, even if I chose my own. And I have made statements like “tell me now if you are not happy with me” and “feel free to walk out of the relationship” in the very emotional fights that we have had. With a calmer mind I have felt like the statements were out of context. But yes, somewhere I have sensed fear that commitments and relationships can be broken as easily as you would break the lead of a pencil.
  • We have made too many physically and emotionally draining trips – all of them absolutely necessary and also absolutely futile if you look back at them. Sigh!
  • We didn’t get to make our yearly, big vacation or any other proper vacations. Every holiday got used trying to fix things, or was weighed down with other kinds of emotional baggage.
  • I have lost a lot of hair, sleep and mental peace in all the stress.
  • I got very limited time to do things that I love doing – dancing, writing and socializing with friends.
  • I got a stiff shoulder for a while. Though it’s a thing of the past now, I was s**t scared at that time for there was no reason for it to happen. It came out of the blue and there was no saying how or when it would be alright. I thought I would never be able to dance freely again, or swim, or drive. The fear saw to it that I did my physiotherapy with utmost dedication – a full 100 sets of 5 exercises, every single day for a month. Am I glad I am young!

 

The good:

  • My mom got a transfer back to Hyderabad after 3 years of staying away from the family, and she came back home yesterday. There is nothing that I have ever prayed more desperately for. And I just cannot thank God and everybody else who is responsible for it. I cannot think of a better way to usher in the New Year.
  • I caught a cold only 2 times in 2013, which I think is a record in itself. I am hoping for this – not catching a cold with the slightest weather change – to continue for forever now.
  • I finally quit my job of almost 4 years and took the decision to channelize all my efforts towards pursuing my passion towards creative writing. Big impulsive decision. But, I have done it. Now all that’s needed is an admission somewhere!
  • My significant other, quit his job at possibly one of the best companies one could be working in IT, to start his own company. I am so proud.
  • Some good came out of all the stress that we went through – our understanding is deeper. We have passed the test of standing strong and consulting each other for a different point of view. I think we aced it.
  • We had a family reunion with my maternal aunt’s just around the end of the year. The smile that was on my mom’s face for those days is something that had gone missing for a while now, as the distance from the family and the frustration was taking its toll. They put it right back in place. Family works like magic, I tell you.
  • My sister did something that I don’t think I have it in me to do. Again, very proud. Also very happy, because I think she is going to find her calling somewhere along the way.
  • My father’s health has steadily improved from his almost critical condition in 2012. I am glad for the discipline that the family has enforced for it to have happened.

 

Okay. That’s it. I am done with my retrospection of 2013.

Now for 2014, I am looking forward to all of this, this year:

 

  • Admission to at least one of the universities I am applying to. I can’t wait to get started with my Masters. I hope to finally do what I want to.
  • A fitter and healthier us. No arguments.
  • Holidays. Real vacations.
  • There is a tiny project that I want to get started on. It’s a secret right now. But let’s hope that I get started with it soon enough so that I can tell you all about it.
  • I want to learn how to manage my finances independently. I get irritated with myself for needing help and advice all the time, and being eternally confused about what is required.
  • Write more. And dance more. There is nothing like too much.
  • Make my own earning again. Even if it is pocket money as compared to the salary I was drawing (not that I thought much of my salary). Leaving the job felt like I had lost my identity. I went to being a nobody from being a somebody. I would like to find a new identity now.
  • More of ‘me’ time. And then some ‘we’ time. And lots of time for & with friends after that.
  • No more candy crush. What the point anyway?
  • If I am cheery I am just fine the way I am – its ‘sexy and I know it’ and if I am irritated and I need to dress up, I feel fat or ugly – plain lousy. It’s a very mental thing. And I would like to change this about myself this year. I want to be like the other girls who are always well dressed wherever they are, and feel confident about themselves all the time. Ok, I just said that out loud. So, the idea is to pay a tad bit more attention to self, be appreciative about it and try and pick something apart from the comfort faded jeans and tee. I have that much figured out – that the girls are not always dressed in their best, it is about the attitude, to feel right in your own skin that works wonders. It’s a small thing. I can achieve it. *fingers crossed*

 

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Sex-Ed

20 Nov

My dear readers, you should be aware by now. Matters of all kinds find a way on my blog.

This post is a call for help. I know its long, but please read it completely and ponder over it, because your 2 cents on it may be very crucial.

This incident is about someone who I know very closely – ‘N’.

‘N’ is a volunteer teacher and mentor at an institution that has taken up the responsibility of teaching underprivileged children. She takes various classes for children aging from 5-15. A maximum of children that she teaches fall in the adolescent age group and are growing up. Also, since these kids do not have parental guidance and are responsibilities of shelter homes; they do not have people who are able to take care of them in the same way a parent could have.

Teachers are indulgent towards their kids in terms of affection. They let them hold hands, or sit close by in groups when stories are being read out. They also listen to the various incidents and stories that the kids narrate. These children are treated and called as their own, and the teachers have taken it upon themselves to provide them with brotherly/sisterly/parental love and guidance; to the best of their means.

There is a boy aged 11 – ‘S’, in N’s class. This little boy is very withdrawn. He does not mingle with the other kids. He tunes out during class when he wants to. He has lost his mother and his father is a beggar. Maybe, that is what inhibits him from making friends. I am sorry, I cannot elaborate more on the problems that he is facing, growing up. I am not good at child psychology. ‘N’ understands that better.

The teachers have been trying to draw this kid out of his shell bit by bit, by taking them in his confidence and giving him some extra attention. Unfortunately their attention and affection has not been reciprocated the way it should have been.

‘S’ has been charged twice by two different mentors for having sexual innuendos. On one incident he was blamed for rubbing his organ against one of the teachers. And on the second occasion, he drew N’s hand to his privates and wanted to be felt.

Both, N and the other teacher are disgusted with what happened. It was a violation of sorts. They did not know how to react to it, and just withdrew themselves from the boy’s vicinity without creating a scene. The matter was discussed with other teachers and mentors, and one of them (a male) decided to have a man-to-man conversation with ‘S’ to understand what is going on.

‘S’ confessed guilty of the complaints, which means that it wasn’t exactly a child’s innocent mistake altogether, but it was probably not something that ‘S’ understood as wrong either. He is hitting puberty and is probably just curious about things. These poor kids have no-one to give them any education about growing up, puberty, the right touch and the wrong touch, sex education etc.

The institute that ‘N’ is volunteering for has decided to give ‘S’ another chance by simply having told him that what he has done is wrong and should not repeat. I understand that they must consider the safety of their volunteer teachers as well, but ‘N’ and I agree that it would be really harsh on a child to snatch away his only chance of having an education, because the teachers do not know better ways to handle the situation and impart some very important education.

The problem is that most of us (inclusive of the volunteer teachers and mentors) weren’t taught anything of that sorts explicitly either.

There was no formal sex education in schools. There was no education at home. Parents do not discuss these things with their children, not even when they have grown up to be adults, and neither when they are on the verge of getting married. Sex is a first time experiment for many Indians on their wedding bed.

Most of the knowledge that people gain about sex is either through encyclopaedias borrowed from the library, or by paying attention to a specific chapter that has found its way in the standard 7th or 8th biology textbook or from the internet (all thanks to Google for that).

Ironically, we are citizens of country that is called the land of ‘Kamasutra’. A country where talking or discussing sex is distasteful. In fact, sex is considered a dirty word and a dirty act that serves to fulfil only the basest animal instincts. The word is such a taboo that people would rather use the word gender instead of sex (in the other meaning, of course).

Coming back to the problem statement, how do young adults who have only half-baked ideas and incomplete knowledge, and who themselves are victims of sex=dirty syndrome, impart sex education to a younger generation?

Imagine what COULD happen if ‘S’ gets thrown out of the program based on this?

Growing older without any more education of any sorts since nobody is volunteering to take his case up, once he gets written as troublemaker. Growing up and thinking that he scared away someone by what he did, feeling that what he did empowered him. Growing up to be an adult with a twisted mentality – not being able to differentiate right from wrong, feeling that violating a woman gives him power.

On the extreme, do you think we would be responsible for shaping a young (probably) innocent mind into a probable rapist?

The thought is horrifying, if true.

Can something be done about it?

Is there a way to handle this?

Is there anyone who can or knows someone who can facilitate learning of important things like sex for the children in Hyderabad, and is willing to help?

Are there books in form of stories for children which would help them the grasp idea and also make it easier for the volunteer teachers to provide indirect education?

P.S: Obviously this is a problem on a larger scale, and has not got much to do with this child being underprivileged. Sex education must be made mandatory in schools. There are very few schools that currently impart it. I have no clue how and what to do about this on a country level. I would be very glad if ‘N’ and others could just start somewhere with solving the problem they have on hand. Maybe that will pave way somewhere, somehow.

Stranger that wasn’t

25 Oct

“Oh shit! Its past 8 pm. Damn the government. Where are the streetlights? God knows what do they do with all the money we pay as tax. I should be hurrying home. I am so used to walking down this road every day from school to home. But things look so different and eerily weird in the twilight hours. Even the movement of the trees in the breeze feels creepy. Why did I choose to wear heels today? They make so much noise clicking away against the road. What if someone follows me? I can’t even run in these godforsaken heels. I should have taken up karate instead of dance at school. It would have taught me some moves of self-defence instead of moulding me into this shapely woman. Haaaiya!! Hee!! Haw! To top it all, I ate an extra slice of that large pizza at the birthday party. So much for not wanting to waste food. Now I have to waddle instead of walking. And mum is going to be angry because I am late.”

This is how my thoughts strayed that evening, till I saw him.

A man. Fairly young. Shirtless. Dirty baggy pants. I would have ignored him as a beggar had he been lying slumped somewhere along the periphery of the road. Or probably a day labourer judging from his clothes. I would have given him a cursory glance and not bothered about his presence had he simply been walking in my general direction, instead of walking directly towards me. Staggering and swaying as he came closer. It crossed my mind that he was probably drunk and I should let him pass by. I halted and moved to the left. So did he. I moved to the right. And he followed pattern. He stopped short just a couple of feet away from me. A greedy glean in his eyes and a wicked degrading smile on his face. He was mouthing words that I could hardly make sense of. I froze on spot.

I felt like a cornered animal.

It was a chilly January evening and yet I had beads of perspiration beginning to show on my forehead and my kurta was wet at the armpits.

The man had managed to pull his trousers half way down, when someone from somewhere behind me sensed my predicament and let out a roaring shout “Hey you, what are you up to? Leave the girl alone.”

A watchman and another chap appeared as though magically, upon hearing the shout.

The guy pulled up his pants, dropped his drunken stance, registered the scene and fled.

I looked back, saw the Sardarji uncle who had kept out an eye for me, shouted back a hasty thank you and ran all the way home – heels and all.

 

Did the story sound familiar? Would you say it was along the same lines of another such incident that has been recounted to you? This story is mine. True one at that. One of the dozens.

 

That one shout from a stranger helped me. Let your’s help someone else.

Just saying things are bad isn’t going to solve anything. Don’t sit and wonder why someone isn’t doing something. Be that someone. Raise your voice. Be the whistle blower. Keep a lookout for your fellow beings; even the ones you don’t know. Be a SOCIAL COP.

Written for Social Cops : SAFE and published on Youth Ki Awaaz

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