Saturday, 9 September 2017

A star, in reel life as well as real life

 Newspapers screamed, ‘A leading South Indian actress kidnapped and assaulted in a moving vehicle by a group of men’. Reports did not name her but her name and photographs were displayed prominently on online sites as well as many news channels. The next minute, the world knew who the eminent actress was. Some sympathized, some blamed her while some as usual commented, ‘These actresses are all like that’. She hadn’t done anything wrong. All she had done was ‘dared to travel alone’ without bouncers, secretaries or assistants. It was her own city and she was just returning from work.
She could have avoided going to the police and hushed the matter, which I am sure many would have advised her to. But she did not sit crying. She filed a police complaint and described each and every detail of the incident to the police. She also underwent a medical examination.

This was not the first case of a woman being attacked by a gang. And this won’t be the last. There are also many women who dared to face the consequences of complaining against their attackers. Some were killed brutally for not giving up, like Nirbhaya while others still have to go out of their home with their faces covered. All these while, the attackers either are let off or get bail after a few months. They go home, get married, have family and live happily forever.  Then, there are so many cases where the culprits were never arrested because the victims did not come forward to lodge a complaint or were they pressurised and blackmailed not to? Oh, now, there is a new term – survivors. But I wonder if we can call them that because they are never allowed to survive the incidents because they are shamed again and again. In a land where virginity is considered to be the basis of goodness and virtues for women, the judgemental view will continue to fall upon these victims.

The irony is that when it comes to shaming women, nobody is spared, be it a powerful politician, an Olympic medal winner, a popular actress, an eminent journalist, a teacher or a young girl from a village.  Yet, women rise like phoenix from attacks, abuses, humiliation, to fight. That is what makes every woman a warrior. She may not have soldiers to back her or a kingdom to fight for and neither is a prince waiting for her, yet, she chooses to fight her battle, knowing very well that there may not be a victory in sight. Still, she carries on because she knows that the torch she has been bearing will soon find new takers and that for them, she has to soldier on.

That is what this actress did. She vowed not to give up the fight and the case still continues. All the attackers were arrested including the main culprit, Pulsar Suni. As per his statement, Dileep, a leading Malayalam actor was arrested for conspiracy. Even now, after around 7 months since the incident, news channels continue their ‘discussion’ on the case. People come, some in her support but many on television questioned her integrity and character. Being a braveheart, she decided not to sit and cry. In fact, she joined a film shoot just a few days after the incident. Her decision to join her work even when her wounds were fresh was also met with ridicule.
Then she did the unthinkable. She appeared on the cover of a leading Malayalam women’s magazine and gave an interview detailing the incident and her decision to fight till she gets justice. What amazed me was that, as she was being attacked and was surrounded by goons, she did not lose her courage. She noted down the routes, the names of men, the registration number of the vehicles and she listened intently to the conversation these men were having. When she gave the vehicle number to the police, a constable remarked, ‘this may be the number’ but she corrected him, ‘No, that is the vehicle’. How many men will have that courage in times of adversity?
She knows she will be reminded of the incident for years to come and that she will be judged by many but as she said in the interview, “If I would have chosen to remain quiet, only five or ten people would have known about it but then I would not have been able to live with dignity. If I could file a police complaint, then anyone can.  It is the culprits who have to feel ashamed, not the victims. I am going to fight till the end.”

She has proved that to be a warrior, you do not need swords or shields but a heart of steel and a resolve that won’t break in the face of obstacles and humiliation.
To her and many more like her, some known, many unknown, I dedicate this post.

Note: This blog was selected as one of the winning entries by Women's Web.  

When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis. Check out this new historical novel Empire ( with a warrior woman, Aremis at the heart of the novel.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A companion called hope

In a way, hope can make warriors out of average Toms. As the motivational quote says, “When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.'” It urges you to fight it out and attempt again. Hope keeps the ember burning and you believe in that little spark, the fire can be reignited.  It is possible to rise like a phoenix from life’s turmoil through hope, as Shane. J. Lopez elucidates in his book, ‘Making Hope Happen’ (2014). The book is a study on hope and Lopez writes that people with hope become more successful and happier than those who lose hope. He reiterates what Cheavens found that hope can be cultivated so that it becomes a habit.
In a way, if you look at it, it is difficult to imagine a world without hope. Many emotions might not be there if there would be no hope. Its absence will make you feel pointless about life, you will feel dejected and it will be like you are in front of a tunnel that is closed at the other end. With the absence of hope, many good things will vanish such as positivity, optimism, cheer, joy, perseverance and more. The world wouldn’t be able to survive if there was no hope. There will be nothingness.
Image source:

In a way, hope comes with only benefits and it helps all who can hold on to it for some time. It encourages action and resists passiveness. It makes you look at solutions and makes you reach out to them. The very idea of life, the keys to survival, the desire to build it all again, are all based on the hope that devastation isn’t what it was meant to be but  rising up.
In a way, hope needs to be practised and made a part of everyday life. Hope begets hope and the more you hope, the more you aspire and the more you achieve. When you are amidst a day when everything is going wrong and against you, you need to hold on to the faith of hope. Smile or even laugh! Hope for the best and lo! You will find doors opening up just for you. Hope has much more potential and capabilities than we must have thought. It is to find this untapped potential of hope that Hope Studies Central of University of Alberta, Canada has been engaged in a unique hope research for the last 11 years.  The Hope House is conducting research on the practical application of hope to find a solution to the diseases of mind and body.

At a time, when luxuries and modern medicine are unable to find a cure to the growing solitude of human mind even when in crowded cities, may be, we need to find a solution inwards and search for answers within us. That’s where something is glittering and that surely is, hope. 
I am one of 'FEATURED AUTHORS OF MARCH 2017' on

Monday, 12 December 2016

How my family’s Mr. Right turned out to be right for me

For someone who grew up reading romantic novels and watching Hindi movies, my dream man was that knight who would come riding his white horse and take me to a dream land. There was even one Hindi film song which said what I felt, “Oh mere sapnon ke saudagar,” from the film Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin. My Mr. Right was this tall, dark and handsome fellow who was clean shaven. After all, that’s how Hindi film heroes and men from romantic novels looked like. As I failed to find anyone closely resembling my dream man, my family took the task upon themselves.  For them, anyone who had a job and who had a matching horoscope to mine was good enough. My uncle and aunt held the fort in Kerala and my maternal uncle took position in Mumbai. The stage was set and the permanent cast members with me as the central character took their seats waiting for the new character to enter.
A marriage broker was summoned who did not show any interest in either talking to me or looking at me. He at once rejected the photographs that were given to him. A Tamilian, he said to my mother, “Amma, the photographs that show off her short hair aren’t right. Please click new photographs with her hair tied and of course, also put a jasmine gajra around the hair.” I found it funny. I asked my mother what is the use of hiding my hair as anyway, whoever my future in-laws might be, they will eventually find about it.  My mother wasn’t ready to listen to any of what I said and off, we marched into a studio and got new snaps. It was in 2004 and camera phones were not still a part of our daily life.  I still have those photographs and every time I see it, I burst into laughter. I had never thought jasmine flowers and long hair could get you your soul mate. After some days, the first call came from a boy’s father asking for a copy of my horoscope. They wanted to find if my horoscope will match with his son’s so that they could ensure that we will live happily ever after. I could not help and wonder loudly, if horoscope matching was the basis of happy marriages, then there would have been lesser divorces. My wisdom neither mattered to my mother nor my uncle. After couple of days, we got a reply from them saying, they could not go ahead with the proposal as my horoscope had a ‘kuthu dosha’. ‘Kuthu’ in Malayalam means to prick. It was a LOL moment for me. My mother was shocked and disappointed. Never to miss a chance to mock me, my brother exclaimed, “I knew it. No wonder you are so short-tempered and ready to pounce. The Kuthu dosha is to blame.” That was the only time ever I wanted to prick someone really bad.  The search continued. When for me, ‘Abhishek Bachchan was the Mr. Right, solely because he was tall, dark and handsome but for my mother, the perfect person was someone, ‘who was fair, had a moustache and was fat’. Yes, she has never understood the word ‘healthy and fit’ as for her only those with enough stored fat in them looked good. May be, that day, Gods were in a mood to say thathasthu, for he came just as my mother had wished for. Tall and fair with a moustache, chubby cheeks and a round tummy. Just the opposite of what I had envisioned! Another plus point about him was that he hailed from the same village as ours in Kerala and his sister was married into a distant relative’s family.   
He came, he ‘saw’ me, I glanced at him, we spoke for merely 3 minutes and in those few seconds, I told him something indirectly, ‘Please do not expect any dowry’, hoping that being a hardcore malayalee, he would run away at the prospect of a ‘dowry-less’ girl. After the guests left, as I sat munching on the snacks left on the table, I coolly told my people, I am not interested as I do not think our thinking would match as there was nothing common between us. And that I had also told him not to bother about dowry. My family was shell shocked. How could, how dare she, how audacious, how foolish… and some more terms that I seem to have forgotten now.
There was a huge uproar as they just could not get why I would reject someone who was just the perfect guy. Horoscopes had matched, the boy’s family was known to my uncle and aunt in Kerala, and he had a job. This was all they knew and these were all that mattered. When I tried to put my arguments forward, my uncle bushed them off chiding ‘it is your degrees talking.’ My mother had only tears. After a point, when I could not take it any longer, I just agreed. Que sera Sera. I stepped into a new life with doubts, questions and just plain indifference.  
This December 5th, we celebrated our 11 years of bliss. He may not have resembled the image I had in my mind but he was everything that I had hoped for in my Mr. Right. He is supportive, loving, understanding, caring, and yes, has a sense of humour too. He is everything that I am not – patient, calm, mature and practical. Our likings are different. He hates to shop and I zealously believe in retail therapy. He loves science fiction and action movies and I adore’ Sleepless in Seattle’ and Friends. He remains awake even after midnight to watch ‘Mission Impossible’ but if ‘Friends’ is on, I can hear him snoring after a while. Yet, he is my Mr. Right and I would not trade him for any brave knights in the world.  What I have learnt from my journey is that there is nothing like the right person but he or she eventually becomes right for you when you can embrace the differences and decide to walk together. You may not have same dreams or goals but you both want a future together to help each other reach their respective goals in life. You may have different priorities but you happily join forces with the right spirit to balance out, what we call life. We have that and we are determined to chalk out the path together, albeit the turns and curves sometimes are difficult to manoeuvre, yet we know we will find our way.

“This blogathon is supported by Woo, The most popular match making app in India with a base of over 3.5 million users.”

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The joys of childhood and the love for books

“Oh, to be a child again and to go through the lanes passed by”
Most of the happy memories of my childhood involve books. As I grew up in the 80s, there were some blessings – there was no cable television and internet.  So, whatever time we had after school were either spent on playing outdoors or reading. Since I had studied in Kerala for some time, I knew to read Malayalam. Knowing two languages meant books in both languages. My father used to take us all to a market every month to buy clothes, vegetables, etc. Every such visit inevitably had one stop - A small book stall outside a restaurant. This stall had Malayalam magazines and story books. I always picked up two, one was ‘Balarama’, a children’s monthly that had stories, General knowledge topics, contests and so on. The other book that I bought was ‘Chandamama’, a fortnightly book that had many children’s stories and it had beautiful pictures.  Oh, yes, I also picked up Amar Chitra Katha Series and Tinkle too. Uncle Pai had a larger than life image in almost all children’s lives those days. Then, one day, I had the good fortune of seeing him and I thanked him from far for my lovely memories and for the various characters that he helped etch in us. 
Once I got hold of these books, I would just want to reach home and catch a corner and finish each page, sometimes twice. Both books would be read even before dinner was served.

These stories taught me many things about life. It took to another world where truth triumphed, where friendships were all about helping and trusting each other, where men and nature lived in harmony and where the world was a great place to be in. The various characters, Mayavi, Supandi, Shikhari Shambu, villagers, and many more, were an integral part of my life. And even today, I long to meet them.
These stories slowly developed in me a thirst for reading. I started reading more and more so much that, I would never even throw away the paper in which peanut seller packed the peanuts. I would read it once and then put it away. Books also ignited my creativity and imagination. I would imagine confabulations with the characters and sometimes, I will be led to their world and I would be able to tell more about them. These skills have held me in good stead today as my love for writing and penning short stories and poems have come from this love for reading that my parents encouraged.
I do not have children of my own but if there is one thing that I would like today’s children to have, then that would be books. Yes, there are tablets, computers and kindles where children may have a chance to read, but what I would wish for them is to have real books, ones that they can touch, feel, embrace and keep beside their pillow. How I wish children would subscribe for such weeklies and monthlies and wait anxiously at the doorstep for the delivery man to bring in the books! How I wish they would tear open the wrapper and devour the stories with excitement and curiosity!
Image source: 

Reading opens mind and brain of children. When they read about fairies or the world of Gods or mythological tales, they are also transported into this world. They are able to imagine a lot and who knows, one day, they will be capable of creating such a world themselves. Reading even helps in studies. A child who loves story books will never hate his school texts and that’s for sure.

How I wish every night, every child world over, will have book beside their bed and a bookmark to remind them that the night will be peaceful and the next day will be a beautiful one because there is a story waiting in there for them!

Note:This post is being written for the #BachpanWithFlinto blogger contest.

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Thursday, 11 June 2015

A letter to my one-year-old nephew

My nephew (I call him Honey, he is one sweet drop!) turns one on June 15. I wrote him a letter to suggest ways to find his way from the plethora of advice that might come his way.
Read the letter here:

Monday, 1 June 2015

No RIP Aruna, at least, not now

Aruna Shanbaug (1 June 1948-18 May 2015) symbolised many things. She was a thorn that pricked our collective conscience, a case of an innocent suffering for no fault of hers, a case for euthanasia or mercy killing, a symbol of hope for humanity as she was looked after for 42 years by nurses and doctors who cared and even, a poking truth that when you have only your beating heart as a sign of life and you lie on bed helplessly without any knowledge of the outside world, you will have none by your side, not even your family. Aruna had 9 sisters but no one allegedly came forward to volunteer for her care. Aruna was still lucky, there were her colleagues who decided to stand by her.
The man, the culprit, who took his revenge, on the woman for reporting his malpractices, in the most inhumane way, was let off after serving just seven years in prison, for attempt to murder. A question arises, why did anyone not take notice on his acquittal that the person whom he ‘attempted to murder’ is no longer alive, as a ‘normal’ person would be and why was then another case not charged on him by treating this crime as one of the ‘rarest of the rare cases’? No one paid any heed and the man is reported to have started life afresh somewhere. He was not punished for lifetime for a heinous act but Aruna was serving a brutal ‘life sentence’ just for fulfilling her duty. Where is justice?
Once in a while, Aruna’s story reappeared on newspaper pages, reminding us of how cruel destiny could be and how inhuman a human being could be. We read Aruna’s updates with a heavy heart, shed a tear or two and then, got back to our life. Has sexual harassment at workplaces stopped after November 27, 1973, the day Aruna was brutally attacked at her workplace? Were women safer after November 27, 1973? It is shocking that in our country, monstrous crimes find followers, and we soon hear similar incidents all throughout. Our law does not seem to be a deterrent. There were more Arunas, though referred to differently as acid attack victims, gang rape survivors, etc., the irony is that none of them have won their battle but battle with their life on a daily basis. Aruna endured it silently without any awareness while the others bear the attack on their soul silently, fully aware.
Pinky Virani, the author who helmed a biography of Aruna in 1998,titled, Aruna’s Story: The True Account of a Rape and its Aftermath, filed a case for Aruna’s mercy killing in 2009 and soon Aruna became a centre of debate on euthanasia. Who decides the case for euthanasia? The person, for whom the debate is on, is not in a position to stand up and speak. It is left to the care takers to decide. Aruna’s care providers did not want to go with it. There were many who even blamed these nurses for not letting go of Aruna. Some said it was because they wanted to appear as righteous. But even then, wasn’t it great that a team of doctors and nurses stood by their decision and even kudos to the government that it did not snatch the room from Aruna and allowed her to be?
Now Aruna is no more, as per medical terms. For lakhs of us, who followed Aruna’s life, she had died on the day she was put on that bed, almost lifeless. But then medical world decides the definition of death and law puts a stamp on it, so we will have to hear terms like brain death, and so on.
I say, Aruna, Do not RIP. You have rested for 42 years but without peace, now it is the time to liberate yourself from all agony, pain and sympathy. Go dance away, laugh and smile. I am sure in that another world, you will find hundreds of things to do. Do them and live your life that you could not for 42 years. Do not RIP but be peaceful. Do I see you smiling?