Monday, January 28, 2008

Virginity- The Big Deal

She was an ordinary Allah fearing girl, her tiny but exuberant heart filled with many dreams and hopes for future. She did not even as much as look at other men. She wanted to ‘save’ herself for the marriage. She had always been told that ‘good’ girls didn't do ‘things’ before marriage. ‘Good’ girls didn't wear a certain kind of clothes because men will be men and girls must understand and only ‘good’ girls went to jannat after death. Allah didn't forgive ‘bad’ girls. There was no redemption for ‘bad’ girls. So she behaved like a ‘Good’ girl and wore clothes that wouldn't give away her slender figure. She didn't look at other men. She asked Allah for forgiveness whenever her thoughts wandered into the forbidden territory and reminded herself that she must always be a ‘good’ girl. She tried to keep her Allah happy. She had full faith in her Allah. She knew she would go to jannat. Her Allah will reward her for being ‘good’.
She got married to a very ‘good’ man. Her friends told her she was very lucky. She knew Allah was rewarding her for being a ‘good’ girl. She was very happy. She was beginning to live her dream with a ‘good’ man.

It was her first night. This night would change her life. She was nervous. Very nervous. She didn't know anything. But she knew her Allah is with her, after all she had always been 'good'. And she knew her husband was a ‘good’ man.
That night did change her life, and shattered her dreams… forever! She was stamped characterless, her husband disowned her, she was subjected to the worst humiliation and treated like some filthy insect because she did not bleed enough!

This is a true story of an Iranian woman who was forced to lead her life in dejection, shunned by society and her own family for being 'good' and because her husband suspected that she was not a virgin on her first night. What kind of world are we living in where the character of a woman resides in her vagina and is measured by how much she bleeds on her first night? In times when we are talking of woman empowerment and liberty, virginity is the yard stick we use to evaluate the purity of her character! Why is it that even as we talk of gender equality males expect their wives to be a virgin? And why is it that we women are expected to guard our virginity as some precious gift that we must offer to our husband on the first wedding night? Why is it that we women can’t ask our partners whether or not are they virgin themselves? Is demanding just a male prerogative?

Virginity has been deemed overrated since very long. In fact the terminologies that society has attributed to virginity is flawed and adds to the guilt feeling. We talk about losing virginity or giving it away. I don’t think a person has lost or given anything away or is different or less in any way if s/he is not a virgin!

The whole narrow definition of virginity is in desperate need of amend. In the strictest term; you are a virgin until you've had sexual intercourse with the member of the opposite sex. But this definition itself acts as a loop hole as it lets you get away with having a lot of different kinds of sex and still being able to call yourself a virgin. Technically, considering the traditional definition of virginity, someone who is homosexual can have sex every day and still be a virgin. Someone who has oral sex regularly too is a virgin. Does that really make sense?

I refuse to buy this redundant idea that is so biased and binding upon the women and covers up for men by stating that MEN WILL BE MEN. If being good means I'll have to curtail my freedom, I refuse to be 'good'. If society terms girls who live life on their own terms as 'bad' I chose to be labelled 'bad'. I refuse to 'save' myself for marriage. If I happen to remain virgin till I marry that will be because I choose to be one and not because I am obliged to make a gift of it to my husband.

Unusual music, some interesting sentiments.. a curious feeling in the pit of my stomach, brings to mind a Quote-
"Virginity can be lost by a thought."

P.S: Words of wisdom: "Nobody dies a virgin death, Life fucks all!"

Need I say more?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tryst with Versatility

"Two roads diverged in a wood,
I took the one less traveled by…
And that has made all the difference!"

A well paying secure job, a decent house and a family, this is all that most people aspire in life. But what would you call a man who gave up these very things and went on to become a street artist and chose a life of uncertainty ? Eccentric?
May be it does take an element of eccentricity to leave the trodden path and wander in uncertain terrain, not just to say that I’ll live life on my own terms but to go out and do it, not just to dare to dream but to chase those dreams and live it!

Piet Bel is one of those few who are living their dream. Sauntering at Connaught Place I spotted a middle aged foreigner making live sketch of a lady. More than his artistic ability what caught my attention was the glint of passion in his eyes. Something about him made me stop and take notice. There are times when one meets the most unexpected people at most unexpected place and in the least expected manner. I stood there in silence observing him finish his sketch with utmost devotion. It was for the first time I had actually experienced how does it feel to love one’s work.

Piet told me that he was well versed in six languages .By profession he was a teacher, a translator, a linguist, an artist, a musician, a traveler and an author. Phew!
‘Versatile’ would be an understatement for such a person. And in case you are wondering, Jack of all trade- you are wrong; he was the master of all.
Piet had been traveling all over the world for last 22 years and already had two published travelogues to his credit. He first came to India in 1997 and since then he has kept coming back. On being asked what intrigued him most about the country, he promptly replied “Why it’s diversity of course,” and then added “Varanasi” as an after thought. “I couldn't stop my amazement at realizing the contrast of Glen Affric in Scottish Highlands and this Indian Varanasi. No other place has made such an impression on me. While floating on the majestic and inspiring Ganges I was happy to be,” he said. His love affair with India incidentally started with Varanasi.

At 48, Piet is more in love with life than any teenager and his contentment shone bright in his eyes. I asked him about the books he had written and he said he had just finished one called ‘Hannah’ which is life story of a girl and with a child like delight added that the closing chapter is based in India. The book has not been published yet. I couldn't keep myself from asking why he chose India as the backdrop for the closing chapter. He immediately got up, opened his bag and took out a white book. “I happen to have an unpublished copy of my work, why don’t you read it and find out for your self?” he said handing me his book. I turned the first page and there it was, in a tiny hand
‘For D, Journalists are the objective and critical eye of society: don’t forget!’ signed Pier Bel.
I could feel the bubble of happiness inflating within me. “May I ask just one more thing?” I asked my voice almost shaking with excitement. “Go ahead,” he said with a smile. “What is it that you wish from life?” “I would like to be somewhere. Be somewhere without wishing any thing else. Be somewhere because I want to be there, not imagining, not knowing there might be other places one could go, not waiting for death as if I was retired or tired of life or waiting for something to happen but to be able to see the trees and look at skies and be able to hear my hear,”  he concluded dreamily.

P.S: We were actually given an assignment to go to C.P and interview any "interesting" person we can find and report it.
* First target was the CD guys at Palika and that turned out to be a hilarious and "ENRICHING" experience.
* I zeroed on beggars next but that didn't work either and Shruti ended up giving her lunch (Chicken roll) to them.
* Then We just bumped into PIET BEL and ended up talking to him for over 2 hours and finally I did get an
"interesting" interview and the draft of his not yet published book so nice of Piet!
* Yesterday I was up all night trying to write this report but I couldn't get a sentence and today morning I had this entire thing typed in less than an hour sitting in college.
 I perform best in Pressure cooker conditions.

Friday, January 18, 2008

"18 till I die !!"

Immortal words by a mortal star, ‘18 till I die'. Personally I have my own views about immortality. For instance, I would rather achieve immortality by simply not dying than through my work but then that’s besides the point here. So I’ll try to stay put and not go off tangent!I had for long been laboring under the illusion that my life would take a dramatic turn once I turn 18 and now precisely five days after attaining that coveted 2 digit figure, the state of affairs remain a paradoxical abyss.

The Indian law considers people above 18 years of age as ‘adults’ and thus one is conferred with several rights at that age. But come to think of it the very foundations of Indian laws are contradicting. The ambiguity starts from the very word ‘adult’. When does a person cease to be a child? At 18, when a girl can marry; 16, when she can give consent for sex; or 14, when a person can work in hazardous jobs?But then I don’t intend to analyze the contradicting laws or their implementation or rather the lack of it!

Coming back to my newly acquired legal rights;

1. A person is legally allowed to drive at 18.

Yes, our law makers feel that a person is capable enough to handle a car at that age.(I read somewhere that sex is like driving, so in case you can’t wait to drive till you are 18 you can still legally experiment with some sex after 16 to get a fair idea)Well my even though my parents second the law makers' point of view and feel that 18 is the right age to get a Driver’s license, the appropriate age when their daughter should get the car remains debatable.

2. It’s illegal to sell tobacco products to people under 18.

So now that I am 18 I can walk up to any paan waala and demand for my pack of cigarettes with a new instilled confidence.That I consider smoking obnoxious, inconsiderate and plain yucky is a different matter altogether.The fact that now I can lawfully buy tobacco is enough to make me feel empowered, indeed!

3. 18 is the minimum age for a girl to get married.

It's true! I can get married to any gentleman I please, who is of course above 21years (That's the age the not-so-fairer sex is expected to grow up). So the policy makers think at 18 a person is old enough to get married, start a family and have babies ... though they also feel that the person needs a lot more growing up before s/he can handle his/her drinks (Legal drinking age being 25).Therefore, even though I can get married at 18, I can't celebrate my marriage with a drink!

4. 18 is the minimum age for voting.

Yippee! I will from now onwards have a say in the governance of the country. So what if my 'one' vote is simply a drop in the ocean? The voting rights give me the mental satisfaction and the much needed reassurance that I am finally and legally an adult.

Though by the standards of the Indian government I am an adult, my parents bluntly refuse to even acknowledge the fact! So, even after turning 18...

* I continue to travel by blue lines and autos (on more fateful days).
* I continue to drink milk with two tbs BOURNVITA!! (It’s tasty and healthy)
* I continue to struggle to get back home before sunset.
* I continue to eat out of my mummy's hands! (The experience is almost heavenly)
Would I still Love to be '18 till I die’? Umm.. I would have said yes without a thought had it not been for the "LEGAL DRINKING AGE"


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