16.6.11

Personal arse licker?

I’ve just put Mia down for her afternoon sleep. I left her with her eyes closed, a little smile playing on her lips and her favourite tee shirt sleeve stuffed in her mouth. She loves sucking herself to sleep…on good days. On not-so-good days she likes to be rocked and patted in my arms. Except that now she has decided she needs to pat me back while I am patting her. Basically it’s a lot of patting and no sleep. I’ve been doing the patting-rocking since she was born and even though it can get tough sometimes – there’s my favourite show on TV, or guests waiting, or dinner getting cold, or I’m just too tired – I love it when she falls asleep in my arms. The way she snuggles under my chin, the way her mouth stays slightly open (even with the recently developed bad breath), the way her breathing deepens along with her sleep. I feel an immense sense of peace each time I rock her to sleep. Sometimes, I also feel an immense sense of gratitude that she was born in Australia and not in India.

There, I’ve said it aloud now. You can hate me, or judge me, or label me an anglophile, or as someone commented on an earlier post “a PAL – personal ass licker”. Technically, the last bit should be ‘arse’ and not ‘ass’ since I suppose that commenter meant to call me a bottom-licker as against a donkey-licker. Neither label bothers me really, though I daresay some donkeys are cleaner than some bottoms. Perhaps a whole lot of things would not have been much different even if she had been born in India. Financially, we could have afforded the best of everything: education in any of the top private schools, a university degree, access to quality health care, availability of a full-time nanny, whatever hobby she wanted to pursue, an unlimited choice of food, exotic holidays, high-paying jobs, etc. I have friends who live that life; and so did I to a certain extent. Yes, Mia would definitely have all of that even if she were in India.

And yet I prefer she was born here. There is a fundamental freedom in this country that I find lacking in India; the freedom from certain expectations, limitations and restrictions that come with being a woman in India. A freedom from helplessness. Don’t tell me that if you have the money you can have everything in India. I know that. I’ve seen that. But if that privilege belongs to only two per cent in a country of a billion; it’s not a norm, it’s an anomaly.
I want Mia to be able to move freely without 100 men leering at her, without neighbouring aunties disproving of her or without someone else labeling her because she wears shorts. Ah, so you say you can wear whatever in India, is it? How many times then have you covered up with a dupatta or a scarf? Or worn a salwar-kameez and then changed into a skirt? Or held a notebook against your chest to stop men staring at your breasts? How many times have you carried a safety pin on a crowded bus to prevent a man rubbing his penis against you? How many times have you walked through a market and have someone grab at your breasts? Even though you have three maids at home, a driver waiting for you and are probably shopping to go back to LSE?


My first time was at Newmarket, Calcutta in 1994-1995. I was wearing a loose-fitting blue shirt, an ankle-length skirt and was shopping with my mother. We walked down the market, me carrying shopping bags, trailing behind Ma when we crossed this balloon-seller. I remember looking him in the eye, perhaps because he was on my right and he had suddenly stepped onto my path. I remember looking him in the eye right before he grinned – he had gutkha-stained teeth – and with his right index finger, he poked my right nipple. It wasn’t surreptitious, he didn’t try to run or pretend it was an accident. He looked me in the eye and poked me hard; it hurt, it humiliated me because the other vendors started laughing then. I pushed him and started shouting at him. A huge crowd gathered, some sniggered, some said really dirty stuff in Bengali, others waited to see what unfolded, none helped. My mother had walked a bit further by then; she hurried back and tried pulling me away, “Ki korcho beta, cholo ebar, pore kotha bolbo.” (What are you doing child, let’s go now, shall discuss it later). My mother was practical. She knew it would only create a scene that would not be resolved.


There is hardly any resolution in India. You’d be told you’re creating a scene, drawing unnecessary attention to yourself; you’d be labeled a trouble-maker. If the media gets hold of it and makes a heroine out of you, you’d probably find it really hard getting a job after that. No, it hardly ever gets resolved in India.


Like this lady I knew who worked for a big-time Hollywood movie distributing company. The office used to be in Connaught Place and she was part of a three-member team. There was her boss – the distribution head – she handled marketing and there was the errand boy. Every day for the one-year or so she worked there, her boss would come to work and start watching hardcore XXX pornography. He would turn the monitor to face her, put his legs up on the table and watch for hours at an end. She complained to the CEO of the company. His response? “So what if he watches porn, he’s not asking you to watch it.” She left the company and had to change her profession because that industry black-listed her. She was labeled a trouble-maker.


Then there was this girl who was a junior reporter. Her boss tried to rape her after one office party. She didn’t say anything about it because her colleagues advised her not to. “He’s too big and famous, nothing will happen to him. You’ll lose your job; why spoil your career?” I don’t know if she was raped or if the attempt was thwarted. I do know she did not say anything. In case any of you’re wondering, the girl was not me, but the incident happened at one of the media houses I worked for (I’ve worked for pretty much all of them).


I don’t want Mia to ever to feel violated like that or feel helpless she cannot do anything about it. And if at all it happens – sexual harassment does happen in Australia – I don’t ever want to be in a position where I cannot resolve it for my daughter. I don’t want to ask her to walk away. I want to be able to get that bastard arrested. To get him to jail. Personally I would prefer beating the life out of him, castrating him or cutting his arm off; but I’d settle for a more civilized solution. I want my daughter to know she will be safe or at least that she can do something about it. I don’t want my daughter to ever feel helpless…even if I am not there. I want her to know there are steps she can take, people she can approach, the police, the judiciary, a helpline, the local council member.

There is very little organized support system in India for women. Not if you’re sexually harassed, not if you’re physically abused and hardly any if you’re seeking a divorce or are caught in a marriage that’s slowly killing you. Everything pretty much conspires against you. Again, I am not talking about the two per cent who have the money, familial support or sheer balls to fight for themselves. Most women are not like that. And it’s not because people are uneducated.

Asti Shekhar, who committed suicide by hanging herself on June 2,, 2011 was not like that. She was educated. She came from an educated family. She was married to an educated man, from an educated family. She was in every way a good girl: She was obedient, she studied hard, she married the man her parents chose for her. Yet she felt trapped, she felt she could not ask anyone for help, or advice or a solution. So she killed herself.


In the biggest democracy in the world, the next alleged-superpower, the country with the richest, deepest cultural roots, the India that is shining: What was the level of helplessness a 21st century, modern, educated woman felt that led her to kill herself? Why? Who failed her?

PS: 1. The Indian Homemaker has a very good debate on the topic. Go read her.

2. (I just clicked on google.com.au and typed 'suicide', that's the screen shot, a suicide helpline comes first. Not so when you type the same on google.co.in)
Two sides to any story. On one hand, reports allege dowry deaths are rising. On the other hand, some groups claim it is to harass husbands. What do you think?

31 comments:

annastales said...

i have fought with so many guys i know who think i over-react. that i'm a man-hater or something. my point is that i don't know a single girl who has lived in india and never been molested. not a single one. that i have been molested more times than i can count. and i live in fear for the day my daughter will be. because i know the chances are that no matter how much i protect her it will happen. and i will be able to do nothing.

arundati said...

i agree that we shame our girls into shutting up in india. its always because the blouse was too tight or that you somehow asked for it. i was so saddened by asti's death. poor girl, thought it was better to kill herself.

JB said...

I hear you. And...I feel as shit. Reading Asti's story depressed me. Writing that post depressed me. Your comment depresses me too. (Hugs) I HATE it. I hated it when I was in Delhi. I fucking hate it even now. When we came visiting in March, I instantly could not breath. I FUCKING HATE it. Once in gurgaon -- 2001 -- a male friend and I were waiting for this couple friend to pick us up and lead them to their house. We were waiting by side of the road, on our bike. Some boys in a car passed and teased me, hooting etc. as they passed us, two cops passed on a bike. I hailed the cops and complained. They looked me up and down. Then took my friend aside and asked him if they could fuck me. OR they would create trouble for him. Frame him. He came back and thankfully...we ran from there. That's Delhi cops.

JB said...

The first response was for Anna's mom.

@ Arundati: Oh yes. But where do you go for help? Why isn't it advertised? Why isn't it more easily available? There are heaps of us more educated, with money...

JB said...

And this was a girl who was a bloody gold medalist in economics. In one of the major city's of India.

Sree said...

oh god.JB you words.I came home today feeling so bad and confused and lonely.If only i could express like you do.Today told a Desi friend that my ex might come back and seeing the smile and excitement on that face, i felt..i dont know...judged..i guess.As if she disapproves of whatever i have done so far.And this is not the first time ive got such vibes from people who claim to be cool and nice around a divorced woman.Why is it that whatever men does are always forgotten and forgiven? And I know several modern day women whose mental growth are worse than their ancestors, who refuses to be a friend and gives a smile perhaps out of socal pressure. Yea, i'm happy too that i am not in India.Today i feel like death though. You lady,has such blessing of words; to strike deep inside a helpless woman's heart and if that can make her want to live and fight,fight for her own happiness, thats the best gift you could give to the biggest democracy.Thanks for writing.

JB said...

@ Sree: WAIT. Don't you put me up to such lofty ideals. And big, big hugs.
You and I have been "speaking" for long. Lord knows much has happened in your life since you first contacted me. I still remember your first comment, "So that was your drawing room and this is your bedroom" is what you'd written...
He is your EX. I understand the fear you mention. But you have passed through the tougher bits alone. Remember when you didn't have any help or advice? You've got the divorce. You've got Her.
As for these so-called friends, can you please tell them that your pen-friend from India-to-australia has asked her/them to go get fucked? WHERE the fuck were they when you needed help? When you were being threatened? When the li'l one was being threatened?
For that matter, I was NOT there either. Words can only help that much. Rememeber that. I am only talking, YOU are doing what needs to be done. You focus on that board thing you mentioned the other day. On Her. On protecting her. He's bloody devious. And ignore these vibes etc. AND if at all...you reconcile or something. Know that NO ONE will judge you. Not me. You do what is best for you and M. With or without him. But don't sacrifice yourself. Love, strength and hugs.

siggysparkle said...

I read Asti's diary and I was speechless for a long time after. It killed me inside to feel that same helplessness to not be able to show her, HELP her and know that she had nobody to turn to. Who do we blame though? Her husband? Her MIL? Her family? Or society? I personally they are all to blame, but no matter what *I* think protected behind my computer screen in a country far far away, it won't lessen the reality of Asti's death and the reality for women in India.

I remember visiting Lucknow when I was 15 to see my family. I wore a t-shirt and jeans like I do here in Aus to a park. This group of guys followed me and my aunt/mum all around. When we got home - both my mum and I got the biggest telling off for her letting me go out of the house wearing 'unnecessary tight' clothing. My mother who would not have said a word to me in Melb, just told me to change. I kicked the biggest fuss, but had to.

That was ONE incident. So many more in the short time I was there to visit that I was so glad to come home.

I know you don't give a shit to what people think of you and keep doing that. You've made the best choice for YOUR daughter. I just wish there will be a day when every woman will have the same freedom as Mia.

JB said...

@ Siggy: I vomitted last night after reading Asti's diary. Partly because I was PMSing and was fluey and partly because it really made me physically ill. I remember a time I had felt like that. I had started blogging then. Used to get drunk and spew my anger out at the world. There was such a fine line between my depression and anger. I think instead of despairing, I got angry...it could have gone either way.
I SO, SO understand what you're saying...how your mum asked you to change. Ma would have done the same. It's so easy to just go along with things in India than question or challenge them. Because you really don't know where to start or how... And yes, I hope every woman has Mia's choice too. I am going to make bloody sure she understands how lucky she is.

Sree said...

@annastales:Peace to you.Please be in touch etc, if that makes it any better to live without such haunting past.Hugs to you.

Vrij said...

I completely agree with your view about the anarchy we have in India.

Why just a woman? Any other citizen in any other circumstance too gets abused. The other day I was walking in a busy are in Hyderabad. A shopkeeper had filled the footpath outside his store with mannequins in designer wear leaving zero space to walk. When I requested him to move them aside, he refused and asked me to complain wherever I want!

Nothing good can happen here because there is so much happening below the table.

JB said...

@ Vrij: It's so infuriating. There has to be *something* that can be done. Somewhere one can complain... Or perhaps somewhere it also takes too much of our time to pursue an issue? Is too much of a hassle? I wonder sometimes if we breed this kind of behaviour and then encourage it by saying "what can I/we do?"?

The Lover said...

After reading this, there is so much I want to say that it will probably take a whole new post. It angers me to know the state of our country. You are absolutely right about the choices you made. I had decided from a very young age that I would get out of India as soon as I could and I left when I turned 18. Haven't gone back since. I love my country, no doubt about that but I don't think I am being selfish when I want to stay away from the filth that exists there, some of which you mentioned. Being a bong myself, and living in Calcutta for quite a few years, I know how some people behave with women. It's not just there, I've lived in Delhi, Gujarat, and Dehradun too, and I have witnessed such bullshitting everywhere. At first I thought that we Indians have a dirty gene but now that I see the Indians living here in Canada, I see a stark contrast. It is only the people living in India, especially the men, who are to blame. I am sometimes ashamed at the state of my country and I frankly don't care anymore because I have seen how the people who cared enough to do something are treated there. Damn, I feel like ranting on and on. I need to go break something right now. I haven't come across a post that has incited so much emotion in me ever. Good luck to you from one bong to another.

JB said...

@ Lover: Ore baba, don't go breaking stuff, go write something. I'll link it here happily. Ranting is good.

Sree said...

Reconcile?No if's and buts there. My fear is only of him taking her away. Ive already spoke to the school.Is there a place to run away and he wouldnt find us? sigh. Most men I know, who got divorced, quickly gets married again, This one is the beast. He does everything to still make sure his 'hold' on me.To society, he's the poor lad who got kicked in his arse haha, finally i did that, the well deserved kick.Too much pain comes out as strength.Thers more to come, from eleven years of shit.He pushed me that day early in the morning for no effin reason and said" go put other men's penis in your mouth". He has even told his daughter when she was 4 "when you turn 13, you should go have sex". His rage against me showing up on her. Luckly she didnt understand what he was saying.But now she would, and i'm glad he's out.
There is a lady here, who is abused by her husband,everyday.She left him with the kids, but then they reconciled only because getting divorced was too expensive, paying the lawyer and splitting the wealth etc.Now they are back together. She cries and her friends listen. Thats it. Perhaps thts what most need at first, someone to whom they can talk. ah.i need some sleep.

Bikramjit said...

Nothing to judge you are RIGHT that its good to be born aboroad then india.. I beleive it it and it is TRUE.

Education in top school YES but would that have helped .. logically she would have been forced to do what she MAY not have wanted ... and One thing is there she would have bee nbrought up by a AYA or Maid not by parents .. I hope you know what i mean ..

and the examples you have given They still exist and even more in the os called educated people ..

the thing that makes me angry is people keep on harping at how advanced this and that India Yes it is for the few who can afford while majority the REAL india is still the same ..

Bikram's

rainboy said...

naked truth... totally agree with The Lover.

Cindrella said...

Yes, this is so true!! most girls in India prefer to keep their mouth shut when in such situations to avoid "making a scene". Mom always tells me avoid all such troubles...be careful always...never provoke anyone...and so on and so on...

crowded bus and markets are like the toughest places for girls!! its not the problem of lack of education, awareness or anything!! Attitude problem??? god knows what can solve these problems in there...right now as i write this i feel so much safe because i am not in India for now!!

I would prefer my daughter also to grow up outside India for the same reasons you mentioned!!! very good post!!

Avinash said...

To be honest, I am actually impressed that for once ther is an indian mother baying for blood.

Back in college, there was this time when my classmate slapped a girl he was talking to. Not in anger, just in total disrespect. Now I am know for not standing for such stuff. I warned my classmate that if I physically harm him if he EVER did that to ANY girl in public. From that day on the girl would avoid me. She told a female friend of mine that I was creating an unnecessary scene. And my friend told me 'not everybody needs a hero.'

Its an incident that always puts me on the back foot now when faced with such situations...

JB said...

@ Avinash: Thank-you. That said, cannot take the credit alone. There are many mothers out there -- particularly in the blogosphere -- who are making a lot of noise. The situation sucks and the story you shared sucks even more. The Indian male is usually the "culprit" in the kind of post I've written and the stories that other women share. Once in a while when a man helps, instead of encouragement, thanks and perhaps a handshake, he gets told to mind his own business. Sad. But thank-you on behalf of that girl for standing up. And perhaps here's hoping you won't stop. Maybe don't try to beat up another guy (!), maybe talk to him, hint at him or generally dissuade people/friends/men when you hear them talk of treating women badly. I'm sorry you got the raw end of that situation, you did well though.

JB said...

@ cindrella: I hear you! Though as one friend/reader pointed out on FB, the solution is not in leaving India. You and I are outside, but what about the women -- and their daughters -- still there?

@ Bikram: thanks for reading and writing in. To kya karein phir?

Cindrella said...

I know I was trying to take the easy way out...but where does the solution come from is a big question!!

I really appreciate people who have the courage to fight back...and make a difference...would I myself be a part of it...no idea...

JB said...

@ Cindrella: At least you have the honesty to accept you don't know if you'd be a part of it. That I suppose is one little step towards it, people at least beginning to accept some truths. Thanks for reading and writing in on a Sunday! :D

paulami said...

JB, I have been reading your blog for sometime but today it became a must to write...all your words are so true.However, educated and independent we become, we are always helpless here. There is no respite from the stares, boob touching and we are taught from our parents, that delhi is not safe and stay in your limits. What is the limit and what can I do to feel more safe???When no one has the answer or resolution, its always easy to say the girl called for it. Huh!!! i too fear for what would happen to my aughter...probably the first thing im going to teach her would be how to identify different touch and to tell me about anything she feels without fear. I do not know what would I do then though...still to figure out.I have started to write too, n recently I emoted similar fears in my blog
http://dis2dat.blogspot.com/2011/06/ride-that-should-have-been.html

Deb said...

Helplessness...the feeling of being trapped...of being without air while everyone around you assumes you have a perfect life is awful, I have been so many times through it and all of them happened while I was in India, that taking into consideration my own home country is no piece of cake itself.

I am a Brazilian married to a marwari for almost 5 years now and lived and worked in Pune and Bangalore for big software companies and as being a foreigner we think that the native women have it easier on them, but I was so mistaken and naive...that until I got my first female Indian friend.


We foreigners also go through same harassment from husband's family, friends, colleagues because we are Firangis we are sluts and prostitutes and cheaters by definition and we don't honor the desi sanskruti and some stories are just as tragic as Asti's...

While there i had this feeling that we are all just a bunch of puppets being juggled around by everyone else's will, many times I could not understand my anger towards a country to which i was married now by force and did my utmost to overcome the feeling, it only subsided once I came to live in the Nederlands and found myself back on track and balanced.

For me as a Gori...India was overpowering and i could take on a daily basis only because i woke up every morning to my husband promisses that we wouldnt raise our children there.

Today just like most of the overseas indians that are first ones to bash someone talking the ugly truth about their countries....i discovered i can love India, but as long as i don't live there .

JB said...

@ Deborah: Thanks for writing in Deb. How did you end up with a Marwari? (Your blog mentions you're of Indian-Brazilian descent)
I SO agree with "...most of the overseas indians that are first ones to bash someone talking the ugly truth about their countries."
You get it too many times to count particularly and especially if the one doing the ugly-truth-talking happens to be another overseas Indian.

JB said...

@ Paulami: congrats on the new blog mate. Sorry to have depressed so many with this post! PErhaps with awareness will come some steps. Some way of changing it. Perhaps all of us with sons and daughters will start making the change by instilling a new way of thinking in the children -- BOTH girls and boys. Let's see.

Usha said...

Hi Joomur,

I have only recently started reading your blog.
This post hits home so much. a few years ago I was trapped in an abusive marriage too. And I was just really really lucky to have been based outside of India when things got really ugly. I could summon the police and even lawyers at 3AM, else I would have been a news story by now.

I love India, but this feeling of helplessness, "it's like this only, please adjust" makes me seeth.

My parents having lived for over 50 years outside India, did not approve of me moving back there for my career. And now I totally see why.....

Deb said...

Hi JB :) I call my hubby BJ :P

We met while we were in the UK and i am a PIO through
him, thats why i say indo-brazilian descent because now its incorporated into my life and culture as well so i must make room for it in my life :) strategy also used by me so i can answer and explain less...moreover for safety :P if I say i am not indian at all I maybe labeled a racist and be sued as well :D

This is the behavior of most of the indian community overseas I would say of Idolizing their country once they are out and forgetting about the atrocities that happens to the ones that stay.

I for one am faced with two extremes, my brazilian expats are the first ones to bash the country and everyone that lives there still never seeing anything positive and being utter elitists....while the indian ones are the ones to pretend the motherland is a God given oasis that can do no wrong....and in the end both do the same, just turn their backs to where they are from and never do a thing to help and change the conditions for their country people. Its a shame really...

Hemu venkat said...

I love your blog! I love the candidness of your writing and I admire it :-)
and yes, what you have mentioned is very much true. Distaste it is, I'm from Chennai, quite conservative compared to the other metros, but yes, it still happens here.
Men who look at us with such a stare that I sometimes feel naked without a dupatta (which we gotta wear to our colleges here!), those frustrated middle-aged men who rub their crotches against the college going girls on the bus!
I feel damn bad that the maximum I can do is shout at him to get to the back of the bus and not openly confront him for having sexually violated me, for he could come with a gang of men to rape me the very next day and as much as a girl can be bold, I'm no superwoman to beat them all up.
It's sad, this situation here... and the only practical solution we are left with is to get out of their site ourselves!
Great to read this piece of work of yours!
great going!

condemned said...

In the biggest democracy in the world, the next alleged-superpower, the country with the richest, deepest cultural roots, the India that is shining: What was the level of helplessness a 21st century, modern, educated woman felt that led her to kill herself? Why? Who failed her?

Excellent Question!!! A few days back, a nurse by the name of Jacintha Saldanha killed herself in the land of the Queen of Britain and Australia. Why did she feel so helpless in the British Empire, temple of justice, cradle of democracy? Who harassed her to the point that she killed herself? how did this happen in the nation that civilized the world? Who failed her?

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