Friday, 29 December 2017

Malayalee Journalists Come in Support of Savarna Author M T Vasudevan Nair's Islamophobic Statement

Veteran savarna Malayalam author, M T Vasudevan Nair refused to sign certificates that were taken to him by a group of Muslim students saying he couldn't do it because he wasn't sure if they wouldn't turn into terrorists later. This was a private conversation but within days of this being made public by one of the lecturers at the college, on his Facebook page, he gave a statement to the media that he had indeed said that because he genuinely feared if the students would turn into terrorists. Here is the statement he gave to e-vartha, translated by me. 
'“The students asked me to sign on certificates issued on a camp that I had no relation with. I said I couldn't. How can I sign something that way?" M T asked. 

He said that it was when they further insisted that he asked them if it wouldn't affect him, who signed the certificates if the next day those who participated in the camp engaged in terrorist activities. It was not an Islamophobic comment as is being accused. His explanation was that it was only pointed out as a possible danger if he signed a certificate from some camp that was organized by some random person.'

I am writing this post to point out how the Malayalam mediapersons responded to this statement by M T Vasudevan Nair [Nair is an unambiguously uppercaste surname in Kerala.] It was when Inji Pennu, Global Voices, wrote a Facebook post that i noticed these statements. It alarmed me how carelessly these mediapersons were exhibiting their (usually Islamophic, casteist, misogynist) opinions on social media sporting their mediaperson identities and exhibiting them publicly. 

One of the journalists that Inji Pennu mentioned in her post retaliated by mocking her on his profile as is the usual procedure on social media. What caught my eye was something else. It was how everyone was trying to make it look as if the journalist was a victim. Of what? Wrong translation. 

I am a writer-filmmaker and know a thing or two about translation [yes, the small 'i's are deliberate.] But i would like to point out how nasty this retort is to everyone who reads him. 

The first reason being that no one ever 'translated' the post by K A Shaji, who is a journalist with the Hindu newspaper. It was quite the right decision in my opinion because his post was as Islamophobic as the comment by the author he was defending. Inji Pennu's post was her opinion about two statements by two journalists [Mr. Mathew Samuel of Narada News and K A Shaji of the Hindu] from Kerala when a renowned savarna male author was accused of Islamophobia. Since Mr Shaji is weeping accusing Inji Pennu of mis-translating him, i think it is time someone translated the shameless justification.

K A Shaji said,

M T Vasudevan Nair is 84 years old. He has been sporting his introvert behaviour with great discipline for all these years. If you ask me if writers are required to be introverts and if writing is impossible if you are not an introvert, I have no answer. But being introvert is his choice. Readers and citizens should respect it. I am not eligible to analyze M T's contributions to literature. To tell the truth, he is not one of my most favourite Malayalee authors. 'Manju' is the only work that I repeatedly read and enjoyed. I have often felt that all his other works are of the same kind. I liked 'Vanaprastham' and 'Varanasi' more than 'Randamoozham'.

But I have always adored his secular mind and opinions. Unlike other male and female writers, he is not the one to shoot off opinions on anything and everything. If he is invited to events, he dodges them. He gets angry if they insist. He will behave in a way that will offend the people who invited him. I have that experience from when I was a student and media person in Kozhikode. If phoned asking his response regarding something relevant, he cuts the call. 
That's M T. He thinks everything that happens around him doesn't need his opinion or intervention. He behaved contrary to this, actively responding and intervening towards the end of 1980's and beginning of 90's. He was anxious about the hindutva consolidation that led to the demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots against minorities that followed. He stood with the secular left and intervened to a great extent.

The next time he intervened was regarding the problems that followed after the police firing on landless adivasis in Muthanga. I still remember one of those mornings. M T called a lot of media persons in Kozhikode including me on phone. It was hard to believe. He wanted us to go to his place. He wanted to say something. I was amazed. Wondered if someone was playing a prank.

It was expressing solidarity with the strikes for land by the adivasi community and also resigning from the post of chairperson of a committee of a film festival that was organized by the then government. He became a strong presence in the investigation commission that went to Muthanga and also in the committee for helping the land struggle.

The next instance of him giving an opinion on anything was against the central government in relation with demonitisation. The sangh parivar attacked him from all sides. He didn't say anything much.

You can agree or disagree with M T. But calling him Islamophobic on the basis of a couple of lines taken from a private conversation that has been interpreted in a biased manner and is being spread with bad intentions has a different agenda. When someone entered his privacy and invited him for an event and he got angry, and as reported, he might have shown the anger to those who insisted that he sign the certificate. Those who observe and read M T know that it is not an anger based on religion (faith). It is dangerous to extract private conversations and misinterpreting them. It's incendiary material.

When you say that your enemies are secular, the fault is not with them but with you. One more thing. Cheering for someone saying something, somewhere, misinterpreting someone who has lived on earth for 84 years, becoming a part of secular, pluralistic society and who became the light and hope of that society is not right at all. Identity consciousness and breaking idols are fine but when you do it maintain minimum decency in mind.

This was posted with an image of Fitzgerald's quote: 'Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.' 
The above translation has been done so that it offers meaning word by word. I would have made it much more beautiful and would have tried to maintain a better flow for the reader in my translation if it had been assigned to me as a job. Here i would like to just state the facts. 
So the above was K A Shaji's take on M T's Islamophobic statement. If i were to write my opinion on it, it would be something like:
Privileged mallu male journalist thinks M T's Islamophobia is 'anger' and part of his introvert nature. Also, anyone who calls Islamophobia out is doing so with a hidden agenda. Someone needs to tell Shaji the journalist that the only thing looking more stupid than M T's statement is his own in support of the savarna male writer. 
That is called an opinion. You can see how different it is from the translation and honestly, i don't want to listen to which of M T's works a journalist likes or dislikes when they are talking about Islamophobia of the same author. That's like Kevin Spacey coming out as gay when he was accused of sexually abusing a minor. There is absolutely no connection between the two. 
Now to Mathew Samuel, ex-Tehelka journalist who owns Narada News. 
His Facebook post said that he had rung Mr Nair up and he had denied that he had anything as reported by the students. Only, that was not all that he said. He called the students 'rascals' and liars. He said that action should be taken against them. Below is the translation of his post. 
[I] spoke to M T Vasudevan Nair sir in the morning. What is being circulated in social media is an absolute lie. [He] didn't say anything like that. The kids asked him to sign on a paper. M T asked what he knew about it to sign it. I have become old... I don't want such unwanted controversies... This is what he said. These kids who lied about M T should not be let off. It was a blatant lie that they said about a world renowned author. Those rascal kids who attacked him inappropriately made a big mistake...

If i had the option to spit on this nonsense, i would have done so. Since that is not possible i have a few questions. 

1. World renowned? Since when? Not that it matters but i would like to know.
2. How did you decide, as a journalist, that M T was telling the truth and those students you called rascals were lying?
3. Do you also report sexual harassment? Is this how you do that as well? You ring the accused and ask him if he raped someone and if he says he is old and did not rape anyone would you also call the victim a liar?
4. You are using Facebook as a media person, aren't you? That is, when you put up a post saying someone denied saying something, it's as the owner of Narada News that you are doing it? 
5. Do you know the difference between a news report and an opinion piece? I normally don't ask this to journalists but looks like you are a rare specimen.

Even more problematic was a news item that was published on his site later. It said that M T had denied that he gave a statement to E-vartha. Here is the statement from E-vartha as reported by Narada News.

Managing editor of E-vartha made it clear that they would investigate if the news was fake and would take appropriate action. 'It was a journalist by the name Sudheesh Sudhakaran who rang M T from the office. It might be because he called from office that a byline was not kept. If the call was made from office phone, there would be a voice recording. [I] don't know if the call was made from a landline. Will investigate if Sudheesh Sudhakaran's was a fake report. If M T has been misquoted, action will be taken' owner and managing editor of E-vartha, Al Ameen told Narada News.
That's great. Narada News, a portal that does terrible and lazy reporting will now write editorials on fake news. How is it that a portal like Narada News - the site itself that looks like it's purpose is to eradicate pot bellies of grown up men - gets to decide if another portal is credible enough to print news on a savarna male writer? Narada News that prints recycled erotica titles '60 'Drug Friendly' Women And 30 Men Have New Year Sex Party at 'Sex Island' will now be the credibility standard?
But guess what? After calling the students liars and rascals, a Narada reporter spoke to the students and lecturer who met M T. They confirmed that he had said that. There is a line from the lecturer that clearly shows how Muslim identities are constantly scrutinized and scanned. They are asked for evidence just like how victims of sexual assault are expected to provide an intact hymen as 'evidence'.
'We didn't go there expecting such a conversation. So we don't have video or audio recording of it. But he asked on our face, 'What if these students/kids become terrorists in future? Wasn't the World Trade Centre attacked and demolished saying 'we'll meet in heaven'?' We are greatly saddened by this statement from someone like him [M T Vasudevan Nair].'
So Mathew Samuel decided that the students and lecturers were liars even before he spoke with them. Is there anything more violent that a mediaperson can do?

I had to write this here now because i feel the need for this to go on record in English. 'Beautiful English' as Mr Shaji calls it. Malayalee journalists have been gaslighting in this manner for a long time and most of it have gone unreported because it was released exclusively for Malayalee readers. Not anymore. We need to document every bit of right wing gesture and understand that the media is a huge part of it.
അതേസമയം, തങ്ങളുടെ ന്യൂസ് പോർട്ടലിൽ വന്ന വാർത്ത വ്യാജമാണോ എന്ന് അന്വേഷിച്ച് നടപടി സ്വീകരിക്കുമെന്ന് ഇ-വാർത്ത മാനേജിങ് എഡിറ്റർ വ്യക്തമാക്കി. 'ഓഫീസില്‍ നിന്ന് സുധീഷ് സുധാകരന്‍ എന്ന റിപ്പോര്‍ട്ടറാണ് എം ടി വാസുദേവന്‍ നായരെ വിളിച്ചത്. ഓഫീസില്‍ നിന്ന് ചെയ്തതു കൊണ്ടാകും ബൈലൈന്‍ വെക്കാതിരുന്നത്. ഓഫീസ് ഫോണില്

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Why Men Should Not Shout At Women

Mannequins at a shop in Kolkata: Free to use and share with credits

I think i can call the week that went by the 'guilt week.' I felt i had lied at therapy the previous week. Not lied, per se but had withheld information from my therapist, Ish. So the entire week i kind of spent in feeling guilty about it.

I had smoked at the wrong time that day. Ish got the smell of cigarette and asked me how many i smoked in a day. I told her that Inji had also been asking about my smoking of late. In fact on one of the days following the session, i got reprimanded by another lovely woman too in a WhatsApp group. Inji blasted me for spending so much money on cigarettes. It's interesting how people who know me use feminism to make me stop doing bad things.

The damn problem is that they are always right.

I would like to tell you how it is. I am an addict. I have been smoking for 8 years now, if not more. In all those 8+ years, there has not been a single day i haven't smoked except for the time i spent at hospitals - a total of two weeks, at the most. I was in hospital both the times for attempting to kill myself. The second time, the withdrawal symptoms made me realize how bad my addiction had become. I texted a man who had raped me asking if he could let me know how i could smoke inside the hospital. One of my classmates smuggled cigarettes for me and i took one or two puffs in the bathroom with a smoke alarm and it felt like oxygen. 

Smoking is not on the agenda in my therapy sessions with Ish, as she kind of regretfully repeats every time the topic comes up. I have no reason to write about it in here - when these notes are read out to her in every session. Yet, i write so that i can tell you how horrible it is to have an addiction, especially smoking.

I am someone who does not like getting a cold because i feel that my body is gaining control over me. I hate diseases, disorders etc. I hate it that Calico gets migraine attacks and that he has found no cure for it. My body is the place where i exercise a lot of control, sometimes punishing it - something that is on the agenda and we have talked about it earlier too. I think humans are all powerful because they have absolute control over themselves and can make decisions and all that. Yeah and yet, i let a substance - nicotine - control my life. That's how pathetic an addiction can be.

Now how is this a feminist thought?
How is it not?

Women taking care of themselves is the primary condition for feminism. With that decision comes everything else. For this, you need to be completely independent. This does not mean that like how i do, you should refrain from asking for help or refuse to take help at all. It means that you should be self sufficient and your body should be self sufficient to fight because yes, we will have to fight. So when you punish your body with such things as cigarettes and unhealthy eating habits and all those things we women constantly do or don't do saying 'it's okay,' you are letting patriarchy win.

The only problem here? I know all of this and still smoke like a chimney. I know all of this and have unhealthy eating habits. I don't care about myself at all. The least of all my physical health.

I keep telling myself that i will die (kill myself) at 40 or something and that none of this matters.

So yeah, this rant was to say that smoking is the shittiest thing that can happen to anyone.

During therapy i noticed how Ish used a technique that Inji often uses on me. She tried to slip in the topic of my eating while discussing something else - smoking, i guess.

Ish said that she didn't know where the session was going. Nor did i. I never think of it, actually because i expect Ish to guide me through the path she decides. Anyway we discussed the incident with Deep that i had written about. 

When Deep got pissed with me, because i threw his shoes out because he refused to clean up after himself, i had got scared. Ish asked me questions about anger that made me reflect. I had not thought about it. But before that i understood something. A man is not just a man. Every man is patriarchy.

Allow me to indulge. I asked Ish repeatedly why i got scared when Deep got angry even when he had absolutely no power over me. He was staying as a guest at my place in Bombay. He wasn't paying rent and the only thing that let him stay here is the fact that he, me and Vai Vow are acquaintances. Not even close friends. So what was the big deal!

Ish told me that i had got scared because he was, after all, a man. He was bigger and stronger than me. He had patriarchy on his side. This answered a lot of questions for me. It was magical and exhilarating. My fear was not personal. It was very socio-political.

Of course i would be scared of being alone with a man twice my size and god knows how many times my strength. Am i not aware of this, as a woman? Yes, of course. The fear that most women have that they are going to be pinched in the breast when a man passes close to them on the road - i know that. I know the fear when i think someone is behind me and i slow down to let him pass so that he won't attack me from behind. Of course the culture and social location would affect the way your mind protected your body from harm. This is exactly why as a response to what Deep did, i went to my room - the only room that can be locked from inside in my house, and sat there. I typed a long message on the group that i had created to make both the men in the house and especially Deep clean up after themselves. After doing that i stayed like that for some time and then felt a little better and went out and made Deep and myself tea.

This is why men, if they really want to embrace feminism and get rid of the patriarchy in them, should realize that their body language is important, that if you're even shouting at a woman, it is building a power equation right there - one that's not right at all.

But during therapy, i felt so good. When there is just you saying your opinion and the world is telling you that you're wrong, there will be one tiny voice somewhere saying 'i think she has a point.' That's how it felt. After coming back from therapy, i told Deep that we spoke about him. Told him that his days were numbered. He joked around but i felt he had got the point. Later, i spoke with my partner too, about the same. I felt so much better, i can't describe it.

He told me that he was surprised when he saw that Deep was walking topless in the house after taking bath. Anyone who knows me would be surprised. I hate seeing topless men. In fact Cheta and i have said this many a times right in front of Deep. And you know when else this had happened? In Trivandrum. When i was with Sal. He had taken off his shirt and i had not objected. When Inji heard this, she said 'ugh'. 'Ugh kunji, ugh' she had said. 

I felt so happy that i had spoken to my partner about this problem. In detail. Isn't it amazing when people love and care for you! I wish i could be like that to Mother. Alas! She pushes me away mercilessly.

So the guilt part -

I have flashes of having sex during certain time of every month. Most of the time i only see my partner but sometimes, even acquaintances turn up. I fucking hate it. It applies to people whom i am just okay talking with. It doesn't take much for me to dream about them kissing me or something. Physical attraction was a thing in my life and i feel guilty about it all the time.

Ish asked me if i got angry with people, often. She reminded me of the assignment i never managed to complete. The picture postcard to people i was angry with or had hatred for. Me getting angry was common, i thought. People getting angry with me - yes, over political differences. But i do know that i fear anger very much. From my sister and Mother. A lot. Oh when Mother calls me in a certain tone, i immediately get that she is going to get angry with me and then get the feeling that i get - the one where a fireball starts swimming in my heart or stomach.

Ish had noticed my nail biting and had asked me when i had started it. I told her that i have been an arduous nail biter from ever since i can remember. It had never even occurred to me that i deliberately bit my nails (even toe nails) till the point they bled and that it was self harm. No, really, it had not occurred that i was harming myself. Just saw it as a habit.

Ish also asked me if my partner had gone to a doctor. I told her that he hadn't. She asked me if there was any change in the way we had sex after he and i had spoken about going to a doctor etc. I said no. I told her that 'What did Ish say' had become a goodnight kiss kind of thing as seen in Hollywood films. We laughed. I also told her that with the new job i had taken, i would have to travel a lot but i had made sure that i would be back in Bombay for at least one day a week, for therapy.  'And your partner,' she added. It was hilarious. I have a feeling that spouses of patients and therapists never get along. Yet,

when i told him that i had reported to Ish that nothing had changed in sex, he hesitated for a while and confessed that something had. He had lost confidence and stopped himself from trying to penetrate me, he said. I just told him that it looked as if Ish could read his mind. 'I am never going to see her,' he said, and i laughed again.

Extremely excited about the shoot coming up.

Cabbage Thoran | Cabbage With Grated Coconut | Eating This Makes Your Hair Grow

Well, that was what Amma always told me about cabbage. I hated vegetables. Vegetables and curd. Gawd, yuck. Mother has this story about her trying to smuggle in a little curd into me with a ball of rice and me puking it out even as a baby. Both Amma and Mother tried to make me eat cabbage when i was a kid saying that it would grow my hair. This could be from the guilty feeling they had from once tonsuring me when my head was a ball of curls. The new hair that came was straight as a stick and Amma was distraught. She used to love my curls, apparently.

But yeah, when i developed a liking for cooking, i started liking handling these things -too. To make biriyani, it was necessary to marinate chicken in curd. Inji told me that  it was called wet marination. And then you have these vegetarian friends. So yes, now i like handling vegetables and also eat some. Amma is dead or else i could have told her that i had started eating cabbage. It hasn't helped the hair much, though.

So cabbage thoran - these things in which grated coconut is added are called thoran in Malayalam - i found the recipe from Mishmash, again. Seriously i have no idea what i would have done if not for her blog. Please come back and please drag Inji along with you. I feel sad whenever anyone stops writing. It's unusual. I always wish bad things to other people. So. 

Cabbage thoran - cabbage side dish with grated coconut from Kerala | Reusable with attribution

1 cup of cabbage chopped into small pieces. I chop and then put it in water till the time i finish grating coconut. I strongly believe that's called cleaning cabbage. Also, in the actual recipe, they use 2 cups of cabbage. With me cooking that amount is always a problem because 

a) Not enough people to eat
b) No fridge (yet)

So i dared to cut down the amount of cabbage and keep the other ingredients the same. It tasted just as great as the best cabbage thorans i've had. You see, i hate vegetables but have an advantage in that i am capable of identifying great cooking even in vegetarian dishes. Yaay!

Grated coconut 1/4 cup
To this add, 

1 shallot chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 green chillies chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt

These are to be crushed using hands or mortar and pestle or just pulse them once in the mixie. 

Heat oil in a pan and splutter 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
Then 1/4 tsp urad dal (white lentil)
Then put in two dried red chillies

 Be careful with the flame or you'll end up burning them. 

Add cabbage and you'll hear the 'sheee...' sound. It's fun. 

Add 1/2 tsp salt [It depends on how much salt you added to your coconut so be careful there.]
Cover and cook in medium heat for one minute.
Open the lid, add the coconut mixture, mix and cover and cook for 1 minute.
Open the lid, cook till cabbage is cooked. 

You might want to check the salt at this point and make reparations. 

Add curry leaves and mix. It's done. 

I almost always forget to add curry leaves in the end. This happens with me in dishes where curry leaves are to be added in the end and not sauted in the beginning. 

If i am in the mood to eat, i have it with rice, dal, pappadam (papad) and achar (pickle) and it's heavenly. Yes.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Men who Don't Clean up After Themselves | It's a Thing | Shrink Tales

I took a major decision of my life in the time between the two therapy sessions. And as my family and my partner always suspected, Inji did have a role in it. Mother will be very disappointed and partner has already started making faces. Thank god his eyes are not that big or else for all those rolling and staring he did, i would have started getting nightmares.

So yes, i probably gave up a job offer that would have brought me good money and took up a job in journalism with which i am not even sure i will be able to sustain myself. In films, one is always shown to have attained a lot of happiness and freedom with such decisions. In real life, it feels like there is a hollow in my stomach and anyone can put their hands through it, dig up some of my intestines and eat it.

The new job will be tiring and will require a lot of travelling. All over India. In fact, i am not even sure i'll be able to do it but i'm giving it a try in an attempt to get out of my comfort zone.

When i read the aftermath and reached the part where i mentioned the series of sketches i had once started called 'The Broken Heart Baby and Other Stories,' Ish, my therapist, stopped and said that it was a deeply sad image. A child is usually a very vulnerable and pure and innocent thing and i had associated it with something sad and destructive as a broken heart. I was surprised that she saw it. When i had posted the sketch on Facebook, i had got the feeling that people thought it was funny.It could have been the way in which i sketched but i didn't see anyone who had understood that it had come from a place of immense sadness. I no longer remember what it was but i remember the feeling. Me feeling so hurt, feeling that i was born that way, that i would just have to learn how to live with it and that there was no chance of any of the sadness going away. It could be managed, at best.

The Broken Heart Baby - from the previous session

When i told Ish that i had again been absent minded and had taken an auto to the usual therapy location, she said that it was okay. She always said it was okay. But is it? Even when i don't have money i enter my film in festivals, pay the amount and later forget to send them DVDs. Ish said that it could be out of habit. It was the first time we were holding a session in a different location. Could be, i told myself. I hope not to make the same mistake today.

We had an interesting conversation on how 'projection' happened. I forgot what made us talk of it. For example, i never gave Ish the links to my films because i was sure she wouldn't watch it. This could be because when someone asked me to watch their work and give opinion, i never did. Or did it after two years or so.

But a more vicious form of this, i had noticed when i was fighting sexual harassment in SRFTI. Many girls - the ones who were hell bent upon saying that SRFTI was a 'safe space' and nothing wrong could ever happen there, said that we were lying. Me and other female students who had made complaints of sexual harassment against powerful professors who had fan following among students. I could never understand why anyone would think that someone would lie about being sexually harassed. Their argument was that we were doing it for attention and me in particular because i was also mentally ill. Later i realized how they were able to say such a thing. It was because they would do it. They were projecting it on us!

I told Ish how my partner had started sulking about therapy making faces when i mentioned it. Every night before going to bed, he now asks me, 'what did Ish say?' We laughed about it but Ish said that i shouldn't be shutting him off when he tried to speak about sex with me. I had done that the last time. She said that it probably took a lot of effort from his side to gather courage to speak about sex and therefore it was not wise to be indifferent or appear uninterested when he did that. It was true. I felt bad and guilty for some time. Over the week, i told this to him but he still hasn't initiated another conversation.

During the week, there happened an incident that scared me. Deep, my junior from SRFTI is staying at my place in Bombay. Over the elongated period of his stay, i learned how men never clean up after themselves. This was driving me crazy. Even my partner's behaviour really needed to change when it came to who cleans up, who does chores, in the house. After repeatedly telling, yelling, pleading and sometimes even been driven to tears i formulated a strategy. I would throw their things out one by one every time they did not clean up their mess. Even then they refused to clean up. If i wasn't taking the pills and going for therapy, i am sure i would have had long crying spells of helplessness over this.

So one day when i came home, i saw that Deep had not cleaned up something. I asked him to do it and said that i was going to throw something out if he didn't. He didn't. I threw his shoes out. When i did that, he got angry.

Then something in me changed. I felt nervous. Powerless. He said that i had crossed the line. His expression changed. I started getting scared. In my mind i knew that what he was doing was not right. He had long crossed the line and had troubled me so much - not cleaning up his hair, his beard after he trimmed it, the plates he ate out of and generally the hall in which he lived was like a pigsty. It repelled me to come back home to that. Yet, there i was trying hard to hide the fact that i had got scared of him.

He had no power over me. I was doing him a favour by letting him stay at my place. Without taking rent. I have been told that it is not common in Bombay. Yet, when he got angry, why did i cower in fear.

I crumble under authority.

What do i lose if he becomes angry with me? Some jokes? In fact, a big chunk of misogynistic things i hear every day will be gone if he stops being friends with me. In fact we are not close friends at all. We are not even close. But you know - that fear - that fear i felt when Professor N was flirting with me - that he would stop talking to me if i refused to have sex with him - it was that kind of feeling that i felt. Of course. Not that dangerous. Yet, even memories of the abusive relationship i was once in, with a theatre director in Kerala, who used to beat me up and rape me in hotel rooms and open spaces - they came back to me. In some hotel rooms, he would repeatedly beat me and when i dashed for the door to get out, he would just block it with a casual placement of his arm on the door. That was all it took for him to ensure that i couldn't get out of there. And of course, even if i got out of there, i would always go back.

The thought of me crumbling under authority - even pseudo authority - scared me.

So in the most recent conversation i had with Inji, she said that i shouldn't be comparing myself with Vai Vow. I had felt sad when i realized that he had managed to save what i saved in 8 months on a similar payscale within two months of his joining work. I felt like suing SRFTI for causing me all the expenses of therapy. In fact, i might just do it. But yes, i felt defeated - there - like a broken heart baby - when i thought of the fact that i could have earned much more if i didn't have to take pills or go to doctors or therapy. Felt disabled.

Yet, inji told me that the need to save was just not that important. It was to sustain myself that i needed a job. I spoke as if i had daughters to marry off. I spoke like my mother, she said. It hurt me. Not that i spoke like my mother but that speaking like my mother was not a good thing. I told her that i had problem taking money from my partner. He would have to pay my share of the rent in the coming months so that i can sustain myself on the meagre salary of the new job. She said that she had thought that i had gotten over it. No, i haven't. I feel that anyone who lends me money will then be able to have control over me. I wanted to be completely independent that way.

I cried during that conversation but yes, i am working on not trying to compare my earnings with Vai Vow's and also to not think of earning and saving so much. I thought of what to speak of. I remembered Ish saying that we would have to speak of Inji one whole session. One session? She would be giving one of her smirk shaped smileys.

Oh yeah, in the previous session Ish said that it was intriguing that i thought that me not noticing the maid cleaning up the room when i was in therapy was important. I don't know why it was important. It delighted me very much, in fact, surprised me, i think, that something like that could happen. I failed to notice that a human being had passed twice in front of me while i was speaking with Ish. Ish had explained how it was common. That people had failed to notice her pregnancy and were shocked when she informed them that she was going to go on leave. Just wonders of human mind and general astonishment i have when i learn things about it, i guess.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Women, Wardrobes and men who Just Don't get it | Shrink Tales

I just read the status message in which inji had tagged me. It said, 

‘I was lying. Fiercely independent is a mask to cover up lack of support system.’

Why are there so many broken souls in this place and why do they find each other? 

Reminded me of a series that i had started. ‘Broken Heart Babies’. I tend to think of myself as someone who was born with a broken heart. 

This was the first picture from the series that never saw a second picture. 

The Broken Heart Baby and Other Stories

On the day of therapy, i got up in the morning to fill water in the tank. Slept again only to be woken up by Deep. He is staying here for some time and threatens to stay for a long time every now and then. 

I had poha that he had ordered and was so happy with myself that i was being able to go for therapy even after working on the Saturday before. 
On train, around 1.30 p.m, i got a call from Ish and she asked me what had happened. Yes, i had one more point on my absent mindedness score sheet. I had thought that therapy was scheduled at 2 p.m. I don’t know how i managed to do that when Ish had messaged me that it was going to be at 1 and after me setting alarms based on it before going to bed the previous night.

I immediately felt defeated and angry. Defeated – I always consider it a battle. Everything. My body and mind. While i battle with my body on weight, subjecting it to strange eating habits, i battle with my mind who is forgetful and absent. The to-do lists and Google calendars are my tools. Spreadsheets for managing money and accounts. To defeat my mind that can’t remember directions, i often circle around my destination for more than an hour without asking people for directions.

When i reached my therapist with just ten minutes left of my session that i missed because my mind got the better of me, the first thing i did was to ask her if she thought i was lying. Lying that i had made a mistake in remembering or reading the time she had texted. That i was just running late and was pretending to have made a mistake so that i wouldn’t get reprimanded for it. She said ‘no’ so quickly that i felt it was true. She was even apologetic and asked me if she had made me feel that way. 'It's not you, it's me,' i said. That’s how my mind thought in such situations. I don’t know, why do i always think that people will disbelieve me?

  • Because everyone disbelieved me when i said that i was raped or abused.
  • Mother always thought i was lying about everything and i was lying most of the time too, i guess. So that she wouldn’t get angry with the truth. Truth being things like i was sleeping with a forty year old at 17 etc. 

Ish said a lot of things to make me feel better. About how i was doing very well till then and how people were people because they made mistakes etc. It calmed me down a bit. I don’t think it was because i believed her. Rather it was because i felt glad that she had taken the trouble to make me feel better. 

She asked me what i wanted to do with the ten or twenty minutes she could give me before the next person came. I said that i would read the ‘aftermath.’
We laughed a bit about my partner thinking that we both - my therapist and i were planning things that would affect him, me breaking up with him, for instance. ‘Why does he think so?’ she asked. I said that it could be because i did make a lot of decisions after talking to Inji and of late i had been talking very highly about Ish too. At night when he and i spoke over phone, he completely refuted my theory.

When i described my talks with my partner regarding sex, Ish asked if i thought that me missing the appointment in a bizarre manner was in any way related to the strain associated with the nature of our recent sessions. I was sure it wasn’t that. I always felt good before going to therapy. When i finish off the ‘aftermath’ for the next day, i feel like someone who is wrapping a gift for someone really special. I wonder how therapists live, with getting so many such gifts that are just nicely packed worries about our identities and existence and what not.

Ish said that it looked as if i was too much in love with my partner that she didn’t think i was anywhere near a thought of breaking up with him. She said i could be there for him. Just like how he was there for me. I felt cared for and loved by him so much so that i was willing to be vulnerable in front of him. Then it struck me that that was really something. My eating habits were probably the only vulnerability that i hadn’t exposed in front of him. It eventually became evident, but in so many other ways, i opened up my trunk of ghosts and despair in front of him in spite of having been abused and taken advantage of for the same reason by many other people.

In other words, he had helped me find my kind of love. I had to try to do the same thing for him.

I think i should try to be his mother because when he feels that i let him down, or that i might not want to be with him, that was where he planned to escape to.

I liked it when Ish said that i could leave the talks about sex with my partner there for him to go to when he felt like it, like how i had done with my wanting him to buy me new clothes.
[Note to self: people relate fast and better to metaphors made of their own experiences, speech or writing. Oh i take notes on how to change the world from all possible sources.]

I am now confused if i should drop more hints about those clothes or about renovating our sex life.
I didn’t talk about it the entire period and a day before therapy, he tried to initiate a conversation regarding that. I didn’t engage much.

The Goa trip was just weird. All those celebrities and free flowing money. Things that are capable of making me feel bad. Vai Vow being with me and Han joining us in Goa definitely helped. I shopped – bought a dress, a top and two anklets – after months of putting away my shopping needs.

Oh yeah, i blurted about the dropping of hints regarding Vai Vow buying me clothes to realize that everyone thought i had enough clothes because my cupboard was full of them. Deep joined in to make fun of women-clothes-shopping-what-do-i-wear stuff. I have no idea what men think of clothes. Apparently they don’t think enough.

I still haven’t found a job. Surprisingly, i have not got any panic attacks so far. Maybe because i have enough money to survive for another month. But i am worried that i am not worried about what is going to happen after a month. So one of the days when Mother got angry with me, i just imagined asking her for money like how it used to be till i got a job and that scared me. She would immediately take control over my life with money, i felt.

I should remind myself to write about the incident at the therapist’s during one session when i didn’t notice the woman who was cleaning up went in and out.

Sometimes i feel tired and useless and frustrated when i realize that for me to remember things is a battle. Not fair.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

New Clothes are Definitely Coming. After Ten Years | Shrink Tales

I went to therapy thinking of my lethargy. Once a month comes a period of time when i know that i have a ton to do and yet all i want to and can do is sleep. Ish, my therapist, told me that i didn’t have to worry about that. Even though i didn’t have a job, there was something in my mind that told me that it was okay and that there would be a plan, eventually. It was true. There were thoughts lurking in the back of my mind regarding my career. No, not career, just ways of making money. 

When i told Ish that i had not started taking the medicines according to the new dosage prescribed by my psychiatrist, she tried her best to look angry and gave it to me. Yeah, now i will have to call the psychiatrist and get scolded by her too, probably, and start taking the new dosage but i felt that it was worth it when i saw Ish trying to put on an angry face. She told me that i was to message her after i spoke to the psychiatrist. She was ‘holding me accountable,’ she said. Like a lot of things, it sounded like a nice thing when she said it. Had it been Mother, i would probably have thrown a tantrum saying it was violation of my privacy or something such. 

[No, i did not call the psychiatrist. Started taking the new dosage.]
When i told her about Director of SRFTI, Debamitra Mitra’s letter to me congratulating me for the IFFI selection, she asked me if she (Debamitra) would have got what i meant through my reply. ‘No,’ i said, ‘because she is stupid.’ 
I just can’t stand that woman. Maybe i should write a postcard to her.
Later that week i did write to her again, when they sent the wrong disc for screening at Goa. It was not about what i wrote. I just wanted to let her know that i hated her, i guess. Here is the letter anyway. Even though she is a woman, i felt like humiliating her when i wrote that letter. In front of the Goa festival authorities – because everyone says it’s a big deal – like how she and many others had humiliated me. Below iss my letter.

This is outrageous.
First you make public my name, now everyone from my school, college etc can identify me as a 'rape victim' and now on top of that is this.
Please send the DCP. Copying HoD and Director, SRFTI to make a note of this. Also Vaibhav Hiwase, who faced a similar situation earlier. ICC Chairperson because of the nature of what you did.

I wanted to scare her too, because that was all i had. But now after some days of writing the letter, and while writing it here for Ish to read, i kind of feel bad for her. I feel bad that i consider her stupid. Also that she is in love with or living with a complete abuser. 

I hope what LJ once told me about Jay (ex-lover) is true. When Ga told me that she was seeing Jay, i asked her to be careful. Extremely cautious about getting physical with him. When i told this to LJ, she got angry with me and asked me why i had said that. I told her that i was warning her, because of how Jay was with me. Then she said something that stuck in my head like how some of Ish’s statements do. She asked me how i knew that Jay would be abusive with everyone. He could be in love with Ga, they could be having a really good time. If it had been a mallu film, one could have easily added a bleaching of the screen to indicate an epiphany over there. LJ probably thought it was just sexual jealousy and not concern for Ga that made me say that. I no longer remember what it was. But yes, that was when i even started thinking of people who had hurt me having a completely normal life, being absolutely loving and caring to other people. 

Speaking of sexual jealousy, my partner and i again had talks. It kind of half-broke my heart. Whenever i talk to him about the problems in my sex life, i feel that he is a baby and that i am the only person who will pick him up when he is crying. Like a neglected child. I want to hold him close and smother him in an attempt to take all the sadness away. Yet, holding his cold hands, i spoke to him about going to a doctor.
His hands become cold whenever i talk about it. It happens when he is scared. 

He told me that since having sex with a woman was the biggest fear in his life before he met me, and because after we started being physically intimate, he overcame most of his fears, he had convinced himself to have been successful. [Successful, as a man born out of our culture, where ‘manhood’ is defined as the ability to sleep with a lot of women or the way in which you sleep with a woman, preferably many women.] He knew somewhere that he was lying to himself about everything being all right. When i brought up the topic again, his lie was exposed before himself and therefore, he felt shattered. 

I felt so bad when he told me that it was after the night that i first spoke to him about our sex life that he came home crying after work. Even when i asked repeatedly that day, he had just said that he had just felt like seeing his mother. Last night, he confessed that the talk on the previous night had caused it. I deduced that the thought of going back to his mother probably rose from it being that one space where he wouldn’t be judged by his ‘manhood’. Rather that was the space where ‘manhood’ was to be removed at the entrance, like footwear, before entering. 

Then, he asked me if Ish had asked me to leave him if he wasn’t willing to go to a doctor. I said no and buried him in my bosom, as much as i could. I then repeated the thing that brought tears to my eyes at the session. 

Ish had said that it showed that i loved him a lot because even when i feared that he would leave me when his sex life got sorted with the help of a doctor, i wanted him to do it. For all the selfishness i have, i couldn’t bring myself to hide it from him that there was a solution or a possibility. True that i would also feel great if i could have a better sex life (i still don’t want to believe this). It could be selfish. But then again, i also had really mad thoughts about getting pregnant with him just to dispel his belief that he was incapable of making babies. 

Oh but when i did get pregnant with him, it wasn’t planned. Story of my life. Even when i was worried about the legality of abortion in India, a not so small part of me was so happy that his misconception had been cleared! 

Not having a job is eating my brain in just small ways, i guess. Like i got angry thinking that i always bought Vai Vow clothes when i felt he needed some and even though he had started earning so much, he was not even thinking of buying me anything before going to Goa. Of course i am still waiting for him to figure it out himself. So i expect to get some new clothes from him after ten years. Men! 

When i pulled out a red pen to scribble something, i thought of the exercise that my earlier psychologist, Ms. Mullick had asked me to do. Scribble on pages with red ink pen when i felt like harming myself. I could also clench ice in my fist or take a cold shower. When Mother heard this, she bought me a red pen. I felt really bad thinking of Mother. She was always buying me things to get me out of my problems, i felt. Even when she gave me money to make films, she probably just saw it as a means in which her girl would be less sad.
I named her as the person who would come with me to Goa with free tickets. 

Vai Vow made fun of me saying that no one went to Goa with parents. That’s okay, she is not parents. She is Mother. She bought me pens. 

Thought for therapy today, will my partner be okay?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Job's Gone, Want to Sleep, Want to Give Up | Shrink Tales

So my job's gone. The company is shutting down. I just have a couple of weeks left to find another job, if i want to find another job, that is. I say 'if' because my new tantrum is lethargy. I just don't want to do any work. I just want to sleep all the time. Thoughts of SRFTI - the film school that has a great role in my mental health problems - keep coming to me and make me sad. 

My film 'Gi' got selected in International Film Festival of India [IFFI], Goa. I have been told that it is a big deal. I didn't know it was. Now with this achievement, people who had harmed and hurt me for no reason, started speaking with me. Tagging me on Facebook, accepting congratulations, i still don't understand what is so great about this. 

On top of that, the Director of SRFTI, that woman who lives with Shyamal Sengupta, a professor who sexually harassed me and many more women, and who drove me to suicide the last time i went to SRFTI, sent me a letter congratulating me. 

I am extremely elated to learn that your film has been selected for this year's IFFI. Like any head of an institution, I feel immensely proud for your achievement. This feat, so early in your career, speaks volumes about your talent and ingenuity.

I wish you a great and successful career ahead.

This was her message. I couldn't believe it. I always try to be nice towards women but this was just beyond me and i wrote this scathing reply.

Dear Debamitra,

I am extremely intrigued by the level of your shamelessness. Like any woman who has been subjected to sexual harassment and wronged by the system, I feel immensely sorry for you. This vengeance, even while being a woman who is much older than me speaks volumes about your inherent patriarchy and insensitivity.

I hope you apologise to every woman whom you have failed in SRFTI, including me.


People who had attacked me and other fighter women are now seen 'liking' posts on Facebook regarding the achievement. I always say 'we' and 'our' while talking about the films i direct but with this film i have always been careful to say 'my'. It is just my hard work because everyone within and outside the crew was just trying to push me against the wall and make my job so so difficult. Assholes, all of them!

I spoke to my partner about the problems in our sex life. May be we will go to a doctor one day. But it was news to me when during therapy, Ish explained how men lost their virginity by masturbation and it never really mattered just because they were men. She told me that male foreskin going back would be painful to most men. 

Regarding problems that arose out of being abused as a child, she said that it usually resulted in erectile dysfunction, ejaculating soon etc. 

You know what, while i want to have a better sex life, i also am scared that my loving relationship with my partner will change and become violent as soon as it happens. Because i have always felt that the act of penetration itself is violent and it is impossible to do it without being at least a little violent towards your female partner's body. I fear that this will change everything and the one relationship where i am not being abused will turn into abuse.

Maybe i should stop thinking about sex. I don't see this going anywhere. I mean, we ended on a note where i said jokingly that my partner would soon find someone else when he fixed his problem. She said that we would have to talk about that notion. Of course, it springs from my low self esteem and needed attention but i am in some zone where nothing really matters. I just want to sleep. 

Ish asked me why i was scared of hurting my partner by talking about sex. I consider him fragile. I remember the time when i had mailed Han about having feelings for him. My partner had read it and was weeping when i came back to the room. Oh! I would never ever want him to be in such a position. I reprimanded myself so much for that seeing how hurt he was. 

I feel he is precious. Too precious that he had to be kept away from me because i have violence within me. I could hurt him.