Posted in Of Culturel

Of Sharing Stories

Don’t stay in the dark

I’m told I should share my story. But, I’m afraid by saying it, it will become real.

I suffered an allergy attack over the weekend. I went to get some medication at a local pharmacy on Sunday morning, clearly preoccupied with my inflamed nose and watering eyes, to care about anything other than finding a cure. As I bent awkwardly on the rather high counter to make my claim at the crowded shop, a common occurrence given my short, 5’2” frame, I felt a hand brush against my behind. This same hand next patted the shop assistant’s shoulder, and the man who it belonged to talked to him as if he’s a genial uncle. I had been an unsightly picture of snot and tears (not that this man had even seen my face before he felt me up) and I was wearing extremely loose palazzo pants, along with a buttoned-up full-sleeve shirt. Even as I realised what had happened, I had already become aware of how protesting, something I don’t often refrain from in such public encounters, would be pointless.

On Tuesday, as I stood in the train on my way to work, a woman around fifty sitting behind me ‘accidentally’ felt up my behind several times, giving the impression that though she was sitting comfortably, she had no space to keep her hands that didn’t invade mine. She got up from her seat, felt my buttocks, my waist, and slid her hands up to my armpits. As I expressed irritation, she gave my armpit a squeeze and made a facial expression to indicate she was only trying to balance herself on a crowded, moving train.

As I thought about it in the next few minutes, it occurred to me, “my butt is popular this week.” Perhaps those lunges I’ve been doing once in a blue moon are finally working. And that, or something like that, is how I would have tucked away something like these.

There are too, too many encounters to share. I wouldn’t call them stories, for a story demands much more. A story demands comprehension, themes, characters, arcs, development. Perfect wording to capture what was felt. What happened. A story demands both satisfaction and longing for more, which is why we have series and sequels. Most of all, a good story demands engagement, something to keep audiences hooked, something a storyteller can only gauge if she or he himself is hooked.

These are encounters I wish into oblivion. All are memories, often but not always physical, that remind me I have a body, female or not it doesn’t matter, and that people from time to time consider it theirs. Why? Because it’s in front of them. It suggests a desire they do not believe needs reciprocity to be satisfied. When you want something, you’re expected to give something in return. Some reciprocity is expected in every exchange. But, apparently, not in these. Not that these are exchanges to be exact, for my passivity, alarm, shame and burgeoning rage do not compare with their easy, adventurous, entitled glee at getting away with it all, rules of being civilized be damned.

On International Women’s Day, as I spoke about the work the UN has been doing towards women’s rights, several well-educated men with respectable jobs bluntly remarked, ‘What have we men got to do with women’s day?’

I told them about men’s issues, detailing two specifically, one of which they should be able to empathise with – the problems faced by single fathers in India, especially those interested in adoption, and homosexual rape. I spoke about the #HeForShe campaign. But, I could see the discomfort in their faces, the incomprehension, the trivialization, the indifference and the feeling of being thwarted from their otherwise position of authority, real or implied.

But, I’m not interested in male-bashing. I cannot say I love men, for then there are those who will automatically think I’m a ‘nympho’ or a slut. But, Feminism is not about women. It is about equality. It is about making everybody feel safe, creating an environment where they can work towards fulfilling their potential. That might sound like a platitude, ripped off from the constitution of some privileged country, but my non-political self still likes to believe it can be achieved, and she can rattle off the names of several men, and some women, who have done just that.

That is the problem. You cannot even talk about it, without politicizing yourself. I am either a victim, asking for pity and understanding, or a bother, a nagging voice that people want to go away as soon as this Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein business is over. Most of all, I am uninteresting because I’m not in the entertainment industry (not even politics or sport, which are equally juicy), and there are no major revelations here either. So what if some men didn’t like my little speech? Who cares?

You don’t have to care. Several will choose not to care. But, I will keep on saying it. Two basic principles of Psychology can solve all of this. First, education. Not the kind that makes you learn to be doctors and lawyers, but the one that teaches you to care and feel responsible from a young age. Adults also are not immune to the effects of education that concerns itself with respecting a person’s space. If they fancy themselves able to learn how to drive or prepare their body for a marathon, they can learn basic decency.

Second, repetition. These discussions cannot be a fad, coming and going with the tide of newspaper headlines. We need to talk about it. We need to have a culture in which we are able to talk about it. I had a couple more stories I wanted to share but I decided against it, worrying about my career and my safety. These are situations I have stood up for in my life, but they have not been resolved in a way that would send the message to the parties involved that their behaviour is hurtful and inappropriate.

It’s not easy. We have to accept that despite thousands of years of being civilized, of having strict laws and governance and platforms of communication for several decades, there are still people who can get away with this. But, what we cannot accept is the shame and the fear we feel about it. We have to fight for it. Even as much as letting the person know that they haven’t bullied you into silence. Easier said than done, but we must keep trying to do it.

What do you think can be done to educate people about inappropriate behaviour?



Posted in Of Culturel

Of Biscuits

Biscuits (Courtesy: Pixabay)

Me want cookie. – Cookie Monster, Sesame Street

I’ve underestimated the biscuit in recent years. Previously in my life, biscuits were as common as the sun and the moon and the stars. Astronomy and gastronomy only diverged when it came to what demanded more romantic literature to be made out of them. They had been equals in my childhood, even contemporaries, Continue reading “Of Biscuits”

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Of Gifts and Presents

Gifts (Courtesy: Pixabay)

I had to buy a present for an upcoming wedding yesterday. I don’t particularly enjoy buying wedding presents for people, because they’re the least imaginative out there. Even when you get a little creative and thoughtful with them, your efforts go unnoticed in a sea of more obvious, less thoughtful presents.

There is nothing selfless about gift-giving. Continue reading “Of Gifts and Presents”

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Of Taxes


Indian Food at a Restaurant (Courtesy: Pixabay)

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. – Will Rogers

The upcoming Goods and Services Tax (a.k.a. GST) in India has taken precedence over conversations about the weather, cricket and why Bahubali had to die in Bahubali 2. Some of this won’t be familiar to my worldwide readership (about which I will always brag), but taxation is a universal experience. And forgive my inability to resist any given opportunity to pun, but few things can be more taxing. Continue reading “Of Taxes”

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Book Review: Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids Cover (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

I didn’t feel for Warhol the way Robert did. His work reflected a culture I wanted to avoid. I hated the soup and felt little for the can. I preferred an artist who transformed his time, not mirrored it. – Patti Smith, Just Kids

My brain’s been chewing on this for the last few days. Should an artist be a mirror, something even Shakespeare claimed to do, or a transformer? Should art itself stop at reflecting life, or attempt to change it?

Patti Smith agitates me. Continue reading “Book Review: Just Kids by Patti Smith”

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Book Review: The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Sellout By Paul Beatty (Courtesy: The Man Booker Prizes)

Lee Strasberg could teach you how to be a tree, but he couldn’t teach you how to be a nigger. – Paul Beatty, The Sellout

If I had only one word to describe it, I would use the word “relentless”. If I had three more, I would say, “savage, utterly savage”. If I had the opportunity to check myself and be politically correct, I would say, “by savage, I do not mean to be Continue reading “Book Review: The Sellout by Paul Beatty”

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Of A Birthday

Birthday (Courtesy: Pixabay)

May is a special month for me – both my birth anniversary and my blog anniversary are this month, though about twenty days apart. And my attitude to either couldn’t be more different. Blog anniversary is to reflect – look back, plan ahead, acknowledge that for whatever reason, I keep writing these light, frivolous things and people keep coming back to read them. Birth anniversary is to hide under a chair. Continue reading “Of A Birthday”

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Of Reviewing Things

Cartoon: The Critic

Once upon a time, I had a movie blog. I reviewed movies I had seen. I won’t link it here, because I don’t think you’d recognise it’s the same person. That reviewer was sharp. Brutal. Snarky. Fearless. Not the wishy washy, whiney, mopey, mellow creature you’ve grown to know and love over the past few years here on Of Opinions. Continue reading “Of Reviewing Things”

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Vote For The Thirteenth Doctor!

doctor who
The Doctor(s)

The search is on for the next Doctor  on the best TV show in television history, Doctor Who. (Seriously, if you’ve never seen it, make good of your Netflix subscription and watch it this weekend. Or now. You can thank me later.) Fans are already speculating about who’s going to be the next Doctor, with Richard Ayoade and Tilda Swinton Continue reading “Vote For The Thirteenth Doctor!”