We, The Women Of This Generation, Can End Female Genital Mutilation Worldwide – #GayeCrispin #SayNØkay2FGM

Came across this link on GreatPoetryMHF’sWeblog and just had to share it. Do visit the link below and sign up to try and stop this horrendous and dangerous practice. Together we can make a difference.

We, The Women Of This Generation, Can End Female Genital Mutilation Worldwide – #GayeCrispin #SayNØkay2FGM

I was also quite shocked when I found out a while back that FGM is still practised among certain groups of people in my own country, India, and I hope the U.N. Resolution prompts governments such as the Indian government among others to make definite and focussed efforts to stop this practice.

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Life’s weird like that

My sister WhatsApp’d me over the weekend. She’d read about the death of a woman in police/immigration custody in Illinois and found the name a bit familiar.

When she mentioned the name to me, it immediately rang a bell. The woman was a teacher in my school some 30 years ago, though I unfortunately could not recall much about her. No particularly strong or lasting memories associated with her, nothing happy or sad, nothing dramatic or path-breaking. I couldn’t even recall what she taught. What I do recall is that she was young, and despite being thrown into a sea of young teenage sharks eager to draw first blood, she held her own quite well. She was also quite a tall woman, though I can’t recall her face or whether she was attractive or not. She may have been, because she quit teaching a couple of years later to join an international airline.

The news article announcing her death put her age at 52. Young by most standards, and that’s what may have drawn us to her all those many years ago. Or perhaps she was the sort of person who was inherently good natured, kind, the sort who laughed at our antics, commiserated us on our woes and empathised with our new-found teenage angst. Perhaps that’s what kept her alive in our hearts and minds.

When I posted the notice of her death (carried by several newspapers including the Huffington Post and the Daily Herald among others) on my Facebook page, the few who chose to comment remembered her with fondness, followed by a deep sense of anger at the way she met her end. The news reports said that she was charged with resisting arrest by the police… a criminal misdemeanour. She apparently resisted being handcuffed.

The reason for the arrest warrant in the first place, failure to respond to jury summons.

The news reports also stated that she went on hunger strike at the Illinois prison where she was first detained, dying a few weeks later from malnutrition and dehydration. But aren’t most civilised nations supposed to safeguard prisoners in their custody against harm, even if its caused by their own volition? Hospitalising, and perhaps providing her with nourishment intravenously. And I’m not even talking force-feeding, because then the Tokyo Declaration would be thrown back at me… that’s perhaps the reason why no one’s stating diminished capacity as a reason for her otherwise seemingly irrational behaviour. That would warrant force feeding now wouldn’t it. And if Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber could be force-fed when he went on hunger strike, surely a harmless woman who wasn’t a threat to national security could have been hospitalised and cared for earlier.

But I’m no expert on the law in America – federal or state. Here in India the Supreme Court held the use of fetters to be ‘violative of human dignity’, terming the indiscriminate use of handcuffs to restrain prisoners as ‘illegal’. So perhaps this woman, with her ‘lovely English accent’ as the Daily Herald quoted the nurse at the hospital where she passed away describe her… a woman who stood tall and was always impeccably turned out, felt violated at been shoved, possibly manhandled and handcuffed. It’s probably as simple as that.

Now I won’t argue semantics… I come from a country that doesn’t have the greatest human rights record when it comes to police action (at times even the army has been pilloried for excessive use of force in States where there have been prolonged insurgency… and despite the fact that we may say that the conditions warrant the use of force, there’s really no excuse for brutality), but we do have an independent judiciary, and often it is this bastion of ethics that rises up to defend the rights of people, citizens and aliens. And it is this institution that has repeatedly chastised the police wherever the handcuffing of non-dangerous prisoners has been brought to their notice.

So a woman died needlessly… and people may argue that she brought it on herself. But something doesn’t seem quite right with this case… something doesn’t add up. The Illinois P.D. handed her over to ICE since they apparently had an immigration hold on her. And somehow she still got served with a summons for jury duty. Something definitely doesn’t add up.

Unfortunately the truth may stay buried. After all the dead tell no tales.

Rest in Peace Miss L.

2012…

So the Christmas week finally draws to an end and the lights on the tree shine brighter as they get ready to bid adieu to the year that’s gone by. And 2011 proved to be quite a year – one that saw the end of tyranny in certain parts of the world and yet a continuation in so many others. Places where the superpowers of the world didn’t think it worth their while to intervene simply because it didn’t make logistical (read – monetary) sense. Human life is after all quite dispensable. 

And then in my own country India, poverty continues unabated in some quarters, largely unseen and unreported, while political games continue to be played on issues like reservation based on caste, class and religion, while the large numbers who need to avail of benefits continue to live lives mired in abject poverty… or die trying to get themselves out of debt. Where political parties trade insults about corruption, and yet don’t deem it fit to clean up their own houses. Where crimes against women and children continue unabated while our lawmakers look on in apathy, feigning ignorance, some of them active participants in such offences.

And yet in keeping with the high traditions of the hypocrisy rampant in our society, we refrain from educating our children about their bodies, terming it unacceptable. Ironic isn’t it that sex education is taboo, but rape often results in some of the lower courts letting rapist off if they marry their victims.

All this while we worship a plethora of female goddesses and yet have an abysmal gender ratio of Male to Female births.

So as this year draws to an end I thank God and the angels and saints and the powers that be, for being there for me in myriad forms. For holding my hand through the toughest times, for protecting me and holding me in the comfort of a faith that has remained unshakeable through immense challenges. And I would like to say that, “I continue to trust in your direction for me, and I place myself in your loving care this year as always. And while it may not always seem that life is kind or rewarding, I know that in the greater context of things I am richer for all of these experiences”. 

To my family and to the good friends who’ve stood by me, steadfast and patient, as I have ranted and raved on about things relevant and irrelevant, and I know I have, I must say – “Thank You! You know that I love you and that I’ve got your backs too,”

To all those who’ve stayed on the fringes of my world, taking the form of casual friends, acquaintances, colleagues or just people I’ve had the opportunity to encounter through social networking, or through the pages of this blog. “Here’s wishing you all that’s good, with the hope that life shall continue to enrich us as we go along, whether we encounter or continue to encounter each other in some way or in any way at all.”

So to everyone out there, here’s to 2012, and to peace, love, joy, good health, common sense, generosity, good conscience, tolerance and most importantly in a world that views most things in terms of monetary value, here’s to good jobs, money and a mortgage free life.

And in tribute to the immortal Robert Burns

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne…

Moving

So I’m off on a break.

Or am I?

But this isn’t one of those breaks where I sit in meditative silence, contemplating nothing, and everything. It’s more of a hiatus from things I usually do… to pack and move house… a return to my nomadic ways of not knowing what and when. Just more of the same really, in a different setting.

And believe me when I say that there’s nothing worse for a woman hitting her mid-forties than moving house… yet again…. and I’m quite the pro.

Oh the forties… when everything seems to go out of whack, but then you realise that nature’s just playing with ya… it’s the teaser before the show. So you’ll have your fair share of ills and ails, and menopause will loom large, and then retreat behind some mirage. Given all this I would rather back-peddle time and head out into the vast unknown… what else is there really?… Gigantic backpack on my back, and a large tube of iodex in hand, rather than get a slip-disc from packing a couple of boxes.

Moving house can be a real back-breaker especially when you’ve been malingering with that exercise routine you set out for yourself, and the only walking you do is taking the stairs wherever you go.

Okay…  I try!

But this time it’s a double whammy… I’m moving multiple houses, not just the one I live in, in Mumbai, my temporary home, but the one I have in a small town near Mumbai. A place that’s been more of a refuge than a permanent home, where I have come to unwind and recharge… a place where I did live for a while, briefly, but which gave me enough to fill my heart and soul with wonderful memories and with both joys and sorrows. The only downside is that I’ve accumulated so much stuff over the past four decades of living that Noah would probably leave me standing at the pier, baggage-in-tow even if I was the last woman left on earth.

So my break consists of de-cluttering, of sifting and sorting through piles of… everything, and since most of my things comprise either books, art material or kitchen supplies I’m not keen to get rid of any of it… boxing it all, into cartons marked – ‘Immediate’, ‘After-a-while’, and ‘Can be saved for posterity’, which though quite a task in itself, has been made immensely easy thanks to the generosity of a friend who sent in an armful of boxes and carton tape with her name emblazoned all over it.

At least the chances of my stuff getting misplaced during the great move will get drastically reduced.

Unfortunately all this frenetic activity has left me with little energy to cook, and apart from a hastily thrown together fried rice, with oyster and button mushrooms, fiery green chillies, fresh green peas, French beans  and baby corn, flavoured with star anise and a few cinnamon sticks, that I dished up one afternoon… I haven’t cooked anything else…

So it’s been take-out…

And the picture speaks for itself…

So yeah, it is tough moving, even for a self-proclaimed nomad, but as far as this little space of mine goes, it’s more of an a bientôt instead of an au-revoir kind of thing… so parting isn’t such sorrow. But I’ll miss the December sunsets from my bedroom window, with the sun retreating in a blaze into the trees and buildings in the distance, tinting the sky with passion, as if to say, “Hey! It’s too early… someone’s gotta turn back the clock”.

Then I’ll sit in the warm glow of a candle as the night grows colder, and sip some wine… content that I’m almost all done… but wistful and contemplative as the flame arises and passes.

And I’ll curl up under my quilt as the day ends… to wake up to the morning sun and the Buddha in deep meditation at my window…

Have a wonderful new week!

Kilnless and Free

I made my first clay boy more than fifteen years ago. I thought I’d try my hand at pottery but he got to me first, while the wheel sat and stared in envy. It was in my tiny little studio apartment in Goregaon, a small space I called home for a few years where he was born. A clump of clay was all I had and my two hands that gave him shape, that’s all there was to it. A palette knife eased the way a bit… the tools came in a couple of years later. He had company at first, my clay boy, in that wildly creative month, but none survived the trip to the kiln. Gnarled but endearing, he clung to me and wouldn’t let go.  A friend once suggested I get rid of him, he made her uncomfortable she said, calling him ugly, bent, odd as he appeared to her eyes but I gave him pride of place on my desk from where he looked at my world, surveying all that it held.

And then I left him there for a few years in contemplative silence while I went off into a different space, into silence of my own. A period of time spent meditating, looking within and understanding what he must feel like in his world and I became one with him without realising it.

It was almost a decade later that I emerged from that space, from my cocoon and replanted my feet into the firm ground of my home in Mumbai. My physical journeying done for the moment I took root in the city that had always held me once again and he came with me.

And then one morning I thought I saw his face change as I looked up from my coffee and morning banter with a friend and wondered if he too needed company… It was time.

It was then that I discovered the joys of air-drying clay and no more kiln trips meant that my old boy had company at last…

So now I present my boys… as they emerge and through these pages. Born of love, a desire to create and a fondness for clay. They breathe as I do and now they are in the homes of friends and siblings, travelling over continents, taking a part of me with them.

I’ll admit that I don’t devote as much time to them to them as I should… and my work cupboard groans under the weight of so much unused clay and tools that need out. I know I’ll get back to them…

I promise

And my gnarled old boy with his harlequin cap smiles.