Friday, 11 October 2013


‘Rules and regulations are meant to be broken’ – an adage, which by now, every literate and illiterate Indian citizen have adapted to consciously or subconsciously. Schools and colleges have also played a great role in helping one to imbibe the same in one form or the other. And then you have the natural nurturing environment back home, among family members or friends, in your professional lives, in relationships and so on. At every step, in your daily routine life, you indulge in breaking rules and regulations. It somehow gives you a ‘great kick’ – a feeling of immense satisfaction, a sense of euphoria, an incomparable achievement orientation.

The way, every individual strives to raise the bar in achieving a bigger goal, a greater fortune and a more comfortable lifestyle, similarly do we, raise the bar of bending rules to the extent that they are not broken, but gouged out from the very rule books in the most notorious manner.

The recent headlines on sand mafia in Gautam Budh Nagar district of UP and the suspension of SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal, add to a multitude of small and large scale conscious acts of ‘legalised crime’ over the decades, ever since licensing or other control mechanisms have been employed in any commercial system in India. The media has only glorified the so-called ‘rule breakers’ by branding them as Mafias - doing a greater favor of boosting their self-esteem to a higher pinnacle. So, let me also stick to the same term, only to extend its usage as a generic term for ‘a group of conscious law breakers with an intent to cause immense damage to public exchequer and public livelihood to attain their own selfish motives.’

Now that I have already generalized the term, let me enlist the different types of Mafia who are actively operating in India currently:

Political Mafias – A group of decrepit, old men, who subvert the common man’s conscience by the most inglorious means with an objective to stay in total power and control as the sole decision maker of the country’s future course of action. (example – Laloo Prasad Yadav, Sharad Pawar, etc.)

Corporate Mafias – A group of well groomed, white collar corporate big-wigs, who, in the name of selfless contribution and CSR, stack up hoard of money for their political bosses, in return favour of lucrative tenders, at quarter of a cost of the actual prices. (example – Mukesh Ambani, Anil Aggarwal, etc.)

Education Mafias – A group of ‘world-class’ institutions, which in the name of offering ‘a life-changing experience,’ change the lives of the students once and for all. These students finally seek respite by making their presence felt in another world, not frequented by mortal beings. In the meantime, these institutions make a lot of money, change more lives and continue to offer newer means to change many more lives. (example – IIPM, Sharda, Lovely Professional University)

Aam-admi Mafias – A group of people, with or without any political affiliation, generalized as the common man or aam-admi, enjoy the privilege of being represented by the most powerful political leaders, while they themselves take a lot of pride in quashing every possible rule on the streets, at the workplace, at home, at almost every conceivable place on earth. (example – seen in the mirror)

Bureaucratic Mafias – A group of highly educated, erudite individuals, who occupy the highest seats of governance, with little or no authority of their own. This breed enjoys getting recognized in the eyes of the aam-admi, by making a hell of their lives. (example – visit any government office to find one)

Defence Mafias – A group of individuals, vested with the authority and power to maintain the sovereignty of the homeland, enjoys flexing their muscles in building houses, orchards, resorts on properties of the state or stashing cash out of illegal sale of arms, ammunition or secret information. (example – there are many donning the olive greens)

Media Mafias – A group of institutions, a part of the 4 pillars of democracy, who likes to create breaking news to subdue/criticize someone or something at the behest of the political or corporate mafias. The mostly illiterate aam-admi mafias take onto the streets to protest, thereby helping the media mafias to gain more TRPs and their political/corporate bosses more mileage in the entire cycle of events. (example – Kolkata TV, News India, etc.)

Student Mafias – A group of individuals with bloated egos and high self-notion of worldly knowledge, who feel they are the next generation to look out for, when it comes to politics, corporate world or social sphere, takes pride in disrupting everything – from education to public life – at the slightest wink of the political mafias. Although they symbolize youth power, but the incumbent executive councils comprise mostly of grey-haired, forty somethings. (example – all college unions)

Social Service Mafias – A group of individuals from different walks of life, who desire to bring about a social change in different spheres – education, public policy, poverty alleviation, malnutrition, etc – but end up becoming cronies of the political or corporate mafias. Their ‘hand-in-glove’ approach to serve as the secret treasury of their political or corporate masters, have made them a safer bet for investments with higher RoI. (example – GIDF, SoS Village, etc)

Medical Mafias – A group of individuals or institutions in the profession of providing medical healthcare – doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharma companies – who can get subversive, while wrenching out money from your pockets, at the cost of providing world-class medical healthcare. Their blackmailing tactics, while sometimes subtle, are mostly loud and on the face. They are very closely networked with the political and corporate mafias as well. (example – Apollo, Max, Fortis, etc.)

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Train Ride

"Ah, thank you," gasped Srobona, trying to catch her breath. It was for this strong arm, which pulled her through the sliding doors, that she is now onboard the Kavi Subhash bound metro rake from the Shyambazar station. It would have been a real mess, had this gentleman not extended his hand to help her up, with the doors almost sliding in from both the sides. It's time for some pleasantries, but who or where is this person?
As Srobona looked around, trying to locate whose hand she had clung onto, some 10 seconds back, she could only see over a dozen pairs of eyes staring back at her with an air of shock and disbelief, as if they have spotted a red striped zebra walking into a Kolkata Metro rake at the peak office hour at 9:35 am. The gaze she got back did not deter her spirit to look around for her invisible 'friend'. Srobona, as usual, was immaculately dressed for her presentation today in front of the board, in a white formal shirt tucked smartly in the boot-legged black trousers that she recently picked up from Zara. Her rounded face, well primed attire and her toned body have been stared at by men around in many past occasions and Srobona was quite comfortable with all sorts of looks from men. But, what dismayed her most was, she could not locate the person who helped her up onto the train. Was this person shy enough to publicly accept her compliments and has camouflaged himself in the crowd or was he one of those men with bloated egos to accept "thank you's" from young women - Srobona pondered. She took a quick glance all around her for one final time, with a hope to meet two friendly yet shy eyes. It was not to be. Srobona made her way towards the ladies' reserved area in the middle of the rake.

Srobona Chatterjee, young, independent, single and career-driven PR professional, works for a leading global PR agency at their Kolkata office in Park Street. After finishing her high school from Modern School, New Delhi and losing her parents in quick succession in an accidental mishap some five years back, Srobona decided to come down to Kolkata and stay with her only grandparent - her octogenarian grandmother at their paternal mansion in North Kolkata. The majestically built mansion, she was told, dates back by over 125 years and was erected by her great great grandfather Dinanath Chandra Chattopadhyay, a close aide of the British regime during the good old days of the Raj. As the only heir to this huge property, Srobona had inherited an estate, which a couple of years back was valued at over Rs. 120 crores. But her rich, next-to-royal heritage, never ever intrigued her; she was quite content with her independent and fast lifestyle that she led, happy in her own world, nestled within the folds of a rich ancestry.
But, today Srobona was quite intrigued about something else. A long and tiring day had kept her mind preoccupied from thinking about the incident that took place in the morning. Now that she was all alone, trying to stretch her muscles on the 19th century king sized pure redwood teak bed, her mind floated back in time to the set-up in Shyambazar metro station. She recalled that it was 9:34 am. She had just moved through the ticket gates after flashing her Smart Card on the magnetic reader. A stream of crowd was already rushing down the stairs towards the train on the platform on her left. She could barely zip down the stairs that fast with her high heels. The moment she reached the landing, she started moving towards the last rake of the airconditioned coach. That was when the door started to slide close on her face. She gestured at the driver in the rear engine to wait, but before she could realise anything, her outstretched left arm was already gripped strongly by a faceless gentleman, who virtually lifted her from the platform and dragged her inside the rake just when the doors came closing behind Srobona! But did she get a chance to see the face? She pressed hard to think. The faces that popped out were of those dozen or more men, staring at her with sheer bewilderment. She pressed harder. No, it's of no use, she thought. She rolled over to her side to try and catch a sleep. It was quite a tiring day indeed - first a team meeting, followed by a presentation in front of the board and then she had two client meetings at The Park and finally a strategy briefing for the media team. She should doze of any moment now.

It was half past 12. Srobona was still awake. The harder she has tried to sleep in the past one hour, the more she has been made to stay awake by the images of the events in the morning. Srobona got off from the bed and moved out of her first floor bedroom. It was quite an irritation not to get a sleep, when the body wanted to, but the mind was totally against it. She took the first turn on her right and took the flight of stairs on her left, reaching down to the landing which opened up on to the huge marbled hall-way. The stairs and the hallway were illuminated by the bright full moon, whose light streaked in through the victorian high windows. She sat down on a couch next to the aquarium, which was brightened up with a hue of green light. The scales of the fishes swimming by glistened with a silvery sparkle. Srobona wondered whether a game that she used to play as a child would come handy now or not. Her dad had once taught her this game, wherein, the easiest way to fall asleep was to make the eyes heavy by looking straight at some moving objects, without blinking. This can make anyone fall asleep instantly. "Ah! So let me try it once again!" Srobona stared back at the fish bowl, concentrating hard into the aquarium.

"Srobona, get up quickly. See, your dad and I are all ready. Any more delay and we will miss the flight!"
"Ma, aar ektu..." (Mom, a little longer)
"Na, aar deri kora jabe na. I am giving you 5 minutes and we will meet you for breakfast downstairs."
"Uff, jao na. Ami aschi," the blanket that lied till her chest, was now pulled up over the head.
"Jhinuk, we will leave you back here. Is that fine?"
No response from the bed. The door of the room was slammed closed by a visibly irritated Mrs. Riashree Chatterjee, Srobona's mother, as she made her way out grunting.
A reluctant Srobona dragged herself out of the bed, still sleepy and staggered towards the bathroom, trying to watch out where she is walking through her half opened eyes. 
In another 25 minutes, the Chatterjee family was aboard the Toyota Hiace van, arranged by the resort to drop them till the Sir Ramgoolum International Airport in the picturesque island of Mauritius. There was yet another family of four - the couple and their 5 year old twins, occupying the rear of the spacious vehicle. 
The journey lasted a little less than half an hour. The Chatterjees got their luggage loaded on a trolley and rolled it up to the check in counter. After completing the immigration formalities and clearing the security, they decided to stroll around in the duty free zone before proceeding to the lower level from where a hi-speed train service would take them to the departure gates. Some 15 minutes had passed and an announcement was made for passengers of AI 231 heading for New Delhi to proceed for boarding. Riashree was sitting at a coffee shop with her husband, right next to the escalator, waiting impatiently for Srobona. But she was nowhere to be seen. After another 5 minutes of wait, Riashree dialled Srobona on her mobile, which went unanswered. She frantically tried to call up over the next 5 minutes incessantly, grunting every time and cursing herself for letting Srobona wander around, knowing very well that her daughter was carefree to the hilt. Srobona, in the meanwhile was at a nail art parlour, completely oblivious of the announcements, while her phone buzzed in the vibration mode in her Gucci handbag kept on the table alongside. A second boarding announcement was made in the meanwhile. Mr. Chatterjee asked Riashree to wait in the lower level, at the hi-speed train platform, while he would be back there with Srobona. It took him a good ten more minutes to locate Srobona in a fashion accessory shop, where she had proceeded after her designer nail enamel work, truly incognizant of the boarding announcements.

"Jhinuk, eki? Tui ki announcement shunte parish ni? Rush up now. Tor ma toh regey agun."
"Oops, I am sorry bapi. Accha dekho toh, eta kemon lagche?" Srobona extends her hands for her dad to take a look at the nail art.
"Akhon ei shob dekhar kono shomoy nei. Come on Jhinuk, grow up." Mr. Chatterjee started to move towards the escalator tugging Srobona's cabin trolley. Srobona follows at her own pace.
By the time Srobona's dad had reached the lower level, the airport transfer train had already come. Mr. Chatterjee got in the rake along with Riashree, just to realise Srobona on the upper flight of the escalator stairs.
"Jhinuk, ai dikey. Taratari," Riashree called out from the train gates.
Srobona realised that she was late; seeing her parents already in the train, she darted down, jumping steps on her way. As she was just about to reach the landing, she lost her balance and fell face down on the turf, unable to control her speed, which was compounded by the escalator's own pace.
"Jhinuk!" exclaimed her father. Just as he was about to step out, the train door collapsed, forcing him to withdraw himself into the rake.
"Ebar ki hobey?" Riashree questioned. "Train-ta ke arektu dar korano jabey na?"
The train has started moving out of the platform by now, gradually picking up speed.
"O choley ashbey porer train-e. Noy toh ami gate-e pouchey, assistance chaibo. Don't worry. She will be safe."

Srobona looked up to see the train slowly moving out of the platform. She was not perturbed. She was quite mature to handle the situation, but still she could not stop blaming herself for missing the train. "How stupid of me," she thought. She looked around for some help desk. By now a couple of people had come forward to help her up and find out her well-being. "There's no time for seeking unnecessary sympathy," she murmured to herself.

And that's when she heard it. It sounded like a big blast coming through the tunnel. In no time, she heard sirens all around with security personnels dashing down towards the platform level, where she was standing, still trying to understand what just happened. The platform was quickly cordoned off as a team of uniformed personnels descended on the track and swiftly moved inside the tunnel. Something was being announced on the PA system. She cocked her ears to listen carefully.
"Passengers are being requested to move out from the platform area and move up to the ground level. There has been a small mishap in the airport rail transit network for which the system is being closed down immediately. All boarding will happen through the pre-announced gates, so there is nothing to panic. Passengers are requested to visit the Terminal Assistance Desk next to the lift lobby B2 for transfer assistance. We are sorry for the inconvenience caused."
There was a sudden rush all around. Some of the passengers who were waiting for the next train, to move on to the different boarding gates up front, were seen clamouring around some of the security personnels demanding an explanation, while the rest took the escalators to move up to the ground level.

Srobona, till this point was completely flummoxed, knowing not what to do next, while still wondering what made that noise in the tunnel. "Hope, nothing happened to the train that left with ma and bapi on board," deep inside she prayed. She got herself together and moved up the escalator. Sensing that there would be a wild rush at the Terminal Assistance Desk next to the lift lobby B2, she approached a security personnel in uniform, standing close to the coffee shop.
"Excuse me. Can you please tell me why is there such a rush around? Is everything fine?"
"Yes, everything's fine. There's been a small mishap in the tunnel, a freak accident. Our team has gone in to check," came a very cold response.
"Sir, if you don't mind, may I request you to let me know whether things are surely fine in there? My parents had boarded the last train, which I missed by a few seconds."
This time the look on the face of the man has changed. His cold looks have softened. He asked Srobona to follow and took her to a Customer Help Desk in one corner of the terminal building. There he asked Srobona to wait outside and went in to speak with someone. He came out in sometime and asked Srobona to go in and meet the Customer Help Assistant inside.
"Hi," the 20 something lady sitting behind a 17 inch HP desktop spoke up, seeing Srobona come in. "Can I get to check your boarding pass, maam?"
Srobona handed her over her boarding pass.
"Well, you see maam," started the lady. "There has been a small mishap in the tunnel. Boarding for your flight AI 231 is currently on hold."
"Maam, my parents had boarded a train and was in that tunnel, when I heard this blast. I hope there is nothing serious?" questioned Srobona quite anxiously.
"Ah...," the lady cleared her throat a little before proceeding, "there seems to be an accident in the tunnel and the last train which left for the boarding gates, have been severely damaged. We are awaiting further reports and I can't confirm anything more than this right now."
"Severely damaged!" exclaimed Srobona. "But what about the passengers? Are they all safe?"
"Maam, I am sorry. We don't have any further information on this. I request you to be a bit patient as we are trying to retrieve more information."
"How can I be patient? My parents were on that train! I need to know," Srobona could feel herself almost choking.
That's when the radio crackled and a message was relayed in French. Srobona looked upto the lady anxiously, expecting a speedy translation.
"Um, maam..., it seems there has been a major accident. Most people on board are reported dead, while some are in critical condition. The paramedics are trying to get the injured to the hospitals." She paused a little and continued, "there has not been any further communication, I am sorry."

Srobona later got to know that both her parents had died in the accident. Her father collapsed on the spot, while her mother was taken to the ICU with 75% burnt and severe injury on her head. She collapsed in another 2 hours. Srobona's world changed in just a couple of hours. She was now orphaned. Arrangements were made to fly her back to India.

Srobona jumped onto her feet, completely drenched in sweat. She had lied on the couch, infront of the aquarium and had fallen asleep. It was her grandmother, who had woken her up, not finding her in her room.

"Ki hoyeche ma?"
"Koi na toh.. kichu na."
"Tobey tui ekhaney? Shara raat tui pakha chara ai bhabey?"
Srobona smiled meekly, hugged her grandmom tightly and keeping her chin on her grandmother's shoulders, wiped off her moist eyes dry.

It was yet another new day for Srobona. A new beginning. Usual metro ride, client meetings and media briefings.

Strangely, she remembered nothing from the last morning - the closing door of the metro, the invisible grip, the way she was pulled in and the invisible 'friend' who ensured she was safely inside the train, only to disappear in the crowd.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Love Aaj Kaal - a short story

Ki holo? Tomake je kaaj-ta korte bolechilam, sheta hoyeche?” (What happened? Did you complete the task that I had asked you to do?).
Subroto, a member of the indomitable Bengali male species, married to Chandrani, a member of the dominating Bengali female species, just two springs back, stood speechless at the doorway of his south Kolkata flat. Of the 52 different muscles that lined his face, Subroto could not dare to flex a single one of them and resorted to turn statue instead. Two years into his marriage, he has gained a significant insight that no excuse would pacify his marital mate more than seeing him stand there speechless in a pose to suggest, ‘Yes, my lady, I agree that I have failed to complete your assigned task and I am ready to be punished the way you desire the most!’ The anger subsides, eventually.
Standing stone cold, Subroto recalled his first interaction with Chandrani. It was during his third year at college, some 5 years back. He was studying to complete his honors in Physics from a college in South Kolkata. Subroto Bagchi had been quite studious all through his school and college days, but he lacked the basic skills of interaction – a hallmark of youth-hood - that most of his friends possessed in wooing the Bipashas-Sumitas-Rupalis at the college canteen. Subroto was an introvert – a non-believer and a non-practitioner of free mixing and to many, a loser! But quite recently, to challenge his social handicap in the real world, he has dived into the virtual world of Facebook and online friendship. Within a month, quite secretively, he managed to build an envious friend list of 4 girls and 2 boys (that included 4 cousins and a distant kaku)! The only odd person in this list was an unexpected acceptance of ‘friend request’ by a college student from Siliguri in North Bengal, from among hundred odd friend requests sent to girls across the age group of 18 to 25 years. This was Chandrani Mukherjee, a first year humanities student, with a dimpled smile, who liked Shahrukh Khan’s DDLJ, loved music and enjoyed ‘eating luchi and aloo dum’.
There was no looking back for Subroto, as he started spending over 5 hours a day, following and liking every activity of Chandrani and commenting to everything that she had to say. There used to be days, when to a one liner comment of Chandrani – Wow! What a day today! – Subroto used to write upto 15 comments describing the day, the weather, sharing the news headlines and even explaining his physics practicals – to the bewilderment of Chandrani and her friends, reading the posts. Subroto never realized when cupid struck him and so didn’t Chandrani, who though a bit irritated at the beginning at her new friend’s head-over-heels comments, soon took a fascination for his childish innocence and started liking all his multiple comments to her one-liners. Very soon they started sharing personalized messages and one day, Chandrani, took the initiative to express her feelings for Subroto, online.
Arre, ki holo? Kathar jabab na diye, ha kore dariye acho keno?” (What the heck? Why are you standing there without responding to my query?). Subroto looked dazed as he tried to push away the images from his past, like the flick of a finger used to shift images on the new Samsung Note that he has recently purchased on his birthday. His conscious mind gave him no instructions to react to this question either and he continued to stand motionless and speechless. His subconscious mind nudged him once again and took him back to his first meeting with Chandrani.
It was perhaps the happiest day in Subroto’s life, till then. Some 2 weeks have passed after his University exams, which he somehow managed to complete in an unusually intoxicated-by-love, state of mind. He knew he could have faired better, had he concentrated more, but he was struck badly by cupid’s arrow and the wound was fresh! After exams, he persuaded his parents to send him to Malda to spend a week with his cousins. His parents promptly agreed and he was soon on his way to Malda, which was just four and a half hours away from Siliguri, further North and his desired destination over the past 6 months! Thanks to Facebook, Subroto had planned in advance a day-long excursion to Siliguri with his cousin Jayanta, who was a year older to him and the only one aware of his online romance. Someone else also knew about the plan and was waiting impatiently for 21st June and that was Chandrani.
As planned, Subroto and Jayanta reached Siliguri bus terminus around 10 in the morning and headed straight for Ghoshpara, a southern suburb, known for its Kalibari. As the rickshaw that they were traveling in, turned the corner towards the Kalibari, Subroto’s throat dried, knowing not what to say when he would meet Chandrani. Commenting on Facebook posts and messaging “I love you my sweet pie” were very different from expressing the same face-to-face. Subroto gulped anxiously, as the rickshaw came to a sudden halt at the Kalibari gate.
Babu, eshe geche!” (Sir, we have reached!)
Haan, kato holo?” (Yes, how much?) Jayanta got off to settle the fare. Subroto was stuck to his seat, still thinking what he should say. “Ai, ki holo? Niche naab-na?” (What happened? Get off.) Subroto alighted obediently.
After seeing the rickshaw away, Jayanta excused himself from the scene, before promising to be back by 1 pm, leaving his cousin over two and a half hour of privacy to meet his lady love, Chandrani.
Some 15 minutes must have passed; Subroto by now has memorised a short extempore on love and togetherness, when he heard her voice for the first time. It was musical, to say the least, it was mystical, “Sorry, ektu deri hoye gelo.” (Sorry, I am a little late). Subroto raised his eyes to see the most beautiful face on the earth, staring at him through the kohl-lined eyes and with a dimpled smile. It was Chandrani, no doubt, but wasn’t she too beautiful to be an earthling – thought Subroto, still speechless. A light pink chikan salwar-suit clung onto her body, the dupatta swaying merrily in the breeze like Kajol’s when she ran towards Shahrukh in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, reminisced Subroto.
Ish, tumi toh akdom gham-e bhije gecho! Esho chayay esho.” (Uh! You are completely drenched in sweat. Come into the shade.) Subroto could not speak, but just followed her into the shade, under the old peepul tree, next to the marble platform with a tulsi plant, in front of the garva-griha of the temple. “Ki holo? Tumi toh lajjabati lata hoye gele? Kichu bolo? Naki tumi rag korecho?” (What happened? Are you feeling shy? Say something. Or, are you angry?) Subroto had forgotten the lines that he had memorized so painstakingly. He was trying to absorb every passing second of their togetherness. He managed a dry smile on his face, knowing very well he was looking like a dumb scarecrow with a clay pot as its head and an uneven curve for a smile.
Jano, aajker ai meeting-er katha ami amar maa-ke bolechi. Maa shune ektu regey gechilo, kintu permission diye dilo. Amar dujon bandhu-o janey. Tara toh ashar jonno moriya, kintu ami bolini kothay tomar shathey meet korchi. Bapi ektu ragi, noyto tomay bari-te daktam. Maa tomar chobi dekheche facebook-e.” (I have shared with my mother about today’s meeting. Although a little annoyed, but she eventually permitted me. Two of my friends also know about this and they were too keen to come, but I did not share with them where am I meeting you. Dad is an angry man, or else I would have invited you home. My mom has seen your picture on Facebook). After a pause, she continued, “Na na, bhebo na jeno ami maa-ke tomar comments gulo poriechi!! Tobey haan, amar bondhura poreche. Tadero tomake khub pachando hoyeche, karon, tomar friend list shotti irshoniyo.” (Don’t think I have made my mom read your Facebook comments, but my friends have read your comments and they all have liked you very much, as you have an envious friend list). She chuckled innocently. Subroto kept on staring at her face, studying closely her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, without knowing not what to say to her. Suddenly, Chandrani held his right hand in hers and pressing it tightly said, “Tumi ki go, atokhon dhorey ami katha bole jachi aar tumi kichu bolcho na! Ki holo?” (I have been speaking all through and you have not spoken anything. What happened?) Subroto smiled and said, “Kichu na, amar tomar katha shunte bhalo lagche. Tumi bolo.” (Nothing. You continue. I like the way you speak).
Ki bol-le, amar katha bhalo lagche? Haan tai toh lagbe. Ami pagol-er moton chechiye chechiye morbo aar uni bolben amar katha bhalo lagche. Maa-go, ami aar parchi na.” (What did you say, you are liking what I spoke? Well, here I have been shouting mad and he has been enjoying it all. I just can’t stand this anymore).
Subroto got back to his self and realized that it was no flashback. He was standing right there infront of Chandrani at the doorway of his Kolkata flat, trying to play statue – the only trick he knew very well, to cool down an angry wife. Seeing that the situation was getting out of control and that too because of his own foolishness, he took a step closer to Chandrani and remarked, “Tumi dekho, kalke ami taratari bari eshe, plumber ke diye kaaj ta koriye debo. Please regey jeyo na shona.” (Tomorrow I will get home from office early and get the plumber to do the task. Don’t get angry sweet heart).
Haan haan, ami toh emni emni rege jai, sharadin amar moton ghar bari shamliey dekhte. Akhon jao, aar pirit koro na!” (Yes, I get angry just like that. Try taking care of the household like me. Now go away). Subroto came closer to Chandrani and softly took her right hand in his own, and fell on his left knee in front of her, pulling her hand closer. Swiftly he pulled out a ring from his breast-pocket and slid it right through Chandrani’s ring finger, saying, “Happy Anniversary. It was 5 years back that you had expressed your love for me online and today I do the same, offline.” Chandrani was too bemused to say anything. She stared at the 2 carat diamond solitaire sparkling on the ring, and was speechless for almost a minute while involuntary drops of tear flowed down her cheeks.
Tumi mone rekhecho? Subroto…
“Na. Please aar kichu bolo na. What matters most to me is that you are mine and I love you.”
Chandrani got down next to Subroto and putting her hands around Subroto’s neck, embraced him passionately. “I love you for just being my very own Subroto. Thank you.”

(This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any character, place or event
is purely coincidental)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Shocking, it may sound, but every MAN is a potential RAPIST!!

(Readers may find parts of my article objectionable or disturbing because of certain descriptions and adjectives used in the content. I apologise for the same in advance and deeply regret, in case knowingly or unknowingly I have hurt the sentiment of any of my readers!)

Today, a month would have passed ever since the gruesome gang-rape incident in Delhi, that shook up the sensibilities of young and old, male and female, across the entire length and breadth of the country. Young protesters took to the streets in unison in almost every other metropolitan seething with rage against the administration’s inactions while demanding fast track justice to similar such cases kept pending for a long time now. News editors went berserk filing media reports and working on the copies condemning the incident or taking a stand against the government and the administration or creating newer angles with statistical reportage. Our politicians, unfortunately, had to work overtime, thinking of innovative means of being a part of the media glare – even it had to be through negative publicity (and some dubious loose talks). The accused have all been taken into police custody with a lot of promptness and urgency like never before (thankfully, no political connection could be established with the rapists till now, thereby speeding up the process!). The charge sheets have been filed and the hearing has also been initiated. In the meantime, the victim has succumbed to her injuries leaving behind distraught and agonized parents, friends and relatives who have lost a brave, young woman, all of 23 years, training to become a paramedic.

What next?  Have all the protests, the media stories and the incident as a whole, created enough moral values in men to condemn their own act and come out of their feudal and patriarchal mindsets? Can some heated debates on television news channels prompt potential rapists to voluntarily control their libidinous urge to satisfy their carnal, animalistic instincts of using a female body, as if considered quite low down in the food chain with men sitting right on top, for satiating pleasures driven by high testosterone gushes? The answers to all these queries, as you and me and all of us know quite obviously, are NO!

So, the next question that may arise in our minds is – who are these rapists and how do they become one? Ha! If only we would have known who these rapists were, then I am sure all of them would have been bundled out in the Indian prisons by now, waiting to get themselves chemically castrated, without me posing to be the me-know-all intellectual! Shocking, it may sound, but every man is a potential rapist! For the sake of clarity on what I said, I repeat, every man, even me included, is a potential rapist. Why I say this is because, a rapist cannot be identified by the dress he wears, the language he speaks, the education he had or even the company he keeps. Rape is a result of an uncontrolled sexual urge, an animalistic instinct, which is enacted under the influence of certain stimulations – in the form of mental processes, external substances, suppressed emotions – on a woman, considered inferior, weak or submissive, by the oppressor at the time of the act. Psychologists have concluded that the sexual drive is so intense that it overpowers every other cognitive or mental operations, releasing a lot of suppressed emotions, bringing about a change in behavioral pattern of an individual, even changing the way the brain reacts (through advanced brain mapping technology) to such situations by making the accused self-justify that there is no wrong in his act. So, if a sexual drive can actually bring about a complete lockdown to other physical and mental operations of the mind and the body, then how can one prevent someone from engaging into such acts? It’s simply impossible. And hence it becomes so unpredictable. But there is a different side to this story. When you have sex with your partner – your wife, fiancĂ©, etc – you satiate the sexual needs of your mind and body. Rapists, on the contrary, be it a father, an uncle, a cousin, or any unknown person, would indulge in a sexual act not just to satiate the sexual need of the body, but to meet some more additional demands, as given below:

a) To give vent to a suppressed emotion – anger, envy, pride, feeling of neglect or any similar feeling related or unrelated to the victim
b) To prove one’s masculinity (by taking advantage of male domination in the society we live in) or to get acceptance or inclusion in the group one wishes to be a part of (under extreme peer pressure, where justification of every act, howsoever wrong it is, is always right)
c) To seek unconditional sexual pleasure from just another woman – which would not be fulfilled at home or at the brothel.

The act of rape or forceful (and unwarranted) violation of a woman’s privacy through any means causing adverse physical and/or mental agony to the victim can therefore be caused by any man, as per the aforementioned points. What needs to be understood here is that, a sexually obsessed person committing the crime, is not in a mental state of criticizing his own act at the time of the said act. He may however return to a state wherein he may feel that whatever he did was questionable and a criminal offence. Such behaviour is intensified further if the offender is under the influence of any substance abuse – drug or alcohol. It can therefore be concluded that a potentiality to rape a woman exists in every man in the society, although what separates a rapist from a person with clean conscience, is the extent to which the latter can suppress such negative drives by engaging themselves in other forms of mental or physical activities.

Personally, I feel that apart from drugs or alcohol, which intensifies the sexual drive of individuals (as mentioned above), there are some more factors, which have steadily contributed to the rise of sexual offences in the recent times:
a)    Irresponsible Media (both news and entertainment) – it is an established fact that media plays a pivotal role in shaping the social fabric as it has the advantage of reaching out to maximum number of people across gender, age and social groups, with messages, information and content that can influence its target group. The very same media, when it becomes a source of cheap entertainment through graphic and pictorial presentations which may be categorized as pornographic, it does create a lot of negative impact in the mind of the audience consuming the same content. (Two of the leading English mainline newspapers of India publish a daily entertainment supplement which can be easily categorized as pornographic not because of the news or headlines which may be disturbing but the pictorial representation of female celebrities from India and abroad in the most uncompromising poses and attire befitting of a Playboy or Cosmopolitan). One should not forget that most of the consumers of such media content are teenagers, college students and young adults who lack the maturity to gauge the appropriateness or impact of such toxic content.
b)   Rapid urbanization, Lifestyle and Work-life-balance – Over the past decade or so, India’s rapid economic growth has been contributed majorly by a robust service sector, which has helped India earn the epitaph of the “Outsourcing & Service capital of the world.” This has in turn opened up multiple opportunities for the Indian youth across urban and rural belts (as an additional reference, I want to point out the fact that apart from IT service, other service functions require less technical skills, training of which can be delivered through short to long term courses through regular and distance mode; this has made different job opportunities in service sectors more appealing to the youth brigade, bringing both the rural and urban youths to the same platform). Higher opportunities in service industry, which have flourished across the metropolitans have drawn in a lot of youngsters from district and sub-divisional regions as well, creating a higher population influx (politicians would love to term it as migrant population) in the cities. Add to this the incentive driven pay packages, leaving a lot of disposable income to these young men and women in service. Financial independence of these youngsters has given them an opportunity to channelize their disposable income to buy fashion and lifestyle products, leading to a growth in consumerism which ultimately also accounts for socio-economic divide (which has been widening recently). Other factors like stretched work hours, unsteady relationships, bad eating habits, poor work-life-balance, etc have also lead to depressive conditions in these youngsters, which remain suppressed in the subconscious, only giving vent in different self destructive forms (substance abuse, sex drives, etc being some outcomes of these depressive states).
c)    Fragmented family life and disturbed childhood – Social structures in both urban and rural India have undergone a gradual change over the past 2-3 decades, peaking after the opening of the Indian economy in the early 90s. Ever since then, there has been a rise in the number of divorce, female feticide and social abuses affecting women in general and the children in particular. This has lead to a disturbed childhood for many kids. Although many of these kids have grown up to get well established in life, but a snapshot of their past is still stored in their subconscious. These suppressed emotions in such individuals may trigger certain unaccountable actions leading to sexual or physical abuse of people deemed weaker physically and socially.

A rapist in the city or in the village, in India or abroad, in a developing country or a developed world, would always stay a rapist in the eyes of the law. And all accused, as I have already mentioned, irrespective of their education, their profession, their color or creed, indulge in anything as heinous as rape, to give vent to some of their suppressed emotions, which would not be visible in our normal routine life. Guess it, your most cooperative colleague, a young and dynamic man of 26 can be a cause of threat for you, the same way your next door uncle-ji of 45 years! Don’t take me wrong, but rape as a crime against woman is equally terrorizing as a brain-dead individual carrying an AK-47 across his shoulder, pumping in rounds after rounds of bullets on to common people. Even in an advanced society like Europe and USA, with the availability of professional help in the form of counselors and psychiatrists, rape could not be completely abolished.

Many have even suggested making law enforcement more stringent and fast-tracked, but even with a stringent system in place, has this act been completely abolished out from the developed world? No it hasn’t been. Fast tracking of cases against rape-accused, making the law enforcers more accountable for any lapse in security cover on men, women and children alike (not just to secure the women from rapists, but ensuring the safety of the general populace), creating a fear of the strictest of punishment as a means to reduce such acts, etc are all fine, but rape cannot be completely abolished from the society. It was there 500 years back, even quite openly mentioned in different religious mythologies and it will stay for the rest of our lifetime. These closing statements of mine may make my readers feel shocked about the extent of pessimism I bear regarding this issue, but as a person with scientific bent of mind, I cannot paint a rosier picture of a society free of such immoral acts in future, simply because the science of the mind, would keep it going, even against the wish of the gods!! As parents and responsible citizens, we should try to create a better tomorrow for our kids, by inculcating gender sensitization programmes more transparently at home and at school, pressure our governments in enforcing equally stringent laws against people found using women-centric expletives in public, engage our kids in practicing meditation as a daily routine and finally stop all forms of discrimination against women in every walks of life.

Even if all men are potential rapists, it is they, who can bring about a change, not the women. So just don’t expect any change, be the change!