NO.

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“‘NO’ is a full sentence.” – Pink, 2016

I made that bold and centre for a reason.

I grew up in a world where “No” is not always an acceptable answer. I don’t mean being a kid at a mall crying for Barbie. But as an adult, when it’s time for a phase in your life you’re not ready for. ‘No’ does not stop my parents from finding me a groom. ‘No’ does not stop our family from expecting us to be pregnant. ‘No’ does not stop them from planning a life I don’t want for myself. ‘No’ is considered disrespectful. ‘No’ is treated like a bad word. ‘No’ is an unacceptable answer.

But that cannot be an excuse.

I watched this video titled “India’s Daughter.” A guy said she was asking for it when she decided to roam around so late in the night with a man. Really? What if that had been her brother? You wouldn’t have known the difference anyway. I have brothers who look nothing like me. Does that mean I’m asking for it?

In the movie Pink, the guy says, “She laughed. She touched my hand. She was asking for it.” You want a woman to constantly control her hands, her face, her smile so you don’t feel irked?

Dress decently or you’ll look like you’re asking for it. Laugh slowly or he’ll think you want him. Reduce that make up or you’ll look too easy. Come home early or he’ll think you’re one of “those” girls.

Why is there so much pressure on one gender to control everything?

Why can’t a guy control his libido and keep it in his pants? Why can’t he control his mind from wandering to places it shouldn’t with a woman who’s simply looking for help? Why can’t he control his hands and not molest innocent people?

For a world that limits women from so many things, we have absolutely no problem placing her front and centre when someone violates her personal space and hide the man behind reasons that shouldn’t even be acknowledged.

Brock Turner. 6 months for rape. 6 months. Because he’s got a life. He’s young. He will never rape again. Really? This is someone who, in his right mind, saw a drunk woman, pushed her behind a dumpster and made the choice to rape her. If those men hadn’t seen him, he’d have gotten away with it. And so he’d have done it again. And again. Until someday, maybe, he gets caught. The court would’ve said the same thing. Because there’s ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF that he hasn’t done this before. For all you know, that girl would’ve also been intoxicated and has no idea he’s the culprit. But ‘he won’t rape again.’

If she says No, irrelevant of how drunk or sober she is, how many men or women she’s with, how late in the day or night it is, you don’t touch her.

If she says No, it doesn’t matter what you think she’s signalling, how you interpreted her body language or what you think she wants, you respect her personal space.

If she says No, whatever it is your friends encourage, whatever you think you’ll get away with and whatever it is you want in that moment, you will keep your hands and your dick to yourself and walk away.

Because No is not just a word. It is not indecision. It is not consent. It is not an invitation.

No is a full sentence.

And it means No.

Understanding the Differences

In a world of over-achievers, I’m a mediocre. I live my life in a way that I see fit and not everyone understands or approves of it. But that’s every one of us, isn’t it?!

My brother has a book coming out called Ketchup & Curry. As he explained to me the concept of the book, I started thinking – We live in a world that is unbelievably diverse. What I saw in Los Angeles,  I can never imagine seeing in my city and it works the other way around as well. So what happens when one of us decides to go and live in a place that is filled with people who couldn’t be more different than you are?! How do you live in a foreign country surrounded by people who are unlike you and still live peacefully and happily?

I’ve travelled quite a bit. My passion is to learn and understand different cultures and someday, write about it all. I need to be the most nonjudgmental human being on the planet to pursue a career out of that. Like I’ve mentioned before, my parents raised me saying “thou shall not chill with a man who is not your brother, father, family or betrothed.” When I first moved to a foreign country, the first couple I saw making out on the street were both women. Here’s the culture shock – you don’t kiss people in public. If you’re older than 20, your own father will flinch when you try to kiss his cheek in public. Then comes “OMG ! THAT’S TWO WOMEN !” But I thought that was the most beautiful thing. The freedom to be who they are and not having to hide. I lived there for about four months. When I left, I no longer had the need to judge people for the choices they make out of love. That was the first thing most people didn’t understand.

When I started university, my classes were only a few hours a day. I had plenty of free time on my hands and I spent three quarters of them on YouTube. Have you ever been so bored that you started out with a music video but a few hours later, found yourself in that weird part of youtube? That happened to me. I was watching Paradise by Coldplay and somehow ended up watching videos of people with Gender Identity Disorder and videos of Transgenders and their everyday struggles. In my city, the only kinds of transgenders I’d encountered were the ones who usually come and ask for money. When you say no, they try to bully you into giving them money or whatever it is that you have. So whenever I saw them, I’d get scared and try to walk away. But those videos forever changed my idea of them. I never realized how incredibly nice they can be if you just understand them and accept them. You know when you’re the black sheep in the family and everyone’s giving you the cold shoulder and you just look at them thinking “My friends understand. Why can’t you? Come on ! A little acceptance would be nice!” Imagine living life like that every day. But you’re not just asking your family. You’re asking the entire human race (with the exclusion of a few people here and there) to understand you and accept you. I might not be their best friend, but I stopped running away. I chose to stop and give them an answer when they asked me something. Sure there are some of them that are thieves and cheaters. Tell me a time when a man or woman you trusted wasn’t a thief or a cheater? We’re all human beings and the least we can do is treat each other the way we’d like to be treated. In a society that already lived like that, I learnt to accept them and live in peace. That’s the second thing most people don’t understand.

I still meet people who are completely different from who I am. I meet people who make choices I can never imagine making for myself. “She had six boyfriends in the past” is a statement that is approved in one culture while looked down on in another. Judging the people who disapprove of it isn’t going to make my life any better. But that doesn’t mean I have to change who I am. Every person is entitled to their own opinions. I can’t control my thoughts about things. Similarly, the other person’s thoughts are his own.

I can be cheesy here and say “Please let us love one another.” But that’s a statement that won’t ever work. We can’t all love everything. So let me tell you what I’ve learnt in my life – “Yes, we’re all different. We may not all have the ability to accept our differences and love each other. But the least we can do is to keep the hate to ourselves. Stop the stupid fights on comment sections. Stop comparing. Stop name calling. You do your thing and let them do theirs. If you don’t like something, walk away. It is not your place or in your right to judge someone who likes it. You can go ahead and live your life the way you want to. But the next person’s life is theirs. It’s their choices. It’s their interests and if they screw up, it’s their consequences. Unless you’re asked, don’t give your opinions. It’s as simple as that. Remember, who you are is insignificant when you’re gone. It’s the words you say and the actions you do that you leave behind..”

In a world of over-achievers, I’m a mediocre. I live my life in a way that I see fit and not everyone understands or approves of it. But nobody gets to judge it. Nobody but me.

And that’s the only thing I wish people would understand.