The Difference

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Yesterday, walking out of a hospital at 11pm, I had to walk around the building to get to my Dad. The road was empty and three young men walked towards me. My reflex thought was, “How do I escape?” But they walked past me like I was invisible and I realised, it’s in my head. I was not scared because they looked aggressive or scary. They looked like normal young men who I’d probably befriend in broad daylight. What actually scared me was that it was 11pm and I’m a girl who was out past social curfews.

Today I found an article about a journalist who interviewed 100 convicted rapists. One part of the article really got to me – “In the interviews, many men made excuses or gave justifications for their actions. Many denied rape happened at all. “There were only three or four who said we are repenting. Others had found a way to put their actions into some justification, neutralise, or blame action onto the victim.””

The article also quoted her saying how many didn’t know that it was rape because their society hadn’t taught them the difference. It made me think.

I can’t justify rapists due to lack of knowledge. I’m never going to say, “Oh you’re right. Society made rapists do what they did.” No. I know men who wouldn’t do that. They come from the same society.

But we can’t ignore our role in it. My world taught me to be safe after dark. “It’s 8pm, where are you?” is such a normal question to me. “We live in a neighbourhood where people notice. You can’t be walking in so late at night. What will they think of you?” – If I could have a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d be flying private to a penthouse in Manhattan today.

My parents cared so much about the faceless society that they have often chosen what the society would think over my happiness. I tell myself, “Oh I can’t wait to live away so I can live as I please.” But I can’t. My mother’s voice is stuck in my head and so I will continue to live the rest of my life in fear of “What will they think?” The things that make me happy will also make me guilty. The things that I enjoy will also make me scared.

I never stop worrying of the day I would have to explain to my husband about my ex-boyfriend. What do I say? It was nothing? It was a childish thing? But it wasn’t. Yet, if I tell the truth, he won’t marry me. I don’t know how to nod my head yes. What if my husband hates that? What if he hates me?

“Don’t play that sport. Don’t jump so high. Don’t climb walls. Don’t join gymnastics. Careful with the yoga.” Because – WHAT IF MY ENTIRE LIFE, ALL THE MAGICAL MOMENTS I COULD POSSIBLY HAVE WITH THE ONE WHO WILL HOLD ME CLOSE – EVERYTHING VANISHES THE MOMENT MY HYMEN BREAKS BECAUSE OF A REASON THAT DIDN’T INVOLVE MY HUSBAND?

My life has been a series of careful moments to keep myself ‘intact’ for a man I am yet to meet. And in that, I have struggled to find the things I really want to do. Because it’s always about what he might someday want. I have been told repeatedly that having a child is not my choice. It is not a mutual decision. It is his choice. If he wants one, I need to have one. I can’t say No. And that’s part of the problem.

Teach your daughters to be their own people. Let them have their likes, their dislikes. His likes are not her likes. His life is not her life. Even if she’s married, if she wants to say NO, she has the right to say NO. Don’t raise submissives that a man will “want” to marry. Screw him if he doesn’t want someone who knows how to think for herself. EXPECT MORE OUT OF YOUR DAUGHTERS.

My biggest worry today when my father says, “But you’re old enough to be married,” is ‘If I were a guy, I’d be expected to do more with my life.’ Expect them to achieve their own form of personal success. If it’s marriage, good for them. If she comes home crying, don’t send her back to him. Acknowledge her problem. She’s your daughter!

And teach your sons to put it in their pants. Unless a girl – sober and in the right frame of mind – says YES, it automatically means a NO. No excuse they conjure up while sitting in prison justifies a man who enters another’s personal space without their permission.

Don’t tell them they are better because they have a penis. They’re not. Genitalia does not make a human being better. Their behaviour and manners towards another human being does. You expect your daughters to be kind hearted and caring. Expect your sons to be the same. Nothing wrong with him being treated like his sister. “He’s a boy,” is no excuse. It never should have been.

Don’t blind him to the truth by encouraging an ego that doesn’t need to exist.

Teach him that his wife is a fellow human being. She is not made to serve him after a long day. He is not “providing” for her care. That’s someone you employ. Not someone you marry. You can’t teach a man the difference between consent and rape if you tell him that one day he is going to find a girl who has dedicated her entire life to serve him well. She is a PERSON. Not a sex toy he uses as he pleases. Teach him the difference.

And no. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to say, “Oh marriage is terrible. Keep your daughters away from men. Men are horrible people.” Absolutely not. There’s nothing wrong in keeping the people in your life happy. I’m happy when I make him happy. But it can’t be the ONLY reason I’m ever happy. Teach your daughters that.

As a society, mind your own fucking business. Want to talk? Talk about problems that aren’t someone’s daughter having a boyfriend or turning up late. Talk about our screwed up political system. About suicides. About RAPE. And talk loudly. Let your children hear and know what to do and what not to do.

And maybe, just maybe, we might have a better country that way.

A Chance To Dream

Last Monday, my father and I had a conversation about people struggling to chase their dreams. ‘Opportunities are created, not handed.’ But exactly how true is that statement if some of us don’t even get a shot at creating an opportunity?

On Tuesday, I went to see a movie with my friend. I’ll admit – I cry at movies. But surprisingly, I didn’t cry during this movie, I cried an hour after I reached home. The movie was called Jeeva. The story of a boy who dares to dream; the typical parent that says he can’t do it and a society that thrashes him for trying. As it was a movie, there were way too many nice people but that isn’t the case for everyone.

I am privileged to have parents that sent me to school. I am privileged to have parents that don’t depend on my earnings to put food on the plate. I am blessed to have parents that said “Ok. You can chase your dream. If you fall, know I’ll pick you up and push you forward again.” So many would kill for this life..

“Mahendra Singh Dhoni” – MSD – Captain of the Indian Cricket Team. I say his name with pride because I love him as a player. But there is a kid in my city, about 11-12 years old. When you ask him to say that name he will say it the way we say our deity’s name. With respect, energy and power. Because the man that is nothing but a cricket player in my eyes is that little kid’s idol. MSD is everything that kid aspires to be. MSD is the reason that kid wakes up at 5a.m and rushes to the beach with a bat in his hand to play the game he hopes to one day play for a living. MSD is the man that kid hopes to one day be.

And I don’t want to be the one to tell him that the dream he dares to dream of every night, the passion he feels when he lifts that bat, the joy he feels when playing – it’s not going to last forever. Because there will come a day in his life when he will stand in front of his parents and say – “I don’t want to get a job. I want to be a cricketer. This is my dream.” and his “practical” and “logical” parents will tell him “That is the most ridiculous thing we have ever heard !”
“But I want to be like MS Dhoni !”
“You’re not MS Dhoni. You go get a job and make a living for yourself. Be practical.”
“This is what makes me happy.”
“Happiness. You think if I’d chosen to be ‘happy’ you would have had the opportunity to stand here and argue with me? Go to those placement interviews. Get a job.”

His parents are not wrong. Every parent across the world struggles to raise a kid. To put them through school and university. To get their feet on the ground and have them move forward. It is never easy to watch your child make a career choice that might end in utter disaster. But that is the problem.

I meet a lot of people. When they tell me what they do for a living, I always ask – Is this what you want to be doing? The answer is always yes. So I ask again, “But if you could turn back time, you’re 19. You can pick any career you want to. Nobody depends on you. Is this what you would want to be doing?” I watch that person squirm and ask to talk about something else or tell me “It’s irrelevant to be talking about now.” But why does the next person not have the right to chase his dream?

Parents are taught to ‘let go’ of their kids after a certain age. ‘They can take care of themselves now. It’s ok to let go.’ I have watched my parents struggle with the concept. To them I will always be their little girl. But they took the chance.

I am not the next JK Rowling. I am not writing the next New York Times bestseller. But I know. I know the joy of sitting in a class and studying exactly what I wanted to. I know the joy of being able to excel in it because I loved it so much. I know the pain, the sleepless nights, the non-stop tears and the broken heart when I had to make the decision to drop out and give up on something I loved. And today, I know the peacefulness I feel deep inside me every time I sit in front of this computer and begin to type. I know the joy and the emotions in me when I write the title to this post because it may not be a publishing house, but I at least have a platform to do what I love.

One of my favorite quotes in life – “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” I’m fully aware that people might be suicidal when their dreams crash. Not everyone is strong inside. And I don’t have an answer when someone asks me “What if I let him/her do what they want and find them used and dead?” But I want you to take one second to think to yourself, “What if they came out with flying colors?” Precautionary behavior is never wrong, but telling them they can never make it, is.

That kid’s parents are not wrong. But they’re not right. He is not MSD. He will never be. But you know what they failed to think of? Yes he might fail, miserably. Or ten years later there will be a writer sitting on her bed in tears as she writes..

There is this kid in my city, about 11-12 years old. When you ask him to say the name, he will say it with respect, energy and power because.. that man, that man whose parents let him chase his dreams, that man is everything this kid aspires to be..

“Every child has a dream and every dream deserves a chance”