Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Dark Hound

It swam with the gentle breeze.
Just like the undulating pendulum,
of a grandfather's clock.
But without the monotonous tick-tock.
The dark head swung back and forth now.
Against the rays of silver moonlight.
Bottomless and faceless.
Square and noiseless. 

She had woken up in the middle of night,

As if struck hard by some silent foe, 
Terrified, and sweaty at the brow.
She stared, as if hypnotized,
At the queer contraption.
'Is it a ghost?
Is it a robber?'
She wondered in consternation.

'Mom', she tried to call.

The parched throat refused to oblige.
'Brother', she tried to nudge.
Paralyzed arms declined to budge.
'Would it pounce upon me',
she panicked, 'and attack my loving kin,
snoring softly,
Oblivious to the fangs of death closing in?'

The seven-year old shut her eyes tight,

Wishing the monster to go away,
Disappear into the piercing moonlight,
Longing for it soon to be day.
'Ghosts are not real, it's just a dream
Soon the nightmare will be over'.
She pulled over her face, the sheet cover.
'It's not so scary now as it seemed'.

Sunlight filtered through the pristine sheet,

Peeped through her shut eyes.
'Wake up, you sleeping beauty',
Mom kissed the little princess.
She sat up with a jolt and looked around.
'Has he vanished? It's not yet Vesper's nine!'
Her brother's black tee flailed on the clothesline.
Oh no, so this was my ghost, this was the dark hound!


Image courtesy: wikiHow

Saturday, 9 September 2017

My Feisty Warrior Woman




She picked up the cleaver and sliced the hand slithering inside through the metal bars. The robber's fingers fell on her bed, a puddle of blood slowly staining the pristine white sheet. The robber's hand had disappeared but his shrieks still rant the still night air. She trembled with repulsion at the sight of blood, yet she managed to pick up her sleeping children-thankfully unaware of the bloodbath-with firm hands. She peeled away the blood soaked bed sheet and mattress, threw a clean sheet on the bed and carefully laid the children on it.
It was the pre-independence era. Her husband was a senior employee in the railway department in a town in Multan province, now in Pakistan. Whenever he had a night duty, he would send home a peon at night to bring his glass of milk. But that night the peon was on leave and hence her husband had drunk milk before leaving for his night duty. The robber who had been observing the daily routine of the man-of-the-house for some days, obviously didn't know this. An hour after the man left his home, the robber knocked at the window just as the peon used to do and asked for the glass of milk. The woman was startled to see a new face and realized immediately his ploy to make her open the door. Keeping her cool she tried to shut the window. The robber punched the wooden door and tried to break it.
The woman swiftly picked up the razor sharp cleaver from under her pillow and with a swish of her wrist, the man's fingers were slashed.
She had always been like that-bold and brave yet calm and collected-even in her teenage years.
A free bird, once she had stealthily slipped outside her home at dusk when females were not allowed to step out. As she strolled along the narrow alley, she heard some strange guttural sounds from the stable in her neighborhood. Unafraid, she slipped inside and called out who was there. A man was trying to unfasten the cord around the neck of a mare. Startled by her call, he challenged her with a knife but she was not to be terrified. She picked up a stick and beat the thief with it forcing him to abandon his plan of taking away the mare.
In an era when women hardly ever went out alone, she would boldly travel without her husband from Lahore to Quetta and later from Delhi to Bombay (then) even taking her six children with her.
It was during one such travel that she was threatened by a goon inside the train and her thick round bangles were snatched. Undeterred by his threats, she slapped him tight and took her bangles back. On reaching home her children narrated her brave act to her family members. While some lauded her bravery, some elders scolded her for being so audacious and putting her and her children's lives in jeopardy for a couple of gold bangles. She retorted nonchalantly that the bangles were not even gold, they were brass bangles worth hardly a dime and that she had in fact kept her gold bangles safe in her tijori. When she was questioned by the shocked elders why then she bothered about the brass bangles, she replied with pride that it was just a matter of her self-esteem...nobody dare mess with her and get away so lightly.

She was truly an inspiration for women in her own family as well as others. My Nani, Mom and Maasi-all are strong women in their own unique ways yet reflect the influence of her mighty legacy, her genes in many ways.

She was my great grandmother-fearless, firebrand and feisty-a true warrior woman.


When a Greek pirate ship sails in to loot the wealth of the Cholas, it is brutally defeated by the navy and forced to pay a compensation. A payment that includes a twelve-year-old girl, Aremis. Check out this new historical novel Empire (http://bit.ly/DeviEmpire) with a warrior woman, Aremis at the heart of the novel. 

Author's Note: This post is my tribute to my great-grandmother as part of the blogathon about #WarriorWomen by #Women'sWeb in association with #JuggernautBooks.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Subtle Sexism In Indian Society

''Hamare chand jaise bete ki zindgi me taara ban ke chamko.........'' croons the genial diamond bedecked, smartly turned out grandmom-in-law while blessing the newest 'bahu' gleaming coyly in her 5 kg gold jewellery and 30 kg zardozi lehnga in a typical Indian TV soap.
Oh hell, how can anyone be so sugar sweet and yet be so annoying! Is she blessing the grand daughter-in-law or her own grandson? The grandson is the moon around whom the entire life of the grand DIL should revolve!
'Sada suhagan raho, doodho nahao pooto phalo, bhagwan tumhe chand jaisa beta de...'
All married women would surely have received such blessings from family elders but have you ever noticed that all these blessings, all aashirwads are male-centric? While showering their blessing on a woman, her husband or son is the actual focus of all the good wishes from our family elders. The daughter-in-law may be equally highly qualified, a professional in her own right and earning as much as if not more than their son but no, without her husband she doesn't have any identity, without a son she doesn't have life support guarantee.
And this sexism begins right at the birth of the girl. The moment a girl child is born, everyone's faces hit the floor gloomily. Then gradually the parents are consoled with a condescending 'koi baat nahi, Laxmi aayi hai ghar me'. If the girl is followed by a male child then she is honored like a brave warrior who has brought the prize catch of the 'ghar ka chirag' to the family. But god forbid, if another girl is born then the first born girl is termed 'apshaguni' or a bad omen and heaps of sympathy are piled upon the parents...'do-do ladkiya paida ho gayi, ab kya karenge bechare? (oh they have been burdened with two daughters, how will they manage now?)'
Some of the morons spew more gyan,'ek ladki ki shadi karna hi itna mushkil hai, jiski do-do ladkiya ho us bechare baap ki to zindagi hi aadhi ho jati hai! (It is so difficult to find a good alliance for one daughter, the stress of getting two daughters married reduces the life span of the unfortunate father by half)'. And mind you, such gyan is dispensed by not only the illiterates but the so-called highly educated folks from 'decent' families too.
I still remember how people feted our parents when my elder sister and I were married within a year's time without much hassles. They congratulated our parents,'aap ne to pichchle janam me moti daan kiye honge jo aap ki dono ladkiyo ki shadi pahli baar me hi ho gayi vo bhi itne achche parivaro me!' Loosely translated to English it means that my parents must have donated pearls or done some pious deeds in their previous birth that both their daughters had got married in such good families, that too without having to be 'shown' to many 'boys'. 
More recently I was advised by some family elders to go for a Ganga Snan in Haridwar after the marriage of my daughter. What the heck! Is my highly qualified daughter who is working as a senior software engineer for one of the world's best tech companies a burden on me that I need to go for a de-stressing and rejuvenating Ganga Snan after her marriage? Some of the guests and even family elders had in fact refused to accept the wedding gifts and sweets saying that there is no tradition of distributing sweets and giving gifts at the time of girls' marriage. They accepted the gifts, rather grudgingly, only when I insisted upon them but on hindsight I feel that I shouldn't have. I should have taken back the gifts since I was offending their sensibilities and forcing them to defy the ancient culture and tradition of our great country...how very inconsiderate and mean of me, really!
On a serious note, most men and women would retort with disdain that they are not old-fashioned people and they do not differentiate between their daughters/DIL and sons but they don't even realize how subtly they pass on the sexism through their words, through their actions, through even their blessings to the females of their family.
What's your experience of sexism and gender inequality, overt and covert, in your families?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

रात की हार

Sharing a poem narrating the angst of 'night' on the plight of women being forced to stay confined to their homes when night falls. This poem was first published by the prestigious The Anonymous Writer हिंदी and subsequently by The Anonymous Writer. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome.

रात की हार

मुझे माफ़ करना ऐ ख़ुदा,
मंज़ूर नहीं अब मुझे ये सज़ा,
मंज़ूर नहीं जाना वहाँ हर रोज़।

कैसे जाऊं मैं वहाँ हर सांझ,
इंसान की फ़ितरत बदल जाती है
मेरे पैर पड़ते ही जहाँ।
सियाही से भी काले साये मंडराते हैं
माँसल शिकार की तलाश में वहाँ।

''यहाँ क्यूँ बैठी हो, ये क्या पहना है,
उस से मत बोलो, वो मत खाओ,
छह बजे से पहले घर लौट आओ।
भले घर की लड़कियां भटकती नहीं
सड़कों पे, होटलों में देर रात अकेली!''

कितना कुछ सुनना-झेलना पड़ता है,
दुनिया की आधी आबादी को
क्योंकि मेरा होना उनके लिए सुरक्षित नहीं।

तो मैं हारी, आप जीते सूरज भइया,
थाम लेती हूँ आज से मैं अपने क़दम,
क्योंकि आधी ज़िंदग़ी अग़र
क़ैद कर दिया जाये खातूनों को
घर की चारदीवारी में, रोक दी जाये
परवाज़ आज़ाद परिंदों की जहाँ,
उस दुनिया को ज़रूरत नहीं मेरी।

रहने दो आज से सिर्फ़ उजाला वहाँ,
दिलो-दिमाग़ में बदबूदार कालिख़ भरी हो जहाँ,
रात को भी लगता है डर अपने रात होने से वहाँ।

Sunday, 27 August 2017

SOUNDS OF MORNING

Every Indian house would have more or less the same sounds of the woman of the house rushing around in a frenzy to be in every corner of the house tending to the calls and demands of toddlers and adults alike.
What sounds enliven your home?

SOUNDS OF MORNING
Tick tock tick tock.....the tireless clock ticks on.
Clannnggg...wake up, the alarm calls, it's morn.
Zzzzz...wish I could catch a few winks more.
Sighhh...no way! Who would do the daily chore?

Drip drip drip...water flows from the kitchen tap.
Am hungry....the baby snuggles in mommy's lap.
Sleep more kiddo, Mommy needs to get into action.
Grrrr...the mixer grinds tomatoes to perfection.

Flap flap flap...clothes rinse in the washing machine.
Mommy, the older one yells, 'my shoes are not clean'.
Ting ting...veggies are blanched, microwave beeps.
Cough cough...Where's my tea? Man-of-the-house peeps.

Hissss...potatoes are done, the cooker whistles.
Sssss...on the hot tawa masala omelette sizzles.
Muaahh...Take care child, here's your tiffin box.
The husband calls, 'have you seen my socks?'

Ting...out of the toaster a brown slice pops.
Pick me up Mommy, down the crib the baby hops.
'Are you ready, sweetheart?' the husband calls.
'Not yet. Please take baby to the creche', she howls.

Tan tadan...'meeting today', reminder her phone pings.
Trriinngg...amidst the chaos, the door bell rings.
Hehehe...madam, your maid won't come today!
Boom, bang...the last bits of peace are blown away.