Trying Not to Cry

She was a young girl, 23 years of age, just out of a medical college, opening her eyes to a new and promising world. She came to Delhi in the hope of a better life. Delhi – the city of greater opportunities, broader roads, and taller buildings than the town she hailed from. Little did she know when she had happily set foot in the city, and bid farewell to her teary eyed father, assuring him that she was a young empowered Indian woman who had to be in the capital city of the country to realize her true potential, that one fateful day when she would be going home in a bus with a male friend for company, she would be brutally raped, beaten with iron rods by half a dozen animals and thrown out naked to die.

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It was wee hours of morning when she was heading back from office along with a colleague. US Shift of a call-center ends at that time. Young girl in Delhi on a beautiful and quiet morning tired from fatigue, wanting to head back home as soon as possible and crash on her bed so that she’s bright and active for the next day. She was in her thoughts, planning what she could quickly fix for herself to eat before sleeping when a car stopped by and pulled her in. The car smelled of liquor and before she knew it there were brute hands ripping her. She had long lost consciousness before the monsters dumped her somewhere in the outskirts.

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A young college student of Delhi University; about 18 years of age was done with her classes and was on her way home. No auto rickshaws in sight, she began walking to the bus stop when a car stopped by to ask for an address. The helpful girl that she was she gave the instructions when the man in the car asked her if she wanted a lift. Hesitant and wise, the girl refused. But the man insisted. About 50 years of age, he assured her he was like her father and she could trust him. Needless to say he broke her trust and scarred her for life.

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A final year medical student of a very prestigious medical college in Delhi was on her way home when some goons cornered her. They snatched her bag at knifepoint and began rummaging through it only to find there was hardly any money in it. Realizing this steal was a waste of time, they decided to make good of the bad situation. They took the girl to a nearby heritage site (Delhi is full of old forts, most of them are archeological heritage sites) and took turns to rape her. The youngest of the perpetrators was 13 years of age.

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My Entry for Inspirational Monday this week.

I wish I could say these are works of fiction, but unfortunately that won’t be entirely true. All these “stories” have a strong base in reality. I rarely write about real life affairs, but I couldn’t keep myself this time.

My head hangs in shame. I have been let down by my country and by my city, where I was born, where I have lived for most part of my life. It has not happened once, it has not happened twice, it has happened so many times that I have lost count.

These are just some of the crimes that get reported. There are so many that go unheard, so many where the victim is victimized further by the legal system or by their own families, so much so that they just flee the city to never return or simply quit.

And what about the men who don’t commit the crime but aspire for it in their hearts? What about the next man I see ogling at me when I am walking on the streets? What about the one who scans me “discreetly” when I am not looking or choosing not to look?

Times like these make me wonder, this entire chase for money and financial stability at a national level, for showing the world how promising a nation we are, is it worth it? When we are so infected and rotten within that we have brought almost our entire population to a state of sheer disgust and helplessness, what use is an honorary stamp from the outside world? I think we should be exposed for what we are. We should feel ashamed of our deeds, because that’s what truly defines us.

The first story is the most recent of the series of ghastly incidents that have plagued the city of Delhi and has created an unprecedented nationwide uproar, of which I am glad. I am happy that even the international media picked up the story. We deserve the public ignominy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20753075

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For the love of Delhi

Lutyen’s Delhi looks beautiful at night. Deserted roads lit with street lights look like deep grey rivers frozen in time. While weekends witness great activity with love-struck couples, change-desperate families and ever-jubilant students swarming the India Gate premises, weekdays are mostly deserted with a handful of dreamers like yours truly ambling around with like minded non-conformers. When it’s well past midnight on a weekday, there’s hardly any soul around to see the wind caressing the green façade surrounding the roads, whispering jokes it heard throughout the day in the political arenas, making the trees shake with laughter and tremble with the horror of what lies ahead. It’s a beauty that’s rare and exquisite.

I was driving in circles on the roads with my long time friend that night when she told me she was leaving for Dubai for good.

“Will you be coming back to visit sometime?” I asked her as calmly as I could.

“I don’t think so”, she said, looking outside the window. Her lustrous black hair was wrapped in a tango with the wind, obstructing her view sometimes. But she seemed oblivious, making no attempt to tame it.

My mind was a blur. Words popped up in no logical sequence but I kept myself from blurting by concentrating on the road ahead. I am a very controlled man. Life has taught me to not wear my heart on my sleeve. Apart from giving easy access to any bumbling bee who wants to kick it around, it serves no fruitful purpose. But this girl was different.

I knew this was coming. It had been on the cards for years now. But I thought we will work it out some way, not knowing how. We being together was the most logical thing. So logical that it never had to be worded between us in all these years. Not until now I guess.

“I am happy for you. When are you leaving then?” I said almost mechanically.

“In a couple of days” she replied.

“I am going to be very lonely here without you. Can’t even imagine”, I said, giving in partly to the aggravating turmoil within.

She kept looking out without replying.

We drove around and stopped at our regular paratha joint, made our regular order of paratha and chai. I was quiet all this while, so was she. Words were never needed between us, but I wanted to say something, anything, to keep her from going home tonight and to Dubai eventually. It was way out of my character to make an effort, especially because my efforts had left me hurt and vulnerable before. She knew all about it, she was the one who used to listen to the sagas of my heartaches and heartburns later, at this very place, on these very roads.

Heartless and cold, time flies by when you want to sleep in its vicissitudes. I drove her to her home of 2 more days, silent despite my sinking heart.

“Will we catch up again before you leave?” I asked as she got out of the car.

“Not sure. I have a lot of errands to do before I leave”.

“Is there anything I can do to keep you from going?” I asked finally.

She caressed my face, a hint of mist in her eyes. “You have kept me long enough already”.

And that was the end of a story that could have been. I traverse around the same roads even now. They are beautiful like before, deserted and dreamy. But when the breeze brushes my hair and strokes the back of my neck, I have to admit, my mind races to the glitzy skylines of Dubai. Maybe I should visit her sometime. That would be way out of my character again, but some things are worth losing yourself.

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I leave you with a not-so-famous, but lovely hindi song.

One Day in Delhi

It’s an old bungalow, if I can be allowed to use such a conservative word for the endless array of rooms and lobbies that line up intricately to form its striking silhouette. Endless still is the garden that has been built around it. So large is the expanse that my eyes hurt as I try to find the boundaries of the place. There are men in uniform guarding the place. There are men working busily in the gardens. There are men announcing my arrival on their walky-talkies to other men at the entrance gallery.

I decide to walk in the garden for some time before entering the building itself. There are some very different looking trees there. Trees I don’t know the names of, but those that I am sure I haven’t seen before. Some I suspect have their branches trimmed at their peripheries to give them different shapes making them look very different from their usual forms. Most of these trees are very old, perhaps from the time when this place used to be much more active than it is now. How many stories do they hold in their steady silence I wonder?

It’s a pleasant afternoon for an otherwise wintry December and the sun is shining bright. My walk in this expansive and indulging garden is made even more surreal and tranquil by the occasional chirruping of sparrows or the sight of healthy green parrots here and sundry.

The building inside is quiet despite the presence of caretakers and other staff. It’s as if everyone is under the orders of the owner to maintain perfect silence and decorum, even though no one occupies the place anymore.

I feel transported in time as I try to imagine the occupants sitting on these chairs or using these telephones discussing matters and taking decisions years ago that framed our present and continue to frame it. I imagine the voices of people who now are only names in history books reverberating in the corridors. I imagine shadows cast on the walls as figures of familiar but famous people moved around in these rooms and corridors. Did they discover this nice spot overlooking the garden from the stairway where I am standing right now?

I am overwhelmed by the number of books I see around, tempted for a crazy moment to pick a few up and sneak them out. It’s not just the sheer number, but also the diverse range of topics these books cover that amazes me. Was it plain sham or did someone actually read these uncountable number of books filling shelves after shelves in multiple rooms and even some corridors?

It is hard to believe that I am in the midst of the hustle bustle of Delhi. Delhi with its crazy traffic and tempers seems to be a story of another universe. The stillness of this place defies every trace of identity that the urban Delhi of today has chosen to adorn. It ridicules the nouveau riche of a city of ostentatious dwellers with big cars and bigger debts. Standing at this place which undoubtedly is one where some significant decisions of modern India’s fate were taken, I wonder if this is real… if this ever was real…

I make a last stop at the study to look at the books again before leaving. The three statues at the gate greet me for a fleeting moment before they continue their vigil of the roads ahead. With a deep breath I get on with life after this short break.

Until another time…

Location: Teen Murti Bhawan, New Delhi