Sunday, September 2, 2012


I do not wish to start this piece philosophically or on a  moral high, nor do I have any thoughts about  the greater good of any community or ‘society’. I wish to write this to justify me to myself. Yesterday on the 1st of September, at around 7:30 in the evening I was coming back from college I took a detour from my usual route and boarded the Blue line of the Delhi Metro from Rajiv Chowk. Being used to this chaos everyday, I was warned by my companion that we should board the ‘Ladies’ compartment and not the ‘General’ compartment. The sensible arguments I gave were, firstly that it is a ‘general’ compartment and not demarcated for men, so no harm boarding it. Secondly, that they are humans and not ‘animals’.  I lost the argument in the next few minutes.

I had to get off after four or so stations,  so it didn’t seem like the decision was going to cost me heavily. Being surrounded by 50 to 60 heavily sweating men was a  nightmare enough to take for one evening, but it had hardly begun. Throughout those 10 minutes that I was present there every part of my body was scanned in an inch by inch detail which made me feel like my sex was a curse with which I was born. The ordeal had started.

My station arrived, I shoved my way with great difficulty to make it to the door before it could close and during this struggle my top was pulled by a man to expose my breast for a good 15 seconds while at the same time somebody grabbed my behind. I was paralysed in shock. Nevertheless, I started pushing again and finally reached the door and stepped onto the platform. I  screamed my lungs out at those 5 to 6 men who were standing at the door. I hurled abuses at them which ideally no sensible Indian girl should utter even in thoughts, let alone whisper.

The reaction of those men was something that made the experience traumatic for me – they simply stared at me and LAUGHED. They continued laughing and my anger continued to rise. I was outraged at their sensibilities. I had always believed, that if ever I face such a situation in my life I would beat the daylights out of those people, but I could only stare at them. I was dumbfounded. My hurling abuses seemed like an impetus for them to laugh harder.  I was boiling inside.

I am not playing victim here. Self-pity is something I have done away with. This is not my intent. I want to know how come out of that entire compartment not even one man came forward to do something about it.
They could have stopped the metro immediately.
They could have called 1091 or simply stepped out of the metro to support me.
And, they could have stepped up and changed the situation there and then.

How low have you all sunken?
Does the status of being anonymous in a crowd fueled with this pathetic group mentality give them the freedom to do anything? Why blame the patriarchal setup, when the women present there looked at me as if I was at fault for being a girl and misplacing the societal norm of keeping quiet. Nobody present on that busy platform came forward to do ANYTHING.

If the frustration level of men in Delhi which seems to be so high then, they should go to places where sexual services are available. But,  MY BODY IS MY OWN and I do not give anybody the right to touch it.  This article is not about me; it’s about the psychological scars that I’ll have to live with for life. It’s about how incidents like these happen everyday and they are not even talked about because of the fear of being caught in something bigger and unwanted. It’s about how after going through all of this I for sometime blamed myself. In time, I remembered the words of my teacher, “It’s never your fault.” I do not know if this would help things or change the current scenarios, all I know is that I have lost my faith.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Red Ribbon - Review of Short Documentaries on HIV AIDS

As part of my curriculum three short documentaries were screened for the "Media and Globalisation" paper. The generic theme for all the three being awareness and creating sensitivity towards HIV Aids and it's patients alike. Directed by Indian cinema's leading filmmakers; a review of the documentaries was in order.

1. Blood Brothers
    Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj
    Produced by Bill Gates Foundation along with Mira Nair
    Cast: Siddharth, Pawan Malhotra and Ayesha Takia

A very simple narrative sewn in the most beautiful and effective manner by Mr. Bharadwaj. The story starts with a successful ad maker Arjun Dutt (played brilliantly by Siddharth) going for a routine medical check up which turns out to be HIV positive. This revelation turns his life upside down because he is expecting another child with his wife Keya (Ayesha Takia) and since he has been unfaithful during the course of the marriage, it leads him to think that due to unprotected sex with multiple partners must have led to the contraption of the virus. Now, the film puts light on a very important aspect and that is the fact that the society still treats people with this disease as a taboo which it makes all the more for the patient to cope with it. This can lead it to isolation for them, which is also highlighted by the protagonist. Pankaj Kapur's delightful cameo as the lively doctor is a treat to watch. His character raises an important point of the difference between people who actually have AIDS and people who are just HIV positive; besides giving a twist to the story.

The major theme of the movie is that inspite of contracting this deadly disease people still do not stop living their lives which is summed in a beautifully penned dialogue by Pawan Malhotra's character "Zindagi kam hui hai, khatam nahi hui". 

2. Positive
    Directed by Farhan Akhtar
    Produced by Bill Gates Foundation, Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani
    Cast: Boman Irani, Shabana Azmi and Arjun Mathur

Farhan Akthar once again proves his mettle as a director along with a cast people can only wish for. To watch Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani in the same frame is a viewer's delight but moreover when the film is based on such a sensitive issue it just adds to the whole aura. What the film primarily deals with is that many a times along with the HIV AIDS infected person the whole family has to go through the repercussions. The story centers around that due to the many illicit relationships that Boman Irani has he contracts AIDS and not only insults the constant plea by his wife (Shabana Azmi) and son (Arjun Mathur) but this also drives them away from him emotionally. The narrative also raises an important observation that in the Indian scenario many a times the wife is never even given an option to walk out of a relationship and is supposed to stay in it and take her husband's adulterous ways.

It shows the huamne side of any relationship that even though the husband never did any good to his wife, she still chooses to be by his side and till the end. Not only this but she also makes sure that their son does the same. Inspite of going through a fractured father - son relationship, in his last days their common passion for the camera brings both of them together. It in a way even helps Boman Irani to stay in peace in the end.

Ram Sampath has given a very soulful track to the 20 minute long documentary.

3. Parambha
    Directed by Santosh Sivan
    Produced by Bill Gates Foundation
    Cast: Prabhu Deva, B. Saroja Devi

The narrative talks about the deep rooted stereotyping and prejudices that we all hold against people suffering from AIDS. This doesn't only stop in offices or at homes; but even young, innocent kids are subjected to such inhuman behaviour. A right to education is every child's basic right and when that right is taken away from him because he is HIV positive forms the basic premise of the play. The fact that people are still not aware about a basic thing like touching, hugging or playing with an infected person does not lead to the spread of AIDS is an alarming situation. Because of unawareness such stereotypes are firstly formed in the society and later on they are even reinforced.

Even though the film is entirely shot in Kannada, the use of popular music and great acting skills by the cast makes it very easy to comprehend.