Oh Pandaram!

The random musings of a local curmudgeon

My country has been fed to the dogs.

This post is very different from the draft I had prepared a month ago. A month ago, I was all agog with excitement about going to India, back to my family, to the only place in the world I could call home. A month ago, although I was swamped with work, I had a spring in my step. A month ago, when I planned to blog about my experiences in the States and how life there faded in comparison to India, little did I know that soon my excitement would be drowned in despair.

I came home to the news of the Delhi gang-rape. Adjectives like ‘brutal’ and ‘horrific’ were being thrown around and the national media went into overdrive working up a frenzy. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were overrun with posts expressing outrage. I watched on as people demanded public castration ( or ‘bobbitization’ as one friend put it ). There were the usual calls for capital punishment which seems to be a quick fix in the eyes of the outraged Indian public. Sadly enough, I watched on with indifference. I wasn’t surprised there was a gang-rape in Delhi. Oh no. Surprise went out of the door when ‘rape’ became a permanent news-section on the news app in my phone. This wasn’t the first ever gang-rape to happen in the country, and let’s be honest, it won’t be the last. Not when we live in a country where our ‘culture’ advocates ‘the modesty of a girl’, yet our films have such things called ‘item numbers’. Not in a country where sex is taboo, but only when it’s spoken about. Definitely not in a country, when everyone makes it their business to comment about the ‘indecency’ of a girl wearing shorts, or where right wing political parties are  marry you off for kissing publicly. Not when we have a convenient devil to blame it on ; ‘The West’.

Images of the protest in Delhi streamed through my TV and I felt a flutter of hope. I wondered if finally our collective consciousness had been pricked. What was being labelled as an ‘uprising of the youth’ was upon us. Maybe Raisina Hill would be our Tahrir Square. But then I hear the cries for what can only be described as ‘barbaric’ punishments for the guilty. I log in to Facebook to find people actually applauding convicted murderers and goons for forcing rapists to eat human excrement, even venturing so far to term it ‘humanity’. Is this what it has come to? Is it necessary to become animals to dole out justice? Then what separates us from the perpetrators of such heinous acts? Is public castration the need of the day or fortifying our laws? Aren’t laws supposed to keep the society in check? Or should we descend to being barbaric? Granted, laws won’t prevent rape. But at-least it will still ensure that whatever humanity and sanity that is left in our society, is preserved.

But to ensure that necessary laws are enforced, we need good governance. We need a government which is brave but principled, powerful yet righteous. We don’t need one with erectile dysfunction or muddled judgment. We don’t need a government or opposition who play vote-bank and minority politics. We need political parties which address the pressing needs of the nation. We can definitely do without a government which has curbed our freedom for expression, one which watches on as a spectator when our citizens are punished for expressing their opinions.We don’t need communal leaders proclaiming to usher in winds of development. We need incorruptible leaders of the mass, leaders with integrity and whose only aim is to lead by serving, not imposing. Looking at the India of today, I despair. I don’t see a democracy, I see a mockery in the name of democracy. My country has been fed to the dogs.

To see the country galvanized for a cause apart from winning the cricket world cup is refreshing. As eclectic and misplaced as the demands are, at-least there has been mobilization. These are signs of change. But we live in a country where public memory lasts only from one controversy to the next. Looking back at our recent history, I despair again. We let things slide, way too often. The Anti Corruption movement comes to mind. Starting out strong, it fizzled out towards the end and eventually even the leaders of the movement went their separate ways. I pray that my fears are proven wrong this time.

Whatever the problems of the day are, they are chiefly of our own making. The forced taboo on sex and the oppression of freedom of women has eventually led to this day. Things have reached a tipping point. Instead of foisting the blame on to ‘western influences’, we need to introspect. The day we acknowledge the chains imposed by our ‘culture’ in the form of sexual oppression, is the day we start tackling the problem. Till then, I choose to remain in despair. Far too often, has my love and optimism for India been taken for a ride. For now, I choose to remain defeatist, hoping I’d be proven wrong.

Woof.

Growing up changes a lot of things about you. You pick and drop habits faster than you care to admit, and in hindsight, some of your choices might seem ridiculous. Or worse, comical. But there is also such a thing as your core. Which, for the most part, is indelible. There are certain things which you adored as a child, and which you continue to adore as an adult. Even though you might not admit it. Looking back at my own childhood, no matter how hard I try, I can come up with only two things. My love for wheat dosas and my unwavering adoration of pets.

After two dogs, one cat, a couple of squirrels, a dozen budgies and nearly a million fish, I am still that little kid who feels for the stray dogs and the ‘smelly cats’ of the world. Its hard not to. To be bluntly honest, my relationships with my pets have been more enriching than any human relationship I’ve had, apart from the familial. They never judged or chastised me. Neither was there any expectation from each other, exceeding  that of just being there for each other. I also can’t remember being socially awkward in front of a dog. (But maybe that’s just me). Unfailingly they were able to make me smile during the worst days of my life. My first dog, Paru was inarguably the best friend I ever had. (I love her so much, I refuse to call her a bitch. As silly as that sounds). Whenever I shut myself in my room, angry or dissapointed about something, (everything, back then) she was always outside my door, unfailingly, scratching it to let her in. As if she had the solution to everything. In fact, she did. That leap on to my lap and those incessant licks which I tried to fight off; she made the world better with her unconditional, uncompromising love. It still brings a tear to my eye when I think of the day she was chained outside the house for dragging in all sorts of muck . I remember arguing with my parents about how unfair that was, and then sitting outside next to Paru ,on a hunger fast of sorts, along with my brother. We didn’t want her to feel lonely.

But for all the love that they bring into our lives, they reduce us to emotional wrecks when they leave. I was away at college when my brother, who had grown into an 18 year old boy-man by then, called me and told me that Paru had passed away. For all his normal  bravado , he was reduced to tears. There I was, trying to be the voice of reason and remind him that she was getting old and it was only a matter of time. But inside,I was absolutely destroyed . That was perhaps the hardest phone conversation I’ve ever had. A pet, much like a person, leaves a void which cannot be filled. But unlike a person, a pet leaves this dangling hope that things will be okay,because you can adopt a new one. But it never is. Every set of paws is unique; one can never replace another. How cruel of them to leave us with that futile ‘hope’. But after being your unwavering companions throughout their lives, I guess you can give them enough leeway for one act of cruelty.

Life goes on. Eventually you grow over their loss. Maybe that’s the one thing that has changed about me as I’ve grown up. I’ve become increasingly unflappable. But that kid inside me still cries when I hear about the loss of a pet. So when Dad told me on Facebook that they had to let the new dog go, I replied with a sad smiley. I am grateful that it wasn’t over the phone. Because if he had said ‘The house has fallen silent without her’ over the phone, I would’ve had to hide that lump in my throat, all over again.

To all the happy critters up in heaven, Thank you.