Fifty Shades Of Blue

(Originally Written For & Published In Tamarind Rice)


From what I can remember of being 10 years old, and mind that my memory is elephantine, I particularly recall looking forward to Std V, term 3, with the same excitement most kids that age associated with getting free ice cream.
You see, the third term of fifth standard was when we could start using pens to write. Pens! Those magical instruments that glided on paper in a wondrous shade of blue, and not those shabby, eternally breaking sticks that we called pencils. In case it didn’t seem obvious already, when I was 10, pens were as alien to me as humans were to Martians. I had been given crayons and pencils of all shades growing up, and even the odd sketch pen, but it was during one of my many Treasure Hunter (an extraordinarily entertaining game for one which basically involves raiding your parents’ dresser drawers) games the previous year that I first truly discovered these magical things.
It was a very heavy ink pen, and I remember thinking how ugly it looked, but the moment I let the coppery-gold nib touch paper it became a thing of beauty, of perfection. I had never seen anything like it before! It didn’t break like my pencils, or become coarse. It was just continuously smooth. The pen wrote in the shade of midnight, a blue which made even my doodle look like carefully thought out art. I scrawled until all the ink in the pen had been transferred to my paper, my hands, my clothes and my face. I ended up getting a dressing down from my mother that day for colouring myself beyond recognition.
But it was worth it.
Discovering the pen that day had changed my life, and while I waited for term 3, I started smuggling all the pens in the household. The more I wrote with them, the more I fell in love with the instrument. I wrote quickest with the ball point pen, but the interrupted flow of ink was something that I found annoying. I really liked the lighter, more turquoise ink of the gel pen and adored the smooth white shell of the “Pilot” pens.
My absolute favourite though, remained the ink pen. The steel nib with the miniscule engravings, the little compartment for the ink, the heaviness of a newly filled pen, the odd leak which flowed on to your hands as you wrote – for me, the ink pen was an instrument of joy. My first ink pen for school had been a Camlin, a maroon pen with steel accents and a wide barrel. It was hideous, but in the most glorious way possible. Every day I’d come back home from school with blue fingers (and some times, a blue nose) and spots on my uniform, but despite the inconveniences it gave my mother I adored my maroon Camlin. It was the only pen I carried that year. Eventually, I ended up losing the pen and predictably, moved on to it’s gel ink cousins for the sake of convenience and a stain free uniform. I did occasionally buy ink pens, but they stayed in my bag as remembrances of my former obsession with them as opposed to a functional writing instrument.
I’ve always believed that writing with a new ink pen is much like making a new friend. There are some pens with which you form a connection instantly, those pens where you just know exactly what it takes to bring out its best side the moment you come in contact with them. Those pens will last to be your favourites, the ones that you conveniently ‘lose’ in the depths of your bag every time anyone asks to borrow it, the ones that you’ll take time to clean every weekend in hot water, and the ones that will write out your most important exams, and your greatest secrets. There are some other pens that will take a little longer for you to like. They misbehave most of the time but occasionally show a good side so that you don’t give up on them; they teach you patience. And finally, those ink pens which, no matter how much time you spend on them, will never yield to you and like difficult people, are best left alone.
The last time I had used an ink pen was roughly seven years ago. I had stopped using them because they were very difficult when you were writing harshly timed exams. I became fully dependent on the keyboard and stopped using pens altogether when I cleared my Chartered Accountancy exams a year ago. Yesterday, I found an old ink pen while cleaning out my drawers – it was one of those relatively fuss free ink pens that operated on cartridges, and this one’s particular cartridge had been half full. I couldn’t help but try writing with it again – Half hour later, I had a paper filled with illegible squiggles that once used to be my beautiful handwriting, odd splats of ink, blue fingers and a blue nose.
But it was worth it.

Like A Telephone

In March this year, my parents announced that they were going to start looking for a “suitable boy” for me. I wasn’t particularly surprised, but I did try, initially, to give them the “I’ll find a boy myself” dialogue, which was met with my parents roaring with laughter, after which I stopped trying to give them that, because who was I kidding anyway – I wasn’t capable of finding my own phone most of the time, so suffice to say that finding “suitable” boys wasn’t really a part of my skill set. 
Fast forward many, many tantrums (me) and abnormal blood pressure levels (my parents) to today, I am engaged. I KNOW, RIGHT?! It’s been a little more than a month since I’ve been engaged. I waited this long for it to sink in, but it still hasn’t.  Maybe it was a little too much on my part to assume that there was going to be this great change which involved the skies parting and a holy game show voice from the heavens announcing that my life was to change forever. Life is still the same, but a little different, kind of like consecutive Harris Jayaraj songs.  
A lot of people to whom I broke the news to are really happy that I am getting married at the age of twenty four, which I find pretty interesting because to be honest, I had been secretly preparing myself for the “You’re getting married NOW? But you’re only as old as a baby-foetus!” speeches.  So when people tell me I’ve made the right decision by deciding to wed now, it sounds great, like I’ve put a great deal of thought into it, outlined pros and cons in some important looking notepad (with flowcharts!) and everything, but truth be told the primary reason I decided to get married now is because I wanted to look nice (while I still could) in the wedding photographs. Like, priorities.

Speaking of weddings, I would be lying through my teeth, gums even, if I said I had no idea about how I wanted my wedding to be before all this really happened. I had a vague idea, ok no, I had a good idea, ok fine, I had been planning the entire ceremony in my head the last couple of years, including invites, a wedding food menu, three alternate colour schemes for the decor, what I’d wear, everything. Well, almost everything – I hadn’t thought about this one minor detail concerning who the boy I’d actually marry would be. Insignificant stuff. 
So naturally, at the start, I was pretty protective of my very own fairy tale wedding that I had conjured in my head (and in my Pinterest account), and when people started giving me suggestions about what to do, I’d give them the same reaction that most people would when you ask them to surgically alter their baby’s face. But soon I realized how much WORK all of this was and that if I was to get into everything, I’d be well on my way to getting permanent residence in the asylum at Kilpauk. It was at that moment, that my inner organizational genius awoke and I realized, that the key to planning a successful wedding is efficiency, a resolve of steel and advanced organizational skill. Once I attained this moment of enlightenment, I most efficiently dumped as many responsibilities as I could on my mother before she could realize what was happening.  
Yes, I might not get to choose my invites, I might not get to choose my wedding food menu, I might not get to choose the décor, and I might not get to choose most of what is going to happen around me those two days, but I’m not too worried about it. After all, I got to choose the boy. 

Cross Posting

Hello hello! Just thought I’d point out that I’ve finally decided to get all Internet-Savvy-Columnist-Journalist-Bladeist and consolidated the stuff I’ve written outside of the blog into the blog. Yay!

Future Nonsense written outside of the Blog to be filed under “Cross Posting” & is also linked as a separate page in my fancy new Headline Link Bar. Thingy.  
Hope you guys enjoy reading!

Masala!

[Originally Published in Talk Magazine, Bangalore]



A wise man once said, “Tamil film makers don’t do different things, they do things differently”. Okay, so I may have taken a little columnist license with that particular proverb there, but that’s what it is. The difference isn’t much, really, but the notion that Hindi and Tamil movies are as different as chalk and Chihuahuas or whatever, has been on the rise the past decade and led to the rise of quite a few stereotypes. The most popular stereotype of the lot that people have been tricked into, is that all Tamil films are essentially Rajnikanth saving humanity from all kinds of evil while defying every law that Newton took the trouble of coming up with, which is total and complete nonsense. For starters, Rajnikanth films take at least three years per release.



Anyway, it’s simple enough, all SuperHit Indian movies up to the early 90s had pretty much the same formula. Then, Bollywood changed course while South Indian Cinema didn’t. So today, the “formula” part of the Bollywood “formula” movie involves a story (or something like it), which is embellished with an impossibly good looking star cast, lots of Manish Malhotra and a dance number which has a special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan. Add an “Item Number” which features the latest It Girl and air it as a “promo” a couple months before the actual movie releases and voila, empty hype! I mean, formula complete.



Now the Bollywood story almost always involves a value, such as family, friendship, love and the like. Tamil formula movies on the other hand, thrive on old-school. The hero is the story, the Manish Malhotra, the dance number with the special appearance by Amitabh Bachchan, hell, he’s even the Amitabh Bachchan of that number. Tamil Cinema takes the term “Hero” very seriously. The story is never about friendship or family per se, but his family, his friendship, his love, and his occasional association with the local goons. The truth is, it doesn’t take much for a formula movie to do well in the South – Take the super-hit-beyond-human-comprehension, Baasha. This was not just the movie that elevated Rajnikanth’s status from Star to Superstar DemiGod, but also the only Tamil film (that I know of) which had a flashback within a flashback. (At this point I’d like to put forth that I wouldn’t be surprised if it ever comes out that it was this movie which inspired Nolan to make Inception).


I have personally watched this movie about twenty-five times and I have enjoyed myself thoroughly about twenty-four times. One time I tried to apply logic to the story, and my brain fried itself in the process because there is none, whatsoever. None. NIL. In fact, it defies anything and everything that logic stands for. However, nobody really cared, truth be told no one cares even today, even with all our resources to “better” films and such, because it’s SO entertaining.


The Tamil Cinema audience is really easy to please. All that we really care for, is a tight storyline, fast screenplay and a convincing star cast, and we’ll lap it up, logic be damned. A lot of film makers forget that the primary purpose most people even watch movies in the first place, is to be entertained – We want to be thrilled, we want to pick sides, we want to cheer for the leads and then come out of the theatre feeling good. That Bollywood is now remaking Tamil movies, or making Tamil style masala movies (like Dabaang) is just proof that there is no school like the old school.


However, it is important that Bollywood film makers pick the right movies and stick to the original screenplay – Singam was a wildly successful movie in the South because of it’s Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-It racy screenplay and incredibly simple story line, but the remake was a total disappointment because of a couple of unnecessary twists that were introduced.

Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether people make or remake Masala movies, just as long as they are done right, because when they are, they are so much fun. Masala movies are the epitome of the Indian Movie Experience. I know quite a few people who argue for the cause of finer film making in India, with more realistic subjects, honest emotions and matter-of-fact endings. Personally, I am against that cause. When I watch a movie, I want to be told that the impossible is possible and that there is no such thing as too much ambition. I want to be told that there are police officers who stop at nothing to uphold law, I want to see bad guys go down for whatever they did wrong and I want to see everyone getting their happily ever after. Cinema, to me, is escape. Besides, if I wanted to watch something “real”, I wouldn’t watch a movie. I’d watch the news.




Oh, Those Jerks They Call Heroes

[Originally Written For Talk Magazine, Bangalore]



Love has always been one of Tamil cinema’s favourite narratives, somewhere between Corrupt Politicians and Evil Maternal Uncles. But lately, Tamil Cinema’s interpretation of love the past decade – that is, post 2000 (bet you thought 1990, ha!), I have issues with.
The post 2000 decade saw a lot of evolution and shifts – in ideas, thought processes, values, technicalities and more importantly, in stories, the kind of humour people enjoyed, the kind of cast the audience wanted to see on screen, the parts of North India from where heroines were sourced (and consequently cast as the “simple local girl” of some village in interior Tamil Nadu, because let’s face it, if the audience can buy  a plot where a guy can become a millionaire overnight by singing in front of a black background, Chandigarh and Theni are practically neighbouring cities), the works.  Unfortunately, where the element of romance in Tamil movies was concerned, it was less evolution and more Frankenstein experiment gone wrong.  

Modern romance and love in Tamil cinema has taken the two steps forward and ten steps back route – basically an urban, real, raw story with a 1980s Naatamai ending.  Now the urban, real, raw hero’s idea of an urban, real, raw romance is basically harassment, and that he gets his way at the end of it, is really disconcerting, because if you peel the sticker of “hero” away, all you get is your everyday stalker who hangs around in your bus stop. Whenever I see these kinds of movies, as a girl, I feel seriously offended. It’s not even just about the harassment, but that the hero-stalker believes that he’s been victimized because the girl “rejected” him – it’s, for the lack of a better word, bogus. What’s even more bogus is that after the relentless pursuit, harassment and invasion of personal space, the heroine realizes that he’s the absolute one for her and that he is actually a really lovable guy in his own urban, real, raw way. 

It’s important to note that Tamil Cinema is an education by itself for most people, which is why “mass” heroes always have a title song about important values like doing good, praising the lord, living in villages, charging correct autofares, the lot. So when movies that glorify harassment and teasing and “correcting” the deviant ways of women (which includes wearing jeans) it is not just validation, but encouragement for that kind of behaviour to thrive. Every time I see the upper middle class to rich, educated, heroine falling for the “diamond-in-the-rough” Prince Charming psychopath who had to call her crude names to win her heart, I can’t help but wonder if the Directors would be okay with their sisters doing the same, their daughters doing the same. Ah, but it’s only a movie! 

There is no equality or balance in the equation anymore. The girl isn’t an object of affection, but prey, like some exotic deer rabbit that our hero has to hunt down to prove his ability as an expert marksman. And the girl has no say in this, because if she’s not interested, she’s simply heartless. Or doesn’t have morals. Or both. Because you know, this is how urban, real, raw love stories are! Here’s an idea for a realistic movie – boy sees girl, boy follows girl, girl says no, boy still keeps following, girl says no, boy doesn’t listen, boy keeps following, girl asks him to stop, boy gets angry, says she doesn’t deserve any better, tells her that the only good decision she can take right now is to reciprocate his truelove, girl tells the police, they put him in jail, the end!
This rant comes from a place that is sick of watching extreme creepiness being peddled as “romance.”  7G Rainbow Colony, for instance, was a huge exercise in frustration. Oru Kal Oru Kannadi gave me blood pressure. Avan Ivan made me want to punch a wall or two. 

At this point I’d like to reaffirm my love for Tamil Cinema. I love the experience, to just sit in the theatre and watch an ordinary man becoming something larger than life in a span of three hours is an experience that is unparalleled. But when things start hitting you closer to home, it becomes uncomfortable and consequently unbearable. Recently, when I talked about this with a friend, he pointed out to the classic (and probably the greatest) Romantic Comedy of our generation, Singaravelan. 

I love that movie to the point where I can quote entire scenes off it. But when I think about it now, something doesn’t feel right. Underneath the hilarity, there are a lot of questions – why did Sumathi have to change her wardrobe to only Sarees after she decided she was in love with Velan? Velan had made a family promise to marry Sumathi, yes, but does that justify the endless pursuing? I think the reason Singaravelan stands out and makes you want to forgive it’s subtle moral lessons/misgivings is because it gave us a chase, not a hunt, and it gave us two characters that even the audience wanted to get together, it gave us romance, unlike the movies of today where all you want to do while watching it is get right into the movie screen, grab the “hero” and punch his face.

How I Fractured My Funny Bone

[Originally Published In The Banyan Trees, here
When I was about 6 years old, I remember being the funniest person in all of Standard II. I just was, simply because of the fact that I had no sense of balance. Let’s get real here – when you’re that age, falling on your face is pretty much the funniest thing ever and therefore, having been gifted the ability to fall on your face multiple times like I had instantly made me 6 year old Russell Peters.
 I found my balance that year, but thanks to a severe affliction of foot in the mouth disease, I managed to hold on to my position in the elementary school comic scene (although it is pertinent to note that I did face the occasional threat from II “B” Roshan who couldn’t hold his glasses in place. Amateurs).  A few years later, cruel, cruel puberty happened, which meant that apart from the occasional bad joke, I also cracked mirrors.
 Basically, high school for me was like one of those terrible tragedy-dramas that the audience finds hilarious. When I look back, I am fairly confident that 5 years from now, when people get together for alumni meets, I will be “that person” of all the “you remember when that person did this and that hilarious thing happened?” stories.  Hell, I have a blog dedicated to all those stories (lest they forget) and it even includes some choice experiences which happened during my internship. It’s quite a neat compilation really, from trying to get my first crush to notice me by staring the crap out of him, to valiantly speaking terrible Hindi with a client in Mumbai in the pursuit of learning the language and then having him tell me he was actually Tamil, to getting into trouble with miscellaneous auto drivers, I’ve done it all.
 That’s where life got interesting. People started liking what I was writing, never mind that I was writing the blog as a “Do Not Repeat These Mistakes  Again” kind of journal.  It was great at the start, but then as time progressed, there was pressure. People who had been reading my blog for a while decided that it was about time that I actually grew up, whereas the newer ones wanted more of what I had previously written (“Hahaha, that episode with the Autorickshaw was great! You should try that with a conductor sometime…and blog about it!”).
 What people don’t get is that I belong to the unintentional humour department. I don’t particularly enjoy that my toes have a semi permanent residence in my mouth, yet I do know that other people do, and so I share it.  Apparently, if you have to be funny these days, it’s not as simple as offering your own embarrassment to make other people laugh.
Maybe modern humour is complicated, simply because there are so many kinds; Especially with the internet, everyone is humourous in every manner, which leads to great expectations. Point being, you’re not going to be thought of as anyone remotely funny unless you have achieved that perfect mix of black comedy interlaced with subtle wit, suitably juxtaposed by sarcasm bordering on parody, but not a farce.
 I miss the times when all I had to do to make people laugh was to fall on my face.

Lost In Translation

Every
once in a while, I get all Indiana Jones And The Cave Of Horrors and try to
clean my room up. Now what usually happens in my pursuit of organizational
nirvana (you know, the kind that I can take pictures of and post on instagram
and brag about on twitter) is that I bring everything that’s inside shelves
onto the floor and in the process, discover some boxes of chewing gum that
probably dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, Salman Rushdie novels
whose pages one to three are very soiled because I kept reading it again and
again trying to understand what he’s saying, but failed miserably and
eventually gave up on reading, lots of notebooks filled with either
miscellaneous calculations for currency swaps or long winding sentences. Then, just
as I’m about to begin the actual cleaning process, my mother calls me to eat
and I end up forgetting all about my mission to make my room fit for human
habitation. Eventually, our Man Friday who comes in the next morning just puts
everything back in its old place, exactly the way it was before – He has a
special talent when it comes to recreating a mess.
So
yesterday, when I was seriously pursuing my new favourite hobby of time-wasting-on-Pinterest,
I saw a couple of organization blogs which immediately kindled my inner
Organizational Goddess (whose appearance is only more frequent than my inner
Baking Goddess – trust me, you don’t want to ever call her unless you need to
like, burn a kitchen down or something) and keeping in line with protocol, I
started pulling down stuff from shelves when I chanced upon an envelope of
photos that I’d printed and meant to put into an album but like most things I
mean to do, I’d conveniently forgotten about it. So like all people who try to
find excuses to stop cleaning after they make a giant mess, I absolutely had to
go through those pictures and get nostalgic about whatever it was.
It
turned out they were pictures from our family’s vacation to Hong Kong &
Singapore from a couple of years ago, also known as those 12 days I didn’t have
any internet and it turned out internet is overrated when you actually
have a life. AND THEN I REMEMBERED THAT I NEVER WROTE ANYTHING ABOUT THAT
VACATION ON MY BLOG WHICH IS SO SAD, IN FACT, SADDER THAN THOSE
K.BALACHANDAR MOVIES THEY SHOW ON KTV EVERY WEEKDAY AFTERNOON WHERE EVERYONE
DIES.
Anyway.
The
most striking memory from that vacation is when we got to go to one particular
city in China, called Shenzhen, which was apparently the China part of “Made in
China”. It was pretty amazing – apart from all the crazy manufacturing that
they did, it was also the place where they made all the fakes, and not just
designer bags or whatever (That said, the FakeLouisVuitton and FakeGucci bags I
saw were so genuine looking that I’m pretty sure they even made fake FakeLouisVuitton
bags). I mean, they make fake EVERYTHING. They even have this sort of park
where they have fake 7 Wonders of The World. Like Fake Eiffel Tower, Fake
Pyramids, Fake Taj Mahal – it’s faking awesome (See what I did there?).
But
this story is not about those gorgeous but fake Chanel 2.55 bags I saw there.
This is about how, on our way back to Hong Kong from Shenzhen, we were detained
by passport control at the Train Station, who took us into their office for “questioning”.
My father was very confident that we just happened to be part of their
compulsory random check, and asked us to keep cool, but my mother was totally
freaked out, as if the authorities suspected us to be armed and dangerous
Russian Ninja Assassins who were trying to spark a Nuclear War, which is crazy
because we’re not even Russian. My mother got completely paranoid and suddenly
started chanting Hanuman Chalisa and MantharaRajaPadam Sthothram under her
breath in between high pitched whines in Tamil that involved calling the
Chinese Passport Authorities “Shaniyan”. Very cool.  
In
the middle of all this I was sitting and copying a Chinese character from a
flyer that was next to me, on to the back of my wrist with a black ball point pen.
About
fifteen minutes later, the Authorities confirmed that we were neither Russian nor
Ninja and let us leave. Just as he let us out, one of the guys at the door,
pointed to my wrist and smiled, which I thought was awesome – maybe my attempts
at copying Chinese characters was what had actually changed their minds and forged
a new bond of trust. I beamed back, fully convinced that I had done my part as
a Future Ambassador to the Country, when I realized his smile was less smile
and more smirk. Two more guys spotted my ballpoint-inked wrist and started giggling. Some Engrish and lots of dubstep dance moves later, I got to know that the flyer that was next to me was about the symptoms of Bird Flu and the character that I had been so intently drawing on my arm was the Chinese symbol for…Diarrhea. 
On the bright side, at least I didn’t use a permanent marker. 
PS – In case you want to suggest a fun tattoo idea to a friend, here you go: 泻

On Molestation, And What YOU Can Do About It

I write this post, knowing fully well that 95% of actual/potential molesters can’t read this, or can’t be reached with this. We’re in a country where education is scarce, forget internet access and English comprehension. What I do know when I write this, is that I can however reach 95% of actual/potential molestation victims, namely, you, your sisters, your mother, your aunts, your nieces, your girl friends, and through them, their help, their daughters, their neighbors and their acquaintances.

Again, I want to emphasize that what I’m writing is about molestation, not rape. I can’t talk about rapists, not just in India, but anywhere on the planet. Some rapists will rape no matter where you are, who you are, and what you wear because they are psychos with such deep rooted psycho-ness that there is no country without rape. Thankfully, rape as such is a lot rarer than the sexual harassment and assault that we have all been subjected to. 
Molestation on the other hand, in India, is something that our wonderful local men indulge in as some kind of pastime. It happens everywhere – on public transport, in workplaces, hell, even at homes. The average molester is of the opinion that groping or touching a random woman is no big deal. Why?
a. As far as he can see, no one cares, not even the girl, and 
b. He’s not going to be punished. 
Why would he think that? 
Simple.  When an individual touches us, or gropes us in the bus, in the train, in the middle of the crowd, most of us don’t make it a big deal right then, right there. We don’t, we just don’t. We’re shocked, we’re anguished, we’re traumatized, we’re ashamed, but how many of us actually slap him, kick him where it hurts, or make a scene? This is why 90% of molesters even molest. Our silence is incentivising him to continue molesting, and letting him to continue thinking that we don’t care and that he can get free gratification. To the molester, molesting us becomes “no big deal,” like taking a wallet off the road, which might be wrong, but is something you’ll never get punished for. 
So what is the solution? 
Some people think teaching your sons to respect women is the answer, but guess what, most of India’s 60 crore men are not young enough to listen to their mothers and fathers nor learn a brand new set of values overnight. While in the most idealistic case, you can reach 100% of boys still in school, that leaves 20 years before those kids become a majority of our adult population. 

And honestly, I don’t think any of us can take 20 more years of molestation.
As far as I’m concerned, before we teach a mostly illiterate country and its sons about respect and about equality, we need to teach them that molesting a woman, will only bring pain, shame and humiliation to the molester. So tell every female acquaintance you know – sisters, friends, aunts, nieces, your help, their sisters, their friends, their aunts, and every other girl they know, and every other girl you know to not stay silent, to not stay mute when something happens. To react. To make a scene. Right then, right there. To kick the man where it hurts. To not be afraid to carry pepper spray* and to not be afraid to use it. Most importantly, tell them to not be ashamed or guilty when something like this happens, because it was never their fault. 

From personal experience, in Chennai at least, I’ve found that making a scene and calling a molester out, especially in a public space, works, because in this city, if there’s anything men like doing more than groping women, it’s playing hero. So do your best to gather a crowd, bring their attention to what’s happened and ask them if they’d stay silent if the same thing happened to their sisters or daughters or wife. Rest assured, they won’t stay silent. When an individual molester gets jungle justice in a public space, it sends out a very clear message to everyone watching – if you molest, you’re going to get mauled. At this point, women, if you see another woman calling out her molester, go and support her right then, right there instead of hesitating/thinking/coming back home and blogging about it or whatever.  

So before you teach your son to not rape, teach your sisters to fight back. All these years, we’ve been letting molesters violate our space, simply because we didn’t stand up to them. If there must be change, then this is where it starts – stand up for yourself,because you’re not some delicate wilting wallflower, you’re a woman. And just how progressive are you if you still need a man to fight your battles? 

Notes:
2. I understand some women have reservations about creating a scene because of the possible “consequences” it would have. I’d like to point out that this some kind of effect too much Tamil Cinema can have and no, the average molester is not the average thug/goon. In the chance that you do feel unsafe or threatened after, stick to a group while travelling the next couple of days and always, always  remember that what you did was right. 
3. This is a bit of a tangent, but necessary – Teach your 4 and 5 year olds the difference between a good touch and a bad touch and that if anyone has a bad touch, they should tell you, no matter who that person is. If your teenager is taking public transport, warn her of what could happen, and tell her she shouldn’t be afraid to yell for attention and/or help. 
PSThis post is a result of a conversation I had with @subfusced yesterday. Do read his views on this topic. 
Clarification (27.07.2012)

It seems a few people have an issue with a couple of statements in this post. I hope the following clarification will help.

A. “95% of actual/potential molesters can’t read this, or can’t be reached with this.”

I did not claim that 95% of molesters are completely illiterate. I merely claimed that they cannot read and comprehend an argument in English, which this post is. According to the census of India (the latest official stats are 10 years old), only 3.7% of Indians have a college degree, and only 7.7% of Indians have finished 12th standard. (http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/Census_Data_Online/Social_and_cultural/Educational_level_and_Age_groups.aspx) Even assuming very liberally that this number has grown by 50% in the last 10 years, that puts graduates at 5.5% and 12th pass-outs at 10%. While several news articles claim that many of our graduates cannot even comprehend English (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/266674/four-10-indian-engineers-cant.html,http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703515504576142092863219826.html), even assuming liberally that 100% of all people who have a 12th+ education can comprehend English language adequately, that still means 90% of Indians cannot comprehend written English. Assuming molesters are equally likely in every educational segment, then it means 90% of molesters can not read this blog either. Sorry for stating 90% as 95%, but my point is that when you write in English in India, you write for a very small section of society, certainly <10%, unless it is something that an educated person can freely pass on to another less-educated person within the confines of normal social interactions.

B. “Thankfully, rape as such is a lot rarer than the sexual harassment and assault that we have all been subjected to.”

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were 24,206 reported cases of rape in India in 2011 (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-03/india/32522876_1_ncrb-report-cases-cognizable-crimes). Against a population of 600 million women, that makes about 0.04 incidents per 1000 women per year. We all know that most rape victims in India are afraid to report cases to the police, and even very liberally assuming that ONLY 1 OUT OF 100 of rape incidents were reported to the police, that caps rape at 2.4 million potential incidents a year. Against a female population of 600 million, that is about 4 incidents per 1000 women per year. Compare this statistic to sexual harassment in the form of groping on a public bus, having lewd comments passed on or being threatened/ stalked by strangers, or even having your trust betrayed by a friend/ relative/ employee who touches you in perverted ways. I do not know even one girl who HAS NOT been harassed in such ways, and I am shocked to know that there are those who believe that this form of sexual harassment (which this blog post is about) is not significantly more numerous than rape. In other words, how can you possibly believe that the number of women sexually harassed per year in India is in the order of 1’s/1000 or 10’s/100 instead of 100’s/1000, when almost every girl and woman you know tells you that they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives? 

Why I Don’t Swim Anymore And Other Excuses

If I were to think of the one thing I’ve spent most time and energy on while growing up, it’s definitely on coming up with excuses to avoid taking sports related classes. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching sport. There’s the drama, the sentiment, the thrill and great looking caucasian dudes taking their shirts off. But when it comes to playing, it’s just total trauma because I am an athletic disaster. No really, I’ve been told I have negative hand eye co-ordination, the stamina of a dead squirrel and that I’m generally doomed to be a total failure in sport by like 8 different instructors thus far. So if you think about it, I’m kinda like Abraham Lincoln except for the minor detail about him eventually overcoming his failures and becoming President and me still being a failure.  
My mother thinks I have a talent when it comes to coming up with excuses – but the one thing people don’t usually understand about great excuses is that they aren’t made. They just happen. When I was 5, my father apparently had this vision of me becoming a swimming champion (on an unrelated note, I see where my hyperactive imagination comes from) and just like that, I was enrolled into swimming classes at Savera. Have you guys seen the pool at Savera? In case you haven’t I MUST describe it – IT’S CREEPY AS HELL. You know, in normal-people-land, swimming pools are just like giant tubs with blue tiles, because that’s how they’re meant to be. But no, the pool at Savera has like mosaic sea creatures. They start out as friendly seeming fish in the shallow end, become mosaic mermaids (or whatever) in the 5′ – 7′ level and finally, very evil looking giant fish in 12′ deep, dark end. For a really long time I was convinced that the deep end had these bloodthirsty sharks which ate children. And were invisible. 
As if the invisible shark pool wasn’t intimidating enough, the swimming instructor (Terror Sir) was the stuff nightmares was made of. In our second class, he pulled us out of the nice, safe, shallow end and made us (about 6 of us, mostly 5, 6 year olds) line up near the deep end. And then, he pushed us in. Just like that. When you’re like roughly three feet tall, this is crazy scary – imagine being pushed in to this crazy mosaic fish pool (which probably had invisible sharks) with no warning, no floating aids and NO TRAINING. When I came back home after class that evening (I managed to escape the sharks thanks to my mad grab-the-nearest-adult-in-the-water-and-holler-until-he-helps-you-out-of-the-water skills) I was a mess. I begged, I pleaded, I even did the kicking that I was supposed to have done in the water to get out of swimming classes. My mom was unfazed ofcourse, even with my dramatic re-telling of how I nearly drowned to death. “The next time he makes you jump in, just say ‘Jai Anjaneya!’. Nothing will happen!” 
(In case you are wondering, I actually tried this the next class – Instead of my usual 500 decibel shriek, I went in with a 500 decibel JAI ANJANEYA! war-cry. I got out and didn’t burst into hysterical sobs after I was out of the pool – This was a huge deal, and not surprisingly, it caught on among my peers as well.  Pretty soon there was even like this mini-contest among us with respect to who can say JAI ANJANEYA! the loudest while jumping in. I still sucked at swimming though.)
Basically, my parents just wouldn’t let anything deter them from their ambition to mould me into an Asian Games hopeful, which was really sad because I hated swimming, as much as I hated the times Terror Sir would like dunk my head in the water as punishment whenever I displayed my incapability in the water, which was all the time. I played sick (“Swimming will make you feel better!”), I played scared (“Anjaneya is there no? He’ll take care of you!”) and I even played the bad girl card – I kicked Terror Sir right on the stomach in the pretext of improving my freestyle. This did not go well either, because he went and told my parents that I had the legs of a swimming champion and that I should extend my classes.  
Just when I thought I had run out of excuses, one evening we were let into the kiddy pool for an entire hour because Terror Sir was too busy terrorizing his senior students for some competition the next day. The kiddy pool in Savera is also a piece of work – it’s a small pool made even smaller thanks to a GIANT Shiva-Parvati statue bang in the middle with a chlorine Ganga spouting from Shiva’s head. Some kids took it really seriously and would insist on playing “Temple Temple” during our splashing time and we’d form this line and go around the statue and drink some chlorinated water as our Prasadam. Anyway, so there we were, obediently circling Shiva-Parvati-Chlorine-Ganga when one of the boys (I’m just going to call him Oneboy cause I don’t remember his name) started yelling for his mother. Oneboy’s mom showed up looking all tired and exasperated snapped at him asking what the matter was. Apparently, Oneboy really really really needed to go use the loo on the other side of the pool to susu. 
But Oneboy’s mom just rolled her eyes and was like “Why can’t you just do it there?”  
Oneboy yelled right back at his Mom – “That is only in big pool! I can’t susu on God, okay!” 
My mother who was nearby, overhearing all this, quietly told me to get out of the pool – and just like that I was relieved from swimming classes. Goes to prove that if Lavanya cannot come up with an excuse, the excuse shall come to Lavanya.