Blogdosts, Many thanks for your overwhelming response to the book. I am truly, truly touched. Perhaps I should have clarified earlier - the book will only hit bookstores around the 21st of September. The trade buzz has been most encouraging. I was shooting a promo for a sales conference yesterday, and Harish, who is just so good with distribution, told me he had advance orders rolling in. Okay. No more sales talk!!
Today is a very auspicious day - Ganesh Chaturthi. I am planning to watch 'Dabbang' and then go back to Kittichai's 'Koh' to sample what I'd missed out the last time - his signature dishes. Shraavan is over (it ended at 4 p.m. on the 8th). I am seriously considering sticking to my Monday fasts, and giving preference to a largely vegetarian diet. It makes me feel healthier and lighter.
Rushing to a panel discussion on CNN-IBN ( interesting and volatile topic - Caste Census ) last night, I nearly missed the slot - families wishing to avoid the Ganpati rush today, were bringing the beloved deity home and the streets were filled with joyous greetings as thousands blocked traffic for hours. I am planning my annual pilgrimage to Lalbaug chha Raja - this year, the security is that much tighter on account of the terrorist threat. All the more reason to go and pay obeisance at the Lord's feet - with devotion in the heart and enough courage not to fear any calamity. More tomorrow.... till then, join me in saying, "Ganpati Bappa Morya!" and Eid Mubarak.
This appeared in The Week....
These lashes are not for fluttering…
Tala Raassi’s name is not known to many outside the rarefied world of international fashion. She’s the 27 year old, originally from Teheran, who made waves at the recently held Miss Universe Pageant, when contestants walked the ramp in bikinis designed by her. Tala’s flight to freedom at age 18, is part of her dramatic c.v. as she moves up the fame ladder in America, which is now her home. When Tala was celebrating her sixteenth birthday in Teheran, she and her friends were arrested for breaking Islamic laws as practiced in Iran. Her crime? Tala had taken off her head scarf and black chador inside the privacy of her home, and was caught wearing a mini skirt, tee shirt and high heels. The religious police who burst in and broke up the celebrations sentenced her to be lashed. Five days later, she found herself face down on a mattress, ordered to do so by a woman holding a Koran in one hand. Tala kept her tee shirt on, hoping the thin fabric would offer a little protection. On the contrary, with each lash, the fabric got stuck to the deep gashes on her back and made the excruciating pain, still worse. It was then that Tala decided to escape to America and pursue her dream to become a fashion designer. She was inspired by the idea of being in an environment that encouraged women to wear what they like. Where women were free to cover up – or not.
Tala was fortunate to get away with just lashes. She could as easily have been killed. Women in today’s Talibanised Afghanistan have it much, much worse. Like Tala so many years ago, they too have zero personal freedoms, cannot listen to music, dance, drive, receive an education, speak to members of the opposite sex or in any manner, express themselves. Nearly every day, one comes across reports of women being stoned to death… and no matter what the justification, it remains an act of unadulterated barbarity. That the civilised world can do nothing about it, adds to the complicity of the crime. Closer to home, our own record isn’t all that better – after all, if we condemn stoning a woman to death for suspected infidelity in other parts of the world, what can one say about the equally primitive tradition of Khap killings in our own backyard? And it’s about time we stopped referring to them as ‘honour killings’ - that tag makes this heinous crime sound almost respectable. Despite protests and condemnations, our newspapers continue to be filled with grisly stories of young girls being relentlessly hunted down by male relatives out to ‘save’ the family name. Here in Hypocritical India, we refuse to acknowledge this as a major social blight, we refuse to call it the Talibanisation of our culture, and most importantly, we refuse to punish the guilty. If justice was swift and strict in these cases, if those guilty of murder were tried and sentenced in fast track courts within a reasonable period of time, believe me, others contemplating such dastardly acts, would think a thousand times before going after their defenceless victims.
That’s how it goes in our country. Women remain our lowest priority on all levels. Their health and well being are not issues of any importance. Which is a really pretty foolish and short sighted approach, given that women form the fulcrum around which Indian society ( like most other civilised societies) revolves. Despite that, we continue to strip them naked in public, beat and torture them, maim and murder them. All in the name of ‘protecting’ society. The reason we do so is absurdly simple – because we can.
Tala’s memory of those lashes prodded her to take a risky step and plot her escape. She did it! But there are millions of women across the world who aren’t as lucky or as gutsy. What about them? Some lashings are obvious – they are physical. They leave visible scars. Equally damaging are emotional lashings – and those scars remain hidden. Sometimes for life. Either way, the guilty don’t pay.Not in this life, anyway.More’s the pity.