Friday, September 24, 2010

Ayodhya (first drafted and published in August 3, 2007)

Its taken me the longest to come up with this post. In normal circumstances, if I've got the title for a post I publish it within two days. Ayodhya has taken me over months.
Ayodhya as a topic is part of my existance, a part of the country from where I am. Ayodhya has shaped me up in a certain way.
It's taken me so long to come up with Ayodhya because I wanted to write a lot, but dint know what to write. I've gone through pages and pages of documents and papers and case studies trying to put up accurate facts and statistics. But would all that have my signature bearing on it or would it be modern day plagiarism?
I've decided to chuck reports and articles and write the very reason why Ayodhya haunted me for a very long time.

I went to Jamnabai Narsee School. Life in those days meant going to the school bus stop by 8:15 a.m. and coming home by 4:30 p.m. It also meant I would wake up at 7 a.m. every morning cursing my school for not letting me sleep well.

Myself as a kid always complained to my mom regarding her absence from my school, as in , when other parents would drop by every now and then, my parenst never did that. There would be Bombay bandhs and hoardes of parents would come to collect their kids...where as mine were always missing, no matter what the circumstances were I always came back by school bus number. Well I almost always came back by that bus.

Circa December 6, 1992 and after the Long break (45 minutes of recess) parents started dropping by, picking up kids. I was my jolly self. Somehow the feeling of not being picked up by parents gave me a high. You know the kind of high when you are kid and it makes u feel stronger and more mature. I consoled myself with this high when I knew my mom and dad wouldnt be coming. The 'period' (lecture) was abandoned and the teacher started calling out the name of the kids whose parents had come. I was least bothered. With gay abandonment I was singing around feeling my high and getting higher knowing fully well that I would be borading 6075 at 3:50 p.m.

"Archana", the teacher called out and I thought it was something else. "Your mother has come", I looked out at the classroom door to verify whether it was indeed my mom or a kidnapper (parental warnings). I saw my mom with a straight face in one of those Chinese silk sarees she got from the U.S.
I was shocked and at the same time happy. Shocked to see my mom come to pick me up from her work and happy to belong to the majority group..the group whose parents came to pick them up when anything or everything went wrong in Bombay.
In an enthusiastic manner I packed up my backpack telling some of my classmates with excitement that my mom had come, walked towards my mom held her hand and started walking. I asked my mother what had happened to which she gave a very stern "Nothing has happened", reply.
We caught an auto rickshaw and came home. I still dint know what was happening. Mom changed into a salwaar kameez and then we went downstairs to the Bhatias. Thats when I heard my mother and Mrs. Bhatia discussing the repercussions of Hindus demolishing the Babri masjid in Ayodhya. I asked mom where was Ayodhya, thinking if it was somewhere close by to where we stayed in Juhu. I still dint know what was happening. As a few days passed by I wasn't going to school, not for the next 2 weeks. Thats when we kids in the building realized that there were communal riots in Bombay. The building I resided in had all Hindu families and we were later told that Muslims were all out to kill Hindus.

'6 th December 1992, Kar Sevaks from the VHP and other communal parties and organizations barged into the Babri Masjid , in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, to claim back land that is supposedly the Ram Janm Bhoomi, a matter corroborated by the Archeological Survey of India. The then U.P Chief Minister Mr. Kalyan Singh stepped down and the then Indian Prime Minister P.V.Narsimahrao established the Liberhan Commission on December 16 1992, under the Union Home Ministry, to put forth its findings that led to the cause and results of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya.

The commission was supposed to give its reports within 3 months.'

Every night a family from each floor would keep a vigil on the entire building with the help of the watchman.
'Jaleel', a Muslim from Tamil Nadu, guarding a building full of Hindus in Juhu.
The ground and overhead water tanks were sealed with eight locks each because there were rumours that poison was being poured in other societies to kill Hindus, and I remember all the parents talking about Mussalmaans raging around with black flags, flamed torches and swords killing everything even remotely associated with Hindus.

I as a kid started fearing. My fear psychosis against Muslims began.
So much so that when Bombay started limping back to normalcy and school resumed, I feared every bearded man was out to kill me. I never sat near the window seat in the school bus, fearing to become an easy target of a bearded man. The mere sight of anyone with a skull cap made me hide behind the seats. I've done that on many occasions. After the demolition in Ayodhya, I believed that Muslims were murderers. I remember praying to god every night that I shouldnt ever die of Cancer, AIDS, or killed by a Muslim. Yes Cancer and AIDS were the also other new found fears of the masses.
I remember having no New Years celebration to welcome 1993 and everyday I would feel the air around me hot and tensed. The city was wounded. My city that boasted to be secular, peaceful and liberal was badly wounded.

We had school projects in Primary school and that semester the subject was 'Bombay'. It was 12th of March 1993 a few weeks after the riots had subsided and our school had taken us out for a field trip, to show us the entire of Bombay. We were at the Price of Wales Museum in Kalaghoda when we heard a loud thud. Some of we kids thought some tyre got punctured; then we heard sirens; all over.
We were all huddled into the bus and it was all thing I remember we passed by a building and I saw shards of glass everywhere. Yes I saw blood splattered here and there too. I think we were at Dalal Street that houses the Bombay Stock Exchange.

A series of bombs had rocked the city. Killing hundreds of people.
We heard name like Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon. We even heared Sanjay Dutt.
The riots had wounded the city.
The bomb blasts made her bleed.

Then again a commission was constituted under Justice B.N. Srikrishna...popularly known as the Srikrishna Comission report.
'In 1992-93, the city of Mumbai was rocked by communal riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities and bomb blasts perpetrated by Muslim terrorists in collusion with D-Company mafia don Dawood Ibrahim. While communal riots are not unusual in modern Indian history, these riots were particularly startling in light of Mumbai's largely peaceful past. Above all the Bombay Riots appeared to compromise the much-vaunted image of the city as cosmopolitan, secular and tolerant. Further, the riots appeared to solidify the image of Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackrey who scathingly criticized the judiciary.
Justice Srikrishna, then a relatively junior Judge of the Bombay High Court, accepted the task of investigating the causes of the riots, something that many of his colleagues had turned down. For five years till 1998, he examined victims, witnesses and alleged perpetrators. Detractors came initially from left-secular quarters who were wary of a judge who was a devout and practicing Hindu. The Commission was disbanded by the Shiv Sena led government in January 1996 and on public opposition was later reconstituted on 28 May 1996; though when it was reconstituted, its terms of reference were extended to include the Mumbai bomb blasts that followed in March 1993.
The report of the commission stated that the tolerant and secular foundations of the city were holding even if a little shakily. Justice Srikrishna indicted those he alleged as responsible for the bloodshed, the Shiv Sena.
The report was criticized as “politically motivated”. For a while its contents were a closely guarded secret and no copies were available. The Shiv Sena-government rejected its recommendations. Since under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, an Inquiry is not a court of law (even if it conducts proceedings like a court of law) and the report of an inquiry is not binding on Governments, Srikrishna's recommendations cannot be directly enforced. Till date, the recommendations of the Commission have neither been accepted nor acted upon by the
Maharashtra Government.'-Wikipedia.
I dint know there existed something called the Liberhan Commission or the Srikrishna Commission, till a few years back. I also dint know that the Liberhan Commission now has the tag of the longest running Commission having cost the Indian exchequer nearly Rs. 63 lacs. Its been 17 and a half years and still 'FINDINGS' are going on.
That the Srikrishna Commission report is played with and disregarded by political parties as and when they deem it fit to set their vote banks ringing. That it is the same UPA (Congress) that backed the retaliatory story put forth by the Sena-Sangh Alliance in 1992-93 just so that 'outside hands could be' easily blamed.

Is it an irony that no 'COMMISSION' has been established in the Bombay train blasts case where in the ATS (Anti-Terrorist Squad) has still been unsuccessful in finding or framing the culprits?

On the 31 of July 2007, The Bombay serial blasts case finally came to a close with actor Sunjay Dutt being sentenced to rigorous Imprisonment. Maybe the film fraternity would vouch for his character. I would not. In fact I still wonder why he was released from the TADA Act. Lets all agree to the fact that Sanjay Dutts popularity soared after Munnabhai and its sequel..but prior to that we all knew his connections with notoriety. As a judiciary the law binds on everyone equally. If Sanjay Dutt has awaited and suffered enough since the last 14 years with a sword of uncertainty over him so have others. The man got lucky because he was associated with Bollywood and had the opportunity to gain sympathy. But that doesnt mean he goes scot free.

Coming back Ayodhya, I wonder whether the Liberhan report will ever see the light of the day or get stuck under some bureaucratic red tape.

But now I realized a few things. That it weren't beard men or men with skull caps that were after my life; who triggered my fear psychosis. It was after all a well planned chapter in history that the generation after us will read and know, someday when we become parts of that history.
I accept that I too have been a victim of the communal riots that rocked Bombay. I have been a psychological victim.

That at the end of the day, the community that I feared so much in our country is after all so volatile simply because they do not have a sense of security in them, why else would they resort to acts that only display their want to survive.
That at the end of the day Bombay has insulated itself against attacks on religious places and blasts.
That afterall, at the end of the day 'The Spirit of Bombay' is aptly displayed and conveyed by 'Salaam Bombay'.
That at the end of the day most Bombayites including myself dont really care about Ayodhya and the outcome of the suite in the Lucknow bench of the Allahbad High Court.
That afterall its best Ayodhya remains what it truly means 'Not to be warred against'.
Thats its best we let Ayodhya remain just thatAyodhya a place in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On being asked if I was manipulative (Dec 12, 2007)

I stand here at crossroads yet again,
facing roads that I know not head where...
Each step ahead is filled with uncertainty,
the will to live still there...

And then I see some faces that seem to smile,
from a distance of where I stand...
I have my smile washed away in tears,
when I touch those faces...
faces that fail me understand.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Lovers Lost Paradise.

There is blood running down my hands. The blood that's getting washed off my hands in this heavy rain. The blood stoked rain water that kisses the asphalt road and goes into the sewer taking with it my tears that are anonymous with the rainwater around. The thunders that deafen my screams. Of anger, rage & madness. But this isn't my blood. Its that of a child.  Of everything that I could have done, today I have taken the life of my child.
Yet I'm howling helplessly. I have crossed the limits of madness, of sanity. I'm beating my palms against the coarse asphalt, sometimes rubbing vigorously, still screaming, crying & begging to be killed too. Mercilessly.
Every inch of me shivers, of the shock and cold.
Murder isn't comforting. Nor is it conclusive.
My girl is only a few months old. A month and a half to be precise. Now she doesn't move. Eyes shut, skin turning pale I see the blood gently oozing out of her tiny head. Even in death I cant help to notice how perfect my little girl is. Strands of hair that I imagined would grown into forever dark locks that ran in my side of the family are as lifeless as she is. Clad in a white soft linen dress that is now entirely red I can feel her turn cold. Somewhere, I've given up hope. I know she is gone. Yet every second I'm pleading and me undo all this...

It had been two days R hadn't picked up the phone. We had barely spoken in the last few months. He came back from a meeting in Vietnam, said there were sales targets to be met at work and so he'd be home sparse. Well, this was the rudimentary explanation to be given to a spouse. Truth was, the girl he was cheating on me with was getting hitched and R was doing what ever infidel does in these circumstances. Trying to keep both, the wife and the mistress.
The pregnancy had been stressful. I had found out about the infidelity in my second trimester, right after my monthly ultrasound. R said he wanted the child and me and apologized like every God-forsaken-son-of-a-bitch does on getting caught! He also promised he would end the 'affair', a promise I knew was as hollow as every infidel is.
I had thrown his laptop off our 7th floor apartment, broken the LCD of the 40 inch BRAVIA and flushed his mobile phone in front of him. All this on the night of confrontation.
Every waking minute after that was a struggle. To find reasons to go ahead with the pregnancy. To secure the future of my unborn. Slowly but steadily as my hormones raged, in the passing weeks R and I stopped interacting at home. At the same time I'd be lying if I said  I dint hope and pray. For my baby and my marital home. Every night I'd wonder as to how the man who would fly across countries to be with me even for a meal while we were dating could do this to me. I cursed myself for having ever trusted him.
Yet ironically I'd wonder what features would my baby take after him. Would it have his nearly porcelain white skin as his family came from the foothills of the Himalayas or would it be dusky like me with east Indian features. These thoughts helped me be sane and let me have a few hours of necessary sleep that I needed.
There was an old domestic help and she became our messenger. R and I would talk through her. I knew we were doomed when one night I had been secretly weeping on my side of the bed and R came to me. Not to comfort me but to have me. I had slapped him hard across his face and thrown him out of the bedroom. This was in the seventh month. I did not try to save this sinking ship 'cuse I had found out more evidence he was still cheating on me. Hotel bookings in ones name for single nights in the city itself where u have a house is ample proof. There were nights when I thought I'd probably finish all this by stabbing him with a kitchen knife. But the thought that this man was the father of my unborn child kept me away from acting on my thoughts.
We put up a good facade the day Agni was born. Smiling and looking every bit the happily married couple that a lot of not-so-happy couples always do. But the moment we were back home, it was the same silence again. I hoped for the miracle of him coming back to me and his daughter entirely.
A fortnight back from the hospital, on a rainy night I knew he was talking to someone on the phone in the washroom. I knew it was 'her'.
This time I knew it was time to act. I got the old desktop working cuse I knew I could then access his personal mails through the POP server. Something we had done a month into our marriage but something I knew he had forgotten. Every time I had to open a new mail from his whore, my hands would tremble and my heart raced in anxiety. I wondered what did I lack or where and when did I go wrong??
Was it because she was prettier? Was I that bad??
Then I opened the mail that made my head spin and gave a pain of shock so bad I felt like I was going to die. R had written in no uncertain terms he was going to divorce me if 'she' decided to call off her family arranged wedding. He had already spoken to a lawyer.
I was aghast, devastated and felt worse than dead.
I took Agni, and drove to his work place. Somewhere between accepting congratulations for our baby and being asked to take a seat, the silly perks of being the wife of a Vice President of an MNC, I barged into his cabin where I found both of them having lunch. I flung the printout of the mail at him, slapped him a dozen times more when he asked me to calm down, banged his new laptop again hoping I'd rendered it useless tore both their shirts and told "her' she was worth eight thousand bucks a night! Since that is what he paid the hotel towards hooking with her. This I told in front of his department staff.
I think by this time I had lost it completely. I wanted to kill one of them or myself.
I took my little girl again in my arms and got into the car he had gifted me last year as an "appreciation anniversary gift". To appreciate the fact that I had quit my job as an ad woman so that I could spend more time with him and family. He had asked me to take this step.
Then I began to drive and honestly I dint know where I was heading, in what direction at what speed, nothing. The next thing I know there is an SUV from the opposite direction that bangs me head on. Agni who wasn't tucked into a baby seat gets flung out of the car. I had obviously not locked the doors.
In the next 10 minutes on the Delhi Gurgaon expressway I struggle towards Agni who is motionless, not even a wail of pain or discomfort. I limp towards her in the rain.
I kneel down at her still hoping, still bargaining with the seconds that pass by.
I pick her up onto my lap.
Clad in a white soft linen dress that is now entirely red I can feel her turn cold. Somewhere, I've given up hope. I know she is gone. Yet every second I'm pleading and me undo all this...Of everything that I did or could have done not this... not this..
I hold her close and begin to scream.