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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A short update

I played around with stock photos and Pokemon on Photoshop for Christmas -- thought I should share it with you all. 
Keep well!

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Felt This Was Necessary

It takes immense maturity, and is a desirable characteristic of civilization, to hate the sin and not the sinner. However, there are numerous instances in which, that intellectually charged sense of heart-wrenching fairness becomes a vehicle for excuse-mongering in favour of convenient injustices. What then? In the face of a rampant social evil, is the sympathy-based correctional approach at all fair, or for that matter, effective?
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Blame

It's not his fault, they told her--
Blame his parents, his childhood, his home,
But not the poor boy.
His mother probably didn't teach him well.

So she forgave him, and prayed for his soul.
Not being its fault either,
She let his godforsaken child live:
Hated the kid all her life, but raised him, fed him.
Even took him to see his blameless father;
Sent him to school, where one day he knew.

He turned sixteen:
Decided it was his time to emulate Father.
Many saw him, and kept quiet.
Mother saw him, but kept quiet,
And she prayed for his soul
Because perhaps she hadn't taught him well.

And that's what they said to the girl.
Who, history repeating, let it live.
The guilty mother saw the signs one day.
Decided to make right her sin,
Took a blade to the girl's throat,
Went to jail for misplaced mercy.
The sixteen-year-old blameless son
Watched her shackled departure in disgust.
His child, his blameless child, he thought.
His innocent creation in the belly of his prey.
A boy, he had hoped.
Just like him inside his mother.

What a shame!
So he went out to make things right.
Few nights later, one of them screamed.
This time everyone saw.
Elections approaching, this time,
The many-coloured flags rose in protest.
Also some candles, black arm bands,
Journalists, columnists, analysts.

But one wise old man said,
It's not his fault.
His mother didn't teach him well.
What a tainted mother anyway, to let him live --
And gladly the old man repeated events
To those not in the know.
The old man's wife reminded him, helpfully:
Not just that, husband --
Remember how she killed that girl?
Of course the poor boy's not to blame;
To have a mother like that, poor thing.

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This poem is a product of many people, on many occasions, encouraging me to understand the greyer shades between black and white, and appreciate the reasons behind crimes committed. In response, I have chosen to write, and I've picked the foremost criminal issue in India which was also the last issue I discussed with someone along those lines -- the continuum of sexual aggression against women, from harassment, to domestic violence, molestation and rape. While a lot has been said about fixing the grassroots and changing mindsets, which I respect and even agree with, I will never support the utterance of these ideas in the immediate context of a crime. With all due respect to campaigns like #startwiththeboys , and the women and men who want to change the attitudes at the origin of crime, we cannot expect a victim, or even her immediate family, to appreciate the reasons behind the crime. Doing so trivializes the victim's ordeal and shifts focus from her trauma. Once the crime has been committed, once the basest human dignities of a person have been trampled upon, there are no shades of grey -- it is black and white. 
All crimes, sex crimes included, are a product of troubled pasts and wrong teachings in some form -- but let that not become an excuse. Once committed, the primary action must be punishment -- harsh punishment. Campaigns are for potential criminals, not hardened ones who are already desensitized -- and even if convicts are to be reformed, it can hardly be done in a day, and is best attempted inside secure facilities. Let us not be so concerned about being fair to the perpetrators and protecting their rights that we forget the justice we owe to the victim.
(Speaking of victims -- let us not subscribe to the voyeuristic idealization of the 'shamed victim' picture. Let us offer the kind of support that encourages a victim to be strong and move on, instead of defining her by her ordeal for the rest of her life.)
The secondary theme in the poem, and the reason I chose to write about the mother, is a simple and direct reaction to this:

"Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman. Always." -- Nana, in Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.

That book, along with its predecessor The Kite Runner, are some of the rawest stories of systematic social injustice that I've read. More on that later, hopefully clubbed with the discussion on And The Mountains Echoed, which is next on my reading list.
Meanwhile, #startwiththeboys , but lets not make a victim live with the humiliating knowledge that the perpetrator has received lenient treatment or, as is often the case, has gone scot-free. Men who consider women less than human, should receive a taste of that same humiliation. Domestic violence is non-negotiable. Harassment is non-negotiable. Molestation is non-negotiable. Rape is non-negotiable. It is black. Very black.
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