Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Dear Sir

Dear Sir,

I will forget today just like I forgot yesterday and the day before. I will forget the date and the place but I won't forget the way you placed your hands on my sides and pulled me to your side almost binding me to you.

But I didn't pull away.

Instead, I smiled. I smiled and said I think it's late and I should go back but if you'd bothered to look a little more closely, you'd see that it was a broken smile. 

It was the smile that I had gently donned as a silent tribute to the girl who was gang-raped in Delhi and the boy who was born a refugee. It was a smile that appeared when words cowered to express the shame and the guilt I felt because we had failed them. 

And it was the smile that I plastered on my face as I was molested by one of my idols. 

But I'm not going to say that you scarred me or that I will never be able to lead a normal life because you've probably heard that a million times before. But I'll tell you one thing.

I had always believed that there are some things a person can never get used to. And molestation was on my list. But after being sexually assaulted by a cousin, having a 40 year old uncle dig his penis into my ass during a car ride and having been inappropriately touched and cat-called at in movie theatres and buses more number of times than you can count on your fingers; sexual assault doesn't surprise me anymore. When you were busy biting my neck, the only thing I could think of was: 'Where should I look so I can't see the reflection of my face'. 

When I left, I had this feeling that I had left something behind, but I couldn't put a finger on exactly what that was. That night as I was trying to wash away all the perpetual dirt that seemed to surround me, I realised what I'd left behind. My power to feel.

Dear Sir,

While people are busy trying to find themselves, you (along with many others) helped me lose a part of myself.

Thank you so much

Monday, 31 October 2016

Travel Ink! Update #9

31-10-2016 08:41 AM: 

It's Diwali.
It's Diwali and you're celebrating and bursting crackers and eating faral and meeting relatives and you're celebrating Diwali.
It's Diwali and I also went to the Tibet Museum today.

Now stop for a second and take a deep breath. Get rid of your thoughts for a moment.
Right now, you're an Indian. You're an Indian with a choice. You can choose to accept your culture, partially or wholly, you can choose your religion, you can choose to celebrate and pray, you can choose to speak or criticize, you can choose your identity.
And no one can touch you for it.
Now imagine being invaded by foreigners. By strangers to you, your country, your culture, your existence.
Imagine being shut in a box of their choosing. Where you are now them and you are now theirs. Where everything is changing and you can't do a thing. Because the foreigners have you in their clutches, and your resistance, however large, is just. not. enough.
Imagine your temples, your mosques, your churches, your places of worship being torn down. Imagine watching the ridicule of the Bhagwad Geeta and the Kuran and the Bible and your holy scriptures. Imagine watching them burnt, torn, soiled.
Imagine being helpless against it.

Every day thousands of Tibetans traverse across the Himalayas, leaving their country, leaving their home because it's no longer theirs. They are strong willed and determined. They are what their teachings preach. They are the Tibetan people. They are the Tibetan culture.

We live in a safe bubble where rebellions and imprisonment and torture are just stories. Even the Kashmir issues are beyond our comprehension. Because they're just issues to us. From newspaper clippings and loud reporters.
But then, just a country away live the Tibetans. Robbed of their identity, robbed of their beliefs, robbed of their existence.
Did you know the Chinese deny the existence of Tibetan history? Did you know that the Tibetans don't have the right to speech? Did you know any suspected anti Chinese man or woman are publicly humiliated? Dressed in dunce caps and humiliating clothes? Did you know that they're tortured while imprisoned, taken on for questioning and killed?
Festivals are banned because they "waste resources", education preaches communism, children learn Chinese thoughts and culture, monks are forced to change their entire belief system and are otherwise executed publicly.
It's inhuman.
That's what it is.
Inhuman and completely, utterly backward.

Here I stay, living among hundreds of Tibetans who have come to India 5, 8, 10, 12 years ago. And I never even imagined how they came here. Exactly why they came here.
Because they were just stories.
Until today. Today, after seeing the pictures and the narrations and the videos and the stories.
Today I saw just how messed up everything is and just how powerless the whole world apparently, can be.
They aren't stories. They are people. Kind, true, beautiful people.
And yet, here they are. In India. A country away.

Travel Ink! Update #8

30-10-2016 08:13 AM:

Tashi delek, folks! Same old routine in the morning: make Maggi, take a hike to the nursery and chill with the snotty, smelly, occasionally bratty babies. Fun!
No really. The kids are adorable. But I'm still happy for the break tomorrow.
Rest of the day was pretty slow and sleepy. Momos for lunch and then three hours in the room with an e-book and political science textbook. Boring.
But then I decided to not so nicely ditch Dhriti and go for a nice, long walk across town. So I went to the main square, realised I was going the wrong way, turned back around for the museum, realised it was closed when I reached there, decided to go to the monastery, then decided against it when I saw the hoards of old Indian tourists with no sense of talking in public etiquette. Slightly embarrassed, I walked away.
But then I got an amazing discount for helping a shop owner make a Facebook account. Plus points!
Now for the slightly more happening part.
Wait for it
We cooked rice and tomato bharta.
So it was slightly embarrassing because the lady whose house we're living in felt the need to make us chapatis and sabzi because she didn't trust our cooking.
Oh well. At least she makes a mean vangyachi bhaaji. (Ho, me sampavli, aai. Sheek jara. Okay sorry. Please let me come home.)
Now we're about to sleep, ready for a short hike to Dharamkot tomorrow and maybe an hour of meditation. Oh, and also shopping for the secondary folks who I forgot about the first time we went shopping. I could tell you who if you asked. Puchho na.
Interesting stuff today? I bought a phenomenal poetry book called 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran. Ready to lend it to anybody once I get back because it's truly worth the read.
Also, I found a Himachal thali restaurant while roaming today. I'm probably going to force Dhriti there.
Oh and also, Dhriti made the tomato bharta herself! (Under my guidance, of course *takes a bow*) because I cut my finger. I swear my dad let me take that knife just to get back at me for being a terrible person.
Anyways. Good night!

09:17 AM:

This is an out of the blue, I don't know why I'm doing this but it's still am kind of update. But since it's Diwali (lame excuse), and I'm tired of seeing copy pasted messages of "Happy Diwali", so cheers to Travel Ink updates.

First off, I am super disappointed that Diwali is no different here. Tons of firecrackers and heartstopping thudd. And there is enough being said about it so i needn't add more to the pile of insignificant complaints that everybody talks about but still I see animals going deaf and crackers being tied to dogs tails.
But at least I'm not obliged to smile at random strangers who will religiously ask me "How old are you?", "Oh you've grown so thin. Your mom doesn't feed you?" and then dump some useless kitchen item like a thermos or a cup (oh praise the lord for cups. Cups that are given on birthdays and on Diwali. Cups that have been exchanged by so many hands that nobody even bothers unwrapping them anymore. Just rattle the gift box and Oh! Cup hai. Rhea ka birthday aa raha hai. Return gift dene me kaam ayega"
That's all about Diwali. And on a different subject, today when we ate Tibetan bread (not as special as it sounds) with jam i remembered my mom's methi ka parantha with jam back from school. It was just a wisp of random reminiscence and wasn't accompanied with a pang of self pity or home sickness as it usually is in movies and in the literature world. And that was when i realized that memories don't necessarily have to be happy or sad. They can just be there like the untouched books on our bookshelf that we bought so enthusiastically because they were cheap but never got around to reading. And then you just catch glimpses of them as you walk past them too much in a hurry to leaf through the book and feel but it's still there.
That's it. This was just an interesting revelation and hence it's here. Continue with the faral hogging.

Travel Ink! Update #7

29-10-2016 09:30 PM: 

Hello once again. Sorry I skipped yesterday's update. There wasn't anything much to say plus i was feeling low so it would've been an unhappy update but hey! I'm back with tomato ka bharta and off-white rice to make up for the sins of my past (creepy.. Sorry about that)

We finally started cooking on our own. Maggi for breakfast, it was a bit rubbery but somehow everything we cook in this induction cooker tastes a wee bit weird. I forgot what we had for lunch but for dinner (which is the most interesting part of the day), we tried to cook a tomato bharta. The original plan was that Devshri will cook while I (the patriarchal husband) will sit and finish up my essay but due to an unexpected turn of events which might have involved Devshri cutting her thumb (not like Eklavya though), I ended up coughing in front of this pile of tomatoes and weird spices. To be very honest, (Devshri don't kill me), I was skeptical about this random mixture of this grocery paraphernalia Devshit was ordering me to put in, till the very end. I mean how can a pinch of turmeric, black pepper, salt and a tad bit of frying turn ugly, squishy tomatoes into an edible companion with off-white, super cheap rice? But guess what! I was wrong, like I always am! *Dramatic bow*

And I won't forget to mention the super sweet housekeeper who has trangressed each of my stereotypical beliefs about evil landlords. She's made me turmeric chai for my ghasa, and rotis and sabzi because she is sure that if she doesn't we will die of food poisoning. (*Whispers* when we made her taste our masterchef worthy bharta, she thought it was a chatni. I was more than hurt but anyway)
Apart from the nonsensical ramblings, I feel this trip is turning into so much more than I bargained for. I thought this would just be a mere échappée from the rat race with lesser fire crackers but turns out this is giving shape and size to my otherwise colourless, shapeless plateau of life. So enough for today and for you Whatsapp addicts, I'm going to introduce you'll to a new Tibetan phrase each day so there is atleast something for you'll to take away and also as a thank you for reading these super long things. So for today it's "De show" which means 'Come Here' because I wish you'll would come here to meet the people and to huff and puff while climbing up the temple stairs. Okay shush now. Bye bye!

Travel Ink! Update #6

28-10-2016 07:02 AM: 

Update! First day at the nursery. Can we all take a moment to talk about how adorable children are?
So we took care of 30 babies, aged from 9 months to 3 years, with 3 permanent teachers who talked about us not so discreetly. The kids talked in Tibetan and we were reduced to saying Tashi Delek and Ma Chi and Ma De and De Show. Basically the kids probably thought we were stupid.
But whatever. The most heart melting moment was when a baby boy came up to me and hugged me tight for no reason whatsoever.
So we endured 4 hours of kids. By the end of it, my hands were spotted with pee, boogers, saliva, dried baby food and other questionable liquids from various orifices of their tiny bodies.
Baaki ka din was pretty normal. We roamed around all over again, talked to people, asked about their stalls, where they were from, about their stalls, their lives vagera vagera. A cafe guy gave us free chips because we were so nice to him.
Then we bought groceries. First time I actually envisioned my mother and Nirmala mavshi cooking to remember what all they used for making the fodni. I feel accomplished.
Now hopefully we can follow the 100 rupees per day scheme starting day after tomorrow!
Good night y'all and have an okay Diwali. Whenever Diwali is. I really don't know anymore.

08:19 PM: 

Nursery was the same old. Not saying much, seeing as we've been there exactly 2 days. Something different? They played Enrique's Hero and some old Hindi songs. The kids promptly tried to climb onto me. *sigh* You gotta do what you gotta do.
Skip to the hotel room.
Both of us slept because putting the kids to sleep is a tiring affair. But I woke up in half an hour and with Dhriti's permission (I swear I asked), I went on a small walk, earphones and awesome travel playlist in hand. Took some amazing photos. (The photos aren't amazing, but the view was!)
After the walk, we left for the conversational class, but not before making a quick stop at Poetry Cafe. The young, energetic, extremely friendly helper there was a great conversationalist. Apparently the place is called poetry cafe because the owner is a wannabe Tibetan poet. (Aren't we all...)
At the class, we made a few...friends? An American who asked us out for drinks (he wanted to make friends. I promise we told him we're underage and don't drink), another American who looks like Ryan Booth from Quantico, a German-American who comes to India every year and has been all over and a Tibetan man who works in Delhi for a medical social work organization. Great people! So were my students for the day! From Arunachal Pradesh, Varanasi and Tibet. Don't ask me their names, they're way too complicated.
I took another walk through Bhagsu road, Market Road and Temple Road while Dhriti finished some of her college application essays. Asked prices, made friends with a certain Doma (religious with the heavy belief that girls protect girls), asked around some bakeries about Tibetan holiday sweets and looked at potential shirts for my brother and I. (I found a good wall hanging for my grandparents. Shhhh!)
We just came back from a Japanese restaurant with a very sweet owner, loud foreigners singing and laughing and shouting, a French couple and another dude who had a lot to eat. 

Vegetarian Sushi is disgusting. Remember. And so is Japanese Green Tea.
Now we're back in the hotel, exhausted and sort of ready for a new day! Some cool experiences? We met an Indian couple, young like us, from Mumbai. The drinks guy asked us the difference between Mumbai and Bombay (terrifying to explain) and I met some babies from the nursery on the streets while walking around (They stopped babbling and stared at me blankly. I will never forget that look)
So good night and have a great Diwali i guess?

Travel Ink! Update #5

Disclaimer: The next update might be filled with details about the texture of kids' poo so proceed with caution!

27-10-2016 06:51 AM: 

Walking around aimlessly. Smiling at the sweetest, most chubby babies on earth. Drinking butter tea/soup. Eating a spinach infested phing noodle Tibetan "delicacy". Meeting a happy Tibetan from Karnataka and a fun Indian from Spiti.
Our day in a para if you don't want to go through my long, long updates.
Our exploration began at a French cafe where we had an absolutely beautiful wheat waffle topped with a slab of vanilla ice cream and a spoonful of Nutella. We ordered two. The owner heard one. But we were happy because the portions here are ginormous. But totally worth it.
At 9.30, after the filling breakfast, we were standing punctually at the Lha office to start our work at the nursery. But then out timings were post poned to 11.30 and what more could a couple of 12th graders do but go back to their room and study? Yeah, yeah, judge us. But our parents had their complete comprehensive set of terms and conditions.
Fast forward to the exciting part.
At 11.30, we were back at Lha and then making our way to the Baby Care Centre while marking up potential shopping destinations. Shopping for family and friends. Again, don't judge. Jeez, y'all are a judgemental lot.
Our hour at the nursery was basically orientation. We were shown three films, a basic itinerary and some rules and regulations. Playing, feeding, singing, story telling, toilet time, changing nappies, putting to sleep. That's the schedule.
Yup. I'm horrified too.
To get over that shock, we went back up the road and did some shopping. Let's just say I've got a wardrobe change going on.
Then, we had the most amazing lunch at Jimmy's Italian Restaurant with the most funny signs, the second most extensive collection of books and some of the most heavenly dishes. Had lasagne, suckers. Go eat poli bhaaji.
Then, we roamed around aimlessly, till 3.30. I don't remember what we did, we were that aimless. Chatting with strangers, watching kindergartners playing at school (not as creepy as it sounds), checking out prices, getting rid of creepy, drunk guys and watching foreigners being somehow better adjusted than us.
At 4 was our English conversation class. Where we basically make conversation with Tibetans or Indians to help them with their English. Instead of getting into a long, lame, emotional heart pour about the session, let me just say - I was happy just to be able to speak to someone different, someone brave, someone optimistic who overshadows my belief of self worth. At a deep level, ofcourse.
So that was our main day. For the rest of the evening, we hung out at restaurants, played with dogs, ate some weird Tibetan food, found out what we could do on weekends and came back to the hotel.
Now we're going to sleep, hopefully ready to tackle snotty babies, dirty baby butts and a whole lot of foreign language practice.

09:13 PM: 

Sticky fingerprints on my glasses and drops of pee on my pants. But also sloppy kisses and innumerable teddy bear hugs. Kids are living examples of paradoxes what with their innocent looks as they pull the drawstrings of your apron. They were cute what with their cottony soft butts, annoying because they refuse to sleep and are intent on killing all the other babies and repetitive because once they realize that a human merry go round is fun..they just don't stop.  And this probably sounds creepy but seeing them sit on their potty pots for so long that they fell asleep was the best part about those four hours. They pee a lot, scream a lot, pull a lot and play a lot. But in spite of the backache they've given me, I know I'm going back there again.

PS- Still not planning to have a baby or getting married so keep those marriage proposals at bay..

Travel Ink! Update #4

26-10-2016 09:25 PM: 

I don't think anyone has ever been as excited about changing nappies as Devshri has been in the past two days. I'm not. We'll be starting to clean baby poo from tomorrow but for today we felt gareeb because everything here is sooo expensive!! And we considered selling ourselves but there are so many prettier people here that we stand no chance in our hideous track pants and messy buns. But the dogs here! Such beauties! One looks so much like a fox that i can't even ugh and another one is so hyper that he looks like he just had a bath in caffeine. Today I realized that washing clothes is so difficult because clothes have just so many sides. If you fold them into half you have to front halves, two back halves and then you turn it inside out and repeat the process. So we're keeping our bathes limited to every alternate day and before you raise your hoity-toity nose into the air, let me tell you that we put on nice smelling cocoa cream. We've planned to write a piece on how to survive in Mcleodganj on shambar rupees a day so stay tuned.