Sunday, October 7, 2018

Documenting an unprecedented movement (as I saw it)

one fine day newspapers carry a report of a heinous rape

never mind that the reports are themselves said to be heavily sponsored
the question of whether or not it is ok to sponsor a good cause
in this case bringing reports of rape to light, is a question for another day

then there is another report, then another
i watch it like the rest of Nepal
sad, depressed, disgusted, resigned
i don't think there is anything i can do

of course there is the flood of posts on my feed
and i wonder what is the point, what it will accomplish
why we must should out our reaction to the news '
but then of course a silence, indifference
or negligence would be even more sorrowful

suddenly one day there are messages in my inbox
hundreds of messages, in one group

maybe it's a result of all that criticism
of how feminists are active on social media 
and don't do anything to solve these things in real life 
first of all a note of dissent is not without a value of its own
and secondly it is not the feminists' problem alone to solve

in the group are dozens and dozens of women
disparate, modern, literate,
everyone is angry
everyone is livid, sad
the discussion turns to what can be done
instead of just venting
the discussion turns to fundraisers
to help the most tortured victim
and some protest programs

 then there are disagreements within the group
as i watch, things start falling apart
this might give rise to the smug "i told you so" expressions
i told you so, women are their own enemies
women cannot get along and accomplish anything
if all the feminists want the same thing, 
then why are they so divided?
first of all, 
not all feminists want the same thing
if it not the feminist's problem alone to solve
if we all nepalis are against rape, 
then why don't  or can' we get together to solve it?
why can't the naysayers get together to solve it?
all groups have to negotiate the individual personalities, 
sometimes strong personalities
and it doesn't get better or worse because they are all women
and thirdly
this group is infiltrated by people with vested interests, 
political agendas like any other group
and again this is the fault of women or feminism
just a reflection of the wider world
while some people carry on with these programs
some people are dissatisfied and form sub groups
so now i have chat group messages coing from several factions
i watch, i listen as some women grow more vehement, more divided
yes this becomes a place of intense negativity, 
if i see a hundred sad, angry messgaes like this
early in the morning or just before i sleep, i think i will go mad

and that will bring up the question of whether i can 
afford to ignore what is happening
whether any woman can ignore these pleas for action
i always thought these is nothing i can do
 and here is an opportunity to do something
so why am i not in it gung-ho

just the fact that i have my own life
i fight my own battles every day
battles against harassment, misogyny,
and if i am going to do more than that
i must choose my battles wisely
for each battle is exhausting
and takes away from me 
the mental, emotional spiritual resources
that i need to live my life and fight my daily battles
and this battle, maybe it is not mine

(yes i know, it is mine, it is every nepali's
but then so are the hundred women raped every month
there are cases that have gone cold 
which deserves equal attention
the same amount of our passion, fervour for justice
and yet what did  i do about them? 
what will i do about them?
and where do i draw the line at what i protest?) 

there was a time when it was a matter of shame
not to attend an #occupy baluwatar
it is becoming almost the same now
and you wonder if the people who tried to shame you then
felt so passionately about it or accomplished anything
some of them tried to make it look like their voice,
(and perhaps succeeded) and accomplished careers, 
but this is also a place of great solidarity
that was not to be had by women of the previous generation
i watch some women grow even more determined to do what they can
this is also a forum where they bash misogynistic expressions on twitter
some of those bashed are men, some of them even well known
some of them are also women, shortsighted or plain misogynists
this is an important place, where women can
strengthen each other against these assaults
validate their experiences
confirm that its ok to defend yourself against such misogyny
and they go back uot these are give it your all
or confirm that some people are not worth talking to
this is a place for sharing, community building
in a way that was not possible before social media

and as this goes on, another case ignites the country
a young body thrown brutally into sugarcane fields
and the group joins the protests happening all over the country

there are questions galore on why this case, 
among all others, got so much notice
why not a maya bk, who was dalit
why not a mrs mandal, who was madhesi
why? indeed? i wonder too, especially since 
the panipuri and chatpate stall owners of this case
are not capable of sponsoring it

the question was also there six years ago
when a hapless migrant laborer returning home was detained 
and raped because she had not the right papers
and she was deemed an easy target, 
"farak pardaina" whatever you did to her

and even then, the question was
why occupy Baluwatar for her
when such things happened every day

we waited and waited for the movement to gain its own 
"critical point"
when it would be taken over by ordinary people
feeling and espousing the cause
that never happened

maybe we are a very self conscious country
occupy baluwatar to reflect occupy washington
rose and fell with the tides of the american movement
and now we rise with #metoo

i am not trying to be sarcastic
just looking for threads, links, patterns...

this time though, it seems more likely
that the movement  will reach a critical point
as ordinary people who would otherwise never connect
have come together to protest this

as someone not part of the movement, i have my doubts
how is this coalition functioning?
who organises it? who takes the decisions?
is this even going anywhere?
is it even taking the right steps that will lead to jsutice?

from total outsiders, the questions are even more  incredulous
who is sponsoring it? who are these dollar badis?
why do they shout and march? what is this fake feminisim?
is feminsim even necessary?
do they think marching on the streets EVER accomplishes ANYTHING?
why don't you look at poor ms. XYZ who is suffering from hunger
and still raising her children in poverty?
this is the real feminism. or, why are feminists not worried about this mrs. XYZ
and are instead wasting their time jumping on the streets?

(That was not humorous. that was sarcastic) 
I could go on for hours answering each question
but for now, i will just say that
those who make all these arrogant comments
(and i mean no offence to mrs. XYZ
who is paraded here for the purpose of comparison 
and ignored on other days
but i don't tihnk evryone should 
concentrate their resources on one mrs. XYZ,
but everyone should do what they can
where they can
and on what ignites their conscience)
but they do coalesce, this disparate groupthey do manage to organise rallies, print t shirts, postcards
bring a lot of people together for protest programs

but already, this thinly held together group
is showing its fault lines
people have different things to gain from this group
as before, some will come out with careers
and some have promised never to get involved again
because it is so full of explosive personalities

but of course if it manages to do
what it started out to do
it will all be worth it

(hopefully, will be updated as events escalate
or settle down)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Note of dissent

On the one hand,
They don't accomplish much

On the other hand,
How horrible would silence be

#protests #movements
#palcards #rallies #articles
#voices #raised
#social media storm

Saturday, September 22, 2018

a step back for perspective

Railing against the previous generation
Questioning them every day
Wondering why they call themselves
liberal or educated or whatever they call themselves
when they are so limited
and cannot do what you want them to do

Until you take a step back and realize
what great leaps they took in their time
to arrive at where they are
and that somewhere along they way they tired
and said, this far and no further

And that it is our job
to take the next step

And perhaps we are becoming the same
staying true to the ideals of your generation
while not taking the step further
into the seemingly wild and frivolous
and totally unnecessary ideas of the next generation

to each generation their own liberation
may we learn not to judge


when you come to accept
see the reason for
make peace with
and find excuses for

things you once railed against

understand that you have arrived

Friday, September 21, 2018

original sins

Everyone except the Brahmin male
has stories of why
they are the way they are
why they have as little as they have
why they are left out

these stories compare them
to the brahmin - chhetri man

(And if you do not have these stories
you know you are on top of the pyramid)

why do the sarangi players
not have any land?
Because when the god was distributing wealth
the sarangi player, the kanchho bhai
(the disenfranchised is always the kanchho,
the youngest)
was running around playing the sarangi
too lost in his own music, 
he missed his chance

the damaha player will tell you
something very similar
about how the elder brother
loved his younger brother who missed out
and said, little one
you will get something from each of us
you won't have any land to till
but you can entertain us in exchange
and so for playing the drum
everyone was supposed to give him
some of their produce every year
but not everyone loved the little one
as much as the trend setter
and when famine strikes
or when your own family grows
to squabble over land and produce
guess whose name gets
cut off from the list first

the Newars, they will tell you
how they were vanquished
and their mighty civilization
laid to ruins

 the Rai will tell you
how the rais loved their land
and did not go out to seek
more than what they had
brahmins are adventurers,
they will tell you
going where no one goes
talking, negotiating,  settling
and leaving
many cleverer peoples behind

the Limbus might also tell you
how stubborn and unambitious
they were in these matters
and how they refused to listen
to these sense of exploring

and the women,
even the women of the brahmins
have something to say about
why they lack
what the menfolk have
they were always busy
doing this and that
for example the business
of extracting oil from mustard
back when there were no mills
was extremely laborious
the oil dripped into your jar
drop by drop
and dozens of women went together
to a little mill
to get their jars filled for the month
or even a week
our mothers, they said
were always busy doing pressing for the oil
that is why they could never attend
the sabha where the gods were announcing
who would get what
and so they missed out
on lands and property

these are stories
old, old, old stories
passed down from generations
today most of them are replaced by
how they lack education
and how that has deprived them
of opportunities

#folktales i collected
#finding a pattern
#looking for more

#inadequacy #inferiority #complex
#disadvantaged #disenfranchised
#divine explanations for #social problems
#if only this hand't happened
#wishful thinking #achronic utopia

today #feels

today it feels like
i will give up everything
for you

i know you do not want it, but

today when i wake up sobbing
to dreams of you
when melancholy songs
remind me of you
when your absence hurts
with an aching pain

today i would exchange everything
for one moment with you
for one of your smiles

post script:
if i miss you,
am i allowed to tell you
how much i miss you?

(I guess not)

maybe i don't love you enough
to break your rules
or maybe i love you enough
to set you free

You may try to hide

You may try to be
something else

But i see it in your eyes
who you are
what you think of
what you dream of