Tuesday, May 30, 2006


“Prostitution, cud b a necessity, a compulsion or simply a choice? its such a deep rooted social existence, that nw, if uprooted wud leave possibly too many ppl unemployed, n ostracized.i wonder, is it such a moral issue?(if taken up by choice?)”

~This was one comment I received on my previous post - A Walk in the Rain. I started replying to this in the comment box itself, but it got too long that I decided to turn it into a post. But I would like to make it clear that I am not lashing out on the person who wrote it. Because the person was only voicing a viewpoint which most of us share. So this is just an attempt at setting some facts straight~

"Prostitution, cud b a necessity, a compulsion or simply a choice? "
I got the last two parts.. but NECESSITY???? Why wud prostitution hv be a NECESSITY????

"Its such a deep rooted social existence, that nw, if uprooted wud leave possibly too many ppl unemployed, n ostracized.".. I completely agree with this.. It is only gonna make matters worse if we just ban prostitution, fold our hands and watch... I remember a couple of years back in Kerala, where I hail from, the govt had introduced strict measures to curb prostitution. It only gave the police more reason to raid public places and demand more money from prostitutes in the pretext of ‘cleansing’ society of immoral traffic. Conditions had become so bad that women started selling their bodies for as low as Rs 25!!!

Now the govt and a lot of NGOs have initiated a more structured approach to the whole issue which attempts at addressing the root cause… In 1997 the Health Intervention Program was launched. As part of this program, first and foremost, these women were issued ration cards, id cards which gave them voting rights and officially reframed the word "prostitutes" to "sex workers".. Guys.. This may sound funny to mentally secured ppl like us.. But I think the fundamental thing an individual needs is an IDENTITY, which these women are deprived of and this gesture went a long way to give them just that… For ppl whose lives r filled with the dearth of hope to a better living, any ray of light can breathe life itself…

As a next stage in the program, these women were given basic awareness abt AIDS, condoms and counseled abt dictating terms to ensure their safety.. Friends.. u wud be shocked at the torture these ppl are made to suffer.. I read somewher that in US abt 87% of prostitutes have succumbed to torture in some way or the other!!! You can only imagine what the numbers would be like in India. I cannot even fathom what element of sexual pleasure it gives a man when he tortures another human being!!!

Then these women were taught stitching, weaving, typewriting.. Some of them surprisingly displayed immense talent in pottery and painting.. This gave them something to fall back on and attempted at empowering these economically handicapped women.. It did help in atleast revealing a trace of light at the end of a long tunnel and giving them a choice to be able to atleast think of quitting prostitution and taking up another means of living...

I know this initiative has many bottlenecks.. First of al the geographic penetration is very limited.. Its not yet been taken to the interiors wher the problem is more prevalent.. Besides I wonder hw truly effective it has been considering the mentality of our society.. Questions like 'who wud employ these women?' remain unanswered.. Although there are many NGOs who have started cottage industries to employ these women, they are very few in number. Financial resources and manpower in the form of volunteers are always a constraint. And there will always be men knowing that she was once a prostitute trying to take advantage of her vulnerability… Thus it becomes a vicious circle these women are trapped in. I think our society has a long way to go in terms of maturing and opening up their minds to embrace an individual into a new life regardless of the person’s past...

Besides these, certain other 'Moral Issues' have not been addressed yet, such as kidnapping of women and being forced into prostitution, so called ‘Arab Sheiks’ marrying girls from poor families and turning then into prostitutes, etc. We live in a world were children as young as 8-10 yrs are subject to sadistic pleasures of mentally twisted men, leading to their deaths and eventually their bodies are burnt so that it leaves no trail.. Guys… don’t think I stole this out of a Steven Spielberg movie.. It is happening as we speak..

Let me say something about ‘Choice’… (Let me make myself clear at this point.. I am NOT taking about the call girls who sell their bodies to earn extra pocket money so that they can afford expensive cosmetics. I am only talking about women who have to sell their souls for a day’s meal.) I think we all need a serious reality check here.. There is a huge segment of the society that is deprived of the basic right to CHOICE!!!

I was a very small part of this Health Intervention Project for sometime as a counselor. But at the end of it all, I wondered who counseled whom. My heart goes out for them because they are out there in the world living it night after night. Before we talk of moral issues there is an issue that’s far more fundamental – the humanitarian aspect.

Just to enlighten you a little as to what these women have to go through EVERYDAY of their lives, let me share this document with you.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Walk in the Rain...

As she sipped her coffee, she couldn’t help but think how magical the night was. It was raining softly outside. She listened to the rhythm of the rain lashing over the roof as if whispering unheard tales inducing the night into sweet slumber. She finished her coffee and went about her routine activities. She kept a jug of water next to her father’s bed; her father who had been paralyzed by fate for years now. For the last time she made sure her little brother was asleep. Then, she stepped out into the rain, in her crimson red sari, when the world was fast asleep.

She didn’t bother to carry an umbrella. The rain was no alien to her, nor was the rain to the expressions of her heart. She felt the cold shimmering pearls of rain that fell from the heavens above, drench her warm body slowly. It was not the kind of rain that poured with vehemence that cut through the sacred earth and echoed the storm within you. It was the rain that caressed you with each of its drops trying to wash away the pain engraved in the heart of your soul. She took a deep breathe of the sweet fragrance in the air. Yes… this is the closest one can get to magic. Each drop fell gracefully on the unforgiving ground in steady rhythm; music as if to guide a lost child to find its way.

As she approached a turning in the road she could hear the laughter of children. Just around the corner there were a group of children playing in the little lakes that the rain had made and were ridiculously giggling away to glory. At that moment she wished she were a child cached in the bubble of its laughter… A child with only childish fantasies so improbable within the realms of reality, yet seeming attainable within the vagaries of a child’s mind.

She walked further down the road to the bus stop and stood a little away from it, waiting. After a couple of minutes a man came walking down the road towards the bus stop. As he neared the bus stop he looked at her. Time seemed to stand still as their eyes locked. A flash of lightening momentarily illuminated the dark night making her face shine with an unearthly glow, which was followed by the sound of thunder that rolled across the sky. Everything seemed to be frozen around them as their eyes penetrated each other, assessing each other, anticipating each move. She caught her breathe as a cold chill spread across her bones. Was it the rain or was it fear that gripped her every time for just a millisecond?

She walked towards him and stood beside him. He looked the other way and asked her, ‘How much?’

She replied, ‘500’.

‘Hey, that’s too high. I’ll give 200.’

‘Look, I am not settling for anything less than 400.’

‘Go away. I’ll look for someone else’, came the reply.

When he moved as if to go away, she instinctively took a step forward before stopping herself. She swallowed hard hoping to erase the desperation in her voice and said, ‘Ok. I’ll take 300 for one hour and that’s final. Take it or leave it, old man.’ She said it as vehemently as she could. She didn’t realize her eyes portrayed a strange blend of conflicting emotions.

He seemed reluctant for a minute, which seemed like an eternity to her. But finally he said, ‘Fine. Follow me.’

She let out a sigh of relief and followed him along the road to a dingy hotel. There were other women standing outside the hotel. The men in the hotel gawked at her. Her gaze didn’t waver even for a moment as she glared back at them. The hotel was dimly lit and smelt of stale air. She waited near the window as the man spoke to the guy at the reception.
She watched the sporadic drizzle through the dirty window. She was struck by how different the rain looked from this side of the world, as it fell on the puddles creating ripples that spread far beyond only to see its own end as the ripples of each droplet merged with each other. From that dingy, stale hotel lobby she felt the rain looked like heaven’s way of washing away all the filth in the world.

Her trail of thoughts were broken when the man called out to her, ‘Hey you. What is your name?’ He was standing inside the room that he had rented on the ground floor holding the door open for her to enter. She walked towards the room and said, ‘Does it matter?’ She shut the door behind her. For about an hour she shut herself away from the rhythmic tales of the rain… shut herself away from her childish dreams…

Later, she sat on a half-broken chair staring at the money the man had kept on the bed. He was sound asleep. Opposite to where she sat there was a mirror that held captive her image, reflecting silence. It seemed like a stranger was staring back at her from inside the mirror. But if she looked closely she may see the distorted image of a person she once knew. Someone had once told her that your world eventually becomes a reflection of yourself. She instantly looked away, picked up the money and quickly left the room. It was still raining gently outside, as if it was waiting for her… knowing the need of its comfort.

Once again, when the world was fast asleep, she stepped out into the rain. The rain swept her face as she walked along the lonely road following the rhythm of the rain… like a lost child… trying to find its way…

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


[Warning: This post is extremely boring and lengthy and thus has an acute anesthetic effect. If you have any satanic kids in your household whom you want to put to sleep instantly, this article is very much advised. Else, if you really intend to read through it then, stimulants like a couple of jugs of coffee is mandatory. ;-)]

Have you ever wondered what the very first image that has been imprinted in your mind would be? It maybe the feel of a mother’s warm hug… or the taste of cold ice cream melting in your mouth… or the sound of a shriek induced by a playful tickle…

Hold my hand and walk with me down my memory lane to my very first memory, which is the journey to India for my grandfather’s funeral.

I was three when my grandfather passed away. That was the age when you were allowed to freely walk around in nothing but your underwear and still manage to look incredibly adorable… the age when u could replicate one of Picasso’s paintings on your grandmother’s face and still smile innocently and get away with it.

My family was in ‘Gelf’, like all mallus who infested the place at that time. Well, even today most mallus, in their outrageously colored lungis, are either in Gelf or atop coconut trees (oops! I shouldn’t be forgetting the toddy shops). I was born in U.A.E and my family had not visited India in the time span between my birth and my grandfather’s death. In that three years time, my grandfather used to write letters to me, knowing very well that I was only capable of joyfully chewing the letters into an indecipherable pulp.

The Dream…

It was past midnight when my father woke up with a jolt from his sleep, sobbing and he just couldn’t stop. He had dreamt of his father dying. My mother tried to calm him. I had woken up by the sounds but pretended to be asleep. Only a few hours later we received a call from my hometown back in Kerala announcing my grandfather’s death. Amazing is the power of bonds and the instincts it evokes!!!

I didn’t understand the turn of events that had occurred. I was only excited about the trip to a place my parents called ‘home’. The next morning as my mother packed the stuff for our journey, I put on my best airport dress with a lot of frills and lace inspite of the fact that it itched so bad that I could get an entry into an Itch Guard ad. I grasped a bunch of my curly wild hair and tied them into a pony right at the top my head, and it was perched as though just about to take a suicidal dive from the top of my head.

But that morning, my father was unusually quite and preferred to sit by the window and stare into empty space. I ran to him, jumped onto his lap and gave him a bear-like hug. But that didn’t seem to pacify him. I felt like saying, “Dude… What could be more important in this world than getting my full attention?” Well, when you are a child life seems like a football match. Everybody seems to be madly running after the same ball. I mean it just didn’t make sense.

The Take Off…

After all the packing was done, my family proceeded to the airport. My uncle, who was also in U.A.E, was to accompany us. So, parking myself comfortably in my uncle’s arms in my itching dress and my suicidal pony, we entered the plane.

It was my very first flight. Excitedly, I sat at the seat next to the window (in years to come I ensured I did the same) and waited for the plane to take off. When the plane finally took off, it sent weird tremors at the bottom of my stomach as if invisible hands were tickling my belly (I love that feeling!!!). Eventually we were airborne with the plane’s wings outstretched and dashing into the clouds that adorned the sky. I remembered every bird that looked mocking at me as if to say “Can you do THIS?” before flying so high up in the sky and I silently replied, “Hey you funny feathers, even I am flying now.”

Nightm-AIR INDIA!!!

I slumped back in my seat ready to devour the delicacies that they served while I was flying in mid-air, or so I thought… The 40-something aunties with their bottoms filling up the entire space of the aisle put some mass in front of me expecting me to eat it. After close inspection I realized it they were the ghosts of once-upon-a-time robust eggs. I gulped them down hoping I wouldn’t puke. I couldn’t even fall asleep because of the fear that the hen that had lain those eggs would come in my nightmares demanding, “THAT!!!! U stole my unborn babies for THAT???”

After a while, the aunties distributed toys for the children to play with. One of them gave me a Barbie doll to play. I gave her an amused look as if to say “Do I look mentally retarded!!!” and demanded for a jig-saw puzzle. She gave me a cold stare that I thought I would turn into a ice sculpture with a thunder-struck expression, a fountain on its head and eggs in its mouth. I spend the remaining time staring at the clouds through my window waiting for them to part and reveal to me my first glimpse of home sweet home. Finally it did and I saw a wide expanse of greenery. Man… that was a lot of coconut trees!!!!

The First Step Home…

I stepped out into that Land of Coconuts. I didn’t feel any sense of euphoria or any lump in my throat. All I felt was a disturbance in my stomach and before I knew it, the nausea gripped me and I vomited the once-upon-a-time-robust-eggs all over my uncle. I was debating whose curses would have had a bigger effect on me – the aunties’ or the hens’. All the way from the airport to my father’s home, past the paddy fields, past the little houses with tiled roofed and past the narrow pathways, I was vomiting while in my uncle’s arms oblivious of the lush beauty around me.

All my relatives were eagerly waiting for us, mostly for me as they would be seeing me for the first time. There was a huge hue and cry for sometime when we made our grand entry and everyone for some time forgot that there was a funeral. Some of the relatives gathered around me to check me out. I don’t know what they expected. Did they think I would have wings and would flutter around, or that I would be trotting wagging my tail or that I would charge with my horns pointed at them? Some of them where pinching my chubby cheeks and were chattering on and on something to the effect “Ooooh… She looks like her father”, “Ooooh… She has the feet of her grandmother”, “Ooooh… She has the index finger of her great grand uncle’s cousin’s god-knows-who”.

But I was enjoying being the centre of attention, till my grandfather’s corpse arrived. All the relatives suddenly abandoned me, ran towards my grandfather and flocked around like ants in and around an anthill. They started beating their chests like a bunch of gorillas and wailed like inhabitants in one of Hitler’s torture chambers. I rolled my eyes thinking “Adults and their pretensions!!!”

Unto Dust…

Everybody sang songs that are commonly sung during funerals and I tried my hand at lip-singing and kept mumbling something or the other so that my sound merged with the sounds that the group was making. Then the priest gave a sermon (through which I slept peacefully) after which we said our prayers and my grandfather was taken away to be buried. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

We spend a couple of days more in Kerala and then returned to our home in U.A.E carrying with me the vision of a man in his coffin, a man I had only known through the letters he had sent me.

My father till today regrets the fact my grandfather never had a chance to meet me. I still have some of the letters he had sent me. At times I open them and that smell comes pouring out, that old paper smell. I would be struck by a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there… and above all the sense of having once lived in a man’s dreams…

This was the very first of my miscellany of memories – memories which entwined together like the notes that would form the beautiful melody of my life.

[Most of the incidents mentioned above are based on imagination and conjecture of what may have transpired at that time. But what I do remember are visions of waking up in the night to my father’s sobs, of vomiting all over my uncle during the journey and of seeing my grandfather in his coffin.]

Whats your very first memory?