Kanchanjunga Apartments by Charles Correa, Mumbai.


Rudyard Kipling has rightly called Spiti Valley as a world within a world, and there are no reasons to not believe it.

There i was, leaving Losar on that starry night. Our safari crawling ahead,like an ant below the sea of stars.By this time we all had turned into self proclaimed victims of what they call mountain sickness. Our heads were bursting like we had migraine, and we all felt we would puke the moment our car stopped.

The huge mountains seemed like monsters gaping at us in the dark night, with only headlights guiding us through the narrow treacherous roads. In about two hours we reached Kaza, the capital of the Valley and we felt relieved.Our Driver had some friends there and he had arranged a room for us in a small hotel.We dumped our bags, and just fell on the bed.It was a difficult night. I woke up every two hours, wincing in pain,unable to change sides due to back ache and only to find my brother awake and in the same condition.

At 7 am in the morning, my brother couldn’t take the discomfort any longer and he left out to find a medical store, to get us some medicines for AMS.But there were only two stores in the town, and both were closed. He asked a local passing by the street about where he could find some medicines for AMS, and unlike every city we live in today, this guy actually walked my brother all the way to the only civil hospital in Kaza and left him at the emegency ward saying here’s where you will get your medicines.

It definitely was another world. He got the medicines and life felt a little easier.We all got ready for the day and opened the door of our room to the balcony. And this was the view.


We went out for breakfast, and stumbled across this new place in Kaza, called Hotel Deyzor which is run by a Delhi based guy called Karanbir singh bedi. Karan is a journalist and an adventure traveller who gave up on citylife and the regular job he had to settle in Kaza. He has a small cafe and guesthouse there and runs his own adventure sports agency for survival.(FYI ; its the only place in Kaza that has internet, if you are lucky enough to have electricity at the time you visit his cafe) We savored the food served to us while being inspired by his experiences  of hitch hiking across several countries and breaking records in his way. You need to be an incorrigible dreamer to achieve something like that. We all are usually stuck with emotional and financial insecurity.

We did some local sightseeing and headed to Dhankar Monastery. Situated at an elevation of 13000 ft in the Spiti Valley above Dhankar village, between the towns of Kaza and Tabo, the complex is built on a 1000-foot (300-metre) high spur overlooking the confluence of the Spiti and Pin Rivers – and is said to be one of the world’s most spectacular settings for a gompa. Dhankar monastery is about a 1000 years old and in a very desperate need of restoration.

I am assuming it was a deliberate attempt to keep all the monasteries in white so that the cerulean sky and the stunning brown landscape stand out. In places like these, you directly converse with god. The winds act as a messenger as you stand with your souls naked and freed of all bonds.


Spiti is amongst the coldest places in India, with the lowest temperature being -37 C in Winters. You need a lot of muscle to just walk from here to there. (please note that being fit is a must if you wish to travel Himalayas).At first you will only feel the


difficulty of life here, It not something we all can imagine, no network , no internet ..electricity for a few hours. one hospital. One road. But there is more to life, there is an unparalleled purity to life here…because the chase for materialism has no place here.Life is not arrested by man-made things, it remains arrested by Nature.

We came back to Kaza, and started walking to the local market. Typical tibetian stuff, Spiti apples and a lot of Momos.We hogged at a small cafe in the market. We ordered momos, thenthuk, Thukpa and pancakes! and everything costed us less than hundred. Those pancakes were bliss! I dont think i can ever have such nice pancakes for just 40 rupees!There was no rush, and customers complaining about late delivery was not entertained here. Eateries here have a simple logic : they serve food to make their living, there’s no business. There is a board put up saying ‘Food will take time to come, you can enjoy talking to each other till then’.

We walked down to the river, collecting twigs and dry sticks to light a fire. The darkening skies looking down at us,oss emanating a beautiful purple hue, spread across the mountains. The vastness of the mountains make you think of the things that matter the most to you, things that you need in life, everyone else doesn’t matter.

The next morning, we left for komik village, which is rumored to be the highest motorable village in the world at 4587m (15,000 ft) through Langza. Komik is probably the only place to have a proper cemented road access. The village has a population of only 114 creatures. There was a monastery inLangza that had a life size statue of budhha on the roof, spectacularly visible as you drive by. We spotted a lot of wildlife here. Musk deers, Himalayan blue sheep, Yaks and thick furred cows. The fluttering flags across the snow capped peaks was a sight to behold! the Monks served us warm tea from the monastery kitchen, along with double rotis (for me it was a pizza base) along with wildberry jam and yak ghee. It was a relief from the cold, i must say. We played carrom in the open area outside the hot water bath set up by Ecosphere. Surprisingly, Komik has a Primary school, with only 4 kids studying there. Running the school costs around 25k per kid , but luckily the government bears that cost to keep the school going.

I got engaged in small talk with the help in the Monastery Kitchen. He told me about how they store food for winters, or go down to serve in Kaza as it is unbearable with temperatures ranging below -15 degrees. They grow cabbage and Potatoes in their paddy fields there. He even asked me for medicines for cold,as its very difficult going down to the kaza civil hospital everytime , without any vehicles. Living here would be an adventure for any of us, a struggle…but it was his whole life.



Komik is also known for its fossils here, although buying and selling them is legally not allowed here. We got them as souvenirs from the monks there, who happily posed for our lenses there. We thanked them for their warm hospitality and drove our way down to Kaza, picking up few Local women and driving them down to Kaza hospital.

We took a short lunch break at Dezyor, and left for losar after that. We didnt want to do Manali straight.And like the unpredictable Himalayan weather, we cut thru a big storm approaching Kaza. We managed to just escape it.

In Losar, we stayed at the same home stay where we had lunch after ChandraTaal. Warm cottage, even warmer beds. I miss the quality of sleep  had there. The owners, were so warm, that they didn’t have their dinner, until we came down and asked for ours. It was a contemplative night, we talked about, not the most pressing things, but about the things that were pressed deep down our souls. Spiti was something i will never forget…an experience i will always cherish, and i wish to come back..i still have a lot more to discover in Spiti, a lot more to find about myself.

Chandra Taal was one place that made me put Spiti on my travel map for Himachal. Just a picture of it was enough for me to go there. I knew nothing more.

Early morning from Manali at 6, we left for Rohtang. We three, along with a couple we met in the Volvo had hired a Sumo Gold for Spiti. One cannot take anything lesser than an SUV on these treacherous roads. It was already very cold and windy when we started climbing up to Marhi.The roads were not really in a great shape..seemed like this year’s monsoon hadn’t been kind to them.
We started moving up, and my eyes followed the disappearing Beas down the valley. I let my heart take over me and wander into nothingness, watching the sky become clearer, the trees growing upright on the sloping mountains…my heart sort of danced inside with happiness, for it felt free, and it was soaking in the beauty around.

We stopped at Marhi for some hot coffee. The temperature was plummeting, i realised it when i stepped out of the warmth of our car and removed a glove to take a picture of a small temple perched against the backdrop of the majestic mountains, and i FROZE. So did my Nexus, captured half a shot and got stuck for the first time.(had to reboot, it was fine again). Living in Bombay since last two years, i had forgotten what winters were like, and here i was freezing,using a hot cup of coffee to first unfreeze my hand and then warm my throat. it was VERY windy, and chilling. We hopped to our gaddi to leave for Rohtang from there, not stopping for a few hours from there.

There was something about this bumpy ride that was dissolving knots in my heart. By the time i crossed Rohtang, i had forgotten what Bombay,  or any other city looked like.There is a magical quality in the naked slopes of the harrowing mountains that brings out our inchoate souls, a feeling that no pretence is required ,sinks in and one feels liberated in a way that only his soul recognizes.

After a few hours, we stopped for breakfast around 11,at the last dhaba available for hours to go before one reaches Kunzum La. We decided to have hot aloo paranthas to fill ourselves for the hours to come. Surprisingly, these paranthas had grated aloo inside and they were deep fried in the kadhai. apparently, there wasn’t enough heat available to boil the potaoes and then cook the paranthas.
We ate them with gratitude and moved towards Chandra Taal.

The road towards Spiti is less frequented, narrow and has probably never been tarred. Its one of the most deserted roads i have been to.One gets back to their raw forms on these roads.. no networks, no internet….one is absolutely disconnected from the everyday toys that we hold to keep ourselves away from us.Plus, there are no toilets! and with the pressure rolling inside your body with the ascending elevation, one is forced to get down the narrow rocky road, and find a rock to free the dancing fluids in your bladder behind it. And trust me, you feel frozen and naked, then too.

The drive to Spiti is extremely beautiful. And the beauty lies in the barrenness of the stretch, which some might not appreciate. After ascending for a bit, we again started to descend, with the road now hugging the Chandra river.The stark landscape changing with every hairpin bend we took while traversing the harrowing mountains.Nature gives you a stellar performance with every frame that your eyes see. We took hundreds of pictures, exhausting the device’s memory cards, but trust me..no number of photographs can ever do justice to the actual beauty of the place that slithers in your memory, etching indelible visual idylls in your mind.



Although Manali to chandra taal is only 130 kms, the treacherous roads don’t allow you to travel on a speed more than 15-20kms an hour. We were heading upto a height of 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) and we could feel the oxygen levels dropping and the roads were extremely dusty, we somehow were praying for the road to become better, but the small detour you take for Chandra Taal before arriving at Kunzum La was worse than we had imagined. Dangerous Hairpin bends all the way to the meadows, where tents were set literally scared us. We had to get down every now and then to remove big stones brought down by the landslides from the extremely narrow road we had set foot upon.After some forty minutes of the extremely bad ride we reached the camping site at around 4:30. from here we had to climb up and then down to go to the lake. The mountains offered no view of the lake yet.


We started walking up , against the chilly winds.I couldn’t walk for more than 5 mins at a stretch, had to wait to catch some oxygen and and rub my frozen nose to a breathable warmth. My brother offered some Sikkim rum to me to help me warm my body, and it did work. We started having the rum to warm ourselves, and walked down till we spotted the Lake.

It was beauty more than my eyes could see..the painstaking ride seemed more than worth it. On the front were barren beautiful peaks and a meadow on the other side of the crescent shaped Moon lake (that’s where it gets its name from). My feet stopped at the lake and my eyes and my soul toured all around, encapsulating a certain tranquility around me. The royal blue sky, the mountains acting as a benevolent protector to the pristine aquamarine waters…all of it was gripping my senses, making me never want to leave such a beautiful place. I opened my shoes, and stepped into the freezing cold water. even if this meant falling sick, i wanted to do it. The feeling was so tranquil, that nothing mattered at that time. My naked soul was dancing with a joy never experienced before, the sight my eyes were soaking in were magically healing all recent wounds.



It is the vastness and majesty of nature that makes you feel so inevitably small that every pain, every worry vanishes…one is left with a surreal feeling and mesmerizing.This was one view i will carry to my grave, a sight of beauty unparalleled.

It was starting to get dark by the time we put our shoes back, and headed towards our white safari , waiting to drives us ahead to Kaza.But as soon as we started and went a few metres ahead, one of our tires burst while taking a turn.The guys got down to help Driver uncle change the wheel., while the other two vehicles behind us waited patiently.My stomach was churning with hunger.It was almost twelve hours of not having anything but one aloo parantha. While driving back, and then towards Kunzum La, we realised at 4500m, that we all were struck by AMS.We had traveled too much in one day, from Manali at 2000 metres to Kunzum La at 4500m. We didn’t get the time to get acclimatized…backs were hurting, heads were bursting and stomachs growling like demons, while the altitude played its own cards of breathlessness and cold. All we wanted to do was reach Losar, a village 60 kms before Kaza and have something to eat.When we finally reached Losar, i got down immediately to find a loo while the others were inquiring at homestays if we could get something to eat.
Feeling extremely sick the moment i got down, i felt like i would faint if i didn’t pee somewhere immediately. After relieving myself, i walked back to the white safari, when a storm was approaching the village, ferocious winds blowing towards us…i fastened my pace and moved towards the place where we had stopped for Lunch or dinner, whatever you want to call the first meal of the day at 6pm in the evening.


It was a small cottage, made of wood and thick limestone plastered walls that spread warmth in our bodies the very moment we entered in. We were served rice and kaali daal with cauliflower and a super hot and spicy red chatni( it literally put our mouths on fire), and all of it seemed like heaven. We gobbled it down our throats in minutes, when we heard someone talk of snow.I immediately ran outside with my friend…i had never seen snow in my life, and there it was…snowing outside, against the backdrop of those majestic mountains. The day was fruitful…the approaching storm stopped at the village in the form of snow. It was freezing when we left, but the view outside was breathtaking. A million stars studded in the sky against the dark mountains..It was a sight to behold…like watching the subject of Salvador Dali’s Starry Night .I can’t tell you how many stars were there, it was like many galaxies out there. Living in the mountains is a different life all together. I was envious of the people there.

“And if these mountains had eyes, they would wake to find two strangers in their fences, standing in admiration as a breathing red pours its tinge upon earth’s shore. These mountains, which have seen untold sunrises, long to thunder praise but stand reverent, silent so that man’s weak praise should be given God’s attention.”
Donald Miller

Part 1 : Manali

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton

This trip started on a tourist vs traveler debate at my brothers room in Gurgaon, where we were packing our bags and checking important things to beat the cold. The actual destination for this trip was Ladakh, but with the tragedy that struck the state, our hearts didn’t feel like going there. Since months, wanderlust had struck my senses like plaque, and would haunt my daydreams. When we decidedly canceled Ladakh, i was prepared to travel alone….anywhere, but i had to travel. I decided to stick to my plan earlier this year for Himachal. I did a quick research on the places i can cover in the 9 days i had in my hand. And chalked a pretty quick chart. I was all set for traveling alone, when my brother and a friend decided to join in.

Unprepared, with just a rucksack with me, i left for Delhi. Had a nice brunch with all my cousins who stay in NCR and returned to my brothers room. As we packed our bags to leave for Kashmiri Gate, i was not expecting anything in particular but to unwind myself. I am a sea person, and this was supposed to be my first mountain trip, and now i am sure there will be many more ahead.At 6:30 we boarded out HPTDC Volvo to Manali.

The Journey had begun, and oblivious of everything else, i sat on my seat gazing out of the window, and in a filmy way, hoping this journey to be like that of Veera From Highway.The bus halted somewhere in Haryana, and the entrance had a big flex banner saying “Welcome on world tourism day”. We were thrilled to know that we started our journey on World tourism day.Back on the bus i slept peacefully, opening my eyes in the Land of gods…We had reached Mandi..the second largest district in Himachal pradesh..i was expecting to see some snow..but what i saw left me raptured..i saw these houses with red and green sloping roofs perched on the mountains, some literally jutting out of them, and the glittering Beas flowing next to them, meandering on its course..grey rocks abutting its banks..some sitting adamantly on its course.IMG_20140928_092024[1]

There was a certain piousness in the air over there…from Mandi to Kullu to Manali…tall Himalayan spruce and pine growing in all their harmony. My eyes were filled with beauty everywhere,My senses brimming with the bickering sounds made by Beas in the lap of Himalayas.Prayer cloths tied across the lush green river were blowing with the wind and their primary hues adding a certain vibe of purity. And every now and then apple orchards and marigolds and roses along the road added to the beauty around.

I was already in love with Himachal Pradesh, and i hadn’t even reached Manali yet.From Mandi to manali is another 1000 metres of elevation that we had to traverse. We entered Manali and i saw the typical himalayan abodes all along, and the flora was even taller here, the higher branches muffling within the clouds.Manali being a major tourist attraction for people is flanked by hotels everywhere your eyes go..i don’t have a problem with that, except the hoardings and the nameboards nailed everywhere. They mar the beauty of the sloping roofs. Being an architect, I have a severe problem with that.

Now the three of us stood at Manali bus stand, our rucksacks on our shoulders, thinking of which direction to go, as nothing was planned from here on. We headed towards the inner market lanes, away from the directions the tourists were headed at, in order to look for a room. Some invited us to see rooms as we walked along, and some we checked out of curiosity.

Being on a low budget trip, we settled for a room for 350 rupees (to our luck, it was end of the season, and all hotels and guest houses were running empty). You will be surprised to see how the room was!Here’s a picture for reference.IMG_20140928_122232[1]

Astonishingly,none of the houses in Himachal have a fan..or even a fan point.They dont need it. Nor do the bathrooms have a tile drop. They are raised above the room levels. All you need to survive here is a big blanket and a geyser. It was 12 degrees in Manali in the day, we all blessed the geyser and took long refreshing showers and layered up on clothes and left for the Mall road. Surprisingly, the tourist square was empty and looked beautiful with the decoration blanket tied across the street, flanked by shops on both sides.

We were looking for a certain Johnson’s Cafe on Loghut road. We had read reviews about the delicious food there.Johnson’s Cafe and lodge was more than delicious food. It was the most beautiful setting in Manali, tastefully decorated like a beautiful Pahadi Lady. Warm yellow tone wood and Green sloping roof set across a backdrop of Lush green moIMG_20140928_140142[1]untains and clouds. We felt like heaven. From here we moved on to old Manali, where lesser tourists go. At the top of which is the Manu Temple. We didn’t go to the temple. But old Manali is a treat. It has some uber cool hangouts where you will see messages likes “War is over” written outside music shops. People playing guitars, scoring,hippies and foreigners roaming around like its their hometown. High above, where the market ends and you turn right for the temple,you will see a lot of localites working,cutting grass and carrying it on their backs. You will spot pahadi people in their local attires, donning the Kulluvi caps, phirans and pashminas. We spotted a cafe at the turn and decided to have tea and Maggi there.( the Maggi was delicious with local masala and vegetables in it). We spoke a lot to the owner, a man in his early forties.. People called him Shiva uncle..about the life in manali, and how he has seen it change over the last few decades.
Tourism he said was the biggest change, but the people had no complains as it improved transport network and gave them a living.

We walked back to New Manali, absorbing every sound that nature had to offer. We ate momos and tiny hot gulabjamuns in the square. We inquired for Spiti and Lahaul in the agencies there. Next morning we were to leave for the desert.

Somewhere I had forgotten what Bombay or delhi or any other place in India was like. Himachal has an ethereal beauty and charm to itself. It makes you drench in it.

Verses from the past

Posted: March 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

Here’s me posting a few verses written by me over these months of no posts

How wild the sea is, in lashing waves and retreating strokes it makes love to the shore, again and again.

Bury your sadness beneath your temple, let them be explored by the one who digs for your treasures.

The sun kisses the sky every morning and sleeps with sea, every night.

The warm letters his eyes wrote, the beautiful poems she breathed.

The waters kissed her feet and swept her away in their tides. Since then , they have carried all her mysteries.

Teach me how to dance with the waves..I want to dance my way to the horizon.

Steal a little dew drops, before the sun can play.
Steal a little gold from the shimmering waves, while the sun is a at play.
Steal a sunset kiss as the night sky takes the sun away.
Steal a little breeze as it wafts across the sea.


Posted: July 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

You know you have watched a good movie, when you walk out of the hall not wanting to rate the movie. Vikramaditya Motwane brings to you another  magnificent tale of romance, fantasy and drama you wouldn’t want to rate, but just walk away, with the magic lingering for a while. As the story slowly unfolds, like a satin tufts opening up, the fifties era whisks you away and takes you along in its stride.

The narration flourishes as Pakhi and Varun’s eyes and Amit trivedi’s music does the talking, never spelling out but still piercing through your soul. One finds himself drawn to their world. like an invisible spectator watching their soulful tale move to the romance of O’Henry’s  Last  Leaf .
The movie is for art lovers. It holds no overtly dramatic scenes, no unnecessary raised volumes or mushy romantic lines. It begins with a fairy tale that thrums as the story moves to old folklores of zamindari and hidden treasures and romance that blooms on eye contacts,and husky conversations in undertones. One thing grows into the other leading to an end we never thought could be as beautiful.  Amidst rejections and giving in, feigning and learning, the actors conjure up a throbbing romance, one that you read through but can’t hear…one you drink in as it brews.

Pakhi is full of the charm of a child, loved by her father , enchanted by Varun’s demeanor and a love for writing. The love she holds on to, despite of her words denying it, despite of having lost everything (including her father) to his fraudulence. While Varun on the other hand, appears to be calm waters on the outside, he is a storm on the inside…an unveiled mystery.He finds himself coiled in his own web of loot and love, yet he doesn’t quiver from his plan, slowly cursing himself and finally giving up on everything he could to repay the girl who loved him when everyone else used him.

The cinematography does the rest of the magic, weaving the romance and landscape into a lyrical web, where you find yourself lost. From the Havelis of Manikpur to the snow in Dalhousie…there is beauty poured all over. The movie scarcely feels like motwane’s second movie. For how love is potrayed in the last 30 minutes of the movie, you need to watch it, because the best moments of the movie cannot be put into words. they were sheer magic.

Ps : This movie is not for the kinds who enjoy entertainment over theatre.


Friends, a friend of mine has sent this over by mail. He didn’t cite the
source but may be some blog. A hell of a read nonetheless…………………

Having pontificated for two weeks over the tornado of protests that have hit
Delhi, I found time to contemplate if I *really* knew what they were
protesting about. So I asked someone who has lived there and experienced the
alternating splendor and horror of Delhi; my wife. This is what she had to

I love Delhi, the city. I love its wide, open roads, its wonderful
architecture. I’ve made great friends in Delhi. I went to a wonderful school
in Delhi. I’ve also suffered in Delhi. I’m one of millions of women with
tales to tell of how Delhi has ground our self-respect and security to dust.
General descriptions of harassment can’t adequately describe the horror a
woman faces every day in the city. There isn’t a single moment when you’re
walking its streets that you can think “I’m safe, I can breathe easy and
enjoy the sunshine. What a lovely day!” If you have breasts, you’re fair
game. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how old you are, you
can be a man’s property. You can be used for his gratification. You can be

I don’t want to recount the hundreds of times I’ve been groped in crowds in
Delhi. Hands moving over you, pinching your bottom, rubbing your breasts as
you desperately try to find some inch of ground that will be safe. Women
routinely carry sharp objects like needles and drawing instruments to
dissuade such attacks but there are too many incidents to deal with.

Once, while attending a wedding in Delhi, I was at a friend’s place and was
about to leave for the venue. I called the bride’s mom to tell her I’ll walk
down to the venue and I heard an unmistakable sense of terror creep into her
voice. She dropped the bonhomie and almost shouted at me to stay where I
was. She would send a car. I laughed and told her that she was being
ridiculous. Her response was that of anger. “Stay where you are. DON’T MOVE!
I’m sending a car. DO NOT walk alone, especially all dressed up. There’s no
telling what might happen.” The venue was two blocks away in Southex, a very
posh part of Delhi. It was five thirty in the evening and it was broad

I accompanied my friend’s relatives to a function at Pragati Maidan. With us
was her 70 year-old grandmother. The lady was a widow, dressed in the
characteristic white sari. She hobbled on a walking stick. The ground was
crowded and dusty. As we made our way through the crowd, a young adolescent
boy shoved his hand between her legs. He felt up a seventy year old woman
hobbling on a walking stick. We were unable to reconcile this incident with
any semblance of logic or sense. Why did this happen? Just. It was a female
with female parts, which of course are the property of every human in Delhi
blessed with a penis.

As a student in Delhi, I’d attend tuitions literally across the road from
where we stayed. The proprietor was a burly man with a shy fourteen year old
son. Every evening, after classes dispersed, it was that young boy’s job to
make sure we girls safely crossed the street. That’s all. He’d just stand
outside the gate and make sure we crossed a distance of fifty feet safely.
He wasn’t worried about us being hit by cars. He was making sure we didn’t
get molested. If a mob of men had shown up, the poor boy wouldn’t stand a
chance. And yet, he’d be there every evening, standing alert and looking
responsible for us.

If you think misogyny and sexism are the refuge of the rich and powerful
alone, think again. As I sat in a car in Delhi, a beggar came up to my
window, begging for alms. A pathetic creature shod in tatters. He saw that I
was a woman and suddenly his demeanor changed. His face lit up in an evil
sneer and he started flicking his tongue in and out. I was so stunned I
laughed. Here’s this pathetic creature with no food or clothes to sustain
him but so desperate was his sexual need and so fearless his demeanor that
it trumped all else. A woman can be ****ed. Should be ****ed. Oh, and can I
also have some money for food?

Delhi’s sexist culture is a festering cesspool that permeates its families.
A friend of mine lived in a joint family in a palatial house. Rich, educated
folk. I remember we were nine year old girls, hanging out at her house,
playing with Barbie dolls. Her younger male cousins barged in and started
creating a ruckus. We shooed them away, treating them as a nuisance but they
had a stunning response up their sleeve. These boys brought their GI Joe
figurines and said “hum tumhare Barbies ka rape karenge”. We were stunned.
These were six or seven year old boys. They probably didn’t even know what
rape was. They didn’t even know how it was done. But they knew it can be
used to teach women a lesson. They must’ve heard their fathers and uncles
talk about putting women in their place. “Zyaada bak bak karegi toh uska
rape kar denge.” This is also why I find casual remarks or jokes about rape
extremely unfunny.

This dehumanization of being, steady erosion of self-respect, the constant
looking over your shoulder no matter where you are, is what makes Delhi such
a horrible place for women. There are some well-reasoned arguments why we
shouldn’t trivialize the larger issues surrounding rape by laying blame at
the doorstep of one city alone, but there’s a reason for this insidious
association; it breeds and lives on the fear that power creates. Let’s just
call Delhi the capital of subjugation. I also need to mention that I’ve
never felt this CONSTANTLY afraid in any other city in India. You can quote
examples of rapes in Mumbai, Kolkata, or other cities and you’d have a
point. This pathetic patriarchal culture pervades India, but there’s no
other place quite like Delhi where patriarchy and power mingle to create a
sense of male entitlement.

I saw pictures of these young girls standing their ground getting beaten up,
screaming in the cops’ faces. Learned pundits question why. What is the
point of this protest anyway? What do they want? It’s a pity they can’t even
see this basic point. They want to be treated as humans again. I read about
the rape in Delhi and the anger in me has refused to go away. Memories of
those years of harassment came flooding back. If you’re a woman in Delhi,
you’ve been groped and violated five times a day since you were eight. Since
you were too young to even know what breasts are and what they can do to
men. My years in Delhi exacted a heavy price from me. I’d instinctively step
back when a man entered my personal space. This instinct finally started
ebbing away after I moved to Pune. Even there, I’d instantly be on my guard,
alert and tense, when a man looked over my shoulder as I worked on the
laptop. This was because of Delhi and it took years for it to go away.

When you’d get molested for the first time you’d come back tearfully to tell
your mother or the other grown women in your family. “Kya karein beta, aisa
hi hota hai”. What can you do, this is how it is. That crushing realization
as an eight year old girl that you’re somehow going to have to deal with
this for the rest of your life. Groped by the domestic help, groped by the
boy who delivers the groceries, groped by your uncle. Never being able to
step out unless you have a “man” accompanying you. Men, who deal with the
status quo without changing it. Men, who ironically feel a greater sense of
entitlement by being the “protectors” of their women. This feeling is what
that girl in the protest is screaming against.

I’m still angry when I see those pictures because I haven’t moved on. I’m
angrier when I read men lamenting about what ails us. Here’s a reality
check: if you’re a man, you don’t know what the **** you’re talking about.
You have NO IDEA what it’s like to live a life that doesn’t belong to you. I
understand your sympathy but have no use for it.

I’m angrier when I read scholarly articles about civil society, better
governance and societal and infrastructural reforms. I read words like five
years and “long term” and seethe. Of course one wants to live in a civil
society that believes in redemption and the rehabilitation of its worst
members but you have no bloody idea what you’re dealing with in Delhi. These
are men who operate on an animal instinct. You need a brutal deterrent,
employed continuously and consistently in the short term to let them know we
mean business. When you’re cornered by a wolf snarling and baring its fangs
do you lecture it on the sanctity of life? No, you react. If I could come
face to face with these brave men of Delhi who tormented me, I’d shoot them
between the eyes. Even today, if a man stares at me a moment longer than
necessary I have this visceral urge to rip his eyes out.

So **** you and your calls for long term change. Don’t waste my time talking
about the next five years. Tell me what you’re going to do in the next five
hours when your mother, sister or wife leaves the safety of her home and
wades into the filthy muck of the city, telling herself that there’s a
distinct possibility she may not come home unviolated or even alive.

I want to clarify that not all of the examples of harassment or abuse I
mentioned in the post involved me directly. The incidents in the latter half
of the post involve people close to me. For example, I know the 8 year old
who tearfully complained to her mother about harassment for the first time,
because I was present in the room with her. I know someone who’s faced abuse
at the hands of family members. The point of this post isn’t to dwell on
specific examples alone, but to communicate the extent to which a woman’s
liberties are disrespected. It’s to highlight how such horrifying incidents
get swept under the sanitized terms “molestation” and “eve-teasing”, which
dulls their severity and impairs understanding of the circumstances that
enable them. The examples you’ve so courageously shared in the comments will
also go a long way in this regard.