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On the Delhi Rape Case: We are to blame

I don’t know if there’s anything I can say that hasn’t been said yet, but I do want to say it, because if we really want change, each one of us WILL have to speak out and demand it.

There is nothing that has depressed me more over the course of the past one year than the rape of that brave girl in Delhi and the events that followed – the never-ending apathy of politicians, the so-called “youth icons” of the country whose only contribution to the state of the country was posting fucking tweets when the girl die, the disgusting police that beat up young protesters, including women, for trying to raise their voices, and then the bloody ridiculousness of the debate against Honey Singh and the entertainment industry that has achieved absolutely NOTHING except successfully diverting attention away from the real issue.

Since then, I have read tens of accounts of girls and women from across our ‘mahaan’ country, who’ve admitted to being molested multiple times at multiple junctures of their lives by both unknown and known men. And I have felt ashamed, so very ashamed, and, at times, even guilty of being a man. Or at least being a man living in India, the country that celebrates the “spirit” of the people for moving on after every catastrophe, every tragedy and every setback, and has never in history confronted the damn problem.

Why do we move on? It can’t be because we *actually* think that we can’t do anything about the state of affairs? Of course we damn well can! If EACH one of us raises our voices in protest against every wrong, every crime and every injustice AT the time we see it happen in front of us, we CAN change things! When we see something wrong happen right in front of us, why do we naturally assume that if we intervene, we will get screwed in return and no one will come to our rescue then? Maybe, if we intervene, then 10 other people who were thinking the same thing will also intervene and we can together STOP wrong from happening? Maybe, if we intervene, then the person committing the wrong will never attempt at doing it again because the only reason he does it is because NO ONE EVER INTERVENES? Maybe, if we intervene, then the next time something wrong is happening to us, someone will intervene and save US?

But we still don’t intervene. Because we are scared that if something happens to us, what will happen to our families? Because if we turn a blind eye towards wrong, then perhaps, the moment we step away from the place it was happening, the world will become a beautiful place again and no one will ever do wrong? Because it’s not happening to us? Or because we have become a nation of sadists – we ENJOY it when something bad happens to someone else?

It’s not great living in India unless you are really rich, and even if you are, you still face issues like too much traffic, bad roads, WAY too many people, bureaucracy, nepotism, uncleanliness, harami politicians and the like. Very rarely do we find happiness on a day to day basis. And naturally, if there’s just SO much to be miserable about in our own lives, it’s good to know that the lives of others are just as miserable. Initially, it could be the small things we enjoy – if someone got stuck in traffic for hours, if someone trips and falls, if someone got pick pocketed, etc. But then, as we get older and we realise that the mess in this country isn’t really going to go away anytime soon, and we feel trapped and suffocated, this little harmless sadism starts manifesting itself in unhealthy ways. If someone is in a bad relationship and we aren’t, we are alright with it. If we someone got into police trouble and we didn’t, we don’t care. If someone loses their job and we don’t, we laugh behind their backs.

And this sadism is perhaps the strongest reason that when someone is getting beaten up, molested, abused, wronged right in front of us, the feeling we have is not one of pity or sympathy – it’s one of RELIEF and HAPPINESS – that ‘Thank God, thank the universe and thank our stars, that isn’t happening to me.’ We DON’T GIVE A SHIT about someone dying, instead we are HAPPY that we are getting to live on for another day.

We have become SADISTS, we have become INHUMAN, we have become HEARTLESS, INSENSITIVE, CRUEL, VICIOUS AND RUTHLESS. And we don’t bloody realise this, but in some way, OUR sadism is one of the biggest underlying causes of the crime, the wrongs, the injustice and the misfortunes that we go through as a collective culture and country.  The brave girl may have been alive had an auto rickshaw driver agreed to take them when they were stranded. Or if a passerby had offered them a lift. Or even if, after she and her friend were abused on the bus and thrown out, a kind soul had stopped and taken them to a hospital. Or if, hypothetically, someone had stood up to the rapists the last time one of them had passed a lewd comment on a girl in front of us, maybe they wouldn’t have been so encouraged to go to such a length. Our sadism and apathy may not be the only cause that the brave girl met that fate, no, but it IS a cause and it is upto US to change it around. And there is NO DOUBT that things WILL change if we just… become more human. CARE. Be kind. Be nice. Be generous. Be compassionate. Or just, stop being be assholes.

When even the Indian middle class feels oppressed, can you imagine what the economically backward class must go through EVERY SINGLE DAY? With our many luxuries – the ACs, the clothes to keep us warm, a good meal every day, the ability to afford a movie in a multiplex, the ability to afford auto-rickshaws every day, the ability to afford a doctor or a hospital when we need it, the ability to live life in a way we generally don’t require a doctor or a hospital – even with ALL these luxuries, we fucking hate our lives. Then can you possibly imagine what someone who can’t afford even these basic things goes through?  Can you possibly imagine HOW MUCH THEY HATE THEIR LIVES? And how badly they would want to change it all by hook, trying for years at end by toiling every single day, or by crook, when circumstances and situations sometimes just go out of control? And as if their pain, their despair, the bleakness of their existence isn’t enough to drive them crazy and possibly consider the option of SNATCHING happiness through “wrongful” means – WE TREAT THEM LIKE GARBAGE.

When was the last time we were kind to the beggar on the street? Or the eunuch?

When was the last time we asked your society’s watchman how he is, or smiled at him, or said ‘Thank you’ to him for staying up every night keeping you safe?

When was the last time we bothered to even ask the name of the person who came to deliver something we had ordered and thanked them for their service?

When was the last time we did NOT haggle for Rs 5 or 10 with your auto rickshaw driver or your sabziwala – and instead were happy to give them Rs 10 extra, because Rs 10 won’t make a difference to us but can *actually* help him?

When was the last time we behaved nicely and understandingly with the sales clerk in shops or stores, who would have obviously served you early but has multiple customers at every given moment, instead of being rude to him for “wasting your time”?

When was the last time we acknowledged someone who comes from a financially-backward household, for a job well done?

When was the last time we gave a good tip that we KNOW we could easily afford to someone who’s served you well?

When was the last time we forgave a genuine mistake by someone who is serving us not out of choice but because he was born in a home that wasn’t as affluent as ours, instead of abusing him/her?

When was the last time we were kind in general? Or nice? Or sympathetic? Or helpful? Or generous? Or compassionate? The last time we smiled at someone less prosperous than us, for no reason at all? The last time we acknowledged their efforts? The last time we said a mere ‘Thank you’ to them?

Now think of the last time we were in a luxury store or a five-star restaurant. What do we do when they fuck up? How do we treat the staff of these places? Do we abuse them or haggle with them or give small tips? Do we disrespect them or are impolite? NO. Because these are “respectable” places and we behave exactly in accordance to the norms of behaviour at respectable places. We want to show that we belong there, and hence, we are fucking gentlemen/ladies. But we are also the SAME people who’d not mind humiliating someone at a place without AC if they screwed up. Because “they deserve it” and because we don’t have the time or inclination to be nice to someone who we think is “lesser” than us. Why? Because “how does it matter?”

IT MATTERS. Not treating a fellow human being with respect or kindness or even basic politeness, is the FIRST step in the scheme of things spiralling downwards that result in heinous crimes. Disdain, disrespect and contempt for the service class may not make us bitter or unhappy or change our day or lives, but it may do exactly that for them. Each time we act like assholes, they would naturally wait for the time when the status quo has reversed and then THEY can be assholes to us. Why does the auto rickshaw driver refuse to ply? Why does the carpenter take SO much time to repair something? Why does the maid steal small things every now and then? It’s not THEIR values that are at fault here, it’s on US. And every once a while, these continued cases of treating the service class with derision will manifest in an unhealthy way in that one person, who has had enough, and there’ll be a crime that we could have avoided in the first place – a crime that is ON US. Respect is possibly the one thing ANY human being would strive for as much as money. If we can’t show basic humanity to everyone around us, then all the shit that happens around us – it’s on US. WE are to blame. If we are insensitive, inhuman and apathetic, WE ARE to blame. If we think of only ourselves when something wrong happens to someone else, WE ARE TO BLAME.

Because really, IT’S NOT HAPPENING TO SOMEONE ELSE. IT’S HAPPENING TO US. When the fuck will we understand that?! Every little thing that goes wrong around us that makes the world just a little worse, is fucking the future up for US. WE are now unsafe. OUR FAMILIES are in danger. Our children, our coming generations will suffer. If we don’t stop it, if we don’t speak out, if we don’t protest, if we don’t even LIKE, SHARE OR RETWEET something that is stark, hard hitting and depressing but can make someone less ignorant and if WE don’t change, we are putting OUR tomorrow at risk.

We could have stopped that brave girl from getting raped, had we not created the circumstances that led those rapists to believe that they can rape her and get away with it. It’s on US. We are to blame, and we need to take the responsibility and if we ACTUALLY give a damn, we bloody need to change RIGHT now, each one of us. We need to:

–        TREAT our fellow human beings with respect, if we want the same from them.

–        TEACH our children and our loved ones the importance of respect, towards everyone be it of any caste, community, background or gender.

–        RAISE OUR VOICES whenever someone’s doing something wrong in front of us. If we are scared about what will happen to us, INFORM other people and RAISE OUR VOICES.

–        STOP BEING indifferent. Our opinion MATTERS. If we think that something is wrong, we need to SAY IT OUT ALOUD. Put it on our statuses. Share it. Retweet it. Discuss it with everyone around us. MAKE OUR VOICES HEARD. The more people know the CLEAR difference between right and wrong, they will start changing too. OUR voices can help make people less ignorant and more aware of WHAT IS WRONG.

–        THINK FOR OURSELVES. It’s really not that difficult!! If WE think that it is wrong to disrespect, abuse, slap women or treat them like shit, we need to STOP DOING IT. Even if we are in a place where the majority thinks that way or where people believe in some archaic traditions or superstitions or way of life that’s disgusting. Even if we are in the minority but WE know what we think is right, DO RIGHT. And then try to make others realise it is right too.

–        STOP being an asshole to the service class, for any reason. They deserve our best behaviour as much as anyone at the same level or at a higher level than us does.

–        BE NICE. It’s good to smile at others . It’s the least we can do to ease the pain and frustration that life routinely hands out to everyone. Smile, and we shall get one back, and great moments like these will make life better.

–        BE KIND. Give away Rs 100 every day. It won’t kill us but it may make someone’s life a bit better. Open the door for someone. Carry someone’s bags if they can’t do it. Offer our seats to someone if they need it more. Give our old books or clothes away to the needy. Compliment someone if they deserve one. Be chivalrous. Be gentle. Kindness is infectious.

–        SAY THANK YOU. Acknowledge everyone who’s done something for us. Don’t call people by their profession – no one wants to be called ‘waiter’ or ‘watchman’ or ‘driver’. Find out their names, greet them, find out about their lives if we can and wish them well. Don’t treat a human being who is not as affluent as us, as anything OTHER than a human being.

It’s a shit excuse that we can’t do anything to change the world. If we change ourselves and become more compassionate, and if each one of us does the same, then slowly and steadily the world WILL become a better place. And a brave girl would never again be subjected to a death so brutal. And A good place to start is: BE HUMAN.


Note: This article was first written on January 5, 2013


Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.


Life: Why I don’t drink….

It was in the summer of 2004 when I had my first experience of, what they call, a ‘culture shock’.

My family and I went on a Europe tour that summer. My most distinct memory of that tour is walking into a regular grocery shop in London and seeing a bunch of pornos, right besides the newspapers! Since my parents were along with me, I had no idea how to conceal my excitement, and at the same time, casually browse through the magazines – which, by the way, had full on x-rated stuff happening on the cover, with absolutely NO attempts to hide any of the action.

And of course, I also remember how I entered my hotel room, which I shared only with my younger brother (who slept most of the time), switched on the television and saw.. MORE porn! For free! Entire channels devoted to it! And when I went outside for a walk, I realised how ‘baniyans’ were like the national dress for the chicks in London. Yes, I admit, I was in Disneyland, and I totally fell heads over heels in love with London.

A month later, I arrived in National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra, for a four-year-long rape called engineering. My hostel was filled with all kinds, breeds and species of animals – and I’m not talking about the dogs, lizards, frogs and pigeons, who considered it home sweet home. Misery loves company, and on realising that just to shit, we’d have to travel like 20 metres from our rooms, by the end of the very first day in the hostel, all of us had gathered to pay our condolences and last respects – to each other.

That’s when I got my second – and much bigger – culture shock. One NRI kid, just like me, suggested that we  wallow, not in self pity, but in bottles of ‘daaru’. To say that I was taken aback is like saying I enjoy getting kicked in the nuts (I don’t, just for the record). To be entirely honest, I was !@#$!@$ fucking shocked out of my bloody skull! It was like someone had asked me to donate my liver! .. While I was still alive! Or something much, much worse and sinister. Like.. like.. someone had asked me to share my food!! Only it wasn’t food, it was my liver. And only it wasn’t share, it was donate.

I was so scandalised, I thanked the group for the enjoyable evening I had spent with them discussing our very first respective sexual experiences (and umm.. the guy with the most exciting sex life was the one who got to shake hands with girls regularly) and went back to my room and hid under my bed. It took me some time to make peace with the fact that I had come to a place where people were much more grown up than I was (which is a polite way of saying that I thought they were cunts) and that they drank alcohol.

For the first semester, I tried to convert the religion of people from daaru to plain awesomeness. I tried Chanakyaneeti’s saam, daam, dand and bhed to make sure, at least the people I was friends with, stayed off it – or well, didn’t drink in my room. I broke bottles of whiskey that came from people’s fathers’ hard earned money, I threatened my room mate that I’d call the warden if he so much as smelt like he had been within a mile of a daaru battle, and I preached to everyone how they were betraying their parents’ trust by drinking.

No, this story doesn’t end with, ‘And then.. I had my first sip’. From being so contrived as to judging people and dividing them in categories of evil and good, depending on whether they drink or not, to giving them company with Pepsi (bottoms up) while they drink like there’s no tomorrow, I still haven’t had a sip of alcohol. Or beer. Or mocktails. Or cocktails. Or fruit beer (just because it has the word beer in it). Or Cheeku shake. Okay, the last one’s simply because I don’t like the sound of it :p

And the irony here is, that people now get a culture shock when they meet me! ‘Which planet are you from dude?’ ‘Fuck, are you serious? You’ve never even tasted it?’ ‘Chal, hatt, liar!’ ‘Mere liye vodka, aur Nikhil ke liye doodh’ ‘Do you want your Pepsi neat or should I order some water with it?’ And of course, the most common of all, ‘Is it a religious thing?’

No, it isn’t a religious thing. I don’t wear a sacred thread and haven’t sworn any oath that I’ll not drink alcohol until God helps me lose 30 kgs. Nor have my parents so far confessed to being from Pandora. And no, I don’t want doodh, I want my Pepsi. Neat, and on the rocks.

But obviously, the next question that everyone asks me is, ‘Then how come?’ Welll… it’s because… *suspense music* …..


My memories of being five include lying under the bed of my mom and masi and reciting poems to them, smearing vicks vapourub all over my body because I had a cold, running away from a five-year-old girl who wanted to kiss me (True story), being told by my teacher at school that I should wear chaddis everyday, falling into a drain next to my house, getting ready in a super hurry as my friends would come in to help me pack for school even as the rickshawallah rang the bell outside my house again and again and threatened to leave, and resolving to not speak to my father because he was a chain smoker.

Yes, for a five-year-old kid who hated chaddis, I had a strong sense of morality. I don’t remember how I knew smoking was bad, but I would tell my father to quit every day. My father would promise, but never live up to it. And then, one day, I just stopped talking to him. Considering how much I love to talk, I guess I must have kept quiet for a REALLY long time (like a whole day or something), that he freaked out. And gave up smoking forever.

I grew up in Bahrain, but when I look back right now, I might as well have grown up in Disneyland, because I have no recollection of anything remotely evil happening around (read people smoking, drinking or having underage sex… umm, okay, that may have been evil because I wasn’t getting any). In school, smoking and drinking were the least of my concerns. I was more worried about whether I’ll ever get to kiss a girl (or pull her cheeks – true story) than about anything else. And funny I should say that, because I was so daft that once a girl who actually agreed to like me back said she wanted to kiss me, and I got super freaked out about my izzat! I mean, I wasn’t ready to be a father at that age!!

But as Tapas pointed out in his comment in my previous post, I was just shut out to stuff happening around me. I do recollect that a few guys in my batch did smoke, and also remember how I’d give some of them, who were friends with me, long lectures about how they were betraying their parents (I had very few friends left at the end of school, yes). But funnily enough, I don’t recollect anyone who used to drink. Drinking was a thing grown-ups did at parties because they needed something to help them stand each other.

All my conversations about drinking at the time of school – with any of my friends – were about how it’s despicable that adults do it even though it’s wrong, and how we’d never drink on growing up (or on just growing, in general). Maybe it was influenced by the fact that in Bollywood movies we grew up on, each time the villain was shown drinking, in the next scene, he’d go rape the hero’s sister. And of course, the hero drank to take revenge. Or to do comedy. Since we were always funny (haha, see how subtly I slip in a word of praise for myself? I’m so cool! .. And there, I did it again!) and were concerned about people’s sisters, we had all decided that drinking was bad.

Even in my first year of college, all my friends who weren’t born with a bottle of Johnny Walker (or desi santara) in their hands, hadn’t had drinks because they actually thought it was bad. But as time went by, they all started drinking, for innovative reasons like, ‘Seniors told us that all grown ups drink’, ‘Dude, to socialise in office parties after you graduate, you need to drink’, ‘I wanted to see what being high means’, ‘I want to try out everything in life’, ‘It was a party, yaar!’ ‘Abey, we were getting free booze, get it? FREE’, ‘Arre, but everyone was drinking’, ‘I was thirsty’ or of course, ‘Teri ma ki ****’.

These were, of course, the same people who had sworn to not drink, not smoke, get good marks and get laid before college ends. None of that worked out, obviously (or there would have been a LOT of sex happening at NIT Kurukshetra). But to be really honest, while growing up, I never met a person who said, ‘When I’m old enough, I’d really like to drink because it seems like fun.’

In school, most people were anti-smoking and anti-drinking because it was all we knew at that time (or we didn’t know better!). In college, I felt that everyone started smoking and drinking, because the fad had changed. For a very long time, no reason seemed good enough to convince me to drink, or an explanation for why others did it. Because, most people, to me, seemed perfectly alright while growing up. I never understood how booze could have made those childhood memories more perfect.

Think about it. Your first crush. The first time you asked out a girl and she said yes. Or the 10 times they all said no. The first time your heart skipped a beat on seeing someone beautiful. Your first kiss. Your first attempted kiss. Your first attempted kiss that led to your first break up. Your first heartbreak. The first time you said I love you. The first time (years later), when someone said I love you back too. The first time you wrote a poem full of cuss words after you got dumped. When you worked really hard for an exam, and kicked ass in it. When you screwed up royally and blamed it on the teacher. When you kicked in the nuts of that guy you really hated. When you got beaten up for asking out a girl who already had a boyfriend.

All those happy/sad/proud/embarrassing memories you had in school. Did you go home and drink after that to  ‘mark the occasion’? Weren’t they perfect the way they were? Would booze have made all those moments even more awesome? I don’t even get the whole concept of getting ‘high’. I’ve been high many times (at least I think so). The first time a girl said ‘I love you to me’ (apart from my Mom). The first time I made my parents proud of me. When I won that competition I had worked my ass off for. A brilliant movie (not the X-rated kinds. Okay well, that too). Getting my first paycheque. Dancing all night with friends (Balle balle!). Helping make a difference in someone’s life. Making someone smile. Doing something stupid with friends. A Zakir Hussain concert (hell yeah, baby!).

On a slightly serious note, I also don’t buy the whole concept of ‘I drink in moderation and don’t lose control.’ That’s because I am the only one who’s not drunk and I can see, first hand, all those who are. When you are drinking, your brain gets fuzzy and you hardly realise if you are losing control. A school friend of mine was at a beach party with his friends. They all had too much to drink. My friend went to piss into the ocean, and got swept away. His body was found the next day. I know it’s a freak incident, but the point is simply that you really don’t know what you are doing when you are drunk. You slip once, and you don’t know how you’d end up. And woah, that’s a scary place to be in!

But it’s not that I don’t drink because I’m scared of losing control and raping the hero’s sister, or because I think I *truly* know the sacred secrets of being high. I don’t drink simply because I never wanted to. And I’m often judged as this ‘nice’ guy (read: BORING), or this prude, and well, sometimes, as this plain weird dude (that rhymed!) who doesn’t know how to live it up (I know bhangra, okay?). But you know what? I don’t judge back now. Because well, I had promised myself to get six pack abs, like, 6 years ago, but as my two-pack body CLEARLY suggests, I failed. I had sworn never to watch porn after getting caught. But well… umm… no, didn’t work out. I had plotted to be world famous by 21. I’m 23, and well, I have the time to write this humongously long blog at 4 am. So no, no world domination yet.

Yes, I didn’t really live up to some promises I made to myself either. But some I did. At the same time, I know some AWESOME people who smoke, drink and even smoke up at times. Some are best friends and some I look up to. I don’t think they’d be any better or worse if they didn’t drink. In the same way, I have had ENOUGH kahaani mein twists through these years, without drinking. I don’t think my life could have been ANY more interesting, if I had been drinking.

Because it took me a long time to understand that who you are has nothing to do with what you drink. Whether your drink is Vodka or Pepsi. As long as you enjoy it (and don’t die), it’s all good, isn’t it?

Note: These articles first appeared on my other blog on Feb 4, 2010

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Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

On Being Nice

December 2, 2013: Met a petrol pump attendant today who inspired me. He was an old man, with a happy face. He knocked politely on my window and asked me to check the ‘zeroes’, all the while smiling, informing me why it was important to ‘be aware’. He then took my debit card to charge me, but since it required a pin, came back and requested in the politest of tones if it wouldn’t be much trouble for me to step out of the vehicle to put in the pin. Once the transaction issued a receipt and I thanked him, he asked me to wait, while he quickly got a stapler to staple the debit card receipt with the petrol receipt and gave it to me respectfully on a writing board. He then smiled again while he bid me a great evening.

This was a man who wasn’t just extremely professional and efficient and doing his job to the best of his ability, but a man who exuded warmth and generosity in perhaps his umpteenth dealing of the day. Not only did the man ensure that his customer was satisfied, he also made sure that he extended a genial civility to the human being in front of him. This was a man who, just through the human decency that is so utterly lacking in people today, made my day. His name was Ketan.

It’s so easy to be nice, is it not? It only takes a smile, a warm ‘Thank You’, an affectionate ‘Please’ or a general kindness, which shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Why do we, then, not be like Ketan, when it’s easy, it’s nice, and it will make everyone’s day? Why don’t we extend common courtesy to everyone we meet? Why are we so eager to close the lift and stop the next person coming in, or walk inside a door without holding it open for the next person who is just a few feet away from us, or give our gratitude to anyone who offers us a service?

For that matter, why do we haggle for a couple of rupees with the sabziwala at his thela when we wouldn’t dare be caught doing that in a public supermarket? Why don’t we give a mere Rs 20 to the delivery man when ordering food for 500 bucks? Why do we ensure the auto rickshaw driver pays us back the exact change when it wouldn’t make our life any better but may definitely make his?

If, at 60+, I can be even half as happy doing the job I love as Ketan is (whatever that job may be), and if I wouldn’t hold all the shit the world has had to offer in those years against the next human being I meet in my line of work, I’d consider myself successful. Because really, as Ketan showed me today, a successful life isn’t one that’s earned with money, but one that’s earned with respect and love, and a little bit of niceness. That’s what Ketan had to offer to me today, and that’s what I offered him back, and hope to do for as long as I possibly can. And if all of us do the same, wouldn’t the world just be a slightly more happy place to live in? Thank you, Ketan