Monday, December 31, 2012

Asian Age Column: Husband wants to party while I like sitting at home

Dear Love Guru,

My husband wants to go out and party on New Year’s while I want to stay at home. This is the case on most days. He’s a party animal and I’m a homely person. How do we resolve the conflict?



Dear Swati,

Each individual is having a different mood this New Year’s Eve. Some want to celebrate life and enjoy the year that has been tough for them while others want to be quiet and reflect. Do what your heart wants. Let him go out, meet his friends, and have a good time. Don’t deny him that. But tell him that for tonight, you need to reflect on something larger. The mood of the nation is somber. And you sympathize with a larger issue at stake. While you understand that he can’t reflect with you or be in the same space as you, it’s okay for both of you to do different things occasionally. In the coming year, attend parties that you both decide on beforehand that are important to you. If you don’t want to go for all, tell him you’d rather spend time with him than in a big group. Also remember that we’ve been given this life for three things: to work hard, to love deeply and to stand up for someone else, a larger cause that can change humanity. Find the balance to do all and you’ll be successful. Find the strength to accept your husband for wanting different things. But be strong enough to know that you can be different and still together.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

How to Prevent a Potential Rape: 24 steps - wikiHow

How to Prevent a Potential Rape: 24 steps - wikiHow

Open Letter to Justice Verma: 10 Point Plan to Keep Women Safe

Dear Justice Verma,

The outrage will not stop until steps are taken. The politicians have failed. The Justice System of India needs to take charge. Here are a few things you can promise the citizens of India. Do so now.  The revolution has begun.

10 Point Plan to Keep Women Safe:

1.      Sensitize the Police – When a rape victim comes to the police station, have a female counselor sit with her alone to record the sequence of events. The officer should not rush the victim or ask details before she has finished. Make a list of relevant questions that can be asked after she finishes speaking. Offer the victim support, food, a shawl to cover herself. Send the recorded statement to the male police officers immediately to arrest the named if any. Keep a female officer with her that night at the hospital. Offer her the best care.

2.      Non Bailable Offence - Keep the man for a week before he can apply for bail. For all other sexual offenders – even for whistling, groping and leering, make it a severe action of at least stay in jail for one night before they can apply for bail. Make the bail high so it’s not easy to get away so easily.

3.      Stop Selling Acid - Women are scared of attacks if they protest. They fear repercussion if they speak out. Give the women who have reported a rape security for some time. Stop selling harmful, toxic substances over the counter. The friends of the accused feel they can take revenge as well. Make sure the accuser’s friends, family and everyone have their picture and ids at the station with a strict warning that if anything happens to the girl, they will all be arrested.  

4.      More Female Officers - Have a female officer in every bus route, train after 7 pm – all over India. If there aren’t enough female officers, start recruiting immediately. Start getting female IPS officers to oversee who they trust on each route. If they are male officers – their name must be made mandatory for reporting in and reporting out time on each route.

5.      Fast courts for Sexual Abuse – Find the accused but also send him to as faster trial. Confiscate his passport, documents of driving, etc so he cannot live a complete life. Start trial within a month. Sentence within 45 days. Do not let any accused be set free to do what he has done again. Give a minimum sentence to maximum punishment, but do so quickly. Show their faces to society when convicted. Let them be an example to deter others.

6.      Mental Health – Promote free mental health checks for people. It has to start from the grass root level of panchayats. Remove the stigma of mental health. Start treating people who are violent, aggressive, and with personality disorders. Do not take violence lightly.

7.      Rehabilitate – Women who have been raped and rejected from their families need to be rehabilitated in their own society and life. Send social workers with them to talk to the families. Find her a job. Educate her if she is not already. Let her find dignity in her life so that all women understand that there is no stigma of being raped. There is only shame if you don’t report it.

8.      Believe the Woman – If she is a prostitute, a housewife, a student, a working woman – believe her. She has taken the courage to come to you. Record her statement. Do not judge her for what she wears, how she speaks, where she was, who she was with or what she was doing. If she said “no” she was raped. Understand it and sympathize immediately. Train the entire police force to behave so. To take it as an urgent matter. Immediately.

9.      Family, Society and Stigma - Rapes can happen within a family. Do not tell her to go back and adjust to her family life if this has happened. Do not say this is a family matter that you have no control over. Arrest the person. Do not make her the victim. She cannot go back. She needs help. You need to give it to her. She needs to believe in the Justice System where even her husband can be arrested for a week. Where she will be protected for speaking out. Don’t advise her what to do, what to wear and how to behave. Just be on her side.

10.  Punish Powerful – If a rapist has gotten away because he bribed the police, the police and the accused should be immediately given a severe punishment. Do not be afraid of being brutal. These are the worst of times. It calls for desperate measures. Let the Justice System of India set an example where corruption shall not thrive at all, especially when it comes to abuse. If an MLA’s son, police officer’s children and other powerful people are involved in such a heinous crime – do not look away! Confront them. Treat them like any other citizen of India who has committed a crime. Arrest them. They cannot have power. Money cannot buy back a life. They cannot have time to suppress statements or buy out witnesses. Act fast.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Change My Nation Today

The awakening of this nation can last only a few more days if it doesn’t permeate into every soul. Everyone will go back to work in the New Year and we’ll continue to have rapes, sexual assaults and suffer undignified comments. India has become one of the most unsafe nations in the world. This is not good for the citizens, it’s not good for tourism, it’s not good for the future generation. It needs to change now. The government of India does not seem to be doing anything productive unless the country revolts against it. Corruption, price rise and now a gang rape. And while we are all mourning the death of the 23 year old medical student, rapes continue across the country – the two year old by her uncle, the 17 year old by 10 men for 7 days. It goes on.
It needs to change.
We need to change it.
I promise to sign every petition that will make sure the government hears our voice. I vow to fight to keep this movement alive. I swear to vote for the correct people and not give up on our leaders. I declare that I will teach my daughter to defend herself and my sons to respect women. I will be the change I want to see.
The Changes We Need to Start With Today:
1.       Stop female infanticide. If your family insists on a male child, protest. You have a right over your own womb. No one can take that right away from you. A son is not going to love you more or carry on a family name with pride because he is a son. Believe in daughters and start from there.
2.       Educate every girl child. Give to charities. Make sure your servants’ daughters are educated. Literacy empowers them to think.
3.       Don’t tell your sons, brothers, husbands that it’s okay not to do any work in the house and that domestic chores are strictly for women. Let equality reign from a young age.
4.       Don’t invite it. It’s far better to be precautious than sorry. Don’t think that bad things will not happen. Try to prevent it. Know where to go, when to go, whom to be safe with, what to do and be on your guard always. Until the world changes, you cannot expect to be safe. Be aware of what could happen. It’s okay to think of worst case scenarios. They prepare you to take on the worst.
5.       Surround yourself with trustworthy people who you can call on whenever you need to. Have numbers handy, people close by you can call.
6.       Teach the men in your house no matter how old or how young how women should be treated. Teach them gently, over time and do not expect an overnight change. But with sense and logic and not anger and frustration. Do it over and over again till they remember.
7.       Speak openly about sex. Don’t keep it closeted in a family. Be open with your sons and daughters. Encourage them to ask you things. Encourage counseling if they need help. Buy books if they need it. Let it be okay in the house to talk about it. This is not an embarrassing topic if questions are answered and it can help others.
8.       Don’t give in to marriage. Don’t believe you need a man to be happy. You are successful, happy and you will make it on your own. God has given you the strength and the power. Believe in yourself. Find the courage to do more, not just look for a man to complete you.
9.       Don’t stay in an unhappy/ abusive marriage. Don’t let your children see that’s it’s okay for your husband to hit you. Go for marriage counseling. Find a therapist to help you or your husband. Do what it takes and if all else fails, go to court. Be strong. Don’t let money or society or a family tell you what you should do with your life. That’s how your raise your children with self respect and dignity. That’s how you break the circle of staying in a bad marriage for the sake of children when the kids themselves grow up to be misogynists and unbalanced.
10.   Work. Pray. Believe. Find a job so you can support yourself. Economic independence at any level gives you strength. Pray hard even if bad things happen. There’s a larger picture for you. Strive to do better. Believe that no one but you can change the world. Believe that you are the leader. See it in yourself. Only then will the change happen. It will happen.
These are small steps that we need to take. But they are important. Let’s start today. Or all we will be doing is mourning for the loss of the innocent times in our life when we could send our kids to buy a loaf of bread from the local grocery store. We will regret our inaction all our lives if we don’t change today.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gender Decorum Has to Be taught in School: My Interview with IANS


Gender decorum should be taught in schools: Writer Madhuri Banerjee New Delhi: As a 23-year-old brutalised and gangraped victim fights for her life in the capital, novelist, columnist and award-winning documentary filmmaker Madhuri Banerjee ascribes the rise in gender crime in India to the bias against the girl child and says "gender decorum" and respect for women should be inculcated in boys at the school level.

She says as a woman, one needs to be far more sensitive to sexual repression - and stand up for a cause.

"Or else, some day, my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter will question me: `Mama what did you do when the nation was fighting for this girl in the national capital,`" Banerjee told IANS in an interview.

The Mumbai-based writer, who was in the capital to launch her new romantic fiction, `Mistakes Like Love and Sex` (Penguin-India), cancelled the launch of her book on Friday and television interviews to express her solidarity with the victim.

"It is a gender crime that has touched everyone in the country," she said of the Dec 16 night incident when six men gangraped and tortured the 23-year-old physiotherapist in a moving bus. All six men have been arrested, even as spontaneous protests erupted in various parts of the capital and in many cities across India. On Friday, the protesters even managed to reach the gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential palace.

Banerjee, whose `Between Dualities` won her the national award for the best documentary on women`s issues, said "the root of the problem lay in wanting a male child."

"A boy is like the `ghar ka chirag` (the light of home). Every man who is earning in crore likes to give power to the boy. Why can`t a girl pay and file tax returns or take on the father`s mantle," Banerjee asked, probing the link between gender inequity and sexual vulnerability in the context of the economics and power structure in society.

The natural psyche of a woman - perpetuated down the generations by mothers and grandmothers - spurs her to take on more responsibility, the writer said.

"Without realising, a woman gives the male ego a boost by managing multiple roles of a mother, housewife and a professional. Add to this the sexual obligation - the man usually expects a woman to have sex at night even if she is tired and not in the mood. But if a woman wants to have sex, she is labelled aggressive. No man in a relationship or a marriage will say I am an equal partner," Banerjee explained of the latent power play in a man-woman relationship.

The mindset of an average Indian male was if "I don`t get it (physical intimacy) at home, I will get it outside," the writer said.
This unrequited libido that drives men to seek pleasure outside often manifests as "gender atrocities in the form of rape".

Even at a party, a man usually tries to suppress a woman`s upbeat emotional mood with an oft-mouthed refrain, "Let`s have another drink", Banerjee said, pointing to gender imbalances in life in the fast lane.

"No parent in India is talking to their son about sex and sexual behaviour. The attitude is `He is a little naughty... let him be`. I am completely appalled by a situation where a man can get away with a situation and a woman is not comfortable walking around in jeans," she added.

Banerjee, who puts her finger on the pulse of man-woman relationships in her column `Love Guru` in the Asian Age, often addresses such concerns. Her first book, `Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas`, an anthology of her columns, explores changing notions of sexuality in a contemporary India.

She believes the need to inculcate "gender decorum" is more important than sex education at the school level.

"We need basic respect for women at the school level so that girls as young as four years` old can walk up to their teachers and complain of eve-teasing. At 14, they need not be afraid to speak up against harassment," she said.

In this era of anger in society, "perhaps the only emotion we can cling to is good old romance", she said, adding: "Love saves the day."

IANS / Madhusree Chatterjee

Monday, December 17, 2012

Asian Age Love Guru Column: Not attracted to my husband

Dear Love Guru,
My husband has put on so much weight that I am not attracted to him anymore. He doesn’t care about his body and our sex life has deteriorated. What should I do?
Dear Amrita,
You need to get to the root of why he has let himself go. Is he looking after the kids while managing a career? Is he over worked at office? Is he depressed about something? One evening take some time out and cook his favourite meal or take him out and ask him how you can help him get back into shape. Ask him if he wants to join a gym that you can sponsor for three months. Alternatively, you can take over his time at home with kids while he goes to play a sport. If you nudge him to look after his body, he will make an effort. Do not stock junk food at home. Try to cook healthy meals and packs lunches for him to take. Be sure to let him eat some special treats occasionally. Maybe you can go for a walk together instead of him doing it alone. It’s important to just keep the chemistry on in the bedroom instead of focusing on the negative. If you grumble and complain about his weight while he’s trying to make love, his mood will be off. Men have fragile egos. A healthy family is a happy family. Don’t give up. There’s a fine line between nagging and encouraging. Remember you loved him for more than his body. Be supportive now.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Interview in iDiva : From National Award to Mistakes Like Love And Sex

Madhuri Banerjee
With a background in documentary filmmaking, National Award winner and supermom Madhuri Banerjee proves to be the perfect multitasker as she turns author with her debut novel Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas.

madhuri banerjee

She’s an author, ad film director and a relationship counsellor to those who write to her after reading her weekly columns in popular publications. Madhuri Banerjee, who won a National Award for her thesis film in college titled Between Dualities, talks about her latest book and success story with

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
How did you decide to be an author?
Madhuri Banerjee
I’ve been composing poems since I was nine. I wrote a full-fledged book about three girls when I was 12. So, writing has always come naturally to me! I wrote a diary daily for 25 years. If I don’t write, I feel incomplete. Writing a book was a natural progression of storytelling, so I used to write short stories and incidents about my day. In this case, I just increased the word limit to 75,000 instead of 2,000. It just gets easy when you know the story that is in your heart.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Tell us about your production house Gray Matter Solution - how did that happen?
Madhuri Banerjee
One day, a friend of mine and I were drinking coffee when we realised that we didn’t want to limit our creativity to just one thing in life. We wanted to make brochures, design stalls for fairs, make ads, direct TV programmes and make films - everything using our grey cells! And so we decided to call it Gray Matter Solution which would have a solution for every media problem. You want a corporate film, you come to us. You want us to direct an ad, we can make it at reasonable price. You want ideas for films? We have a bank. You want to contact an actress for a film? We have her number. Solutions galore! That’s our production house.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
How about assisting film directors? What did you learn from that experience?
Madhuri Banerjee
I was assisting Subhash Ghai as soon as I graduated from Jamia Milia Islamia. It was an enriching experience. Working on a film immediately makes you grow up and you realise you don’t know anything and need to learn everything about filmmaking all over again. No matter how many times you’ll go on a set, there will always be people who will know more and can teach you. I assisted Kaizad Gustad on Boom and that was a blast. I met amazing people like Katrina Kaif and Padma Laxmi who opened my eyes to new things. Assisting in a movie does not pay you monetarily, but it pays you in memories.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Describe your latest book's hook in one sentence.
Madhuri Banerjee
A hilarious adventure of a young girl searching for the perfect man, and the prefect career while trying to find the balance between balancing quirky friends and family.

mistakes like love and sex

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Briefly describe the story behind your book and the reason behind writing it.
Madhuri Banerjee
Mistakes Like Love And Sex is the second book with Kaveri as a protagonist, while Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas was the first. The story of a young girl trying to match her dreams to reality seemed incomplete with just one book. Hence, the rollercoaster had to continue into a second book as well. But you can read both the books individually and be happy. Crazy characters, sensuous sex scenes, and hilarious situations take place in both the books with Kaveri being in the centre of it all. In addition, the theme of love and relationships needed to continue as women grow, mature, and begin to think more wisely and boldly with new men in their lives. It was interesting to see how Kaveri grew to react differently with men in the new book.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
How should a first-time author leverage his book to a publisher? And how did you go about doing the same?
Madhuri Banerjee
A first time author needs to send a synopsis and the first few chapters to as many publishers as possible. All publishers take four to eight weeks to get back to the author. I sent my book to Penguin and they got back to me in a week. I am so glad they saw potential in my writing and published my book. Otherwise, I would have needed to find an agent or an alternate career.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
According to you: a) How important is writing a book proposal; and b) If you did submit one, what stood out in the one you wrote?
Madhuri Banerjee
A book synopsis is important because it helps the editor decide in which genre to place the book as the correct commissioning editor will then receive the mail. I submitted my entire book with a cover letter to the commissioning editor describing the story, genre and a bit about myself. I think what stood out was my honesty.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Would you say there is a market for the genre your book falls under and if yes, did it help in getting the book published?
Madhuri Banerjee
My book got slotted into the chick lit genre by the media. For me, it’s a piece of fiction and I would sub categorise it under 'romance'. I believe there is a market for good stories, believable characters and identifiable situations. And that’s what is there in both Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas as well as Mistakes Like Love And Sex. All characters are people I know, and situations are real scenes with an exaggerated imagination. Even dialogues are something that everyone would speak today. I haven’t written in the Queen’s English but rather in the type of language we use. I guess all this helped in selling 40,000 copies!

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Do you think employing a literary agent helps new authors to make the right noise about their book? If yes/no, why? Did you have an agent to help you with your book?
Madhuri Banerjee
I’m not sure about literary agents. I didn’t have one.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
According to you is it sustainable to be an author?
Madhuri Banerjee
Being an author can be a sustainable profession if you write more than one book a year. If you make it your job to write 8 to 10 hours a day, five days a week and churn out many books, then it is sustainable. If it’s just something that comes randomly and needs divine inspiration to follow through, you’d better find an alternate career to put food on your table.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
Tell us about your thesis film Between Dualities for which you won a National award.
Madhuri Banerjee
It was my thesis film at Jamia Milia Islamia and the subject was women and psychiatry. I decided to make a film on the subject as I felt there wasn’t much done on the topic.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
What's next for Madhuri Banerjee from here?
Madhuri Banerjee
I’m currently working on a comedy; a fun book about a Bengali boy. I’m also working on Harlequin Romance and the third part of Kaveri’s story. I hope that a director picks up my two books and make them into movies.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
What were the challenges, obstacles you faced to reach where you are and how did you overcome them?
Madhuri Banerjee
I was a Delhi girl before moving to Mumbai for a job that paid only Rs. 9,000 a month. It was a tough decision as I had to live close to work where Rs. 6,000 went on rent and the rest went on electricity and food. But I chose to follow my dream. I didn’t buy a single thing for two years, didn’t take money from my parents and never dreamed of returning home. The film industry was where I belonged. And I worked every day without a break for two years. I met my parents in Delhi when there was a shoot there or if they visited me in a studio or a set where I was working in Mumbai. There was no time and it was tough and how. But I always believed that this was my destiny. One day my cook ran away with Rs. 2,000 and never came back. I had to learn how to cook from that day. And I ate bread for dinner till I was paid again. The course changed when I had a child and it was essential to stay at home and look after her. I never had a nanny or family to help for too long. So I wrote Losing My Virginity And Other Dumb Ideas while she slept. The book Mistakes Like Love And Sex happened when she started school. When she comes home, I’m a full-time mom and when she’s not there, I’m a full-time author. The biggest challenge you can face is doubting yourself. If you believe you can do it, you will. I never thought I should give up. I am greatful for each day.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
What's your take on violence against women? How would you take a stand?
Madhuri Banerjee
I am totally against violence of any kind, especially against women and children. I wrote an article which is on a popular news blog and my personal one called 'It’s Not Ok'. I raise my voice on any social media platform I can to help create awareness about violence and I speak to as many women as possible who choose to reach out to me about their situation on such platforms.

Sumitra Nair, Team iDiva
How do you strike a balance between all the things you do; your de-stress mantra and how do you maintain a work-life balance.
Madhuri Banerjee
My de-stress mantra are my very cool friends who are willing to meet me whenever I want for a coffee. They are a mirror to my idiosyncrasies. A woman is incomplete without her girl friends and I have thanked them in both my books. I also think the greatest joy on earth is my daughter and being with her every day is a great stress buster. I balance my work and life through meditation as it helps me stay calm and focused. I love going to the gym and doing a zumba workout. I don’t crave materialistic things as much as I used to. So the choices are easy.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

India Today Sexposition Nov 2012 : A Memorable Evening

Nandini Bhalla, me and Randeep Hooda

I was invited to speak at the India Today Sexposition two weeks ago. It was held on November 29th at Blue Frog in Delhi.
I was maha excited. This was India Today. And such a prestigious event that was held annually where the who's who of India came. I went to many stores in Mumbai before I left to pick up a decent dress, shoes, jewellery, purse. All the things that I thought I needed to fit in and had never got before.
So I wanted to look a little prettier than usual and went to the parlour to get my makeup and hair done and then go directly to the venue from there.
So when I got ready, I asked them where all my things were and they said it wasn't there.
"Where is it?" i asked my voice breaking into tears.
The manager replied nonchalantly, "Someone must have taken it."
By then it was time for me to go to the venue where I was speaking on the podium about City Life And Sex.
I could hardly think of anything to do with love or sex when all I was worried about that I was in flat yellow slippers and an old shirt and jeans. I had no time to get anything new.
I flipped out.
Someone located my dress but everything else was gone. It was stolen. I told them to see through their cctv camera to spot the person who cd have stolen it. We spotted a woman who carried a big black bag and seemed suspicious. The manager said that she had gone to a wedding and that I could go to Taj Palace to get my stuff back from her.
I called for some stupid old shoes to the venue and decided I would tackle these people later. I could not miss my conference.

When I got to the venue with just my phone and a smile, I was greeted by Kaveree Bamzai - Editor of India Today who made my mood much better. Then I got to chat with Nandini Bhalla, the editor of Cosmopolitan, Ma Sarita - tantric sex guru, Shobhaa De - author and frank speaker on every topic and the hot Randeep Hooda who was quite inebriated when we got on the panel and flirted with me backstage. I briefly chatted with Bipasha Basu in Bengali.
I even met Kalli Purie and discussed all sorts of comfort foods we loved from bread butter jam to chocolate cakes. And then decided we would not drink before going on stage and speaking and promptly broke the promise when a chilled glass of wine got circulated.

After my discussion, I realised that maybe I didnt need all those frills to begin with. All I needed was to be me. The most powerful people were also the most down to earth. And the evening was one of the most memorable I will ever have probably a little more because of the case of the misplaced belongings.

Needless to say I got a lawyer to call the owner the following day and they miraculously recovered my items when he threatened to file an FIR criminal case against them.

Memories are made of the most unexpected events in our lives. Not the ones we prepare for!

Shobhaa De who said Be Bold always!
No jewellery look
Sanjay Srivastav : Sociologist on Sex

Nandini, me and Kalli Purie

Monday, December 3, 2012

Asian Age Column: Mil asking me to wear traditional clothes!

Dear Love Guru,
I live with my in laws and they always want me to dress in salwar kameezes. I’m a modern woman. I want to dress in western clothes but they just don’t like it. What do I do?

Dear Trisha,
Clothes do not make a person. A good nature does. If your in laws love you and support you in everything you do, wouldn’t it just be easier to keep the peace in the family by wearing what they want you to? Alternatively, when you go out with your husband, you can wear what you like. If it’s for family functions go shopping with your mother in law and come to a common conclusion on the outfits you need to wear. If none of this works, wear the salwar kameez when you leave the house but change for those few hours when you’re out with friends. Just remember, if you are caught you’ll have a lot of answering to do. Also, communicate with your husband on what you want to wear and why they are not letting you do so. Is it because they do not want people talking ill about your reputation and character? Or they are scared that you might attract unwanted attention? Let them know that you are strong and independent and can handle yourself in such situations. Moreover, if you live in a very conservative family, I’d just like to say you knew what you were getting into. Why not try to adapt to their wishes sometimes. After all, marriage is about compromise.

The Viewspaper : My Letter to The Prime Minister

On 2nd December 2012, The Viewspaper was organizing the PMji Samjhoji! Letter-a-thon - The day India will write to its Prime Minister.
Eminent journalists like Madhu Trehan (Founding Editor, India Today), Sonia Singh (Editorial Director, NDTV), activists like Abhinandan Sekhri (Core Member, India Against Corruption) were asked to contribute along with me.
Here is my contribution that was published.

Dear Prime Minister,
I was 12 when we moved from Boston, USA to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. It was a huge culture shock for me. I had been living with my family in the States for over five years and I could do what I pleased there. I went to a co-ed school. We went out in groups for movies and lunches. When Madonna burst on the scene, I wore short skirts and tights. I used to go alone to the market to buy groceries for the family. I interacted with old men who were cashiers to young boys who picked things from the top shelf for me. I wore short dresses, shorts, and any old rubbish that was the fashion then. My mom hardly said anything to me as long as my grades were good. That was my life in the States.
Then I came back to my country. Mom left all my clothes there. She told me she would get me a new wardrobe. I was most excited until I realized it was all salwar kameezes and an occasional long skirt with a chikankari full sleeve kurta thrown in. I grumbled. Why did I have to wear this when I was far more comfortable in shorts in the heat of summer in a place that had frequent power cuts and no generator to even keep a fan on? Mom told me that things were done differently here. People would look at me strangely and she didn’t want anything bad to happen. I told her no one was allowed to look at me differently; I would scream at them and report them to the police. I was taught that in the US school. She laughed and said the police themselves would stare and not be on my side. And the perpetrators would throw acid on me if they saw me again. From then on, I have never worn shorts again. I have been scared in my own country of what I wear, how I behave, and whom I talk to.
It’s not ok.
I thought things would change and I would prove to my mother that the world I live in has become better. But it hasn’t.
In Dec 2009 – The Chief Minister of Goa said that women should not roam the streets at night if they didn’t want to get raped.
On Dec 14th 2011, The Brahmin Samaj of Muzaffarnagar in UP declared that jeans were “provocative”.
On July 2011 the Delhi Police commissioner declared that women were not allowed to drive alone at 2 in the morning and “not ask” to be raped.
In 2012 there was an uproar throughout the year since Haryana witnessed 60 rapes a month. A few outlandish quotes on what causes rape and what precautions should be taken were:
“I support Khaps on this issue. If girls are married off earlier it can save them from crime. People during the Mughal rule used to marry their young girls early to save them from atrocities inflicted by the rulers. The same situation is arising in Haryana and the government has become more or less impotent in dealing with rising crime.”
—Om Prakash Chautala, the leader of Haryana’s opposition party, Indian National Lok Dal encourages demand made by khap panchayats that the marriageable age of girls be reduced to 16 from 18.
“To my understanding, consumption of fast food contributes to such incidents. Chowmein leads to hormonal imbalance evoking an urge to indulge in such acts. You also know the impact of chowmein, which is a spicy food, on our body. Hence, our elders also advised to consume light and nutritious food.”
—Khap panchayat leader Jitender Chhatar.
“I don’t feel any hesitation in saying that 90 per cent of the girls want to have sex intentionally but they don’t know that they would be gang raped further as they find some lusty and pervasive people in the way ahead.”
—Congress spokesperson Dharambir Goyat.
“Earlier, if men and women held hands, parents would reprimand them. Now everything is done openly. It’s like an open market with open options.”
—West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The theory that eating chowmein makes a man a rapist is simply absurd. The idea that women should be married off to men at 16 so more men will not rape is even more ludicrous. And should we not be progressive and move towards an open dialogue in society about all topics so that women are on equal footing?
Whether a woman chooses to wear certain clothes, be out at certain times of the night, be drunk silly and flirt, be loose with her language, be at ease with the “boys”, have mood swings, and so and so forth. There is no reason for a man to be provoked. There is no reason for him to think it will be ok for him to force himself on her. He CAN NEVER think that he has authorities on his side that will let him get away with it. A man HAS to be courteous. It is his birthright.
People in power need to be more sensitive. They cannot make statements that allow men to take an inch. We need political parties taking a stand against rape. We need the police to throw the man in jail if a woman files a complaint. We need academicians propounding the theory that men need to respect women no matter what, at home and outside. We need religious groups to tell their sects that women are goddesses and shall be revered at all cost. We need authority figures at homes to not tell women to “wear something else”.  We need this to happen now!
We cannot be a regressive country. We cannot worry how the world perceives us. We should worry how our daughters will grow up. I don’t want them to wear only salwar kameezes. I want them to hold their head high in whatever they wear, wherever they go and whomever they talk to. We want them to know that in their country, the police will back them without looking at them up and down. That the Vice chancellor of her University will not lecture on inappropriate dressing. And that she can stand and fight for her rights wherever she is in India, even if it is a small town and she need never be afraid of an acid attack. That’s the India I envision for our daughters.
For that to happen we need to bring up our children to respect every woman, even if it is the maid. To sensitize our fathers, uncles, sons, husbands, lovers, and then our community to understanding women better. It’s not about women’s attire. Respect them for who they are in whatever they wear. Be aware of how women think. Make it important. Do not associate with men who think that women are just sexual objects. It is no longer a joke. It is no longer a “let it be” attitude. It needs to change. Now.
It needs to start with you taking this stand.

Women cannot let men get away with misdemeanors. If there is eve teasing, it needs to be reported. If a man is rude in the house, it needs to be pointed out. If any person in authority has said something that offends and causes harm, it needs to be raised in the media. We must garner support and change the outlook of every single person who thinks it is solely the woman’s fault. Women themselves need to be aware. They need to realize that it is not how women dress that causes rape. It is a man’s sick mind. Period. There is no but, and, or to it. They need to be proud of being a woman.
Let that be our resolution for 2013. A common goal. Even if it is uncomfortable in the short run. Even if it takes time. Let us start.
Then we can truly be a better society for each other. And our kids.
Into that heaven of freedom Pradhan Mantriji, let your country awake!

Reserved for One: A poem

We don't trust enough We don't pour out our hearts  Telling all our secrets, our fears and surrendering to each other. Comple...