To hell and back

“I was sick of being called ‘Park Street’. I realized that I can’t fight this behind a mask. I had to make the point that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Society should be ashamed to make rape victims feel a stigma. Me? The ‘Park Street Rape Victim’? Bullshit!  I‘m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister. People depend on me and love me!”

There are stories — of man’s inhumanity to his fellows, for instance — that disgust you, that repel, that provoke rage and grief in equal measure.

There are stories — of the spirit triumphing over tribulation, of dauntless will and bottomless bravery — that give you warm fuzzies; that make you glad you are alive and there is hope for you and your kind yet.

And then there are those rarer stories where both emotions conflate. Stories that make you rage and cheer all at the same time. Stories that plumb inhuman depths and soar to superhuman heights.

This is one such story. Till just a couple of weeks ago, she was a faceless entity. Or no, not even an ‘entity’ — she was a headline only; she was a ‘trending topic’, a Twitter hashtag. She was a statistic; she was grist for nudge-wink-giggle bar-room conversation.

She was ‘The Park Street Rape Victim’.

That is not what it says on her passport; that is not what she was to her mother and her father and her sister and her two daughters and to the small world contained within Kolkatta that she was part of — but that is what she was, that is all she was, to the wide world outside.

Rape shredded her of her dignity, her security, her sense of self. The aftermath abolished her identity.

This is the story of The Park Street Rape Victim Suzette Jordan.

This is the story of a ‘victim’ who decided to become a ‘person’ again.

There is something about the way Suzette Jordan says “my rape” – emphasizing the ‘r’ – that makes you flinch each time you hear it. Life, for Suzette, is divided into two tight compartments: “before my rape” and “after my rape”. She speaks using her whole body as a symbol of protest. She’s fiercely confident and laughs heartily, which are not what a ‘rape victim’ is entitled to be and do.

Commissioned by Nisha Susan (@chasingiamb) and Gaurav Jain (@mau-mauing) for Yahoo, and written by Shriya Mohan, it is a follow-up to Nisha’s timeless piece from yesterday of what every woman should know, and do, in the first 24 hours after rape.

Also, please do read this comment posted by Varunan yesterday, relating to Nisha’s story.

Come back SRK, all is forgiven

The Indian government is ‘taking up strongly‘ the case of Shah Rukh Khan who, gasp, horrors, was detained for questioning at Newark airport. The Left led by Prakash Karat, I’m told, is celebrating — they’ve been saying all along that this strategic partnership with the US is all hokum and needs to be axed forthwith.

Meanwhile, my heart goes out to Shah Rukh. While we feel outraged [Even Gotham Chopra is not immune from this pervasive sense of outrage. Hell, even his wife Candace is not immune, and that should tell you something -- at the least, it tells you that Bob Dylan really doesn't rate similarly iconic status], and the Khans of Bollywood with one exception unite under the ‘My name is Khan’ banner [any resemblance to an upcoming movie is purely coincidental], my heart goes out to the star.

Now that the US knows who he is, surely they can honor a couple of simple wishes?

1: Shah Rukh Khan does not want an apology. He is very clear about that. Come on, America — is that too much to ask, that you don’t say sorry?

2. Shah Rukh Khan wants to go back to his country. Again — is that too much to ask? Buy the man a ticket, for god’s sake.

Oh, you mean he wants to come back to his country after he is done performing at half a dozen other venues, for which he has already been booked and paid?

Okay then… make that an open ticket.

PS: This from Sepia Mutiny.

Celestial melodies

The call had come out of the blue, to the India Abroad office in New York. “Hello, I am Ali Akbar Khan.”

Sorry, who, I asked, mind yet on whatever I was doing at the time.

“Ali Akbar Khan. I am a musician, I play the sarod.”

I remember stammering apologies, greetings, salutations and praise all jumbled up together. I listen to — but do not much understand — classical music, yet that voice made husky with cigarettes touched even me with the aura of all that his name and accomplishments entail.

The ustad was coming to New York that weekend, he said then; could we meet?

I had already made a plan to spend that weekend with friends in Connecticut: some cricket, some beer, some fun — and I didn’t feel the urge to cancel. I apologized, pleaded prior commitments, and pro forma said something about looking him up when I was in the Bay Area, or definitely making time when next he was in NYC.

He did not return during the rest of my tenure or if he did, he never called. When Shubha Mudgal posted on Twitter just now of the Ustad’s passing, that was the first thought that occurred: how casually, how unthinkingly, we [especially jaded, been there, seen them all journalists] toss aside the opportunity to spend moments in the company of genius — the kind of opportunity most people long for, and never get.

Live on in your music, Ustad. And know how deeply I wish I could take that day back.