A Sweeper and a Gentleman

Okay so I forgot to ask his name. Sorry sorry.img_5721

He sweeps Mother Theresa Crescent.

As a woman running in Delhi, I frequently get these responses to a woman running in shorts: men try to obstruct you, get in your way, cat calls, try to run you off the road.

And then I would run past this man, who would give me his own brand of acknowledging a woman runner.

Everytime I’d run past, he would get four feet out of my way, which was considerate, respecting the effort of a runner. And this is what he would do that flabbergasted me: he would stand straight, hold his broom vertical in one hand, and give me a military salute with his other. He is not a runner, nor is he in the army.

Finally after a year of running,  I stopped in the middle of my run to shake himg_5723im by the hand and ask him why he gives me this completely extraordinary greeting. He had no clear answer for me, wasn’t able to answer why he honors a female runner like that.

He was very shy, and couldn’t understand why I was asking him. While he was foggy on that answer, one thing is amply clear to me:

You don’t have to be an officer to be a gentleman.




The Horrifying Faces of Acid Attack

It wasn’t without trepidation that I went to meet the victims of Acid Attack. I have never before seen such horror. Will I be able to maintain my composure in front of these women, who bear their scars so well? Would I behave inappropriately, and stare, trying to come to terms with acts that I can’t begin to imagine?

Their stories..

Their stories belie the cordial image of India; they show people so far removed from empathy toward their fellow man that they might as well be standing on the moon. The ‘reasons’ (as if there can be any) boggle the mind. ‘He said he loved me, he asked me to marry him, I refused, so he threw acid on my face’; ‘I don’t know who, or why, poured acid on me while I was sleeping’; ‘my in-laws were trying to hang my sister from the fan, and when I tried to stop them, they poured acid on my face’.

So I went, on my white horse, all ready to teach them how to say no, all ready to teach them self-defense.

I was wrong.

These women were attacked because they said no.

When I tried to teach them self-defense, they fell over laughing. At first, at how ridiculously simple it was. (I also re-iterated that when you can’t see your attacker, or trust your attacker completely, there IS no defense. Sometimes, there just is no defense.) And then they laughed when I taught them to get out of a grab hold of both their wrists. I’d teach them, then hold onto their wrists tight, and say, ‘go on, get out of my grip’, and they’d say, we don’t want to. We like it like this. (Why does this always happen to me?) Then fall over laughing.screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-12-49-12-am

I was curious. Are you happy? ‘Now we are’ they said. There was this moment where they had been obeying their parents, their husband, obeying, obeying, not venturing out of the house because they weren’t allowed to do so, obeying, obeying, and this happened?! Somewhere inside, something snapped, and they said, ‘f*ck this sh!t, now I am going to do exactly what I please’. Now they are happy.

Do you think you are beautiful? Most raised their hands. Except for one, let’s call her A. Do you not think you are beautiful, I pressed her. She looked down at the ground. Do you love yourself? ‘What, like physically?’ she asked. So, no. Do you think you are a good person? I mustn’t be. That’s why I was attacked. She wouldn’t raise her eyes to look at anyone, wouldn’t say no, wouldn’t fight to protect herself. We all noticed.

img_5197On the second day, I was teaching them how to defend themselves from a slap, and so pleased were the women with the new techniques, they came complaining to me. ‘Ma’am, no one is slapping me! This is not fair’.  With the basic elements of Aikido, they darn near broke each other’s wrists. A got herself out of a wrist hold, everyone noticed, everyone applauded her first effort in even wanting to defend herself.

Oh, and – by ‘horrifying faces’ I don’t mean the women; they are beautiful. I mean the men who can fathom committing such heinous acts. Like Voldemort who left a scar of his attack on little Harry Potter’s face, so did these men leave the mark of their horrible self on these women.

I think I realized my first day that I cannot teach these women anything. They don’t need teaching. As Chetna Gala Sinha, a fellow Ashoka fellow once said, ‘the women don’t need help; the men do – help them!’

My three days with these women tells me they are not Acid Attack Victims. They are Acid Attack Victors.



You Had Me at No

Okay, I’ll admit it. A woman who says no turns me on.  Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.13.04 AM

There are men who get enraged when a woman says no to them. For a date, a relationship, to maintain a long-standing relationship.

A woman who says no is a strong woman with defined likes and dislikes. What does that mean?  That means this woman has a healthy and well-used intellect, and has taken the time to know, and love herself. She is comfortable saying no to things she doesn’t like, doesn’t want at that time. She takes action to safeguard her well-being, her happiness, and her mood. That means she takes responsibility for her happiness rather than depending on others for it, or blaming the world for her unhappiness.

And she puts herself first. Before you, before anyone else. She can also put someone else before her, but that’s her choice. Not an imposition, not an obligation. That means she’s not the kind to passively agree to something, and then be unhappy about it. You can trust her at her word. This is a woman for whom a yes in a yes, and a no is a no. She knows if she doesn’t look out for her happiness, and treat herself with respect, no one else will. Can’t you see it, just from the way she carries herself? Strong back, straight posture, chin jutting out at the world?

Isn’t this JUST the kind of woman you’d like to be with? Who doesn’t follow you around because she has to, but because she actually looked at the men around her, and chose to be with you? And if this woman says no, don’t do it. Listen carefully to what she is saying. She is usually saying, ‘don’t do this, do that’. And if that ‘do that’ means leave, give her space, if you truly love her, you will give her all she wants, including your absence.

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 8.18.24 AMOr, when a woman says no, she doesn’t feel like a cappuccino right now, do what I do: kiss her. Because these are our national treasures: the women who dare to say no. Even to people they love, who love them back. When a woman says no to you for a relationship, bow your head, and ask her if she’d accept being friends with you. Hurts, yes, but first and only rule of love is that you will give to your beloved what she wants. Not what you want, what she wants.

I love a woman who says no to me. You don’t have to get turned on, like me, but at the very least – love her for it. Want a woman to say yes to you? Honor her no first.




A Bitch’s Rant

Ever wondered why you don’t get hugged?

Ever wondered why other Indian men get hugged and you don’t?

Because women don’t think you are trustworthy.

Indian women don’t even walk down the street looking up because they are afraid of what they’ll have shoved down their retinas: some guy exposing themselves publicly, some guy leering at them, some guy making lewd gestures.

As a woman, I am less concerned about this happening in Mumbai than I am in Delhi. In Calcutta a woman has to but speak up, and she will be assisted.

In Delhi, the men will team up, usually, against you. They will tell you you are ‘imagining it’. They will challenge you, and hope you engage more with them. They will disrupt your work, your training, your day, hoping you will talk to them (yelling counts), look at them (with disgust counts).

I had two such experiences at the National Sports Club of India, Delhi within 12 months. The first, last year, when a 70-something man took to the practice of taking off his swim trunks underwater and swimming naked, and calmly putting them back on in the shallow water as he walked. Disgusted beyond belief, I wrote a letter to NSCI administration, identifying the guy, asking them to ban this man from the pool, or I WILL take it up with the police.

NSCI is an old boys’ club. They took notice of the complaint a woman had bothered to give to them in writing, and did precisely nothing.

Come Monday, Mr. Regaling-Others-with-his-Shriveled-Penis was back in the pool, and I called the cops. As promised.

The cops came, they all banded together, and did their best to persuade me, and the cops, how ‘that never happened, and she’s making it up.’

bitchToday, I was swimming along the black line of the pool, so taking up precisely two feet of width of the pool. Along comes another manatee with absolutely no sense of direction, and not a care as to who he bumps into (because his bumping into people is other people’s problem, not his), comes closer and closer to me each lap. (Like they can’t see who is doing laps up and down the pool, and it’s a total surprise), and voila! Bumps right into me. No sorry, he can’t be concerned. He’s in the deep blue of the Caribbean, and he’s the only manatee in the ocean. I lost it there. ‘WTF? Why are you bumping into me?’ And here’s the classic excuse: I was swimming.

What you were doing, you sorry excuse of a man, is not caring for manners or civic sense. You don’t get modern or Western by learning English, donning swim trunks and flailing about in the water aimlessly like a disoriented whale. What you did was RUDE. Anyone with HALF a sense of propriety and honor would:

  1. Pay ATTENTION to where other swimmers are, and AVOID TOUCHING THEM
  2. Pay special respect to people who are WORKING HARD and DON’T COME IN THEIR WAY. Believe it or not, it obstructs their practice.
  3. If you DO bump into someone, there is a foreign custom invented clearly by Westerners and is NOT part of YOUR culture, its called apologizing.

You do NOT tell her to mind her manners when she cusses at you, call her a bitch, and ‘meet me outside’. What? A woman not wanting your irresistible hairy paws on her? Impossible.

THIS is why women never hug you. You are a crass wolf with something called Ego you mistake for Honor.

Women, like children, are like wild animals. They will approach you if they trust you. This is why men like you don’t get hugged: because you don’t deserve to. This is why Indian women think twice about hugging Indian men – they don’t know if they will be touched inappropriately when the man takes advance of that windfall gain of a the proximity of a woman within grabbing distance.

And this is the price every decent, honorable man pays for dicks like you – a woman will think twice when she looks at even those who deserve to be hugged.

And you? You will pay a price and will not even know it. You will live your miserable existence without the love of a woman. Because without trust, there is no love.

And I can hear your response to this blog as a I write it:

‘Huh? This bitch is crazy’.


Paul, I Love That You’re Not a Man

I still remember that evening in Oakland, California, when I said to Paul, a black man of Jamaican heritage:

What I love about you, Paul, is that you’re not a man.

He replied: ‘Thanks, I guess.’

What I was saying was, I love that he doesn’t introduce himself with, hi, I’m a man. The fact that he is who is, is more important than what gender he is. He doesn’t hide behind his masculinity. A single father who works full-time and raised his son all by himself, feeding him, bathing him, taking him to school, doing his laundry, helping him with homework, he does it all.

black manPaul has six-packs so pronounced that you can hang clothes off them. The ridges in his back are so powerful a ant would get giddy sliding on them. His baritone voice belies his lithe frame that he has no right to.

Ruggedly beautiful, dark as the night, this man could belong to any ancient tribe across the world. And yet, this man doesn’t hide behind his masculinity.

The first time I met him was on the street, I was walking my great dane, Noor, and he was coming back from play school with his son. In characteristic Paul fashion, he shook my hand as I have seen Ethiopians do – one hand extended, while the other hand lightly touches the elbow of the extended hand. He bent slightly in greeting. “Hi, I’m Paul”.

The second time he met me, he asked to spend the night with me. I said yes with absolutely no hesitation. And got a yelling from Gary after.


Gary, this is Paul.

Paul held me through the night, and in the morning, moved away from me. “I still wanted to hold you, but I didn’t wish to impose.”

The most precious thing a man can get from a woman is her trust, her heart. It saddens me when men hide behind desire, lust, and all the ‘I have no control over myself’ card men freely give themselves.

Paul, I Love That You’re Not a Man