Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Remembering December 16 2012

Gangrenous intestines. An iron rod.  Gangraped by seven men as her helpless companion looks on and is treated mercilessly. These brutal images have been on the nation’s mind ever since the news broke out.
The girl is 23 years old. Exactly my age and battling for life.
 Like many others from Calcutta, I too, am a young professional who has moved to the nation’s Capital to pursue my dreams. 
This is not the first instance of me living away from home, but this is definitely a city that makes me scared. Scared for my own life. For my own peace of mind. For the dignity and sanity of those around me.
During my first week in Delhi, a broker who was showing apartments to me said that women in this city were raped because they failed to dress ‘decently.’ My mother and I were so disgusted that we decided to approach other brokers instead.
“Are you sure?” my parents said to me, the night before I moved to Delhi “Are you sure you want to move to Delhi? You could just stay here, you know. I don’t feel comfortable knowing that my daughter will live all alone in a city known to be barbaric in its treatment of women.”
I understood my parents' concerns. He was speaking from the vantage point of thousands of parents whose children had moved out of the city, looking for better lives and better career opportunities. As a policy researcher, the Capital of the country provides opportunities to me unparalleled in other parts. Sadly, I cannot say the same thing about the safety of its women and the indignities meted out to them on a daily basis.
The rape of this young woman is symptomatic of a much larger systemic problem. Rape is not an isolated incident. It has never been. During every riot in history, women’s bodies have been used in order to assert power. The problem lies in the attitude- in the thought process. If women are objectified and thought of as property or pawn, this will keep happening. Is it so difficult to imagine or fathom that women are self-actualized human beings- capable of thinking, capable of being independent and being able to make their own decisions?
While walking towards an auto the other day, a young boy walked up to me and said “hello! Hello, how do you do?” I glared at him and looked him in the eye and said, “Don’t talk to me like this.” The boy was dumbfounded and scarpered off. The incident happened in broad daylight, but if I am perfectly honest I do not know if I would have the courage to speak my mind in a city that is known to be trigger-happy.
Only recently, a seventeen year old school girl was shot by a man because she told him not to urinate on the walls of the streets. My first thought when I want to protest is, “What if the person has a gun? What shall I do then?”
We talk of improving legislations; we talk of awareness and safety. I carry a pepper spray in my bag at all times. Even if is very late at night, I always have friends accompanying me to drop me home. We are cautious; we take the necessary precautions. All we really want is to live our lives, to have the freedom to be- to debate, to discuss, to not be harangued every time we step out of our houses.
 Clearly those are freedoms that are too much to ask for.


 [ This is a piece I wrote two years ago, almost immediately after the rape incident.It is a first person narrative account.]



Friday, November 7, 2014

Roast chicken


This is my mom's roast chicken recipe.
Method
Roast chicken pieces .Clean the boneless pieces .
Rub a little salt , ground pepper and lemon juice on the chicken pieces and set it aside .
Fry three or four whole onions and two whole potatoes in their jackets .

Put oil in the pan . Once the oil is hot , deep fry chicken pieces Lower the heat , let it turn brown .
Once done put the fried onions, potatoes , chicken pieces , whole peppercorns , 4 whole garlic pods 4, cloves in a pressure cooker . Put water , add salt to taste close the lid and let it cook.
Once cooked , remove all the pieces in a side dish and let the gravy thicken a bit .

Breakfast


So, my friend A gave me a brilliant recipe for French Toast. Take eggs, milk, and beat the eggs and mix well. Add salt, pepper, chilli powder (and green chillies and cilantro, if you want to add a little heat to it). Fry till crisp and add a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

The tea you see in the picture is cinnamon and cloves tea, and we fried sausages and cut up watermelons and pomegranate to have a hearty breakfast.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My brand new editing business

Hello lovely people , 

This is just an update about my professional writing services. Thanks to your support, I have completed working on ten CVs and cover letters in the past two months. Clients have included senior strategy consultants, CAs, Development Professionals, Law Students and Social Scientists. Starting this month, I am also introducing proofreading and editing services for essays,white papers and presentations. If you know of anyone who would like to avail of these services, please get in touch with me at reeti.roy@gmail.com

Saturday, September 13, 2014

There is never such a thing...

...As the perfect time. Not for anything. If there's something I have learnt over the years, despite conventional wisdom it is this-it is perfectly alright (and sometimes even favorable) to plunge into a situation without knowing anything about it. And whether you do well or badly, you would have learnt something from it.
 
Over the last couple of years, I have struggled with several things-personally and professionally. There have been times when I have felt irritable and wanted to give up. But the one thing that has kept me going is the fact that I kept plugging at my dreams and trying. The one thing I did not do was to give up trying.
 
It is very difficult (and even suffocating) to be around people who wish to pull you down, and it can really affect you if you let it. I had stopped doing so many things because of the negativity and the caustic conversations around me.
 
Now, I realize that if I don't live my dreams, I will always regret it. And in my life, I always have a choice. I can choose to let other people's decisions affect me- or I can be stubborn, perseverant and have integrity in the way I conduct myself.
 
The last year has been tough, but there have been small triumphs too. I have stopped fearing failure, and embraced it wholeheartedly.
 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Advice to myself :)

*Your time on this earth is finite. Make it count for something.
*Love and care about your parents
*Believe in something. It could be god or magic or the hope of a social reform. Let  noone else tell you what that belief should be. It is yours, and yours only.
*Let go of things, and people that demean you or insult you. Better still, try to deal with the problems head on. If they seem insurmountable (as they often may be) take a step back and feel. Get away for a while. See if it makes sense later. Is it something trivial that you built up in your head? 
*Make your words count.
*Do more creative things. Let yourself breathe.
*Do not cower under social expectations. They are not the things that you expect from yourself.
*Live. Love. Desire. And if possible, do them in positive fulfilling ways.
*No matter how many times you feel insulted, abused or wronged, look within yourself. What is it that you can change within yourself? Also remember that people are not innately bad. Sometimes circumstances force them to be, and sometimes they are only trying to survive. It is easy and momentarily thrilling to take out one's personal frustrations on another, and we all do it. Do not take it to heart.
*Be sensitive and empathize, but do not let your vulnerability overpower every other emotion within yourself.
*Recognise that nothing will ever be in black and white. There will always be shades of grey. When there is a silver lining in the cloud, do take the time out to appreciate the silver lining.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My experience of being Dr. Shashi Tharoor's Legislative Assistant

I worked with Dr. Shashi Tharoor as his Legislative Assistant in the year 2012-2013. A Legislative Assistant to a Member of Parliament (a more commonly used acronym would be LAMP) is typically a young Indian with a keen interest in Public Policy and Government Legislation. An initiative of PRS Legislative Research, the LAMP Fellowship places fellows with Members of Parliament across different parties. A fellow’s individual political ideology or preference is not taken into account when they are placed with Members of Parliament.

I first met Dr. Tharoor at his office in Lodhi Estate. Priya Thachadi Soman, who was Manager of the LAMP fellows last year, accompanied me there. I remember Dr. Tharoor looking at my CV and saying, “My dear, you have excellent credentials. Keep it up.” I was extremely nervous when I had walked into the office with Priya, and his assuring words assuaged my fears.

In my own mind, I knew I would enjoy working with Dr. Tharoor. I had a keen interest in writing, and he was a celebrated writer. I was interested in Refugee issues, and he had acquired a wealth of knowledge during his time at the UNHCR. There was also a synergy in terms of our beliefs- we both believe that the way forward for India is if its people are secular and liberal. Impinging on other people’s social freedoms is something that he thinks is absolutely unacceptable, as do I.


But most importantly, I remember walking into his office several times during lunch break to answer a question only to find him asking me, “ Did you see that brilliant six? Absolutely Spectacular!” Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I have probably not missed watching a cricket match since age nine. I discovered to my delight that my first ever Boss also shared the same love for the game.

What I liked most about Dr. Tharoor was that he seemed to have time for everyone, even school students who landed up at his doorstep without prior notice and asked him for an hour of his time to interview him for a school project. 

I remember someone reaching out to him on Twitter, telling him about a new social business that he had started. After a couple of twitter exchanges, the young man asked Dr. Tharoor if he was willing to meet.Despite his incredibly busy schedule, Dr. Tharoor took out time for the young man, listened to him patiently and gave him valuable advice for his time. 

 Dr. Tharoor is truly someone who cares about people- “What are people’s motivations? Why do people think the way they do? What drives them?” Perhaps it is this side to him that makes him a writer. He is a good listener, and unlike many people in power who cut off their juniors’ sentences even before they can complete it, Dr. Tharoor listens patiently. He is also extremely forthcoming in his views, even though he is very nice about it.

On my first ever assignment, I made a very major mistake. The mistake I had made was due to a lack of understanding of how the Parliamentary System works, in practice. Dr. Tharoor came back from Parliament, sat down with me and explained where exactly I had gone wrong. He was firm with me, but extremely polite. That was true of my entire year of working with him. When I went wrong, he told me where exactly I went wrong, and when I did well, he encouraged me and pushed me to do even better.

Over the course of the year, I helped Dr. Tharoor with many assignments including one where I helped him draft a response to someone who wrote to him saying, “ Feminists will ruin the country!” I distinctly remember the response : “The only thing Feminists are attempting to do is to bring about equality in this country.” It was heartening to see a male politician, not taking potshots at a woman for a change.

I learnt many things from Dr. Tharoor during my year as his assistant- how any research conducted must be thorough and how sources must be double-checked; How everything one writes must be backed up by solid research and how to remain cheerful and smiling even after a very tiring day.

When I graduated from the Fellowship, Dr. Tharoor was present to give me my award . The next day, I opened my twitter account to see that Dr. Tharoor, with his characteristic wit, had put up a picture of me with him saying, “Thanks Reeti, for all your help to enlighten me as my LAMP!”


 

                                            Dr. Tharoor and I, during my year as a LAMP

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Featured!

So, a friend of mine has started a pretty cool blog called Books People Read and featured me in it :D

This is me, in  all my splendour, talking about a book I love.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Is it normal to feel this confused about life in general? Or even have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction at what life has to offer for me? Looking back at the last three years, I have realized that I have hardly written anything, and what scares me even more is that I am turning into a person that even I cannot relate to. My convictions seem laughable, almost ridiculous to some people, and I stay up nights wondering if I said the right thing, did the right thing, and am even thinking the right thoughts.

Self-censorship- I think- is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. Even in my own head I am incoherent, confused, unable to fathom anything. It is better to be in a bad place, I think, in one's life. Than to be in an ambiguous place. To "settle". To be exploited for the sake of security. To become something that you swore to yourself you would never become.

Things that have changed in the last three years :

1) I don't speak my mind anymore.
2) I am always worried about how I will support myself.
3) Am not sure what I want to be/ where I wish to see myself five years from now.
4) I find myself rejecting everything I have been mildly (or even) zealously been conditioned to believe.
5) I haven't had a byline since 2012. Wait, until this blogpost and the previous one, I had not even written anything that was not work related.
6) I am usually quite positive and pick up the pieces and try to build something from it, but of late, all I have done is crib and cry and things have not gotten better.


Writing has always felt therapeutic to me. I am going to hold myself publicly accountable and build a writing career from scratch, starting today. And I will stop worrying about what others think of me.

GOALS FOR THE YEAR
Today is the first of March. From today, I will start seriously writing.

1)By March 1, 2015 I will have an impressive body of work. I will also take my GREs, prepare for my examinations and not be depressed all the time. I will swim, cultivate patience and do things that I love.
2) I will work on two pieces with immediate effect.
3) I will be disciplined and write one blogpost every single day.
4) Quality is extremely important, but being prolific is also very important to me.

I will breathe easy once I have all of my writing in place and I figure out what my next Educational steps are. After an incredibly long time, I have actually been able to gather my thoughts and actually write about them.
Here's to a productive year of lots of blogging and writing.