Life is cheap, death is cheaper

Alright girlies, enough fun and games. Lets get back to the serious stuff. Was recently talking to a self-righteous Indian prig who was rattling on about the lack of morals in the West – going back to the favourite example of school yard shootouts. I often wonder where such people grew up. Maybe on a parallel planet to mine. The OA was probably on it too because he grew up rather innocent compared to me.

I often think back on my misspent youth and scandalise the OA with the frequent references to violence. For instance, there was this time recall a guy bumped  into me on the school stairwell and went on to brag about it in the boys’ toilet. It might seem like nothing to most of you – but those who grew up in small town UP will know what that means. It means war.

The childhood sweetheart and a friend got to hear of it. They caught him outside school, walked up to his cycle, leaned on the handlebars and casually asked him what he was up to. And this being small town UP, the guy knew they were all part of my life in one way or another, knew exactly what they were referring to and pretty much shat his pants. He swore to stay ten feet away from me and to his credit, he did.

They told me about it later and I was mad at them for getting into a fight over what I thought was a non-issue. Anyhow. The incidents involving me didn’t stop. And the last couple ended in one of them pulling out a katta. A country pistol. It didn’t surprise me. I’d grown up knowing that they were part of our lives and I also knew they could sometimes just explode in the user’s hands, injuring him more than the intended victim.

But that is small town UP for you. Insults fly fast and thick. Sisters and mothers are defended as aggressively as they are used in abuse. Country made pistols and country liquor is available for a song. Even school boys know how to get their revenge by breaking your arm just the night before the board exams so that you can’t even get a writer for the papers. A classmate’s body found floating down the Ganga on the morning of our 12th boards ensured that all of us girls cried through our English paper.

The last incident before I left for college  ensured that my boyfriend didn’t go alone anywhere for the month before the exams. Four of them (including my brother) were surrounded at our favourite coffee shop, by 40 guys pulling up in Maruti vans with chains and hockey sticks and guns. There was negotiation and politics and finally an uneasy truce was reached. One we couldn’t trust. He didn’t appreciate it but my brother was his best friend and picked him up each morning and dropped him home each night – brooking no further argument. It was the best protection he could have had. If you want to woo a girl, you can beat up her boyfriend but not her brother. Those are the rules. The honour among thieves so to speak.

I look back on the years and wonder if I really lived through them as calmly as I did. It was all so cool in those days. My friends have all grown up to be respectable bankers and software engineers now and I wonder if they look back on those days fondly or with embarrassment. Long, hot, dusty afternoons spent sitting in the semi-dark coolth(!) of the desert coolers, talking in low voices as family slept around us, discussing who had stepped out of line and needed to be taken down a peg or two.

Of course it wasn’t all blood and gore.  Sometimes it was quite hilarious. One afternoon an admirer (a classmate) who kept borrowing my notebooks decided to use that pretext to visit me and turned up home to return a register. The entire gang was shooting the crap at my place, drinking Pepsi, playing carom and generally doing the only things you can do in a small dead-end town. I begged the boys to shut up and let me deal with it. Then I walked out, took my register, and exchanged a few polite words with him before I sent him on his way. As the words came to an end I saw him start to shuffle nervously backwards. I turned around to see all the guys had silently lined up behind me, arms calmly crossed  – very filmy. The guy never borrowed my notes again. I didn’t speak to them for the rest of the day. I really did think I could handle my problems. This one is only funny in retrospect!

When I met the OA and he began to hear childhood stories, he laughed. They sounded possible – just not plausible. Then he came home with me, met the guys, realised how casual violence was in small town UP and came back a changed man. His wife, was not what he thought she was. She actually had – a violent past!

When I told him one of the terms of endearment was  – excuse the french – chutiyam sulphate, he died laughing. It means nothing really – it’s just a very local crudity! I made my brother confirm it and I think the icing on the cake was hearing it in the film Ishqiya, recently. I feel vindicated.

Anyhow, its only when you become a parent that you realise how scary it is to know that your child could be neck deep in bicycle chains, home-made bombs (yes, I learned how to make one), molotov cocktails, knuckle dusters, knives, kattas, and nunchakus.

I had earlier written about Irom Sharmila and in the last few months I’ve had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Binalakshmi Nepram. Each time I talk to her I hear of a new atrocity in Manipur that the media has neglected to report and then I figure that whining isn’t going to help and I should use the little platform I have here to do some good. I don’t want my kids growing up and having as easy access to violence as we did.  And if you don’t believe me, well, here’s a list I got from Bina. You can get more information here.

Forty bucks for a landmine. Can you beat that? Two hundred bucks for a hand grenade. That’s all it costs. Why are arms so easily accessible and affordable?

And if this wasn’t bad enough, I recently came across this. Indians for Guns. Err… why? Don’t we have enough violence on the streets of Delhi with drunk men shooting celebrity bartenders because the bar has shut for the day? Or must one remind readers of Soumya Vishwanathan? I don’t see how it is fair to ensure rights for gun holders, when the average citizen on the street seems to have fewer rights to living fearlessly and peacefully.

I am sure there are statistics about crimes being committed with unlicensed arms etc, but what exactly are we keeping licensed guns for in that case? Hunting game? Black buck, anyone? Or to protect ourselves. In which case, why go about this in the aggressive manner? Why the need to have personal arms? Why is no one working for a better police system and judiciary? Why not citizens watch groups? I notice two MPs on the list – why don’t they help the legal system along and make it a safer country for us instead of making it easier to have arms. Why should a citizen need to protect himself when he has a government?

There will be plenty talking about how we NEED this protection. But I am tired of negative thought and negative action. How about some constructive thought and action? How about setting up a group for a safer country for us and our children. So that our honourable MPs don’t have to send their kids to school with bodyguards. Violence is not the answer. It never is. And if even the leaders of our nation don’t see that, it’s a sad day indeed.

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122 thoughts on “Life is cheap, death is cheaper

  1. Well, you took a constructive step in sensitising us. Jaspal Rana? I didn’t even know people spent time and money on trying to make India a more violent place.

    I shuddered through your stories…knew smalltown UP was a violent place (thanks to Omkara!!)…this made it personal…and real.

  2. Yikes… What a flashback!
    Unfortunately having spent a few of my formative years in Allahabad with you and your merry band of hooligans, I can confirm everything you’ve said and add a few sordid stories of my own…
    hmm.. maybe I need to start writing again…

    Btw, loved the “Mallika Sherawat-from Omkara” meets Phoolan Devi image you just painted of yourself here

    😀

    • ROFL.
      Mallika Sherawat was not in Omkara 😀
      And I guess it does seem that way unless you grew up there. I think I was the least hit on thanks to the big hulks to protected me. The fat girl with glasses, the skinny one with thick legs and a moustache – they all got hit on, far more than me!!

      And yes, heres a trigger for you. Go write about your earliest goondagardi memory of home!

      • Oh yeah.. it was Bipasha Basu in that ‘Beedi…’ song, wasn’t it?
        Anyhoo, you get the point 🙂

        Btw, my earliest memory of goondagardi involves adopting/kidnapping my neighbours’ son for an evening when I was 4 years old because I’d wanted a brother to play with.
        My parents sorted that matter out peacefully and decided to do something about it. One year later… I had a sister (sigh….)

  3. Scary MM> I am very ignorant about the violences in schools coming from a small town in TN. Really? All these were happening a few years back. I thought there were rare cases like John David-Navarasu and the like. But your story speaks of more. Sure, there is a need to bring these out and find positive solutions.

    BTW, admire your brother’s guts, Looks like he could have been attacked too.

      • That makes a huge difference. Doesn’t it? No wonder, we constantly questioned our parents why we did not have a brother..that too an elder brother. What with all the tamil films that showed the Anna character that protects the sister from anything and everything..Never mind that we did not have to go thru anything like that, nor did we need such a support..:)

        • mine was a younger brother but i’ve always felt as safe as anything with him around. although i must admit as kids i once hammered two boys who were troubling him. that was the first and last time he was ever protected by me

  4. Mm

    Totally agree with you on +ve actions and thoughts. I just can’t think of a way though – you had a brother, a bunch of friends who cud at least show some threat to the guys who acted smart. How about girls with no brothers or male members in the family in a similar situation(I was one of those)? Wait for the system to change while the girls grow up living their nightmares, or get themselves deformed by acid attacks? Yes, everyone should try for a change in the judiciary, law enforcement systems and in the society as a whole. Is it going to be a stepwise planned process, a sudden revolution? I have no clue. Call me a pessimist,if I had daughters I would feel a little less scared living in small-town UP with a gun for my safety. And that’s just a personal opinion.

    • very true. the girls who had no brothers and male friends, didnt step out alone very much. but isnt that the point? we need to take proactive remedial measures. not reactive violent measures.

  5. oh, what a portrayal of the small town UP. i , having grown up in western india have had no such exposure. cant beleieve this is all in india. such diversity.n really pains to read abt kids getting killed in school by fellow school children. and the costs u have mentioned for the arms.. shocking.

  6. It was scary to go through your stories,but what and where is the way to conclude this?
    It should be a long term goal and combined effort,its not easy to eradicate arms which had grown upto be part of daily life in a good measure.

    • uh huh… i didnt ever get my hands on one – but yes, enough of my friends had one tucked into the waistband of their pants. i didnt ever stop to ask them how they came about it or how much it cost. just took it in my stride

  7. Oh my god MM!!! your childhood stories are so colourful, it looks colourful since you guys came out of it unscathed.

    My childhood on the other hand was very dull and boring compared to yours.

    A big “NO” to violence and accessibility of weapons especially to kids.

  8. I can hardly believe it – I thought this stuff happened only in the movies. Is it still the same in your town? How did your parents handle it?!! Man I would be so nervous sending my kids out.

  9. hi Mad Momma, dropping in after a long time. Got a baby boy in Dec and was a LONG ride after that, named him Arjun. Its good to be back reading you. best wishes to Bean and Brat.

  10. MM, when are you writing your biography? No really, when?

    That french endearment was priceless!

    And 200 for a katta?! Damn.

  11. Sheesh! This is scary. Any neighbourhood teen can walk up to us and shoot us in the face! How many of them would be mature enough to know how and when to use these weapons!

  12. It’s possible that allowing anyone to carry guns would make for a peaceful society. Much like two countries having nuclear weapons preventing war between them.

    I would assume that people would be a lot less willing to assault bartenders if it could be assumed the bartenders had a gun with them.

    Ditto for other violent crimes. Dangerous to break into a house if the owners have guns and know how to use them. I could see this as a good thing.

  13. WOW!!! I think i belong to the OA category..having grown up in B’lore what i thought only happens in movies..actually happens in real life..WOW!! A very colourful school life indeed… 🙂

  14. Disclaimer: MM, by sending you the design link in my previous comment, I didnt mean to dilute the very important message you have tried to send us readers. You know, Im a fan, right???? 🙂

    h
    dubai

  15. i think you should take down the pic which shows the cost of various arms… with the popularity which your blog enjoys, there is a high possibility somebody with a nefarious mind will read this info and instead of getting horrified, will get excited and think how can I get my hand on some of those babies.

  16. @ the person who didnt want her comment published. I appreciate your fears but i do think they’re unfounded.

    these posters have been widely circulated and this is about awareness. its a little like saying – don’t teach kids about safe sex or the danger of AIDS because that might lead to more promiscuity. i dont believe that is the right attitude.

    those who want arms and weapons, dont need to read my piddly little blog to get their hands on them 🙂 they already know where to get them

  17. wow, some childhood, that!
    also saw the going rates for bullets, kattas, pistols and the likes. can’t help thinking about the paradox – the cheaper they are, the more dangerous they get. i mean, what are the chances of somebody getting shot to bits by a sukhoi (unless you are a palestinian on the west bank) or a torpedo from a frigate? one in a million? compare this to the odds of being shot at by a demented mind seeking revenge for a slight – and you know that the defence ministry is spending money on the wrong things.
    that’s what the taliban’s (and our maoists) realised too – most of their purchases are the smaller denominations….and today, the average Pakistani (or chattisgarhi) is more scared of the Taliban / Maoist as compared to the Indian army.

  18. Soooo, on a flippant note – what you are saying is that the only way for childhood sweetheart and you to hook up was coz he was your brother’s friend first? 🙂 I can see how that happens…

  19. Man! The prices have gone up. I have lived in Imphal, Shillong, Kohima and Delhi to name a few ~~~ before settling down in Faridabad. Yes kattas are cheap, but they can backfire and take away your earlobe instead of the person you shoot at ~ as my wannabe suitor learnt painfully. We are violent – the gandhigiri is just for show

  20. Oh… Chutiam sulphate is a real word? And i thot the person who coined it for the film was brilliant!!

    errrm.. sometime when u have the time,can u teach me how to make a bomb, if i promise to neva really make it? please please please!

    errm.. and where can i get that 9 mm pls? I have always wanted to use one on delhi’s eve teasers and gropers. I plan to board a DTC bus with the pistol sedged right where a groper will find it, then capture his face using a camera, then paste that picture full blown, in the same bus, with “GROPER” written under it in BIG bold letters. Am dreaming, yes.

  21. I guess I too grew up on the other parallel planet that you mention because I had no effin idea about all this. Phew!

    Now I know what that kid in Ishqiya meant when he tells Arshad Warsi that “UP mein bachche [some crude word for butt which I’ve forgotten] dhoney se pehle bandook chalana seekhte hain” And I thought it was all exaggerated because small-town violence was the crux of the film

    Anyway, great post! Absolute eye-opener

    • 🙂 oh yes. he was right. my brother and i learned to shoot an air gun pretty early. aiming at a tin can. i was a terrible shot – i cant shoot the broad side of a barn – so I stopped. but i think my brother is still a pretty good shot, and can work a nunchaku too. i’d tell you other stuff but it would all be terribly illegal 😉
      i could also tell you what the word for butt was but i think i’ve done enough scandalous stuff on one post.

  22. whoa! guns?! and i used to think that this stuff only happened in pakistan (my colleague tells me abt how they all have guns in their homes and how during special occasions like weddings they go up to the terrace and randomly shoot into the air to “let people know that we have guns around and know how to use them so they better not try to mess with us!” I know that as a race we’re just as uncivilized as the next one… but i didn’t think that things were this bad! this is scary stuff!

      • not really. i grew up in dxb, which was a VERY sheltered life. dxb kids aren’t even street-smart, let alone violent! Kerala, from what i’ve heard, has a very violent student community. but no guns. They make do with hockey and cricket bats and stones…

        dunno if you’ve heard, but the joke is that the best job you can have in kerala is as a college lecturer, cos the colleges will be closed most of the time due to strikes an hartals and stuff.

  23. You do you realise don’t you, that the OA and most of us grew up on planet normal and you were the one who grew up on some planet that was not even in the same solar system? 😛
    Wow. I have new found respect for you, woman. Now I know where that bit of iron that I detect in you comes from. Imagine growing up with that!
    The maximum violence I’ve had is …well, never mind 🙂
    Great post, I wish you’d do a story for one of the newspapers back home, if you haven’t already.

    • pooh. i already came to that conclusion. a nice hot, dusty, violent planet of our own!

      Omkara and Ishqiya were like watching movies made down the road – so familiar in terms of thought process. Haasil, Gulaal… our local university politics
      Haasil was shot in fact at a family friend’s place and my parents are in the last scene!

  24. oh my…all this is so familiar. I grew up in another small UP town (banaras) and also went to college there (BHU) – and it really is a parallel planet. Now when I think about it I’m just amazed that I came out of it as normal as I am :P. But those 4 years in college have made me realize that I can live anywhere.

  25. thanks for clearing the meaning of “chutiyam sulphate” . have been wondering and asking people about it. and no one knew anything. 🙂

  26. I’ve heard these stories of violence from small-town UP too, courtesy a few cousins. But that website takes it to a whole new level. What’s Rs. 200 today?

    Anyway, chutiam sulphate? Hahahaha!! 😀

  27. yeah, I grew up in the Gandhi’s India too…the closest we came to a weapon on the school yard was a compass or a divider. And thank heavens for that, or I may have stabbed a few people in eye back then. Don’t ask me why I didn’t just use divider. I was innocent and stupid?

  28. and you are “small-town girl”ed out. officially banned from using those words in any future posts…lets examine the alternatives, shall we? country cousin, provincial princess, suburban suzie, vernacular veena, hamlet honey??? All terrible? Want me to shut up…are u pulling out the knife-gun thingamajiggy??? gotta goooooo

    • whyyyy?? *whines*
      someone on the birthday party post says i should stop describing myself as middle class. arrey where is my freedom of speech i ask you. i insist i am small town, vernacular, middle class amma – and i want to advertise it.
      *sulks*

  29. I really am surprised people haven’t heard of Ch2SO4 earlier. Heck, we were using it in Bombay 15 years ago.

    On that note, MM, to jhaado my French too, here’s another one that you might recognise – GO2 (I’ll refrain from naming it).

  30. i have heard about the goonda gardi in UP…it does sound like a movie. i feel like i am watching a few scenes from Omkara all over again.
    i am more used to the type of violences Irom Sharmila and Binalaksmi Nepram are trying to end….thanks to the ULFA/SULFA/Bodo and other independent outfits in Assam.

    you are doing your bit, MM…this awareness is much needed and thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront.

      • yes, its women who are essentially lending their voices and working for real causes and issues in that part of the country….cant say that about the men folk in those areas.
        In general, the matriarch has a lot of clout in some of the N Eastern states, they are the bread earners in most families, the decision makers and are quite forward thinking and fiercely independent. I wish I could say the same for the women in Assam….

  31. MM,

    I have a friend , from my PG days in Delhi. She’s from Allahabad, and when she told me quite a similar story about her “violent past” , I was rather skeptical, thinking that she was exaggerating quite a bit. A few months down the line, after attending her elopement/Arya Samaj wedding and subsequently witnessing the scenes of high drama(Hindi film style) as her mom came to drag her back to Allahabad, I was convinced. Almost a decade later,it’s an amusing story, but at the time it was VERY disturbing for me!

  32. So yes, I’m as shocked about your experiences as the next/previous commentor, but like you I take it in my stride. When you’re “in” a situation it doesn’t look as terrible as from an outsider’s perspective. Anyhow, in Ishqiya, the first time the kid said “sulphate” I went huh?? What the heck does that mean? R coolly says “chutiyam sulphate”. Of course, then he tells me he learnt it during his Delhi schooling days (I’ve never lived anywhere but Bombay/USA) so I was blissfully unaware of a chemically laced gaali! It was quite entertaining…I wonder who came up with it!
    As for arms…they’ve been and continue to be the reason for wars and people will never learn. Whether it’s your katta or something like that War ship!

  33. Mad Momma, you have grown up and lived in the real India. I have not.

    On these grounds alone, I think I owe you some sort of standing ovation. Alternately my esteem for you has increased manifold/some fold.

    From what I read Chiddu is trying to make improvements in policing. Policing is however divided between the centre and the states. And most of the state governments are very slow, inefficient or plain not bothered. Plus judicial reforms are also required and the current chief justice does not seem to be too much of a visionary. In some ways, in many ways, one hopes that ultimately 26/11 will be remembered for the positive changes it brings about. Six years of Chiddu on the job should give some good results. Much more could be done if those damn state governments could get their act together.

    And finally at the risk of you pointing a knife etc this background also adds an endearing quality to you.

    • LOL! – you think I won over a troll or two who now shake their heads sadly and say – “poor dear, no wonder she’s mad. she has had such a violent childhood” ?!

          • Most probably the trolls will be the perpetrators of some violence or members of the loony left.

            Also FYI because I am a guy I must say that Hrishita Bhatt looked very nice in Haasil

  34. MM,
    You have touched cord(s) here. I know, your intention of this post was different, but still I’ll go on with my story, which whenever I tell, nobody beleives it. I did my high school from Mahanagar Boy’s high school in Lucknow. Our’s was a gang of 5 guys, and unfortunately 2 of them just did not do good at studies.. we drifted apart, coz Dad got transfered, and I started *serious* preparation for the Engg. entrance. Heard that one was playing football and was in the state team, while the other was into ganja/afeem etc. (Even in 9th grade we had easy access to all of these and the Katta too). So, anyways, when I went back to India in 2001, I wanted to meet all of them.. and I found out that one guy was now an inspector while the other one was a gangster , pretty famous one at that.. being the right hand of a minister (in jail) from Gorakhpur. So somehow I managed a get together, and when these two arrived, the gangster friend says to the inspector ‘Saale us din goli chalate huwe haath nahi kaanpa tera ?’ and the inspector friend says ‘beti****, jab tene goli chalai thi jeep ke tyre par.. tab maalom hai ki mei Khaai me gir gaya tha… tab to tu milne na aaya’

    Too filmi, but true. we had fun and we still keep in touch with each other

  35. Hey MM! Dont remember when did I comment here last time, but I read you daily and this post made me write my experience.

    Well, I CAN FULLY relate to this. Grown up in a very small town in UP and studied 4 years in a small town in Ghaziabad’s shadow, so you can very well imagine. Once a biiiiiiiiig fight broke between our and the main rival college, with gun shots firing from both sides at some 2 AM on a cold January night. The police came, beating up my classmates with police dandas and arresting some 50 of our college guys, because on the other side was an MLA’s son so they obviously cant touch that side. The issue went on for 10 days, with 3-4 days of curfew in the area. One of my closest childhood friend of 15-16 yrs was in that college and we were clearly instructed to stay away from each other (how can a girl and a guy from two such colleges even dare to speak to talk) until the matter was resolved.

    Our farewell lasted 15 mins, coz local goons barged in and hit 5 of my batch-mates on their heads, leaving them unconscious and bleeding….

    I can go on with many such incidents… it really was so common that we didnt give it much thought after 1-2 semesters and it really did become a part of life types! Sad, but true.

    I hope somewhere this “negativity attracting more negativity” stops and each one of us CAN and SHOULD do something about it. Like you rightly said, violence is never ever an answer to anything. Nothing can ever justify it. EVER!

    *sorry for taking too much space in your blog, but just felt like talking about all this*

    Love to Brat and Bean!
    -IB

  36. You’ve raised an interesting point but I still feel the two are not quite the same. Granted the teenage macho gang thing exists (I also dated a guy who was into this stuff) as much here as in the west but we seem to hear more examples of people going mental out there ie – not targeting the four or five people that pissed them of but deciding the entire world has pissed them off and going on a random shooting spree. I remember covering a story of this mad guy charging down a street in Bombay and stabbing people but because it was a machete and not a gun, the damage was limited. But there aren’t that many stories of that happening in India (ie- people going absolutely nuts and killing 30 or 40 people for no specific reason except angst).

    • but theres no shortage here. rape on the roads, tantriks telling you to rape your daughters, nithari killings and cannabalism, vandalism on valentines… and the whole separationist scence. there is repressed anger and rage and we just dont seem to be taking note of it. or perhaps we just take it in our stride and dont notice.

  37. my training in cuss words did not happen in school but from my theatre director. i am proud to say that i was fluent in hindi, english and marathi curses by the end of it.

    but chutiyam sulphate i did not encounter.

    i lived half a life until now MM.

    btw great post for those who think the west is oh so twisted while we sit in our country and ring temple bells and remain wholesome.but then there are others who look at a heap of rubbish and turn up their sweet little noses, you know you guys should stop paying taxes, in the (insert) “phoren” we would not tolerate this kind of stuff.

  38. My SIL’s house in Lucknow was invaded by two guys hiding a katta, ostensibly seeking directions. They yanked off her mangalsutra, but she and her husband escaped unharmed and the crooks dropped the necklace while escaping. One of my older son’s classmates body was found decapitated. I’ve had my handbag snatched by scooter riders on my quiet colony lane,car stereo stolen, all this in the state capital, about fifteen years ago.
    There used to be a popular scam in those pre-cellphone days. Once the men of the house, particularly business men, left home for work, someone would call up and tell the women that their men were held hostage and to deliver XYZ sum to a particular location, and not to call the cops or the guys, or they would kill them. And the guys would be safe and sound in their offices. UP was and is a crazy place.

  39. Hey MM, your life has been a rich canvass. You have Bengali and Tamil roots, and you married a person from a coastal community. You have lived in Allahabad, Delhi, Bombay, Hyderabad and Chennai (tell me if I missed any other city). You know four languages. You were born a Christian, and now also love Ek Onkar and want to visit the Golden Temple (I think that’s what you mentioned in a long-back post).

    You have lived in goon-infested UP, and have known what casual, easily glossed over violence is.

    You have a great voice. You write so well. You know how to wear a sari beautifully, and have hundreds of friends!

    You are quite a rich character. Do you know that?

    Love and hugs,
    SS

  40. This comment is a bit longish and I did not want it published, but MM convinced me otherwise. So here goes 🙂

    This post brought back some very painful memories 😦 I too come from a very small village in the heart of UP. The difference being that, as a family, we actually belonged to that violent society and culture. Though, thanks to my father, my immediate family does not have a very violent past, but unfortunately the same was not true for my father himself. Ours was a very powerful family in the area. In our extended family – we had relations who carried kattas, pistols, gupti and could kill for honour, relations who believed in honour-killing, as a child I have seen relatives killing and getting killed in the name of politics and revenge, I’ve witnessed booth capturing, I’ve seen daughters and sisters being married into families that helped their own family increase their clout in the area, I’ve seen girls being kidnapped to settle scores.. My own family kept arms for protection – guns, pistols, lathis, spears, chakus, there was no other way to survive in that environment where rule of law was non-existent.

    When we, my brother and myself, arrived on the scene, my father realized he couldn’t raise us in that environment. We moved out, out of the village, the city and the state – far enough to be insulated from our own family. But, you cannot cut-off your roots just like that, so we kept visiting our hometown. All vacations were spent in that small village near Kanpur, we went there during all major festivals, marriages, ceremonies.

    At the age of 10-12 yrs, when marriage is the last thing little girls worry about, I used to be terrified of it. I did not want to belong where my father came from. I used to worry – no matter what I do and how much I study, one day I’ll get married to a guy who belonged there – THERE. I’d see my uncles and cousins get married to educated girls, young girls with M.Sc, M.A, M.B.B.S, Collector’s daughter, B.D.O’s daughter, Police Commissioner’s daughter – and the girls’ lives just came to a standstill after marriage, no, their lives just ceased to be theirs after marriage. I used to wonder how could parents marry off their daughters just like that, not even thinking about how their lives would be after marriage. I used to put my heart and soul into my studies, I saw it as my only means of getting out. I used to try and convince myself that if I got educated enough so that it made finding a groom for me impossible, I’d probably have a chance of getting out, maybe it’ll give me some bargaining power with my parents. I used to have nightmares if I did not do well in a test. I never interacted much with boys in my class as I always feared that if my father ever saw me talking to one, he’d pull me out of school. Now when I look back, I realize that many of my fears were unfounded, that I should have at least trusted my parents who distanced themselves from their own family so that their kids would have a future, but I was just a kid and I could only see how powerful the family and the society was back home. I’m probably getting carried away, but some scars just refuse to heal 😦 To cut a long story short, well, I may not have had a very happy childhood or even a normal childhood, but I channelized all my energies and my angst into my academics, and it did pay off. I did my engineering from an REC and went ahead and did my masters from IIT Bombay. I know its no big deal, but it meant a lot to me – it changed my life and helped me get out. A degree from IIT gave me voice and a choice to make something out of my life.

    Today I’m married and have a 5 yr. old daughter. Needless to say, I married outside the community, against my family, against my parents’ wishes, married someone who is NOT a North Indian. Hell, I used to be so passionate about not marrying a North Indian that if I ever came across any friend dating a North Indian, I would just blow up, sit her down and tell her how she was making the biggest mistake of her life. Unlike you, my husband has no clue where I come from because no words can describe what it was like – being part of a world that many refuse to believe exists. To me it all seems like it happened in another life. Its been 14 years since I visited my village. I still cannot talk about my past and my background the way you can, because it is anything but colourful for me. I’ve not been able to forgive for the terror and helplessness I felt as a child, I don’t blame anyone specifically, but there is something I want to let go off which is not happening.

  41. I relate to your childhood flashback, I studied in varanasi and it was pretty much the same.
    And you know, the more I read about how crazy our world is becoming, the more I think about not having kids. It freaks me out to think how things might be by the time I have them and they grow up 😦

  42. Hey.. I remember telling Saurabh that you would know what ‘sulphate’ means after watching the movie…:-)

  43. Rashmi, thanks for your comment. Brave of you.

    MM, my best friend E studied in Kanchipuram and faced trouble from some guys in her institute since she didn’t have family or friends living nearby to ‘protect’ her. Eventually her boyfriend of the time, a classmate from Vizag, took matters into his own hands by getting in touch with a friendly gang in Madras and scaring the crap out of the Kanchi guys. Then I was a bloodthirsty young girl ready to murder those who threatened my friend. Now I’m only grateful they didn’t take it out on her later. Other girls I’ve known haven’t been so lucky.

    In Calcutta there’s a sense of “Who, us?” if the subject of violence arises but it’s only a generation ago that the anti-Naxal squads were wreaking havoc. In my generation people from Uni days have disappeared into the jungles. They are armed and fighting a war they believe can only be fought with guns.

  44. Just one sided biased and prejudiced opinions by mm. At the best intellectual smugness with hidden objective of arousing emotions of chimerical fears against guns. Conveniently ignored a fact that arms(Right to Keep and Bear Arms) is an inviolable fundamental and human right of citizens guaranteed under Articles 19 and 21 of Constitution of India.

    We can never ensure our security by disarming ourselves, it is plain stupid and purely misleading the people.

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”-Benjamin Franklin

    Criminals by their very nature of business will always keep themselves armed. It rather benefits the criminals if we keep ourselves disarmed.

    ‘‘Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes… Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.’’— Thomas Jefferson’s “Commonplace Book,” 1774-1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764

    If someone does not consider his/her life worthy of defending and does want to arm himself/herself that is his/her personal choice. No one should force ones own choices on others and force them to disarm themselves. Just as you are free to choose to remain defenceless out of YOUR OWN FREE choice, I too would like to be able to make the CHOICE of whether or nor to arm myself, not have someone else force his/ her/ their choices on me – this is called FREEDOM and without FREEDOM we are just like monkeys in the zoo.

    In the eyes of law the citizen and the State have EQUAL rights in maintaining law and order. While citizen is law enforcement machinary in individual capacity and the Police is law enforcement machinery of State. Police can NEVER be a substitute for citizen’s right of self defense. Whenever a citizen acts in self defense as allowed by Sections 96 to 106 IPC, he/she is doing nothing but acting as a law enforcement machinery in individual capacity.

    Those who are asking the citizens to disarm themselves are actually helping the criminals(probably that is their hidden motive) and negating the citizens right to self defense and right to life. It is not surprising why people with criminal intent were the greatest proponents of official gun control. It made their job of killing people easy. Entire world knows the ideas of gun control of Hitler, Stalin and others and their actual deeds.

    “But if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you … it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”- Dalai Lama

    “He who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honor by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden.”–M. K. Gandhi

    The usual road to slavery is that first they take away your guns, then they take away your property, then last of all they tell you to shut up and say you are enjoying it. — James A. Donald

    “Both the oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms.” – Aristotle

    “Only an armed people can be truly free. Only an unarmed people can ever be enslaved.”- Aristotle

    • hmm… you accuse me of intellectual smugness and then you go on to copy and paste a bunch of quotes by intellectuals. And I just read the entire comment – what exactly is your opinion if not one-sided and biased? I don’t need a bunch of intellectuals to back up my opinion. The fact that I believe something is enough conviction for me. An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind and all of us toting guns as ‘personal freedom’ wouldn’t make a safer world.

      I’d like to carry a gun too, if only to protect myself from people like you who believe that we all need to be armed to be free. A gun has never saved lives – only taken lives. Show me stats of lives saved by guns if you can. Chimerical indeed! To that I’d like to respond calling you paranoid! Not every instance of gun control ends in a Nazi regime.

      Look at the Dalai Lama quote – IF someone has a gun and is trying to kill you… To that I say, why should someone be walking around with a gun? Gun control is something I strongly believe in and I’d strongly urge you to read more about this group that I support – http://cafi-online.org/index.php. Indeed even more closely examine this – http://cafi-online.org/report/Manipur_Women_Gun_Survivors.pdf. Please note that the very people of the state who are in such despair are fighting for gun control. Does that say something to you?

      • Your comment that “The fact that I believe something is enough conviction for me.” itself speaks volumes that you do not go by the facts but by your personal convictions(no matter how wrong or impractical they are)!

        For the purpose of your self serving convictions, you conveniently ignored the facts that Right to Keep and Bear Arms is an inalienable human and fundamental right of every citizen guaranteed by our Constitution. Your question that why anyone will have a gun in first place lacks any merit because no matter what you say or do, criminals by the very nature of their business are ALWAYS going to be armed. They are not going to respect your official “gun control” rather they will benefit by it. It is not a question of eye for an eye but a question of saving one’s life from criminal assault. You baseless theory of gun control demands that you should not defend yourself if someone is assualting you. You are assuming that victims of crime do not have any inalienable right to defend themesleves or their near and dear ones. You are advocating “death” to all victims of violent crime by gun control!

        It is indeed a fact that guns save lives, that is exactly why law enforcement of every country is armed with all manner of arms including guns. Citizens are also part of law enforcement in our country hence the right to be armed! Countless lives are saved every year in this world when people use guns for self defense. Guns help in maintaining peace by ensuring balance of power.

        Coorgs in Karnataka can keep firearms without any license, as they are exempt from provisions of Arms Act. There is no higher crime going on in Coorg district. On the contrary criminals avoid such places as they know how they will be “welcomed” in every house.

        Before independence, the states of Rajputana were exempt from Arms Act 1878, there was no extra crime reported.

        Sikhs and Gurkhas keep swords, khukris and various kinds of arms. They are not indulging in extra criminal behaviour. Neither is blood flowing on the streets.

        There are certain facts and truths of life. Just like 2+2 is always 4, every instance of gun control is bound to end in tyranny and Nazi type regime. The list is endless. I list a few below:

        Ottoman Turkey: Art. 166, Pen. Code, 1866 & 1911 Proclamation, 1915. 1-1.5 million unarmed civillians killed by government in 1915-1917.

        Soviet Union: Resolutions, 1918
        Decree, July 12, 1920 Art. 59 & 182, Pen. code, 1926. 20 million unarmed civillians killed by government in 1929-1945

        Nazi Germany & Occupied Europe: Law on Firearms & Ammun., 1928
        Weapon Law, March 18, 1938
        Regulations against Jews, 1938. 20 million unarmed civillians killed by government in 1933-1945.

        China, Nationalist: Art. 205, Crim. Code, 1914 Art. 186-87, Crim. Code, 1935. 10 million unarmed civilians killed by government in 1927-1949.

        China, Red: Act of Feb. 20, 1951
        Act of Oct. 22, 1957. 20-35 million unarmed civillians killed by government in 1949-1952, 1957-1960, 1966-1976.

        Guatemala: Decree 36, Nov 25 •Act of 1932 Decree 386, 1947
        Decree 283, 1964. 100,000-
        200,000 unarmed civillians killed by government in 1960-1981.

        Uganda: Firearms Ordinance, 1955
        Firearms Act, 1970. 300,000 unarmed civillians killed by government.

        Cambodia (Khmer Rouge): Art. 322-328, Penal Code
        Royal Ordinance 55, 1938. 2 million unarmed civillians killed by government in 1975-1979.

        Rwanda: Decree-Law No. 12, 1979. 800,000 unarmed civillians killed by government in 1994.

        India, British: Arms Act 1878. Jallianwalla Bagh massacrare of thousands of unarmed civillians by governemnt in 1919. Millions of unarmed and defenseless civillians(disarmed by Arms Act 1878) killed by criminals armed with all manner of illegal weapons during 1947.

        India: Arms Act 1959. Unspecified numbers of unarmed civillians get killed by government under stage managed encounters. Thousands unarmed civillians killed by State sponsored criminals during 1984 massacare in New Delhi. Thousands unarmed civillians killed by State sponsered criminals during 2003 massacare in Indian state of Gujrat.

        So much for your “gun control” to disarm the people so that they become defenseless victims of criminals!

        I have gone through the links provided by you about CAFI. I would not like to say much about organisations that are driven by personal agendas rather than objectively dealing with the issue, have aim of emotionalising the things. Rather I would request you to go by truth and facts and not go by imaginary perceptions.

        To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them. This is exactly what seems to be the true hidden agenda of these “gun control” organisations.

        • ROFL!!! Exactly what facts did you present in your last emotional outpouring other than quotes by famous personalities? Were they numbers or facts? You guys make me laugh when you say I am impractical 🙂 You REALLY think its a practical solution to world issues to hand out guns and let people go around settling matters as they see fit? Why not do away with the judiciary too? That too might be a big bad conspiracy!

          Also, now by presenting me with figures of genocide and slavery you really expect me to accept your argument for citizens to randomly bear arms? Those are the exact reasons why two men shot each other over a parking lot in South Delhi. It’s also how kids accidentally pick up arms and kill each other in playgrounds.
          I believe raising arms against the elected government is also known as terrorism. Our country has suffered enough at the hands of those who raised arms against their elected govt – and here I am not talking slavery. If you have no respect for the law, and take it in your own hands to prevent ‘criminal assault’, there will be no end to it. The reason why our armed forces and police are over worked is because people like you fight for people to bear arms in general life. I refuse to accept that you need to carry arms into a mall or on a flight saying it is your right. Try telling that to Jessica Lal’s grieving family.

          As for CAFI being am organisation driven by personal agenda… exactly where did you figure that it is a ‘personal agenda’. Please note that in the Gandhi quote you gave, even he first suggests non-violence. There are better ways to arrange your own security rather than letting people roam the streets toting guns and using them at their own discretion. That way everytime there is fender bender someone or the other will pull out their gun and shoot no? Ridiculous argument!

          I’m sorry but there is a movement world over for gun control and most of them are driven by concerned citizens. It’s hardly the big government conspiracy you are making it out to be.

          PS: Its never a good thing to address a blogger or respond to a post by saying things like ‘intellectual smugness” etc. It antagonises the person you are addressing and the point you might be making (however debatable) is lost. Anymore rude remarks inserted in the body of your post and I hit delete. I don’t waste my time discussing things with people who cannot keep a civil tongue in their heads.

          • You are very clevery trying to deviate from the debate and giving “threats” of deleting the reply because you have no reasonable answer!

            Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a human right and fundamental right of every citizen. Citizens are empowered to enforce the law just like Police. Please read Sections 96 to 106 IPC because they have right to life guaranteed by Constitution they are allwoed to defend themselves to the extent of causing death to their assailant. You want to take away this sacred right of citizens. If you choose to be defenseless, keep such ideas to yourself. You have no right to mislead people and to infringe on the rights of others.

            Not a single of your arguments carries any logic except emotional and imaginary fears. Go and check in Kodagu district in Karnataka, every Coorg family has guns. They are not going about killing people randomly. People are not mad they will start killing if they have guns. Those who are bent on killing are already doing it without guns.

            Jessica Lal was killed because her killer knew the fact that everyone is unarmed and he is the only armed person in the crowd. Hence the courage to attack Jessica Lal. You people want the people to give up their God given right of self defense. I am sorry to say that the movement for RKBA is stronger than ever all over the world. It is only the ignorant who are mislead by ignorant ideas being propagated by organisations with vested interests are only impressed. Gun control was started by racist people to keep the people of other races as slaves. You people are only carrying out their agenda in disguise.

            • sigh. hysterical people. always seeing a conspiracy where there is none. now, if you’re done with the crazy hysterical “oh my God they are all out to kill us” … I’m done with you. I am not ‘misleading people’. This is a blog. I have a right to express my opinions. So do you – ON YOUR OWN BLOG.

              PS: I don’t threaten to delete messages that disagree with me. I delete messages when people are rude while making their point. You’re lucky I’m in a good mood today or even these three wouldnt have made it. and now your luck is running out, so goodnight!

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