Coz you are so very

I just watched Pink and like most others, enjoyed it. But this is not a review. This is just a collection of thoughts. Every few months I end up recalling something from my eventful past – and this is one such.

There’s a scene where one of the girls’ faces is morphed onto that of a sex worker’s (discussion about why that is so chee chee, for another post) and the image passed around her office. That hit pretty close home.

It was the year 2000, when I was home for a break, and my parents casually tossed me an envelope that had been couriered to them. It had black and white printouts of my face, morphed onto a naked body. The body was too, err, well endowed to be mistaken for my 43 kilo self. Nonetheless, it was a horrific sight for any parent to be faced with and once again I am floored by how amazing my parents are, to have dealt with it the way they did. There was no melodrama. They just told me that I had clearly pissed someone off, so to watch out for more serious, physical harm. I assured them that I was unharmed and would stay alert, and the matter ended there.

A few days later, the images got more obscene, more graphic, sometimes my skinny brown face on massive white women’s bodies, emailed to me. I figured it was the same guy/s. I asked a few tech savvy friends to help me (I don’t think there was much in the way of a cyber crime cell in those days) and they traced the emails back to a most insignificant classmate. In fact, when they named him, I had to rack my brains to recall his face.
The story is such a stereotype, it almost writes itself – it is always the quiet insignificant type that burn with this sort of rage, because indifference is so hurtful. And because I chose to be friends with other boys, but not him. He was interested, I wasn’t. In fact I hadn’t even recognised his overtures for what they were and I suppose that is what was most galling. He’d waited four years to serve me his revenge, cold. I had the usual gang of friends offer to beat him up for me, but I’d been away from U.P. long enough to not take up the offer. He got tired of mailing me naked women. I forgot about him.

Today the movie reminded me of those who worry about our images being misused. Mine were misused 16 years ago when it was unheard of and to say I was devastated, would be understating it. I’m pretty much forged by fire now. (How did he find my pictures? I am guessing he got them off Orkut, off a common friend’s album.) I refuse to let the paranoia of pictures being misused, ruin my time and space online. I trust that my kids’ pictures are safe among those I trust enough to add on FB. To me this victim blaming of why-did-you-put-it-up-on-the-internet is no better than those who ask you why you went out late at night, wore a short skirt, or had a few drinks.

This is the internet, it is here to stay as a part of our kids’ lives, and I’m not going to tell my daughter to hide her image on Facebook because someone will photoshop her face on to a duck or a naked body. I’m going to let her know that worse might happen, and the only thing she can do is hold her head high, steel her spine, and say FUCK IT (Ooh, this is a first for me!) . I feel much safer and better for doing so myself. Sticks, stones and morphed images won’t break my bones. And it’s strange to say there is no loss of honour for a woman, in getting raped, while behaving like it is the end of the world if someone photoshops her image. We’re giving our girls contradictory messages. If someone does that, he’s a dick, just like the guy down the road who flashes you. Can’t put life on hold for it, so live it the way you want, fearlessly.

And while the movie ran on, I experienced what is common for most of us women. Manspreading. The guy on my right took over the common arm, and then stuck a leg out in front of my seat so that I was forced to squeeze into the OA. I didn’t realise that I was doing so, because we’re so used to making ourselves shrink and disappear. Move off the sidewalk, wear a veil so that you become faceless.I don’t think the guy meant to harass me – it was just his male sense of entitlement. He didn’t even *think* before spreading out. It didn’t bother him that his elbow was touching mine, his ankle bumping my knee. It was for me to move away.

The OA noticed it, and was about to tell the man to shove off and give me my space, when something snapped and I pushed back – it was my fight. It was a small thing, but a big one for me because I’m always so careful not to give offence – what if I’ve misunderstood? I defiantly crossed an ankle over my knee so that the sole of my shoe was almost at his knee, almost invading his space. He moved away. The OA saw that I was fine, grinned, and got back to the movie.

This is so much more about good manners than anything else. We were raised to be considerate, to not take up more space than we require, to never put our feet up on a table or stick our legs out so that our shoe soles faced anyone. Fighting back requires us to put our manners aside. And this is a hard line to walk. I find it really hard to teach my kids that they needn’t be polite to people who make them uncomfortable, because this is not a lesson that I have internalised yet.

PS: This song played in my head right through. Aerosmith’s Pink

9 thoughts on “Coz you are so very

  1. There were many instances that were very relatable in the movie PINK. Yet, reading about your experience was spine-chilling.
    Anyway if it happened in 2000, Orkut can’t be blamed as Orkut started only in 2014.
    He might have got the pictures from college pics (tours, college day, saree day …)
    I would say Social media and pictured being shared is scary, but our times weren’t that different either.
    (We are of the same age).
    Remember after a college tour the negatives used to be exchanged and distributed, so it can land in any creeps hands any day.

    Miss your posts a lot.
    Been your regular reader for the past ten years.
    I know there are million others saying the same thing and you are extremely busy in your non-blog world.
    But please don’t ditch us altogether…
    At least one post a month?

  2. Hi MM,

    The morphed pictures were the cause of a girls’ death recently in tamilnadu as her own parents did not believe her. ..
    Your parents are the best and coolest …

    My best birthday wishes to you and your mom – september 24 i guess (without referring the prev posts) !!

    Lots of love

  3. you go, mm! but what would one do if an elderly gentleman who lives in the same building constantly touches and kisses your young son in the name of “he is my grandson, a smart and sweet child” that is making your 3 yr old very uncomfortable to the point where he is elbowing the old man in his face to get away from him. god, its so hard to tell older men who take for granted things like touching someone else’s child is ok regardless of how the child feels. just last night I told my son to tell him he doesn’t like being touched and that nobody should invade that space. my son enjoys speaking to him from a distance, but the minute old man comes closer my son’s entire body lang changes. if i were to complain , most would probably laugh it off as my son being shy and to cut that old man some slack. my instinct is telling me this is not correct. for the moment maintaining distance and telling my son about good touch bad touch. im 8m pregnant and the stress is bad for me. I’ve Also been raised to be considerate bordering people pleasing. fortunately for my son, i dislike the term “respect elderly no matter what”. nope. but its a hard lesson. my first one. swinging from take your hands off oldie to he’s old missing his gkids who are abroad.

  4. That incident in the film had me pondering as well – in today’s times, when it is the easiest for practically anyone to morph any one else’s pictures, would such a picture being circulated in an office warrant an expulsion from the job?
    Won’t the colleagues of the ‘victim’ easily realize that it’s definitely the work of someone who has nothing better to do and pass it off as just another albeit slightly embarrassing joke?

  5. LOL! ‘manspreading’. love that word. Am going to use it out aloud now every time someone does that to me. Yep, ‘someone’. Because of late I’ve even had over aggro over grown kiddos doing that in the cinema while their Mas and Paas look the other way.

    Also, I think if you ask an average 12 year old today(am thinking of my V here) they’d rather have their handsome/pretty mug photoshopped onto a ‘nekid’ body(a ripped or luscious one of course) than a duck. It’s the latter pic that would be embarrassing and alarming me thinks:-) Just saying’

    Thanks for getting back here. Come back more often. Apna hi ghar samjho na:-) Love ya.

  6. Hi there 🙂
    I landed here from some other site and so glad that I did, love the way you put your opinions so matter of factly and the way you view things. I look forward to reading more.
    Manspreading in movie theatres and public transport is rampant. It is very annoying and what you have said is true. On has to leave good manners behind when dealing with morons or deliberately misbehaving people. I will keep that in mind and not suck it up to avoid a scene and be uncomfortable throughout, and ruin what is a good time.
    I went with a friend to watch MS Dhoni. The guy sitting next to me, came more than 15 minutes late and immediately the made the seat next to me his own and hogged the common armrest. He wasn’t rude or impolite but he was in my space but I didn’t do anything about it but scooted more towards my friend. Least I could have done is glared at him which seemed to work one time. While watching Pink, two people sitting next to us kept up a steady stream of commentary on the movie and I knew if I opened my mouth I would be rude but I couldn’t control myself and just turned to look at them. The girl mumbled a sorry, by which I was completely taken aback. A few minutes later she resumed talking but now she was whispering! So much for small mercies.
    Thank you for this post.

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