Saturday, December 30, 2006

A long time gone

And I'm back after a hiatus of - how long has it been, about three months or so? Though it certainly feels like longer! And to all my friends and readers who inquired after me - thanks a lot for the enquiries! Though I normally desist from forays into my personal life, I'll break with my blog tradition and go into a few details about the rather astounding, shocking, and bizarre turn of events that, among other things, had kept me away from normal routine, which includes blogging.

Of course none of what is to follow will be news to a few good friends who also regularly read and comment on my blog - nor will they react to my oft-repeated statement that around three and a half months ago, my blessedly ordinary life suddenly took on hues that are more in keeping with an execrable Ekta Kapoor soap opera. In a nutshell, I (and my husband, of course) suddenly found (ourselves) right in the middle of that most sordid of affairs, a raging dispute over property (no, not mine - I personally don't own any, and nor do I wish to after what I've just encountered). And I realised just how low people can sink when they're grubbing for money - especially if they've nothing much else going for them. It also brings to the fore a rather frightening truth - that you never really know people, no, not even if you've been around them all your life; which leads on to a more disturbing fact - that apart from very few people, who you can possibly count on one finger, you can never trust anyone. Sometimes the people who consider closest to you (whether by virtue of blood or otherwise) are the ones who hurt you most.

Without going into the sordid details (and sordid is a word that's going to crop up regularly all through this sad story), let me just ask - what is it about property and money that brings out the worst in people? Several people who know the details of what happened to us have mentioned friends and relations who've been through similar experiences - and all, without fail, have shaken their heads sorrowfully at the thought of the corruption that money invariably brings in its wake. So do you have to be moral reprobates to begin with (as the people involved in this instance, the 'other side' so to say, undoubtedly are) for the greed for material wealth to get a hold on you, or is it that money, property, etc., are powerful enough to corrupt even those we would unhesitatingly term 'nice people'? At this point in my life I sincerely believe that greed for money is quite stupid - I mean, we're all going to die someday, right? And we won't be taking wads of cash with us when we do. So is there any point spending whatever time's given us plotting and scheming just to make those mythical millions? Besides, if one is healthy, intelligent, qualified, and not afraid of hard work, there will always be jobs and, therefore, opportunities to make money, available constantly. (Of course, if you're desperate, middle-aged, fat, balding, unemployed, quite incapable of crossing over to the local market all by yourself to buy daily rations let alone holding down a job, and yet are an egomaniac to boot, you might be compelled to look for alternative means, which means will invariably consist of impinging on the fundamental rights of people within trampling range. That, incidentally, is a fairly accurate description of one of the chief perpetrators of the crime committed against us. And no, I don't care if I sound melodramatic.)

However, do I feel this way only because I'm not even remotely wealthy? Will I turn into my worst nightmare if I ever come into a huge sum of money - or am faced with the prospect of doing so? I don't know - but I'd certainly like to know!

A caveat - I know every story has two contrasting sides. Everyone the world over is firmly convinced of her/his innocence, and the depravity of the Other. Hell, even George Bush believes all his egregious actions are sanctioned by none other than God Himself! And it's the done thing for both parties to go around self-righteously defending themselves, and asking the heavens to strike down those opposing them. We should know - we've been maligned and slandered from here till kingdom come to all who'd care to listen - and never mind that everything that was said were lies. If only our country had proper slander and libel laws, and a functioning judiciary - I'm sure I could sue the pants off these people!!! Unfortunately, these are the perks low-lifes get from living in a developing nation - they can get away with murder, even. But in this instance, I can say with a completely clear conscience that we did not do a single thing to bring this upon ourselves; that in the clear-cut demarcation of right and wrong, we are firmly in the right; and that we emphatically did not deserve the abuse that was heaped on us. And I guess that's one of the reasons why we received the support of friends and well-wishers when we looked for it.

My feminist ideals have had rather a confusing time of it as well. Since the days I discovered Simone de Beauviour, I've had a healthy contempt for the stereotypes that women the world over are traditionally expected to conform to - and one of them is the stereotype of motherhood. Reading academic discourses about how women carry an additional burden of bearing the responsibility of the nation on their shoulders in their avatar as caring, nurturing beings - the trope of 'Mother' India - also led me to debunk enthusiastically the notion that all women want nothing more than to bear children, and are 'naturally' loving, sacrificing beings. However, when faced in reality with a woman who connived against her own offspring just for the sake of property, who abused, vilified and maligned her child who had nothing but love for her, I found myself resorting, like everyone else, to horror - 'how can a mother desert her son?', as a hymn we used to sing in school went. But I guess what horrified us was not so much a stereotype as the subversion of certain basic expectations we have of a few chosen people - we unconditionally love, trust, and are loyal to a few people, like parents and spouses. And when that bond is broken, when that trust is betrayed, it's a shock that shakes you to your very core.

So what have I learnt from this experience we could have done very well without? Trust no one (as Fox Mulder would say)? Perhaps. It certainly has strengthened my belief in the inherent rottenness of human nature. Yet we received overwhelming support and love from other quarters as well, and that we shall never forget. I'm also never going to take anything for granted, no, not even something basic like turning on a tap and having water flow out (I should know - since our water supply was cut off, and we had to live without water for a couple of months before we finally could shift out); or crib about mundane everyday routines. When we were living in the midst of unbearable tension and stress, with nerves stretched taut and emotions running high, how I longed for the good old days when my biggest problem was office politics! And yes, I did understand why the police in India are so hated. I mean, can someone please explain to me why we even go through the charade of having a police force? They do no work except abuse the power their uniform gives them - in the last three murder cases I read about in the papers, the police had refused to do anything, and in two cases had actually tampered with evidence. I know from our experience that they're rude, ignorant and prejudiced, they reluctantly take down complaints when it's obvious you won't go away without filing one, complaints that they're not ever going to follow up on; they take bribes from just about anybody (this one cop had obviously been bribed by the other side, and was merrily informing them of our every move within the police station, before us and the other cops who, of course, couldn't give a damn) - they're the last people you can turn to if you need help - and they're all we apparently have!

I know this is turning out to be one long blog, but I guess the situation warrants it. We've put at least some of this behind us - the problem is far from being solved, and obviously will not go away in a hurry, but as long as we're not in the thick of it, I'm all right. The trauma will of course take a while to dissipate - I've unfortunately led rather a sheltered life, because of which I was completely unprepared to deal with the seamier side of life - and yes, I'm still angry, upset, tense, and very bitter. But I guess it's when things are really bad that you learn to appreciate the good things all the more - I remember, in the middle of the crisis, looking at a handicapped beggar at a streetlight and saying a grateful prayer for being so lucky myself. As long as you're healthy, as long as you have a job you enjoy, and at least one pastime that you can get really passionate about, as long as there are people around you, be they friends or family, who love you and who you can count on, you can get through a lot. I'm almost sorry for people who chase ephemeral things like money - just shows how vacant their lives really are.

And of course, since I've bared a lot on a public forum, I can't end without thanking a few of the people who saw us through - Dodo, mashi and mesho, Mukta, and of course, my wonderful family, without whom we'd be nowhere (sound exactly like I've won an Oscar, don't I? :-P).