Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Pink! To Suzette Jordan. To us. And to you, Auntie.

This column was also published in Youth Ki Awaaz, The Speaking Tree, My City for Kids.

A courtroom scene that stormed the internet down; a question of virginity and its safekeeping, and of matters and discussions best kept under wraps. Of police diaries denied, of warrants backed with power and politics. Of alibi and reasoning, and of the usual versus the unusual. Of morality versus law, and of morality of yours versus mine. Or, of whose?


But really, what happened on that fateful night?



You know what's most wonderful about this film, Pink? That, you are not shown that. You're not told what exactly had happened that night, other than for the courtroom questions and cross-examinations. Of police reports vaguely scribbled down over afterthoughts. Of pretenses and lies uncovered through legal cross-questions. Of video footage of CCTV. And yet, they are but only half there. And you don't get to know what exactly had happened that night, still. Until the end titles are running. 


Now, that’s the beauty of nuance. That’s the beauty of a message hit hard home. What happened becomes dispensable, easily, as long as a “no” has proven to have been said. What happened, exactly, becomes an excess. 


It is shown, however, just to be shown. It is shown after we have vouched that we don’t need to know it, and gotten up from our seats. It is shown in the same way that the making of film videos are run, where the discarded, eliminated and useless are sewn in mostly for fun. You don't need to see it. You don't need to know what happened there, at all. 


Because, whatever happened - does that matter, even? As long as everything else can be granted, even, but not the consent? 


Not, not really. Not any longer. What – alone - is important is, there was a dissent. And that, my dear, is final.



“No” - A word. An expression. A decision, in its own right. Without reasons, without debate, without negotiation. Without force. 


No. A right.






You come out of the theater, braver and stronger. Prouder. Powerful. Chin up. You know, that "no" is your right. The right to say "no". The Right!


Yes, that’s right! Even if you are a sex worker, a girl, the girl friend, or the wife. You can still say no. Even if it doesn't appear right to others. You can say no. Even if you had a different thought before. Right. You can say no. Even if you've changed your mind, later.





The hands of the clock do not matter. The lengths of your hemlines do not matter. Who and how many you earlier slept with or without, and how many times and when, don't 
too. The aunties do not matter. Their moral judgments do not matter. Their snide remarks do not matter. May they lead their own lives their own way, if they please. May they leave you to live yours, if you please. Their angry red eyes, their imagined shame has no forbearance on what is right and what you can or would. Their sense of your rights does not matter.


What only matters is, dear, you. 


And you must know your rights in that. Because, it is your body. And hence, simply and automatically, it is your right too. Your right, to say "no". You right, to pour yourself a drink, despite it. 






PS: I sat tight on my seat in the theater, tears streaming down. I believe I was not the only one around in that. But then, here’s what. I was also missing someone. Sorely, almost as if it was painful. I don’t know her as much as I’d wish to, and yet I could not stop thinking about her for almost all of the court scene and beyond.


Suzette Jordan, you. 

I wish you lived to see this!



Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal.
Tu kis liye hataash hai?
Tu chal.
Tere wajood ki,
Samay ko bhi talaash hai!





PPS: If you're a Bengali, you cannot but be reminded of Dahon. Rituparno Ghosh, know that someone has picked it up from where you left.



You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you? 
Why are you beset with gloom? 
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 
Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you? 
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you? 
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs? 

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 

Maya Angelou