December 18 2018

Brave Is the New Beautiful

(An exclusive interview with Nadia Murad on the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war)

The room was filled with presence of a woman with confidence, security, authority, beauty, and boldness.

Silence filled the auditorium as everyone watched this mighty woman shared her truths that utterly shocked every woman on the globe. She wasn’t scared to speak boldly. She spoke who knew that her source of information was as true as truth can be. She possessed the secret we all desperately long for – Bravery!

The woman I introduce you to has found the secret to becoming a truly bold and brave  woman – for me this is being beautiful, and I want to share it with you – She is Nadia Murad -a rape survivor in Iraq to Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Nadia Murad is an Iraqi Yazidi who was tortured and raped by Islamic State militants who turned the face of a campaign to free Yazidis. She is the first Iraqi to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She is campaigning to help put an end to human trafficking and calling on the world to take a tougher line on rape as a weapon of war.

In 2014, she was captured and endured 3 months as a sex slave at the hands of the militants after they swept through Northern Iraq where she lived. She suffered forced marriages, beatings and gang-rapes before she was able to escape.

After being captured, she was taken by force to Mosul where she was forced to convert to Islam and sold repeatedly for sex as part of slave trade.

Writing in her memoir, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State in 2017, she described how the sexual violence began the moment she got on the bus as one militant reached out to grope her breast.

“It felt like fire. I had never been touched like that before . . . my tears fell on his hand, but still he didn’t stop”, she wrote.

“At some point, there was rape and nothing else. This becomes your normal day.”

A captured woman becomes a spoil of war if she was caught trying to escape. She would be put in a cell and raped by all the men in the compound. This is what happened to Nadia, who says the militants called this practice “sexual jihad”.

After this one can never think of trying to escape again.

The man she was staying with in Mosul was going to “sell” her on to someone else. Nadia managed to leave the compound and stopped at a house to ask for help. The Muslim family had no connection with ISIS and helped her to escape. She managed to cross into Iraqi Kurdistan and found refuge in camps with other Yazidis. She later reached Europe and now lives in Germany.

She started to campaign for the thousands of women who are still believed to be held captive by ISIS. It was the first time a survivor of atrocities was awarded the distinction.

For me Nadia is beautiful, her story is extraordinary, she is brave, she is inspirational. Her voice needs to be heard by every person on this earth. Deciding to be honest has been one of the hardest decisions for Nadia and also equally important which makes her very special and unique for me.

At Switzerland in an UN forum on minority issues she took the initiative and turned bold enough to tell her story in front of a large audience – she talked about everything – the children who died of dehydration, fleeing ISIS, the families still stranded on the mountain, the thousands of women and children who remained in captivity and how men are massacred. She was one of hundreds of thousands of Yazidi victims from a scattered community living refugees inside and outside of Iraq. There was and there is so much the world needs to hear about what is happening to Yazidis.

She opened up on the sexual harassment she faced. She spoke about Hajji Salman – judge at Mosul and the times he raped her and all the abuse she witnessed.

I feel it never gets easier to tell your story, the story full of heart break and agonies. The nightmare of been raped and beaten repeatedly . It takes lots of guts, each time to speak about the horror, you get to relive it. Nadia’s beauty lies in the guts she has where she talked about the checkpoint where the men raped her or the feeling of Hajji Salman’s whip across the blanket as laid under it or the dark Mosul sky where she searched the neighbourhood for some help. No doubt she gets transported back to those moments and all the terror each time she tells her story.

Her story, told honestly and matter-of-factly, is the best weapon she has against terrorism which she plans to use it until those terrorists are put on trial. There is still so much that needs to be done. World leaders especially Muslim religious leaders need to stand up to protect the oppressed.

It is difficult for a  rape victim to come out from the darkness to tell her story. Nadia proved to be different. She was surely not raised to give speeches and lectures, but life made her an inspiration, a help to other Yazidis who want ISIS to be prosecuted for genocide. She wants to be the last girl in the world with a story like hers.

Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it – Bear Grylls

Valiant isn’t the manner by which thin you can be. Excellence isn’t the way beautiful you can be.

Instead of walking to Nadia and many more like her- “comparing and despairing”, or feeling sympathetic towards such victims, I feel we should instead grab each other’s hands and celebrate being alive, celebrate being bold, celebrate being brave and most important celebrate standing up to face the world after such harsh atrocities.

I know it is hard. But you, Nadia, you are brave and beautiful. Just as you should be. Despite all the mess and chaos in life, every woman is beautiful. You are, I am and so is everyone.

No comparing, no more criticising, only cheering, encouraging and supporting each other.

Stay vulnerable. Be genuine. Give your stripped boldness a chance to sparkle brilliantly. In doing as such, you help other people who see trust and hope in you. This is being brave, this is true beauty.

Love and Motivation to all.

Nobel Peace Prize 2018 laureate Nadia Murad in Oslo Town Hall.

 

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November 23 2018

WOW: What If…

I email. I search. I shop. I Tweet. I stream. I Duo.

Every year I seem to do these things a little bit more.

Stroke by stroke, as I slip deeper into the Internet’s embrace, I find myself wondering:

“What if the Internet went away for a day?”

It can feel like part of you dies with it. Text, e- mail, twitter, Instagram, Facebook, who are we really without that little red notification dot of someone asking us to pay attention to them? Internet get us everywhere; literally, think about how lost you’d be without Google Maps or Wayes, or how lonely you’d feel without instant access to your music and podcasts, not to mention the calm feeling of scrolling through Instagram to appease your fears.

“Send me a pic,” your long distance crush asked you on your last phone date. “Okay,” you blush. Then you panic. How the….?

One of your friends told you in person, that they’re having a party this Saturday night. You can’t see the Facebook event, so you either ask people in person, or via phone, if they’re going. Saturday night rolls around, you can’t call an Uber because again, no internet.

You don’t believe that Brad Pitt is 54. There’s no way. He’s 47 max. Your friend says you’re wrong. You pick up the phone but the google doesnt work because there is no internet.

We all live with one common addiction and that is web addiction. We have internet access on your computers, laptops, tablets and even our mobile phones. We have access to the web at home, office, car, bus, and everywhere we go. So, what happens if there is no internet signal ? We’re sure the first reaction is going to be terrifying. Your mails, your clients, your friends, all of them are there on the internet. With this, your shopping carts, your games, and even your food, your TV, YouTube and everything imaginable is all on the internet. So, if the worse is here to stay – A day without internet which means you can spend time for other things which other wise would usually get ignored.

Whether you like the same old Hard Cover Novels, or prefer reading on the Kindle, if there’s no internet, and there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read for long time this is the day for it. Just grab the book, take a nice open corner by the window and prepare a mug full of coffee and be seated. We’re so sure since there is no internet there is nothing to disturb you at all. You won’t look at your phone often to check for messages, you won’t open your inbox for mails, or even get distracted by something more interesting on the internet.

If you like food great and even when you don’t like food, it’s great to try a new Coffee Shop to spend time. For once you won’t be looking for a coffee shop to serve the web, but for actually enjoying a cup of coffee with some nice cake and cookies. Moreover, the winters are here, and there isn’t a better time to go exploring your own town and sipping some great freshly brewed coffee. Take your friend along or just go alone, the point is to stay away from internet and spend some meaningful time.

If there’s no internet around, you know you have all the time in the world to go loitering around the town, or even moving some distance away from the town. Internet the biggest distraction that doesn’t let you relax for even a minute is not going to be there to disturb you. So, put on your walking shoes, take your dog along, or call your friends and go walking. Who knows nature might amaze you like never before.

Life today would be difficult without internet, to say the least. But at the same time, unplugging on occasion isn’t the worst thing in the world. When was the last time you saw a sunset and didn’t Instagram it? Or told a joke and didn’t find the need to tweet it? In the words of Ferris Bueller and probably your yearbook quote, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

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November 16 2018

WOW: She Turned The Key In The Lock And Opened The Door

Her son woke her around 11.55pm on that night .

Her husband and she had picked him up from his friend birthday party, brought him home and put him to bed.

She went into her bedroom to read while her husband fell asleep watching Sacred Games on Netflix.

‘Mommy’ she heard her son calling her. She turned the key in the lock and opened the door wondering why he had locked his room – he never does it.

Tugging his night dress sleeves, he asked her ‘how old I’m going to be next week”?

“I don’t know, my dear little handsome boy” she said as she put on her glasses.

“How old, please tell me mommy?” He smiled and held up three fingers high.

It is 9.45am, she and her husband have been up with their son for 10hours.

The boy still refuses to tell them where are his other 2 fingers.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

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October 27 2018

WOW: Doodle & Write About It – All about LoVe

This doodle made me think about LOVE. You probably have too thought about love. We’re all always thinking about love even when we don’t call it by its name. We think about the love that we’ve had and won and that we’ve lost.

We think about the love that could have been and would have been, and never meant to be. But lately I’ve been thinking about how to love better and more in a good way. Some say that joy and happiness are the fruits of love. Others determine that love cannot exist without pain.

Love is about giving and receiving, tears and laughter, living and dying; love is about sacrifice.

“I don’t want to be a sweetheart, I want to be the fucking love of your life,” – Americanah.

“We accept the love we think we deserve,”The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

“You are what you love, not what loves you,” – Adaptation

I love these quotes, I do very much. I think of them and how they are mostly about how we wish to receive love, or not receive love. Or they’re about that space between the love we want and the love we have. But they always seem to be about the subject –the other and love. Not me, not you – not what we love or what we give in love, but the other. I hope it is making some sense.

My love is a confession of my character, let the people who I love tell the world who I am. And even if and when those people cannot return that love in the same way, let it speak of the beauty and the resilience of my soul. And last but most certainly not least, let my love be the most spectacular thing about my life.

And I’m not just talking about loving someone, anyone. I’m talking about becoming the kind of person and being the kind of love that says, “Yes.” The kind of love in which you confess that you are hopeful and beautiful and sacrificial and exceptional and always a little bit or a lot, afraid. But still always ready to let your love be spectacular – risks considered, foolishness felt, rarity endured. If we do this, how can we not love better?

Love is the sun that shines brightly throughout my day.

Love is the gravity that holds me down in every way.

Love is the moon that shimmers through my night.

Love is the star that glimmers oh so bright.

The ‘heartfelt’ love defines me! 

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.’

 

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September 28 2018

“If It Is Sweet” by Mridula Koshy

My fondness for short stories made me go lengths to find this book. And I definitely want to admit – it was totally worth it!

A fine amalgamation of perspective, imagination and reality. Conventional settings with contemporary outlook, without traditional facets taking over the characterizations, reveal the writer’s flair of capturing your mind and lingering on for almost ever!

The Good Mother –breaks away the conservative facade and shows a mother agonizing over her failed motherhood. She ends up picking a young lover after her son’s death and commits a mistake she can never forgive herself for.

POP –walks similar lines of failed motherhood but with a newer perspective.

Jeans –is an intimate sort of a read. Who would have ever thought of writing about our pretty behinds in this way! And they do really juggle in four different sections! An erratically humorous read with an interesting view point.

The Large Girl –is a bold narrative. A tender love story beyond traditional norms and lines.

Companion – felt surreal and the emotions shared by the two companions come to reveal a surprise ending.

Stories like “Today is the Day, Romancing the Koodawalla, Not Known, Stray Blades of Grass and Same Day,” reveal the feelings of characters belonging to the lower strata of society. The stories show the humane aspect of the author and her keen observation skill. Some of the characters are the ones we would have come across in life but reading Mridula’s stories makes us see aspects we would have never considered earlier. She doesn’t sound preachy or gung ho about the fates or challenges faced by her characters –but simply puts forth their feelings and aspirations. Beautifully written.

“When the Child was a Child, 3-2-1, First Time, and Passage” –deal with loss and mourning and lives of expats. Come to see, almost all stories have an underlying theme of sorrow and loss. Maybe that’s what binds the entire collection.

Overall, a well-paced, strikingly original and riveting collection that navigates locales between Los Angeles and Delhi. And all the seventeen stories in If It Is Sweet are unique and leave behind an everlasting impression.

Most of the stories make you go back to them. For a second read. And each time you read them, there’s a different aspect that comes to light. The stories create a stir…an unrest in your mind. They make you see the realities as the author visions.

Mridula’s writing is lucid and smooth. It haunts you in a desirable way. You are bound to find it demanding (or bumpy sometimes), but it is a style you will end up loving.

A myriad of emotions and a palette of feelings, the book deserves to be in your bookshelf forever!

Not to forget the unassuming title that leaves a very different taste in your mind. Astounding.

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September 27 2018

The Political Imagination by Nayantara Sahgal

Artistic freedom, the politics of narration, Nabokov, the Indian freedom struggle, the Emergency, and militant Hinduism, all feature in this wide-ranging collection of Nayantara Sahgal’s non-fiction writing. Many of the pieces included in Part One of this seven-part volume are familiar to those of us who have read Sahgal’s non-fiction through the years and admired her powerful but low-keyed forthrightness. Subtitled “The Personal and Political in Literature”, it consists of talks and keynote addresses delivered in India and abroad, essays, and newspaper articles. The other six Parts of the present volume contain letters to and from Sahgal, along with her writing on a variety of themes, and a piece by Hari Kunzru titled ‘My Hero Nayantara Sahgal’. In ‘Nabokov Remembered’, Sahgal pays tribute to a former teacher, while ‘Intellectual Giant of the Century’ is a homage to Bertrand Russell, “the great result, perhaps the greatest in his own long lifetime, of what a civilization in which free speculation is possible can produce.”

Unlike her fiction where she was able to create worlds that brought in the politics of the time and used it to bolster the private lives of her characters, Sahgal’s non-fiction frequently alludes to her background. These allusions were less intrusive when read in isolation but could become problematic here — a reservation that has less to do with Sahgal per se than with the intrinsic limitations of a volume of this kind.

It has to be remembered that many of us Sahgal admirers were either midnight’s children or born shortly thereafter, and therefore familiar with (even in awe of) the family she makes repeated references to, confidently staking her claim to its multiple legacies. A newer generation of readers may be less willing to condone these references or the implicit, even if unintended, assumption that her family lineage makes her uniquely privy to the larger concerns of the freedom struggle.

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