Together We Bond

You are not alone We are there and therefore Together we Bond

Justice for Jessica Lall December 22, 2006

Filed under: Legal Issues — togetherwebond @ 5:06 am

This was one case that was so crystal clear when it hit the news years back and for once I felt that ya….a politician’s son will be behind bars. Rich politician’s son involved in a murder, in a big city, in a crowded elite social club where everyone knew each other, and numerous eyewitnesses were there to testify. A politician’s son with powerful backing, loads of money and what’s the judgment 7 years later?? He and his hands in glove pals were acquitted earlier this February because of lack of evidence. But weren’t there numerous eyewitnesses?? There were, but they all turned hostile and that’s the most devastating part of the proceedings.

Did money buy their silence thus making them hostile, or was it the fear of the rich and powerful that were out on bail?
While the rich and famous are out on bail immediately and then work on to eliminate any evidence against them so that they get off scot-free with no harm done

A women gets killed by a maniac man only because she refuses to serve him a drink???

But perhaps the intriguing aspect of this was the role of the society and media that came together as one and raised strong objection, objection to the injustice and disagreed with the judgment. The general public uproar, anger and mass outrage, candlelit vigils were enough that the Delhi High Court sought an explanation from the Delhi Police.

And now here is some bit of good news:

“NEW DELHI: Two days after he was convicted for murdering model Jessica Lall, Manu Sharma, son of a senior Congress leader, was on Wednesday given life sentence by the Delhi High Court.

Sharma, who surrendered after his conviction on Monday, was present in the jam-packed courtroom when a Bench comprising Justice R S Sodhi and Justice P K Bhasin pronounced life imprisonment for him.

Her sister Sabrina’s reaction to this verdict who has struggled for seven long years:

“My father died waiting to hear this verdict,” said Jessica’s sister Sabrina Lall. “His soul will now be able to rest in peace.” Sabrina also thanked the media: “I thank you guys who started the campaign for justice for Jessica.”

‘Justice for Jessica’, as our readers will recall, was a TOI campaign. She also sought life sentence for Manu, not death. The outrage over Jessica also brought the spotlight on two other sensational murders – that of Priyadarshini Mattoo and Nitish Katara.

This woman’s story at least made news because she was a famous socialite and model Jessica Lal. What about those ordinary people who are victims of that domestic violence and abuse at its worst?

But this piece of good news has restored some faith in the Indian Judicial system. That is no one with power, fame, money or politicians’ son can get away scot free or escape the law.

The Indian people are watching and will not take any nonsense now.

By PurpleA

 

A Cold Attic December 20, 2006

Filed under: Reflections — togetherwebond @ 10:27 pm

V and I had been friends for ten years before the end of my marriage and the start of hers undid it. I miss talking to her, sharing my life’s highs and lows with someone who got me. She lives within a couple of hours from my town, is doing well professionally as I had always expected her too. The husband lives half way across the country. She stalled on starting a family because she wanted to go to b-school first.
She used to carry a Dennis clipping in her wallet for years and say “ I’d love to be mom to a kid like that”. She called it her talisman and good luck charm. No one who knew her would believe that she would not want be a mother even in her mid thirties. There was always another goal, another milestone, another level of independence, self-actualization to achieve before that.
When I saw her last, it seemed like she was wetting her feet in the marriage, trying to assess if it was indeed for the long haul. I respect V for her many talents, her fine intelligence and her magnificent drive to accomplish goals in her life. V was always unstoppable.
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Arriving at V’s

I arrive in Philadelphia an hour ahead of time, tried to call V but she was not on her phone. Leave a message and began to wonder if they’d show up at all. My faith in people wavers irrationally these days. I can trust V with my tax documents and know that she will get the job done but I am not so sure if she’d pick me up and take me home. I decide to wait an hour. There is no place to sit – it is too crowded and my bags are rather big. I stand there and wait watching people come and go.
I wonder what her husband will be like whether he would appreciate me staying over. I have not told V that my plans are extremely fluid and I have no idea exactly how long it take for me to find sponsorship to work. She does know though that my business visa will expire in three weeks and that comprises the entirety of my window of opportunity. We all know that the job market is at its all time low and it would take a miracle to get an employer to sponsor me in a time when layoffs are rife and outsourcing is the mantra for business to stay afloat.
They arrive a little late – but I’m relieved that they even came. He (S) is a complete disappointment – visually unappealing and to top that he has a bleak voice. He reminds me of the man that I was forced to leave in more ways than one and that is a very disturbing thought. His car is very untidy and unkempt – another similarity with R(my ex). I am seeing V after a couple of years – she looks wonderful. Marriage has given her skin a lovely sheen, her burgundy Nine West coat that looks perfect on her. Her fashion sense has improved dramatically. The new hair-style becomes her. I am almost about to reverse my first impression of S – surely he must have helped in this amazing transformation.
We drive up to their home – V keeps up a lively conversation and seems happy and content – or should I read that as relieved. She is now a permanent resident and she did it on her own without any help from S – that must bring satisfaction. The house is in the poorer part of town. They have an ancient futon in a shabby slip cover and an old chair in the living room – the signs are getting more and more ominous. There is squalor and impoverishment writ all across. But they stop by en-route to buy a couple of dozen bagels and an assortment of spreads from Panera Bread in what feels like a complete misfit with their lifestyle overall. I can’t tell immediately where that’s coming from but I would discover very soon.

Old Friendship New Discoveries

V has plans for me already. I’m not sure why she’s done this – its not like her. Back in the day we could have relaxed with some chai and caught up on the past two years. We go out to watch “Chicago” at a movie-plex nearby with two of S’s female friends who are now V’s friends. It’s all rather cozy and V is being made very welcome into S’s circle of friends and the city of Philadelphia. I get the sense that they’re observing her and thinking to themselves – how little she knows – I wonder how much she knows about him or his past or even his present.
He looks like someone with a lot of history, closed doors and dark little secrets veiled in that bleak voice. I feel sorry for her already and there is no earthly reason for me to feel that way – I tell myself that my judgment is colored and does not count at all. V is distracted throughout the show and keeps mumbling about the water that’s leaking in her basement. She checks her cell phone frequently to see if S or the plumber has called. She also says “Chicago” is highly over-rated and she sees nothing great about it. S’s friends love it and I find it quite fun despite the many preoccupations I have.
Something or more than something is bothering her and I can feel it, I find it difficult to have any conversation with her at all. I think we’ve both outgrown each other. I know in my heart this friendship is really all over – we’re just going on from the sheer force of habit but it won’t last a lot longer. And honestly I am too tired to even care. I don’t feel close enough to her anymore to ask her what’s wrong though I can tell a whole lot is.

The first few days go pretty well, I have a place to stay and continue my job hunt and I get to eat home style vegetarian food. It’s a major relief after Philly cheese steak and chicken sandwich for five weeks that I had to survive on at the client’s cafeteria. I could never shop enough provisions to cook at the motel because I had no idea of long I would be staying. Mike, my manager in the US knew my situation and was trying to stall my return to India so I would have a fighting chance to find sponsorship to work. N, my boss back in India was pressuring him to wrap up the assignment quickly so I could take charge of my newly expanded team. Every extra day that I got counted and timing was running out rapidly.
I ate almost a pound of turkey breast the last evening before getting on the bus because I did not have the heart to just throw out the food and had nothing to carry it out in. But there was more than that as well – I was depressed to the point that I did not feel like eating four meals a day and made do with just a couple. But it was such a gross feeling eating so much meat at one go that the veggie food was the welcome andidote.

Overstaying Without Plans

I find fairly quickly that they expected me to be gone in a week – bags and all. These were bags I had left behind at V’s when I had gone back to India with J a few months after she was born. Back then, I had no definite return plans – I counted my blessings to be able to escape a marriage that was killing me. I tell V and S that I am not sure how the deal with the one employer who had agreed to sponsor will pan out. Having put my money and time into it – I want to stake it out a few more days. I try hard not to be in their way, locking myself upstairs as long as S is around the house. I make myself useful in the kitchen, generally try to blend with the background and be as unobtrusive and helpful as possible.
However, not having been trained in the art of being a butler Islip up sometimes and get too busy in my own world trying to make sense of my life’s mess. One memorable incident is V telling me not to mind the sounds coming out of their bedroom at night. She proceeds to describe the creaking sounds their bed made. I am not sure why it is necessary to impress upon me that they were married and had sex – is that not a given ? It leaves me quite dumbfounded.
This is shortly after her tirade about how I had misrepresented my real intent of the stay – apparently they had thought I was vacationing with them before returning to India. She berates me about how I should have had firm plans about leaving before I came. I beg for three weeks which is the most my visa would allow.
I am woman of slender means. I have saved up on the small daily allowance my company provided for my business trip and have some money in a bank from two years ago. My survival depends on being able to manage my limited resources well until I find work. I remember how she did not look convinced when I said “You do realize that I have a one year back home and a job so becoming an illegal in this country is not an option I am considering.”

Having managed expectations of difficult clients, bosses , husband and in-laws I had not counted on this one being exceptionally tough –but by God on the tenth day the dam burst and V gives me a real dressing down. It is couched as a well meaning and friendly advice but the simple summary was “You’ve overstayed our hospitality and you better find out when you’re getting out of here”.
She is clearly acting under duress and I have no heart to even be upset at her. Later that evening we have a more detailed discussion with S and they think I should consider moving to a woman’s shelter for the rest of my stay. They will be glad to give me a ride to the place. “I don’t think I would qualify for a woman’s shelter. They are for women facing a domestic situation threatening their lives.”

The Fringe Existence

I am unable to comprehend how that could have seemed an option to them. I want to tell V that “those women” are not lepers, you too could be one of “them” very easily – that “they” were not fringe people and neither was I. All we needed was to be given a chance to regroup and pick up the broken pieces of our lives. “They” just like you had once been married, possibly even happily so. I hold my peace instead. I let V bask in the ivory tower of marriage.
I have been dealing with her mood swings on a daily basis even before this happened. There were days when she’d get her own breakfast and not even bother to ask me to help myself.
I usually went upstairs with a glass of water which I assumed was gratis. She’d do the same at lunch time and her mood was so foul that I did not dare to ask her what was wrong. I feel like a beggar having to slouch to the fridge and pick up something to appease the raging hunger – obviously she does not think it was worthwhile cooking for one such as myself and I eat whatever was left over in any order – I have to merely sustain myself to be able to continue the fight that I have started. I wonder if my cause is indeed worth all this.
The attic where I sleep at night does not have any heating and it is the middle of winter. Some nights I put all my coats, gloves and socks in many layers and still shiver. I mention the room heating or the lack of it once and V says it is working just fine – they will toast alive in their bedroom if it is turned up any further. I pray to God to spare me coming down with pneumonia or worse. The last thing I want is to fall ill and be at their mercy.
Every time my energy flags or I feel like I could go no longer, I call my mother – just to hear her voice gives me strength and to hear J say “Mammam” makes the impossible seem suddenly within reach. Between the two of them, even from ten thousand miles away – they keep me going. Every day is a lifetime and every inch is a light year.

And yet there were times when I felt that I could not live in that live wire tension anymore and would ask if I had done had upset her – I just wanted to feel like a human being with some self respect and dignity – I was amazed at how low I had stooped and I wondered at my feelings for the man who had caused this to happen.

Cold Fury

Is it not natural for me to feel murderous with rage ? Why did I not feel anger any more ? What had suddenly been sapped of my system ? Anger in it’s latent form is like coiled energy and I have none of it left – it was all dissipated a long time ago. I am like a snake without venom and I feel the need to build some up. All at once I realize that I can never do it again –it is gone for ever. I don’t have the any strength left to even get angry. Most of those conversations ended with me crying until I could cry no more – I am desperate, I am lonely and I need someone to tell me that it will work out for me – that it will all come together in the end. V asks me to stop and get a grip on myself.

In sharp contrast to this mode of operation was another in which she and S were genuinely trying to help me in any way possible particularly getting me job leads, taking me out of myself – talking to me , trying to think of various options and how I could build my future. Those were warm, friendly discussions and took place in the kitchen or their living room and I felt like I was an integral part of their family.
They had just started living together after a year of being married and never once did anything that made me feel like I was in the middle of someone’s honeymoon. At those times I felt blessed to have such wonderful friends. I did not feel like a guest at all and S would go all the way to make my dosa just right so I’d take a second helping. They introduced me to their friends and family and I felt nice and included.
This was so like the pattern of abuse in my marriage. One day R would be the most thoughtful, generous and loving husband a woman could want – it was living a Hallmark card moment in real life. Within hours the same man could be a viscous monster who could drain everything positive from our relationship turning our verdant garden into a stony wasteland.
The day I left, V said to me “I hope you will let me know when things ease up in your life – when you might someone again. I don’t want to be the person you think of only when times are bad.” I said “Ofcourse I will, V. We go back a very long way to ever forget each other”.
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Thinking of V

Over the years, I have thought of V specially about the state of her marriage that concerned me even back then. When things have been rough, I have thought about my nights in her cold attic and consoled myself that I have been through much worse and survived it. As much as she did not want to, V will remain associated with my life’s lowest nadir and the three weeks in her home will remind me of the strength and resilience I never knew I had until the odds had so fully stacked up against me.

By Heartcrossing – http://heartcrossings.blogspot.com/

 

Missing The Look December 7, 2006

Filed under: Reflections — togetherwebond @ 7:51 am

My current consulting gig involves a shared workspace because the client is big on the benefits of collocation. It has been a fun experience for the most part because the team has at least one stand-up comedian and several wannabes. The decision makers are within earshot and all it takes is a holler to get their attention and answers. As with all good things, there are some downsides as well. The guy who sits closest to me has been curious about my marital status for the past several months that we’ve worked together .

He is the sophisticated desi who went to IIT but is not obsessed over his alma mater like a lot his ilk are, has informed opinions about things technical and otherwise but is not abrasive or arrogant. V is a competent, courteous professional who has lived and worked around the world and has seemingly benefited from his exposure to different cultures.

A couple of days ago he took me by complete surprise by asking “Does your husband follow cricket ?”. This was the first time that he asked me any kind of personal question – he has never so much as enquired about J. I did a double take before managing to say “I don’t know, I am divorced”. Having known V as long as I have, I expected him to say “I’m sorry” or some such and move on to the next thing. Instead he exclaimed “Divorced ! I would have never thought. You don’t look like it. How do you manage by yourself and raise a child alone ?”

I asked “Why is being divorced a big deal in this day and age ? Lot of people are and they get along just fine – specially in this country. Raising a child alone can be very satisfying and fulfilling. I don’t think of J as a chore or burden at all.” V had apparently still not recovered from what he had heard and repeated “I can’t imagine someone being divorced and raising a child alone”. I had to repeat myself slowly this time so he got it “Like I said, its getting to be very common and raising a child alone is not as difficult as you think it is”. It took him a while to shift gears and find something else to say.

The tension between us is palpable now that the state of my matrimony (or the lack of it) has been fully disclosed leaving nothing to conjecture. The one thing I look away from that conversation was “You don’t look like it”. I am not sure what he had expected to see in a divorced woman that he had apparently not found in me – obviously that had contributed to his shock and incredulity at the news. When I look in the mirror, I sometimes notice tiredness from constantly being overworked and under-rested but other than that I don’t see myself any different from when I was single years ago.

Marriage had drained my vital energy, transformed me into a person that I was not – I no longer looked or felt like myself. My confidence in my abilities was at its all time low and declining. In my pictures from back then, I have this sad expression of someone who has been trapped and yearns for freedom. I recognize that look in many married women around me. It is the look that exuberant new brides unstoppable, unshakable and unwavering in their hopes from marriage sometimes acquire in five or six years.

I think V would have felt vindicated if I looked miserable, frustrated and despondent in a way even trapped wives do not. Maybe he does not get how not having a husband could make so little difference to me – atleast going by external appearances. It must have bothered him greatly that I was getting along just fine without one. I have to wonder if that made him think about his worth to his wife who fortunately stays at home to raise their six year old.

By Heartcrossings – http://heartcrossings.blogspot.com/

 

A Long Email December 1, 2006

Filed under: Reflections — togetherwebond @ 8:06 am

Vibha and Sheila went to school together but had been only in episodic touch the last ten years. Not in the least because Vibha never had an e-mail address. So when a few weeks ago, Sheila saw a mail from her in her inbox, she was beyond elated. They had been very good friends once. She hoped time and distance had not impaired their connection too much, that it would be easy to pick up from where they had left off. In response to her very brief note that said:

“Hope you still remember me. More when you reply – Vibs”

Shiela wrote :

“Heaven be praised ! Vibs has an e-mail id like the rest of us ordinary mortals ! Where have you been, girl ? And what have you been up to ? Tell me all – of course I remember you – what did you imagine ? ”

Sometimes utter innocuity – like her message to Vibha – has a way to hitting a raw nerve but even knowing that would not have prepared Shiela for her response. Which was:

“I am writing this to you from the public library which is an hour away from my house if you walk. My husband Gaurav, is away on a business trip for a week, so I have little to do. Oh ! you wouldn’t know about the marriage would you ? It happened two years ago and I have been in the US since then. We have so much to catch up on. I completed my MBA a couple of years after we lost touch and was working in Mumbai. Gaurav has been the States for fifteen years.

Back home, I used to hear about the H4 wives and how they settled down to domesticity and making curds in the oven by the heat of the pilot light. Some of my own friends had ended up that way. After a while their e-mails became a pain to read. You know you expect better from a one time fund manager than have her recount in school-essayish detail their trip from Boston to New York. I used to tell myself I would never ever become that woman.

I met Gaurav online, we dated long distance via phone and e-mail. This went on for a year until he was able to take the time off to come see me. We spent a wonderful month together, met the parents got engaged and the rest. It was a foregone conclusion by the time we actually met that we would be married. The marriage proper happened six months later and I came here on the fiancé visa.

I had wanted to take a sabbatical from work for the longest time and a new marriage seemed to be the perfect opportunity. We were on an extended honeymoon with me tagging along with him on most of his business trips. About six months later it dawned on me that I still did not have a driver’s license, never did anything for or by myself and that my e-mails to family and friends were becoming dangerously school-essayish.

Every rest area stop, airport and mall was recounted in excruciating detail. I had not listened to my favorite Led Zeppelin album since arriving in America. And yes, I was acquiring the reputation of being able to turn ricotta cheese into the meanest ras malai in town. In essence I was becoming the dread H4 hausfrau that I so did not want to be.

Gaurav has been wanting to start family for a while now. I had no excuse or reason to put it off. Wanting to go back to work at this late date seemed silly almost. My experience is dated, rusty and dusty – maybe completely useless. He thinks I should go back to school before trying to find work – I don’t know that I want to do that.

So, I am four months pregnant now and am starting to show. I am excited about motherhood but feel clueless about where my life is headed. I still don’t drive – I mean I do have a drivers license but somehow prefer him to drive. Talking of which, it has started to rain outside and I don’t have my umbrella. If you were to ask me why I walked so far in such weather, I would have no answer. I can’t bring myself to admit I am too scared to drive. I hope there is another reason that I just cannot articulate.

Recently, I stumbled upon an online forum for emotionally abused women and have been going back there frequently. I hate myself just for that. I can’t claim Gaurav has ever abused me – not in any way that these women say their husbands have at least. Something has killed my joie de vivre, my desire to live a full and meaningful life.

I seem to have been sucked into this huge whirlpool of inertia where I am willing to let the days slip by without accomplishing anything. Its like if someone were to shake me up real hard and force me to get a grip on my life, I still could. I wish Gaurav would do that for me. What scares me is that I could get past even that point in a few more years. The few times I’ve tried to talk about it he is all confused – he’ll say “Tell me what I can do to help, Vibs and I’ll do it”. If I had known wouldn’t I have helped myself already ?

I sense that Gaurav is getting bored and restless. I used to be a size two gym rat until I got pregnant – it didn’t feel important any longer. I wasn’t trying to stay in shape for me – I was driven by insecurity maybe. I realize that I am no longer the woman he was once attracted to, I try to keep up with business, technology and politics. The internet is my best friend second only to the local Barnes and Noble. I think I can still hold my own in a conversation but its not the same thing as being able to buy him an expensive gift on his birthday with my own money. Each time I swipe his credit card, it feels like a little more of my self- esteem is draining away. I don’t know if he even notices.

He travels a lot more these days. Sex is not what it used to be but then I am pregnant as well so that could have something to do with it. I am vaguely suspicious and uneasy about what he does when he is out of town for days. I panic everytime I get his voicemail instead of him – expecting the very worst until he calls back. And when he does, I try to read hidden meanings in his words, undercurrents and undertones – you know how they say the wife is always the last to know.

I have tried to sneak into his e-mails and cell phone bills – there really are no red flags. It’s probably all in my mind, from my own feelings of inadequacy. I am terrified that I will go into depression – you know have the post-partum blues stay on for good. I feel nervous and anxious a lot wondering what may happen next – almost sure that something will happen to challenge the status quo of the past two years. I have disturbing dreams sometimes.

We have this beautiful home that we both spent a lot of effort in decorating. The vegetable garden is thriving like I am not. Sometimes, I wonder if all this will come crumbling down like a house of cards. What if one evening, Gaurav tells me that he has benn seeing someone else for a while and wants a divorce. Imagine that happening after I have our child.

Just because I used to have a career does not mean that I should continue having one forever. Why can’t I accept gracefully that I was cut out to be a house wife (home maker to be politically correct) and that it is my natural state. Why can’t I be content to just be Guarav’s wife and not have to be his courtesan – the woman who can compel his interest in her forever. Why can’t I just be ? I think marriage takes more work than I had thought it would and I am overwhelmed.

Anyways, I did not mean to drown you in my litany of woes after all these years. I felt like you would understand the internal conflicts that I am trying to resolve with such little success. Please don’t feel like you have to rescue me – I will tell you when I need that. How have you been, what are you doing outside of work ? I look forward to your mail.

By Heartcrossings – http://heartcrossings.blogspot.com/