Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Thinking Out Loud

Okay, so I recently saw this beautiful movie called Cyberbully. It's an American film that goes around a high school girl. At first I thought this was literally simply another teen movie, about finding true love, learning the meaning of friendship, about wonderful summers in the beach.... Or at least, that's how it seems in the beginning. But 5 minutes into the film and you know this one's different. Cyberbully tells the story of Taylor Hillridge, an American high school student who's bullied online so much that she's driven to the point of suicide. And the film doesn't leave it there. The beauty of the film is that it goes beyond that and shows her picking up her life, one bit at a time & healing. She rises; she does not succumb.Everyone in this movie has acted so beautifully, especially Emily Osment, Kelly Rowan & Kay Panabaker. I also loved Kelly Rowan's character. She plays Taylor Hillridge's mother and is understanding, supportive and when her daughter turns suicidal, not a raging maniac who thinks her daughter is stupid but recognizes that she's a victim. She stands by her, going door to door to collect evidence of her daughter's harassment and to urge the government to pass a bill against cyberbullying.

Not being an overly existentialist movie, it has a somewhat happy ending. And that made me smile. Many of you might find this movie and the issue stupid or juvenile or immature. I know a lot of people think this doesn't even exist...or that if it does, it does so in mild doses and are actually friendly banter. But it's not. Friendly banter does not seek out wreck lives. Bullying and spreading rumors, however harmless they may seem at the time does.

I don't think this is a big secret anymore that I went through bullying myself. It wasn't online...well, not completely. But it wasn't what you see in films or tv either. No big bulky guy/girl picked me by my collar and demanded my lunch money. No "popular" girls made fun of my hair. High school and college were nice times. It's when I went to a place after that that I realized that there are other ways to make someone miserable. The worst kind way of non-physical bullying & harassment is, I think, spreading rumors. You may laugh, many have told me that I was being extra sensitive, but yes, having to hear awful and untrue things about you, even if they are mere whispers, is a horrible, horrible feeling. They become this body-less voices that take control of you. They're everywhere. And only seem to be talking about you. And the worst part is that most people believe these voices over you about stories about you!

You would never believe the crazy things that were said about me over there. Then I'd have people messaging me on facebook, posting comments on this very blog to go on further. Oddly enough, I was not all that hated... no in the traditional sense, I mean. I was harassed, yes. But not by just bullying. It was a combination of bullying & an odd way of eve teasing. First things first, I think the term "eve teasing" needs some very serious revision. There is not teasing about this. It is hurtful and insulting and not at all as light as that term makes it sound. Second, I do not understand the crazy psychology of some guys who think that calling up a girl a million times a day and send her creepy texts, making fake profiles and posting comments under "anonymous" and fake names and sending her horny and desperate emails will win her attention. It's absurd! I had all these "men" telling me that they love me. And then they'd go around and spread rumors about me... About how I had smiled at them (which weirdly so, is a big deal in that institute), about how they had seen me with so-and-so and such-and-such place, about how I'm managing about 5 different boyfriends, about how I'm a rich brat who uses up men for their money (which I didn't get... If I'm a rich brat, why am I still using those men?), about... oh, well, you get the picture. Not that I know a lot about love, but I sure as hell that that isn't love!

That's just a tiny part of what I went through. I cannot tell you everything here. It's two years later and the shadows have still not left me completely. The point is, that harassment-- emotional & psychological-- happens. I am not saying that it is more important than physical harassment; I'm just saying that is every bit as important. And we do not recognize it till either we go through it ourselves or see someone close to us go through it. It took me one entire year to realize that I need to called Anti Obscene Calls Helpline and ask for help and that if I don't stand up for myself, no one will. I just hope no one else has to take that long. Also, that obscene calls are just a part of it. It goes way beyond that. But that we must stand our ground and just live.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Book Club.

In literature, I’ve often read about all these wonderful book clubs that are formed, as it seems, on a whim and how they come around to be such full parts of the characters’ lives, alive, breathing & even opinioned, almost like a character itself. And how these book clubs change the lives of all the people who are (a) in it and (b) somewhat related to the ones in it. I’m not talking about any monumental changes… even the slightest bit of a possibility of believing in new things or seeing things even a shade differently is change big enough. Some of the books where the book clubs have proved to be such an instant hit are Jane Austen Book Club (heck, I even love the movie!), The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society and Reading Lolita in Tehran. In all these books, the characters form a book club almost, as it were, to escape or break the spell of the mundane and misery from their lives. And they succeed… even if it’s for a few hours. The point is that they succeed.

But that’s fiction. In real life, or I should probably say my real life, forming a book club seems like such a distant dream that it almost seems like a crazy whim of mine like wanting to go visit Narnia for a vacation. You see, I wanted that…I wanted to be eagerly discussing books that I like because I like them & not because its been assigned to me because “it should be” and without the pressure of being constantly aware that I am going marked on it.

 I, along with Hugzy, tried to form a book club about a year and half back. Safe to say that it bombed. Big time. Another thing that I notice is that in the books about the book clubs, some of the members (if not all) are hesitant about wanting to joining the book club, often because it doesn’t fit in their busy schedule & most obviously because some do not like to read for fun. But in the end, or in fact the very beginning, they all come to the meetings anyways and make a huge success of the book club. Yeah, so in my attempt of setting up the book club, the opposite happened. Many people seemed all gaga about the idea as if reading anything ever written by Jane Austen was the sole purpose for their existence and in the end, they all backed out.

I think it’s a good time to tell you that Jane Austen Book Club inspired that book club. With minor changes. To begin with, we were planning to do all the works by Jane Austen (think: Lady Susan, Sandition, The Watsons). We were going to meet at a central location because most of us 20-something-year-olds in New Delhi still live with out parents. We were going to watch all these movies on Jane Austen and on stuff inspired from her books. We were going to read stuff like Pride & Prejudice and the Zombies. You get the picture. So yes, anyways, I tried trending whether there was anyone who wanted to or knew anyone who wanted to join a book club on Jane Austen. I got replies. I will not get into details but the bottom line is that we didn’t even have a single meeting.
Not that I blame anyone. We do not live in a book (even though Reading Lolita in Tehran is a true story) the fact is that most people do not want to sacrifice their Saturdays into sitting in a group & talking about books.

That was, as I mentioned, about a year and half ago. Now, I want to again give the book club a shot. Except that this time it will not be on Jane Austen but on anything in fiction. And once again, I’ve people who tell me that of course they’ll make it to the meetings!

Well, fingers crossed for this time.

PS—If you are (or you know anyone who would be) interested in joining this half baked plan of a book club, please contact me.