Life on their own terms
Life on their own terms
The women who came for the Eleventh Punjabi Conference helped to knock down stereotypes about women in Pakistan. A report by
Interaction with the 150-member delegation from the neighbouring Punjab in the Eleventh World Punjabi Conference brought forth the realisation that if people are persistent enough, their collective will can prevail over their respective governments to try and end the chasm separating them. Besides usual platitudes mouthed at such conferences, the guests bared their hearts and emerged vulnerable. The gathering at the conference was a true representation of the assortment that makes up our societies. Men and women, old and young, rural and urban, artists and rationalists, we had everyone here. Talking to a few women was an eyeopener.
While remaining fiercely possessive about their identity, they displayed as much love for Punjabiyat as any true-blue Punjabi this side of the border would. They are as curious about us as we were about their way of life. In the end, it is apparent that we share more or less the same burdens and enjoy the same bounties.
Any queries regarding the status of the fair sex in their nation seemed to ruffle their feathers quite a bit. They asserted, repeatedly, that women in their country are no better or worse off than their counterparts here. Their claims may seem contrary to the stereotypical image of women living in an Islamic country. Winds of change are blowing across Pakistan too and empowerment has assumed concrete dimensions. A progressive inclination on the part of the women has a lot to do with this transformation. Interacting with writer and columnist Afzal Tauseef is interesting. Besides many novels to her credit, Tauseef writes columns for both the Urdu Khabren and the Punjabi publication Khabran. Blunt and forthright , she is a living symbol of emancipation for other women of her country. Though the focus of her writing remains the havoc created by the Partition of Punjab, she dwells equally on other issues that affect the women of her country. She sounds a note of caution amidst the overwhelming bonhomie and says, "We have to work upon this. Do not be afraid to show your mood. Let us force Islamabad to listen and you must force Delhi to lend an ear and Insha Allah no Punjabi may be barred from visiting the land of his forefathers." Talking about the anguish she suffered during her first journey from Pakistan to Delhi via Amritsar, she narrates how for eight long hours of the night, she remained glued to the window in pitch dark merely to catch a glimpse of the Indian Punjab, the land she was separated from.
Neelma Naheed Durrani, Senior Superintendent of Police(SSP), Special Branch, Lahore, is another visitor who symbolises the winds of change. Brushing aside our surprise at her occupying this essentially male domain, she insists that she is here in her capacity as a poet. The emotional upheaval she is undergoing is apparent to all.
This is the land of her ancestors and while she talks to us she keeps rubbing her arms to subside the goosepimples that arise. She belongs to Shareefpura Mohalla in Amritsar. The words are barely out of her mouth when another delegate, Bushra Rehman, pounces upon her and reminds her that since Durrani was born in Pakistan she should `belong` to Pakistan alone. A trifle jarring indeed. Perhaps, it is the politician in her which does not allow her to overlook this geographically `incorrect` statement but recovers quickly to turn the whole thing into a joke.
Bushra Rehman is a Member National Assembly from Lahore. A novelist, columnist and dramatist, Rehman has been dabbling in politics since the last 20 years. She vociferously states that women enjoy a prestigious place in Pakistani society and seems bitter about the depiction of Pakistani women in the Indian Press. When she starts the conversation with, "My dear Indian Press," one cannot help wincing at the cynicism. She repeatedly stresses that women get equal, if not better, facilities than the men in Pakistan. However, all rancour vanishes the moment she starts reciting Punjabi couplets. The familiarity of the thought process as portrayed in her poetry seems to bind everyone together again.
The phone bell shrills out late at night, startling Megha out of a deep slumber. Her heart thumping, she reaches out for the phone and mumbles "Hello...." A sultry male voice flows over the line: "Hi! How are you?"
"I’m fine. Who is this?"
"Someone who is crazy about you," the voice purrs. Megha is jolted out of her sleep now.
"Please, don’t put the phone down`85let me just tell you a little bit about myself."
"Who are you and where did you get my phone number from?"
"I saw you in the Sector 8 market and followed you home. Then I just called up the Inquiry and got your phone number. You are so wonderful. I had to talk to you. Please, can we be friends?"
"Listen, I’m just not interested. Don’t call again." Megha slams the phone and puts it off the hook. The next night, the phone rings again.
"Can I call you Doll? How was your day?"
"Shrieks an exasperated Megha. "Will you stop calling? Who the hell are you anyway?"
"I’m Harry Sidhu, tell me about yourself Doll. I want to know everything about you."
Says Megha, "I couldn’t put the phone off the hook because I have an old mother-in-law and a mother for whom I must be available at all times. This man followed me around telling me what I was wearing that day and he liked me in this outfit... it was scary. He knew where I lived, where I went and when I returned home. He professed undying (read obsessive) love for me. That I have two children did not seem to deter him"
In another incident, a stalker victimised Renu, who worked in a cosmetic outlet, on her mobile phone. "Actually, it was not the stalker himself but his stooge whose phone was being used," says Renu. "This man got my number from another girl who worked in the same place. He started calling at any time and saying the weirdest of things. His name and address were traced. My uncle went and met his wife and when the calls didn’t stop even then, lodged a complaint in the police. We faced a lot of pressure to take the complaint back. Finally, a compromise was reached but I had to change my job and mobile number."
Among students too, stalking is common. Most likely, students of the same institution who will do the victimising. There is no awareness about the dangers such situations might present. The first thing for a victim is to realise that she is the victim of a crime. Unfortunately, the victim may encourage the stalker either by getting into conversation with him "just for kicks" or "agreeing to talk to him just one more time"
"Sometimes the victim starts empathising with the stalker. His obsession gives her an ego trip by making her feel desirable." says Sangeeta Mathur, a Delhi-based psychologist. The stalker, in fact, is not a reasonable human being. Just the fact that stalking—an unreasonable activity by itself—is taking place, illustrates this fact. The only way to handle a stalker is to say ‘no’ once and for all. Conversation only fuels the stalker’s fire.
"It’s really impossible to talk sense to a stalker and you can’t get into the poor-chap-he-loves-me syndrome," says Mathur. "You may mean to say one thing but he hears only what he wants to. If you say ‘I am so much older than you’, he’ll hear, ‘she’s concerned about our age difference. But if older men can have relationships with younger women, why can’t the opposite happen?’ If you say, ‘It can’t work out’, he’ll hear, ‘Together we can make it work’. If you say, ‘Look, I’m just not interested’, he’ll hear, ‘she’ll want me again in a few hours.’ The only way out is a firm negative without any compromises or options.
A stalker cannot tolerate being ignored. If the victim’s love is not forthcoming, he’ll settle for her hatred or fear. Stalkers who have been in intimate relationships (husbands, lovers) with their victims have their self-esteem wrapped up in the myth that their former partner still cares for them. Giving up his victim thus translates into surrendering his self-worth. They’ll choose any means to gain their victim’s attention. Hollywood star Halle Berry’s former lover sent her snakes in the mail.
Delusional stalkers are those who believe themselves to be in a relationship with a celebrity or a person, probably belonging to a higher social strata. They even turn violent. Instances of criminal violence among stalkers would include the stalker-murderers, Robert Bardo who killed Rebecca Schaefer and Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon.
Erotomaniac stalkers labour under the delusion that the victim loves him. They may not have met the victim but still believe that they are having a relationship with him/her. The stalkers of David Letterman and Madonna are examples.
Then there are those stalkers whose motive is revenge. These maybe disgruntled employees or former intimate partners. The former may stalk their bosses or colleagues for some real or imagined insult, while the latter do so if ex-partners get married for the second time.
(Some names have been changed on request).
From Amritsar to Lucknow to Mumbai, 21-year-old Aditi Sharma is all set to realise her childhood dream of becoming a star.
Shahira Naim reports
Twentyone-year-old Aditi Sharma suddenly finds herself under the arc-lights. The just- out- of- college young woman entered the Zee TVs talent search ‘India’s Best Cinestar ki Khoj’ from Lucknow in June just for fun. Her perseverance saw her through from one elimination round to another. Winning the final round by a hair’s breadth recently in Mumbai was no cakewalk. She has become an instant celebrity. The reward was an on-the-spot mahurat clap by Hrithik Roshan to star in a Rs 20-crore film Race to be directed by Sudhir Mishra of Chameli fame. Few know that the Lucknow girl has very close connections with Amritsar.
Born at Prem Rai’s Nursing Home, Amritsar, Aditi has deep faith in Babaji, whose photograph she always keeps. Her mother Anila Sharma reveals that just before the final rounds when the organisers gave the contestants a break to go home for Divali, her daughter went to Amritsar to matha tekko at the Harmandar Sahib to seek Babaji’s blessings. "And see what Babaji has given us," remarks an overjoyed mother.
It was in Amritsar when she was a class II student of DAV School, Lawrence Road, that Aditi first confessed her ambition to become an actor. When asked to write a paragraph about what she wanted to become when she grew up, the barely seven-year old child wrote that she wanted to become an actor, earn pots of money and open a school and a hospital. "The essay was displayed on the main school board", recalls a proud Anila. The charity was perhaps to help out her parents – a doctor father and a schoolteacher mother.
Her father who had studied medicine from Punjab worked in the urology department of Amritsar Medical College. After completing her primary schooling in Amritsar, Aditi moved with her family to Jagdishpur, 80 km from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, where Dr Sharma is now the Chief Medical Officer at Aditya Birla’s Indo-Gulf Fertilisers and her mother teaches at the factory school.
For the father Aditi winning the prestigious contest was a relief as she is "now set" upon a career. "My elder daughter is in the final year medicine and I always wondered what Aditi will decide to do," informed Dr Sharma, who frankly admitted to have never noticed any inclination in his daughter for her chosen career in acting. "It is only recently that my wife informed me that Aditi was keen on taking up acting as a career and had applied at the Pune Film Institute". She had cleared the written test but could not appear for the interview as it had clashed with the Zee contest.
An above average student of commerce, Aditi has just completed B.Com honours from Delhi University’s Venkateshwara College. Her grandmother brings an envelope containing her admission ticket for the CAT entrance, which she would probably never need to take as a glorious film career unfolds before her.
Virtually on cloud nine, Aditi would be
visiting Lucknow next week to pay a quick visit to her grandparents,
teachers at City Motessori school and friends at Jagdishpur before she
returns to inaugurate a diamond exhibition at the Taj in Mumbai later
this month. Another must do on her list is to pay obeisance at the
Golden Temple to thank Babaji for her success.